Delorme Inreach Explorer

Dalko43

Explorer
I know the staff here (Chris Noel) did a very good review on this topic (http://expeditionportal.com/field-tested-delorme-inreach-explorer/ ), but I wanted to add some user feedback because I don't see this device/software mentioned a lot in this section of the forum.

I have Delorme's InReach Explorer, a similar device to Delorme's InReach but with added features and functionality. I originally bought the device because I needed GPS navigation and emergency communications for when I backpack and hunt in remote areas of upstate NY. But I also wanted something that would fit the bill as a navigation unit for offroading and general 4wd exploring on the backroads that I routinely come across. At first, I was hesitant about getting one because there weren't many reviews on the device and Delorme's corresponding software app (known as Earthmate) and certainly I didn't hear about many people using it for their vehicle navigation system. I came across a $50 rebate deal ($350 is the normal price, but $300 with rebate) and jumped on it.

A quick breakdown of the main features:
- Offers emergency and non-emergency communications, basically text messages (either typed on the device or a paired tablet or phone), that are sent via a Satellite Iridium network. The messages can basically be sent from anywhere in the world (so long as you can pick up a satellite connection) and don't rely on cell phone network coverage (which of course is a big deal to most of us who explore). As well, people who receive your messages can send messages back to you, either via a phone text or email or via another delorme inreach explorer (both of which are transmitted via the previously mentioned Satellite Iridium network).
- Emergency communications are monitored and received by an operations center that is on call 24/7, so that if a distress signal is sent out by the user, it is received and forwarded to the relevant authorities along with the user's last known position.
- Offers GPS coordinates, heading, speed, and elevation.
- Offers the ability to create and follow routes, waypoints and track your movements. As well, you can import GPS files to follow routes and waypoints made by other people. The editing, creation, and deletion of routes and waypoints is done via Delorme's web-based mapshare program (which any Delorme Inreach owner has access to free of charge).
- Allows the user to share his/her positions with others via the online mapshare program.
- A newly added feature allows the user to draw in weather updates (again using the Iridium network, not reliant on cell coverage).
- Perhaps most importantly of all, Delorme offers what is known as the Earthmate app for user's phones and tablets (the app comes free of charge with your purchase of a Delorme Inreach Explorer and subscription to their services). The app essentially allows you to download a variety of map layers (topographic, satellite imagery, Delorme's Topo North Ameria Digital Map, NOAA off-shore charts, and a generic Digital Atlas map) for anywhere in the US and Canada. These maps can be cached to your mobile device, and when paired with your Inreach Explorer, can be used to navigate regardless of cell phone/wifi coverage (again, the Inreach relies on an uplink to an Iridium Satellite network to determine your location, though cell phone and internet connectivity can be used as well when they are available).

The purchase cost, as mentioned before, is normally around $350, but there are occasional rebates. And there is a subscription fee for activation and usage. There are different plans based upon how many text messages you send, tracking intervals, location pings, ect. The 2 basic fee structures are: an annual plan (where you have the subscription active for the entire year) w/ the lowest payment plan being ~$12/month; and the freedom plan (where you can choose to activate and de-activate your subscription based upon planned usage) w/ the lowest payment plan being ~$15/month.

The pro's:
- 24/7 satellite coverage for navigation, communication (both emergency and non-emergency).
- Maps, messaging, weather updates, tracking, waypoints/routes can all be accessed and used on your paired mobile device via the Earthamte App. Your mobile device basically becomes the conduit through which you can access and use the features on your Explorer (which can stay tucked away or mounted on your dashboard).
- Extensive types of maps available for download via Earthmate for no extra cost (excluding whatever subscription plan you have).
- Inreach Explorer can serve as your GPS signal for other mapping apps (PDF Avenza, Hema Maps App, BackCountry explorer) for Apple devices, not sure about Android.
- Text communications can be sent to a friend's or family member's phone number or email or to other Explorers, and responses can be received. As well GPS coordinates and map locations can be shared via the web-based Mapshare program.

The con's (w/ caveats):
- The upfront cost of $350 is not cheap, but also somewhat comparable to other handheld GPS devices, none of which offer the messaging capabilities of the Explorer. So not an outright con, but something to consider.
- Subscription fee. Probably the biggest deterrent to anyone considering this device. $12/month adds up over a few years (that's my current subscription using the annual plan). I certainly think the argument could be made to lower that monthly fee somewhat, but I also understand why a fee is needed (especially for the emergency response measures). Also consider that you are getting access to all of Delorme's digital, topo, satellite, NOAA maps for US and Canada and all relevant updates/upgrades for those maps and the Earthmate App (which are regular). Again, perhaps not an outright con, but definitely something that should be considered heavily. This may not fit everyone's budget.
- Inreach Explorer device doesn't actually display maps on its screen (I think that has something to do with the storage space in the device itself). You can see a green arrow marking your location and heading and you can see waypoints and routes, but no map layers. For that you need a paired mobile device (suggest that you have a fair bit of memory if you want to be able to cache a good number of maps).
- No route navigation. You can set up a route w/ waypoints and get headings, distance to the next waypoint, but you do not get Google Maps-style of directions as you navigate down streets or dirt roads. I'm not sure how many other GPS devices and software really offer that detailed level of navigation, especially for 4wd roads. But I've done just fine using Google Maps to get me to the general town/vicinity of where I want to explore and then use the Explorer and Earthmate App to navigate the backroads (the maps on your mobile device will stay centered over your current location, so you can see where you are in relation to nearby terrain, roads, features, ect.).
- Limited storage for waypoints and routes. I talked to a Delorme rep a while back and he told me that the Delorme Explorer (not the paired mobile phone) was limited to several dozen routes and under 100 waypoints (according to him that was due to the Explorer's memory). I uploaded a GPS file with 60-70 routes about 300 waypoints and the Explorer device uploaded all of them. So I'm sure there is a limit to how much info can be stored on the Explorer, but so far it has been able to hold everything that I need it to.


Having used this device for a variety of applications (vehicle navigation, camping, hiking, hunting/scouting), my takeaway is this: the Delorme Inreach Explorer is the closest thing there is on the market to an all-in-one GPS navigation/communication package. The device itself may have limited functionality relative to other GPS units (no maps are shown on its display), but when paired with a mobile device it offers nearly the same amount of functionality for navigation and map-reading. I take my iphone everywhere I go (for pictures, emergency calls). So having it on me when I hike/camp is no big deal (I normally use the Earthmate maps as a backup to my map and compass). And in the car, my Iphone is my primary navigation unit (using Google Maps); when the cell phone coverage goes dark, I turn on my Explorer and follow the roads/features displayed on my Earthmate maps. It isn't perfect. It isn't a dedicated vehicle navigation system (think along the lines of Hema's vehicle GPS unit or Garmin's offerings). But given that I am just as inclined to get out and explore on foot as I am inclined to drive, it's the optimal device/system for what I do.

Edit: I forgot to add that the Inreach Explorer is rated dustproof and waterproof (to a certain depth obviously) and overall is very robust. I've never deliberately thrown it in the water or mud, but I've used it extensively outdoors and in the rain and it has worked flawlessly. A mobile device (phone or tablet) obviously needs more delicate handling and protective cases, but the I've always either thrown the Explorer into my pack or clipped it onto my belt and never worried about it. I'm glad Delorme went to great lengths in designing its robustness and reliability, because the last thing a user needs to worry about is having his/her Explorer break down in the middle of nowhere.
 
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kojackJKU

Autism Family Travellers!
I am looking at getting this setup as well for use in our overland rigs. Ipad air, with the inreach would be awesome.
 

Kerensky97

Xterra101
I got the regular Inreach and love it. I got the base model, I didn't want to pay more for the GPS mapping since I already have a phone+Tablet+Garmin+7.5" maps
But the peace of mind of having an emergency exit option with you or just a simple message at the end of the night to tell loved ones you're at your next camp and safe is so nice.
 

kojackJKU

Autism Family Travellers!
Oh totally. I am setting up some new mapping on my android 8" tablet here now. I like trying different ones...I am using canada topo and brmb mapping for android. I hope that canada topo is available on IOS too as I am switching to an ipad mini for my new device. I will have torque pro, brmb mapping and canada topo.
 

pugslyyy

Robinson Fuso
We have the inreach and really like it. We bought it primarily to use in event of emergency (we like to be where cell phones don't work), but have grown to really like a number of the other features like the access to all of the Delorme maps/topos, being able to do non-emergency communications via text, and being able to summon help for others (like disabled vehicles in the back country).

The only issue people seem to have is they expect it to do street navigation / mapping - which is functionality that it does not have.
 

pugslyyy

Robinson Fuso
The newer models can request and display weather data, which is cool
I like the feature but have found it to be hit and miss - I think that when you get a forecast it grabs the closest available one. So you might be on top of a mountain and the forecast might be for the bottom of a valley. Or in Saline Valley I think you end up getting the forecast for Bishop - which can be a huge difference.
 

carbon60

Explorer
I like the feature but have found it to be hit and miss - I think that when you get a forecast it grabs the closest available one. So you might be on top of a mountain and the forecast might be for the bottom of a valley. Or in Saline Valley I think you end up getting the forecast for Bishop - which can be a huge difference.
That's good feedback! I have the original, and was thinking of upgrading for that reason.

Though up here, I often have to infer because forecasts are for far away.

Do the new units have a loud alarm?

A.
 

Dalko43

Explorer
Lol, I haven't checked this thread in a while and I had no idea that other Delorme owners had been responding. Great to see others using this solid device!

Oh totally. I am setting up some new mapping on my android 8" tablet here now. I like trying different ones...I am using canada topo and brmb mapping for android. I hope that canada topo is available on IOS too as I am switching to an ipad mini for my new device. I will have torque pro, brmb mapping and canada topo.
Yeah, another con I discovered while out on a trip through Ontario's back country: Delorme's current map sets for Canada are extremely limited. No Sat imagery, the digital maps lacked detail, no quad maps. I talked to a Delorme rep who said that due to the merger with Garmin, Derlorme may be getting new map sets in the future...we'll see about that.

I would like the delorme setup to have easier access to sat imagery and emergency services.
Delorme does offer satellite maps for most of North America.

I really think that if Delorme could integrate some newer map sets for areas outside of the US and maybe tweak their earthmate app to allow some form of route navigation, we'd really have a complete package here.
 
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DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
You didn't mention an important point IMHO, which is the batteries are not replaceable and must be periodically charged. They claim a 100 hour life on a charge. If you're in a vehicle or only doing trips of a couple of day this is not nearly as much of a limitation as it might be with several day backpack or bike trips.

So even though Delorme has many desirable features over SPOT the question of replaceable batteries and power consumption still are important considerations when your use involves more than a couple of days away from support. The batteries in my SPOT have lasted a month doing 10 minute tracking all day with a daily check-in. So a second set of batteries is all you need to carry to be sure you're OK, assuming you plan on being in a town within the next few weeks.

It's not an insurmountable problem, carrying a power source, solar panel or something. But I think the pro/con comparison needs to mention this.

I also didn't see that the GPS and navigation really was robust enough to eliminate the need for a proper GPS device, so the size and weight are something of a negative when you consider a PLB or SPOT are smaller and lighter.
 
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