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Hands-on Gear Review

DeLorme InReach Explorer Review

DeLorme InReach Explorer
Price:   $380 List | $338.26 at Amazon
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Pros:  Easy one-handed (and gloved, if not mittened) SOS operation. Two-way messaging is awesome. Smartphone interface works well. Pairs automatically on startup. Overall very intuitive and easy to use.
Cons:  Expensive. Clunky ergonomics and design. Largest of the devices we tested
Bottom line:  Not worth the extra $80 over the DeLorme InReach SE might be a good value compared to Garmin inReach Explorer+.
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   DeLorme

Our Verdict

The InReach Explorer is nearly identical to the InReach SE Satellite Messenger which won our Best Buy award. We list all the differences below, but the main difference is the ability to create and view routes on the device whereas the InReach SE requires you pair the device with a smartphone. We thought this would be a huge advantage of the Explorer over the SE, however, we never used this feature. The display on the explorer does not display topo maps. Instead, you just have to follow a line on a white screen. This would be useful in a pinch. But overall, its so so much better to use the maps and tracking with the Earthmate app when synched with either the Explorer or the SE. Bottom line: For an extra $80, it doesn't feel like you get much more with the Explorer over the SE.

DeLorme is now owned by Garmin and Garmin replaced this model with the Garmin inReach Explorer+. The Garmin model has a bigger screen, altimeter, and weather. However, the apps are still the same. So if you just use the app, you can save $100 by scooping up a DeLorme Inreach Explorer while supplies last.

RELATED REVIEW: The Best Satellite Messengers and Personal Locator Beacons of 2017

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Score Product Price Our Take
Editors' Choice Award
The best device on the market, but you pay for it. Better than a SAT phone.
Best Buy Award
Has the same app and connectivity as the new Garmin models, for almost $200 less.
Not worth the extra $80 over the DeLorme InReach SE might be a good value compared to Garmin inReach Explorer+.
Best Buy Award
A good value for year-round tracking if you don't need 2-way messaging.
The best emergency locator beacon in our tests. No 2-way messaging.
Doesn't work out of cell range. Very useful in cell range.

Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Chris McNamara
Founder and Editor-in-Chief

Last Updated:
April 12, 2017


Differences between the Explorer and SE

It has all of the capabilities of the inReach SE, plus built-in navigation capabilities. You can create or view routes (including distance and bearing information), use the built-in digital compass, and access your elevation, speed, and moving average using the barometric altimeter and accelerometer sensors. In addition, you're able to mark important locations with waypoints and navigate a route to your waypoint or back to where you started. The Explorer also lets you view key trip statistics and detailed track logging, as well as plan your route and waypoints ahead of time; you can even share your experiences with your friends and family using a special portal.

Because just about everything else is the same as the SE, we recommend you read the InReach SE Satellite Messenger for more details about setup, plans, pricing and capabilities.

Other Versions

DeLorme InReach SE Satellite Messenger
A satellite communication device that can pair with some DeLorme handheld GPS devices.
  • Wins our Editors' Choice award
  • Reliable and easy-to-use
  • Features built-in navigation capabilities
  • $300


The DeLorme Flotation Case
  • Cost - $20
  • Will keep your device afloat
Chris McNamara

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews

Most recent review: April 12, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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Average Customer Rating:   
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50% of 2 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
3 Total Ratings
5 star: 33%  (1)
4 star: 33%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 33%  (1)
Sort 2 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Feb 18, 2017 - 07:12pm
Drstovetop · Backpacker · Seattle, WA
So after reading the Outdoor Gear Lab review and then the clearly frustrated comment above, I thought I would add my two cents.

I purchased this device because two years ago a friend and I got lost. Although it was frustrating we were confident we knew how to get back and we did without any major hiccups (except a lost sleeping pad). However, my wife nearly had a heart attack when I told her what happened and she subsequently blessed my decision to purchase a navigator/communicator. The moral of the story is that this device is an asset and worth every penny and ounce in the pack both for peace of mind and peace at home.
Now, first off, in my humble opinion of using the DeLorme InReach Explorer+ for the last year, I must disagree with the reviewers at OGL about the SE vs the Explorer+. They make the maps on the explorer+ sound useless when in fact I have relied on the built in maps for almost every trip I have used the devise on (mainly because of the problems discussed in the comment, see below). When I bought the device the REI sales person said that for the difference in price, it was worth it not to have to rely on the phone or, if something happened, as it too often does, I would not be stuck with a paperweight in the middle of nowhere. The maps on the device are not the greatest, I admit, but something is always better than nothing and they have worked very well for me.

Enter Garmin. I cannot say enough good things about Garmin and I have been told that they have updated the Explorer+ in the 2017 model that "eliminates the need for the phone, but you can still use it if you want." What I mean is that they have included the topo maps on the device itself so that it is a stand alone, navigator and communicator. I cannot wait to get my hands on this newest device. This also eliminates the complaints about the maps.
As to the comment, I am in agreement with a lot of what is said, but not all. I experienced the same phone-device problems, though not as severe as described above. The phone was almost useless most days and in the year I have owned it I sent maybe one message through the phone, the remainder of the messages that I sent were using the device. It immediately became clear that my choice to purchase the explorer over the SE was the right one. I believe that redundancy is key. I always bring two forms of water purification and navigation: with water and the ability to know where to go my chances of making it out alive increase exponentially.

I also experienced the issue where DeLorme told me to get a new phone after I told them that I used the device with two different phones. Then they told me to reinstall the app (as if installing it on two different phones wasn't enough). That being said, if you are technically inclined, customer service will never be a useful resource because you probably far exceed the understanding and troubleshooting abilities of the average caller (no offense to those not technically inclined).
What I can say, however, is that since Garmin has taken over I have had an improving experience with their customer service (I think Garmin is cleaning house). I spoke with customer service in February 2017 (nearing the 1 year return window for the device at REI) and the individual I spoke with practically praised my decision to return the old device and buy the new device. He spent 10 minutes extoling the new features and convinced me that, though the phone and connections issues should be fixed, the phone won't even be necessary in addition to the improved mapping features and ease of use.

In the end, think even with the problems I had the device was worth it: like I said in the beginning, peace of mind and peace at home. I expect Garmin to steadily improve the devices in case what I have said still isn't enough. But what I can tell you from my experience so far is that the InReach is great and I would have kept the Delorme even if Garmin hadn't updated it. Garmin updating it is the cherry on top for me. This device is worth it 100%.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Aug 24, 2016 - 05:50pm
Bruce Carter · Hunter · San Clemente
Do your homework before buying an Explorer people. These glitchy devices are prone to failure and limitations that may make the device about as useful as a paper weight. What's worse is that the customer care staff won't care. I learned this the hard way.

Like others, I too experienced an inability to sync the Explorer to my iPhone. Delorme staff told me to "…buy a new phone." Yeah right, I'm gonna spend $600.00 so I can use your $350 device? As if that was the problem. The truth is, DeLorme has a serious glitch that prevents users from actually synching the device. They know this. It's all over their online forum and is the number 2 issue on their Help page. Then there's review sites such as REI (https://www.rei.com/product/877499/delorme-inreach-explorer-satellite-messenger); where consumers have had their Explorer replaced multiple times and each time, replaced again for the same glitch I experienced. I guess the QC department at DeLorme is nonexistent.

So fine. The Explorer I bought is a glitch mess and won't work and the customer care is pathetic. I bought a paper weight. After months of paying for their service and getting nowhere I cancelled the charge card they were debiting monthly and tossed the explorer into the junk drawer. A year later I get a letter from a collection agency (The Thomas Agency) for the balance of the annual service fees. This is the same service is was unable to ever use because of the glitch. I was stunned.

I contacted my attorney who explained to me that by failing to resolve my technical issues, DeLorme was in material breach of their own agreement and I could not be held accountable for the fees because the services were not being rendered by DeLorme. Moreover, because the issue is well documented and well known to DeLorme, any collection activity (extortion) to enforce collection of the contract would be malicious. If you have been turned over to The Thomas Agency for similar issues, you should advise them that Delorme has failed to uphold their end of the contract and therefore not entitled to any fees and that is The Thomas Agency pursues collection they will be in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act which protects consumers from wrongful collection practices. All you need to provide them is correspondence with DeLorme to demonstrate the existence of the problem and thus, the reason you refused payment. I suspect there are a lot of people who are experiencing this problem and perhaps enough for a class action lawsuit. I guess it depends on how many people they are trying to force to pay for services they denied.

So when I heard that DeLorme was purchased by Garmin I was delighted. Garmin is a great company and I have been a custom of their for eons. Never had a problem with their products or support staff. So I wrote to them, explained the problem and made a simple request…replace my Explorer with a unit that actually works and credit me for the months I paid for service but could not access it. Simple right? I even offered to prepay for the year of service if they would just credit me the months I paid for service but could not use it due to the faulty device.

Well apparently Garmin failed to clean house because I got the same treatment from their customer care staff that I had experienced before pitching the Explorer in the junk drawer. Monica Goodhue was the kind of copy & paste corporate droid you hope you never encounter. Multiple email exchanges resulted in this message:

**Hello Bruce,
Thank you for your reply. As we understand your frustration regarding this matter and for this reason we have supplied you with our final offers regarding this request, neither of which contain credit for service. Please see the below offers:
  1. Submit payment in the amount of $127.94 to inReach for the past due balance on account DL313741. Once payment is received inReach will ship a replacement inReach device to you at no additional cost along with a paid shipping label to ship the old unit back to us.

2.Submit payment in the negotiated amount of $75.00 to inReach to resolve any and all past due balances associated with account DL313741. Your service will remain terminated, we will notify any corresponding agency of payment being received and no further action will be taken.

We understand your request however InReach is unwilling to negotiate further. We apologize that we are unable to meet any type of agreement and are prepared to address any action that you feel necessary in taking.
Kind Regards,
Monica G.
InReach Billing Supervisor
DeLorme, a Garmin Brand
Phone: (800) 511-2459 or Internationally at (207) 847-1165
Many answers can be found at our on-line knowledge base within the link below.

So this is Monica's idea of a fair solution. Pay the balance of the year for the service I never got and get a replacement unit without service. Hey, that's great! Can I get a punch to the face with that? Now here's the thing, all I requested was replacement of the defective unit and credit me for the months they charged me for service but was unable to use. To put it another way, I wanted to pay exactly what any new customer would if they bought an Explorer and signed up for new service. Fair right? Oh and I wanted em to call off The Thomas Agency too. Sadly this was not the outcome. So now I have a dusty ole DeLorme InReach Explorer in a junk drawer, a collection agency hounding me for money for services I could not access and a customer care department that doesn't care.

I cannot allow DeLorme to extort funds from me this way and I will not bend over for wrongful collection activity even if it means litigation. Fortunately I own two businesses and have eight attorney friends so I am prepared for the worst.

My advice is simply this…do your homework before purchasing any DeLorme product. Read their reviews, learn the limitations of the device and and any known glitches and DO NOT EXPECT THE SAME CUSTOMER SERVICE YOU WOULD FROM GARMIN. Garmin's people are great but apparently were not given control of DeLorme after the buyout. The DeLorme staff is useless and apparently lack all common sense. They could have easily preserved my business and goodwill but instead, chose to be "…unwilling to negotiate…" an acceptable resolution. That's when I started writing this review. Caveat emptor…let the buyer beware. I'm now buying a Sat phone. Garmin, if you're reading this, get some of your people on the phone pretending to be consumers and see what DeLorme's staff is saying to people. Send em some emails and read their responses. Then fire those who harm your reputation and have someone review all the claims sent to The Thomas Agency. I am certain there are a multitude of angry customers like me there.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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