Gear Review: DeLorme inReach SE 2-Way Satellite Communicator with GPS

I spend a lot of time fishing and hunting in the backcountry, and I'm not just talking about places where the cell phone doesn't work, I'm talking about jungles in South America, and the Russian taiga, and well past the sight of shore on the open oceans. So satellite communication has become increasingly important in my travels. The margin for error when it comes to ease of use and reliability is practically non-existent, in my mind, so it's important to use something you trust, because in some cases, somebody's life might depend on it.

With that in mind, I recently had an opportunity to test the DeLorme inReach SE 2-Way Satellite Communicator with GPS. I took it to Santa Cruz province in Southern Argentina. For context of just how far "out there" I was, know that I flew on three different flights (cumulatively 16 hours), and then drove another 7 hours to the shores of Lago Quiroga.

I was deeply impressed by how inReach performed. The operative part of the product name is "2-Way" because in addition to being a GPS unit, and allowing you to send a locator SOS signal, it also actually allows you to send and receive text messages up to 160 characters.

Think about that in the context of fishing and hunting. Yes, of course, you can use it to say, "Send help, somebody is injured… or our engine conked out," (and show your coordinates).

But also imagine texting your friends:

"I've just dropped an elk, here's where I am on the mountain. Please come and help me dress this thing and get back to camp."

"We've found a good school of tuna. If you guys want in on this, here's where we are…"

And you can never underestimate the "peace of mind" factor that comes with the ability to send a customized message to people tracking you back home. "We made it to camp, everything is fine, but we forgot marshmallows… have Jim stop at the store on his way."

I even checked the score of the Broncos game.

As for the unit itself, it is light, yet rugged, and fits in the palm of your hand. It's dustproof and waterproof to 1 meter (I actually dunked in in the river and let it soak for several minutes to test this). It can easily be carried in a fishing vest or pack. It has a color screen and virtual keyboard, all of which is highly intuitive, easy to negotiate and understand. It has a long-lasting internal, rechargeable lithium battery (charge life depends, naturally, on how much tracking and communicating you do; in my case one charge lasted several days).

Another really great feature is that it can be paired with mobile devices like an iPad or iPhone when used in conjunction with DeLorme's free Earthmate App. This allows you to download map data before your adventure (be sure you do this), and then access that on a larger screen, or type messages right on your mobile device, and deliver them to whomever you want. In other words, I was able to literally tap out a message on my iPad, telling Tim Romano I'd just landed a 10-pound rainbow trout (yes, I was rubbing it in), and show him where I was on the map… all in a matter of seconds… from southern Argentina to Boulder, Colorado. You can even post messages to social media.

All of this is dependent on the Iridium satellite network, which offers 100 percent global coverage with no gaps. I had a strong signal every time I tried the device, wherever I was.

The unit itself costs around $300, and then you must subscribe to a data plan. So factor that in before you make plans to Tweet every step of your next backcountry adventure. And granted, part of the reason many of us relish the backcountry in the first place is to disconnect from the mainstream. Yet, for the sake of safety, peace of mind for you and others, and knowing you can reach out if and when you want to, wherever you are in the world, the inReach SE is well worth the money and I highly recommend it.