Coming in at $300 (or cheaper with promotional offers) the InReach is a must have for anyone who spends time in the backcountry. I use it predominately for skiing, but take it with me for any activity where I'm going to be out of service. While skiing I believe this is as critical a piece of equipment as my avy beacon... it is that important. Knowing that in the event of a crisis I can immediately contact SAR, with my location, and communicate back and forth regarding the severity of an injury and expected time of arrival no matter where I am is... well... a life saver. Fortunately I haven't had to use in a crisis yet, but I know of too many situations where this device could have saved a life. Bottom line, if your going into the backcountry with any kind of risk level (which is inherent in pretty much any backcountry situation) you should have an InReach with you IMOP.
Anyway, onto the features of the product
1. Durability. Thing is waterproof, feels pretty rugged so far which is critical. Excellent battery life.
2. Simplicity. SOS is a quick unlock and push of a button away. There's only a few buttons and screen navigation is very intuitive. Writing texts on the device is quicker and easier than I thought it would be. You can still text and send through your smart phone when it's paired to the InReach as well.
3. Earthmate App. Love it! Download highly detailed maps to your phone before your outing and pair it with the InReach to use it as a GPS (still always bring a physical map and compass with you just in case). I've done some bushwhacking between trails to find a small cabin and found the GPS to be spot on, maps are excellent quality.
4. Plan Options. I use the bare bones "Safety Plan" with an annual subscription that comes in at $12 a month. They have tiered plans where you can choose to use the Freedom rates and only pay monthly (at a slightly higher rate and with an annual fee of $25). The "Safety Plan" offers unlimited SOS (all I really need), 10 texts a month to other contacts, and you have to pay $.10 for tracking points. To see all plan options go to...
5. SAFETY!! Did I already mention this? Let me bring it up again, this thing can save your life or the lives of your backcountry partners!!!
1. The only real competitor to InReach is the SPOT communicator. They both link you to GEOS bunker to be in contact with local SAR, both can send SOS and track your movements. SPOT lets you send a pre-programmed "I'm ok message". Overall the SPOT is a lot better than using nothing but your cell phone, but it falls well short of the InReach for several reasons. InReach shows you a confirmation that your SOS has been sent, with SPOT you can't be sure. With InReach you can communicate back and forth, provide details about your situation that could be critical to the rescue party, and you can hear back about the ETA of the rescue party. Never mind the useful GPS Earthmate app or other features of the InReach that the SPOT doesn't have, it's the devices ability to communicate details back and forth that makes it far superior to a SPOT.
2. The InReach Explorer. The Explorer has all the same features of the SE, but with the ability to use GPS on the device itself. However, you cannot load maps onto the device... your left with a white back screen and your set way points. When you can just pair it to your phone and use highly detailed maps showing trails and elevation I don't see any benefit to using the Explorer as a GPS. I recommend not wasting $80 on the upgrade, the SE has every safety feature you need and you can still use it as GPS with a smartphone.
Overall, what's my main conclusion about the InReach SE... you guessed it... SAFETY FIRST!! I cannot recommend this product enough. It is the best option available on the market today, it is reasonable priced, and you should probably stop thinking about it and buy it.