Pushing the SOS button on the Garmin inReach Mini in Jasper National Park

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Pushing the SOS button on the Garmin inReach Mini in Jasper National Park

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    Pat D
    BPL Member


    Companion forum thread to: Pushing the SOS button on the Garmin inReach Mini in Jasper National Park

    “I was suddenly seized by an inability to breathe: the world went black and I was bent over gasping for air, then passed out and collapsed, falling into the marsh.”

    Kevin Babione
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pennsylvania

    Thanks – I’m glad it’s a happy ending and the details of your extraction are really helpful.  I never thought much about it, but if you’re four days from the trailhead and have an emergency, does your partner ride with you or are they stuck hiking out?  You answered that (at least in this instance).  Does anyone know if there’s a standard for this?  What if you had been a group of three?

    Also, in this section:

    The SOS request must be closed after the incident is resolved. GEOS had to remind us that it is done by holding the SOS for 3-5 seconds and then confirming the cancellation.

    What is meant by “incident is resolved”?  Is that after the helicopter has landed and turned you over to medical professionals or simply when you GEOS confirms that help is on the way?

    Lastly, and I’ll understand if this is too personal, was there a cost to you for this extraction?

    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    Thanks.  I’ve wondered what would happen if I pushed the SOS button

    Something a little like that happened to me once.  It was raining.  I walked maybe 5 miles.  I didn’t eat or drink because it was raining.

    Then, my feet got heavy and I could barely move.  I ate and drank – I was in a sheltered spot then.

    After about 15 minutes I felt much better.

    I don’t know if it was food or water or both.  I’m more careful about eating and drinking even if I don’t feel like it.

    David Hartley
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western NY

    This is very reassuring. Sounds like GEOS has their act together.

    I was a witness to an extraction initiated via an InReach Mini in 2020 on the Northville Placid Trail in the Adirondacks. A woman had injured her knee in what is perhaps one of the most remote locations east of the Mississippi River (Ouluska Pass lean-to on the Cold River in the ADKs). At the time I had an Ocean Signal (now ACR) rescueMe PLB. I was hiking with my brother and we arrived at the lean-to in the early evening and met the woman and her husband and found out about the injury. The woman was going to see how it felt in the morning – and I would trigger the PLB if needed, but shortly after we arrived two more hikers arrived – one with an inReach Mini. The next morning the the woman could not put any weight on her leg so the hiker with the inReach Mini pushed his SOS button. Over the next hour or so he was able to communicate with the GEOS and the NY State DEC and ultimately the DEC did a helicopter rescue using a State Police helicopter. The helicopter was not able to land – they had to lower a ranger and lift her up to the helicopter. In this case the husband had to hike out with the ranger and did not accompany his wife in the helicopter.

    This incident convinced me to buy an inReach Mini because if I had triggered my PLB – there would have been a response, but my wife would have been notified of the emergency and many hours would have gone by before she found out that I was not the reason for the emergency. Also, the two-way communications allowed the immediate dispatch of a helicopter vs having DEC personnel spending many hours hiking into the location first (this location is not easily accessible by ATVs).



    Locale: The Cascades

    Thanks for sharing Pat, great information.

    Pat D
    BPL Member


    Hi Kevin, good question about a rescue also bringing out a partner. I don’t know what the norm would be. We were lucky enough to push SOS in a national park with a dedicated unit of public safety staff who are trained to carry out rescues and extractions, and this is who GEOS contacted.  Response could vary a lot in other jurisdictions, as few organizations have this level of resources. I think there would be concern for the safety of a partner who must now hike out four days solo carrying most of the gear that had been carried by two people, so if there is space in the helicopter and the weight isn’t an issue, I would imagine other party members would be flown out too. This particular helicopter (A-Star) had room for five passengers plus the pilot (it arrived with two rescue personnel already on board as well as the pilot). So if we had been a group of three there would still have been room as it could take five passengers total (and with helicopters there can be a weight restriction too so under some circumstances it might not be able to seat five). If we’d been in a larger group I guess some would have ended up hiking out on their own, or continuing the trip.

    By “incident resolved” that is when the helicopter has landed and either turned you over to health care personnel or, in our case, I was stable enough that we just drove straight home and I accessed emergency care once we got there. I texted GEOS that we were on the ground and on our way home, but you have to actually cancel the request on your device.

    And to answer your question about costs, no, there was no cost to me at all. It is extremely rare, at least in Canada, for rescue costs to be recovered from the rescuee. Certainly in Canada’s national parks there has been no charge for rescues that I have ever heard of. It is definitely a subject that gets debated though as you can imagine.

    Pat D
    BPL Member


    Wow, that is very interesting. What a feat to lift someone up into a helicopter like that! We were fortunate enough to be on the edge of a big meadow, making it easy for the helicopter crew to find us, and easy to land in as well. The two-way communications is absolutely a game-changer. I have wondered how this situation would have gone if I’d been using my old SPOT beacon. It was amazing to be able to text with GEOS, with the Jasper National Park public safety officer, and with our emergency contacts as well. Just amazing and it really was great to be able to give reassuring details to our family members right from the beginning.

    Pat D
    BPL Member


    It’s scary isn’t it …. it’s a moment of realization that your body is a machine made up of however many parts that usually work harmoniously together …. but now one or more of these parts is malfunctioning. Luckily you figured out your machine just needed some fuel! But it’s definitely a heads-up. I believe now that lack of fuel, among other things, contributed to my problem too. Glad it went well for you!

    Pat D
    BPL Member


    You are welcome! And I see this as my chance to pass along kudos to the many organizations and agencies that have worked together to make this international rescue system work. It is a phenomenal service to be able to access and it worked very smoothly for us.

    Chris R
    BPL Member


    In Canada, even though the rescue is free, you may be charged for your medical costs, including any transport by ambulance once you return to civilization. The biggie would be if you needed to be transported home after treatment. Worth having some sort of travel policy to cover this.

    Josh J
    BPL Member



    First I want to say glad your alright and you definitely made the right call by pushing the button.

    A few questions if you don’t mind.

    ¹. You said the phone connected to the inReach had died. I’m assuming you could read the message directly from the inReach? and even though the phone made making communicate easier do you feel if your battery bank was dead as well you’d still be able to communicate effectively with Geos albeit slowly via the inReach directly?


    Pat D
    BPL Member


    Hi Josh, you can still text directly from the inReach Mini, it is just slow as it involves selecting and ok’ing individual letters (there is a word prompt too). And yes, you can read the message directly from the inReach. So you can still communicate effectively, but it is slow and takes a little practice.

    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member


    In 2014 I wrote BPL’s Rescue Insurance for Backpackers. Search and rescue is still free in almost all of the U.S.A., Canada, and many other countries, unless you do something illegal or really stupid.

    From the U.S. National Association for Search and Rescue:

    The mission of SAR organizations is to save lives, not just the lives of those who can afford to pay the bill.

    Ambulance helicopters, on the other hand, have gotten crazy expensive. On my 22-mile flight a couple of years ago, the private helicopter company billed $50,000. I paid almost nothing thanks to good medical insurance.

    Everyone’s insurance needs are different. Do your homework!

    And carry a PLB or satellite messenger, like Pat does. And I do.

    — Rex

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    We sunk a boat 10 miles past the last native village, but did manage to get it to a small, isolated beach.  I intentionally didn’t hit the panic button on my EPIRB since we were able to toss a tent and sleeping bags (and guns and a bear) ashore so we were in no immediate danger and I didn’t want rescuers putting themselves in harms way until the storm had ceased.

    But I had a handheld VHF on my PFD (I ALWAYS do) and hailed passing ships with a MayDay.  Very nice people in a very nice boat retrieved us (we had to swim past the surf line) and they called it in to the Coast Guard who asked them to retrieve any of the floating gas cans that were safe to snag.

    The USCG then called the number phone for the boat registration and started the conversation with my buddy’s wife with, “Are you Tony Garcia’s next of kin?”  His homecoming would have been calmer had they used different phrasing.

    Murali C
    BPL Member


    Adding to what Rex said about insurance policies….I have one with American Alpine Club as a “Leader” membership level which is $250/year and provides upto 300K in coverage. I think Garmin also provides some form of insurance  you can sign up for – not sure about coverage amount or the cost. One of the guys in this forum recommended the American Alpine Club before we did the SHR. Am glad to have some form of evacuation insurance.

    Murali C
    BPL Member


    Hmm…Garmin is much cheaper. 29.95 per year for 50K per incident and 100K max per year I think. Need to switch to this perhaps.

    AK Granola
    BPL Member


    Good points about the advantages of an inReach over a PLB – your family not knowing the emergency isn’t about you, and being able to get details to rescuers to make it easier for them and quicker.

    I’ve had that vasovagal syncope in the shower, right after doing a marathon. I thought I was having a heart issue too, it felt that extreme, except no chest pain. You just kind of collapse with exhaustion, or so it feels.

    Your story reminded me that I haven’t updated contacts in a while, and the phone numbers were out of date! yeesh.


    Scott S
    BPL Member


    Hi, Pat—very glad to hear everything turned out all right. I hope you don’t mind a (mostly) unrelated question: What are those bags/sacks you’re carrying on your shoulder straps? They look very useful.

    John S.
    BPL Member


    The sudden inability to breath made me think pulmonary (lung) embolus (blood clot) first. The doc calling it vasovagal made me think of panic attack-related. Vasovagal syncope (passing out) would not begin with shortness of breath, at least in my experience.

    Glen Hoshizaki
    BPL Member


    Hi John — The vagal stimulation (if that’s really what it was in this case) causes a decrease in heart pumping and heart rate, and a dilation of blood vessels, all leading to decreased brain blood flow. And so before you actually pass out it wouldn’t surprise me that you experience shortness of breath as a reflex to try to get more oxygen to the brain. But like you, I was guessing pulmonary embolus.

    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    Good story with interesting details like shutting off the SOS beacon.

    I have a SPOT gen. 3 but may get an In-Reach in the standard size B/C I refuse to carry a cell phone and backup power source.

    I have the AA Premium level membership (some form of AAA membership is required B/C I have them for home/auto insurance). That high level gives me a $25,000. coverage for evacuation IF I’m 100 miles or more from home. Some states like Colorado have emergency evacuation insurance that can be purchased for a nominal fee and would be well worth it for financial peace of mind. Otherwise your backcountry trip could end up being the most expensive one of you life.

    Pat D
    BPL Member


    Hi Scott, my backpack is made by Aarn in New Zealand. It has detachable accessory bags in front that Aarn calls balance pockets. The intent is to distribute pack weight around your body so I load the pockets up with heavier items to balance the weight of the main pack. And it’s handy for things you want to get at during the day. I have been using it for a few years and find it very comfortable though it has taken some trial and error to pack it efficiently.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Northern California

    “…since we were able to toss a tent and sleeping bags (and guns and a bear) ashore so we were in no immediate danger…”

    Normally I’d assume that you meant ‘guns and a beer’, but I guess you’d had good luck on your hunt and were boating back with the carcass…life really is different in Alaska.

    I’ve heard of wrapping yourself inside of a bear carcass to survive a storm. Hopefully you meant, “we had plenty to eat”. But…how were you going to cook it? Or were you thinking, bear tartar?

    david morgan
    BPL Member


    I’m glad you both came out well. It also might be good to wear a cardiac monitor in case it was an abrupt onset of a lethal arrhythmia or cardiac vessel spasm. Usually, vagal episodes occur when straining to have a bowel movement. And, please, what type of backpacks are those? With those huge from pockets, one can access lunch, raingear, etc while on the march!

    Pat D
    BPL Member


    Hi David,

    Oh my! The things I am learning about vasovagal episodes! The packs are made by Aarn and the front pockets are definitely handy. And if you put heavier stuff into them they balance the weight of the main backpack, which makes for greater comfort and balance.

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