Having been in the unfortunate place of needing to call for help with an injured friend, I place a high value on being able to communicate with people while in remote places. I have carried most available communication devices over the past 10 years while guiding, and this year I was in the market for a new satellite communication device for use on several expeditions. I settled on the recently updated Delorme inReach SE, a two-way satellite messaging device.

The Delorme inReach SE is designed to send “SOS” messages to authorities in case of an emergency, as well as to send and receive text messages when cell reception is not available. The device does this by connecting to the Iridium satellite network. The cost of the inReach is a little higher than the SPOT, but the addition of two-way text was the reason I spent the additional money. With texting you have more freedom to coordinate a ride if your travel plans change or let a loved one know you are going to be delayed.

The setup process and selecting a monthly service plan were simple. The inReach is configured using a website allowing you to manage your account and billing and to set up preset messages, view your recent trip information, and set social media and map sharing. You also have the option to set up a public website allowing others to view your travels on a web-based map.

Over the past six months I have been testing the capabilities of the inReach in a variety of environments. It was simple to send and receive messages to email and SMS text addresses and to post locations and a message to social media. I found the device interface straight forward, although messaging with the device’s cursor-based typing method is clunky.

Slow typing can be avoided by setting up a bluetooth connection between the device and a smart phone. The free Delorme app provides a download of high-quality topo maps and nautical charts. The device’s navigation ability is far inferior to new GPS devices, but it does allow you to pinpoint your location on a map. The best part about the app is the ability to control the device and message from your phone while leaving the device stowed in your backpack.

The only problem I had with the Delorme inReach SE was when testing the device while it was charging on my portable solar panel – a strong wind took the solar panel (and attached inReach) for an airborne trip off of an elevated porch and across the yard. Although there wasn’t visible damage, the 30-plus foot journey to hard ground forced me to perform a “soft reset,” following directions from Delorme, and resync the device with my computer. This isn’t a big issue when your computer is available, but it would have rendered the device nonfunctional if I was out in the field.

With monthly fees as low as $15 a month and the ability to start, stop or change service plans as needed, the device provides a welcome safety net and benefit of communication from remote places. To see one example of a trip taken with the inReach that included sending messages and tracking at 30 minute intervals, check out www.share.delorme.com/longleafwildernessmedicine.

Written by Jason Luthy