Garmin inReach vs Spot

I think it’s time to stack the best compact satellite messengers up against each other. This is the battle between Garmin inReach vs Spot. More specifically the Garmin inReach Mini vs the SPOT X.

Why am I Comparing These Two?

You may be asking why I’m not comparing the Garmin inReach Explorer+ to the SPOT X? They’re about the same size and the largest of the models each makes but the simple answer is that the Garmin inReach Explorer+ stands alone due to its built-in navigation system. Even though the Garmin inReach Mini is half the size of the SPOT X, I think we will find that they are close to being compatible devices. Let’s see if I am right and I’ll give you the bottom line at the end of this article plus my personal opinion on which one I prefer.Garmin inReach vs SPOT

Let’s See How The Compare Side by Side

Size

Mini: 2.04” x 3.90” x 1.03”

SPOT X: 2.9″ x 6.54″ x 0.94″

The Garmin inReach Mini wins this as most of us would prefer a more compact device on the trail with all the other gear we carry, especially on a backpacking trip.

Display Size

Mini: 0.9″W x 0.9″H

SPOT X: 2.7″ backlit display

The advantage definitely goes to the SPOT X here.

Weight

Mini: 3.5 oz

SPOT X: 7.0 oz

The mini wins this battle by twice the weight loss. It’s another win for the Mini.

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

SPOT X: 240 hours (10 days) of battery life in continuous 10 minute tracking mode.

This one is not even close. The SPOT X wins this category running away

Compass

Mini: no

SPOT X: Yes

Give another win to the SPOT X

Wireless Compatible (Bluetooth)

Mini: yes

SPOT X: yes

SOS Search 24/7

Mini: yes

SPOT X: yes

Send & Receive Text Messages

Mini: yes

SPOT X: yesSPOT X

Unique U.S. Cell Phone Number

Mini: no

SPOT X: yes

This is one of SPOT X’s truly unique features.

Built-in Keyboard

Mini: no

SPOT X: yes

Here is another one of SPOT X’s unique features. This is a big win for the SPOT X over all the other devices in that it is much easier to type out a unique message due to the on-board keyboard. I’m not sure how big of a deal this is but I guarantee that if you were injured on the trail and were trying to send out a message, it would be much easier on the SPOT X.

Track & Share Location

Mini: yes

SPOT X: yes

Request Weather Forecasts

Mini: yes

SPOT X: no

I will have to say this may be a big loss for SPOT X. I know there have been several times when I have been in the mountains and the thunder storms build up quickly where lightening strikes are a problem and this really could be a life saver. Advantage Garmin inReach Mini.

Pair with Mobile Device

Mini: yes

SPOT X: yes

Pair with Garmin Pilot

Mini: yes

SPOT X: no

This one may not be a bid deal for most of us but to pilots it may be. Another win for the Mini.

Initial Cost

Mini: $349.99

SPOT X: $213.76

I know a lot of people have to watch their finances so this is a big win for the SPOT X.

Service Plans

Mini: Ranges from $11.95 to $99.95 and includes monthly and annual options.

SPOT X: Ranges from $11.95 to $39.95 and includes monthly and annual options.

The SPOT X wins a second financial win in a row, but will the reduced price overcome some other factors in the end? We will soon find out.Garmin inReach Mini

Coverage

Mini: 100% global Iridium satellite network (pole to pole coverage

SPOT X:Globalstar Satellite Network (some gaps in coverage)

The Garmin inReach devices have a major advantage here as the satellite coverage is worldwide and a proven and reliable network. This could be the one-two punch knock out in favor of the Garmin inReach Mini.

Navigation

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

SPOT X: no

I know that I mentioned that the Garmin inReach Explorer+ was the only device that had a built in navigation system but the Mini also has the capability if your smartphone is compatible and if they are synced. This is not something I would bet my life on though because my cell phone usually runs out of battery on the 2nd day and that’s with me trying to conserve the battery. You can get around this by bringing a charging case but that also adds more weight to your pack. It may work for you though.

I will hesitantly give the Mini a win in this category.

So, What’s the Verdict?

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

Categories won by the Garmin inReach Mini = 5

Categories won by the SPOT X = 7

This one is a fairly close call if you’re just adding up wins in the SPOT X column but it’s never that simple is it?

The Bottom Line

The winner might be the SPOT X if coverage area isn’t as important yet the built-in keyboard that will allow you to type unique messages quicker and more easily is really important.

The Garmin inReach Mini may be your choice if the more reliable satellite coverage is a bid deal for you, plus having the navigation with sync to your smart phone and the weather forecasts.

The battery life definitely goes to the SPOT X along with the initial price and less expensive service plans and don’t forget that you get a unique U.S. cell phone number with the SPOT X.

There are many reasons why I would give my vote to the SPOT X and I may just do that if I am only exploring in countries that have great satellite coverage but if I want the worldwide, pole to pole coverage that Garmin inReach offers, plus some navigation and weather forecasts then I would give my vote to the Garmin inReach Mini. The Mini is also half the size and weight.

Garmin InReach Mini, Lightweight and Compact Satellite Communicator, Orange
Spot X 2-Way Satellite Messenger
Garmin InReach Mini, Lightweight and Compact Satellite Communicator, Orange
Spot X 2-Way Satellite Messenger
Garmin InReach Mini, Lightweight and Compact Satellite Communicator, Orange
Garmin InReach Mini, Lightweight and Compact Satellite Communicator, Orange
Spot X 2-Way Satellite Messenger
Spot X 2-Way Satellite Messenger

I Hate to Admit This but I Can’t Pick the Winner

Your’re going to have to pick the winner for you. These are pretty even overall in my opinion but there are some big enough differences that one of these may be the obvious choice for you and another one for me.

Garmin inReach vs SPOT

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8 thoughts on “Garmin inReach vs Spot”

  1. Thank you so much for this review/comparison.

    I do a lot of traveling and a lot of sailing.  I’ve been eyeing these devices for some time.

    I’m leaning toward the Spot X, mainly because of the keybaord, but, like you, I really can’t pick a true winner.  Coverage is also very important to me.

    I wonder if there’s a place I can rent them and compare while using for a bit.

    Thanks again, I’m still debating which one to get.

    Scott

    Reply
    • I do remember seeing somewhere in my research that one of these had rental options. I don’t remember off hand who that is but you’re right, that sometimes it may be a good idea to rent one before spending the bucks to buy one. I will create a new blog post about rental options if I can locate some.

      Thanks for stopping my and commenting.

      Rick

      Reply
  2. Judging by the obvious differences between the Garmin in reach mini and the spot X,  I think I will say the two of them are both worthy other than the fact that the spot x has a far more consideration when it comes to cutting the cost down. It is cheaper in price and also cheaper in subscription compared with the Garmin in reach mini. Budget is everything to me and I’d place that as priority when getting any beacon. Thanks

    Reply
    • Thank you for your adding what’s important to you. I agree and that’s why this last weekend I ended up buying the SPOT Gen3 because I could get a satellite messenger, primarily for the SOS call function, and it was based primarily on my finances. 

      I have my eye on some of the other devices with more services but that will have to wait until I have enough money.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      Rick

      Reply
  3. What an interesting comparison you have put together for the Spot X and Garmin Mini. I am in agreement with you in that I am having a difficult time choosing a clear winner between these two devices. 

    The ability to request the weather forecast with the Spot X may be the biggest downfall for me. When out in the wilderness, knowing what to expect from Mother Nature could very well be the difference between life and death. The biggest question I have is what areas in the world can one be more likely to expect gaps in satellite. Do you have any information on this? 

    Thanks so much for the detailed comparison; it’s been super helpful for me!

    Reply
    • Hi Shan. The Garming inReach Mini has not gaps in coverage. The global Iridium satellite network is pole to pole and one of the best in the world. On the other hand, SPOT uses the Globalstar Satellite Network which has some serious gaps in the Indian Ocean, the southern Pacific Ocean and is questionable over the Himalayas. You can see the SPOT coverage if you go to the following website:

      https://www.findmespot.com/spotx/lander.php

      I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any additional questions.

      Rick

      Reply
  4. This is a very good article.Both Garmin inReach Min and Spot X are great. This is due to the fact that each one has a lot of good features. But I prefer the Spot X more because it is less expensive. I have a question, Is Spot X available in other countries other than US? Thank you very much.

    Baraka

    Reply
    • I am sure the SPOT X is available to purchase in other countries but I’m thinking your question is more about if it has satellite coverage in other countries.

      The SPOT X satellite coverage does have some gaps in it, mainly near the Indian Ocean, and the southern Pacific Ocean. It is best to check the coverage map before you purchase or if you already have it, to check it before leaving the country to go on an adventure.

      Please don’t hesitate to ask additional questions if you have any.

      Rick 

      Reply

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