Garmin inReach Explorer+, armchair transatlantics & hands on

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

15 Responses

  1. Brian says:

    Hi Ben, May I borrow for a day cruise?
    BTW I was cruising St Lucia in May. Maybe. crossed tracks

  2. Ron says:

    Good discussion on the InReach device. Based on your earlier reviews I purchased one in 2015 to track a trip to Nova Scotia. It worked well and I enjoyed the comfort of having an emergency communicator – with two-way function. This I considered much better than the EPIRB that I also carried. Ironically, I had far better cell service in NS than I do in coastal Maine! – so the emergency function was less of issue than I thought.
    I did have some issues loading maps to my phone interface after purchase but customer service was great and solved the problem over two weeks with email updates. (it was a general software issue related to their NS mapping downloads on their end that was corrected). Therefore, I have had a good experience with Customer Service. I did read the awful Amazon review you referenced and have to ask why has Garmin not provided some response in that comment chain?.
    Last year I thought of using the InReach for tracking again for summer boating in Maine but the monthly cost seemed too high to me. I know that this is counter to your article but I wanted to find something that would be far cheaper and able to chart my course.
    What I found that works well in coastal use is Spotwalla for charting combined with Bubbler GPS app for tracking. Spotwalla is free and the Bubbler GPS was $9.99 one time. The Bubbler interface is cell based so you need to have cell or WIFI for continual coverage – but the Bubbler logs points and stores until signal is present or you can set it not so send until you want so this minimizes cell use – which I found was very little even if on continually. So this really is a great service for me – and you can link Spotwalla to blogs etc for sharing (much easier than you can with the InReach software) – you can even control which trips are made public and which stay private. I will plan to use this on a planned Great Loop trip next year.
    Thus, account the relatively high cost of the monthly tracking fee I will continue to use the InReach as a back emergency device (it is great for hiking in areas on no cell) and track locations of trips as noted above.
    This comment is not to say that the InReach system is not good but rather to offer alternatives to those that are more coastal cruisers versus offshore users.

  3. David says:

    Looks like a great product. I’ve been using the YB Tracking system (fixed unit) which also works with the Iridium sats. These systems are a great safety device with SMS services for weather and quick “hello” type messages.

  4. Tom on Snow Star says:

    Ben, good summary of our first leg. All is accurate and yes there is still lots to learn about the device. We had lots of fun communications with family as a group, friends and public as groups too. Some messages were not shareable. The iPhone and/or iPad made life with the inreach much more enjoyable. I even used the voice recognition feature of the iPhone with moderate success. When back I will have a chat with Ken about our return in November.thanks for all your support and guidance. I owe you another lunch.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Fantastic article Ben! Cool stuff! Amazing detailed information. Helpful, informative and so interesting to read! The 47 sailing away from Hamilton..and Michele Zambelli’s photos from the SAR requested US COAST GUARD Helo rescue…WoW!! Micheles boat looks soooo small in that big ugly sea apparetly some 350 nm so far off shore cape race/stjohns. It almost looks like he made it close to halfway to southhampton England!!if you click on the Garmin map tab and set it to “Aerial” instead of what the picture shows when its first loaded on aerial it shows a nice sub oceanic sea base chart illustrating eye candy with plates, sea mounts, oceanic ridges and shelves
    Chart is geological structures in various blue font which you may know already. Anyway…Strong work Captain Ellison! Thanks for your work to create such a fine interesting and informative article like this to enjoy reading as well as to learn so much current detail about the “game changing and lifesaving emerging new software and hardware marine electronic technologies and products the industry continues to come to market with. Exciting times!
    John Neyland Jr.

  6. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I received this suggestion/complaint:
    “My suggestion is a comparison of Garmin inReach Explorer+ versus IridiumGO! This was a big missing piece in your latest post.”
    I did actually try the GO! a couple of years ago but never really got the hang of using it, and ditto for Globalstar SatFi. I feel guilty about not reviewing them, but think it is fair to say that both require more user commitment than inReach, mainly because they are not as fully integrated tracking/messaging systems.
    But that said, many bluewater cruisers report good results from GO! and SatFi, particularly if they’ve installed external antennas. They certainly offer more bandwidth, which means audio calls, semi-normal email, and richer weather forecasting.
    I’ve also tried the SPOT Gen3, which is much improved over previous models. But it’s still limited to one way canned messaging, and the online tracking/logging service does not really compare to inReach in my view.

  7. Michael says:

    We have used an InReach SE for many years, and it has always performed well — very useful on both trans-Atlantics and on other offshore trips.
    Now, however, the battery has apparently died — at least the unit no longer works without external power. Two emails to Germin support have so far produced no result.
    And meanwhile, of course, my subscription keeps running.
    I’m almost at the point of looking for an alternative.

  8. Richard Gard says:

    I have a DelOrme InReach SE for 2 years now, paired with my iPhone. I’ve used it on 4 offshore trips as a tracking device and a satellite-style email. I use the unlimited messages subscription only when I’m offshore. I will send and receive several thousand messages (at 160 chars max), as well FastSeas routing and weather. I also get the OCENS marine point weather every few days.
    It has all worked very very well, until this last trip where the order of some messages garbled, or messages would be received 3-4 times. This only happened on this last trip, which was the first time I used my device since it became Garmin. I don’t know if that is a cause or a coincidence.
    I’ve no glitches with synching to my MacBook, but I only synch if the firmware needs changing, or a few days before I start a trip.
    Typing on the InReach is a pain (I did it for a day when I missed the iPhone), otherwise the iPhone pairing makes everything easy, including having all my contact emails and FastSeas info.
    PS I originally suggested the FastSeas implementation to Jeremy of FastSeas. He was great to work with, me as the tester, and you can get accurate routing information with course heading and wind information. Set your polars up on FastSeas before you leave and its a very useful navigation and safety package.
    InReach is So VERY much cheaper than a SatBroadBand or SatPhone

  9. Todd Driscoll says:

    Richard, regarding the garbled messages, please reach out to Garmin at [email protected]. These folks have viewed your issue on Panbo and are expecting your email.

  10. Peter Jung says:

    Hi Ben,
    Yeah, but… Purchased a new Explorer+ in May to use on a trip along the British Columbia coastline, where cellular connectivity is slim, and WiFi almost non-existent. Turns out, I was unable to pair it with my older iPad, much to my dismay. And given the spotty cellular connections in this part of the world, I was unable to resolve the issue until AFTER I returned:
    (Received from Garmin technical support: “…I have reviewed the (iPad) model number that you provided and it does appear that the older iPad is using a different module to process data for Bluetooth to Earthmate. With that said, since the new device has a newer chipset, the device can be paired but will not interact with the Earthmate App due to this difference. This change was done by Apple when they released newer iPads and iPhones with the lightening adapter as it’s new standard.”
    Not Garmin’s fault that Apple capriciously changes hardware (interesting business model, built-in obsolescence). However, Garmin does need to provide a hardware compatibility list with the Explorer+ so consumers can determine function BEFORE they need it. In my case, I need to drop yet another boat unit on a new iPad before I get full functionality from my Explorer+.

  11. Michael says:

    Glad to report a (somewhat delayed) happy ending to my sad non-support story.
    My third enail finally received a reply, and I was able (for $150) to send my InReach in to Garmin and get a refurbished replacement. Changing my account over to the new machine required another email to Garmin support, but after that I was able to sync the new machine and thus recover all my contacts and history.
    So I no longer feel so negative.

  12. Richard C says:

    Twitter just increased its character limit to 280 per message. Wouldn’t it be spectacular if Garmin did the same for inReach. Expanding the character limit would make the functionality of inReach far more useful then it is now and open up the possibility of sending and receiving more functional messages. If Garmin wants to sell more inReach Explorer+ devices this would be the way to do it instantly.

  13. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Sorry to report that Snow Star — now mid Atlantic, en route to Antigua — is having the same problem that Charlie Doane had in June with mixed up “sent from” inReach email addresses. I was hoping that Garmin fixed this, and it’s possible they did but maybe Snow Star has not updated the inReach handheld firmware. That update still requires running the inReach Sync app on a PC or Mac with handheld attached via USB.

  14. Richard C says:

    It seems to me that several people are reporting problems with their Delorme designed inReach devices since Garmin took over. I wonder if the complete integration of Delorme will happen when Garmin designs their own Explorer ++, all new from the ground up? After all, I’m sure Garmin has their own ideas on how to take the inReach concept to the next level. The current model inReach devices have only slight updated features compared to the original, (in my opinion, not enough difference to make me run out and buy the current Explorer+). Does anyone have any hint as to when Garmin might redesign the Explorer+?

  15. Aaron Linsdau says:

    I did a video review of the Garmin Explorer Plus. I’ve used it in Russia, Alaska and the Rockies with great success:

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