May 31, 2017

Garmin’s InReach Explorer combines the attributes of a GPS plotter and a locator beacon. Both items are essential for safety at sea, in our opinion, and so we equipped ourselves with the InReach+ during a cruise between Florida and the Bahamas aboard a Yamaha jet boat in May, 2017.

Garmin InReach+
Getting familiar with Garmin’s InReach Explorer+ prior to running offshore. Emily Dale

One of the great things about the InReach Explorer+ is the ability to communicate by text to any phone or email address. Because it works over satellite, no cellular connection is required. As boaters know, even places that aren’t so remote often lack cell coverage. The ability to, “call home,” and let family or friends know if we’ll be late, or simply that all is well, is a great feature in our opinion.

We discovered you can take interpersonal communication even further by sharing your location on the Mapshare Portal. This is a website to which your position updates on a map and on which friends and family can view and follow progress. It’s very cool. Here is a screen shot.

Garmin InReach+ Map Portal
Mapshare Portal Screen Shot Courtesy Garmin

For full functionality, boaters will want to activate the Earthmate app that comes with your InReachExplorer+. This app allows pairing your InReach Explorer+ with an iOS or Android device so you can download a variety of digital maps and charts, including NOAA nautical charts. This is a must, in our view, and allows InReach to serve as a fully-functional chart plotter. ( The App can also be downloaded as a standalone, if you like)

Of course, enhanced safety is provided by accurate positioning, charting and worldwide communications ability. But the InReach Explorer+ Doesn’t stop there. Hit the button and you connect to GEOS. GEOS, a private company, is a world leader in emergency response solutions and monitoring. They’ve supported rescues in more than 140 countries, saving many lives in the process. And they’re standing by 24/7/365 to respond to your SOS, track your device and notify the proper contacts and emergency responders in your area. Then, while help is on the way, GEOS will continue to text back and forth with you, providing updates and critical information until your situation is resolved.

Compared to a personal locator beacon, (PLB,) which operate primarily on the 406 MHz frequency and require no subscription fee, InReach+ requires a subscription fee ( a variety of plans are available). Of course, that sounds bad at first, but do realize that InReach offers the text messaging service that PLB do not. So, if in addition to use as a locator beacon, you want the ability to communicate, and use the device as a social media tool to share your position on an Internet mapping website ( Indeed, PLB makers offer optional fee-based service for just that purpose) a subscription is perfectly legitimate in our view.


We found the InReach+Explorer’s transflective display screen easy to read in bright sun and from a pretty wide range of angles ( though it appears black beyond 160-degrees or so). It’s waterproof, as a dunk and hour-long soak in a bucket of saltwater proved. Battery life was simply a non-issue: we ran it all day, then plugged it in at night.( Its rated for 100 hours of use on a charge; see specs below for details.)

Garmin InReach Explorer+
Garmin InReach Explorer+ Courtesy Garmin

Specs and Price

Dimensions: 2.7″ x 6.5″ x 1.5″ (6.8 x 16.4 x 3.8 cm) with keypad and SOS door bump

Weight: 7.5 oz (213.0 g)


Waterproof Rating: IPX 7

Battery Type: Rechargable LI-On

Battery Life:Up to 100 hours at 10-minute tracking mode (default); up to 75 hours at 10-minute tracking with 1-second logging; up to 30 days at the 30-minute interval power save mode; and up to 3 years when powered off.


Price: $449.95, at a variety of retailers.


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