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SPOT vs inReach - Choosing the Right Satellite Communicator

SPOT vs inReach - Choosing the Right Satellite Communicator
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In this blog, we will cover;
  • Pricing
  • Features
  • User Interface
  • Service Plans
  • Battery life
For the sake of this comparison, we’ll be talking about the flagship models from the respective companies. That’s the Spot X and inReach Explore + GPS. So now for the pros and cons of each. SPOT vs inReach, let the games begin.

Pricing it Out

One of the biggest considerations for people purchasing a satellite communicator is price. SPOT X clearly has the edge here with an MSRP of $438 CAD, compared to $589 CAD for the inReach Explorer +. That’s a substantial saving, the Spot X leaves the inReach in the dust in terms of bare-bones value.
Price: Spot X

Spot X satelite device

Simple, light, affordable and effective. The SPOT X.

Features

SPOT added two-way messenger for the SPOT X, an upgrade from its predecessor the Gen 3. InReach has had this feature since its first model, a benefit of utilizing the Iridium global satellite network. The benefits of two-way communication cannot be overstated. Receiving weather updates or instructions from Search and Rescue authorities and being able to respond back when in the field can save a lot of time for both parties. Plus, getting messages back from your loved ones can be a moral boost when on long expeditions.
The inReach explorer + pairs with the proprietary Earthmate App on a Android or iOS device to track progress on a digital topographic map. The app can also type and send a custom message while in the field. The SPOT uses its app called Spot X. Because the SPOT has an inbuilt QWERTY keyboard you can use the standalone device to send and receive messages, or you can connect to the app and send from your cell phone.
Other than that, both units can track progress, send generic or pre-customized messages and call in the cavalry with the SOS button.
Features: inReach
Texting on a smartphone paired with the inReach SE. This feature saves lots of time and allows customized messages from the field.

User Interface

In line with its exemplary utility, the inReach SE allows you to send messages to any contact on your phone (when paired). That being said, you do have the ability to send messages from the inReach on its own, however, it’s very time-consuming and would be challenging with large gloves/mitts on. In contrast, the SPOT X keyboard makes sending messages on the device much easier, again with gloves it would be challenging but more efficient than the inReach is. The benefit to the SPOT X is you can also use the application to send messages if you need it, so has the advantage of both options.
Both devices have large clear buttons for the key function when calling SOS. It’s a tough call which device is easier to use, if you have access to a phone at all times, the inReach earth mate application is very user-friendly and easy to use. However, if you do not have the option, the SPOT X could steal the win with the QWERTY keyboard.
User Interface: TIE
When travelling in remote locations such as Tajikistan’s Fedchenko Glacier, a satellite communicator is crucial.

Service Plans

Like any network communication device, you need to pay a subscription to maintain the satellite connection. SPOT has a basic package of $11 USD per month (annual plan required) with various add-ons such as enhanced tracking or roadside assistance. You can increase the monthly fee to have more messages or frequent tracking. It’s also possible to pay for a flexi plan where you pay slightly more per month but you can cancel anytime. Great for people who just use their device for a particular trip, or expedition or only need it for one or two seasons per year. The inReach package is more expensive starting at $34.95 CDN/month for a set number of tracks and messages. You can also suspend your inReach plan and only pay $4/month to avoid cancellation/re-connecting fees.
Service plans: SPOT X
The inReach SE requires a charger when on long expeditions

Battery Life

The SPOT X has a rechargeable battery with an average of 10 days of battery life when tracking in 10-minute intervals. Which is an upgrade from the old Gen 3 which used the traditional route of 3x AAA batteries. The inReach Explorer + also has a rechargeable internal battery, which can be connected to a charging device with an Android USB cable. The batteries of either device will deplete at the rate the device is sending or receiving signals. Because both devices used screens the battery depletes at a much higher rate than the SPOT gen4.

Battery Life: Tie

SPOT vs inReach – Choose Wisely

When purchasing a satellite communicator, it all comes down to function, budget and personal preference. The SPOT X shows noticeable upgrades in SPOTs technology and shows serious progression within the field. inReach is yet to upgrade their Explorer+ only introducing the inReach mini a few years ago. If you already have a fully working GPS it could be worth waiting to see what inReach have in store in the next iteration or check out the mini which is an excellent alternative.
Words by Vince Shuley

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