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Garmin inReach Mini 2 Review

The best two-way texting satellite device on the market, now with better battery life and interface
Garmin inReach Mini 2
Credit: Garmin
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $400 List | $399.99 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Tiny, light, can text from phone and device, great battery life
Cons:  No seamless messaging
Manufacturer:   Garmin
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 28, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
78
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 9
  • SOS/Emergency Messaging - 30% 7.0
  • Non-Emergency Messaging - 25% 9.0
  • Signal Coverage - 20% 8.0
  • Ease of Use - 15% 6.0
  • Portability - 10% 9.0

Our Verdict

With the upgrades made on the inReach Mini 2, Garmin has cemented its position at the top of the heap for two-way, global satellite messaging devices and services. The previous version earned our top honor, and the latest version makes notable, albeit minor, improvements. The Mini 2 has better battery life, a better on-device user interface, and works with a better phone app. That said, the one upgrade we asked for (seamless messaging across WiFi, cellular, and satellite signal) hasn't made it onto the device as of yet. Otherwise, the inReach Mini 2 moves the market a little further ahead.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Garmin inReach Mini 2
Awards Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $399.99 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$250 List
$249.95 at Amazon
$280 List$241.65 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$329.95 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
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Pros Tiny, light, can text from phone and device, great battery lifeCompact, great network, on-device basic controlsSmall, affordable subscription options, proven satellite and dispatch networks, simpleTwo-way messaging, on-device keyboard, smartphone interfaceReasonable initial purchase price, no paid subscription, uses proven global network, compact
Cons No seamless messagingNo on-device message viewing or composition, USB-C charging (could be a pro for some)Only supports SOS and tracking on the device itself, no custom messaging, occasional hardware issuesBulky, tough customer and tech serviceNo non-emergency messaging
Bottom Line The best two-way texting satellite device on the market, now with better battery life and interfaceA small, light, and full-function two-way messenger that competes closely with the top of the heapCompact, simple, two-way satellite communications using proven technology and relatively affordable subscription optionsA two-way texting device with a built-in keyboard reminiscent of old Blackberry phones with slightly limited geographic coverageThis device provides a compact and affordable “help me” button in your pocket
Rating Categories Garmin inReach Mini 2 ACR Bivy Stick Somewear Global Hot... SPOT X Ocean Signal rescue...
SOS/Emergency Messaging (30%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
9.0
Non-Emergency Messaging (25%)
9.0
8.0
6.0
8.0
1
Signal Coverage (20%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
9.0
Ease of Use (15%)
6.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
5.0
Portability (10%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
5.0
8.0
Specs Garmin inReach Mini 2 ACR Bivy Stick Somewear Global Hot... SPOT X Ocean Signal rescue...
2-way Messaging? Yes Yes Yes Yes No
2-way Messaging Available via Cellular/Wifi? No No Yes No No
Custom Messaging Viewable and Composable on Device? Yes No No Yes No
Passive Tracking (turn on and forget about it - viewers at home can watch your progress on the web) Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Weight w/ Batteries 3.5 oz 3.6 oz 4.1 oz 6.8 oz 4.0 oz
Battery Life (hours) Up to 120 (rechargeable lithium battery) Up to 120 Up to 1000 messages 240 24
Waterproof Rating IPX7 (splashes & weather proof, nonsubmersible) IP67 IPX7 IPX7 (splashes & weather proof, nonsubmersible) Up to 15 meters
Pairs with Smartphone? Yes Yes Yes No No
Satellite Network Iridium Iridium Iridium Globalstar COSPAS/SARSAT
Dispatch service GEOS Global Rescue GEOS Focus Point International COSPAS/SARSAT
Dimensions 3.9 x 2 x 1 1.9" x .9" x 4.5" 3" x 3.6" x .8" 6.5" x 2.9" x 0.9" 3.0" x 2.0" x 1.3"
Cubic Inches (L x W x H) 7.8 7.7 8.6 17 6.8

Our Analysis and Test Results

The inReach Mini was a revolutionary leap, upgrading an excellent product and reducing its size and bulk in a meaningful fashion. Just a few years later, Garmin brings the inReach Mini 2 to market, with important refinements and no loss to everything we already know and love. The newest version is our favorite two-way satellite texting device, slightly edging out even the most exciting competition. It is still the only two-way, global texting device that has full (albeit slow and clumsy) on-device functionality. Deep in the wilderness, where "redundancy" and "backup plans" are crucial bits of vocabulary, the ability to retain full communication without a working smartphone is what sets all generations of the inReach Mini apart from other close competitors. The Mini 2 brings improved battery life, a better app experience, and a slightly refined on-device user interface.

Performance Comparison


Garmin inReach Mini 2 personal locator beacon - the inreach mini 2 is a great addition to your comprehensive...
The inReach Mini 2 is a great addition to your comprehensive wilderness communication plan. Still, make sure that all those that will be relying on your contact from the wild understand the realities and limitations of the system.
Credit: Jediah Porter

SOS/Emergency Message


All the devices we tested can be used to summon help in the event of an emergency. In fact, this is the attribute that unites the category. The inReach Mini 2 does so with a paid subscription. Any emergency message is routed through a for-profit call center employed by Garmin. In short, you push the "SOS" button, and a signal is sent, via satellite, to headquarters. That dispatch center will then know your location, some rudimentary identification information (which you added during registration and should update periodically), and that you have some sort of emergency. At this point, you need not do anything more. Dispatch will contact local resources.

The pace, type, and viability of local response depends on, among other things, local socio-political realities, economic factors, terrain type, weather, and other potential emergencies in the area. Whether local resources are summoned by the Garmin dispatch or another source makes little to no difference in local response time.

If you have further information about your emergency that will help rescuers respond, you can send out these details with the Mini 2. It requires some preplanning and familiarity with the device and its function, but sending more nuanced information to emergency responders is possible. Short of two-way voice communications as provided by a satellite phone (way more expensive) or radio (shorter range and more complicated execution), two-way services like the InReach products provide the best possible emergency messaging service.


Emergency messaging differences between the InReach Mini 2 and its two-way communication competitors are minor to nonexistent; the end result is the same. With them all, you can send a "y'all come" message containing location data and follow up with more details on your situation. The Mini 2 and its close competitors are the most sophisticated emergency notification devices available today.

Garmin inReach Mini 2 personal locator beacon - dense forests and steep terrain will impede satellite signal of all...
Dense forests and steep terrain will impede satellite signal of all kinds. The wilderness of the otherwise "benign" eastern mountains are a communication blackout, relative to more open landscapes.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Non-Emergency Messaging


The original, larger inReach revolutionized backcountry communications with the ability to send and receive texts. The Mini continues this, just in a smaller form. Texting with the InReach device is slightly different from your smartphone (no media, and no group texts, for instance), but it is familiar enough to be easy to operate.


The two-way texting functionality of the inReach Mini 2 is matched by a few products on the market. Others might edge ahead with an included on-device keyboard or seamless messaging across satellite and more traditional data services (WiFi, cellular). Otherwise, clarity and reliability are pretty consistent across the board.

Our primary request for future iterations of the Mini or app is to have text chains continue seamlessly on satellite, cellular, and WiFi. Other options include this in a pretty standard fashion, so it cannot be that difficult. We had hoped that the newest update of this device would include this functionality. The app that syncs with the Mini 2 is definitely better than the one used by the original inReach Mini, but it does not yet allow seamless messaging. As a presumably software-only update, it could still be a functionality Garmin eventually includes.

Garmin inReach Mini 2 personal locator beacon - the inreach mini 2, when paired with your smartphone and associated...
The inReach Mini 2, when paired with your smartphone and associated app, can enable pretty reliable, routine correspondence from the wilds. In this case, our lead tester on a solo Teton ski tour, checking in with his new and growing family at home.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Another sort of non-emergency messaging available on the Mini 2 (and on some other satellite text devices) is weather forecasts. The inReach app, through its "Premium" weather forecasting service, is the only product we know of that allows for the acquisition of a weather forecast for a spot that you are not currently sitting in. This is cool, and we wish other products offered the same functionality. Others offer the option to request a forecast, via satellite, only for the spot you are located at that moment.

Signal Coverage


Garmin programs the Mini 2 to work with the global Iridium satellite network. With patience and an understanding of the realities of all satellite communications (i.e., that steep terrain, buildings, and vegetation compromise or block all satellite signals, on all civilian networks, and with all types of hardware), the Mini works all over the world.


Many other tested devices use the same Iridium network. In side-by-side testing, we didn't notice any difference in the reception of any of them. There was some speculation that the smaller body of the Mini 2 (and associated smaller antenna) would result in poorer reception than the original "full size" inReach. In the open terrain and fairly steep valleys of Wyoming's Southern Tetons (Coal Creek, on the Teton Pass road, to be specific), the message sending capability of a handful of recently tested Iridium devices was identical. In further testing, the other Iridium-enabled devices have message transmission rates and reliability on par with all the inReach devices.

Garmin inReach Mini 2 personal locator beacon - signal coverage of the inreach mini 2 is as good as with any other...
Signal coverage of the inReach Mini 2 is as good as with any other Iridium-enabled hardware.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Ease of Use


You pay for the smaller stature of the Mini 2 by sacrificing some ease of use as compared to the bigger inReach devices. The Mini needs to be recharged more frequently, and sending messages straight from the device is harder. Battery life for the Mini 2 is noticeably better than that of the original Mini but not yet as good as the battery life of the full-size inReach options.


In reality, these drawbacks are minor. You have two main options for texting with the Mini 2, and Garmin smartwatch users have another option that most do not. You can text on your phone using the Garmin app, or you can text directly on the Mini device. Of these, texting with the app is far and away easier than texting on the device. Garmin smartwatch texting is even more annoying than texting directly on the device.

Garmin inReach Mini 2 personal locator beacon - composing a message on the device itself is a slow, laborious...
Composing a message on the device itself is a slow, laborious, one-letter-at-a-time procedure. But, it can be done and that is more than can be said of the inReach competitors.
Credit: Jediah Porter

The battery life compromise of the Mini 2 isn't actually that big of a deal. For weekend to week-long trips, we found the multiple days of claimed battery life to be more than enough. The device turns on and off quickly, so you only burn the battery when texting. You will likely be equipped to recharge phones and camera batteries and other electronics on longer trips anyway. In this case, you can top off the Mini as well. It charges with a USB-c cable while the original Mini charges with micro USB, so factor that into your backcountry charging cable selection.

Garmin inReach Mini 2 personal locator beacon - the improved battery life of the inreach mini 2, as compared to the...
The improved battery life of the inReach Mini 2, as compared to the original inReach Mini, is amazing. We basically never had complaints before. Now we get almost 2.5x the power.
Credit: Jediah Porter

For those who wish to eliminate or reduce their smartphone use in the backcountry, be aware that the Mini 2 will mostly tie you back to that phone for contact and communications. There is only one option on the market that allows for clean two-way texting free of your smartphone (the SPOT X), and it is larger and less reliable than the Mini 2.

Garmin inReach Mini 2 personal locator beacon - mini on the left, mini 2 on the right. the user interface was...
Mini on the left, Mini 2 on the right. The user interface was upgraded for the Mini 2. Notably, on-device text threads look like more familiar smartphone style text threads now.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Portability


The inReach Mini 2 is small enough to be unobtrusive on literally every human-powered adventure. If you don't have room for the Mini, we want to hear about that. Even the quickest trail runs can be accompanied by this highly valuable piece of communication hardware.


The Mini 2 is exactly the same shape, size, and weight as the original Mini. They clearly made hardware upgrades (changing the charging port, for instance, and improving battery life) but chose to keep the form factor the same. Hopefully, this resulted in cost savings that the consumer can realize. The only reason to change the form would be branding; "this is the new version, and it looks different." In some ways, it is refreshing that this otherwise significant upgrade didn't require a new industrial design.

Garmin inReach Mini 2 personal locator beacon - the inreach mini 2 (and original mini, for that matter) is small...
The inReach Mini 2 (and original Mini, for that matter) is small enough to go on any human-powered wilderness adventure.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Value


Comparing the costs of these devices and services is tricky. The initial purchase price is easy to compare, but that is only one part of the equation. Many of the satellite communicators we test also require a subscription, with services varying among the different devices and subscription fees. We've examined all the options and have found that the inReach Mini 2, over a long enough time frame, isn't horribly expensive. There are certainly products that come in at a lower initial price, but for all that it does, no product is a better long-term value than the inReach. If you really want to nerd out, we offer a price comparison chart in our main review.

Note that, as we predicted years ago, the value landscape of these products and services is changing at a rapid rate. The entry of multiple competitors really is shaking up the field. We have to update our cost comparison chart every few months or so. Even then, we aren't always catching everything.

Garmin inReach Mini 2 personal locator beacon - inreach mini on left, inreach mini 2 on right. only real change to...
inReach Mini on left, inReach Mini 2 on right. Only real change to the form factor is the upgrade to a USB-C charging port.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Conclusion


At this point in history, the Garmin inReach Mini 2 is the best two-way satellite texting device and service. It is not perfect, but it is better than anything else currently on the market.

Jediah Porter
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