Garmin InReach Messenger review

Review: Garmin InReach Messenger satellite tracking and messaging

Garmin’s InReach can connect you with the global satellite system so that you can contact emergency services or send texts from your phone when you’re miles away from regular mobile phone towers. 

It’s a tiny device that (just) fits in the palm of your hand and weighs only 113 grams, yet is a potential lifesaver when you’re away from normal means of communication. 

Garmin InReach Messenger review
The InReach works very well with the dedicated app but operates without it, too

As long as you’ve got a fairly clear view of the sky, it’ll put you in touch with those you want or need to communicate with, and let them know exactly where you are.

Its usefulness and convenience is extended by connecting it wirelessly to your phone, providing a better interface through which to use the service. You can do it directly to your phone’s SMS app or via the Garmin Messenger app, which has all the features.

The built-in battery lasts up to a claimed 28 days, though the more you use the features the shorter that might be. In my time testing it, I never even came close to running out of charge and I think a couple of weeks out bush wouldn’t challenge the Garmin in the least. 

If you’re using the Garmin Messenger app it’ll be your phone’s battery life that is the weak link here, but the Garmin will even provide enough power to your phone to send custom messages if required. 

However, you don’t need your phone or the app to get the basic benefits from the InReach, which will provide tracking information that is available to others via MapShare on the cloud. 

Garmin InReach Messenger review
The SOS button is protected under a cover and provides the easiest of several methods to call for help

A protected button on the side activates an emergency alert, the easiest way to get help if things have gone bad and you can’t even get a message away. 

The tracking info can be public so anyone can go online and see where you are but you can, of course, password-protect it so only those with access can locate you. 

The InReach will also send regular notifications to selected recipients, which can include text you’ve pre-set (eg, “I’m fine” or “Send help”) and even location coordinates.

Some of these tasks can be automated. You can, for example, program the InReach to send your location info at regular intervals — say, every 20 minutes or hourly or daily. 

You can use the simple menu in the InReach or the more interactive one from the Garmin Messenger app to use any of the main functions at any time. 

It’s important to select the right plan to suit your use of the InReach. Like all satellite communication systems, prices are higher than your terrestrial comms and, if you don’t choose the right plan, costs can add up quickly. 

Garmin InReach Messenger review
The main control buttons are underneath and take you through the menus when you aren’t using the app

Plans currently (in 2023) cost $25, $55 or $99 a month. Naturally, the more you pay the more you get, both in terms of features (such as weather forecasts) to the quantity of custom messages you can send (from as few as 10 a month to an unlimited amount). 

You may send excess messages but you pay for each one.

The InReach is obviously a device that’s virtually compulsory these days for any sensible hunter who’s venturing into remote country. When you need help, there’s really no excuse for being unable to call for it or for making it hard for the emergency services to find you. 

But even in a situation like mine, where there’s no mobile coverage around my somewhat remote rural property, it’s an excellent bit of insurance in case something goes wrong when I’m stalking game, cutting firewood or whatever. 

The InReach costs $499 plus subscription, and can be bought from the Garmin website, where you can find out more details about it and the plans.




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Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited six national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.