Outdoor Safety: Satellite 2-Way Communicators + GPS

Do you get anxious without your phone or cell signal?

Are you the type when you are not satisfied that you are safe enough? Add the outdoors to that; how would you feel? How do your loved ones feel?

To ease the stress and anxiety, we purchased a two-way satellite communicator and GPS.

  • It’s a device that can send text messages to loved ones
  • It can send your exact location
  • It can post your message and location on social media
  • It can go as far as sending tracking intervals,
  • Checking weather
  • Setting up preset messages to certain people, you can send unlimited, “I’m ok, we made it camp. Love you.” messages.
  • Creating waypoints
  • Load maps into your device
  • Use it as a GPS
  • You can do all of it and without a signal. It’s a satellite communicator!

Now isn’t that a relief? That sounds like a perfect tool to use on the trail, especially in the backcountry.

Is this Device necessary?

Local Hikes with cell phone signal:
It’s not needed as long as you have an app on your phone or the maps downloaded to your phone.

Day Hikes:
II you are paranoid and need an extra security level, it is a useful tool and an excellent backup. I bring mine for day hikes since I already own one. I might as well make fair use out of it.

Backpacking Trips:
Great Tool and an emergency device

Thru-hiking Trips:
It is important to have it especially being in the backcountry for several days.

What should I buy?

Two brands stand out, which is the Garmin Inreach and Spot.

Let’s look into the different devices first and look at the comparisons.

ModelPreset MgsCustom MgsCompassCost
inReach Explorer+®XXX$449.99
inReach® MiniXXX$349.99
SPOT XXXX$249.99
SPOT GEN4X$149.99
ModelWeatherSocial MediaPhone PairingCost
inReach Explorer+®XXX$449.99
inReach® MiniXXX$349.99
SPOT XX$249.99
SPOT GEN4$149.99

There is a considerable price gap between the Garmin devices and SPOT devices. Do remember InReach offers more services beyond text messaging, which is one reason for the extra cost and the premium service. It has weather options, Garmin is known to have better coverage.

Now let’s look at the devices!

InReach® Mini

inReach Explorer+®

Spot X Devices

Now let’s look over the various plans and see how it compares. In short, the basic plan is the same in cost. The only difference is that you can send specific points with the basics and check the weather.

Bare Bones Plan

Note: if you take advantage of the pre-set messages online, you don’t need to use 10+ customized text messages.

Text Messages1020 (.25 per message)
Preset MessagesUnlimitedUnlimited (check-in)
Tracking Intervals10 min+10/30/60
Send/Track Points$0.10N/A
Location Requests$0.10N/A
Basic Weather1 txt message eachN/A
Premium Weather$1.00N/A
Premium Marine Weather$1.00N/A
Annual (per month)$11.95$11.95
Monthly (no annual)$14.95$14.95
Activation Fee$24.99$19.95
Flex FeeN/A$24.95

Advanced Plan

The price has changed, but in reality, I believe Garmin has more to offer since they offer unlimited tracking points and location requests. As I had mentioned before, if you take advantage of the preset messages, you don’t need the customized texts.

Text Messages40100 (.25 per message)
Preset MessagesUnlimitedUnlimited (check-in)
Tracking Intervals10 min+5, 10/30/60
Send/Track PointsUnlimitedMovement Alert
(30min, 60min, 4hr, 12hr)
Location RequestsUnlimitedN/A
Basic Weather1 txt message eachN/A
Premium Weather$1.00N/A
Premium Marine Weather$1.00N/A
Annual (per month)$24.95$19.95
Monthly (no annual)$34.95$29.95
Annual Activation Fee$24.99$19.95
Flex FeeN/A$24.95


There is a huge price gap in between. I think the unlimited is overkill unless you are in a specific situation when it is needed. For example, we used the Garmin unlimited when we were in the Sierra since it was scary, had lots of snow, and filled raging rivers that we had to cross. Otherwise, we used the Safety for the rest of the trail. What you are getting from Garmin is the service and extra apps such as weather and superior tracking.

Text MessagesUnlimitedUnlimited
Preset MessagesUnlimitedUnlimited (check-in)
Tracking Intervals2 min+2/5/10/30/60
Send/Track PointsUnlimitedMovement Alert
(30min, 60min, 4hr, 12hr)
Location RequestsUnlimitedN/A
Basic WeatherUnlimitedN/A
Premium Weather$1.00N/A
Premium Marine Weather$1.00N/A
Annual (per month)$49.95$29.95
Monthly (no annual)$64.95$39.95
Activation Fee$24.99$19.95
Flex FeeN/A$24.95

Recap: What do you need?

It all depends on how much you want to spend on your safety, loved one’s concern, and level of adventure.

In 2017, there wasn’t a two-way satellite communicator with Spot, just the one you press the button to notify your friends and family you are ok. For our thru-hiked I purchased the inReach because there was no other option or inReach Mini.

What would I purchase now?

I’d take Garmin over Spot because of the quality of the product and quality service, sending the GPS points, I love the features, apps, and the idea of sharing my location on social media. It seems like something I would prefer.

It’s $350 for the Mini and $450 for the regular one. I might as well go for the $450 and get everything. We purchased ours in 2017, and it looks utterly new. It is in excellent condition; therefore, once you buy it, it will last forever. So totally worth it!

Additionally, we like to go to the backcountry, so we need it for sure!

If you are new to hiking, the one you press a button to say you are ok might work.

If you planning a long-distance hike without intentions to going off the grid completely because that’s not you. Maybe you will purchase the $250 SPOT. Or maybe money is tight. There’s nothing wrong with it! You buy whatever is best for your situation.

Keep in mind:
If you plan to use it for four years, the Garmin Mini will pay itself with the SPOTS $25 annual flex fee. So that’s something to think about more. I don’t like tack on fees, which is the reason I didn’t purchase spot prior since they only had an annual plan.

Regardless, it all depends on what your goal is and I hope that helps to break down the communicators if you were thinking about whether you should get one or not.

Now for the most important section:
Testimonials, Comments, Recommendations, and Insights from fellow experience hikers.

Let me know from your experiences if you have any insights or recs.


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