Occasionally, my wife and I will venture out for a day hike, but usually nothing more than a few hours. In the last couple years, however, I’ve gone on some more substantial hikes, including a 53 mile hike from Utah to Arizona. On a three hour day hike, I don’t worry too much about getting stranded in the wilderness, but the many-day hikes require more planning and some form of emergency beacon. This is where something like InReach comes in.
What and Why
A device like InReach could end up being the most important think you pack for a long or remote hike. When I was scrambling up steep rock formations or navigating the rushing Paria River waters on slippery rocks, not only did I increase the likelihood of breaking a leg, but cell phones don’t work in deep, remote canyons. Had one of my party been injured, we would have used our emergency beacon to send a signal that we needed help. Imagine the alternative.
InReach Stands Out
DeLorme’s InReach has a few features that make it stand apart from your average emergency beacon. For starters, it includes Blue Tooth connectivity to your mobile or tablet device via DeLorme’s free Earthmate mobile app. While you generally wouldn’t want to use it for anything unimportant, it could be a great way to let a family member know that you’re half way through the trip or almost out. Of course, you could post to Facebook or Twitter if you wanted to. With their Interactive SOS feature, you can send out more than just a distress signal. Instead, you can include details about the problem and the help needed.
Because the InReach connects to a mobile app, it opens up even more possibilities such as sharing your trip map with family and friends like you can see below. This is even better because they’ll be able to check in on your map on their own time and see how far you’ve gotten. We did something similar when driving from Phoenix to Detroit and my wife’s parents loved checking in on the map.
In addition to sharing an map with the family and friends, you can download maps before your trip and use the InReach GPS data to find yourself on these maps. This could be a real life saver if you manage to get lost.
The app is compatible with a number of devices, including most of the latest iPhones (no word on iPhone 5), iPads, iPod Touch, and Android phone and tablet devices. It’s a little smaller than the device I took on my biggest hike, coming in at 3.4″ H (4.77″ including antenna), 2.85″ W, 1.73″ D; 8.6 cm H (12.1 cm including antenna), 7.2 cm W, 4.4 cm D but weighed about the same at 8oz with batteries. The device costs $259.95 on their site and services start at $9.95 per month. The cheapest plan covers your basic emergency needs with minimal messaging, while the other plans offer more messages and tracking.
You might find cheaper emergency devices, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find one as advanced and well thought out as the InReach. For a device you’ll buy once and use for years, it’s worth the added investment just as you would pay more for the better tent or sleeping bag even though a cheaper one might meet your minimum needs for outdoor shelter. It’s a great device and well worth a look for any serious outdoor adventurer.