I purchased the Garmin InReach SE from Costco a couple months ago for $248.16 shipped.
My wife had been strongly encouraging me to buy a Personal Locater Beacon (PLB) for more than a year.
I do a lot of off trail hiking here in AZ, looking for hill top Indian ruins. Most of those hikes I do with a buddy, but I do a fair amount of other, fairly remote, solo hiking during the course of the year. My wife never complains but I know she worries some times.
I really had myself convinced that all I wanted was an “awe shit” device. Push one button to call the cavalry. No subscription, no battery to charge.
My wife thought I was nuts not to consider a device that allowed two way communication. Now understand, she is not a person that expects a text every half hour from me.
Two things convinced me to purchase the Garmin.
First was this thread which is an excellent discussion of the pro and cons of each type of device. It includes excellent info from a current, Moab area, SAR professional. (Mobian)
Also in the above thread, there is a first hand usage report by a Grand Canyon hiker that talks about how useful two way communication was to his situation.
The second factor was a personal experience I had this summer volunteering in the Grand Canyon.
I work in the PSAR (preventive search and rescue) program, hiking the corridor trails, interacting with hikers, and trying to help them make smart decisions about their hiking plans. We also assist the professional SAR rangers when necessary and some times are their initial on scene eyes and ears. On this particular day I got a call from dispatch on my radio that a PLB had been activated approx. 1 1/2 miles below my location. I was asked to expedite down to the broadcast location and access the situation. Keep in mind, it’s summer, it’s about midday, it’s really hot and I have to climb back up about four miles now instead of two. But, that’s what we do, so I headed down.
Within about 10 min., dispatch called me back and said to disregard my previous instructions. I found out later that dispatch was able to establish two way communication with the distressed hikers thru the Garmin device and determine that, even though a helicopter was needed for the rescue, it was not a life threating situation. At that point, two way communication was priceless, and not just to me.
Given our almost year round hiking season here in AZ I elected to get a basic plan for $11.95 a month and keep it active all year. I don’t plan to use my InReach for GPS navigation so I think this plan will meet my needs. There is the ability to start and stop activation of the device.
With my plan I get unlimited use of three different preprogrammed messages delivered by text and /or email to who ever I select or better yet preprogram in. These three messages come already loaded but can be modified to read whatever you want. This free message includes a GPS location that is plotted for the recipient on google earth.
You also get 10 free messages a month that you compose, these also include the GPS location. Additional messages are .10 each. The inReach device also has the SOS button that starts the rescue. That one button is all that’s needed in case that’s all you’re capable of activating.
I’ve been fooling with and learning the device over the last couple months. I’ve found the GPS location to be extremely accurate. I’ve made it a point to send a preprogrammed, free, message from a location that is easily located on Google Earth such as an old cabin to verify this. I’ve also found battery life to be excellent but keep in mind I’m not using it to establish a GPS track for navigation.
This is my experience, YRMV, but if you’re considering a device I strongly encourage you to read thru the attached thread before you decide. It’s hands down the best real world overview of these devices I’ve come across.