The Garmin Inreach Mini

Written by: Dennis Voigt - April 21, 2020


    Retriever trainers, hunters, fisherman, hikers, campers and others often end up in isolated locations where mobile phones do not receive or transmit due to lack of cell coverage. That can be a life-threatening problem in the event of an accident or a health issue like a heart attack. Or perhaps it just means you can't keep in touch with family or be notified in the event an emergency back home. Garmin's InReach Mini is a great solution to ensuring contact with the outside world!  This review describes the device and my experiences over the past 1 1/2 years. 


Isolation took on a new meaning all around he world in the spring of 2020 during the Covid-19 Pandemic. But isolation may not be a new thing to most of you. I am not talking about home isolation but the isolation of remote places without contact with others. Smartphones are out constant companions these days for everything from navigation, to text and email and contact with our family and friends. Of course, they also give us a sense of safety knowing we can instant summon help for breakdown or a health issue.  But if you are like me, despite the good cell coverage these days it is not uncommon to find myself in areas with no coverage. Included are when we travel to foreign countries where we have no cell plan. In the past two years, despite improved coverage, I have personally found myself without smartphone connectivity while raining, traveling, hunting, fishing, horse-back riding and hiking. In many case, I admit nobody knew where I was! A generation ago, this was commonplace but today it is totally avoidable. Satellite  technology provides world-wide coverage but historically it has been devices and usage have been expensive and not something feasible for our typical activities. Yes, there have been devices that permitted emergency SOS signals and I have used some, including one on a 72 day, 1200 mile canoe trip back in the early 70's-(No it didn't work!!) . This a long-winded introduction to say that there are now devices that address the issues I have raised.

   Garmin and other companies such as SPOT produce various devices that use 100% Global Iridium satellite coverage  with various contact features. Some are sophisticated and complex but others too simple. Some are large and expensive.For almost two years I have been using the Garmin InReach Mini when required. This review describes it's features and my experiences with it.

The "mini" has three very appeal features. First it is small and very easy to carry with you or attach with a carabiner to a pack. At only 2" x 4" x 1" you can always have it with you or when potentially needed.  Second, It works everywhere in the world!-it uses the iridium satellite system. Third, for me a very important feature is that it has 2-way communication. This means I can communicate with others and others an communicate with me. Earlier device si had only allowed an emergency SOS.

I have had a need to use the Garmin In Reach Mini when hunting in northern an southern Ontario, in Montana while Elk Hunting, in PA while Trout fishing and in several places while dog training. In New Zealand, where cell coverage is limited, WIFI often scarce and I didn't have a functional cell phone without huge expense, I used it to navigate, to text with Kiwi friends, allow them to track my travels and send text messages. At home, I have set it up for Fiona to track where I am and where I went. (Hah! Obviously I selectively turn this feature on and off)!

Here are some of the features:

  1. It has wireless compatibility (Bluetooth)with several Garmin devices such as the watches. Most importantly for me, I can connect to my Smartphone (can be Apple or Android) or a Tablet. This means that even if my Smartphone or tablet  has no signal, I can use it's screen to type messages, access my contacts, send emails. It doesn't have preloaded maps but I can view detailed colour maps and my detailed track using my linked smartphone or tablet. The mini does a keyboard but it is small and a bit clumsy to use
  2. I an store 20 pre-selected short messages such as "I will be late bu am OK". "everything is going weLL, I have no cell coverage now", 
  3. I can set-it up to send a text to anybody and they can in turn reply to me.
  4. I can send and receive an email.
  5. It has basic GPS capability and I can save 500 waypoints/locations and 20 routes.
  6. It has a lithium battery rechargeable with  USB connectivity. I can use an AC source, my vehicle USB ports, a DC such as the small inexpensive units hat hold several USB devices or I can use a small portable solar panel if in the wilderness.a longer period.
  7. Battery life is good-90 hours on default tracking,  24 days in power save mode and almost a year if powered off.
  8. The screen is quite small at just under an inch square but the device is light (3.5 oz) and water rating of IPX7 so I can use the carabiner to attach to my pack, hunting bag, fishing vest or ATV.
  9. A web-based app called Mapshare allows me to track and share locations with friends or family. I can contact them if I have a problem or amd elayed. If I send my route selection to Mapshe my friends can see progress.
  10. If I have a serious problem I can use the SOS feature to reach a 24/7 search and rescue monitoring center. I can communicate with them re my problem. Note if a rescue is required such as by helicopter, there are always expenses associated with.
  11. I can get a weather forecast

The Garmin Mini requires a subscription to the satellite service with monthly or yearly options.

UPDATE 2024: Since this review, Garmin has a new version of the Mini as well as various other similar devices. The latest 300I has dog tracking capabilities as well as all the features described here. I suggest you visit for a look at all the new products and prices





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Written by: Dennis Voigt| April 21, 2020
Categories:  Product / Gear review

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