Electronic Gear

Garmin inReach Explorer Plus

Garmin GPS inReach Explorer Plus

THE AMERICAN BACKPACKER

The Garmin inReach Explorer Plus is modern technology that all wilderness backpackers should have with them on their wilderness adventures. As a solo backpacker I always carry a GPS Satellite Communicator with me. There are various types of satellite communicators in the market. I have used different types and the Garmin inReach Explorer Plus is my first choice when I decide to head into a rugged and remote wilderness area.

The Garmin inReach Explorer Plus is the newest version of the older Delorme InReach Explorer. Garmin acquired Delorme and they merged companies. Garmin then came out with the new InReach Explorer Plus.

The Garmin inReach Explorer Plus has many new features with an upgraded ergonomic look and feel. One of the new features this unit has is the 24K topographical map. The earlier version (Delorme inReach Explorer) did not. The Garmin inReach Explorer Plus uses a text messaging system to communicate with family and friends using satellites.

A paid subscription is required to use this feature. This unit will also allow family and friends to track you on a map anywhere in the world. The Garmin inReach Explorer Plus can connect to your phone via Bluetooth so you can type with ease and view a larger screen. The Garmin inReach Explorer Plus uses the Iridium satellite system to send and receive texts.



As with all GPS communicators, there is some lag time when sending and receiving these messages depending on where the satellites are positioned in the sky. If you are indoors or in an area without a clear view of the sky sending and receiving a message may be difficult as well. The Garmin inReach Explorer Plus allows you to do some of the following:

• Send and Receive text messages 
• Get weather forecasts based on where you are located.
• View a built-in Topographical map.
• Send SOS messages in emergencies (subscription required).
• Set waypoints and routes.

The Garmin inReach Explorer Plus uses a subscription service for its data capabilities. The unit can be used with its GPS functions without paying for this service.  If you do not have the subscription then the data communication to include SOS features will not work. 

Garmin offers different subscription plans. One of the plans is called the Freedom plan. This plan allows you to use the Garmin inReach Explorer Plus on a month-to-month basis.  Utilizing this plan allows you to put the unit in a suspend mode and you do not insure any fees. For further information on the plans go the Garmin web page at https://explore.garmin.com/en-US/inreach/

Garmin inReach Explorer Plus
Garmin inReach Explorer Plus in the Ocala Wilderness

Conclusion

The Garmin inReach Explorer Plus is a vast improvement over its predecessor. The ergonomics of the inReach Explorer Plus mimics many of Garmin’s other top-selling GPS units. I have posted (2) videos below. The first video is my review of the functions and features of the unit.   The second is my field test. These videos will give you a better insight on the Garmin inReach Plus Explorer.


Garmin inReach Explorer Plus (Functions and Features)

Garmin inReach Explorer Plus (Field Test)
Garin Fenix 5X

The Garmin Fenix 5X

THE AMERICAN BACKPACKER

The Garmin Fenix 5X watch is a multi-functional GPS watch.  The Garmin Fenix 5X is advanced technology that you wear on your wrist.  The Fenix 5X comes with a many features and it has the capability to download maps.  The Fenix 5X is always with you and you will not misplace it or lose it unless you take it off your wrist.  The Garmin Fenix 5X is one of many GPS watches that Garmin manufactures and it comes with a pre loaded 100K topographical map.

I  purchased this watch for my wilderness backpacking adventures.  I am a big fan of wearable GPS watches this being my second GPS watch.  The Garmin Fenix 5X is a very busy watch.  When I say busy I mean that it has a lot of functions and features for the outdoor and sports minded individual.


Garmin Fenix 5X

The Garmin Fenix 5X Basic Features  and Specifications.

  • Sapphire Crystal lens.
  • Stainless steel bezel.
  • Fiber-reinforced polymer.
  • Sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)
  • 16 GB Memory
  • Physical size 51 x 51 x 17.5 mm
  • 100K Topo map
  • GPS/Glonass Sensor
  • Can download maps

The Fenix 5X has a very good battery life consisting of the following:

  • Smart watch mode up to 12 days.
  • In GPS mode (20 hours).
  • In Ultra-Trac mode up to 35 hours without wrist heart rate.

My Field Test Of The Garmin Fenix 5X

I field tested the Garmin Fenix 5X in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness located in the Southwest portion of Oregon.  The Kalmiopsis Wilderness is a very remote and rugged area and it was a perfect place to test out this watch.  I started out from the Briggs Creek Trailhead and I headed west.

Before my trip, I downloaded (2) routes and several waypoints.  I used the waypoints as markers to test the accuracy of my Fenix 5X. During my 6 days and 5 nights in the Kalmiopsis my Garmin Fenix 5X did not lose a GPS signal.  It kept me on my routes and it found all of my waypoints.  

Garmin Fenix 5X
Navigating with my Garmin Fenix 5X

I was very happy with the navigational features of this watch as I bushwhacked off the trail.   While on my adventure, I charged the watch 4 times, using my solar panel, during my 5 night 6 day journey in this Wilderness.  Overall, I enjoyed using this watch and I will be using it on other future wilderness adventures.


Garmin Fenix 5X Field Test Video

Flir Scout TK (Thermal Imager)

Flir Scout TK Thermal Imager

THE AMERICAN BACKPACKER

The Flir Scout TK is a pocket-sized thermal imager that you should consider having on your wilderness adventure. The FLIR Scout TK allows you to see objects that emit a heat signature such as a person’s body heat.  Thermal imagers have historically been very expensive to buy. The introduction of the FLIR Scout TK has changed this

The FLIR Scout TK is lightweight unit that can reasonably detect objects up to 100 yards away. The unit runs about $600 dollars before taxes.



The FLIR Scout Specifications

  • Weight: < 7 oz.
  • Detector Type 160 X 120 Microbolometer
  • Refresh Rate: 9Hz
  • Field of View: 20 Degrees x 16 Degrees
  • Display: 640 X 480 LCD
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium (5 Hours)
  • Images: Able to take up to 1000 images
  • Able to take up to 4 hours of video
  • Color Palettes: 8 color selectable

I did a field test on this unit while on a wilderness expedition in the Hells Canyon Wilderness located in Idaho. The unit is not only portable and lightweight (less than 7 oz.), but also very durable. Throughout my 4-night 5-day adventure I had the unit in my pocket or in my backpack without a case. I never had to charge the unit during my trip and I used it at my basecamp in the evening.

Having this unit with you in a wilderness area allows you to have a safe and more relaxed stay at your basecamp at night.  All thermal imagers can be used in complete darkness during the day since it detects heat and not light. 

The FLIR Scout is very simple to use and it has 8 color palettes to choose from.  This unit can also be used around your house for security or for other daily activities when you are not in a Wilderness environment .

Below is my FLIR Scout TK video that I made while on my adventure in the Hells Canyon Wilderness (Idaho). The introduction of this affordable thermal imager it is something you may consider having on your next wilderness adventure.


Flir TK Scout Thermal Imager Field Test Video (Hells Canyon Wilderness)