Tested: Garmin inReach Mini 2 Review

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Tested: Garmin inReach Mini 2 Review

A solo wanderer by nature, many of my outdoor adventures are alone in far-flung locales few are willing to wander. When I was in my twenties

A solo wanderer by nature, many of my outdoor adventures are alone in far-flung locales few are willing to wander. When I was in my twenties, I took no precautions. I was young, bulletproof, and I had no wife or kids to leave behind if something happened. My, how things change. 

When my son Hunter was born, my mindset shifted, and I started taking every precaution to ensure I made it home from every outdoor adventure. Up to the time of this field test, my best investment was Garmin’s inReach Explorer. I had security in a handheld satellite communicator for a small monthly fee under $12. The unit’s battery life proved remarkable, and I could send my wife, kids, family, and friends text messages when hunting where cell phone coverage was nil. They could also track my daily progress and know my exact location each day as I shared it. The device’s most prominent feature is the SOS button, and one, thank God, I’ve yet to test. In case of an emergency, all one must do to get help sent to their exact location is hit the SOS message to the Garmin IERCC. A staffed 24/7 professional will get emergency personnel en route to you immediately. You can’t beat that peace of mind, and I promise that if you have loved ones, it puts their minds at ease. 

Setting up the inReach Mini 2

I was thrilled when Garmin’s latest inReach member arrived on my doorstep. Dubbed the inReach Mini 2, this little slice of adventure-style heaven is roughly 1/4-size of the original inReach Explorer. The unit is uber-light, and I immediately took notice of the added nylon loop and carabiner attachment. Its shape, size, and attachment ability mean you can wear it in a binocular harness or lash it to a backpack.

Garmin inReach Mini 2 satellite communicator

Press and hold the power button to turn the unit on, and select the language you would like the device to use. Before going any further, you’ll want to download the Garmin Explore app to your smartphone. Locate the Garmin inReach Mini 2 on the app, select the pairing option, enter the code your inReach Mini 2 gives you, and then go to explore.garmin.com to activate the device and choose your subscription plan. 

Switching my subscription from my inReach Explorer to the inReach Mini 2 was simple—a couple of clicks and punching in some numbers and codes—and I was ready to roll with my new device.

Peace of Mind in a Smaller Package

I love the simplicity of the unit. It’s idiot-proof, and for a technology-challenged bowhunter, I appreciate not needing a Harvard degree to operate it. The Mini 2 has a power button located on the top right-hand side next to the antenna. There are up and down buttons labeled with arrows on the left side, and the right side features an OK button, Back button, and SOS button. The Mini 2, like the inReach Explorer, is very self-explanatory. 

The right side of the Garmin inReach Mini 2, showing the OK, Back, and SOS buttons
With few moving parts and a simple interface, using the inReach Mini 2 is straightforward and self-explanatory. Jace Bauserman

Go outside to ensure the unit has a clear view of the sky, and once the Mini 2 connects with satellites, which takes about 22-25 minutes the first time you fire it up, you can start playing. My favorite feature of the unit is the two-way messaging. This allows me to stay in touch with loved ones via pre-set messages or by typing a new message. I like the pre-set messages, which you’ll have to set up on the website, but the process is easy. Typing long notes takes time, and with no keyboard and having to punch in each letter of each word, this unit wasn’t designed for inking long messages. I create presets like Made it to camp, All is well, Good night, Got my animal, Headed out, etc.

To access the main menu, hit the OK button, and hit the back button to get out of any setting. You can send a message from the main menu, use a pre-set message, start tracking your adventure, navigate, mark waypoints, access your contacts, check your iR Service Plan, and view settings. 

I appreciate the cap/door Garmin has added to the SOS button. This flip-open door ensures you will not push the SOS button inadvertently. My original model featured a switch that was slid left/right for engagement/disengagement of the SOS, and I can’t remember which way is which now. In the case of an emergency, open the SOS door and push the button. When you do, help will be on the way. 

Another feature I appreciate about the Mini 2 is the Tracking Feature. When tracking is engaged, a point is set on a base map, which others can download or view, and you can control how often you want a new pin to be dropped when in tracking mode. This way, loved ones can check on your progress by viewing dropped pin locales. 

The inReach Mini 2 set next to an inReach Explorer, showing the sized difference in the models.
The inReach Mini 2 is considerably smaller than the inReach Explorer, but has the same features and does the same job. It’s a perfect compact solar communicator. Jace Bauserman

I also love the Mark Waypoint mode, which allows you, while in Tracking or Navigation modes, to drop direct waypoints. These waypoints are added to downloaded maps, and you’ll have them forever and can share those waypoints with others if you choose to do so. 

When in Navigation mode, the TracBack feature allows you to retrace your steps exactly—a lifesaving feature if you get lost. Few things are more terrifying than being lost in the woods, and following a trail on a screen that retraces your steps exactly is a lot more comforting than a compass when horrible weather blows in or when you plan to walk over one ridge and end up going over six, and everything suddenly looks the same in all directions. 

Battery life is impressive. A full charge gave me just over 90 hours when set in the default 10-minute tracking mode, and the unit will produce an audible beep when power drops below 20 percent. The Mini 2 charges quickly when the included charging cord is plugged into a USB compatible charger. 

Conclusion

This is one device I won’t go into the woods without. The peace of mind it provides my loved ones and me is priceless. If you haven’t taken the $399.99 plunge and purchased a unit and a data plan yet, I strongly suggest you do. When you have peace of mind, you hunt harder and go further, which often separates a pack full of meat from a sob story. 

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