Who’s it for: those who want to stay in touch cheaply anywhere in the world with text, tracker or SOS functionality. Tested by Pip Hare
This piece of kit has an impressive array of functions packed into a small handheld device. It is a tracker, it can send and receive text messages via the Iridium network, it navigates and it can link directly to social media.
The tracking works well, but the unit must be outside with a clear view of the sky; no problem because it is guaranteed to be waterproof for one minute of submersion (I didn’t test that part). The tracking is accurate to around 50m and can be accessed via a website that allows selected contacts to look at a map or satellite view.
Entering email addresses into the tracker is laborious using the virtual keyboard; however, you can import contacts from either Apple or Android devices using Bluetooth, which makes things less painful. It can also sync your position directly to a Facebook account.
Sending text messages is again fiddly, but there are six pre-set messages that can be quickly fired off to your uploaded contacts such as ‘I am checking in, everything is ok’.
The inReach Explorer is not aimed only at the sailing market, so when the advertising blurb cheerfully suggests ‘log waypoints and find your way back’ I do slightly cringe at the thought of sailors charging across the Atlantic armed with nothing but a tracker. The unit does allow you to download maps and charts to the device, though, so could be a great back-up safety feature for the liferaft.
As with most trackers on the market, there is an SOS function on the Explorer. As the Iridium network is not currently part of the GMDSS network, I would not advise considering this as a primary means of sending a distress message when you are at sea.
When I tested the unit the battery lasted around five days, updating position every ten minutes.
There is almost too much on offer in this little box. Concentrate on what the average offshore sailor really wants, however, which is a means to share your position and communicate two-way cheaply with friends and family ashore, then the inReach Explorer offers exactly that.
The airtime packages are flexible and feature ‘pay as you go’ type arrangements that are good value. Text messaging is a reasonable compromise on communication versus cost, though it was time-consuming. I would have preferred the option to edit and upload my own pre-set messages.
At around £270 I genuinely feel the inReach Explorer is clever and good value. It can be used for multiple activities on land or sea or when travelling and in my opinion it is a worthwhile investment.