Apr 2, 2013 at 8:27 pm #1301242
@maiaLocale: Rocky Mountains
Companion forum thread to:Apr 2, 2013 at 10:23 pm #1972241
The DeLorme inReach SE was officially announced two days ago, shipping in mid-to-late April 2013. Here are updates to key parts of the article.
DeLorme inReach SE
Device Type Dual-mode SMS text messages Yes Position tracking Yes SOS function Enhanced Standalone messages Custom menu Standalone message entry Cursor keys Pairs with Android, Apple iOS App name Earthmate Web tracking & messages Yes Twitter & Facebook updates Yes GPS waypoints No Battery type Lithium polymer Replaceable battery No Rechargeable battery Yes Charger USB Manufacturer battery life 100 hrs Estimated battery life 8 days Dust and water protection IP67 Screen Color Weight 200 g HxWxD 149x62x26 mm
The SOS button sends your position and a message to the GEOS IERCC rescue coordination service. Other useful features include: virtual keyboard using cursor keys with predictive texting, audible message notifications, and LED for satellite availability.
The free Earthmate app supports Android (version 2.1 or newer) and Apple iOS devices (iOS 5 or newer, iPad version available.) Both apps can activate SOS service, send and receive SMS text messages, activate tracking, and post updates on Twitter and Facebook. Both apps provide GPS positions to your device, and include unlimited downloads of DeLorme maps, cached on your device. Map downloads must be through Wi-Fi or cell networks.
Online review summary Not shipping, no reviews available
DeLorme inReach SE has several plans from $9.95 per month to $64.95 per month, including two seasonal plans. You can downgrade plans for $24.95. Message prices range from $0.25 to $1.50; tracking messages are unlimited free to $0.25 each.
Important Physical Specifications
See text for battery life explanation. Your experience will vary.
Device Weight HxWxD Estimated Battery Life Batteries Dust and water protection Briartek CerberLink 186 g 120x67x32 mm 10 days Rechargeable IP67 DeLorme inReach SE 200 g 149x62x26 mm 8 days Rechargeable IP67 DeLorme inReach SmartPhone 227 g 121x72x44 mm 10 days 2x AA Lithium IP68 DeLorme inReach PN-60w 227 g 121x72x44 mm 10 days 2x AA Lithium IP68 GeoPro Messenger 380 g 135x63x37 mm 5 days Replaceable, rechargeable IP66 NAL SHOUT Nano 184 g 102x56x20 mm 10 days Rechargeable Not stated NAL SHOUT ts 204 g 104x58x23 mm 10 days Rechargeable Not stated PIEPS Globalfinder Iridium 200 g 132x75x26 mm 16 days Rechargeable Not stated Yellowbrick 3 Standard 305 g 174x76x36 mm 90 days Rechargeable IP67
Device Type Other Features Briartek CerberLink Dual-mode No Standalone sends check-in messages only DeLorme inReach SE Dual-mode No Standalone send & receive SMS text DeLorme inReach SmartPhone Dual-mode No Standalone sends 3 pre-set messages, floats DeLorme inReach PN-60w Dual-mode No Standalone sends 3 pre-set messages, floats GeoPro Messenger Standalone Yes Scheduled check-ins, basic GPS functions NAL SHOUT Nano Standalone Yes Scheduled check-ins, basic GPS functions NAL SHOUT ts Standalone Yes Scheduled check-ins, basic GPS functions PIEPS Globalfinder Iridium Standalone Yes Compass, barometer/altimeter, basic GPS functions Yellowbrick 3 Standard Dual-mode Yes Standalone send & receive SMS text
You might find better deals. Many plans are available.
Device Buy Monthly One Week Scenario Rentable Comments Briartek CerberLink $499 $33 $63 Yes Some plans annual fee + pay for months used only DeLorme inReach SE $300 $25 $63 No Seasonal plans available DeLorme inReach SmartPhone $250 $25 $63 No Seasonal plans available DeLorme inReach PN-60w $250 $25 $63 No Seasonal plans available GeoPro Messenger $199 $17 $23 No NAL SHOUT Nano $799 $17 $23 No NAL SHOUT ts $895 $35 $25 No PIEPS Globalfinder Iridium $850 $25 $46 No Yellowbrick 3 Standard $707 $13 $36 Yes Pay for months used only
Narrowing the field: Lightest Standalone
These TSTDs can send and receive arbitrary text messages without another device.
184 g NAL SHOUT Nano 200 g DeLorme inReach SE 200 g PIEPS Globalfinder Iridium 204 g NAL SHOUT ts 305 g Yellowbrick 3 Standard 380 g GeoPro Messenger
Narrowing the field: Lightest Dual-mode
These TSTDs should be paired with a smart device for full functionality. If you are carrying a smart phone or DeLorme Earthmate PN-60w GPS anyway, look into these.
186 g Briartek CerberLink 200 g DeLorme inReach SE 227 g DeLorme inReach SmartPhone 227 g DeLorme inReach PN-60w 305 g Yellowbrick 3 StandardApr 2, 2013 at 10:44 pm #1972246
…Apr 3, 2013 at 7:06 am #1972284
@mikuLocale: Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada
Thanks Rex. Great set of articles.
I rue the fact that DeLorme have moved to a rechargable battery in the new InReach SE. It was the ability to use lithium AA, which are multipurpose, that attracted me to the original InReach. With only 8 days of battery life, the device is useless for longer back country trips.
DerrickApr 3, 2013 at 10:33 am #1972355
Sorry this is so long, but I'm copying my review of some of these devices from another BPL thread. To this info I will add that Globalstar is quickly coming online with their improved constellation. Also, their GSP-1700 weighs 199g (7.05 oz.) and supports simple 911 emergency calling. Thankfully I have not tried that functionality. It is my device of choice right now. I basically came to conclusion that renting is the best option for me right until competition heats up, devices get better and weights and prices come down:
I have rented the following devices in the last year:
Globalstar GSP-1700. Not extensive wilderness use but was able to maintain a 7 minute call from the Green River underneath Flaming Gorge before losing it. Fix time was a surprising two minutes. Weighs 7 oz (the lightest satphone available in America I believe).
Iridium 9555. I was able to get a fix in three minutes at the confluence of Bullet and Kane Gulch in Grand Gulch, 1400 feet deep in the canyon. A five minute call with no interruption. Further down the canyon towards Collins Gulch, it took 5 minutes to get a fix. Clear as a bell with about a 4 minute call window then a disconnect. Pretty sure that was a function of the geography. I had very low expectations of reception down in a canyon that deep. Iridium has 66 satellites in low orbit at about 465 miles. Weighs 9.5 oz.
Inmarsat Isatphone Pro: A little funky as you have to gameplan the location of one of their satellites, which you can do with an on-screen satellite location guide that helps you point your antenna. Once I got a fix, in the same canyon as above, I had a great 10 minute, clear conversation without interruption. I think it was because one of the satellites that they have was almost directly above me. They have only three satellites and they are geostationary, as in they "stand still", but they are at over 22,000 miles up! This should also theoretically help signal penetration in deep topography. Useless at the poles (sorry Alaska!).Interesting tech and one to watch. About 10 oz.
I have also tried two of the newer generation 2-way text beacon/tracking devices: the Delorme Inreach and Briartek/Cerberus Cerberlink. In my opinion, these devices main attraction is the SOS functionality as I don't use the real-time tracking functionality at all. They both use bluetooth to connect to your smart phone and you use an app to construct messages and stuff. Of the two, I like the Briartek unit as it seemed to be less buggy once set up, the bluetooth connection was rock-solid and the unit itself is really bomb-proof. Customer service was EXCELLENT with them as well, which I cannot say about Delorme. As in: within three minutes I was talking directly to the president, who also heads up product development, about some of my concerns and questions. Awesome.
I brought the Cerberlink on a 125-mile 12 day walk through the Wind Rivers in August of last year. One of the main attractions is that they have an in-house rental program of $65 for two weeks including 20 160-character messages. Additional messages are 75 cents but be careful. People can send you messages via email and if you don't inform your chosen contacts to abridge their signatures, you can dispose of your included messages fast (I am in the real estate business and everybody has lengthy non-disclosure tags in their signatures). I ran a test transmission and chewed up 7 of my included messages when one of my contacts responded with a massive email signature. This was when I called customer support and was patched directly to the president (see above). They also let you include RSS feeds in the field (weather, politics, sports, ack!) which you have to be careful with too. One severe weather alert I received was almost 1800 characters. It would be nice if they allowed you to limit the amount of characters receivable via RSS on your profile page. You can create any custom RSS feed you want.
My main complaint with these new-generation text devices is that they weigh as much as a sat phone (both around 8 oz.) and it takes forever to compose, send/receive and verify transmission. You can send canned messages if you like, and they do have some stand-alone functionality, but in the time it takes to pull it out, pair it and send and verify a 160-character message, you could have had 2000-character equivalent conversation in real-time on a phone for roughly the same cost.
The Iridium Extreme is the first device (to my knowledge) that combines the functionality of the Delorme/Spot/Ceberlink devices with a ruggedized phone, but it is really expensive, so I'll stick to renting until form factor, functionality and pricing parity come into play in the next few years.
If you are looking for a good rental company that carries most of this stuff, Skycall Satellite here in Salt Lake is excellent. Russ, the owner, comped me a week-long use of the Inmarsat unit because he had no in-field feedback on it yet. Very flexible and knowledgeable and fairly priced.
Edited by Seanneves on 01/20/2013 22:29:21 MST.Apr 3, 2013 at 12:17 pm #1972412
I have both the Isat phone pro and a Acr 406 link, on all trips I bring the just the beacon and some trips I bring both.Apr 3, 2013 at 1:09 pm #1972435
@skopeoLocale: British Columbia
I notice that your grid of features indicates that the inReach doesn't support email. One of the features I like about the inReach that I think is worth mentioning (over the Spot) is that it "can" send a message to any email address that the user enters from the keyboard. Unlike some devices (Spot for example) you don't have to predefine an email list on a web page and sync the device to be able to use an email address. You can key in whatever email address you like. While the user at the other end can't respond "directly" (via reply) to your inReach email, they are provided a link to a page that allows them to respond (so in that sense I agree that the inReach doesn't do two way email) but to the inReach user, the send email function feels like email and allows you to send to any email address you key in.
There is an advantage to predefining your email list and syncing the inReach to the list but it's not mandatory. The downside of using free-form email address entry (as opposed to a sync'd email address) is that the email address characters that are entered free-form are subtracted from the 160 characters that are available for a message. A sync'd email doesn't use any of the available 160 characters.Apr 3, 2013 at 3:01 pm #1972476
@bestbuilderLocale: Pacific Northwest
Rex,thanks for putting this together I have need to look at this for some time and you did the research for me.
Sean, thank you also for your input.Apr 3, 2013 at 3:16 pm #1972481
Have you used the Isat phone much?Apr 3, 2013 at 3:41 pm #1972494
Yes, but not extensively. I had the opportunity to use it on a backpacking trip to Grand Gulch last spring. The bottom of the canyon is 1500 feet lower than the rim. Pretty impressive. It gave me excellent call quality off of the southeastern (from SE Utah) satellite. Remember they don't "move" from our perspective, so it helps to familiarize yourself with the positions. The four satellites are geostationary so calls shouldn't get interrupted much once you have a fix but it helps to know which direction they lay before you go. There is an on-screen satellite finder that helps you point your antenna too. They are at a very high altitude, something like 22,000 miles, so they should have good deep canyon coverage.
Here is a link to a coverage map showing the satellites: http://www.navtec.de/english/inmarsat.htm
Same spot yielded a series of shorter calls on Iridium (Cut off after a few minutes). Interesting tech for sure. Didn't have the Globalstar on that trip, but I've come to like it.Apr 3, 2013 at 4:38 pm #1972521
I have only used mine half a dozen times in the last six years and have always got good coverage. I only take it on trips where I know there will be no phone coverage.Apr 3, 2013 at 7:55 pm #1972600
One of the limitations of this kind of review (not actually spending time with each device), is that if the vendor web site doesn't state something clearly, I have no way to know. Like emailing from inReach, although as you pointed out, it's a not-quite-the-same-as-email experience.
Thanks for clarifying that point!
— RexApr 3, 2013 at 7:59 pm #1972603
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
"is that if the vendor web site doesn't state something clearly, I have no way to find out."
The marketing people may have just accidentally left out some information that is really important to us users. On the other hand, maybe they just left it out accidentally on purpose. If a product as a weakness, it is best for them if they just skip over that part.
–B.G.–Apr 3, 2013 at 9:36 pm #1972647
One of the interesting trade-offs between satellite phones using GEO satellites (Inmarsat, Terrestar, Thuraya) versus LEO satellites (Globalstar, Iridium), is making calls in deep canyons, or on the wrong side of a mountain.
Using a GEO satellite, you must be able to see one particular point in the sky. If you can see that spot, you can talk as long as your credit is good. If you can't, you must move
Using LEO satellites, you need to see a reasonable sized patch of sky. You can make a short call eventually, with an unpredictable cutoff, without moving.
If I'm injured and immobile, a phone using LEO satellites might be a better choice. All texting devices use LEO satellites, so your SOS message will get through sooner or later.
BTW, the Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro uses the latest generation I-4 satellites: only three of those, at longitudes 25 (EMEA), 143.5 (Asia-Pacific) and -98 (Americas). The navtec.de information is for the older satellites.
Choosing any satellite device is about making a lot of tradeoffs.
— RexApr 3, 2013 at 9:45 pm #1972648
Seriously Rex… amazingly set of articles and an insane amount of research. These are the type of articles I expect to see here at BPL. Hope you got/get a nice check in the mail from Ryan for these three articles.
I plan to rent an Iridium 9505A or 9575 Extreme phone for long backcountry trips
That statement pretty much says it all for me.
I carry the following three devices when I am out in the Shasta-Trinity, Klamath, Russian, Marbles, Siskiyou, Jedediah… and the rest of the Redwood regions of Northern California:
Garmin GPSMAP 62S
Iridium Extreme 9575
ACR ResQLink 406 PLB
Again, great set of articles and great research!Apr 4, 2013 at 8:53 am #1972762
Great points all, Rex. Incredible work. One the best articles I've seen on this site in a while. One of the reasons I like Iridium and Globalstar is that, generally, I'm not in need of a clear 10-minute call if I'm out and about.Apr 4, 2013 at 11:05 pm #1973021
It's hard to estimate battery life for satellite phones or texting devices. Manufacturers usually present the best possible numbers, but in real life backpackers might not reach those numbers for many reasons.
Considering your risk of a dead battery surprise for different use cases might help.
Most backpackers will keep a sat phone turned off, unless you are calling or talking.
If a sat phone has an estimated three hour battery life, you might get close to three hours of "phone turned on, antenna deployed, calling or trying to call", especially if you make calls in areas with few obstructions like trees. If you check battery life each time you use the sat phone, you can shorten those long chats with your sweetie when the battery gets low.
With a little discipline, you have a low risk of a dead battery surprise.
Satellite texting devices
Most backpackers will use satellite texting devices in one of three ways:
1 – On all day and sending tracking messages, with occasional text messages.
2 – Mostly off, except to send and receive messages once or twice per day.
3 – Always off, unless you have an emergency.
For case #1, your battery life is hard to predict. You can forget to turn off tracking at night. If you are in thick woods or deep canyons or your device is buried in your pack or twisted sideways or …, you can use up the battery faster as the device repeatedly attempts to deliver tracking messages. You could have a dead battery surprise. Your sweetie will stop getting tracking messages and start worrying, and you can't send an SOS message if needed.
You might need a backup power source, to reduce the risk of a dead battery surprise.
Case #2 (no tracking) is similar to satellite phones: You turn the device on to send and receive messages, and turn it off when you are done. Now a device with an "8 day" battery life while tracking, could last several times longer. If you check battery life each time you use the device, you can scale back on message frequency when battery life gets low. You could send a message like "reducing message frequency to conserve battery life" so your sweetie won't worry so much.
With a little discipline, you have a low risk of a dead battery surprise.
Case #3 (emergencies only) could increase your battery life to several weeks or months. The main risk is forgetting to check the battery occasionally, because batteries don't hold a charge forever. All current satellite texting devices use or recommend lithium batteries with pretty long stored lifetimes.
With some discipline, you have a low risk of a dead battery surprise.
You could start with #1, and switch to #2 and #3 as your battery dies. Be sure to let your sweetie know!
Only experience will help you feel comfortable with the battery life of a device, for your usage and discipline.
If your risk tolerance is low, you will want a separate backup power source – which adds weight and complexity.
The good news is you have lots of choices in devices, usage, and risk levels.
The bad news is the choices come with risks and costs that are hard to evaluate.
— RexApr 22, 2013 at 9:56 pm #1979590
Rex – many thanks for doing such great research on this. Based on your findings, I decided to order a Yellowbrick and test it out. I just received it this evening, it only took four days to get from the UK to California. My first impressions after setting it up and playing with it for a few hours is that it is a very impressive and professional piece of equipment. The photos don't do it justice, you have to have it in your hand to appreciate just how well made it is. The display is much better than you would think from the marketing materials. The iphone app and the blog interface are simple and effective. I'm really impressed. I plan to do some testing over the next few weeks to see just how good the battery life is. I'm planning on doing the JMT in September, and I know that my Iridium phone will not have the battery life for that length of trip, but I'm optimistic this Yellowbrick will be up to the job. Thanks again for drawing attention to this excellent device.Apr 22, 2013 at 10:28 pm #1979596
Please keep us posted with your experiences. I found very few Yellowbrick reviews.
I spent some backpacking time with a rented Briartek Cerberlink. Will post my impressions soon.
— RexApr 22, 2013 at 10:50 pm #1979601
@mwgillenwaterLocale: Seattle area
very curious to hear about your Cerberlink impressions, as I plan on renting one this summer.Apr 23, 2013 at 5:26 am #1979638
Not sure if this was mentioned but Inmarsat now no longer allow pre paid units to roll over after the expiry date if you top up.
I contacted them last week to top up my unit and they did say they would allow 75% roll over without top up until October.May 27, 2013 at 4:15 pm #1990223
@ijeffLocale: SF Bay Area/Sierras
Thanks for doing all this research Rex!
After reading this series of articles I was going to go with renting the Briartek Cerberlink for my upcoming Sierra High Route in July see http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=75737&skip_to_post=662482#662482 if you'd like to join us.
I thought I should Google the Briartek and look at some reviews first and found Rex's review here in BPL http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=77088 in which he writes "Bottom line: I will not rent the Briartek Cerberlink again. I had serious problems with both the device and the iPhone app."
Rex also wrote, "I really wanted the Cerberlink to work well". Me too. Thanks for giving it a spin and letting us know. I'm posting this here so it's connected to this series of articles.
-JeffMay 27, 2013 at 10:31 pm #1990306
I'm glad you found the articles and my experience useful (I would not call it a review).
I should point out that some reviewers were relatively happy with the Cerberlink:
— RexOct 1, 2013 at 6:55 am #2029841
I read your article back in April and picked out the Yellowbrick as looking the most interesting. I bought one and took it on a JMT thru-hike a few weeks ago. I was very pleased with it. I am putting together a review here…
Thanks again for the great write-up you did. Very good work.Oct 1, 2013 at 7:34 pm #2030109
Great review, thanks for spending the $$$ for the battery run down tests! The most outstanding feature of the Yellowbrick is incredible battery life.
Another Yellowbrick review, reviews are still rare:
"In my opinion the YB v3 is (arguably) the best two-way satellite messaging and tracking device on the market."
And another Yellowbrick short story about a North Pole trip, from an Australian dealer:
"At some times on the trip, even some of the satphones were frozen solid, but the Yellowbricks just never stopped working, getting positions and data out to the base team for the entire trip."
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