The Best Garmin inReach Devices

From the Garmin smartwatch to the Garmin inReach Mini, find out which Garmin satellite device is best for you

Ben Gran
Jun 12, 2023
Icon Time To Read11 min read

If you’re hiking, biking, climbing, or just enjoying the outdoors in backcountry wilderness where cell phones and hotspots don’t reach, you might want a satellite communicator. Garmin InReach® satellite communicators offer a variety of devices that work like a satellite phone to help you stay in touch with loved ones back home—or call for emergency help.

Most backpackers, hikers, and weekend adventurers would be well-served with the Garmin InReach® Mini 2, which gives you SOS capabilities and text-based messaging. But if you’re into longer or more rugged trips, we’ve rounded up our top recommended Garmin inReach devices below for most people’s needs when exploring out of cell range. 

Let’s take a closer look at why these Garmin InReach satellite communicators can be ideal travel companions for your next outdoor adventure.

Top pick: Garmin inReach Mini 2

  • pro
    Compact design (4 in. x 2 in., 3.5 oz)
  • pro
    Water resistant
  • pro
    Built-in SOS
  • pro
    Weather alert updates
  • pro
    Up to 30 days of battery life

Launched in February 20221, the Garmin inReach Mini 2 is the new generation of the Garmin inReach Mini, a handheld standalone device that provides a wide range of satellite communicator features, mapping, and emergency capabilities. It typically costs around$399.99, and for all the features it offers, the Garmin inReach Mini 2 provides significant value.

Those features of course include the ones mentioned above, but also include the following:

  • Tech versatility: Pairs with more than 80 Garmin devices, including smart watches
  • Truly global satellite coverage: Wherever you go on this planet, you can use your Garmin inReach Mini 2 to communicate via the 100% global Iridium® satellite network
  • Advanced mapping, navigation, and location tracking: maintain situational awareness by downloading maps, using the Garmin Explore app, watching the built-in electronic compass, or using the TracBack feature to retrace your steps.

Why we chose it: The Garmin inReach Mini 2 offers a hard-to-beat combination of competitive price and sizable value, plus heavy-duty capabilities in an ultralight package. The powerful capabilities help this little device punch above its (3.5 ounce) weight. 

Is Garmin inReach Mini 2 worth it?

When you consider how many features are packed into this tiny Garmin inReach Mini 2 device, the $399.99 price point is highly competitive. This is a lightweight device with two-way text messaging satellite communication, advanced navigation and location sharing features, and other emergency capabilities that could save your life if something goes wrong while you’re out in the wild.

Bottom line: this satellite communicator is versatile, compact, yet powerful and sturdy enough for most adventurers and most situations, without the high-end price of some satellite phones. 

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How to choose the best Garmin inReach satellite service plan

Every Garmin inReach device requires you to sign up for a subscription plan for satellite service. There are three types of Garmin inReach satellite subscription plans available:

Extra fees
Satellite coverage
Basic$11.95–14.95/mo. (contract and no contract)10 text messages per mo.
Unlimited SOS
Unlimited check-in messages
10 minute+ tracking intervals; extra location requests and send/track points are $0.10 each
All annual contract plans require a $29.95 activation fee
All month-to-month plans require a $34.95/yr. fee
100% global Iridium satellite network coverage
Recreation$24.95–$34.95/mo.(contract and no contract)40 text messages per month
Unlimited SOS
Unlimited check-in messages
10 minute+ tracking intervals; unlimited extra location requests and send/track points
40 text messages per month
Unlimited SOS
Unlimited check-in messages
10 minute+ tracking intervals; unlimited extra location requests and send/track points
100% global Iridium satellite network coverage
Expedition$49.95–$64.95/mo. per month with Freedom plan (contract and no contract)Unlimited text messages
Unlimited SOS
Unlimited check-in messages
2 minute+ tracking intervals; unlimited extra location requests and send/track points
All annual contract plans require a $29.95 activation fee
All month-to-month plans require a $34.95/yr. fee
100% global Iridium satellite network coverage

We recommend choosing the Basic plan for your Garmin inReach device.

Why we chose it: The higher-priced Garmin inReach subscription plans don’t offer significantly better value compared to the Basic plan, especially since extra text messages cost 0.50 each.

For example, the monthly price of the Recreation plan is $20.00 more than the Basic plan. But you could get the Basic plan and spend $15.00 on 30 extra text messages ($0.50 each), and still save

If you are a serious explorer who spends a lot of time in remote areas, then the higher-end Expedition plan with unlimited texting and shorter interval tracking might be worth the money. But for most people who only go hiking a few times a year or who just need an emergency satellite communicator as a backup, the Basic plan should be sufficient.

Best for Mapping: Garmin inReach Explorer®+

  • pro
    Two-way communication
  • pro
    Mapping features and GPS routing
  • pro
    Built-in SOS
  • pro
    Up to 30 days of battery life

Why we chose it: If you want more visual impact from your satellite communicator, but at a competitive price ($449.99), the Explorer is worth looking into. It’s a stylish, map-focused device that might be worth paying a bit more money for if you’re planning on longer excursions. 

The Garmin inReach Explorer+ gives you the same emergency SOS, two-way satellite communication and location sharing features as the Mini 2, but if you want to really dig into the details of mapping and navigation capabilities, this satellite communicator comes with a slightly bigger screen and more advanced mapping features. Fortunately, it still doesn’t take up a lot of space in your backpack (it’s 2.7 inches x 6.5 inches and weighs 7.5 ounces).

The Explorer’s mapping features include access to the free Earthmate® app, which lets you download maps, NOAA charts, color aerial imagery and more. The device offers a built-in digital compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer, and preloaded DeLorme® TOPO maps with on-screen GPS routing.

Is Garmin inReach Explorer®+ worth it?

Our top pick, the Garmin inReach Mini 2, costs $399.99, and this device is only $50.00 more. Depending on whether more powerful mapping features or compact convenience is more important to you, it could be worth paying that extra $50.00. 

Best for pairing with smartphones: Garmin inReach Messenger

  • pro
    Turns your smartphone into a satellite communicator
  • pro
    Cheaper price
  • pro
    Built-in SOS

If you want the power of a Garmin inReach satellite communicator at a lower price point, the newly launched Garmin inReach Messenger might be a good option.

This satellite communicator pairs with your smartphone to let you send satellite messages via text, with other satellite communicator capabilities for navigation. Think of it like a WiFi hotspot for satellite service; it turns your smartphone into a satellite communicator—and all for the relatively low price of around $299.99.

Why we chose it: The Garmin inReach Messenger lets you keep using your smartphone to send text messages from any location on Earth, wherever cell phone coverage doesn’t go—and it also has emergency capabilities as a standalone device.

If you’re on a budget and don’t want to invest in a higher-priced device, the $299.99 price can be an affordable point of entry to the world of satellite communicators. 

Is Garmin inReach Messenger worth it?

If you want a lower-priced option to get a satellite communicator, the Garmin inReach Messenger gives you key capabilities like a built-in SOS button and text-based messaging through your smartphone.

There are also certain messages you can send via the Messenger device, such as check-in messages to share your location. The Messenger device also serves as an emergency backup battery for your smartphone—in case you run out of battery power on your phone, the Messenger can connect to your phone to send custom text messages. 

If you don’t want to pay for a higher-priced satellite phone, or if you don’t need all the features of a more elaborate standalone satellite communicator, the Garmin inReach Messenger can give you the emergency support that you need. This low-priced device also helps you send messages from your smartphone even in remote areas where you don’t have cell coverage.

Best for cost savings: Garmin inReach Mini

  • pro
    Two-way communication
  • pro
    Earthmate mapping and tracking
  • pro
    Built-in SOS
  • pro
    Up to 24 days of battery life

The Garmin inReach Mini 2 was our choice for the best Garmin inReach device of 2022—but if you don’t mind getting the first generation of this satellite communicator, the Garmin inReach Mini has many of the same features for a lower price of around $349.99 ($50 less than the Mini 2).

Differences between the higher-priced Mini 2 and Mini:

  • Battery life: The Mini has a battery life of only 24 days (compared to 30 days for the Mini 2).
  • Different apps: The Mini (first generation) is not compatible with the Garmin Explore app - instead, it uses the Earthmate® app for mapping and tracking; so you might not have all the same navigation features with the first-generation Mini as you would get with the Mini 2.

Why we chose it: The Mini 2 deserves its high praise as the first-generation that gave explorers a sturdy, well-designed satellite communicator packed with features and connected to the 100% global Iridium® satellite constellation. Its battery life isn’t as superb as the next gen, but perfectly suitable for short trips.

Is Garmin inReach Mini worth it?

If you want to save $50 off the Mini 2, and you don’t mind a few first-generation features that are different, the Garmin inReach Mini might be worth buying, especially if you’re planning on shorter trips rather than weeks-long excursions.

But make sure you understand the implications of the older tech; you might prefer to spend the extra $50 to get the newer-generation Mini 2 so you have access to the Garmin Explore app.

Best for rugged adventures: Garmin Montana® 700i

  • pro
    Two-way communication
  • pro
    Military-grade tough design
  • pro
    Advanced mapping features
  • pro
    Built-in SOS
  • pro
    Up to 330 hours days of battery life

Some people can get by with a slim, lower-priced satellite communicator, but if you take long trips to extreme environments with harsh conditions, you’ll want a higher-end, ruggedly designed device like the Garmin Montana® 700i to withstand your expedition.

The Garmin Montana® 700i gives you most of the same great features as other Garmin inReach devices: satellite connectivity to the 100% global Iridium network, two-way text messaging, emergency SOS, and more. But it also has some special capabilities:

  • Military-grade design: Meets high standards (MIL-STD 810) for resistance to thermal, water, shock and vibration. Take this device into the toughest environments.
  • Active weather forecasts: Uses the Garmin ConnectTM app to provide up-to-date Active Weather forecasts.
  • Advanced mapping options: Offers several options for additional maps and sophisticated navigation, such as City Navigator maps, Topoactive maps, public land boundaries, satellite views, and more.

Why we chose it: Priced at $699.99, the Montana is not cheap—but it’s still a lower price than typical full-featured satellite phones which can reach into the thousands. It also provides advanced mapping features with a durable design, a large touchscreen with full QWERTY keyboard, and the same useful versatile features that other Garmin inReach satellite communicators deliver.

Is a Garmin Montana® 700i worth it?

If you want to take a step up from the lower-priced satellite communicators on this list, with a larger touchscreen and advanced mapping capabilities, all in a military-grade package, then the Garmin Montana® 700i might be a great choice.

Its battery life isn’t as long as some of the smaller sat communicators on this list, partially because it’s more powerful. But it does have an expedition mode, essentially a power-saving mode, that extends the battery life from its 300 hours average to its 330 hours max.

Best for convenience: fēnix® 7 – Solar Garmin smartwatch

  • pro
    Fitness tracking
  • pro
    Compatibility with Garmin inReach devices
  • pro
    SOS alerts using InReach Remote capabilities
  • pro
    Solar-charged battery

Garmin offers a wide range of smartwatches that sync with its inReach technology using the InReach Remote capability. If you are trying to decide which Garmin smartwatch to buy, we recommend the fēnix 7, but make sure whatever one you pick is compatible with your Garmin inReach device.

Here are the inReach devices that are compatible with Garmin smartwatches:

  • Alpha 200i
  • GPSMap 66i
  • GPSMap 86i
  • GPSMap 86sci
  • InReach Messenger
  • InReach Mini
  • InReach Mini 2
  • Montana 700i
  • Montana 750i

There are many different styles of Garmin smartwatches depending on your preferences, but our choice for the best smartwatch that’s also compatible with inReach devices is the fēnix® 7 Garmin smartwatch. For around $799.99 depending on the retailer, you get a solar-charged smartwatch with powerful features to help improve your health and fitness and manage your waking hours, including:

  • Built-in apps for outdoor sports like hiking, biking, climbing, backcountry skiing, and surfing
  • Sleep tracking to measure the quantity and quality of your sleep
  • Heart rate, respiration, and pulse oxygen sensors
  • Hydration tracking
  • Step counting
  • Location tracking and sharing

With InReach Remote capabilities, you can pair your Garmin smartwatch with your Garmin inReach device. This will let you do a few important inReach device actions from your smartwatch , such as sending SOS alerts, sending custom messages, sending check-in messages, viewing message replies, and stopping or starting tracking.

Why we chose it: This Garmin smartwatch is at a midrange price point (compared to other Garmin watches) and offers an impressive range of features that can help any physically active, outdoorsy person live a healthier, fuller, and even safer life. It’s also compatible with Garmin inReach devices, letting you conduct certain actions directly from your smartwatch, without having to use your inReach device. 

Do Garmin Smartwatches require a subscription?

Unlike Garmin inReach satellite communicators, Garmin smartwatches do not require a subscription to Garmin inReach satellite service. But if you want to use the inReach Remote capability with your smartwatch, you will need to have both an inReach device and a satellite subscription plan

Is a Garmin Smartwatch worth it?

Deciding which smartwatch to buy depends on your overall lifestyle, personal preferences, and whether or not you already own Garmin inReach satellite devices.

If you are a dedicated Apple fan who uses an iPhone and MacBook, you might want an Apple watch to align with the rest of your Apple devices. You might be able to find a comparably priced (or lower-priced) Fitbit smartwatch if all you really want is something fitness-focused without the extra safety measures of a Garmin watch.

However, if keeping your smartwatch connected to your satellite communicator for safety during your outdoor escapades is important to you in addition to fitness tracking features, then the Garmin fēnix 7 smartwatch might be a good choice.

Using a Garmin inReach device

Ready to use your new Garmin inReach device? Follow these directions to get started.

How do I activate my Garmin InReach?

  1. Go to
  2. Click “Create a New Account”
  3. Select “New InReach Account”
  4. Select “Personal Plans” (assuming you are an individual consumer who has purchased an inReach device; if you are part of a larger organization, employer, or team, you will need a Professional plan)
  5. Enter your InReach IMEI number and authorization code
  6. When prompted, go outside to an area with a clear view of the sky
  7. Wait up to 20 minutes while your device sends and receives messages with the Iridium® satellite network

How do I know if my Garmin inReach is activated?

You can test your service to make sure it is active. The instructions for testing your inReach service are different depending on which type of inReach device you have. Check the Garmin Support website for more details.

Log in to Garmin Explore

As part of setting up your new inReach device, you should go to the Garmin Explore website to register your device, activate your service, and sync your information. See above for some how-tos.

How do I reactivate my inReach account?

Your Garmin inReach service could deactivate for a few reasons; for example, if you sign up for a month-to-month Freedom plan and decide to suspend your service. When you are ready to reactivate your inReach account, you need to do the following:

  1. Sign in to the Garmin Explore website.
  2. Select Plans & Devices.
  3. Select Edit (next to the device that you want to reactivate).
  4. Click Reactivate under Plan Renewal Date.
  5. Click on Plan Details and choose the new plan that you want. Here you have the option to switch from a Freedom plan to an Annual plan—but be aware that the Annual plan is a 12-mo. commitment, and you cannot suspend the service.
  6. Confirm the change. Wait up to 10 minutes for the plan to reactivate.
  7. Wait to receive a confirmation email.
  8. Sync your inReach device.

The takeaway: Garmin inReach empowers the backpacker

Garmin inReach satellite communicators and watches give outdoors enthusiasts, athletes, explorers and adventurers a powerful way to stay safe in remote areas and keep in touch with loved ones. No matter where you go on this planet, the Garmin inReach Mini 2 can give you satellite communications and navigation capabilities in a lightweight, durable package at an affordable price.

Or if you want a lower-cost option with features focused on satellite communications via your smartphone, the Garmin inReach Messenger can be a budget-friendly choice. Want a visually-focused display screen with higher-impact mapping functions? Try the Garmin inReach Explorer®+ device. Or if you’re willing to spend the money, the Montana 700i is a rugged, heavy-duty device with military-grade hardware and a larger display screen for advanced mapping and navigation.

Bottom line: no matter which Garmin inReach device you choose, you will have the backing of the 100% global Iridium® satellite network and 24/7 emergency response service. These devices all have different styles and strong points, but the fundamental lifesaving capabilities of the inReach satellite communicator devices are the same. 


We cross-referenced the full range of Garmin inReach devices and conducted over 10 hours of research to narrow down and compile our review of the best Garmin devices.

Garmin inreach FAQ

Is the Garmin inReach Explorer being discontinued?

As of this publication date, Garmin has not announced any plans to discontinue the inReach Explorer+, and the device is still available for sale on the Garmin Amazon store.

Is Garmin inReach Mini discontinued?

The Garmin inReach Mini is the first generation of its device; the Mini 2 is the newer model. But the original Garmin inReach Mini is still available for sale at various retailers and on the Garmin Amazon store.

Does Garmin inReach work without subscription?

Every Garmin inReach device requires an inReach satellite service subscription to work.

What is the difference between inReach SE and Explorer?

The InReach Explorer has more advanced mapping and navigation, with more extensive GPS on-map guidance, pre-loaded TOPO mapping, built-in compass and altimeter, and other features than the inReach SE.

What can I do with a Garmin inReach Mini?

With a Garmin inReach Mini, you can send and receive text messages from anywhere in the world, even where cell phone coverage doesn’t reach. You can send check-in messages to approved contacts and send emergency SOS messages to get 24/7 support. And you can use advanced mapping features to track and share your location so you don’t get lost while adventuring.

What is the difference between InReach and InReach Mini?

InReach is a family of satellite communicator devices that use Garmin’s InReach satellite communications service. The Garmin inReach Mini is one type of device from that family. All InReach devices require an InReach satellite service plan to function.

How long does Garmin InReach Mini last?

The Garmin inReach Mini has a battery life of up to 24 days, and the Mini 2 has a battery life of up to 30 days.

Ben Gran
Written by
Ben Gran