Garmin inReach Mini vs Explorer

Let’s Compare the Garmin inReach Mini vs Explorer+.

I believe these two satellite messengers are the 2 top devices on the market, from my experience and testing. Let’s compare each model side by side and find out if one takes the top spot or if they are each perfect in different situations.

Satellite Messenger Comparison

  • SizeGarmin inReach Mini
    • Mini (2.04″ x 3.90″ x 1.03″)
    • Explorer+ (6.5″ x 2.7″ x 1.5″)
  • Weight
    • Mini (3.5 oz.)
    • Explorer+ (7.5 oz.)
  • S.O.S. Function
    • Mini (Yes)
    • Explorer+ (Yes)
  • 2-way Messaging
    • Mini (Yes)
    • Explorer+ (Yes)
  • Satellite Coverage
    • Mini (Global Coverage – Pole to Pole with the Iridium Satellite Network)
    • Explorer+ (Global Coverage – Pole to Pole with the Iridium Satellite Network)
  • Topo MapsGarmin inReach Explorer+
    • Mini (Yes)
    • Explorer+ (Yes)
  • Weather Forecasting
    • Mini (Yes)
    • Explorer+ (Yes)
  • Tracking
    • Mini (Yes)
    • Explorer+ (Yes)
  • Pair with Smartphone
    • Mini (Yes)
    • Explorer+ (Yes)
  • Service Plans
    • Mini (Required Subscription – Monthly and Annual plans)
    • Explorer+ (Required Subscription – Monthly and Annual plans)
  • Battery Life
    • Mini (90 hours at 10-minute tracking)
    • Explorer+ (100 hours at 10-minute tracking)
  • Built-In Altimeter
    • Mini (No)
    • Explorer+ (Yes)
  • Built-In Barometer
    • Mini (No)
    • Explorer+ (Yes)
  • Built-In Accelerometer
    • Mini (No)
    • Explorer+ (Yes)

Field Test Results

Garmin inReach Mini

The Garmin inReach Mini was my first Garmin purchase. I was concerned about it having to be synced with my cell phone in order to get all the features it boasts. I was also unsure how well it would work, when my cell phone loses its battery life after one day of use. Well, I was wrong to be so concerned.

Note: let me say, before I forget, that the Garmin inReach Explorer+ would be the better satellite messenger if you plan on being out for longer outdoor adventures. It’s a true standalone device and has a better battery life.

I love how small the Garmin inReach Mini is, yet how powerful it is when it is synced with my phone. The great thing about it is how easy it is to type out a message on my phone, rather than on the device itself. It’s exactly like typing out a text when you have cell service.

The other awesome feature is that you can use the Earthmate app to view topo maps but what’s even better is that you have the large screen on your phone to view the topo maps, rather than the small screen you would view it through on the Garmin inReach Explorer+ (Note: You can also sync the Explorer+ and have access to your larger smartphone screen).

Garmin inReach Mini with Earthmate App on Smartphone

My concern about the battery life was corrected when I gave up my iPhone 8 for the new iPhone 11X Pro. The 11X Pro has a much better battery life, coupled with the fact that I always carry a portable charger with me that will allow me to re-charge my phone 3 times.

I use to do a lot of multi-day hikes and the Garmin inReach Explorer+ would have been better for longer outdoor adventures like that, but this last year I have gone to only day hikes, which makes my Garmin inReach Mini the best choice for me.

Garmin inReach Explorer+

The Garmin inReach Explorer+ is without a doubt the best satellite messenger for longer outdoor adventures. It is a true standalone device that does not need to be synced with your smartphone. From my personal experience, a smartphone will only last about 1 day on the trail when used for mapping, tracking, messaging and photos. You would need to carry a portable battery charger to keep your phone charged if you wanted it synced.

I agree that being able to sync your phone is extremely convenient, especially when typing out messages and being able to see the topo maps on a larger screen, but on a long trip, having the Explorer+ with you without having to worry about the battery life on your phone is critical.

Garmin inReach Explorer+ and Ranger

This is where the Garmin inReach Explorer+ really outshines the Garmin inReach Mini. You need to keep your smartphone synced with the Mini to get most all the features that come with the Explorer+, which will limit how long you can stay in the field if you want to use the features when the device is synced.

The other areas the Explorer+ stands out above the Mini is that it has a built-in altimeter, barometer and accelerometer. This gives you more accurate readings on your elevation and how fast you are moving.

These two devices have many of the same features, when the Mini is synced with the smartphone, but if not synced, the Garmin inReach Explorer+ will win the day.

Bottom Line

These are both incredible satellite messenger and I own both of them. They are both perfect for different situations.

  • Choose the Garmin inReach Mini if you go on short outdoor adventures ( 1 to 3 days).
  • Choose the Garmin inReach Explorer+ if you go on longer outdoor adventures (2 days and more).

Garmin inReach Mini vs Explorer

The Garmin inReach Mini is my primary satellite messenger because I almost entirely go on day hikes, but I would choose the Explorer+, hands down, when I go on hikes when I’ll be out for 2 or more nights.

Take a look at this table below for a quick comparison between the Mini and the Explorer+.

Garmin inReach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator with TOPO Maps and GPS Navigation
Garmin InReach Mini, Lightweight and Compact Satellite Communicator, Orange
Garmin inReach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator with TOPO Maps and GPS Navigation
Garmin InReach Mini, Lightweight and Compact Satellite Communicator, Orange
-
Built-In Topo Maps
Topo Maps When Synced with Cell Phone
Built-In Altimeter & Barometer
Garmin inReach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator with TOPO Maps and GPS Navigation
Garmin inReach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator with TOPO Maps and GPS Navigation
-
Built-In Topo Maps
Topo Maps When Synced with Cell Phone
Built-In Altimeter & Barometer
Garmin InReach Mini, Lightweight and Compact Satellite Communicator, Orange
Garmin InReach Mini, Lightweight and Compact Satellite Communicator, Orange
Built-In Topo Maps
Topo Maps When Synced with Cell Phone
Built-In Altimeter & Barometer

Check out this short video of the Garmin inReach Min vs the Garmin inReach Explorer+.

I would love to hear if you have any experience with either one of these, so leave a Comment Below or send me an Email.

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4 thoughts on “Garmin inReach Mini vs Explorer”

  1. Hey Friend thanks for the honest review and it is a good comparison also. For me I never heard both of them nor saw them but on this review I have some concepts about it.

    My Opinion I would have gone for Explore because of Size, Battery Life and also Accelerometer

    Thanks for sharing this honest review 

    Reply
    • I’m glad you were able to see something new. I spent more than 30 years hiking without a satellite messenger and had several close calls, so I never leave home without one of these devices that I can message family and/or friends, and use the S.O.S. function to call for help in life threatening situations. 

      Don’t hesitate to ask additional questions if you think of any.

      Rick

      Reply
  2. Thank you so much for creating this review!! This is exactly what I needed to be able to quick & easily see the differences between the Mini & Explorer+.
    They way you laid it all out was super helpful & easy to read/understand. Your tips & opinions were also super helpful.
    Thanks again!

    Reply
    • You are welcome. Let me know if you have any questions. I have been using both of these satellite messengers since the Fall of 2019 on my hiking trips in Colorado.

      Rick

      Reply

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