DeLorme has been progressively tweaking its two-way inReach satellite communications hardware for several years. In 2010, it packaged the PN-60w GPS with a SPOT satellite beacon for sending out field-typed messages. It followed that up with the cell phone-partnering inReach in 2011 and the standalone inReach SE last year.
Previous inReach units were designed for satellite-powered messaging and basic GPS tracking features. They were aimed at both emergency use, offering push-button connection to emergency rescue services, and more casual communications, allowing users to exchange freeform messages with family and friends. They also offered journey tracking, allowing others to monitor the adventurer's progress online. If you wanted navigation features, however, you had to use a separate GPS unit or smartphone.
The new inReach Explorer keeps the primary inReach function set, adding a full suite of navigation features to eliminate the need for a separate GPS unit. It includes a simple map view that allows users to navigate with routes, waypoints and tracks. The unit also includes a digital compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer, adding extra navigational functionality while tracking speed, elevation, distance and more.
The Explorer's navigation features are enhanced when used with peripheral devices. Users can utilize the online Explore portal to plan routes and waypoints ahead of time, as well as to share trip information with contacts. This is also where family and friends can view the explorer's planned route and real-world track via his or her MapShare page. The inReach Explore can also Bluetooth-pair with a smartphone or tablet via DeLorme's Earthmate app, allowing access to topographic maps and US NOAA charts. Maps can be downloaded ahead of time for offline use.
Like other inReach products, the Explorer uses the Iridium satellite network. The SOS feature allows for immediate access to the GEOS 24/7 search and rescue monitoring center. The two-way communications function offers the ability to communicate directly with rescuers to provide more detail than simple GPS coordinates.
The device is powered by a 2,450 mAh lithium-polymer battery that offers up to 100 hours of life when the device is used in 10-minute tracking mode. It holds up to the harsh, unpredictable conditions of backcountry travel with IP67 waterproof/dustproof, impact-resistant construction. It weighs 6.7 oz (190 g).
The inReach Explorer is available for order now, retailing for US$379.95. It will find its way into stores this month. Unlike in past years, inReach users are no longer tied into a subscription, though they can opt for subscription plans. DeLorme's Freedom Plans allow users to activate service for just a month – this way they're not forced to pay when the inReach is sitting idle on a closet shelf. Freedom Plans run between $14.95 and $99.95 per month plus $24.95 annual fee. Annual contracts break down to between $11.95 and $79.95 per month.