The Garmin InReach Mini 2 is an ultralight, and packable satellite communicator for long distance backpackers and thru-hikers that has great two-way messaging capabilities and search and rescue. It can send messages everywhere your cell phone can't. However, you don't need to upgrade if you already have the original InReach Mini.
Weight: 3.5 oz
Activation Fee: $29.95
- Safety (10 text messages, unlimited preset messages): $14.95 monthly, $11.95 annual
- Recreation (40 text messages, unlimited preset messages): $34.95 monthly, $24.95 annual
- Expedition (unlimited text messages, unlimited preset messages): $64.95 monthly, $49.95 annual
PROS: Two-way messaging capabilities with search and rescue; send and receive messages from anywhere; ultralight; very packable; durable; great battery life
With the introduction of the original InReach Mini several years ago, Garmin revolutionized the satellite communication world. With the InReach Mini 2, Garmin has further improved their InReach Mini by introducing navigation features, improving battery life, and adding a USB-C charging port. Garmin has also made the device compatible with the Garmin Explore app, and added connectivity with other Garmin devices.
The InReach Mini 2 is a must-have for backpackers, thru-hikers, and anyone else who spends extended periods of time in the backcountry. It is waterproof, durable enough to leave clipped to the outside of your bag all day, and works to send messages everywhere your cell phone doesn’t. But if you already have the original InReach Mini, we don’t think you need to buy the newest version.See on REI
Performance Test Results
What we tested:
The Garmin InReach Mini 2 is the lightest satellite messaging and SOS device that is widely available to consumers. At just 3.5 ounces, this device is light enough to bring on any adventure.
Garmin accomplishes this ultra-lightweight by making most of the functionality of the device accessible only by smartphone. So, you do need a cell phone with Bluetooth capabilities to really use the InReach Mini 2. But let’s face it, who doesn't bring their smartphone into the backcountry for maps, photos, and entertainment anyway?
Having the ability to activate the SOS function of this device is in and of itself enough of a benefit to justify an extra three and a half ounces. But for this weight, you can also send and receive text messages, check the weather forecast for your location, track your route and share it, navigate using the built-in compass, and more.
It would be interesting to see an even smaller and lighter version of the InReach Mini that lacks a screen altogether and is fully reliant on a phone connected via Bluetooth. But, part of the benefit of the Inreach Mini is that it is functional on its own. Making another version of the Mini that shaves another ounce off the weight by forgoing the screen would greatly sacrifice its SOS capabilities, especially since the InReach Mini 2 is significantly more durable than most modern smartphones.
The InReach Mini is small enough to fit in almost any pocket. It is about half the size of a granola bar and will fit anywhere you can cram a snack. It easily fits in a hip belt, shoulder strap, shirt, or pants pocket. This little device will fit just about anywhere that is convenient for you.
The InReach Mini 2 will fit just about anywhere that is convenient for you.
Compared to other items that are also in your ditty bag, the InReach Mini 2 is smaller than a 5,000 mAh battery bank, an average-size headlamp, and a first aid kit. We wouldn’t recommend going without any of these items for a backpacking trip.
It also comes with a small strap and carabiner to clip it to the outside of your pack. Many people will leave it clipped to their shoulder strap to have it quickly accessible in emergencies. When we attach it, we should strap it in the way we like to use a piece of shock cord with a toggle to hold it in place so the device isn’t bouncing around near our face.
Everyone who adventures beyond cell signal should have a way to call for help in an emergency, but that capability is pretty expensive. There are less expensive devices than the InReach Mini 2 that allow you to send an SOS signal in the backcountry. There are also less expensive devices you can use to send and receive non-emergency messages. But, the InReach Mini 2 surpasses all other similar devices in functionality, weight, and size, so we think it’s worth the price.
The price of an InReach is worth it, even if it's just for your family’s peace of mind
That being said, we know tons of thru-hikers and backpackers who don’t have an InReach or other satellite messaging device because they view the device as too expensive. The InReach Mini 2 costs more than many backpacking tents. If you’re putting together a backpacking kit from nothing, an extra $400 for a little device you probably won’t need is a lot.
The initial cost of buying the device is not the only expense, either. You will also need to pay a monthly subscription fee to use this. Fortunately, you can pause the subscription service during months you won’t need it. But, it is more expensive to pay for the service on a monthly basis than it is to pay yearly. So if you’re going to be using this year-round, it would be the most cost-effective to pay for the entire year upfront.
But for the price of the device and a monthly subscription cost that is significantly less than your cell phone bill, you can send and receive messages from anywhere in the world. The less expensive subscriptions only come with a set number of unique messages each month, 10 messages for the least expensive “Safety” plan, 40 for the “Recreation” plan, and unlimited for the “Expedition” plan.
Keep in mind you can send unlimited preset messages with any plan. We have always used the least expensive plan and used presets to message loved ones regularly, knowing that the SOS function was there for peace of mind.
Ease of use: 9/10
The InReach Mini 2 makes it easy to use all its features. If you’ve used a modern GPS device, figuring out how to use the InReach is easy. Even if you’ve never used a GPS before, the InReach is pretty simple to figure out.
Most of the initial setup is done via explore.garmin.com, where you can create an account, select a plan, and set up your device. From there, it’s a matter of downloading the Garmin Explore app on your smartphone and getting out there to use your new device.
explore.garmin.com is where you’ll do all the setup for your InReach.
When we switched to the new InReach Mini 2 from the original Inreach Mini, we were worried it would be difficult to transfer our subscription from the old device to the new one. Well, Garmin made this process incredibly easy. Compared to the old InReach Mini, the Mini 2 is considerably easier to use, too.
On the device, the menu is intuitive and simple. It is easy to check the weather, navigate, start tracking, and send preset messages using only the device. If you want to send a custom message, we recommend using your paired smartphone, though.
Sending preset messages with the InReach Mini 2 is easy, and custom messages are much easier to send via your paired smartphone.
Though you can send a custom message using the InReach Mini, the process is slow and tedious since the device is too small to have a keypad and lacks a touch screen. We have also used the Garmin InReach Explorer, which does have a keypad, and still prefer composing messages with the Garmin Explore app over the early 2000’s Blackberry style keypad.
One thing we don’t like about the new Garmin Explore app is that it seems to constantly want to be syncing with the InReach device. We looked through all the settings in the app, but there was no way to make the app stop sending notifications within the app itself. We had to change the app’s permissions in our Android operating system to turn off the push notifications.
We understand this is a piece of technology. But this technology is supposed to be a tool for helping people get outside, not another device fighting for our attention.
SOS Activation: 10/10
In 5+ years of using Garmin InReach devices, we have fortunately never had to activate SOS with any of our devices. However, the button is easy to press. So if you do need to send an SOS signal, it’s as simple as pulling back the cover and pressing the big, easy-to-press button.
The SOS button is easy to access and the cover prevents accidental activation and is big enough to press in any condition.
Also, if you do need to press the SOS button you’ll be able to send and receive messages from Search and Rescue. That way, they can know what kind of help you need. This is common with modern satellite messaging SOS devices but didn’t always use to be.
Fortunately, we’ve never had to activate the SOS feature on our InReach.
Two-way messaging: 9/10
The InReach Mini 2 sends and receives non-emergency messages better than the original InReach Mini and better than other satellite communication devices. While the InReach doesn’t work quite as well as a satellite phone, it is much less expensive. This device also doesn’t offer seamless messaging, so if you’re coming in and out of cell reception you’ll have to be switching between apps on your smartphone, and phone numbers.
Two-way messaging is much easier via the Garmin Explore app on your smartphone.
Messages sent with the InReach can be up to 159 characters long. If a message exceeds the character limit then it is broken up into two messages and you’ll be charged for sending two messages. While you don’t have to use the preset messages function, we recommend setting up some presets to send since they don’t count towards your messages limit if you don’t pay for the “Expedition” plan.
Setting a “pick me up here” preset message that shares your location is a great use of preset messages on the InReach.
With the original Mini, every time we sent a message the device would instruct us to move somewhere with a clear view of the sky, even if we were above treeline on a clear day. Every time we would then have to select “wait for GPS” or “send anyway.” We tried both options many times, and without fail the next time we went to send a message we had to go through the same thing.
The device would always eventually find a satellite and send the message. But we did find that extra step annoying, especially when we were just trying to send our family a preset message confirming we’re still alive and having a blast. Since switching to the InReach Mini 2, we have not gotten that message. So, it seems like Garmin fixed this issue.
Network and Satellite Coverage: 10
The InReach connects to the global Iridium® satellite network to send and receive messages. As long as you can get a clear view of the sky you’ll be able to send a message or SOS signal to one of these satellites. The Iridium satellite network covers the entire planet, even the North and South Poles, but it won’t work if you’re in a cave, underground, or some other place you can’t get a clear view of the sky.
Peaks or valleys don’t matter, the InReach uses the Iridium satellite network to send messages from anywhere.
Battery life: 9/10
The battery life on the Inreach Mini 2 seems to be significantly better than the original Mini. Garmin claims its device will last for up to 14 days on a single charge sending tracking data every 10 minutes. If you change the setting on your InReach to send tracking data every 30 minutes, the battery will last up to 30 days. We left our device on for a week and the battery was still at 56% capacity before we charged it for another trip, so we suspect Garmin’s claims are accurate.
After leaving the InReach Mini 2 on for a week, it still has 56% battery.
The InReach Mini 2 has a waterproof rating of IPX7. This means it can withstand “incidental exposure to water of up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes.” In practice, this means you don’t have to worry about your InReach getting rained on, but you shouldn’t go swimming with it. If you’re taking this rafting keep it in a dry bag or the Garmin Mini Dive Case.
Don’t take it swimming, but the InReach Mini 2 doesn’t mind getting wet.
Smartphone Pairing: 10/10
This device pairs with a smartphone seamlessly. Once it was initially paired, we had no issues with keeping the InReach paired with our phone.
Passive Location Tracking: 10/10
The InReach Mini 2 has passive location tracking. It logs location data every 10 minutes as the default setting. This tracking works very well and can be utilized to navigate back to where you started if you get lost.
Passive tracking tells you the time and distance traveled, as well as the route you took.
Navigational Features: 9/10
The InReach Mini 2 has a built-in compass that works very well, even when you aren’t moving. You can use the device on its own to navigate. It won’t show you a detailed topographic map, but it will show a previously uploaded route you create or upload into the Explore app and navigate you along that route.
Create or import routes in Garmin Explore and they automatically sync to your device for use in the field.
The navigation features built into the InReach work well. The device will even make an audible chirping noise if you go off-route when navigating with it. We thought this was a cool feature and would be great to navigate back to where you started if you get lost. But, we still prefer to use the Explore app to navigate since it is a full map with trails, roads, topo lines, and geologic features.
The InReach Mini 2 has a very accurate digital compass.
The InReach also has a nifty “TracBack” routing feature, which helps you navigate back the way you came. We tried this feature, tracking our route as we went out then allowing the device to navigate us back. It worked, but again, we still liked looking at our route on the Explore app and navigating back along that route.
Wandered off-trail? You can use the TracBack feature to find your way back, but we still found it easier to use this feature on the Explore app.
Weather Forecasting: 10/10
You can use the InReach Mini 2 to get a three-day weather forecast for the cost of one message. Getting a forecast is easily done with the touch of a button and is one of the most useful features of this device. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve sat cowering in our tent during a shoulder-season snowstorm and used this feature to plan how to deal with the storm.
Most satellite messengers have the features outlined above. What other features does it have that have beyond these usual features? E.g. weather reporting. How does it perform on these features in comparison to other satellite messengers that have the same features?
Checking the weather under questionable skies.