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Thread: InReach Mini

  1. #1

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    InReach Mini

    I feel compelled to write a plug for this amazing little device.
    My wife and I just returned from nearly a month at our camp, 110-miles from the nearest human being, just east of the Coppermine River at latitude 66 degrees 17 minutes north.
    After finding out that my first-generation InReach would no longer be able to request weather forecasts, I shelled out $472 Canadian (a little "ouch"!) for the new mini. Despite the price, I'm very happy with the purchase. It worked flawlessly every day and I was able to keep in touch with our house-sitter and friends back home. I set it up on the picnic table outside and, while I sit comfortably in a warm, dry cabin the little InReach listens on Bluetooth, takes the text message from my 'phone, fires it up to the Iridium satellites and, presto - my contact gets the text or e-mail on his 'phone. InReach seems to have solved the message-delay problem now. Everyone got their message within a minute and fired one back to me. I now get weather in graphic form instead of text, which is kinda cool. Battery life is amazing and we can recharge via USB from our little solar system.
    This gizmo is about one-third the size of my old InReach and it fits easily in a small pocket of my life vest.
    I had no problem texting from the 'plane while still 100-miles from the nearest cell tower.
    The interface between the InReach and my 'phone is very easy to use.
    The Canadian InReach agent does not support the Mini (for some strange reason), so I had to go direct to Garmin US for the subscription. I think they charged me $30 US to activate. I'm paying $44 per month (US), which gives me 50 messages a month. A request for weather doesn't cost but they charge 75 cents to send you the forecast. I understand that I can suspend the service through most of the winter at zero dollars per month. All in all - pretty reasonable.
    Highly recommended, despite the initial cost.

    Edit: Actually, the prices I'm charged are in Canadian dollars - even better!

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    Last edited by NunavutPA-12; 09-05-2019 at 02:04 PM.
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  2. #2

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    Love my regular inReach, been looking at adding a mini for my backcountry runs when I donít want to carry bulk. Thanks for the report!
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  3. #3
    mvivion's Avatar
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    Great pilot report, thanks!

    MTV
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  4. #4

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    Thanks for the great report. Which model did you have before? I have an older Delorme explorer (rectangular orange one with the screen) and the latency time between messages is pretty bad and have debated upgrading to something newer.

  5. #5

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    I had the older grey box model with no screen. Not sure of the model name.

  6. #6

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    My Inreach Explorer won't support weather anymore but I always thought Inreach weather was crap so I can't see upgrading to access it. Has their weather service improved?

  7. #7
    cubflier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stewartb View Post
    My Inreach Explorer won't support weather anymore but I always thought Inreach weather was crap so I can't see upgrading to access it. Has their weather service improved?
    It's the same API called Dark Sky. You can check it's reliability by using their weather app. Cost $3.99 My observation of it, especially for where you live now, is do not rely on it for wind information in any kind of wind event. You are welcome to try my weather program for aviation stuff. It's served me well over the years. I'm even bringing in the Dark Sky API for grins to avoid paying Garmin for each hit. As with all these providers of weather information, you have to play with them for a bit to see where their strengths are. Nothing beats the aviation metars, taf, area forecasts, and winds aloft as far as far as something that is text based and can be communicated to a device like an InReach.

    Jerry
    If it looks smooth...it might be

    If it looks rough...it is!!
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  8. #8

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    Jerry,

    You get METAR and TAF info to your Inreach, right? I would be interested in that. One of these days Iridium will turn on their new constellation but their faster service will come with a price, and the service plans are already going up. To request a METAR would be useful, whether from Inreach or sat phone.

    SB

  9. #9

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    This service works from my phone. I guess I should test it from the Inreach and Iridium phone.

    http://www.wxbytxt.com/index.html

    On the practical side, my Apple Watch displays Palmer's METAR on the watch face and I can toggle it to Wasilla, Birchwood, and Hood with a finger tap. I find that very useful since cell service works pretty well while in the air. The difference in the winds between Palmer and Wasilla is very interesting to watch.
    Last edited by stewartb; 09-09-2019 at 08:02 AM.
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  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by stewartb View Post
    My Inreach Explorer won't support weather anymore but I always thought Inreach weather was crap so I can't see upgrading to access it. Has their weather service improved?
    I must admit, their weather forecast was not all that accurate while we were in the middle of nowhere. Temperatures were accurate, cloud cover so-so, wind - not so good.

  11. #11
    cubflier's Avatar
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    SB and NunavutPA-12 - check your pm's. If I forgot to mention it, try it on your phone first to get the hang of it. NunavutPA-12, your area is a special case for me so I'm interested to see if it works at all. There are not a lot of reporting station in you area but if it does work and you know of other weather sources you are interested in just let me know. In general if you can read it on the internet you can read it on your InReach.



    Jerry
    Last edited by cubflier; 09-09-2019 at 11:43 AM.
    If it looks smooth...it might be

    If it looks rough...it is!!
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  12. #12

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    I turned the old Inreach on this afternoon and what appears? A "premium" weather report that I requested yesterday. The latency in my unit is really, really bad. That alone may make an upgrade worthwhile. Any pireps on the latency difference between gen 2 and the newest versions?

  13. #13
    fancypants's Avatar
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    Stewart, what is your message "Listen Interval" set to? There are lots of knobs to twist on these things, and I think most are tweaked in favor of battery life over latency by default.

  14. #14
    Farmboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fancypants View Post
    Stewart, what is your message "Listen Interval" set to? There are lots of knobs to twist on these things, and I think most are tweaked in favor of battery life over latency by default.
    Good point.
    Listen For default is 10 min I think. Range is from continuous to 20 minutes. I wish the ForeFlight weather didnít lag 10 min behind.

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    Transmitted from my FlightPhone

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by fancypants View Post
    Stewart, what is your message "Listen Interval" set to? There are lots of knobs to twist on these things, and I think most are tweaked in favor of battery life over latency by default.
    Interval set at 10 min. Sent a text request last night. The Inreach sat outside for 45 minutes with no reply. Turned it on this morning and after a couple of minutes got a current METAR. The outgoing message appears to be what's slow. I won't take it if I don't trust it. I need to play with it some more.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by stewartb View Post
    I turned the old Inreach on this afternoon and what appears? A "premium" weather report that I requested yesterday. The latency in my unit is really, really bad. That alone may make an upgrade worthwhile. Any pireps on the latency difference between gen 2 and the newest versions?
    My recent experience is that messages from the Mini were received within a minute. I got the weather forecast within five minutes.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Farmboy View Post
    Good point.
    I wish the ForeFlight weather didnít lag 10 min behind.

    Transmitted from my FlightPhone
    Keep in mind the weather they transmit is close to 20min old before they get it to send to you. As such what you see is better part of 20min older than the time stamp.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by stewartb View Post
    Interval set at 10 min. Sent a text request last night. The Inreach sat outside for 45 minutes with no reply. Turned it on this morning and after a couple of minutes got a current METAR. The outgoing message appears to be what's slow. I won't take it if I don't trust it. I need to play with it some more.
    Stewart, Keep me posted on anything you may learn on the latency issue. I also have experienced it and have been frustrated by it. Last year, when I was up in your great state, my friend had an "issue" with his airplane and we needed reliable communication between InReach devices. The latency was a bit maddening as several reasonably urgent messages did not get delivered until the following day. I am using the Delorme Explorer model and would upgrade if I could expect this issue to go away.

    Thanks in advance for your feedback.

    Jeff

  19. #19
    cubflier's Avatar
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    The latency issue is something that I have not been able to put my finger on yet. It's hit and miss. Overall my inReach Explorer plus is a great tool and it responds reasonably fast. Many times very fast. I round tripped a METAR request in under a minute this morning. However, on my recent hunt it had a few long delays. More than I have seen in a while. I have not contacted Garmin as of yet but intend to once I have some concrete tests I can show.

    Stewart - FYI- Your first METAR request hit my gateway at 17:20:32 AKDT yesterday and your second one came in at 04:55:00 AKDT. These were from your inReach. The gateway sends the response to the request in well under a second so you should be able to explore the time stamp on your end and get an idea where the delay was. The satellite phone requests were rejected at the gateway as not a valid mobile number. At some point I will talk to tech at Twilio and see if there is a way to accommodate stat phone numbers.

    Garmin tech support is always worth a call. They will more than likely tell you to sync both your account and device. They will then compare your firmware version to see if it's up to date. The they may walk you through both the soft and hard reset procedures on the device. Soft reset = hold X and Down arrow till it powers down. Hard reset is in the menu settings under Factory reset. Hard reset will make the sync process mandatory. Finally if I am messaging I set my interval to no more than 2 min.

    Good Luck - Jerry
    If it looks smooth...it might be

    If it looks rough...it is!!
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  20. #20
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    Just tried WXBYTXT with an older Inreach SE from inside my house. It worked. Turnaround time was 7 minutes - the delay may have been due to poor satellite visibility.

    A weird thing I note about Siriux XM weather - it often shows spurious radar returns, even when the region is totally clear.

    Anyway, I'm going to drop the expensive Sirius XM weather. I can use ADS-B in the air most of the time, and Inreach from the ground.

    Update: my message listen interval was set to 15 min., so 7 minutes seems ok.
    Last edited by sjohnson; 09-23-2019 at 02:41 PM.
    Idaho drinks more wine per person than any other state in the country.

  21. #21
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    On a recent trip I did a fair bit of weather requests on two different Explorer Plus out at Crosswind Lake trying to determine pass conditions etc. As far as latency went on this trip it was a non issue. Most all short messages (metars and tafs) were round tripped with in a minute or two at the most. Longer messages like extended weekly forecasts took up to 5 minutes. Most were delivered in less time. Keep in mind these longer messages get broke up into message segments of about 153 characters and a weekly forecast can be returned as much as four separate messages to the inReach. The first segment always was returned in the first minute but the remaining segments were delayed perhaps from Garmin throttling multiple requests.

    With regards to these older units that have had support for Garmin's weather yanked I think there may be another issue to consider. I did try to sync and update a friends older inReach unit and I got errors that terminated the process. I can't say for sure but "bit rot" may be in play making an upgrade to the Explorer Plus or Mini inevitable.

    The Mini is nice as far as size goes but what will keep me leaning toward the Explorer Plus type units is it acts as a stand alone gps with a topo map display. Not everyone uses this feature very much. I do.

    On the subject of message delays, here is a Garmin Support article on messaging times and a little bit about how things work:

    InReach products use GPS satellites to find your position but send and receive messages through the Iridium satellite network. Depending on your location and your surroundings, messages can be sent or received in a matter of seconds, or it can take up to 30 minutes. In certain situations, it could take longer, especially if tracking isn't actively being used.

    In order for inReach devices to connect to the Iridium communication satellites, they need to be outside. There is only one Iridium satellite in the sky at a time. Each Iridium satellite passes by every 15 to 20 minutes, travels North-South, and rarely flies directly overhead. An area surrounded by mountains, heavy tree cover, buildings, or other solid structures will increase the time it takes to send and receive messages or track points. Clouds have no effect on the communication between the Iridium satellites and the inReach handheld. The signal transmitted by the device may be too weak to reach the satellites through windows, so if you can't connect to the satellites indoors or in a vehicle, then you will need to take the inReach outside.

    When the inReach is used around a building or obstruction, it is best to be on the North or South side.

    While emails always include location, you can select to add location to SMS text messages. It can take up to 20 minutes for your inReach to acquire a GPS location, especially if it has not acquired a GPS position for some time. This is in addition to the time it takes for the inReach to connect to the Iridium satellites, which means it could take 30 to 45 minutes or more to send a message with location. This is especially true when the tracking isn't used on the inReach, which only turns on GPS when it is needed to conserve battery charge.1


    On the trip where I was having the most latency issues I was turning my inReach on and off to save battery. I also disabled tracking but left the send coordinates with message on. I'm not sure if that may have contributed but the above article puts that in prospective.

    Jerry
    If it looks smooth...it might be

    If it looks rough...it is!!
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  22. #22
    jrussl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cubflier View Post
    On a recent trip I did a fair bit of weather requests on two different Explorer Plus out at Crosswind Lake trying to determine pass conditions etc. As far as latency went on this trip it was a non issue. Most all short messages (metars and tafs) were round tripped with in a minute or two at the most. Longer messages like extended weekly forecasts took up to 5 minutes. Most were delivered in less time. Keep in mind these longer messages get broke up into message segments of about 153 characters and a weekly forecast can be returned as much as four separate messages to the inReach. The first segment always was returned in the first minute but the remaining segments were delayed perhaps from Garmin throttling multiple requests.

    With regards to these older units that have had support for Garmin's weather yanked I think there may be another issue to consider. I did try to sync and update a friends older inReach unit and I got errors that terminated the process. I can't say for sure but "bit rot" may be in play making an upgrade to the Explorer Plus or Mini inevitable.

    The Mini is nice as far as size goes but what will keep me leaning toward the Explorer Plus type units is it acts as a stand alone gps with a topo map display. Not everyone uses this feature very much. I do.

    On the subject of message delays, here is a Garmin Support article on messaging times and a little bit about how things work:



    On the trip where I was having the most latency issues I was turning my inReach on and off to save battery. I also disabled tracking but left the send coordinates with message on. I'm not sure if that may have contributed but the above article puts that in prospective.

    Jerry
    Thanks for posting the additional info related to latency.

    Jeff


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  23. #23

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    Re: Iridium, my old 9505 phone had better reception in obscured areas than my 9555. Much better. Iridium has evolved similarly to cell phones. The old bag phones were strong transmitters with good receivers. Never phones concentrate on small size, computer speed, and battery life. There's a big difference when you're in a fringe area. So it goes with the newer, more compact Iridium phones, or so it seems. They still work great but sometimes you have to work a little more that we used to to get a clear signal. I don't knowif or how that relates to Inreach devices but I'd bet the newer ones are made to take advantage new Iridium constellation that's supposed to turn on soon.

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