Garmin inReach Mini vs SPOT Gen 3

Let’s Compare the Garmin inReach Mini vs SPOT Gen 3.

Garmin inReach Mini vs SPOT Gen 3

These are both some of the smallest satellite messengers on the market but they are vastly different. Let’s compare each model side by side below.

Garmin inReach Mini 2

SPOT Gen 4

Satellite Messenger Comparison

  • SizeGarmin inReach Mini
    • Mini (2.04″ x 3.90″ x 1.03″)
    • Gen3 (3.43″ x 2.56″ x 1.0″)
  • Weight
    • Mini (3.5 oz.)
    • Gen3 (4.0 oz.)
  • S.O.S. Function
    • Mini (Yes)
    • Gen3 (Yes)
  • 2-way Messaging
    • Mini (Yes)
    • Gen3 (No)
  • Satellite Coverage
    • Mini (Global Coverage – Pole to Pole with the Iridium Satellite Network)
    • Gen3 (Virtually all the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Europe, Australia and portions of South American and Africa. Areas of several oceans are not covered)
  • Topo Maps
    • Mini (Yes)
    • Gen3 (No)
  • Weather ForecastingSPOT Gen 3
    • Mini (Yes)
    • Gen3 (No)
  • Tracking
    • Mini (Yes)
    • Gen3 (Yes)
  • Pair with Smartphone
    • Mini (Yes)
    • Gen3 (No)
  • Service Plans
    • Mini (Required Subscription – Monthly and Annual plans)
    • Gen3 (Required Subscription – Monthly and Annual plans)
  • Battery Life
    • Mini (90 hours at 10-minute tracking)
    • Gen3 (145 hours at 10-minute tracking, 24 hours per day)
  • Motion Tracking (conserves battery when not in motion)
    • Mini (No)
    • Gen3 (Yes)

Garmin inReach Mini 2

Field Test Results

SPOT Gen 3

The SPOT Gen 3 was my first satellite messenger purchase. It is by far, the least expensive satellite messenger on the market, which is one of the primary reasons I bought it first. I knew I needed to have some way to communicate or call for help when on an outdoor adventure.SPOT Gen 3 SOS

The Gen 3 was easy to set up, and extremely easy to use in the field. It doesn’t have a lot of the extra cool stuff so its simple and effective.

The SPOT Gen 3 is incredibly small and light, so much so that I don’t even realize its on my pack most of the time.

There are up to 2 outgoing messages you can set, one tracking message and of course the S.O.S. distress call. There are not a lot of exciting options on the SPOT Gen3, but due to the simplicity, its hard to mess this one up.

Most people would rather not be bothered by messages from family and friends when outdoors, so this would be a great satellite messenger for you if you only want to send messages or if you are on a tight budget and want some emergency communicator with you on your outdoor adventure.

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.Garmin inReach Mini & Earthmate App

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+.

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.

Bottom Line

Choose the SPOT Gen 3 if your budget is tight or you only want to send 1-way messages and have an S.O.S. function. It’s a great satellite messenger and it will do the job extremely well for you.

Garmin inReach Mini vs SPOT Gen 3 Comparison

However, if you want topo maps, 2-way messaging, weather forecasts and more (and you plan on shorter outdoor adventures) then the Garmin inReach Mini is the satellite messenger for you.

Garmin inReach Mini 2, Lightweight and Compact Satellite Communicator, Hiking Handheld, Orange - 010-02602-00
  • Compact, lightweight satellite communicator enables two-way messaging and interactive SOS globally (Active satellite subscription required. Some jurisdictions regulate or prohibit the use of satellite communication devices.).Special Feature:Bluetooth.Water Resistant: Yes
  • Navigate back to where you started by using TracBack routing
  • Share your location with loved ones back home at any time (active satellite subscription required) by using your MapShare page or with your coordinates embedded in your messages
  • Get accurate heading information using the digital compass — even when you’re not moving
  • Sync with the Garmin Explore app and website on your compatible smartphone for trip planning and topographical mapping, and create waypoints, courses, activities and collections you can sync to your device
  • Pair with Garmin devices, such as wearables and handhelds, and use them to send and receive messages and trigger an SOS (active satellite subscription required)

This product was presentation was made with AAWP plugin.

Spot Gen 4 Satellite GPS Messenger | Handheld Portable GPS Messenger for Hiking, Camping, Outdoor Activities | Globalstar Satellite Network Coverage | Subscription Applicable
  • MEANT FOR ADVENTURE: Spot Gen4 provides critical, life-saving line of communication when you travel beyond cell towers; Let family know you're ok or push the SOS button to send your GPS to emergency responders if you need help
  • NO CELL PHONE OR SERVICE-NO PROBLEM: With the Tracking feature Gen4 can transmit location updates when you are moving and when you stop; Keep one in your child's backpack for the walk home
  • GLOBALSTAR SATELLITE & SPOT products use GPS to determine location and transmit GPS coordinates to others; SPOT users can notify friends, family or emergency rescue their exact GPS coordinates
  • WHAT'S IN THE BOX: Spot Gen4 device, Strap and Carabiner, USB Cable, Batteries and quick start guide; Subscription required; Two service plans available
  • PURCHASE, ACTIVATE, EXPLORE: Grab a Spot Gen4; Activate by selecting your service plan; Get out there and explore the world with peace of mind

This product was presentation was made with AAWP plugin.

Note: If you want my opinion…the Garmin inReach Mini wins out here, hands down.

Check out this short video of the SPOT Gen 3 vs the Garmin inReach Mini.

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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10 thoughts on “Garmin inReach Mini vs SPOT Gen 3”

  1. Well! I didn’t know about these two beacons before but definitely, they are both exceptional at what they do and can really be the saving grace on the days that things turn against us as hikers. Well, I personally think the two that you have reviewed and juxtaposed here are great but I prefer the SPOT Gen 3 over the Garmin in reach mini. Though. It is based on my personal reasons though.

    • I completely respect your opinion on choosing the SPOT Gen 3. I always give my personal opinion on these satellite messengers, but I also realize that each one of these can be the right device, depending on your preferences. I actually love the SPOT Gen 3, and it performs perfectly for what is was designed for.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.


  2. I would love the Garmin inReach Mini over the Spot Gen3 mostly because I like to see the bigger picture on my phone. When I go out it is typically just for a day or two, so I don’t need super long battery life, but I do need the ability to call for help if I need it!

    I guess I have been kind of old school using the compass app on my phone to point me in the right direction and a fold out map. The Garmin would give me the convenience of having the topo map right on my phone. This would be great so I know if I am going to be covering different terrain if I am in a new place to explore.

    From reading your article, I felt like you really prefer the Garmin. I have a Garmin in my car and really like it, too.

    Since I do most of my hiking trips within the US, would you say that the Garmin would be suited for that? It was what I understood from the article.

    Thank you for the comparison. I think I will explore the pricing on the two and see which fits my pocketbook along with the needs I have. 

    • You are correct that I prefer the Garmin inReach Mini, for many of the reasons you listed. I think you’re being smart to keep a physical map with you, even when you have an electronic device. We all know that technology will never have any technical issues. Of course I am joking.

      The SPOT and the Garmin Satellite Messengers all have great satellite coverage within the U.S. and Canada. The problem starts when you head out of North America. (Garmin has Global, Pole to Pole coverage). There is great coverage in Europe, for the SPOT devices, and I believe all of the Middle east, but there are gaps in the SPOT satellite coverage in parts of India, China, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean. It’s best to check the SPOT coverage before you had out on your trip.

      I hope that helps and let me know if you have any additional questions or thoughts.


      • Thanks, Rick. Of course we know that technology is always flawless!

        I appreciate what you wrote and I will be exploring both products a bit more. I am really leaning toward the Garmin product, though. Thanks for the help! It’s appreciated.

        • You are welcome. The Garmin inReach Satellite Messengers really are the best in this class, in my personal opinion. The Garmin inReach Explorer+ is #1 and is best if you plan on going out on longer outdoor trips or if you would like to use it as a stand alone device and not have to worry about syncing it to your phone.

          Let me know which one you choose if you buy one.


  3. I have never owned a satellite messenger before so I don’t know too much about them. Some people that I know have purchased them for hiking, hunting, camping etc. It seems to me that the Garmin would probably be the better choice because of the brand’s reputation around the world. It would be a good idea to buy either one of these units as it would give you piece of mind with your personal safety.

    • You are correct that the Garmin inReach Mini is the better Satellite Messenger, however, the SPOT Gen 3 is also great if you are on a tight budget or just want something simple to send out a message to let others know you’re okay, or need help.

      Both of these are great devices, depending on your situation.


  4. I used the Spot Gen 3 for an 1100 mile trek on the PCT. I wasn’t looking for enhanced features and the basic function of sending fixed messaged (e.g. safe and camped for the night, safe and off-trail) was perfect for me. I had map apps for my phone and a Silva Ranger compass for a back up. I had good coverage and my family could track my progress each day as well as receive daily check-ins. As you say, “it performs perfectly for what is was designed for.” My only gripe was that I had to pay for an entire year service plan for 2.5 months on trail. I see they now have a flexible plan, but it looks pretty expensive for shorter, e.g. one month plans. My advice is to look closely at the subscription options (the Spot flex plan seems to have a monthly fee + activation fee + “flex” fee = $60 for one month) before you make your purchase. Bright trails!

    • Great comments and I’m glad it worked well for you. The SPOT Gen 3 was my first purchase and it did every thing I needed it to do. I guess I have started wanting more in a satellite messenger as I have tested more of them but like you said, the SPOT Gen 3 is a great satellite messenger for most people. Thanks for letting me know how it worked for you.


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