This review will closely examine the brand-new Garmin InReach Mini 2, a fascinating device that could save your life. Although the Garmin inReach Mini 1 has been available for some time, it would be difficult to tell them apart if they were placed side by side.
Introduction to Garmin InReach Mini 2
So what did they change between the InReach Mini and InReach Mini 2? For those who need to learn what a Garmin InReach is, it’s a personal satellite communication tool that you may use to text or email your loved ones. It can do this while disconnected from the grid and without cell phone service.
Cell phones are excellent devices for emergencies, but they have one downfall: they rely on a grid of antennas to have their cell phone signal. With the signal, your mobile phone is valuable if you’re on the open sea, off the grid, or on top of a mountain in the backcountry.
And the InReach Mini steps in to help with that as it uses the Iridium Satellite Network to connect. It’s a series of satellites up in the sky, and the device communicates directly with those satellites and cuts out the middleman. That would be that cell phone tower. That’s what makes these devices so unique.
If you’re a solitary hiker, trail runner, climber, or someone who enjoys exploring the backcountry, this device is terrific if you want to offer your friends and family peace of mind. Additionally, these items have many features that make them helpful navigational aids.
Garmin InReach Mini Versus Garmin InReach Mini 2
From a physical standpoint, they resemble one another almost perfectly. The inReach Mini 2 maintains the same form factor as the previous version. They’re both four ounces, which is a lightweight device. They’re about 3.9 inches tall, about 2 inches wide, and about 1.3 inches thick. So overall, it’s a small device best for expedition and adventure.
You can see an up and down arrow on both devices. On the opposite side, we’ve got the same arrangement of buttons: the Okay and Back buttons.
The SOS button is located below that. Use this button if your life is in danger or if you are experiencing a severe emergency.
They placed a small flap on top of it that you must peel back to reveal the button to avoid unintended button presses. You can press the button in a life-or-death situation, and a crew or a helicopter will ultimately arrive to save you.
One of the notable differences between these two, if you look at the devices on the left, is that the original Garmin InReach Mini uses a Micro USB port. We now have a USB-type C port on the inReach Mini 2, the same as all of my other attachments. Therefore I’m delighted it disappeared. Consequently, I need one cable to carry with me into the backcountry if I want to charge the device while I’m on the chase.
Both gadgets are well-built in terms of build quality. They are primarily composed of plastic, although the exterior of the device and its surrounding areas are made of sturdy material. It has a rubberized grip that improves traction and is water- and shock-resistant.
The InReach Mini 2 is rated with IPX 7 water resistance to survive in three feet of water for up to 30 minutes. That means you’re not meant to go diving or swim with it, but it’s a fail-safe if your backpack is wet or you’re in the snow.
New Upgrades on Garmin InReach Mini 2
What has the InReach Mini 2 added thus far? Since they are currently paired devices except for those charging connectors. Let’s discuss the fresh material. The inReach Mini 2 has a better resolution display than the prior model, which is a modest improvement.
The text is easier to read since it is less pixelated, and you will notice the higher-resolution display when you cycle through the user interface. It is easier to see if you are close up. The inReach Mini 2’s user interface has been updated to resemble what the Garmin watches offer.
Widget glances are available, as seen on the Garmin Epic Gen 2. Compared to the original inReach Mini, which included full-page widgets for messaging and other features, the menu scrolling experience is identical.
As you cycle through the widget, the InReach Mini 2 is significantly more responsive than the InReach Mini 1. This is another improvement. Everything is more responsive, the animations are better, and the pages load more quickly. You may track your whereabouts with the InReach Mini and Mini 2 and share a link with your loved ones so they can follow you on your expedition in real-time.
In contrast to the first InReach Mini, which just had GPS and needed to be more accurate, the InReach Mini 2 features a new GPS chip that gives improved accuracy and the capacity to connect with different satellite systems, including GLONASS and Galileo. In my testing, I found that the inReach Mini 2’s GPS location lock is much quicker than the inReach Mini 1’s, which was a problem I experienced with the inReach Mini.
It took forever to establish a GPS lock, but the InReach Mini 2 doesn’t have that problem. The InReach Mini 2 offers better battery life and improved GPS accuracy, with up to 14 days of activity tracking and recording at a 10-minute tracking frequency. For your friends and family to follow you while you’re on your excursion, your location will be updated every 10 minutes and sent to the cloud.
Another thing to note is that 14 days of battery life assumes you’ve got a clear view of the sky. If you’re in the woods, in a heavy cloud cover, or something like that, you can expect something more like four days in moderate tree cover. For those of you going out on big adventures that might take a month, you can get up to 30 days of tracking out of the InReach Mini 2 at a 30-minute tracking interval.
Another significant upgrade to the inReach Mini two compared to the Mini one is the standby time. Battery life has been dramatically improved. One major issue I had with the original InReach Mini is that it’s a device I use only sometimes. I would use it once a month, twice a month.
So it’s something that only sometimes got charged, and I noticed that if I left it in my drawer while I was fully charged, the battery would deplete and be completely dead the next time I wanted to use it. Also, the battery would degrade because of leaving it in the drawer, not charging it up, and doing cycles on it.
On the InReach Mini 2, they’ve changed that, so it holds a charge for up to one year while it’s powered off, which is a massive upgrade, and I’m looking forward to that over time.
User Interface for Garmin InReach Mini 2
I will walk through the user interface briefly. At the top, you can see the first widget is the messages widget, where any incoming messages would appear and where you can compose a new message. So if I wanted to write a new message, I could click new message.
Then, I can click on which contact I want to send the message to or type it in. Unfortunately, composing a message on the device is difficult because all you can do is use the onscreen keyboard. And to do this, you have to cycle through the alphabet to find the letter you want to click on and then click okay.
You must keep doing that repeatedly until you type in to whom you want to send the message. Fortunately, that’s not the only way to send a message on this device, but it is good to have in a pinch, and we’ll talk about the better way to do this in a little bit.
One significant difference between the InReach Mini 2 and many of the competition in the PLB space is that the InReach Mini 2 has two-way communication. This feature allows you to send a message to somebody, and they can respond to that message, and you can respond to it just like a cell phone.
With many other devices in the competition, there’s only one way of communication. So you can send messages like, I’m okay, I’m late, I’m hurt, et cetera, but there’s no way to have a conversation through the device, and that’s what makes the InReach Mini 2, so special.
Scrolling down from messages we have tracking allows you to turn on or off your tracking feature. Then, on the navigation widget, you can see the breadcrumb map right up front, which is very similar to what we find on a Garmin Forerunner 245 or 745. It’s a basic breadcrumb map showing your location relative to the track you’ve been walking or hiking.
The great thing about this breadcrumb map is that it has a passive trackback function. If I click the top right button, I can navigate, go ahead down, and click trackback. And when I do that, it tracks me back to the start of my activity. It’ll generate a course to get you back to your car or the starting location of your activity without even having a built-in course from your previous activity.
This is an excellent feature because even if you’re not tracking your location, you can still get back to the beginning of your activity in a pinch if you’re lost. You can also navigate to weigh points you have saved, or you can do a course that comes over from Garmin Connect or the Garmin Explorer app.
Then, you can scroll down and get a regular compass, which you can use with a paper map if that’s something you’re into, back to the home screen. And the next widget in line is the weather widget. And this is interesting. So the weather widget is much like what you’d find on a garment watch.
However, there’s one significant difference: it can fetch weather information through a satellite connection rather than your cell phone. So on a Garmin watch, you always need to be connected to your phone to get a weather update on the watch itself. In contrast, on the InReach Mini 2, you can fetch a weather update manually and have it come down from a satellite connection to get this information anywhere on the planet, which is pretty cool.
This weather widget is a great tool if you’re on an extended backpacking trip or something and want to see the weather forecast for the upcoming days.
Compatibility to Garmin Explorer App
Another significant upgrade to the InReach Mini 2 is that it’s now compatible with Garmin’s Explorer app, which has been around for a while. However, the InReach Mini 1 was not compatible with the app. Within the app, you can access things like the weather fetched from the InReach Mini 2, turn on or off your tracking on the InReach Mini 2 and trigger an SOS without hitting the button on the device itself.
You can do that right from the app, which is excellent. But the best feature of the Garment Explorer app is that if you click on messages, you can now write them on the phone rather than composing them on the device itself.
When you’re composing a message, you can use your phone’s keyboard, and there’s a little checkbox on the right here that will allow you to send your location along with your message. You can turn it off if you want to send only a message. Within the Garmin Explorer app, there’s a full-blown topo map, and you can download this to your phone, so you don’t need cell phone coverage to access it.
You can click on a point and then click Navigate, and it’ll navigate to that point on the InReach Mini 2. You can hold InReach Mini 2 in your hand and use this as your point of navigation, but you can set up your course on your phone, which is nice. And, of course, you can access all of your previous activities within the Garmin Explorer app.
You can also explore any routes that you have in InReach Mini 2. So I’ve got a few preloaded; if you click on those, it’ll show a map. Then, I can click the three dots in the corner and send the course over to the InReach Mini 2 if I want to follow that in real-time.
Connect Garmin InReach Mini 2 to Garmin Smartwatches
Another great feature about the InReach Mini 2 is that they can link together if you have a Garmin smartwatch like Garmin Epix Gen 2. You can have your InReach Mini 2 dangling from your backpack and get your messages right to your watch. Firstly, you must pair the InReach Mini 2 with a Garmin-compatible watch.
Scroll down through your widgets; see a new widget for InReach Mini 2 in the watch. And if I click on that, you can see some messages others sent me a while back. You can also see the InReach Mini 2’s battery level and initiate SOS via my watch.
So if I’m out hiking, trail running, or something like that, and I take a terrible fall, I cannot reach my InReach Mini 2 device because it’s buried in my backpack or behind me. I can trigger an SOS function from my watch that will trigger an SOS alert on my InReach Mini 2.
On top of that, I can scroll down, read my messages coming in from the InReach Mini 2, and send presets from the watch itself. For example, I have a few presets already set up for checking in, and everything’s okay, or I’m running late. You can tell I like to ensure my wife knows I’m okay.
The compatibility between the Garmin watches and the InReach Mini 2 benefits the Garmin ecosystem. They tie everything together, and it’s fantastic to communicate with my phone and watch and have the InReach Mini 2 on me.
Pricing for Garmin InReach Mini 2
Finally, let’s talk about pricing on the Garmin InReach Mini 2. The device retails for $399, which is a lot of money. However, the older InReach Mini is still on sale for $349. So for $50 more, you’re getting the latest and greatest tech in the InReach Mini 2. And not only that, it doesn’t have a micro USB port like this old one.
That $399 price tag only tells you part of the story, though, because these devices do require a subscription from InReach. So if you want to communicate with the InReach Mini 2, you do have to sign up with one of their plans. There are two types of plans available from Garmin InReach. You can have the Freedom Plan, which is a no-commitment plan.
It cost a little bit more. You can buy it for a month and then decide not to use it and turn it back off and suspend your account or turn it around as you please, which is nice. The Freedom Plans start at approximately $14 and go up to $35, depending on what you want to do with the device.
On top of the Freedom Plans, there are commitment plans, so you can sign up for an entire year and get a lower price, starting at about $12 a month. You can save a little bit of money. And if you’re somebody who will use this thing multiple times a week or a month, that’s probably worth doing to save a little bit of money. But like I said, it’s something I use only sometimes. So I’m going to sign up for the Freedom Plan.
My Verdict on Garmin InReach Mini 2
With all that said, let’s talk about final thoughts on the InReach Mini 2. Is it worth upgrading if you have the InReach Mini 1, and is it worth buying if you don’t? Like I said at the beginning of this review, whether or not you need one of these devices depends on what you do.
If you go into the backcountry, you’re somebody with a boat and maybe spend extended time offshore. You’re somebody who goes on trips overseas or likes to solo backpack or something like that. These are mandatory options. You should have one of these in your bag because it’s a life-or-death situation.
When discussing my use case, I venture to the mountains once or twice a month, and when I’m out there, I generally have cell phone service, but only some of the time. So I like to have one of these on me, especially if I’m solo.
The upgrades to the InReach Mini 2 are welcome, but there should have been more. First, it would’ve been nice to get a full-color display on the InReach Mini 2. Something like what we see on the Garmin Fenix 7 or even this Epix Gen 2.
I prefer more colors and a vibrant screen for easier use. And on top of that, I would’ve liked to see complete mapping in the InReach Mini 2 because they can do it on the much smaller watches. The watch is way smaller than the inReach Mini two, and the watch has full mapping capabilities, while the InReach Mini 2 does not; it only has that breadcrumb map.
However, the lack of the map and the color functionality isn’t a deal breaker for me because this device’s priority is safety concerns and having peace of mind when you’re out in the backcountry, and it achieves that.
If you have an InReach Mini 1 and are considering upgrading to the inReach mini two, I don’t know if it’s necessary. The InReach Mini 1 is still a great device. The one thing that drove me nuts is that the battery life when you’ve left it in a draw or standby time wasn’t great.
Whereas the InReach Mini 2 has solved that problem. If that’s something that’s been affecting you, it’s worth the upgrade. Other than that, if you have a Garmin watch with navigation features, the InReach Mini 1 is still perfectly acceptable.
But if you want the latest and greatest, you want the navigation features built in, you want that compass built in, and you want to be able to use the new Garmin Explorer app instead of the older app, the InReach Mini 2 might be the way to go.
I hope you enjoyed this review article for Garmin InReach Mini 2. Thank you for reading, and until next time.