Article by Jeff Valliere
Garmin inReach Mini 2 ($400 plus subscriptions starting at $11.95 per month)
The Garmin inReach Mini 2 is Garmin’s latest handheld two way satellite communicator/messenger. It is light, compact, and rugged, with an IPX7 waterproof rating, featuring two-way messaging, interactive SOS alerts, location sharing, tracback routing, a digital compass, long battery life, detailed weather reports and unlimited cloud storage/trip planning. The inReach Mini 2 runs off of the global Iridium satellite network and requires a subscription, which are flexible and affordable.
I have been using the inReach Mini since 2018, carrying it along on any adventure where I know cell coverage will be spotty or non-existent, especially while exploring off trail, am with the family or even just traveling. At just 100 grams / 3.5 oz. and 4”x2”, there is really no good excuse to not bring it along. I appreciate that it is the smallest, lightest 2-way satellite communicator available, can be used independent of a mobile phone (though not entirely easily depending on task) and has good battery life and reception.
While I could not really come up with any weaknesses for the inReach Mini when I wrote my review, 4 years of steady use has revealed a few minor weaknesses where I thought the inReach Mini could be improved. Most notably, those (minor) weaknesses were reception/satellite acquisition, battery life and the somewhat clunky user interface, all of which have now been improved upon with the inReach Mini 2. Instead of starting from scratch on this review, I’ll primarily focus on the improvements Garmin has made, so see our initial review of the inReach Mini here.
Improved reception (now utilizing 4 satellite networks)
Improved battery life
New user interface with Glances
Variable Tracking Interval Options
Improved reception (now utilizing 4 satellite networks):
Previously, it could take me some time, anywhere between 5 minutes up to an hour (and occasionally not at all) to acquire satellites and messaging was also very slow (10-30 minutes and sometimes not at all). A recent software update has helped the first Mini a lot, but the new Mini 2 is still noticeably faster to acquire satellites (almost instantly), quicker to begin tracking and quicker to send messages, all occurring within a matter of a minute or two. The difference here is notable, where in a range of testing just for the sake of testing, I am able to get reception with the Mini 2 even inside my house, at the center and not near any windows, something that the first Mini is incapable of. This translates into better reception with less likelihood of dropping a signal in deep canyons, among tall rock formations and in tall trees.
The original inReach Mini and Mini 2 are the same size and weigh the same. In addition to all the new features described in the review the Mini 2 has a slightly higher 176 x 176 resolution screen.
This improved reception has eliminated the frustrations that I had with the first Mini and gives me added confidence that I can get reception just about anywhere I travel (except for maybe tight, deep slot canyons), get quick acquisition and feel confident that I can send/receive messages almost instantly. Throughout the last few months I have messaged myself back and forth on the fly with both the Mini and Mini 2 from varied and remote locations and have never had a mis send or failure to receive with the Mini 2 it’s always been quick, while the Mini was notably slower and occasionally would not send. Of course with a live subscription, I have never tested the SOS function and hope to never have to, but am confident that both devices would perform that critical task.
Improved battery life:
The Mini 2 uses the same 1,250 mAh battery as the first version, but features a new processor which aids in efficiency. I am seeing real world use numbers in line with Garmin’s estimates and this is a significant improvement over the first version. Individual results may vary due to specific settings, location, terrain, temperature, etc…. Overall though I am quite pleased with battery life, which is WAY more than ample for my day trips using my typical 10 minute interval tracking. If I were doing longer multi-day trips, I would most likely utilize 30 minute intervals, but for 4-5 days, presuming one turns off the inReach in camp, I think 10 minute intervals would work just fine. The 2 minute interval option significantly accelerates battery drain and seems only advantageous if you are relying on the Mini 2 for more accurate tracking for a single day outing (however if you own a GPS watch, you can achieve far greater accuracy and battery efficiency with the watch).
I performed a test, using 10 minute interval tracking send interval and high detail activity recording for hiking/running, carrying with me on walks, in the car when driving and outside with full view of the sky at night essentially never turning it off and got 3.5 days (though when sitting idle for several hours, the Mini 2 recognizes this and automatically switches to 4 hour tracking intervals to conserve battery). Also of note, on the nights I left the Mini 2 outside, temperatures were in the 20’s for two nights and 13 degrees one night which very likely affected battery life.
New user interface:
The new user interface is more streamlined than the previous, featuring quick glances that closely resemble widget glances in the newer Garmin watches, meaning you can see the preceding option, current option and next option on a single screen, vs. only seeing one option per screen on the previous version.
This sounds minor, but it adds to the ease, speed and efficiency when navigating the menus, which can be critical in high stress situations.
I would highly recommend practicing regularly with either Mini on local walks, easy family hikes, etc…., using tracking, messaging, navigation tools and staying familiar/fluent with how the unit works. In a stressful situation or emergency, this familiarity will be essential.
New Garmin Explore app: The inReach Mini 2 pairs with the new Garmin Explore App., where you can view your location on the map, download routes, waypoints, tracks, courses, type up messages to send through the Mini 2, view connected devices (currently I have my Mini 2, Epix Gen 2 and Fenix 6S Pro connected) where you can access software updates, sync settings and access your account.
From the Explore app, you can create waypoints, create courses, import GPX files, download Topo interactive maps (Wifi only, so plan ahead), as well as operate device tracking, initiate an SOS alert or bring up weather forecasts when the Mini 2 is connected and has satellite acquisition. These connections are especially handy, as you can clip your Mini 2 to your pack (or keep it in a mesh pocket as I often do), lock it and operate from your phone almost entirely.
Below are a few self explanatory screenshots from the Explore app, which I find to be a big improvement over the Earthmate app both in overall ease and increased functionality.
Compass: The Mini 2 now features a built in electronic compass which is a nice add on feature, good if you happen to not carry a compass or don’t have one on your watch.
TrackBack: You can now navigate solely from the Mini 2 with an (albeit rudimentary) on screen map. It allows you to retrace your steps and follow your route back to your starting point, similar to the way you can from many GPS watches that do not have onboard maps.
While I would much rather navigate off of my phone using Gaia or the Explore app, or even a Fenix or Epix 2 watch with maps, this is a great feature to have in a pinch, or as an aid when using a map and compass.
Subscription plans: A subscription is required to use an inReach and are flexible with yearly, or month to month plans. They start at $11.95/month.
As with the previous version, you can get weather reports:
Integration with Garmin watches is the same as the previous version and a nice touch, one which I honestly do not use, but could be handy if in an emergency and you can’t easily access the unit or your phone to activate the SOS button.
The inReach Mini 2 is in my opinion the best two way satellite messenger/tracker on the market due to its rugged compact design, great battery life, reception, easy to use phone integration and navigational features.
Is it worth upgrading to the Mini 2 from the Mini? I would say it depends on your budget and needs. While I appreciate the extended battery life, improved reception and easier interface, I personally would not spend the money, as the Mini is still a very competent and effective device.
However, if you are starting from scratch or thinking of upgrading from a different manufacturer, spending the $50 more for the Mini 2 is a no brainer. Either way, I would highly recommend the inReach Mini or Mini 2 to anyone who routinely visits the backcountry or other areas where cell phone service is unreliable.
Jeff Valliere runs mostly on very steep technical terrain above Boulder often challenging well known local FKT’s.
The Garmin inReach Mini 2 and Mini 1 are available from our partners below
Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors’
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