- Mar 18, 2017 at 11:26 am #3457634
I received my new inReach Explorer+ a few days ago and have had some time to test it and I thought I’d pass on my initial impression.
The Explorer+ is a fully integrated (all in one) hand held mapping GPS and satellite communicator that Garmin has just released (first rebuild since Garmin acquired the inReach products).
A bit of background: I’ve used handheld gps units (too many to count) since Garmin first handheld offering was made available and I have owned a Spot, and 3 iterations of the inReach devices. I mention this because I’ve waited a very long time for somebody to produce a mapping GPS with built-in satellite communication. FINALLY!
My first impressions are that this unit is pretty nice. It’s not as good as I’d like (I expect more from Garmin) but still, it certainly fills the gap between carrying too many devices and not enough. This one device will do nicely for me. I don’t like carrying a phone (still had to take my phone with the previous Explorer because I wanted topo mapping) and I really like two way communication. A gps or phone alone just doesn’t cut it. The unit weighs in at 7.6 oz without the clip and caribiner. Add the clip and caribiner and you are up to 8.8 oz. I have no use for the clip as I carry mine in a pack pocket. My old explorer was 6.9 ounces. Battery life is rated at 100 hours but I suspect that is a bit of a stretch. Difficult to say at this point as I haven’t tried it on an extended trip.
I’ve been impressed with the new design, which fits my hand (and pack pocket) much better than the old Explorer (not so square shaped). The screen is nice and bright and slightly bigger than the screen on my Etrex 20. The GPS and satellite reception is impressive and I’ve been able to send messages with accurate coordinates from indoors (sitting near a window), this seems to be an improvement over the previous model. GPS acquisition when outdoors seems very fast. I haven’t had time to get out into the very dense forests in my area (maybe this weekend).
The mapping is Delorme’s mapping, so it’s just OK. I’m used to it, but I look forward to seeing more basemap offerings come available.
The new Explorer+ looks very similar to my old Garmin 60csx, so it actually feels like an old friend (I liked the 60csx). The downside of the Explorer+ is that the GPS functionality is a bit “old” too. I’ve gotten used to having 100’s of tracks that I can access on my GPS and being able to replace basemaps and import images etc. I’ve even gotten used to BaseCamp as my primary tool for managing trip data (still like Map Source better… but had to move on) and the Explorer+ does none of this. It’s very much like a 10 year old mapping GPS.
You can create non-shared tracks at an interval as low as 1 sec per track point but at that interval you can only get 1 day of tracks saved to the units onboard storage (that’s the estimate of the device, I haven’t confirmed if that’s a reliable estimate). Seems pretty poor to me for a new device. The manual says that when the track storage is full, the oldest tracks will be “thinned” to allow track space for new tracks. So you shouldn’t lose your tracks but the quality (accuracy) of the overwritten tracks will be reduced. You can offload the tracks and way points to your computer but that requires a usb cable and an internet connection to Garmin’s MapShare site.
Way points can be collected easily (up to 500) and reviewed and deleted easily on the device. The compass and altimeter work well, and are fairly easy to calibrate. The Bluetooth pairing to my phone seemed greatly improved over my last model, but that might be my new phone.
I’m disappointed that Garmin didn’t allow Bluetooth pairing with my Garmin smart watch. It would be really nice to see text messages to the inReach show up on my watch. Very strange that they haven’t fully embraced their own products.
I like the new button layout on the new Explorer+, much better than my old Explorer but I find the button noise really annoying and I’m not referring to digital key sounds, the buttons and direction pad are mechanically very load.
I can’t help thinking that it won’t be long before Garmin is offering satellite communication on their high end GPS units (maybe an Oregon 750t+)? That would be really nice! Maybe next year. I’d give this unit a 4 out of 5 primarily because of the fact that it’s the first real all-in-one unit out there. Lots of room for improvement on the mapping GPS side but definitely going in the right direction.Mar 18, 2017 at 4:17 pm #3457717
Jeff JeffBPL Member
What do you mean by “looking forward to more Basecamp offerings come available?”
Would it bee possible that they would allow upgrading to better to post or satelite photos? I agree that delorme maps are pretty bad for topo.Mar 18, 2017 at 6:33 pm #3457754
>What do you mean by “looking forward to more Basecamp offerings come available?”<<
I actually said “looking forward to more basemap offerings” (not Basecamp).
Mar 23, 2017 at 6:19 pm #3459003
- What I’m refering to are the products Garmin sells for their regular mapping GPS’s. I own Garmin topo maps, Garmin routable street maps, Garmin Birdseye (aerial imagery) and can also add Open Street Maps as a basemap to my old Garmin Gps units. None of these can be added to the inReach Explorer+ at this point but I hope the will move in that direction.
Just bought an Explorer+ as well. I was a bit concerned after reading that more than a few Mac users were having trouble syncing the Explorer+ on their Macs, but I had no trouble doing so – synced, updated the software, added my contacts and such. No issues, FWIW.
Now to sell my old inReach SE for $150!Mar 24, 2017 at 2:39 am #3459094
I’d be interested in hearing your comments regarding the new unit once you get it out in the field.
I’ve had a chance to run mine under fairly heavy tree cover in an area that I know causes GPS signals to wander and inReach track points to go missing.
I also carried my Garmin Etrex 20 for a track comparison and I didn’t have any issues with either unit. The Explorer+ performed well.
One significant difference is that the Explorer+ track settings can only be set to a time interval. I’ve always set my Garmin GPS track interval to “automatic” but the automatic track setting is not available on the Explorer+.
This means that the Explorer+ will put down a track point at regular timed intervals but the Garmin GPS will only put down the points that are needed to define a good track. So if you walk a mile in a straight line, the Garmin GPS would only put down a couple of track points. The inReach will put down a ton of points and use up valuable track storage space. It also means that if you sit still, the Explorer+ will put down a shotgun blast of points around where you stop because it uses a time interval for track points. Hopefully we see the automatic setting in a firmware upgrade.
I was also disappointed to see that the inReach Explorer+ won’t run as a standalone GPS without a service plan. Original info suggested it would, but now it sounds like that will be a future update as well (got that from Skurka’s site).
One thing that I really like are the configurable fields on the Explorer+ map screen. I like that I can disply GPS signal accuracy and have a pile of other field options. Very nice!Mar 24, 2017 at 6:25 am #3459106
Richie SBPL Member
Doug – would you say it is worth the upgrade?Mar 24, 2017 at 10:44 am #3459147
@skopeo: I should be able to get it out on a dayhike soon, will let you know how it performs.
@landrover: That’s a hard one at the moment Richie. I wasn’t really thinking of upgrading, since the SE did what I wanted, but a larger than expected REI dividend coupled with the fact I knew I could easily sell the SE pushed me to go ahead and upgrade since out of pocket was minimal. I decided to upgrade to the Explorer+ instead of the SE+ for the maps. I do like the form factor better, as Mike mentions.Mar 24, 2017 at 9:33 pm #3459245
One of the interesting things about this new device is the bottom. It looks to me like it was made for some future attachment.Mar 27, 2017 at 11:45 am #3459791
Jacob DBPL Member
@jacobdLocale: North Bay
Hey guys, thanks for sharing your thoughts on the new InReach gear. I have the Delorme branded SE model and have been pretty happy with it.
I’m curious how you like the interface vs. a smartphone running something like Gaia or BackCountry Navigator? These have been my go-to GPS options, although I admit my smartphone is not a rugged device. I usually generate my maps on Caltopo, and bring paper copy as well. At the time I bought my SE, I think the SE+ was the model that included the GPS mapping capability, but the screen size, resolution, and keypad interface didn’t seem too appealing vs. using a phone… but if I can leave the phone in the car, it would be a bonus.
Regarding the ping interval, I guess it depends on your goal, but I find 20 mins between is sufficient for tracking purposes. Your model may also have separate tracking and logging intervals, which can be useful, you may already be aware of this but just mentioning it. Mike’s comment caught my attention, regarding a Garmin model only putting down a few points over ~ a mile in auto-interval mode… can you verify that (how many points, over what distance)? I don’t want to side track the discussion, but it sounds very low for auto interval. I’ve done some research into GPS error/accuracy as part of a statistics project, so this has me very curious :)Mar 29, 2017 at 1:46 am #3460214
>> I’m curious how you like the interface vs. a smartphone running something like Gaia or BackCountry Navigator? <<
Interesting question that many will answer very differently than me. I have all of the major mapping apps on my phone and I also have used the inReach mapping app on my phone. The issue I have is not with the mapping it’s with the phone. I hike in a very wet environment and I typically carry my phone in a waterproof sack and well protected from damage (face it, most phones are pretty fragile). I tried a waterproof case but that was just to bulky. I found that I was reluctant to pull my phone out to use the mapping because it was such a hassle. Also, wet hands and touch screens don’t play well together. The battery life of phones has always been an issue as well. The inReach with built in mapping is a pretty tough device (no case required) and I can keep it handy as it’s waterproof. That’s it for me, the convenience factor of all-in-one device made the upgrade worth the expense.
>regarding a Garmin model only putting down a few points over ~ a mile in auto-interval mode… can you verify that (how many points, over what distance)?<<
You may have misunderstood my point here… the auto-mode on the regular Garmin GPS units is superior to the continuous track mode on the inReach because it’s accurate but saves storage space. Imagine you are walking a straight line for a mile, no deflections. It might take you 15 minutes to walk that mile and the inReach would put down 900 track points (if set in 1 point per second mode). The Garmin in auto mode will recognize that you are not changing your bearing and will only put down a few points. Both tracks will be accurate because there weren’t any deflection points. The inReach will have stored almost 900 points needlessly. I ran my Etrex in auto-mode while running my inReach at a 1 second interval and what it showed when I looked at the tracks on top of each other was a very dense track (the inReach track) running along the bearing lines of the much less dense Etrex track line. The dense track didn’t define a more accurate track.Mar 29, 2017 at 10:58 am #3460271
“the auto-mode on the regular Garmin GPS units is superior to the continuous track mode on the inReach because it’s accurate but saves storage space.”
If I understand the manual correctly, this (and a few other things) are ‘present’ on the Explorer+, but only for enterprise customers. That’s a bit frustrating.Mar 30, 2017 at 11:36 pm #3460697
Took the Explorer+ on a 9-mile hike today. I’m old and slow, so it took me about 5 hours including stops. Had the tracking set to 10 minutes (the shortest they allow), and logging set to 5 seconds (like I said, I’m slow). Also had bluetooth on and hooked to my iPhone. Spent probably a bit over half the time in tree cover, though none dense. Got a message from my brother on it as well during this time.
After the hike, I still had 92 percent battery left, I’d used only 3 percent of the onboard storage. The tracking and logging looked great. It did say that my top speed was 13.1 mph, but I think that’s from when I inadvertently dropped it and it slid a bit (fortunately not too far, a little to the right and it would have slid about 100 feet downhill on a snow-covered avy chute!).
Pretty impressed so far. But I am not a fan of the clip. It’s basically useless, only good for holding the carabiner. I’d rather have a clip like the old SE, much more useful.Apr 2, 2017 at 11:20 pm #3461210
Doug – thanks for the follow-up.
I’m curious about how you carry your Explorer. I always put mine in a pack pocket with the antenae pointing skyward. You mentioned that you used the clip. Did you clip it to your pack? Your belt? When using the clip do you just let your Explorer hang? I’m curious because I may work too hard trying to keep it pointing straight up. If you find that it works well in any position, that would be good to know as I could just toss it in the front pouch instead of zipping it into a pocket.Apr 3, 2017 at 12:33 pm #3461268
I’ve used it twice now. On the first trip, I had it clipped to my chest strap and let it dangle there. Not ideal, and not all that comfortable (it’s also how I almost let it slide down an avy chute when I took off my pack, forgetting that’s where I had it clipped). After that, I moved it to one of my water bottle pockets clipped to a compression strap. Second time I used it I put it inside a pack pocket/pouch attached to my pack harness (so completely enclosed in the pocket, pocket zipped up, with antenna pointed up). Worked well both times.
I’m doing a hike on Wednesday, I’ll try something different, with the antenna pointed sideways or even upside down, and let you know how that works out.Apr 4, 2017 at 9:15 am #3461440
John KaysBPL Member
@johnkaysLocale: Southern California
Getting ready to buy the in reach se plus. I’ve seen them sold as Delorme and also as a Garmin. Is there any significant difference in the service provided or maps supported?…or any difference at all other than the label?Apr 4, 2017 at 10:47 am #3461453
Garmin bought out Delorme, so regardless of which you buy, you’re actually buying a Garmin, FAIAP. Service provided and maps supported are the same.
The SE might be labeled as Delorme. The SE+ should be labeled as Garmin. The newer + units have a different form factor than the previous SE and Explorer, with a slightly bigger screen and a few other minor differences.
Andy Skurka has a nice writeup about them that you might find useful.Apr 5, 2017 at 8:27 am #3461613
John KaysBPL Member
@johnkaysLocale: Southern California
Thanks Doug for the answer I wanted to hear.Apr 5, 2017 at 10:41 pm #3461797
Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
I’d a-druther seen DeLorme continue as a separate company from Garmin.
But now that it is a Garmin produce, like Mike, I’d really like to see the missing features Mike mentioned be included. It ain’t “rocket surgery”, it’s writing code. Is Garmin that cheap they can’t put their best people on this and make the world’s best combination hiking GPS/rescue beacon??Aug 21, 2017 at 3:46 pm #3486329
Cris HBPL Member
If anyone is interested, I’ve been testing it for about 4 months and have a pretty in-depth review of the Garmin InReach Explorer on my blog. Might help if you’re considering it. It’s a great communications device, and a “meh” navigation device.Aug 23, 2017 at 3:54 pm #3486678
@dsterlingLocale: Northern Rockies
Chris, I’d love to see your InReach results on your blog, can you supply a direct link?
Thanks!Aug 23, 2017 at 4:06 pm #3486680
Here’s that direct link to the reviewMar 3, 2018 at 9:53 pm #3522133
Elisa UmpierreBPL Member
Ken, I just read your in-depth review of the In Reach Explorer + and wanted to thank you for the great, informative blog post. About ready to quite literally travel the world both in a camper van and on foot, I’m looking for a reliable communication device with SOS features should cell signal be non existent. Right now, based on your review, it seems the In Reach Explorer + is the best option out there. I don’t think I’ll be needing something like this for another six months or so. With this in mind I think I’ll wait to see if Garmin comes out with a modernized version that fills in the shortfalls that exist now in the unit. If not, I’ll likely pick up an In Reach Explorer + before heading out on my journey of a lifetime. Thanks again for sharing your experiences with the product.
EliMar 4, 2018 at 3:08 pm #3522260
Brad RogersBPL Member
@mocs123Locale: Southeast Tennessee
I could be wrong, but I don’t expect a new version of inReachs this year. With little direct competition there is no motivation to innovate quickly when you can cash in on your existing product. The + versions really aren’t that much different than the previous versions.Mar 4, 2018 at 4:34 pm #3522265
Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
too bad smartphones can’t communicate by satellite, I wonder if that will ever happenMar 4, 2018 at 4:56 pm #3522269
Brad RogersBPL Member
@mocs123Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Jerry, I think inReach did create a device that was just intended to link your smartphone and satellite, but I don’t know that it did well. That does seem like it would be the best overall solution, but would probably take some refining to get it right.
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