Whether permanent accessibility is a curse or a blessing is an open question. The fact is: If you want to be reachable on a mountain, multi-pitch or ski tour in an emergency, you need more than just a smartphone. In today's Pro-Tip, Michi Wohlleben, professional alpinist and mountain guide, introduces the inReach Mini from Garmin.

A pro tip from professional alpinist Michi Wohlleben

The inReach Mini satellite communication device impresses not only with its compact and robust design, but also with its 100 percent global satellite coverage and interactive two-way communication, which offers the necessary security even in remote areas. Contact with an emergency call center can be made at any time by pressing a button. The inReach Mini also offers the option of sending and receiving messages and sharing GPS location data. Due to the compact size of 9.9 cm x 5.2 cm x 2.6 cm, the device is easy to stow away and does not weigh down the luggage unnecessarily thanks to its light 100 grams.

Garmin_inReach Mini_Test_LACRUX_compact format
Garmin_inReach Mini_Test_LACRUX_compact format

Satellite communication 2.0: from the block on the leg to the feather-light all-rounder

I still remember the discussions in recent years when we had to decide when packing our backpacks whether we should take the satellite phone with us or leave it at home. Often it just wasn't there.

In early 2017, the decision was made easier when Garmin launched the inReach SE +. At 215 grams, it was already lighter than a satellite phone, the size of a normal GPS device, and for the first time the built-in SOS function and the option of two-way communication. So you could send and receive short messages. Unfortunately, the inReach SE + also stayed at home more and more often - especially on tours where we didn't need a GPS device.

When Garmin launched the inReach Mini two years ago, the last problems were solved. I finally could not resist a small device with 100 grams and the packing volume of Two Snickers. I almost always had it with me from then on.

The inReachMini provides valuable services in these situations

Especially when I was traveling with guests as a mountain guide, the unreliability of the smartphone often caused me abdominal pain. How often does it happen that it passed away in the cold or heat in an emergency. Not to mention multi-day tours, where the battery could not be charged and the smartphone gave up after a day of the spirit. Apart from that, you can not rely on the network coverage of Swisscom and Co. in the alpine region.

  • Regions without network coverage
  • long enterprises where the battery life of telephones could not be sufficient
  • Activities in winter (ski tours, snowshoe tours) in cold temperatures
  • Skihochtouren / crossings where you need a GPS device anyway
  • Expeditions
  • SOS function not only in the event of an accident, but also important in case of sudden dizziness, allergic shock or hypoglycaemia in diabetics.

The functions of the inReach Mini at a glance

Basic navigation

Navigation via the inReach Mini is very much reduced to the basics. It is limited to route guidance to a waypoint, route guidance and TrackBack functions. Waypoints can be created in inReach, imported from the Earthmate app or synchronized via the Garmin Explore Portal. A maximum of 500 waypoints are possible. After selecting the route, an arrow will guide you to the destination with distance.
I think the trackback function is the best. Simply always let write and in case of emergency you will be led back to the destination on the same route. Especially in the glaciated terrain very helpful, in whiteout or the like.

Two-way communication and wireless connection

Via the worldwide available Iridium network it is possible to write and receive SMS messages. There is also the possibility to send ready-made messages. Furthermore, you can connect the inReach Mini via ANT + and Bluetooth with the smartphone and the Earthmate app and then comfortably write on the smartphone or even publish social media posts.

Live tracking every minute

The last exciting feature is certainly the live tracking. Depending on the tariff, it records waypoints every two or ten minutes. Based on these waypoints, Garmin creates a pretty card on their platform that can be shared via social media or with friends and watched live.

Reliable weather service

The on the inReach Mini retrievable weather report works very well in the Alps and you can confidently rely on the forecast of the next one to three days. Another possibility is, of course, via the above-described operation via smartphone to use your usual weather service on the smartphone, but of course more data are used for it.

Cost of the communication services

As with any communication device, buying the inReach Mini is not enough. What is still missing is a network provider.

Garmin has a so-called Freedom tariff, which is suitable for everyone who only uses the inReach occasionally / seasonally. The minimum term is 30 days. In addition to the Freedom tariff, there is also the option of an annual contract. In both cases - depending on the intensity of use - you can choose between the models Safety, Recreation, Expedition and Extreme. The cheapest tariff (Safety) costs 14.99 CHF per month.Details on the tariffs can be found here.

Another provider is Protegear, Protegear offers weekly rates for 9,95 Euro. In addition there is an annual fee of 79 Euro. Details about the prices of Protegear can be found here.

I use Protegear because I find the weekly use super and the bottom line so probably save a bit of money.

The inReach Mini in the acid test

Last time I had the inReach Mini in the attempt of the Wintersteinschaße the Wettersteinmassivs. A five to six-day tour was planned. In that case, the inReach was the device of choice as a means of communication and emergency equipment and I could safely leave the smartphone at home, bringing 300 grams of weight. Although the temperatures were constantly in the minus range, I had written 20 short messages written and used it as an alarm clock and clock, it still had 80% battery after three days. This is really corruptible.

Specifications for the inReach Mini from Garmin

  • Size: 9.9 cm x 5.2 cm x 2.6 cm
  • Weight: 100g
  • Interfaces: USB and Bluetooth
  • Screen size: 2.30 x 2.30 cm
  • Acquisition costs: 419 CHF
  • Running costs: from around 10 CHF / week plus the annual fee of 80 CHF at the provider Protegear or 14.99 CHF / month at Garmin.
  • Battery life: up to 50 hours of intensive use and live tracking, standby up to 20 days.

Features of the inReach Mini at a glance

  • Basic navigation with altimeter
  • SOS function
  • Two-way communication via the worldwide available Iridium network
  • Bluetooth connection with mobile phone
  • Retrieve weather report at the location and at planned destinations

The Garmin in Reach Mini

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Credits: picture and text Michi Wohlleben - michiwohlleben.de

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