Even when you are off the grid, it's nice to be able to communicate once in awhile with those left at home, especially if you are traveling solo. My family gives me much less grief now when I head off on my crazy adventures just as long as I occasionally check in along the way and tell them everything is going ok.
The DeLorme InReach satellite communicator operates both as a standalone device and as a two-way messenger paired with your smartphone or iPad, enabling you to communicate with those still on the grid while you are happily enjoying being off the grid. Activation is very quick and easy, all done online before you plan to head out on your first adventure.
As a standalone device, the InReach can be used for tracking, sending pre-defined messages, and initiating an SOS emergency call. By activating the tracking button, your location is sent at 10 minute intervals to your personal map on the DeLorme website. This map can be shared with certain people back home for them to follow along on your adventure.
Within your personal DeLorme account, you have the ability to define up to 3 separate messages that will be automatically emailed to a group of people when you activate the message button on your InReach device. My pre-defined messages are "starting my trip", "at camp", and "arrived safely back at car". To send these messages when you are out on the trail, you simply toggle through the blinking lights on the message button, automatically triggering message 1, 2, or 3 (the key is to remember which message is which). The message light will keep flashing until your message has successfully been sent.
I found that in order to send messages, you had to be located in a pretty open space to lock on to the satellites. I sometimes had trouble sending messages in heavy forest cover, but they went as soon as I was back in open air. The tracking updates appear to not be as affected by forest cover but I wore the InReach device on my sternum strap to ensure it was not overly obstructed.
Although I would never use the SOS feature as an excuse to push beyond my limits or take more risks, it is comforting to know you have access to help in case of a real emergency, especially when traveling alone. I still follow the basic rule of telling people my plans when out in the backcountry, but you never know what can happen. A slide lock keeps you from accidentally making an emergency call when the InReach device is stuffed in your pack.
Although extremely useful as a standalone device, you get an interactive bonus when the DeLorme InReach is paired via Bluetooth to your smartphone or iPad. Using the free DeLorme Earthmate app, you can send 160 character text messages back and forth to your contacts and even send updates to Twitter or Facebook with a link to your current location. The app tells you that your message has been delivered so you are not left wondering if it is hanging somewhere in cyberspace.
The Earthmate app gives you access to detailed DeLorme topo maps and shows your current location as well as tracking history on the map. The app also gives you control of SOS, tracking, and the other basic features of the standalone device.
The one drawback to the DeLorme InReach is that you are going to pay for all this peace of mind. In addition to the $249.95 cost of the device, you need to purchase a communication plan. With a range of yearly and seasonal plans, you could pay anywhere from $9.95 to $64.95 per month in addition to a $19.95 activation fee. If you want to use your InReach purely for emergency purposes, the safety plan is the most cost effective way to go. The rest depend on how willing you are to pay for tracking and message updates.
Bottom Line: An extremely easy device to use and carry, the DeLorme InReach is the perfect way to add a little peace of mind for both you and those left at home while you are out exploring the world.
The DeLorme InReach retails for $249.95 and is available now.