"Peace of Mind"  by Steve Hand - Director of Production

Are you thinking it is time for a new GPS?  Have you considered getting a satellite phone for those times when you are way off the beaten path?  Do you like to be using some of the latest technology?  Heck, maybe you are that person that is always looking for that new piece of equipment that you must have.

Regardless of which of these may be true for you, I have been using a black and orange device for the past year that might just be what you are looking for. The DeLorme inReach Explorer is a GPS, a satellite communications device and a sharing platform all in one. DeLorme promotes the inReach Explorer a few different ways – focusing initially on providing a solution that helps you plan, go and share your adventures. More importantly for me, the inReach provides piece of mind for family and friends and a two way emergency communication solution in case something goes really wrong.

So lots of us have GPS units and this one is very similar to the DeLorme PN-60 and the plethora of options from Garmin. As a GPS, they compare extremely well with one limitation, you cannot view the topographical maps on the screen of the inReach device itself. Now before you go immediately dismissing this as I first thought, note that you can pair the inReach with a mobile device using the DeLorme Earthmate app and get way more capability.  Before we get into how you can utilize the inReach with a mobile device, let’s touch on the other major features.

When you purchase an inReach device you also sign up for a satellite service plan for the device that provides you with communications (text, email, Facebook post, Twitter post and MapShare tracking) and emergency SOS functionality. There is an initial activation fee of $20 and then you purchase an annual service contract or what DeLorme calls a Freedom plan where you pay a small annual fee and you can activate the device for the specific months you need it. With the annual contract the rates range from $12 to $80 per month and with the Freedom plans the rates range from $15 to $100 for each month activated in addition to the $25 Freedom plan fee.  

Note: I rounded all the rates and fees up to the nearest dollar.

With each plan you get different levels of text messages, tracking intervals, tracking points and location pings, while all plans get unlimited SOS and preset messages. I went with the recreation plan that provides 40 text messages per month, 10 minute tracking intervals, unlimited tracking points and unlimited location pings. Text messages include texts, emails and

Facebook or Twitter posts. If someone texts or emails you back that counts towards your message limit. So be careful on carrying on conversations via texts as you will use up your monthly limit and start paying $.50 per text over your limit.

Note: Remember these messages are satellite communications – you are using these functions when you are out there and don’t have cell service.  InReach uses the Iridium satellite network which will work anywhere on earth as long as you can get a clear view of the sky.

The MapShare tracking is very cool – as you can view on your computer when you get back, exactly where you were. You can also give friends and loved ones the ability to look online and see where you are at any point and if necessary, initiate a location ping to determine where you are at any point in time.

The SOS functionality is unlike any other product on the market. It is a two way service where other devices like the SPOT are one way services. So maybe you wonder what the difference really is. Imagine you are hiking on a hillside and break your leg. You have an SOS device and you decide to push the button. With a 1 way service, you push the button, assume somebody got the message and is dispatching help and then sit and wait.  With a 2 way service, you push the button and get a message back telling me they got the message and are sending someone. They can also ask questions about your situation so help can arrived prepared and they can give you an estimate of when people will be getting to you.  Hmmmmmm…. let me think for a minute….  I think I want to have a 2 way SOS service.

So we have a cool device that is a GPS, allows me to communicate with friends and family when I am off the beaten path and also provides 2 way emergency communications if things get really bad. But what about that issue where you can’t look at the topo maps on the device itself.

Remember that I mentioned that you can pair the inReach with a mobile device. When you buy an inReach device, you also get the DeLorme Earthmate app for your Android or ioS mobile device.  This app provides robust mapping, tracking, waypoint management, messaging and SOS functionality all from the big screen of the mobile device you are extremely familiar with.  My preferred way to use the inReach is to clip it to the top of whatever pack I am carrying, put my phone in airplane mode and then turn on just Bluetooth. In this mode, I can go for a couple days on a single charge of my Android phone and I can get the same from my inReach. 

Note: To be on the safe side I charge my devices whenever I have the chance. Depending on where I am travelling, I could charge from a vehicle, a generator, a portable battery pack or utilize a solar charger. 

Some people don’t like the idea of two devices, but I am likely going to have my cell phone with me anyways. It is extremely convenient to be able to use the device that you use every day and the screen is far larger and easier to use than any of the portable units that have mapping built in. I also like the ability to simply take my phone out of airplane mode, if I think I might be at a location that has cell service.

So now you ask, what are the maps I get when I use the Earthmate app. You get access to an Earth atlas, NOAA maps and for North America detailed topo maps (US at 1:15,000, Mexico and Canada at 1:125,000) that you may be familiar with, if you use a DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer today.

You also can use the Earthmate app without the inReach paired, utilizing your phones internal GPS which allows me to use the same mapping functions regardless of whether I am hiking some trails near the house with plenty of cell service or 50 miles from the nearest paved road with no cell service.

No device is perfect and the DeLorme inReach Explorer is no different. But after having used various Garmin devices and the SPOT for tracking and SOS for many years, I have found the inReach to a great solution that provides me with great mapping and communications while most importantly providing my family some ‘peace of mind’ when we are off the beaten path.

The DeLorme inReach Explorer lists for $379 and can be purchased by Big Woods Hunting Club members at a discount or directly from DeLorme and other outdoor retailers such as Kittery Trading Post.