First Look: Garmin inReach Mini

Our favorite satellite messenger gets even smaller.

Photo: courtesy

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Garmin inReach Mini
The Garmin inReach Mini takes our favorite features of the inReach and stuff them into a pint-size package.Courtesy

Take everything we love about the inReach—two-way texting, access to the Iridium satellite network, detailed GPS maps, and user-friendly design—pack that into a palm-size package, and you get the new-to-market inReach Mini. It’s the smallest device of its kind on the market, comes in at a reasonable price, and our first impressions of it are solid.

The most obvious talking point is the Mini’s size. It’s just under 4 inches tall and 2 inches wide, meaning it’s as easy to shove into your pocket as an energy bar. Given the almost non-existent space and weight penalty (it’s just 3.5 ounces), we think there’s no reason to ever leave it at home, no matter if you’re heading out on a dayhike or a backcountry epic.

During testing across Colorado’s Front Range, the Mini proved easy to use and reliable whenever we needed it (this didn’t include any true emergencies, thankfully). It pairs with your phone via a Bluetooth connection and the free Earthmate app. Through the app, you can access topo maps, weather charts, and your phone’s contact list for texting. You don’t need cell service to use the app, and we enjoyed being able to check the status of nearby thunderstorms on a late-spring bid up Longs Peak. “The weather function is super easy to read. You don’t have to be a meteorologist to parse it,” one tester reports.

The Iridium network is the best satellite service out there in terms of reliability and coverage; it should let you text friends and family regardless of where you are in the world. And while the Earthmate app is great, you can use the Mini by itself if your phone is dead or not handy.

As with other inReach devices, you can trigger an SOS to the 24/7 search-and-rescue center (we never tested this), and its lithium battery lasts 2 days in 10-minute tracking mode. The Mini’s service plan starts at $12 per month.

$350; 3.5 oz.; Buy Garmin inReach Mini Now