Why Garmin inReach?
Whilst there are of course other brands available on the market (and some are shown below), the most capable 'in vehicle' navigation system found to date (at least for Tip Toe's purposes) is the Garmin Overlander. The Overlander is feature rich and allows a variety of different maps to be uploaded. This unit can be paired with a Garmin inReach device to provide easier messaging for tired eyes and stubby fingers from its full qwerty keyboard.
Functions and Features
Garmin inReach utilises the Iridium network and therefore works globally. it provides:
Two way satellite text messaging.
Interactive SOS feature.
Satellite tracking and position reporting.
In addition to routine navigation in the vehicle and the desire to include inReach functionality with the Garmin Overlander, Tip Toe is looking for a unit that is small, lightweight and that can be carried in a Grab Bag. Of course, if there is a problem then, remaining with the vehicle is SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) especially in remote areas; the vehicle presents a bigger and easier target to find than a person on foot. In this context, size and weight of the device does not really matter. The SOS and tracking features are useful too but 30 minute intervals are sufficient to enable location to be monitored by those at home. For recreation it would be really good to have a unit with mapping for navigating when walking or cycling on tracks and trails.
The one missing but important feature is the ability to actually talk to somebody. Its much easier when working and to rapidly gain a common understanding in an emergency, to talk to somebody as opposed to exchanging text messages. Tip Toe therefore intends to use inReach as a secondary emergency communications device.
By any measure inReach capable hardware is pretty expensive. Whilst the devices can be found cheaper on the internet, the current Garmin advertised prices are as follows:
Garmin Overlander - £599.99
Montana 700i - £599.99
GPS Map 66i - £549.99
inReach Mini - £299.99
There is a good choice of mapping for these devices. Tip Toe will need both on and off-road mapping with trail and tracks mapping for hill walking etc. The best mapping for overlanding and bush navigation in Africa is thought to be Tracks4Africa. This provides navigation along bush tracks and trails and includes information such as fuel stops and campsites. Its therefore important that the chosen devices are capable of using these maps.
Once the hardware is decided, the monthly inReach subscription needs to be chosen. Garmin offer two different types of subscription; called Annual and Freedom Plans.
Annual plans are available for those that plan to use their devices frequently all year round. The annual plans offer a lower monthly cost and more inclusive features such as unlimited data / messaging.
Annual Plans (£12.99 - £49.99 per month)
Lower monthly cost.
Always ready for your adventures.
Freedom Plans (£14.99 - £64.99 per month) offer the following:
Monthly service; only requires a 30-day commitment.
Suspend the service when you don’t need it.
Perfect for single adventures or seasonal use.
Three different service levels are offered for both Annual and Freedom Plans. These are called Safety, Recreation and Expedition.
On the basis of Tip Toe's planned usage, that is 7 months per year with 3 text messages per day (90 text messages per month) - and providing my 'fag packet' calculator has not failed me - the Recreation service on the Freedom tariff is the most cost effective. For budgeting, the total monthly cost for seven months active subscription, including 50 messages over the included monthly allowance, will be £59.99 per month or £420 a year. This cost is of course on top of the hardware purchase price, the Freedom Plan's annual charge of £34.99 and any mapping but.............
Can Tracks4 Africa be installed on the above devices?
Can maps be installed on multiple devices, including an iPad and a computer for planning? (Pay once use many times?)
Which one would you pick? For further information see Garmin inReach Satellite Communication
Some other satellite messaging options
For those that do not want the ability to pair your messaging device with a Garmin GPS for navigation, you may also want to take a look at:
Spot X Satellite Communicator. Provides 2-way satellite messaging so you can stay connected to family, friends, colleagues whenever you’re outside of cellular range, including direct text communication with Search & Rescue services in case of a life-threatening emergency. Tracking at chosen intervals from 2.5 - 60 mins. At around £200 this is good value and offers easier messaging than the inReach Mini, but lacks Tip Toe's connectivity requirements. (After an activation fee of €24.95 (GBP£21.30), it's less expensive than the Garmin inReach service and costs just €29.95 (GBP£25.57) per month for a flexible month by month contract with up to 100 custom messages.)
Bivy stick. Advertised as 'the smallest and most efficient way to communicate from the backcountry'. With a simple design and new user interface on the app, it allows sharing of your location, getting a weather report, sending a message, or initiating an SOS. USD$349.99 (GBP£254.92).
Zoleo Satellite Communicator. An easy-to-use text and email messenger. Two-way global communication, emergency SOS, and check-in with GPS location. Zoleo is one of the cheapest units (Amazon USD$199 (GBP£144.95)) but needs to be paired and operated with its free App installed on a mobile phone. This looks like one to watch.