The DeLorme inReach SE Replaces Our SPOT Messenger

30 April 2016

For many years we have been fans of the SPOT messenger. It is a rugged, lightweight, and simple device that for the most part operates just as the manufacturer claims it will. There were definitely tight spots- meaning high and close canyon walls- that inhibited our ability to send messages on more than one occasion. But I think this will be the case for any satellite communication device- they must have a clear view of the sky to operate.

We have been happy with our SPOT. However, we recently received an email from SPOT that stated our subscription option was no longer available and that our annual cost was increasing by $50. There was the addition of the tracking feature with the new cost, meaning the SPOT would send a message every so often as we traveled along the trail in the same way it sends one of our preset messages. This was definitely not something we would use. It was enough to prompt me to look into other devices, and it was easy to find unlimited information on the options. If you search for “personal locators” or “satellite locators” your search will likely return the DeLorme inReach, the SPOT Messenger, and one of the ACR devices.

Since we weren’t in the market for an actual personal locator beacon (the ACR devices), we focused on the DeLorme products and found our replacement in the DeLorme inReach SE. This satellite communicator has all the features of the SPOT Messenger including preset messages (SPOT has 2, inReach has 3), a tracking option, and of course SOS mode. But it goes many steps further- it will link to your smart phone, you can send and receive text messages (to phone numbers or email addresses), it has a GPS function that allows you to see your exact grid coordinates, and the Iridium satellite network that it operates on is a step up from the Globalstar network that SPOT operates on. With Iridium you have truly global coverage with the inReach, and potentially more accuracy, speed, and better chances for getting messages out.

A Few Points of Comparison
There are really so many features on the inReach that it would take a while to cover them all, so I will point out the features important to me. The DeLorme inReach SE will cost $300, while the SPOT Gen3 will cost $150. (Note that there is also the inReach Explorer, priced at about $380, that has even more features.) My perspective is that the additional features of the inReach SE make up for the additional cost. While I won’t use most of the features, the GPS and the ability to send a text saying I am staying out a couple of more nights is worth the extra investment. There are also sounds that can be associated with the various functions, just like with a smart phone. There is a convenient “send” noise that I decided to leave in place; it is helpful to know when the message has sent so I can turn the unit off and conserve battery life.

DeLorme inReach Se and SPOT Messenger. Photo by Gerald Trainor.

The DeLorme inReach Se on the left, and the SPOT Messenger Gen2 on the right. The inReach is definitely larger, and a bit heavier. But the additional features and plan options make it worth it.

The inReach weighs just over 8 ounces, the SPOT just over 4.  The inReach is larger than the SPOT, but not by much. The inReach features rechargeable lithium batteries with a 100 hour life expectancy. It can be recharged via USB or a standard power outlet. The SPOT uses 4 AAA rechargeable NiMH batteries or 4 AAA disposable lithium batteries- a plus in my opinion as you will be sure that the unit can operate without having to find an outlet to recharge it.  The SPOT can also be connected to a USB power source.

Operating costs, and associated features,  vary for the inReach. There are too many options to explain them, so the chart from their website is included below. It must be noted that the inReach has an “as needed” cost option- their Freedom Plan. This means that if you need it for the summer, you pay just for the summer months, then turn your subscription off in the meantime. No data or settings are lost when you turn it off. Turning the service on and off is as simple as logging in to your online account, and following the prompts. Of course there is an annual cost for that option, but in the long run it can easily work out to savings if you are a part-time user. The SPOT cost is about $150 per year, with very few options available on top of that, mainly enhanced tracking. This simply means that instead of a tracking point being sent out every 10 minutes for example, you can choose when it goes out.

DeLorme inReach plan options.

DeLorme inReach plan options.

In the long run, if you are looking for a means to send an SOS if it ever came to it, both devices are good options, although as noted above the satellite system is better with the inReach. If you want features- texts, GPS,  sounds, and a Bluetooth link to your smart phone, then the inReach is for you. You can see the DeLorme inReach SE at Amazon.com. The SPOT Messenger Gen3 is also available at Amazon. You can read more about our desert adventures, the gear we use, and more at the Desert Explorer website.


Another Spring Break in Canyon Country

21 April 2016

We have just returned from southern Utah once again. It was a late spring break for us, but well worth waiting for April to make the trip. The weather was perfect right up till the end, when we caught a bit of the storm that brought winter back to Colorado. We spent our two weeks in the usual places, revisited some of our favorite canyons, and explored some new ones. We made it a point to include plenty of time enjoying sunrises, sunsets, and the star filled night sky, and more than a few afternoons sitting on the slickrock with a cup of tea.

Blooming holly. Photo by Gerald Trainor.

Holly in bloom. The desert was alive with color and fragrance.

Our itinerary brought us straight to southern San Juan county this time. We made an afternoon stop in Moab for final supplies as always, but the weather was so perfect that Moab was too busy for us. April is the perfect time of year for most people- warm days and not too cool nights, without the extreme heat that comes in another month or so. Besides ATV’s and other off-road vehicles, there were mountain bikes everywhere, and more RV’s and camp trailers to be found around every corner than I have ever seen. This was the case everywhere we went- down every road whether it be along Comb Ridge, on Cedar Mesa, or around Green River, where we finished up our trip.

Grand Gulch
We did get a few days of backpacking in this trip. We walked in through Dripping Canyon, had a day in Grand Gulch, and walked out Step Canyon. This is something I have done before, so knew the walk quite well. It was perfect for Nicolai and I- nothing an 11-year-old couldn’t handle. As always, we could have used a couple more days in this short stretch of the canyons- there was just so much to see that we had to choose where to spend our time. For anyone venturing in any time soon, water was not a problem. At least finding drinking water that is. From another perspective, that of walking, it was quite a problem in places. There was so much water in the canyons that we found ourselves skirting pools all along the walk, and especially in Grand Gulch.

Yellow ancestral puebloan pictograph in Grand Gulch, Utah. Photo by Gerald Trainor.

“Yellow Man” panel in Grand Gulch.

Cedar Mesa was a busy place. The Kane Gulch ranger station was packed on the few occasions we stopped in. But once we got in the canyons we only saw, and heard, one group of people. I should say heard more than saw them. Their presence was known to us by their extremely loud voices, yelling I would call it, and their crashing wildly through the brush. We made it a point to discuss this problem with the folks at the ranger station after our walk- noise pollution is  a problem everywhere and especially in such a place as this. I feel that these days so many people don’t know the difference between a place that is… sacred, and say, the grocery store. The analogy I like to use is that I would not come bounding and crashing and yelling into your church, so please don’t come into mine that way. But I suppose, to continue the analogy, I am preaching to the choir here.

Comb Ridge
We have a favorite camp in view of Comb Ridge making it easy to get into the canyons there. We spent five nights on the slickrock at that camp, really enjoying the night sky. I have to make a plug here for one of my more recent equipment purchases. I have been sleeping better than ever these days on an Exped SynMat 7 Sleeping Pad. This inflatable sleeping pad has an integral pump which inflates it in just a couple of minutes. No blowing it up by mouth involved! I have the synthetic fill version which is rated at an insulation value of 4.9, but there is a higher rated pad that has down filling.  I use it at the truck and on the river- it’s just too heavy for me to carry on a backpack. The pads are not cheap, but if you are struggling with getting a good night’s sleep on a thinner pad, you may want to give one a try.

We spent a couple of days exploring Comb Ridge, and as always found more ruins and rock art, middens and moki steps, sweat lodges and seasonal campsites. Comb Ridge is truly a place where one can learn about the varied archaeology of the Northern San Juan region all in one place. One ruin we visited stood out in the amount of mud that was plastered on the walls. The ruin lacked for stone, but still held together well with mud. Looking at it you could see the way it was applied, in great masses, each appearing to be left to sag and dry before the next mass was applied. The interior of the walls had niches built-in, and the end walls were curiously rounded, as if they were not continued across the front, but were left open.

Ancestral Puebloan structure in Comb Ridge, Utah. Photo by Gerald Trainor

Comb Ridge ruin with walls lacking in stone but showing an abundance of mud.

Ancestral Puebloan dwelling in Comb Ridge, Utah. Photo by Gerald Trainor.

End wall of plastered ruin showing rounded finish. Note the thick mortar beds between the thin pieces of sandstone.

There is always so much to see, and to write about afterwards, on our Utah trips. But for now it’s back to preparation for the next trip. In about a month we are back in southern Utah for more archaeology at Nancy Patterson Village. For more about us and our desert adventures visit the Desert Explorer website.