After a recent experiences of struggling to self-spot from summits with little or no mobile phone coverage, I’m seriously considering getting a Garmin InReach Mini. Specifically for SMS messaging, spotting using SMS.
I also like the idea of the safety net of having the SOS function (let’s not get into the debate of whether you should rely on a Communicator vs a PLB in a life threatening situation…that’s been discussed at great length in other threads).
My phone runs Android. Looking at the Play Store reviews the accompanying Earthmate app has pretty dire reviews…it seems a lot of people have had issues with it, specifically with the bluetooth connection & messages not sending (or sending multiple times). Obviously this would be a big problem for me because it is the whole point of getting the device!
Conversely, most of the reviews on YouTube seem to be fairly positive so I’m not quite sure what to believe!
Looking for comments & opinions from people that have & use a Garmin InReach with the Earthmate app…especially if you are using it with an Android phone.
Never had a problem with mine, it’s great!
I’ve had the occasional glitch but not enough to put me off. I’d still recommend it.
I have regular problems with mine. I don’t recommend it.
DO NOT GET ONE, you will end up pulling your hair out with insanity!!!
The Mini keyboard / UI is pants but lots of people use it for spotting so you don’t need the app but it’s nicer. I can’t remember if some problems arose because the app applies some of its own settings that overide the account settings. Or if that was the iPhone version.
You may want to consider a Zoleo device but I’m not sure if they are selling them in the UK yet but only USA and VK.
As for phones, my tests of comparing modern EE SIM in a modern(ish) phone vs my Three SIM shows that EE coverage is orders of magnitude better than Three and I never really though Three coverage to be poor. I’ve pushed the PAC code to port my number today after 13 years with Three.
As you may (or may not) remember from my posts in another topic not long ago, I’m on Three & had a few issues spotting in the Lake District. My contract comes to an end in a couple of months time & I have been debating a switch to either O2 or EE…I think I’m swaying towards EE, even if it is slightly more expensive.
As somebody said in the other thread, apparently the emergency services are migrating over to EE so I would hope that their network is up to scratch!
Presumably this coverage would also benefit EE customers? Looking at coverage maps online, it does appear that EE have better coverage than the other big players here in the UK.
I considered it but the online reviews don’t seem to be as favourable.
The InReach Mini also has GPS navigation options without needing a mobile phone (albeit that the mini is literally just a bearing to a pre-programmed waypoint). I see this as a good backup navigation option to give me a bearing & distance back to the car/civilisation if my primary GPS fails.
I also looked at the more traditional satellite phone which gives texting & often gives you a designated UK phone number but these were about double (or even triple) the cost for the monthly contract, so not really a cost effective option!
It’s a lot more expensive than Three, 50% more for the same thing! But I want full 4g services (4g voice etc) and better coverage especially as when Three shutdown their 3g service I would need a new phone to make voice calls. It’s a no-brainer to me to switch to EE in this case as the phone I have will do what I need.
I have not had any problems with Earthmate. To spot, I send the summit info and frequency to a friend and have him spot me. The reason being, each text you send uses a different phone number and unless that number is registered for SMS, I don’t think it would work. (It might, I just haven’t tried it that way). As far as messages not sending, I doubt that is the Earthmate app, it’s more like the InReach doesn’t have a clear view of the sky. One thing to ALWAYS do before leaving the house is to sync the InReach, Earthmate and Explorer.
Just ordered the InReach Mini after a solo activation this weekend and lack of APRS pings for a couple hours worried the XYL. Brother has the Mini and sent us lots of posit messages from no-cell areas on a recent back-country trip. Looking forward to trying it out, and would appreciate a primer on how to spot SOTA using it.
InReach mini took some swearing to set up. I am in no way TECH savvy ( A big THANK YOU again to Andy for his help). Once it is set up it is fairly straight forward as long as you put the info in the right way you will eventually get a spot 15-20 min is about the longest it has taken, usually in under 5 min.
Biggest benefit has been the ability for the wife to know I’m alive and well and as she puts it “not dead on some mountain”…
I have regular issues with the app but inreach is really the only option out there so still recommend it … with caveats.
Worst issue is app gwttng ‘out of sync’ with inreach: incoming messages arrive on inreach but app wont collect them. only solution is an uninstall/ reinstall of the app. My solution is to have the .apk for earthmate saved on my phone so i can reinstall out of coverage.
Other annoying isssue is outgoing mesages going to wrong contact on my contacts list. solution was to refuse access for the app to my contacts. I suspect this issue comes from using same inreach on multiple phones …but as the above workaround solved it and garmin didnt care i went no further. Was embarassung telling the missus’ boss i loved him & sleep well!
Messaging to mobiles is patchy as some providers (eg spark nz) keep identifying the inreach gateway as a spam provider & silently dropping messages from it. Email has been more reliable. We add on a sequence / ack to our messages to know whats arrived/been lost. e.g. start msg with M1A1 to say my 1st msg, ack yr 1st message. Clunky but gives assurance of whats got through on extended trips.
I’ve been using an inreach se for six or seven years, in Asia and the United States. Other than finding the user interface to be a clunky and encountering occasional delays in text sends and receives, it has been quite reliable. I now routinely use it to spot myself as most of the summits I visit don’t seem to have cell coverage and my family is much happier knowing I have it with me when I solo hike.
I have an Inreach Explorer. It has a screen. The only issues are 1. Connection to Bluetooth sometimes takes two tries Once connected it stays connected. 2. This is obvious but you must have a clear view of the sky. EX: if your standing in a fairly dense forest it my not work or be super slow. Metals and carbon fiber objects block the signal.