Wondering if the SPOT GEN3 is better than DeLorme’s inReach Explorer? After all, the SPOT is half the price. Well, I wondered that too so I put them together in a side-by-side three month test. Spoiler alert: the inReach Explorer wins for a number of reasons and is well worth the additional cost.
Why I think DeLorme’s inReach Explorer is worth the extra cost:
Setting up the inReach wasn’t a joy but it was pretty straightforward and easy. You’ll download an app and be walked through a relatively quick set up process.
Getting the SPOT going was a bit frustrating and still tells me I have an update to install, even after pressing the update button only five minutes ago. Once you’re done you’ll never have to set it up again but I truly found myself frustrated with the setup process when I was trying to get the SPOT to go.
To change options (who you want to notify or not notify, custom messages, etc.) you need to plug the SPOT into your computer. Oh, and you’ll need internet in order to access those options on your laptop. You can change most of the inReach settings right through the device in a mostly logical way.
As a side note, if you’re just looking to set it and forget it, the SPOT works great, though though I’ve found the extra features of the inReach very helpful.
The SPOT comes with four batteries included along with a charging port. If you want to actually use the charging port you’ll need to supply your own rechargeable batteries.
Delorme’s inReach contains a sealed battery that’s only rechargeable. While that could also be a deal-breaker for some, almost all of my devices are already rechargeable so I don’t need to think about extra batteries before a trip, only the equipment necessary to recharge them all.
The SPOT has a big downside here. When you visit the online map there’s no actual way to plot more than 25 points on the same map. So if you’re using live tracking (if your wife wants to know when you’re close to home for instance) the first page of the map stops at point 25. To show more points the user needs to know to scroll to the bottom of the page, select the next one, scroll back to the top, select all points, then click once more to plot them. And then they’ll still only be seeing the next set of 25 points. I’d rather not have to explain that downfall to everyone.
DeLorme does a nice job with plotting live tracking on the map and makes it very easy to embed in a website or in a social post.
SPOT does exactly what it says here and it works pretty well so this is purely a personal preference.
During my testing I went out on a three day adventure motorcycle ride and had a complete lack of cell coverage the entire time. While I could tell my wife that I was doing ok and where I was, I really had no way for her to tell me if one of the kids got hurt or there was another family emergency that might cut my trip short. This feature alone is worth the additional cost for me.
Custom messaging on the fly
SPOT has a button that’s called Custom Message but it works the same way two of the other buttons work. In your online account you can set those messages before leaving on your trip. One press and the message is set. It’s custom in that sense but the inReach takes it one step further.
From wherever you are you can create a completely custom message through the device and choose to send it to whomever you like through text or email. If you didn’t set it up ahead of time, no big deal. Just compose and send. I found this feature helpful when one of my three presets weren’t enough a few times.
Again, this contributes a bit to the cost but it’s worth it.
Custom message character length
SPOT’s GEN3 character limit is 40 characters while DeLorme’s inReach is 160. Enough said.
Want to receive message on your device? You’ll need the inReach for that.
SPOT does an amazing job sending messages but when you send an inReach message the recipient can reply to the text or email and you’ll receive it right on your device.
Navigation and all that
It’s not really fair to point out all of the navigation features the inReach offers that the SPOT doesn’t even come close to including. The SPOT is a completely different device in this regard but if you’re looking for maps, compass, and altimeter option, the inReach is for you. Think of the SPOT as stripping out all of that to save you money if you don’t need it.
Though my inReach website I can enable a feature that allows anyone to ping me to find my location. If I get thrown off the bike with the SPOT they’ll eventually find me but I feel a lot better knowing they can see exactly where I am if I can’t press a button.
While I believe the SPOT GEN3 is inferior to DeLorme’s inReach Explorer in almost every way, there’s definitely a place for the device. Tyson and Cally are riding motorcycles down to Baja this fall and taking the SPOT with them without any hesitation. They don’t have family checking in on them, they’re not sending their tracking to an online map, and have little reason to create and send a custom message or receive one. The SPOT is perfect in that application.
My intentions are a bit different so I prefer DeLorme’s inReach Explorer. I want to send and receive messages. Online tracking and the layout/usability of that map for my viewers is important. And I also want to be able to send and receive custom messages on the fly, a nice feature when you’re checking in with family.
Whichever device you end up with you can rest easy in the emergency S.O.S. feature. While the SPOT works on every continent, the inReach guarantees global coverage. If you spend a lot of time in remote locations around the world, this is the best fit for you.
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