Camera and Electronics Reviews

Gear Review: DeLorme inReach SE 2-Way Satellite Communicator

DeLorme inReach SE 2-Way Satellite Communicator

Before leaving for the John Muir Trail, I decided it was time to purchase a satellite messenger or personal locator beacon. My first thought was to buy a device that strictly worked as a personal locator beacon (PLB), but was turned off of the idea after doing some research for three major reasons.

  1. What good is a personal locator beacon if I suffer a traumatic fall or catastrophic injury? I would have no way to activate it in this case. I knew I needed something with tracking so that my family and/or search and rescue could locate me in the event of a worst case scenario.
  2. PLBs lack the ability to check their functionality and current state.
  3. PLBs lack the ability to communicate with loved ones or search and rescue. Sometimes you just want to let your family know you’re going to be late, or that a storm slowed you down. Maybe you had a shoe blow out on some nasty granite and need them to mail you a new pair at your next resupply. In these situations, a PLB is useless.

Support Trail to Peak by purchasing the inReach from Amazon using the links below:

DeLorme inReach SE |  DeLorme InReach Explorer


After ruling out a PLB, I started looking at multi-functional devices that acted as a PLB, GPS, messenger, and tracker. If you’re doing research on these devices, like I did, you’re probably stuck on the same two as I was, the SPOT Gen 3 and the DeLorme inReach SE. I ended up choosing the DeLorme inReach SE over the SPOT for three reasons.

  1. The inReach uses the Iridium satellite network giving the device far greater and more reliable coverage. The SPOT coverage is fine for continental travel that’s not too close to the poles. The inReach gives you coverage from pole to pole. This is huge for world travelers looking for a reliable device.
  2. The second reason I chose the inReach was the highly function GUI and display that allows for real time message creating. The SPOT does not come with a display, so you just have to rely on the tactile buttons and preset messages. Not very useful when you need to relay and receive real time messages and information.
  3. The third major reason I choose the DeLorme inReach SE was the availability of flexible month to month plans. I take on big trip once a year that requires a lot of messaging and tracking, but the rest of the year, I’m just a weekend warrior. It’s nice to be able to change between plans as needed. These are the three main reasons I chose the DeLorme inReach SE over the SPOT, but I will touch on quite a few more in this review.

Delorme also has an even more feature packed device in the inReach Explorer, but I opted for the SE as it contained all the features I needed. In the brochure image below you can see the SE in yellow, and the Explorer in Orange.

If you’re on the fence about which inReach to purchase, visit the Delorme site at this link.

**For the rest of this review I will refer to the inReach SE as just the inReach. I have no experience with the Explorer and it is not included in this review, but I wanted to let readers know that it is an option if they need the extra features.


Support Trail to Peak by purchasing the inReach from Amazon using the links below:

DeLorme inReach SE |  DeLorme InReach Explorer


DeLorme inReach SE 2-Way Satellite Communicator
DeLorme inReach SE 2-Way Satellite Communicator (Version in Yellow) http://www.inreachdelorme.com/

Physical Specs and Hardware:

The inReach SE weighs in at 7 oz. and measures 5.8 x 2.4 x 1 inches. The inReach is waterproof, dustproof, and shockproof. The device fits very nicely in the palm, and is very easy to operate with one hand. Looking at the picture below from top to bottom, you’ll see the antennae, display scree, four tactile buttons, and the SOS button lock. The check mark button is your positive key for selecting option in the menu, and the ‘x’ button is your negative or back button for options in the menu. The down-pad helps you navigate the GUI. Below these three buttons you’ll see an SOS button with it’s lock switch. To signal an SOS, just unlock the switch by swiping it left and press ‘SOS’. It’s a very simple and straightforward layout. There are a lot of positives to this, but also some negatives that I will address in the usability section. To the left of where it says ‘DELORME’, you’ll see a grey dot. This is an LED indicator of satellite availability.

DeLorme inReach SE 2-Way Satellite Communicator
DeLorme inReach SE 2-Way Satellite Communicator

The inReach charges and updates via a micro USB port behind a sealed door.  Above the USB port door, your see the attachment for a lanyard. This comes with the device, and is something I always keep on. It’s a small weight penalty for some piece of mind when I’m walking over ledges.

DeLorme inReach SE 2-Way Satellite Communicator
Side Door for USB Port

The back of the inReach has a sturdy clip for those of you who would like to attach this to a belt or strap. I prefer to carry it in the chest pocket of my Osprey 48, and have yet to use the clip.

DeLorme inReach SE 2-Way Satellite Communicator
inReach Backside

In Use and Functionality:

The first thing you’ll need to do upon purchasing an inReach is activate the device. This is a very painless and straightforward process that can be done completely on line. My first suggestion is that you choose a plan. The table below shows the current offerings from Delorme (last updated September 2015). I opted for the Freedom Plan as I tend to have different needs from month to month. For July on the John Muir Trail I had the Recreation Plan, but have since downgraded to the Saftey plan.

DeLorme inReach SE 2-Way Satellite Communicator
Plans: http://www.inreachdelorme.com/product-info/subscription-plans.php

The image below will give you a feel for the Delorme web interface. The first thing I had to do after creating my account was to update my inReach with a sync. This took a few minutes and then I was ready to go. The Map, Inbox, Messages, and Account tabs are pretty self explanatory. The Contacts tab is really nice as you can upload preset contacts with phone numbers and email addresses for messaging while you’re out in the backcountry. The Social tab allows you to connect your inReach to Facebook and Twitter for posting. This was really nice on the JMT, as I was able to show all of my friends and followers where I was each morning and night. I also sent out messages via social media when I made it special points of interest, ie. Muir Pass.


Support Trail to Peak by purchasing the inReach from Amazon using the links below:

DeLorme inReach SE |  DeLorme InReach Explorer


DeLorme inReach SE 2-Way Satellite Communicator
My Delorme Online Account

In the brochure page below, you’ll see all of the features of the inReach SE, and more importantly a sample of the GUI. I tried to take pictures of the screen, but none came out very well, so these media shots will have to do. **The far right column is for the inReach Explorer only, these are not included in the device I’m reviewing.** I will be looking at the column titles ‘Both Models’. The top cell labled ‘Easy-To-Use-Interface’ is the main home screen and where you will be doing most of your work. There are also some secondary apps on page two of the menu.

DeLorme inReach SE 2-Way Satellite Communicator
Screens from Brochure
  • Location: In location, you can share your current location with your contacts. This includes speed, course, elevation, accuracy, and current location.
  • Tracking: I set my tracking to once every 20 minutes and it worked perfectly. You can choose as many as once every 10 minutes or as few as once every 4 hours. This screen shows points sent, time started, next reading, and last delivered. It’s nice to be able to see all of the successful tracking submission throughout the day and know that they’re being sent out. Below, you will see a web interface of what the Delorme tracking map looks like. You can share this link with friends and family and keep it password protected. You can hover over each tracking point to see more data on the submission. Each data point gives you information on speed, heading, elevation, latitude and longitude, and battery life. The battery life is a very important piece of data so that those tracking you can have that extra piece of mind if your tracking suddenly stops.
    DeLorme inReach SE 2-Way Satellite Communicator
    Data Point
    DeLorme inReach SE 2-Way Satellite Communicator
    Tracking points

    DeLorme inReach SE 2-Way Satellite Communicator
    Tracking
  • Check: You can check to see if your device is working on the satellite network with this option.
  • Preset: In your online Delorme account, you can create three preset messages that do not count against your monthly allotment. I chose “leaving camp”, “setting up camp”, and “slightly delayed” as my three, but you can make these anything you want. You can also select who these preset messages will be sent to. You may also choose to send your preset messages to your social networks. All messages give a ring to let you know the submission was successfully sent.
  • Messages: This is your message center for the inReach. You can view your inbox and/or select to compose a new message.  All messages give a ring to let you know the submission was successfully sent. As you can see in the screen above, you have a virtual keyboard that requires you to go letter by letter. This reminded me of my old cell phone, and made me keep things brief. Luckily, the inReach has predictive text. Just hold down on the pad to select the predictive word on the display.  I found the messaging to be incredible useful and functional. When a storm was approaching on the John Muir Trail, I was able to text friends and family for up to date weather conditions and keep the in the loop on my plan. Without the inReach, things would have turned out much differently, as I would have walked right into the storm.
  • Social: You can use this menu if you would like to send a custom message to your social networks. I used this quite a bit to post updates to Facebook and Twitter.
  • Settings: In this menu, you can play around with your inReach settings. You’ll find options for display, tracking, bluetooth (app), messages, sounds, time, units, and power.
  • Contacts: You can scroll through your address book to message people.
  • SOS: Click here for SOS. Be careful not to hit this one on accident. You’ll have 5 seconds to cancel.
  • Data Use: This one isn’t on the screen above, but is very useful. The screen on this menu shows your plan, number of messages ie. “4 out of 40”, and the total number of preset messages sent. You can also pull up an options with “plan details”.
  • History: This menu option tells you how many tracking points your dropped on a given day. The display lists each date on a row.
  • Help: This final menu option gives your a pre-programmed help menu

Battery:

Delorme states that this non-replaceable battery will last 100 hours with 10 minute tracking intervals with a clear view of the sky. I think the clear view of the sky is a clever caveat, as it means there will be very little work to locate satellites. In real world applications, I find the battery life to be pretty good. Set to 20 minute tracking under clear skies, I only use 10-15% of the batteries life over the course of a 10-12 hour hike. Using those same settings on a cloudy/stormy day, my battery display reads in the 70-80% range. On my first day of the JMT from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne, I started with a full charge on a very stormy day and set the inReach to 10 minute tracking. I hiked for 12 hours that day and the battery read 68% when we stopped.


Support Trail to Peak by purchasing the inReach from Amazon using the links below:

DeLorme inReach SE |  DeLorme InReach Explorer


The battery charges fairly quickly, similar to that of a cellular phone. At first I thought the non-replaceable batteries would be an issue, but then I remembered that it’s not 1995. With a single 3350mAh charger, I can get 2-3 recharges, and the byproduct doesn’t end up in a landfill. 


The Earthmate App:

The inReach can be paired via Bluetooth with the Earthmate App on iOS and Android devices. Earthmate has a lot to offer to the inReach experience. I didn’t use the app at all on the JMT, as using Bluetooth for pairing would have drained the batteries of my phone and inReach faster than I had planned for. Now that I’m home, I’ve had the chance to play around with it a little bit, and I am really learning to love it. The app offers a lot of similar features, but with much greater ease of use. There is no denying that trying to type a 160 character text message on the inReach is a real chore. With Earthmate, I can compose and send the messages from my phone. I have also downloaded multiple maps and NOAA charts for navigation.  For those not on prolonged thru-hikes (me right now), you can have your inReach turned on and clipped to you pack, and still have all the functionality of satellite communication accessible through your phone. I’m going to be using this app a lot more going forward.

Android Download
iOS Download

DeLorme inReach SE 2-Way Satellite Communicator
Earthmate App

Closing Thoughts:

Having used the inReach SE for two weeks on the John Muir Trail and on quite a few weekend hikes, I can give it my highest recommendation. At $299.95 plus a service plan, it isn’t cheap…but neither is my life! When it comes down to it, there is no amount of money I wouldn’t be willing to spend if my life was on the line. This device gives me the peace of mind to know I can receive help when and if I need it most. It also gives my family and friends peace of mind when I’m out exploring and adventuring away from home. They have really loved being able to track my journeys, and it’s been really nice to send them updates from high up in the mountains. The lack of cutting edge texting is actually a benefit here, as it allows you to keep in touch if you have to, but it’s still painful enough that it’s not something you want to do regularly. The functionality and dependability of the inReach has been superb. I have yet to need it’s SOS services, but I feel confident it will deliver should the day ever come.

For more information visit http://www.inreachdelorme.com/


Support Trail to Peak by purchasing the inReach from Amazon using the links below:

DeLorme inReach SE |  DeLorme InReach Explorer


I'm Drew, creator of Trail to Peak. Trail to Peak brings content to life on the web through breath-taking photography and captivating video. I launched Trail to Peak in 2014 with a goal to inspire readers to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. I have traveled to 19 countries, walked Camino de Santiago, hiked the John Muir Trail, trekked through the Andes of Peru, and am constantly seeking new adventures in my home state of California. Joining me on my weekly adventures is my partner, Julia, our son, Owen, and our two goldendoodles, Isla and Lilly.

16 comments on “Gear Review: DeLorme inReach SE 2-Way Satellite Communicator

  1. Thanks for the
    Review. I’ve just begun researching this and like this option.

  2. A very in-depth review! Thank you!

  3. Great review! We are definitely adding this to our wish list! Now we just have to decide between the SE and the Explorer version….

  4. Great info. Thanks. I have begun researching these devices but you have cleared up and simplified some important issues. Thanks again.

  5. Pingback: Have an awesome weekend! | All The Adventure

  6. Acquired and inReach Explorer last year to let my maveric son let me know where he is. I can follow his progress from home.

    He had on an earlier trip alone no GPS, and no cell phone coverage (quite normal in the vast beautiful Norwigian national parks). And it lastet for a full week. Not knowing his whereabouts, and not being able to reach him just about “killed” me. And of cource, this twit was’nt worried at all !

    He is himself quite happy to accomodate now, having used the device for a year. I’ve got my natural colour back. It also gives him a nice way to verify his paper map navigation, a detailed documentation of the trips, and of course the added security to be able communicate and get help, if needed.

    One thing that has warried me is the intereaction between battery bank+Solar panel and device. As of now charging of devise stops at 29% capacity (battery bank was full) ?!

    Still, it is Just a grand product !! and well worth the money !

    Your “Closing thoughts” are spot on.

  7. Great review Drew! I completed the HST this past August and had a great time. We(my hiking buddies and I) were referencing a Tom Harrison map throughout the hike. On the third day we planned to hike 8 miles or so and it turned out to be 14mi which didn’t really impact us…thankfully. On the fourth day we planned to hike 10.5mi and ended up doing another 14mi because the reference points on the map weren’t very accurate, then we noticed the map was last updated in 2013 so it would have been nice to reference a Delorme in this situations. I looked at purchasing the Explorer before this trip but had limited funds at the time so I’ll have to pick it up before my TRT hike next year. I like the ability to plan my hikes on the InReach website and share it with friends as well as creating way points.

    Tom

  8. Curtis Guenther

    Great Review merry christmas to myself quite possibly, i do have one question though when you suspend your plan does it render the device useless or can you still use the gps function??

  9. Emery Mahylis

    I’ve had the original inreach explore since it came out a few years ago (slightly smaller, black in color without a screen, takes any sort of AA batteries “2 of them” with Bluetooth connected to my smartphone, & I cannot say enough about the peace of mind for the back country) doesn’t take much more than 5 minutes down a logging road & you’re without communication unless you have a 2 way messenger of some sorts., or something else that costs 10 times the amount.. either way, we’ve got a 16yr old at home to keep tabs on.. lol :p

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