Have been seriously looking at picking up the Garmin Inreach Mini. I know that the mini can be set up to send SOTA spots (a complicated undertaking by MM0FMF if I understand correctly), and that it can be tethered to a cell phone for mapping, and sending/receiving text mesages using the Garmin App. I’ve recently been seeing a few peeps with the Zoleo Communicator. Have been told that it too can be tethered to a cell phone and used for mapping and text mesages. Anyone here in the SOTA world use the Zoleo? From what I’ve been able to gather so far, the monthly plans seem to be lower priced and the only person I’ve spoken to with one seemed to be pleased with it’s performance. I guess a question more for MM0FMF is that can it also be utilized to send SOTA spots? Not a deal breaker if not able but was curious if it could. I’m mainly looking for something the Boss (AKA - Wifey) can text me for when the “real boss” calls and tells me it’s time to go to work! I’ve taken a new work assignment which requires that I be “leashed to a cell phone” to be able to take my work call
Not a whole lot of cell coverage up here in the “Lost Sierras” I call home - so have been limited on getting out and about for a while now (Covid had nothing to do with it - as I’ve worked more this past 1 1/2 yrs than I had in the last 27yrs) ;-(
Thanks in advance for any info, tips, recommendations, etc etc…
While I can’t compare the inReach to the Zoleo nor even comment on the Zoleo, my experience with the inReach has been positive and as you know well we have some very lonely places in the Western USA and I really like the comfort of the inReach as a life line if things go sideways.
I’ve used the InReach from prior to acquisition by Garmin and have always been happy with it. In fairness, it’s a bulkier object than the mini and I did seriously think about “upgrading” to the mini but money aside felt the reduced battery life might become an issue on a multi day Sierra hike.
Don’t know if the Zoleo has the web based near real time location sharing but that is potentially useful for chasers and maybe even my wife. Here is an example of what you can see.
The iPhone app is pretty good and never seems to have a bluetooth pairing issue unlike a lot of other products like my Jeep and occasional heart rate monitor.
I have the $25 pm plan which isn’t cheap but it predated another option at about $11 pm which might well be good enough for your needs.
I use an inReach Mini and think the extra cost compared to Zoleo is worth it simply for the fact that if your cell phone goes belly up you can still compose/read messages on the inReach.
Same here - I wanted something small, light, and flexible, in that it’s good to carry a tool that has multiple uses. One of them was the nice app interface - great for navigating and messaging, but also the device can be used without your smartphone if needed/desired. Certainly a bit more clunky to draft a message directly on the InReach Mini that a smartphone, but totally doable. I receive messages and can read them just fine on the small screen, or the smart phone if I desire. The battery life is quite good, and I can do many activations before it’s down to 75%, and there are ways to reduce the battery demand so that you can get many days of use out of a single charge - for example, extended tracking mode allows 24 days of use per the manual… Maybe the Zoleo competes here too, but a big thing for me was not requiring the smartphone in order to use the InReach Mini, either for messaging or navigating. Did I mention it’s small and light?
From my point of view the Zoleo is easier for me to manage because it has a fixed phone number. The InReach devices use a pool of numbers so the number your InReach uses today may not be the number it uses in a week’s time. This makes them a little less easy to manage and puts a few restrictions on the message format available. I’ve never used either so I can’t comment on their use in the field nor do I know the subscription costs.
The other device which is supported and we have a few SOTA users is the Spot X which also has a fixed phone number.
I also went for the InReach mini, mostly as a “Just in Case” on the more obscure bits of the North Pennines where it is possible to walk for hours without seeing anyone. It works and weighs very little but I don’t find the menu system intuative. It also works for spots … thanks to Andy. Paul
I use the InReach Mini. Using the Earthmate app on your phone, it makes sending texts very easy. I have the $25 month plan, which is overkill for me, but I don’t have to worry about ‘did I re-activate my cheap plan before this venture?’ If you can see the sky, the texts go out. If I’m in a spot with no cell coverage, I send a text to a friend with my summit designator and ask him to spot me. The $25 month plan gives you 40 free texts per month. The most I’ve used is 5. The InReach goes everywhere with me when I’m travelling.
I also have an Inreach Mini (never heard of Zoleo until now). In my experience, it is rather slow to send/receive messages especially if there is any tree cover. Just something I wish I knew ahead of time. Otherwise it’s been pretty nice.
Well Andy not everyone has microwave theory or experience. Most GPS units show a position or fail. There is no indication of slow data transfer due to lost packets. As these devices use similar frequencies I think the comment is not unreasonable.
I don’t need a degree in Physics to know that if I drop a 1kg weight from 2m above the Earth it will fall down to the ground, I may know it will be accelerating all the time. I don’t need a degree in Human Physiology to know that if I let that 1kg weight hit my bare foot that it’s going to hurt a lot.
Likewise I don’t need to be an expert in signal propagation to know that if I sit under the shade of the trees in my garden I can still hear the cricket commentary on broadcast radio with no problem but that the burning rays from the yellow globe of fire in the sky are heavily attenuated. We see the effect that rising frequency signals are attenuated by foliage every day of our lives. But, this is a technical hobby and we are expected to learn about how signals are propagated and affected by the environment.
I think the word “especially” might have been missed in your reading, and I wonder why you assumed that I didn’t expect tree cover to have any impact on performance. We have an old saying: to assume is to make an ASS out of yoU and ME.
To elaborate some more on my experience with the InReach: I have had it fail to send a text message for over one hour while hiking in deciduous forests in Virginia in winter, without many leaves on the trees. The device was clipped onto the outside of my pack while I was hiking, so not perfect conditions, but still disappointing to me.
If it’s always slow then your InReach sounds like it is faulty. Probably deaf due to defective antenna connections, static damage to receiver front end active devices, inability to maintain network sync due to gross timing issues.
My own Iridium device has failed to uplink twice out of several hundred messages sent. Once was in 75% partial tree cover shown below and I expected issues with it in that location.
The only other time was when I was in a remote part of Northern Scotland and despite gaining sync the message failed to send. I waited a few minutes and tried again (there is a default time lockout on failed uplinks when my device wont send anyway). This time it worked. It’s possible, as Iridium uplink is to a single satellite, that my body moved into the view the device had of the satellite in the sky attenuating the signal. As GPS uses data from multiple satellites, you are less likely to obscure all the satellites with your body.
Usual time from send pressed to spot appearing on SOTAwatch for me is under 30secs including the uplink to Iridium satellite, transfer via sats to sat nearest Iridium downlink station, downlink itself, internet propagation to server, posting to SOTAwatch.
FYI Sent a non radio related message (inReach Mini) in a fairly steep sided valley with limited view if the sky with trees on both sides of a wide track with no issues (Google Maps) - and recieved a response - again with no issues. Trees fully grown in full leaf. Sorry no photo… it might be your device. 73
I wonder once all of LEO internet satellite constellation networks (Space-X Starlink, OneWeb-BT, Inreach, Telesat, Lockheed-Martin/Omnispace, AST&Science and possibly others including the large Chinese Satnet systems) are in place in 2-3 years time whether we will see new devices coming onto the market in competition to the Inreach and Zoleo ones. I wonder how strong and on what frequencies these new satellites will be and if in fact the next generation smartphones will have communication to these satellites as a standard feature for location, SMS and Internet connectivity (as well as VOIP speech) when out of range of cell towers?
I think the answer is maybe. Satellite broadband like Starlink has very different design requirements than Iridium hand portable terminal services and I don’t think it’s at all suitable for hand portable terminals.
Yes from what I read Starlink is aimed at commercial customers (who might then redistribute the bandwidth to homes on e.g. remote islands). OneWeb seems to be more end-user orientated.
Interesting times - at least until they start running into each other and knocking themselves out of orbit!