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June 2023
Author: Austin Atkinson

Since the inception of the inReach products when Garmin took over Delorme products and services, Garmin has continued to revolutionize the satellite device industry. Each device is designed to ensure the safety of hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts, particularly those who venture off-grid. These products provide reliable two-way messaging, weather updates, location sharing, and an SOS emergency response service, which is essential for all hunters who travel to remote locations. The Garmin inReach series offers a range of products, from compact, simple displays to touch screen devices larger than your cell phone. These devices help ensure that hunters can stay connected with their loved ones and maintain communication in case of an emergency or change of plans. With Garmin inReach products, hunters can explore even the most remote areas with confidence, knowing that help or checking in with your spouse is just a few buttons away.

I admit that I always want the latest electronics that can improve my efficiency and effectiveness in the field. I would cut back on my sleep or cooking kit to save a few ounces so I could add USB power bricks, solar panels, and a spare phone to my backpack. Assuming that you’ve already decided to get an inReach device and trust the reliability of the Garmin name, let’s compare the different models available today.

It’s important to note that all Garmin inReach devices require an active monthly subscription plan to access the connectivity features mentioned in this article. Simply buying the device won’t give you access to these features. I prefer the Freedom plans where I pay an annual program fee and then a monthly fee based on the plan level. During the off- season, I pay for the Safety plan (up to 10 messages) at $14.95 per month. However, when August comes around, I upgrade to the Expedition plan (unlimited messages) at $64.95 per month. Garmin also offers annual contract plans for users who don’t plan to adjust their services frequently throughout the year.

Messaging (Austin’s Pick: Montana 700i)

When I switched from using a satellite phone rental to the now-discontinued inReach Explorer+ on remote hunts in Alaska, I was initially concerned about staying connected to work and communicating with my wife. However, I found that the two-way text messaging was not only convenient but more effective in the field. I could send messages late at night when I returned to camp without worrying about specific check-in times, leaving voicemails, or missing an inbound call.

When choosing between the four Garmin devices mentioned here, I found that your decision will probably be based upon your dependence on your smartphone while in the field. As you move from the largest device (Montana) to the smallest (Messenger), the need for a smartphone becomes more critical. If you’re off-the- grid often, you must also consider how many devices you need to charge to remain in the field. For me, adding an Anker solar panel and Anker charging brick definitely upped my electronic game in the field.

I chose the Montana 700i device last season to have text messaging with a touchscreen QWERTY keyboard so I did not have to use my phone as often. This proved to be very efficient, so long as I could keep my battery consumption in check. While you can type messages with a full keyboard on the GPSMAP 67i device, it will not feel like texting on your phone and will be slower. If you plan to send many messages and type a lot, it’s better to use your phone and connect via Bluetooth to either device.

Sharing your location with loved ones or other inReach users is valuable for communication and safety. You can use the Location Sharing features on the online map or send your location coordinates in a click-to-view link to other users or cell phone numbers. Overall, Garmin inReach devices offer reliable communication and safety features for remote hunting and outdoor adventures, and the choice of device depends on individual needs and preferences.

Interactive SOS & Response (Austin’s Pick: Messenger)

All Garmin inReach devices require a service plan that includes the SOS feature, which connects to the Garmin Response team. With two-way communication, the Garmin center can coordinate a rescue or response, unmatched on a global scale. While all devices allow for a one-button push SOS trigger, you can also activate an SOS alert via any connected device.

Investing in a Garmin Smartwatch with ANT+ technology is also worth considering as it enables a wireless connection to any inReach device. This feature is convenient for reading messages while hiking on the watch face itself rather than accessing the device or smartphone. To keep my inReach device safe, I prefer to keep it in the top pouch of my backpack rather than dangling from my bino harness or waist belt. If you are only looking for a device to carry for safety and SOS capability, I’d recommend the Messenger device for simplicity and the extended battery life.

Tracking, Maps, & Weather (Austin’s Pick: Montana 700i)

The Montana device with loadable map layers offers a convenient way to access satellite imagery, topo maps, and other features on the move, even while wearing gloves. While the touchscreen is not as precise or quick as smartphones, it is user-friendly and completely waterproof. Managing waypoints, tracking logs, and battery usage is simple with one device. This will allow you to use the device as a standalone GPS without the need to turn on tracking or waypoint features on your smartphone. However, the battery life on this large color touchscreen left quite a bit to be desired. I did purchase two extra batteries as they are easily replaceable. I always keep one of these in my emergency pouch in my backpack.

The GPSMAP 67 device offers a significant boost in battery life but has a smaller screen size. Adjusting the device’s brightness, screen timeouts, and eco-friendly modes can help extend battery life. However, you must use the button navigation keys to cruise through the screens, menus, and maps.

All Garmin inReach devices provide up-to- date weather forecasts for your location, with impressive accuracy in wind direction, windspeed, and precipitation predictions. While the Mini 2 and the Messenger also display weather information, larger screens may be more beneficial for users who prefer not to keep their phone connected all the time, especially while hunting in the backcountry.

Overall, choosing the right device depends on how frequently you plan to use your phone while hunting. If you prefer a one-device solution for your navigation and GPS needs, the Montana or GPSMAP will be ideal, depending on your weight and size tolerance. However, if you require a device to keep in your pocket for the hunt while remaining connected via the app on your smartphone, the Messenger is an excellent option. Regardless of your choice, be sure to activate your plan early and practice using the device before your next hunt. With Garmin inReach devices, you can stay connected and navigate with confidence, even in the most remote locations.

Satellite Network (Austin’s Pick: Messenger)

The Iridium satellite network is widely regarded as the most reliable satellite network on earth, providing connectivity in deep canyons and areas with limited low horizon views, no matter your location on the globe. Basically, if you want to use the Explore app and have more GPS features, the Mini 2 may be the device for you. If you rely on your cell phone for mapping and just need the inReach for messaging, the Messenger will be the device for you.

Regardless of which inReach device you select, all will offer unmatched connectivity, enabling you to stay in touch with family and emergency responders, even when traveling internationally. As I prepare for my upcoming plains game hunt with my wife in Namibia, I am confident that my Garmin inReach Messenger will allow me to stay connected with my family back in Utah without the need for an international roaming plan. The new Messenger App, compatible with the Mini 2 or Messenger device, allows for a seamless transition between cell phone service, Wi-Fi, and satellite service. It makes it easier for new users to keep their chats organized without having to fully switch to a satellite mindset while on the move. My best advice is to get your device early, activate your plan, and practice using it before your next hunting or outdoor adventure to ensure you’re comfortable using all its features. With the Garmin inReach, you can have peace of mind and stay connected no matter where your adventures take you.

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Device Montana 700i GPSMAP 67i inReach Mini 2 inReach Messenger
Display Resolution 480 x 800 240 x 400 176 x 176 160 x 68
Dimensions (W x H x D) 3.6” x 7.2” x 1.3” 2.5” x 6.4” x 1.4” 2” x 3.9” x 1” 2.5” x 3” x 0.9”
Weight 14.5 oz. 8.1 oz. 3.5 oz. 4 oz.
Battery Life (Moderate use with 10-minute tracking) up to 18 hours up to 7 days up to 14 days up to 28 days
App Compatibility Explore Explore Explore/Messenger Messenger
Retail Price $700 $600 $400 $300
Plan Type Safety (10 messages) Recreation (40 messages) Expedition (unlimited messages)
Freedom Plan
+ Annual fee of $34.95
$14.95/month $34.95/month $64.95/month
Contract Annual Plan
+ Activation fee of $29.95
$11.95/month $24.95/month $49.95/month