Those of you who followed my 500 mile walk along the Camino from St Jean Pied du Port to Santiago will be aware that I was using an Iridium satellite tracking device. This very clever bit of kit pings the satellite system every 10 minutes and allows people to see your progress on a map and I have to say, it is an excellent and reliable piece of kit.
There are a number of ‘tracker’ options on the market but I opted for the Delorme InReach SE (BTW Delorme is now owned by Garmin). There are specs and detail at the link so I won’t dwell on these areas. Rather, I would focus on why I chose this kit in particular (and not its more expensive sibling – the explorer).
First and foremost, this is a product that does exactly what it says on the tin. Which is:
- Allows people to track your progress on a map every ten minutes
- Allows you to send and receive SMS and email messages anywhere in the world.
- Has an SOS emergency button which unlocked and pressed alerts emergency services to your precise whereabouts and keeps you in contact
- Integrates with Facebook and Twitter for messaging
- Provides a weather report for your locality
- Links via bluetooth to your mobile (iOS or Android) using the Earthmate App which then provides detailed maps showing your planned routes, waypoints and actual tracks.
In fact, I originally purchased this for our trip to North America where we will be off the grid (see various blogs and drop down menu of North American Road trip page) but first used it on the trek across Spain.
Prior to commencing our 40 day trek I had preloaded the waypoints on the 500 mile route. You can do this on your desktop PC or Mac including importing routes and waypoints in various standard GPS formats.
Each day, at the beginning of the walk, I would turn on the InReach, connect it via Bluetooth to my iPhone, turn on the tracking feature (providing the 10 minute updates to family and friends) and send a preset message to say we were commencing the walk for the day.
I would then use my phone from time to time to check the map and that our track was following the route, how far we had to go etc. There are a number of very useful features. For example, I would choose to navigate to a particular pre-loaded waypoint then use the compass feature which would be telling me exactly how far as the crow flies and would also show me that we were heading in the right direction. The map and tracking feature put us back on track several times when we went astray.
At the ed of the day, I would send a second preset message saying we had arrived safely. During the day I would perhaps receive and respond to family as they encouraged me to keep up the walk.
I canot vouch for the SOS feature – as I am happy to say I had no reason to use it. I can vouch for the battery life – unlike my mobile which I charged everyday, the InReach clearly lasts several days without charge – it switches off its screen and uses very little power for the tracking.
Cost: There is a newer version of the InReach SE now available at £399.99. The Explorer costs an additional £100 and has the added feature of having a map screen. However, even so, I prefer to use the Earthmate App on the phone which has a bigger screen and is far easier to use for typing messages etc. So, personally, I wouldn’t pay the extra £100.
There are a number of different messaging plans and I think Garmin have thought this through very well. I chose the “Freedom Recreation Plan” – this gives unlimited SOS messages, 40 text messages per month and crucially, unlimited preset messages. These preset messages you create on the website on your desktop. You can have up to three and send them to as many people as you want e.g. I’m starting the walk, I’m running late, I’ve arrived safely. You also get unlimited 10 minute interval tracking points.
And remember, all this is available whether you have phone signal or not as it is using the Iridium network. The cost is US$34.95 per month and the great thing is you can start it and suspend it at will without penalty. I stopped the plan when I finished the walk last September and am now just starting it again in preparation for what I hope will be the wilds of our North America trip. I have just also purchased a window mount for the InReach to make sure it has a clear view of the sky.
The Earthmate App also carries an annual cost of $US14.95.
I have added a page to the site which will allow you to see our motorhome track when the unit is switched on and we are away and you can see this on the Where Am I? page. I will put a note at the top of the page to say when tracking is active and check out the page as you will need a password to access it.
Cons: It does need a clear view of the sky which means having a window mount and the iridium system can be a little slow to send and receive. Neither of which are a big deal. Detailed North American maps can be downloaded in Earthmate, elsewhere, the maps are a more basic digital atlas. Another reason for not buying the Explorer in Europe.
If you would like friends and family to known where you are and that you are safe and sound then the InReach is definitely a good choice.