Garmin Inreach Mini 2 Review

Garmin inReach Mini 2 Review for Hikers

In This Guide
  • Are the New inReach Mini 2 Features Any Good?
  • Should You Get the Mini 2 or Another Satellite Communicator?
  • How to Setup the inReach Mini 2
  • inReach Mini 2 Tips

I’ve been using the Garmin inReach Mini 2 on every hike I’ve done for several months, and overall, it’s a great unit that I trust my life with. But in relation to the family of Garmin inReach devices, it’s just a small step forward. In this guide, I’ll share my observations on how the Mini 2 performed on the trail, make recommendations on whether it (or another) satellite communicator is the best choice for you, and give you some tips on using it.

If you find this guide helpful, please use my affiliate links to purchase your inReach Mini 2 (or anything) from Amazon or REI. I get a small commission from the sale, and you pay nothing extra. I depend on these commissions to keep guides like this ad-free, independent, and free of sponsorship. Also note that Garmin did not sponsor this guide nor provide me any free units to test or evaluate.

Mini 2 @ Amazon Mini 2 @ REI

7 Things to Know About the inReach Mini 2

inReach Mini 2 Features

Inreach Mini 2 Guide
The Mini 2 has the same form factor as the original inReach Mini, but the guts have changed. It’s still incredibly small and lightweight at 3.5oz. You get a lot of functionality from such a compact piece of gear.

You can look at the inReach Mini 2 as an incremental advancement of the inReach line. It’s the smoothest inReach experience, and is starting to feel more like using a Fenix or Epix smartwatch than a handheld device. It’s easy to use and Garmin has crafted the feature set to focus on safety. But if you’re looking for an inReach experience that offers dramatically quicker messaging or performance, the Mini 2 (and industry in general) isn’t there yet.

At the heart of the Mini 2 update is a new processor. This new processor is better at managing power and is quicker, making the user experience snappy. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mini 2 shared some of the same chipset found on the Garmin Instinct 2 wearable. If that is the case, I’d say it’s a smart move by Garmin.

Interface Updates

Inreach Mini 2 Guide Widget Glance
Instead of going through screen by screen on the original Mini, the Mini 2 includes “widget glances” that allow you to see more on the screen.

The main menu on the Mini 2 is arranged into widget glances, which are lines representing a menu item you can click into. The widget glances often contain information about their function, allowing you to scan the device and take in multiple data points such as navigation info, messages waiting, weather, etc.  Overall the experience is more efficient and if you use a Garmin smartwatch, consistent with that experience.

Inreach Mini 2 Guide Sub Menu
Clicking the “OK” button on any function often brings up a sub-menu that allows you to perform other functions.

Multi-GNSS

Inreach Mini 2 Guide Waypoint
Marking waypoints and being able to navigate to them remains a core feature of the Mini 2. With the new multi-GNSS chipset, a location fix usually takes from 2-5 seconds.

A welcome addition to the Mini 2 is the expansion of the positioning chipset to include Galileo, QZSS, and BeiDou, in addition to GPS. While this doesn’t necessarily equate to an increase in accuracy, it does allow the unit to pick from many more satellite signals in the sky. This equates to the Mini 2 getting a quicker position fix, which, in combination with the better processor, makes the navigation and messaging experience a little zippier.

The Mini 2 is multi-GNSS but not multi-band.

Messaging & Satellites

Inreach Mini 2 Guide Send Message
The core messaging experience is the same as other inReach devices. You can send and receive text messages, hit SOS, get weather, and share a breadcrumb location trail with others.

The whole reason why we have the Mini 2 is for the messaging and SOS, and I’ve got good and bad news. The bad news is that the overall technology for messaging, using the Iridium SBD (Short Burst Data) system, is essentially the same as it was with the first devices of its kind in 2012. The good news is that the technology works well and there is an incremental improvement because of the multi-GNSS system. If you’re new to satellite communicators, don’t expect it to work at the speed of a cellphone text message. But you can expect it to work.

Inreach Mini 2 Guide Carabiner
Use the carabiner to ensure the Mini 2 is antenna-up to have the best chance of connecting to a satellite. Most people use it to clip the Mini 2 onto their shoulder strap.

You may ask yourself, “how does the multi-GNSS help satellite messaging?” And it’s a good question, because they are two different satellite systems that really don’t have much to do with each other. When the Mini 2 sends a message, it always includes a location, obtained by the onboard positioning chipset. On the older GPS-only Mini, getting a location fix, the precursor to sending a message, could take a while. Now that there are dozens of more GNSS positioning satellites available to the Mini 2, getting a position is usually much quicker and therefore your message send can happen quicker. So there’s no difference in the transmission and reception with Iridium, but instead Garmin has done everything they can to eliminate bottlenecks on the device.

And in case you were wondering, quicker satellite networks and protocols are available, including ones from Iridium. At some point the technology and pricing will make these possible in a small device like the Mini 2, but not now. When that day comes, you’ll be able to share images, get detailed weather, and make calls. But expect to pay for it. Right now, having texting available through Iridium SBS still makes a device like the Mini 2 a game changer that saves lives.

You need a (paid) subscription to use the inReach satellite messaging functionality, but other functions such as navigation, work without a subscription.

Navigation

Inreach Mini 2 Guide Breadcrumb Navigation
Visualizing a breadcrumb trail is a significant new feature for navigation, enabled by the Mini 2’s higher resolution screen. Although there are no maps on the Mini 2, the positional awareness offered by being “on or off of the line” is powerful when making navigation decisions.

If you’re looking for an all-in-one navigation and communication device, there are better options, but the nice thing is that the Mini 2 can do the job if needed. The more powerful features are only available when paired with your smartphone, but the core navigation functionality is usable on the device alone.

First off, the Mini 2 now uses the Garmin Explore app, and not the Earthmate app like the original Mini. The Earthmate app was a relic from the original Delorme years (Garmin acquired the inReach technology from Delorme in 2016). The Garmin Explore app, while not on par with Gaia GPS, CalTopo, or AllTrails, does have the core features needed to make solid navigation decisions on your phone.

I applaud Garmin for focusing on the essential navigation safety features with the Mini 2, even if they are being marketed as a more comprehensive navigation solution.

Always verify that the data has synced to your Mini 2. Syncing failures happen (and it’s usually the phone’s fault).

Battery Life

Inreach Mini 2 Guide Usbc
Thank you Garmin! The Mini 2 has the USB-C connector, which is bigger, works either side up, and connects better than the old micro-USB connector.

The new processor on the Mini 2 is optimized to minimize power use. With the same sized battery as the original Mini, the Mini 2 can squeeze more life out of it. Garmin advertises up to 14 days (336 hours) with a 10-minute location share and clear skies. They also say up to 30 days (720 hours) with a 30-minute interval. Here’s what I found in the real world.

And if you want to squeeze more juice out of the device, you can do some things.

Garmin recommends storing the Mini 2 at 80% battery life and then charging to 100% before leaving.

Should I get the Garmin InReach Mini 2?

Garmin Inreach Mini 2 Price
The inReach Mini is capable, but it isn’t cheap, especially when you factor in the subscription costs.

Just a reminder, please use my affiliate links to purchase your inReach Mini 2 (or anything) from Amazon or REI.

inReach Mini Getting Started

  1. Go to the Garmin Explore website and register your device.
  2. Set up your contacts and preset messages in Garmin Explore. Make sure you enable “share my location” on the account page, which includes a (free) map link with your preset messages.
  3. Download the free Garmin Express program to your computer, connect the Mini 2, and perform any firmware updates. This will save you potential headaches in the future.
  4. Download the Garmin Explore smartphone app next. Login to your Garmin Explore account and sync.
  5. Pair your Mini 2 with the Garmin Explore smartphone app and sync the device.
  6. You’re ready to go!

inReach Mini 2 Tips

Related Guides

Popular Guides

This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
Hi, I’m Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, National Recreation Trails (NRT) Ambassador, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different in that it gives very detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I share the hiking tricks and tips that I’ve learned over the years to fast-track you into a hiking pro. And I tell you what hiking gear works and what gear doesn’t so you don’t waste your money.

Don’t Miss Out