The Perfect Satellite Communication Device for the High Country Hunter
Last winter, my wife and I found out that we were expecting another child in October 2016. Some might say that this was terrible timing, but we were beyond excited with the news! I quickly realized that my fall may be a little different from years past.
With the baby coming close to the Wyoming high country mule deer season, I knew that a satellite communication device was necessary for my 2016 season. Even as important as hunting is to me, there was no way that I was going to miss the birth of our daughter if she decided to come early. I began researching various products and companies that best fit our specific needs and ultimately decided on the Delorme InReach.
Of all the companies that I researched Delorme offers far superior services as compared to other brands. Some of these distinct services include:
- “Interactive SOS with the ability to communicate back and forth with the 24/7 global monitoring center
- 100 percent global Iridium satellite coverage that enables 2-way text messaging to any cell phone number or email address from anywhere in the world.
- GPS location sharing, tracking, device pinging and access to your own personalized MapShare webpage.
- Convenient cloud-based device management portal with unlimited trip data storage, route and waypoint planning tools, and account customization options.
- The Earthmate® app lets you pair your inReach-enabled device with smartphones and tablets for ultra-convenient messaging and map viewing.”
At the time that I purchased my device, Delorme offered two different units. These devices included: the InReach SE and the Explorer. “Both the InReach SE and Explorer offer identical messaging capabilities. While the InReach SE uses GPS to provide basic grid navigation and allow you to drop waypoints, mark key locations, track your progress, and follow a breadcrumb trail back to base – the inReach Explorer goes a step beyond, providing full-fledged GPS on-map guidance with preloaded TOPO mapping and waypoint routings viewable directly on the unit. The Explorer also has a built-in digital compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer.” Due to the fact that I always carry a smart phone that has similar if not the same features as the Explorer, I did not feel that it was necessary to spend the extra money and opted for the InReach SE. The older versions of the inReach SE retail for around $229.99 online.
* Author’s Note. When I purchased the InReach SE, Delorme was an independent company. However, as of just recently Delorme was bought by Garmin and became Delorme a Garmin Brand. Currently, Delorme by Garmin offers the same services, but with updated units. These units offer a newer and sleeker design and were renamed as the InReach SE+ and Explorer+. I have not been able to handle or see these newer units in person. However, from the information obtained online it appears that these units function just as the older version in just a sleeker and newer design.
In order to use any InReach device an active subscription is required. Delorme offers two categories of plans that include: monthly or annual. The monthly freedom plans are “ ideal for seasonal or occasional use, enables you to pay for airtime service only when you need it, has a minimum of a 30 day commitment, and enables you to suspend your service at any time.” The annual plans, “have lower monthly fees and enables you to move up a unit in the plan for free. However, does require a 12- month contract”.
Due to not needing year round coverage, I opted for the Recreation subscription as part of the Freedom Plan. Although the Safety plan was cheaper, I felt like I would use more than the 10 text messages per month especially if something happened with the baby. I also didn’t want to have additional hassle with overage charges with each tracking points that was logged.
My inReach SE arrived with the device, lanyard, USB cable, AC adaptor, pack clip and Quick Start Guide. The unit is 6 in. long (including antenna), 2.25 in. wide, and 1.25 in. in depth, and weighs 6.8 oz. The construction of the Inreach SE is solid and the device seems to be designed to withstand multiple years of abuse in the backcountry. I really liked the locking mechanism incorporated in the SOS button that ensured protection against a false alarm. The unit is a little bulky; however, I do believe that this has been fixed in the newer models. I opted not to use the lanyard secondary to anticipating placing the inReach SE in one of the cargo pockets of my Sitka Mountain Pants. It was nice to have the AC adaptor as part of the initial kit. The inReach SE device interface reminded me of an old cell phone.
The instructions provided in the Quick Start Guide were easy to understand and to follow. In order to activate the unit one must set up an account and this was done through the Delorme website. After all the information and unit number and activation code were entered via the website, I was prompted to place the inReachSE in clear view of the sky. The rest of the setup process was completed via satellite and the whole set up process from start to end took about 10 minutes. Although, I did not use this feature, Delorme also provides Quick Start Up videos on their website for additional resources.
Not having used the unit before, I was a little skeptical as to whether it would actually work in a way that I wanted it to. I walked outside and using the unit sent a trial text to my wife’s phone. After I had received confirmation that the text message had gone through, I walked back in the house expecting to have to wait for a little bit in order to receive the text. When I looked at my wife’s phone, the text was already there including GPS coordinates. The coordinates were within 2 feet from where I sent the text as measured by Google Earth. I was impressed!
After activating and initial testing of the unit, I went about setting up contacts and quick texts. This took more time than I had expected. I discovered that I had to scroll through the whole alphabet and select individual numbers/letters rather than just typing. I quickly learned that it was much easier to pair the inReach SE to my iPhone 5s via Bluetooth. The Earthmate® app made accessing all the features within the inReach SE a lot simpler including using my iPhone keyboard and accessing all of my contacts right from my smart phone.
I was a little nervous that once paired with my cell phone that all my text messages would come through the inReach. However, this is not the case. After again looking on my website profile, I discovered that I could input the numbers or email addresses that I wanted to receive communication from. I also learned that only if I sent someone a message first would they be able to send one back.
Mapshare is also another great tool that I was able to set up on the Delorme website. Mapshare allows you to add anyone you want to a map profile. Through an email link and separate web portal, Mapshare enables contacts to see where you are in real time. Of course this is only the case as long as the inReach device and the tracking feature is on. Mapshare is password protected and only set up by the user; thus, making it safe and secure.
Image Credit: Hikeshare.com
Mapshare was one of my wife’s favorite features to the Delorme inReach. Once logged in she could see exactly where I was on a map similar to Google Earth or a topo map. Mapshare keeps tracks and logs tracking points based on a time frame setting provided in the unit. However, there is also an option that my wife could request a GPS ping even between tracking points. This enabled her and anyone else that has access to my Mapshare to know real time GPS coordinates within 5 feet at any time. I found many times upon returning home that loved ones already knew where I had been and about what time to expect me home because they had been watching my movements on MapShare.
Both the inReach SE and Explorer models are equipped to update various social media platforms, and provide daily weather updates. I did not find the need to use these features while in the backcountry. However, anticipate that these features do work as advertised. For more information please refer to the Delorme website.
I used the Delorme inReach SE for over 20 days on various scouting trips, day hunts, and multiple overnight trips this past hunting season. As I have reflected about using the inReach SE, I honestly can say that it has changed the way that I hunt.
Since having this unit, I feel safer and have been able to venture further with more peace of mind knowing that help is only a button push away. I have also been assured that no matter where I am if my wife needs to get a hold of me in the case of an emergency she can. It has allowed me to let loved ones know when I am going to be late; thus, causing less worry and stress and more hunting opportunities later. My wife still laughs at how often the wives of my hunting buddy’s contact her for an update of what is going on.
The inReach SE has also allowed me to continue to be a part of family life even though I am gone. I always have felt a little guilty about missing the little things with my kids while I am gone, but this device has let me continue to be a part of the day to day activities. I also have really enjoyed sharing my experiences and a passion that means so much to me with loved ones in real time and again revisiting these memories due to my tracks being saved on Mapshare.
The inReach SE has drastically changed communication between my hunting partners and I. No longer are we stuck to a set plan because of a breakdown in communication or the radios won’t work. As most of you know, hunting plans can change in a hurry. Many times extra miles, anxiety, and the unknown are byproducts of limited communication. For example, this year the inReach SE allowed me to move camp and notify a buddy of the new camp location before he joined me on a later date. This buddy was then able to traverse technical terrain in the dark in an area he had never been to never been based on information provided by the inReach. I purposely wanted to see just how accurate the GPS coordinates were and they lead him straight to the new camp site without any difficulty.
The battery in the unit lasted for well over three days of continuous use. I was able to keep both the inReach and my cell phone charged with only one external battery pack on a five day hunt. I had planned on needing two battery cells; however, this wasn’t that case. I will only carry one battery pack in the future; thus reducing my overall pack weight. I never experienced a difference with function of the unit in extreme cold/wet conditions. It has always performed as expected.
After sending over 50 text messages during those 20 days a field, I never once had the satellite coverage fail. I ALWAYS was able to send and receive every message almost instantly. I have found even in wooded areas that in the bottom of deep canyons the inReach has worked perfectly. It should be noted that these are areas where high end radios have failed to transmit more than a half of a mile. I am confident that if ever needed all functions and communications will be relayed.
Thankfully, I never had to activate the SOS function of the Delorme inReach system. However, I am assured that if I needed to trigger a distress signal, I would have had interactive assistance. The SOS function is designed in such a way that there is “a2-way text conversation with the GEOS emergency monitoring center. GEOS is standing by at all times to assist with any emergency, track locations, notify the most appropriate emergency response for each unique situation, and provide updates with rescue efforts.” There is no doubt that if I would need this feature that it would work and that the rescue team would be provided with accurate information.
The $35 charge seemed to be a lot per month when I first opted for my subscription. However, over the season this plan did fit my needs fairly well. I did like the versatility of moving up and down plans as needed and discontinuing coverage after the season was over. I do wish that Delorme would offer a price point in between the Safety and Recreation Freedom Plans. Even with significant communication, I only found myself sending and receiving at the most 30 text messages a month. I would like to see a subscriptionin the freedom plan that gave around 20-25 text messages with unlimited tracking points for around $25. I would like to see a sleeker and less profile unit; however, this seems to have already been accomplished with the just released Inreach SE+ unit.
Overall, the inReach SE has met and even surpassed my needs and desires in a satellite communication device. This unit has become a vital part of my high country hunting gear and is one of the best advancements that I have made in my gear arsenal for quite a few years. I feel that I made the right decision with choosing Delorme as compared to other companies and services that are offered. With the exception, of the monthly price, I have been completely satisfied with this product. Although, I may grumble with the monthly price, it is something I am willing to spend a little more on because of the features and quality that are available. I plan on having the Delorme inReach SE with me on all my high country hunting adventures for many years to come. I would encourage anyone that is thinking of trying a satellite communicator to take a hard look at the Delorme inReach. I think that you will find that you will be pleasantly surprised with the service, function, and overall system of this product.
*Pictures and material provided in quotations were taken from the Delorme inReach website. For additional information please refer to this website at: http://info.delorme.com/.