Garmin inReach Mini vs Explorer

Who Would Win?

Which satellite messenger would win the top prize between the Garmin inReach Mini vs Explorer?

This is a great question and I will compare the Garmin inReach Mini to the Garmin inReach Explorer+ side by side to see how the stack up against each other. So let’s start the battle and see if one of them wins.

Size

Mini: 2.04” x 3.90” x 1.03”

Explorer: 2.7″ x 6.5″ x 1.5″

If size matters than the Explorer wins, but in the world of hiking and backpacking, less is better, so ignoring all else, the Mini wins this battle.

Display Size

Mini: 0.9″W x 0.9″H

Explorer: 1.4″W x 1.9″H

The older I get the worse my eyes get so size definitely matters her so give the Explorer the advantage on this one.

Display Resolution

Mini: 128 x 128 pixels

Explorer: 200 x 265 pixels

Again, I have to give the advantage to the inReach Explorer

Weight

Mini: 3.5 oz

Explorer: 7.5 oz

The mini wins this battle by over twice the weight loss, so the biggest loser is the Mini, meaning it wins for this category.

Battery Life

Mini: Up to 90 hours at 10-minute tracking (default); up to 35 hours at 10-minute tracking with 1-second logging; up to 24 days at 30-minute tracking power save mode; and up to 1 year when powered off

Explorer:Up to 100 hours at 10-minute tracking mode (default); up to 75 hours at 10-minute tracking with 1-second logging; up to 30 days at the 30-minute interval power save mode; and up to 3 years when powered off

The Garmin inReach Explorer wins this hands down.

Memory History

Mini: None

Explorer: 2 GB

Well, this one wasn’t even a fight.

Preloaded MapsTopo Map

Mini: no

Explorer: yes. The North America SKU of the inReach Explorer+ comes preloaded with a 1:24k map of Garmin Yarmouth (Former DeLorme) North America data of the U.S. and Canada. Mexico also is included at a 1:125k scale (derived from Garmin Yarmouth’s Digital Atlas of the Earth).

Another round goes to the Explorer.

Barometric Altimiter

Mini: no

Explorer: yes

The Explorer has it.

Compass

Mini: no

Explorer: Yes (tilt-compensated 3-axis)

This battle is beginning to look lopsided.

Wireless Compatible (Bluetooth)

Mini: yes

Explorer: yes

SOS Search 24/7

Mini: yes

Explorer: yes

Send & Receive Text Messages

Mini: yes

Explorer: yes

Track & Share Location

Mini: yes

Explorer: yes

Request Weather Forecasts

Mini: yes

Explorer: yes

Navigation

Mini: Access downloadable maps, U.S. NOAA charts, color aerial imagery and more by using the free Garmin Earthmate® app and compatible devices.

Explorer: Pair with compatible mobile devices using the free Earthmate® app for access to downloadable maps¹, U.S. NOAA charts, color aerial imagery and more. inReach Explorer+ device adds preloaded DeLorme® TOPO maps with onscreen GPS routing plus built-in digital compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer.

The Explorer wins this hands down as it’s navigation is built into the unit and the Mini has to be synced with your smartphone to get similar options.

Pair with Mobile Device

Mini: yes

Explorer: yes

Pair with Garmin Pilot

Mini: yes

Explorer: no

I’m not convinced on this one yet but the website for the Explorer makes no mention of this so I have to give the edge to the Mini in this category.

Initial Cost

Mini: $349.99

Explorer: $449.00

You get more with the Explorer, including the initial price.

Service Plans

There are no winners here as they have the exact same service plans

So, What’s the Verdict?

Who won the battle between the Garmin inReach Mini vs Explorer? Let’s start by adding up how many categories were won by the Mini and the Explorer (we’ll leave out the ones where there were no winners).

Categories won by the Garmin inReach Mini = 4Garmin inReach Explorer+

Categories won by the Garmin inReach Explorer = 8

There you have it! The Explorer wins running away!

…or so you think.

What we haven’t done here is add a weighted scale to what is important to each category and even though I could do that I would lose most of you at this point.

The Bottom Line

The winner depends on you.

If you need navigation and a longer battery life than the Garmin inReach Explorer wins.

If you need to save some money and need lighter and more compact than the Garmin inReach Mini wins.

I hate to say it but it’s most likely a tie.

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
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
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

Do you Want My Opinion?

Probably not but here it is anyway. I love the idea of the Mini and I may end up buying it but on my last hike, I found myself wanting a reliable navigation unit and I would have chosen the Explorer then. The price difference really is not an issue. Yes, you’re going to spend $99 more with your initial purchase but your monthly or yearly expenses are identical so that is not a decision maker for me.

The size really isn’t even a big issue. Unless you are an extreme sport athlete, who cares about 4.0 ounces or even that the Explorer is about twice the size. When I want navigation I will gladly pack in the Explorer and be happy about it.

Garmin inReach Mini vs Explorer

After writing these final thoughts, I have to give my vote to the Garmin inReach Explorer?

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4 thoughts on “Garmin inReach Mini vs Explorer”

  1. Going by everything you have written up here while juxtaposing between the two satellite messengers here, I think the Garmin inReach Explorer serves a better function than the Mini. To be honest, most of the features that could make Garmin inReach Mini special are present on the Explorer too and I don’t seem to see to much difference between the two. Thanks

    Reply
    • Some of the primary differences are if you value size and weight and maybe you don’t like having gadgets with you on the trail. Some people prefer the map and compass, and sometimes I feel the same way. The other thing that people need to consider is if you struggle with navigation and maybe the area you are going to is new and possibly confusing so maybe the navigation is a top priority.

      It all really comes down to your needs and the things that are important to you. At this point, the Garmin inReach Explorer+ still gets the win for me over the Garmin inReach Mini.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

      Rick

      Reply
  2. Other than the fact that the explorer has received a wider acceptance here among all my colleagues, it stands Some feet apart from the Garmin in reach Mini and should be taken ahead of it. Though it boils down to preference because the two of them are both great and capable, but I prefer the explorer more. It looks more handy and has a little edge above the Garmin in reach Mini. Thanks

    Reply
    • I initially thought I would lean more toward the Garmin inReach Mini but the more I hike, I see that I am always wondering if I am on the right trail and what altitude I’m at. So, for me the Garmin inReach Explorer gets my vote.

      Thank you for stopping by and leaving your thoughts.

      Rick

      Reply

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