Garmin GPSMap 86sci: inReach, GPS and a plethora of tools for boaters

Ben Stein

Ben Stein

Publisher of, passionate marine electronics enthusiast, 100-ton USCG master.

13 Responses

  1. Interesting device, Ben! I wholeheartedly endorse their dropping the touchscreen – touchscreens are wonderful when the device (and your fingers) are nice & dry – something quite elusive on a sailboat at times!
    I looked at the Garmin page for this device, and apparently it does come with “coastal” charts for the US – but their site doesn’t show access to charts for anywhere else! Someone headed even for the Bahamas will be disappointed for sure. Maybe they just haven’t gotten the page up to speed yet. With a satellite connection, you would think that offshore/foreign charts would be a priority.

    • Ben Stein Ben Stein says:

      I was told, but haven’t been through the process, that you can buy the charts through the G3 product page for the region you need and then add them to the GPSMap 86. I’m not certain how this will work without using the ActiveCaptain app.

      But, do note that the coverage is for U.S. and Bahamian waters.

      -Ben S.

      • The page for the 86sci has a tab to select “other charts”, but it appears not to be functional. Every region/continent comes up “no charts found”.
        It’s nice that the “US Coastal” coverage includes the Bahamas – but the rest of the world is still missing πŸ™‚

  2. Well, THAT wasn’t very nice! Sometime while I was typing that, the site logged me out! I typed the entry on the logged-in page, but when I hit “post”, it chucked me out πŸ™

  3. Anonymous says:

    Ben. No mention of AIS?

  4. Tana says:

    Does it come with Glonass and Galileo? I couldn’t find anywhere mention about it.

  5. Hi Ben, Thanks for this review – just purchased an 86sci as a back up to NORA’s plotter and for use on deliveries of other peoples boats. What are your thoughts on this as an alternative to an EPIRB? Does the Coast Guard get called in an SOS situation? Thanks!

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Hi Alec. It was actually Ben Stein who wrote this review, but we actually wear the same size shoes and also I’ve had lots of experience with the inReach satellite messenger technology since it started life here in Maine (thanks to deLorme). The messaging is reliable and fairly fast, and — most important — two way.

      However, while a PLB or EPIRB directly notifies the COSPASS-SARSAT system of your distress, inReach and similar Iridium-based systems go through a private rescue dispatch service called GEOS. Either way, your ID, position, and distress should get routed to a USCG rescue center for action, but that may happen faster via COSPASS-SARSAT. Then again, with inReach, you should have two-way comms with the rescue center, which could be very valuable to everyone involved.

      Yet then again, EPIRBS also have long battery life, flotation, and sometimes auto-activation — all of which could critical in a deep-sea situation.

      So my recommendation is to make choices based on the different strengths of the tools if necessary, and if possible carry two or more. But if forced to choose just one for coastal cruising and deliveries, I’d personally go with an inReach.

  6. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    There’s a serious Garmin 86sci fan with a great improvement idea over on the Forum:

    “Please join me in lobbying Garmin to add a simple GRIBS SCREEN to this wonderful handheld, joining now in-house GEOS, NAVIONICS, ACTIVE CAPTAIN, INREACH capabilities to make a near perfect device for the small boat captains (sailboat, powerboat, fishing boat, dinghy, life raft, wing boards, etc etc). The market for this would be EVERYONE!, a simple grib download/reader/display on a worldwide Iridium grid would be a game changer for the next generation: WEATHER REIMAGINED”

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