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Garmin inReach Mini

It’s a no-brainer, just throw it in your pocket and go.

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MSRP: $349.99

BEST FOR: Camping in all weather

Garmin’s new inReach Mini might be perfect for climbers and alpinists looking for a satellite SOS communicator with GPS that they could easily stuff in a pocket and forget about while climbing. The Mini still retains the essential inReach functionality of two-way messaging, but in an even more compact package. Optimizing size and weight means there is less battery life and memory, but at half the size and weight of other inReach models (the Mini is 3.5 ounces, and 2.7 inches x 6.5 inches) it’s a great choice for the right situation. Additionally, the Mini is $50 to $100 dollars less expensive than the inReach SE+ and the inReach Explorer+.

To get the most out of your Mini, I recommend spending time familiarizing yourself with the menus and learning how to navigate the user interface with the up, down, left and right buttons. Once you’re familiar with the menu structure, operating the Mini should be a cinch, but I wouldn’t want to try and figure it in the heat of a rescue.

Having the ability to preset your contacts, messages and route before heading into the field is key to successfully using the device in the case of an emergency. This is even more important than with the regular inReach, because the Mini uses a keyboard system where you need to spell out words by toggling through each letter or choosing from a list of often-used words—-a time-intensive process. Additionally, presetting messages will make using the Mini that much easier and could save you money depending on your subscription plan. (Be sure to check out Garmin’s web interface for the Mini and Garmin’s MapShare, along with the smartphone app, which will sync your smartphone with the mini, allowing you to type messages using your phone and avoid the toggle-to-type system.)

All units require a satellite subscription. Plans range from an $11.95-per-month pay-to-use plan that has additional fees for each tracking point and message, to an unlimited-use plan at $79.95 per month. The Recreation Plan at $24.95 per month seems the best choice for people using the device regularly.

So, is smaller always better? There are certainly some downsides to the Mini’s miniscule size in real-world use. You might find it difficult to use the buttons with gloves and the screen size is pretty small (23 millimeters x 23 millimeters). That said, the compactness of the Mini in my mind outweighs any negatives. I’ll be taking the Mini with me on all my adventures. It’s a no-brainer, just throw it in your pocket and go.

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Rock and Ice vigorously tests all gear it reviews for either 50 days or 50 pitches. This is a time-consuming process and limits the amount of new equipment we can present to our readers. Every year hundreds of new products hit store shelves, and most of these aren’t reviewed due to our stringent selection and review process. To better keep you more up to date on what is new, we present First Look. Gear in First Look has not always been field tested, but is gear we think you’d like to know about as soon as it is available. Some of the gear will be reviewed using our 50 days/50 pitches criteria, in future print and online editions of Rock and Ice. We have opted to use affiliate links in our gear reviews. Every time you buy something after clicking on links in our gear articles you’re helping support our magazine.