The Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are a beautiful and restful retreat from the busy world of the hustle and bustle of the valley and city life. What also comes with the break from city life is reliable phone service and the ability to contact emergency services while visiting remote locations. I looked at a couple different options for remote communication including radios and iPhone texting devices, but was still disappointed. I needed a satellite communicator to keep in touch with loved ones while I traveled in remote locations in the Sequoias, and to get help if I needed emergency services.
While off the grid, I was concerned that I may not be able to get help in a difficult situation like:
- an emergency
- a traffic accident
- physical injury or crisis
- vehicle breakdown
- reporting a wildfire
- animal attack
I purchased my Garmin inReach Mini satellite communicator from REI in the summer of 2018 and have been incredibly pleased with the results. At the time of publishing of this review it has proved to be faithful and I’ve tested it throughout both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and Forests.
The Garmin is a true winner for this outdoorsman.
A friend who used a satellite communicator for his long hikes and backpacking trips in the backcountry of the Sequoias introduced me to Garmin. My friend was able to send me regular updates from the trail to let me know he was safe, and I was impressed by the messages I received including his detailed coordinates. His Garmin was a larger and more expensive model, and when the smaller and lower priced Garmin inReach Mini came on the market, I was quick to purchase it. There is a one time activation fee for $19.95 and I choose a plan that fit me and to paid the continuous monthly fee for $11.95. It’s been a small price to pay for being able to keep in touch with family and friends while off the grid, and to ensure my reach to emergency services should I need them.
Testing Off the Grid
I tested the Garmin inReach Mini throughout a number of locations within the parks. It served me well on a remote road driving to the beautiful Crystal Cave, and I especially loved having it as I was late returning one night. I was able to send a preset text and put in on the dashboard of my truck while driving and it was able to connect when I cleared the tree cover. I continued to send preset texts along my drive through the General’s Highway letting my loved ones know that I ok.
You don’t have to worry about being within range of a cell tower or encountering spotty coverage. – Garmin
I also tested the inReach Mini while quading in an off-highway vehicle (OHV) in the Sequoia National Forest. I clipped the carabiner from the Garmin on my jacket zipper where the Garmin had clear line of site to the sky while I traveled. Also a friendly reminder, to make sure you abide by all motor vehicle opportunity guidelines including Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs) in your location.
I’ve also used it while rowing a fishing boat on Hume Lake. It takes water splashes like a champ.
Using the weather feature and GPS coordinates has proven helpful for me as well when traveling down in King’s Canyon far away from the reach of mobile service and quick weather updates. For use while driving, I either place the Garmin on the dash or I put it in a jacket chest pocket where I can reach it if I needed it in a hurry.
Our Favorite Features:
- Physical dimensions of 2.04” x 3.90” x 1.03” (5.17 x 9.90 x 2.61 cm)
- It has a water rating of IPX7: According to Garmin it will withstand incidental exposure to water of up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes, but is not suited for swimming, diving into water, snorkeling or scuba diving, and high-speed watersports.
- Lightweight at 3.5 oz (100.0 g)
- 2 way texting
- Iridium network
- Access downloadable maps, U.S. NOAA charts, color aerial imagery and more by using the free Garmin Earthmate® app
- pairs with bluetooth on smartphone for contact list
- Trigger an interactive SOS to the 24/7 search and rescue monitoring center (satellite subscription required)
- Battery Life: Up to 90 hours at 10-minute tracking (default); up to 35 hours at 10-minute tracking with 1-second logging; up to 24 days at 30-minute tracking power save mode; and up to 1 year when powered off
Because I use the inReach Mini paired to my iPhone, I’ve found that the battery drains at a faster rate than what the manual specs provide, but I’m happy to have the extra features including the Earthmate app, and quick texting ability. That is a win win. I also carry some extra usb battery packs to charge the unit, but have never needed to use those yet.
My purchase price was $349.99 from REI in 2018.
I paid a one time activation fee of $19.95.
I am currently paying a monthly contract safety plan of $11.95. Learn more about Garmin’s subscription plans at https://explore.garmin.com/en-US/inreach/
For more information visit the Garmin website at https://explore.garmin.com/en-US/inreach/
This is a personal review and not a complete description of the device. Please read the entire manual for operational specifics, and ensure that you have selected a monthly contract safety plan and have tested it in advance. Please consult the folks at Garmin for any questions.