Fowler-O'Sullivan Foundation

The Garmin Inreach

By Aaron Wheeler, volunteer searcher for Kris Fowler

What is the Garmin inReach and why is it so worth the investment? The first two main reasons to carry a Garmin inReach is for Safety and Navigation.  Hiking comes with some inherent risk and safety should always be a top priority while on the trail, even on short day hikes. But thru-hikers must also make hard choices to keep the weight of their equipment and supplies to a bare minimum. So what is it about the inReach that makes it worth its weight in gold? 

As long as you have clear view of the sky, you can call for rescue with an inReach. If you do push the emergency button, Garmin’s SOS service will contact you through the device and attempt to determine the nature of the emergency and what resources are needed to assist you. This saves invaluable time and ensures that Search and Rescue Teams know your precise location and what equipment to bring.

That’s not the only reason this device is so great. The inReach can also send and receive SMS Text and E-mail messages via satellite transmission, independent of cell service allowing you to stay in touch with friends and family where a cell phone simply cannot. In general, cell reception and battery power are huge issues while on the trail. The inReach battery can last upwards of 90+ hours in standby mode. Typical usage in my experience has been well over 46 hours of actual usage, which can be greatly extended by turning it off when not in use or by reducing certain settings. If combined with a lightweight power pack, it can easily endure week long treks.

THE INREACH’S NAVIAGATIONAL ABILITIES will help keep you on the right path.

Many trails and trail signs on the PCT are becoming increasingly hard to follow. You can also connect your Garmin to your cell phone via Bluetooth. This feature allows you to virtually use all the inReach Features from your cell phone with the Garmin Earthmate App. Navigating with my cell phone via Earthmate is my favorite aspect of the inReach.

If your friends or teammates have an inReach, peer to peer capabilities now allow you to share waypoint and navigation information between devices in the field, virtually anywhere. This is especially useful if you or someone in your party gets separated or lost.  

With it’s MapShare ability, you can share your location (in real time) via Facebook. Only your chosen friends or family will be able to see your position, track your progress or send you text messages while on the trail. This feature in itself can be a real life saver, should you not return on-time because you were unable to call for help. This makes the Garmin inReach the perfect digital version of the Buddy System!

Yes, they are expensive, but only around $50 more than most other GPS devices with far less capabilities. But the additional personal safety and peace of mind carrying an inReach provides on a thru-hike is priceless.  Not only to you, but also to your friends and family. The subscription cost is very reasonable with several different plans you can choose from, including a low cost month by month plan if you do not wish to keep it activated all year. Optional Search And Rescue insurance is also available for a very affordable price. 

Lastly, the weight. The unit only weighs several ounces, is ruggedized and very water resistant. It is easy to carry and does not take up much space. Simply put, it is a remarkable improvement in hiking safety allowing you to enjoy the great outdoors. All of these unique features are what make the Garmin inReach the new standard and worth its weight in gold. 

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