GPS Beacons?

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retired jerry
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Re: GPS Beacons?

Post by retired jerry » August 16th, 2019, 12:53 pm

I've been using inReach mini for a few months

$12.50 per month. Includes 10 free messages. I can send a preset message which doesn't count. If I compose a special message that counts as one message. A reply from my wife counts as one message. $0.50 per message above the free 10.

I usually don't use the the smartphone, just the inreach by itself, a bit awkward interface though

the mini costs $350

I've sent/received maybe 40 messages, they all went through successful. It's possible it wouldn't work in a steep canyon, but I haven't experienced that.

You have to play with it a bit to figure out how it works, it's a bit screwy. Like all electronic devices. At least for a baby boomer :)

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teachpdx
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Re: GPS Beacons?

Post by teachpdx » August 19th, 2019, 8:58 am

I just got a SPOT Gen3 last month. The device and a year of service are 50% off through Labor Day, so that made it worth it to try.

On my recent extended backpacking trip, it was very helpful for my worrisome partner back home to be able to check in on my location... I had it set to update every 5 minutes while we were moving and everything worked perfectly. It doesn't have near the functionality of the InReach with multiple messages, etc... but it's a much more affordable initial cost.

I already have friends lined up who want to take it out on their upcoming trips, and will give me $20 or so for it. That helps to make up for the steep annual cost if I do that a few times a year. I've also heard that just like satellite radio and the like, if you go to cancel when your term is up they offer some pretty steep discounts on the yearly service to stay on.

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drm
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Re: GPS Beacons?

Post by drm » August 21st, 2019, 6:55 am

I just got a Garmin Inreach Mini a couple weeks ago after friends and family kept whining at me for all my solo trips. The main thing I would mention is that documentation is poor and if I didn't know people who already had a device, it would have been a pain to figure out. I got it mainly for emergency messaging and the SOS, not as a GPS unit. With the paired app on my phone it sort of does that, but the phone battery life is not as good as any GPS so on a long backpacking trip I could not use it every day. But I don't anyway. It also doesn't sample as often as GPS-focused units, so the mileage is not real accurate. On my recent trip in the Wallowas it did have some difficulty with satellite connection a couple times when it shouldn'y (i.e. I was not in a canyon) and it had no problem in Trapper Creek the week before.

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A. Hugh Jass
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Re: GPS Beacons?

Post by A. Hugh Jass » September 10th, 2019, 5:44 am

I returned my Garmin InReach last month after using it for almost three months. It reminds me of the duality of Gollum and Sméagol. I both loves it and hates it.

First, nearly 99% of my messages went through. That's good. However, the GPS part of the InReach is terrible. That is bad. The device would show my location off by 1/4 mile to over 1 mile about 30% of the time. Messages were sent after a few minutes, but too often it took about an hour or more. At the top of Mt. Adams, it said "Poor GPS coverage - make sure you are clear of trees..." What? I'm on the top of a mountain with no trees in sight.

I carried with me, always, an PLB in addition to the InReach. If the objective is safety, then I recommend using the PLB since it has a 5 watt transmitter and beats InReach and SPOT by wide margins including under the canopy of trees and in canyons (even some slot canyons).

My wife really liked getting messages from the InReach. Knowing where (well, approximately where) I was, was a comfort to her.

We debated for a long while about returning the InReach. In the end I did not want to reward Garmin for such a sub-par and buggy product. As a former hardware/firmware engineer contractor, this is exactly the kind of product I used to fix and make it work as expected. It is a shame the GPS portion of the device is so poor.

I had two longer trips since I returned my InReach. When I circumnavigated around South Sister (about 25 miles), I brought my cell phone. With my OSMand~ topo app, I was able to text my location to my wife all the way around the mountain. I was surprised at the cell coverage in the Sisters Wilderness. I also did the Timberline Trail with the same kind of good coverage. My cheap $80 cell phone accurately transmitted my position every time. However, there were times I had no cell coverage.

With the PLB (ACR ResQLink), which has no annual or monthly costs, the idea is "no news is good news". I'll give Garmin a try in the future again with a different, improved product; until then, I think I'll us my combo of devices. The PLB for SOS type emergencies and my cell phone for occasional communication.

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retired jerry
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Re: GPS Beacons?

Post by retired jerry » September 10th, 2019, 6:20 am

That's weird, I rarely get cell coverage around Mt Hood or Three Sisters

But that was with old flip phone, maybe smartphone will do better

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aiwetir
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Re: GPS Beacons?

Post by aiwetir » September 10th, 2019, 9:25 am

Perhaps it was a bad device, did you consider swapping it for another one?
- Michael

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A. Hugh Jass
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Re: GPS Beacons?

Post by A. Hugh Jass » September 10th, 2019, 10:32 am

aiwetir wrote:
September 10th, 2019, 9:25 am
Perhaps it was a bad device, did you consider swapping it for another one?
The failures with my device were not specific to the one I owned. The failures were consistent with reports I've read from others. It's just plain poor engineering. I've encountered bad engineering too many times in my career. But I owe the bulk of my engineering career to bad engineering. This was because I was consultant and I specialized in fixing products that weren't quite working right.

In the end the InReach Mini did little good for me other than making my wife feel better when I'd do long days on my own. For emergency SOS issues the PLB is second to no other device out there. When you consider the annual subscription cost of an PLB at $0.00, that's nice too.

There is no excuse for the inconsistent GPS quality from a company known for GPS devices. Even if the problem I encountered was related to a small number of devices, that is no excuse. For a device like this the engineering and the validation and verification of the engineering need to be at a higher standard because of the device's intention ... safety.

In the end, for people into social networking on the trail, I'd say get the InReach. For just tracking, SPOT might be a good choice too. For getting rescued when absolutely necessary, the PLB is currently the only smart choice. YMMV.

RobFromRedland
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Re: GPS Beacons?

Post by RobFromRedland » September 10th, 2019, 3:49 pm

Aren't PLBs only good for like 5 years, though? I thought I've read that.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention to arrive safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: WOW-What a ride!

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Don Nelsen
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Re: GPS Beacons?

Post by Don Nelsen » September 10th, 2019, 4:45 pm

I have a Spot and carried it for a while but it is useless in canyons and near cliffs/deep forest cover. I'm off-trail a lot and even a couple hundred feet off is way too much if I really need to be rescued from the places I tend to go hiking/exploring. Spot was off by a mile or more at times and usually at least a quarter mile.

dn
"Everything works in the planning stage".

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mountainkat
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Re: GPS Beacons?

Post by mountainkat » September 10th, 2019, 6:25 pm

I recently purchased a Garmin In Reach Mini and I am having the same problems discussed above. The communication part will usually work better than the GPS. In any area that is not completely wide open, it consistently tells me that the GPS signal is weak, despite the other GPS devices I have with me having no signal issues. I only have the mini for messaging and the event that I need help. The GPS is so bad, that I usually give up on having the unit send my coordinates with a message. I spoke to Garmin help today and am going to try a few things and see if that changes anything. So far, I am pretty disappointed.

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