The Delorme inReach SE is a tool I use to stay safe while exploring the backroads of Oman that are beyond the route. The sultanate is so sparsely populated that off-road destinations have limited or no cell phone coverage, making a simple breakdown a possible dangerous situation in the high heat. I purchased the inReach SE a few months ago, and I have been pleasantly surprised by this little device. I’d like to share with you this gadget; explain to you what it does, what I like and dislike about it, and how it might benefit you on your travels.
Update January 2017: Garmin purchased Delorme and released the inReach SE+ and inReach Explorer+. Essentially these new devices are the same product as the Delorme inReach SE described here, just a different form factor and buttons.
The Delorme inReach SE is a device that allows you to send and receive text messages from any place in the world using the robust Iridium satellite constellation. The inReach SE’s key feature is its SOS button, which when pressed, notifies the emergency monitoring service GEOS of your exact position and that you require rescue. The two-way functionality gives you the peace of mind with delivery confirmation and the ability to communicate directly with the team rescuing you.
It’s quite a powerful gadget:
- Send and receive text messages outside of cell phone range (160 characters).
- Trigger an SOS and interact back and forth with GEOS.
- Turn on tracking to share and view GPS coordinates.
- Color screen and virtual keyboard with predictive text.
- Intuitive LED indicator for satellite availability.
- Audible message notifications.
- Internal, rechargeable lithium battery.
- Waterproof, dustproof, and impact-resistant.
- Post to social media.
A user can send messages to any SMS capable phone number, email address, or other inReach device. Since every message includes the coordinates of the device according to the built-in GPS receiver, the recipient will receive the message along with a link to view the coordinates on a Delorme map. A very cool feature.
You can also send messages or tracking points to your custom Delorme MapShare website. Here your followers can track your progress on a map, read the messages you allow on MapShare, send you messages, and even ping your location. The MapShare page is very customizable with the ability to allow or disallow each feature for your privacy. You can even password protect the page giving you the ultimate control if you want it.
I do a bit of exploring Oman on my own sometimes which used to make me nervous. While I have always been prepared with regards to vehicle spares, food, water, and notifying my mates; there’s always that chance of something serious happening. This caution comes from my extensive sailing experience.
I grew up around the water and made numerous trips in the Pacific Ocean to visit Mexico or the Channel Islands. We always prepared ourselves to be self sufficient on these trips, but we always had a VHF marine radio and an emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) to employ if shit hit the fan. We were also not very far from other mariners or the US Coast Guard if we really needed outside assistance, but in Oman you truly are on your own.
If I call the “9999” emergency number, will the operator understand my english and broken arabic? Will they understand my location description or how to interpret my coordinates? Will I even know where I am? Will my phone even work?
I have seen other personal location devices before, mainly the Spot. It’s priced reasonably and appears to be perfect, but it has some major drawbacks.
Firstly, the inReach SE is a two-way device, meaning I can send and receive messages. The Spot is only one-way. Finally, and most of all, the inReach SE uses the Iridium satellite constellation which gives you 100% global coverage, pole to pole. The Spot uses the Globalstar satellite constellation which does not have full global coverage. To get two-way comms with Spot you need the Spot Global Phone, but Oman isn’t covered by the Globalstar constellation for voice. So, I did a bit more looking around and came across the Delorme inReach SE. It fit the bill well, and as a bonus it is designed and manufactured in the good ol’ US of A!
Mainly I use my inReach SE as a just-in-case tool. I’ll send messages to Lady M or my mates at the end of the day to let them know I’m not dead. I personally don’t see a need to use the device to track my route, sending the points to my account for later retrieval. Since I am in a vehicle with loads of available 12V power I rely on my trusty iPhone 4 running MotionX GPS to take care of my navigation. Therefor the most basic safety plan is all I require. (pricing table below)
The previous generation inReach started life off as a device one had to pair with a smart phone in order to type out custom messages. The current “screen edition” (SE) model allows for total stand-alone operation, something I think is very important with a safety device like this. Keep it simple stupid, you never know when that fickle smart phone is going to die on you. The SE does retain the bluetooth paring ability from the early model, so using the SE along with the Earthmate app via your smart phone opens up a simpler user interface for typing messages along with the ability to pre-load Delorme’s world renowned, beautiful topo maps.
The standalone typing is arduous as there is no dedicated keypad. However, Delorme manage it well with the virtual keyboard and predictive text. I don’t want to sell this point as a negative. If Delorme were to add a dedicated keyboard, ruggedness and size would undoubtedly suffer. So, kudos to Delorme for making the SE stand-alone and small.
The build quality appears to be fantastic, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a Yank. It feels great in the hand, and has been tested for submersion at one meter for 30 minutes, meeting IP67 standards. I took the SE with me on a wet wadi hike through Wadi Taab. It definitely got submerged during the swims in my backpack, but it had no ill effect.
Another thing I like about the inReach SE is the charging screen, giving you a clear ETA to full charge. It’s slick, it’s smooth, I love it. I haven’t tested it verses a stop watch, but nothing has indicated to me that it is wildly inaccurate.
There are two negatives of the inReach SE, one is minor but the other I consider a major drawback for me.
The first is the flimsily USB cover on the side of the device. It’s insanely difficult to put it back in its home after charging. The door is more of an aesthetic cover then a functional part, so I’m sure it’s not causing breaks to its waterproof and dust ratings, but really!? At this $300 price-point this should not be happening. The little door reeks of that Chinese made feeling.
The biggest problem for me is the lacking of SMS support in Oman. If you are in Europe or North America, you are not going to have this problem. But, Oman is a small market, so Delorme hasn’t found a solution for full SMS two-way service in country.
My recipients can receive my messages, no problem. But they cannot reply directly, unfortunately. I discovered this while testing the device, and upon getting the error, I contacted Delorme’s Customer Care.
John S. promptly replied back to me saying,
“Unfortunately our investigation into this case has revealed that our SMS provider is only able to offer 1-way communication to phones active on networks in Oman. We have done some research to see if any of our other available SMS providers can offer 2-way communication for your phone but so far we have not found one.”
This doesn’t surprise me, I’m used to limited services in Oman. Like I said, this probably don’t affect you, but if you are looking to use your Delorme inReach SE to send messages to a small country’s mobile phone network, you should contact Delorme first to see if two-way messaging is supported.
While doing my initial testing I noticed the web-link provided via email and SMS are different from each other. The web-link that comes via email allows a reply via the linked webpage, while the SMS web-link does not. With nearly everybody in Oman using a smart phone, I think this could be quick solution in Oman. The SMS receiver can just click the web-link and reply via mobile data on his smart phone, as opposed to SMS.
I offered this idea to Delorme, and they responded saying,
“I did create the ticket for our development staff to review to allow for replies from the link included in SMS messages but unfortunately there is no timetable on when or guarantee if this feature will be implemented. The problem is not a dead end however there are no updates at this time.”
It’s nice to know Delome’s Customer Care is good and their development team is working on a solution. I include this exchange to highlight the support that Delorme delivers with its products.
I don’t just use my inReach SE for out of network use. I also keep it with me when I travel abroad and don’t expect to purchase a local SIM card. I recently brought the SE on a trip to Istanbul (yup, I’m not bowing down to terrorism), and used it to keep in touch with Lady M. Turkey has strong mobile phone laws requiring visitors to register their phone with the government after 120 days or be blocked from the Turkish networks. Basically you can use your phone on a visit to turkey, but the next time it might not work, yikes! I decided to just use my SE to keep it simple.
So, as a traveler with an inReach SE you can pair to your smart phone and send simple text messages free of any network hassle or overzealous government. :) I cannot recommend the InReach SE more highly.
I picked up my Delorme inReach SE from Amazon in the US and had it shipped to me here in Oman. The going price is about $300 USD, but I was able to collect one with a rebate credit promotion, basically giving me the first few months of my safety plan for free. Keep an eye out for a deal, they are out there.
Below is a table with the pricing of the plans. You have the option to sign up on a Annual Plan ($19.95 one-time activation fee) or a Freedom Plan ($24.95 annual fee), which allows you to suspend service after a 30 day minimum activation. Since my travel season is constant and I don’t require tracking, I chose an Annual, Safety Plan.
InReach SE Plan Pricing
|Service||Safety Plan||Recreation Plan||Expedition Plan||Extreme Plan|
|Tracking Intervals||10 minutes+||10 minutes+||10 minutes+||2 minutes+|
|Tracking Points||$0.10 ea.||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Location Pings||$0.10 ea.||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Annual Plan||$11.95 /mo.||$24.95 /mo.||$49.95 /mo.||$79.95 /mo.|
|Freedom Plan||$14.95 /mo.||$34.95 /mo.||$64.95 /mo.||$99.95 /mo.|
If you find yourself frequently traveling or out of mobile phone range, consider picking one up using my Amazon Affiliate links provided in the post. I purchased the Delorme inReach SE myself, and have not been paid to review this product.
Is the Delorme inReach SE for you? Let me know in the comments below: