As someone who usually backpacks and hikes solo, I’ve been meaning to buy a Garmin InReach Mini forever — and I finally did it. The InReach Mini is a very well-regarded satellite communicator that lets you share your location, send and receive texts and even check weather forecasts while in the backcountry. It’s also very tiny!
I’ve never found myself in a bad situation outside and ideally, I don’t plan to. Peace of mind doesn’t come cheap — the InReach Mini costs $350 for the device alone — but it’s worth it to me to know I’m not totally cut off from communication if I’m off on the side of a mountain somewhere. And in the event of some kind of catastrophic accident, you can send an SOS alert with a dedicated SOS button (pictured below).
Still, device like the InReach Mini this shouldn’t preclude anyone planning on spending time outdoors from doing some first aid training. If you’re not sure how to go about that, the NOLS Wilderness First Aid (WFA) sessions are a great place to start, especially if you’ve always wanted to role-play a snowboarder with a head injury.
Honestly the main situation I expect to use the InReach Mini in? To communicate changes of plan. It’s good practice to tell someone where you’re going and how long you’ll be there when you’re off on an outdoor adventure where you expect to lose cell service. But if plans change, there’s often no way to communicate that without potentially causing some serious concern and chaos among your friends or family. One solo backpacking trip I went on near Mt. Adams I remember falling in love with the area and deciding to spend an extra night… but I was lucky and some hikers on their way out offered to text my then-fiancee for me. Still it’s easy to see how that situation could have gone wrong!
Carrying the Garmin InReach Mini solves that whole constellation of communication woes. And if you’re counting ounces, or carrying a bunch of camera equipment like I usually am, it’s barely a burden. The InReach Mini weighs a negligible 3.5 oz and measures only 4″ by 2.” But Garmin crammed a lot of battery into a small package: The InReach Mini can run for up to 90 hours while logging your location every 10 minutes or for 24 straight days when placed in power saving mode.
I’ve yet to carry this thing along anywhere that wasn’t a cozy cabin outside of Bend, but once I get some experience with it I’ll be updating this esteemed website with a full review. In the meantime, you can see about how big it is and what it looks like (very cute!) in this photo hands-on.