Zoleo vs Inreach: Best Satellite Communicator Comparison

This article is a summary of the YouTube video ‘GARMIN INREACH MINI 2 vs ZOLEO // Best Satellite Communicator?’ by Justin Outdoors

Written by: Recapz Bot

Written by: Recapz Bot

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How does it work?
Garmin InReach Mini 2 is lighter with better battery life and navigation options, while Zoleo has higher water resistance and a more intuitive messaging experience; InReach is generally more cost-effective and preferable, except for those prioritizing upfront cost or seamless messaging.

Key Insights

  • The video compares two satellite communication options: Garmin InReach Mini 2 and Zoleo.
  • InReach Mini 2 is lighter, weighing 100 grams, while Zoleo weighs 150 grams.
  • Zoleo has a slightly better dust and water resistance rating.
  • InReach Mini has better battery life compared to Zoleo.
  • InReach charges faster due to a smaller battery and USB-C charging.
  • Both devices connect to the Iridium satellite network for SOS and communication services.
  • InReach Mini 2 has a screen and can be used as a standalone device, while Zoleo requires tethering with a cell phone for many functions.
  • InReach allows two-way communication with SOS services even if the phone dies, unlike Zoleo.
  • Both devices offer weather forecast capabilities.
  • InReach has better navigation options, supporting more satellite constellations and offering on-device navigation features.
  • Messaging ecosystem for both devices requires a monthly subscription plan.
  • Zoleo can use Wi-Fi or cellular network for messaging, not counting towards monthly message allocation.
  • InReach offers unlimited preset messages in the plans.
  • Zoleo has a more intuitive and flawless messaging experience compared to InReach.
  • InReach costs less overall, considering device cost and subscription plans.
  • InReach offers a one-year subscription plan and the option to pause it, making it cheaper.
  • Zoleo beats InReach on the intermediate plan, offering 200 messages per month.
  • For most people, InReach is the better option, but Zoleo is preferable if upfront cost or seamless messaging is a priority.

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Transcript

InReach or Zoleo? That’s one of the questions I get asked the most, and today I have with me the Garmin InReach Mini 2 and the Zoleo to compare both of them and see which one is the better SOS and satellite communication option.

First, let’s compare the specs of these two devices because that may be a deal-breaker for some of you. If you want really ultralight gear, then you’re gonna want to go with the InReach Mini 2 because it weighs only a hundred grams, whereas the Zoleo weighs 150 grams. That’s 50% more weight with the Zoleo. The Zoleo is also just a little bit bulkier than the InReach Mini. They both have dust and water resistance ratings. The Zoleo has a slightly better rating. It can go down to 1.5 meters for 30 minutes, compared to the InReach Mini, which can only go down to 1 meter for 30 minutes. But I don’t know how many of you are using your satellite communication devices underwater anyways.

Battery life is a bit interesting thing with these two devices as well. The Zoleo has a bigger battery at just over 1,400 milliamp hours, whereas the InReach Mini has a 950 milliamp hour battery. But the InReach gets better battery life compared to the Zoleo. Zoleo and Garmin both have a bunch of numbers on their website for different battery life scenarios. But for me in real-world conditions where I have the device Bluetooth connected to my phone, I’m sending messages throughout the day and I’m not doing any tracking, I get about seven to eight days of battery life with the InReach Mini 2 and six to seven days of battery life with the Zoleo.

Link to battery life is how each of these devices charges. The Garmin InReach uses USB-C in order to charge, whereas the Zoleo uses micro USB. And with my tests, I found that you can put twice as much power into the InReach as the Zoleo. And because it has a smaller battery as well, it charges much faster. And a really big benefit of the InReach having a smaller battery, but longer battery life, is that you’re going to use less of your battery power stores charging it when you’re on trail. And it’s going to take less time to charge when you’re in town if you are on a thru-hike.

Both devices connect to the Iridium satellite network for both SOS and satellite communication services. So they’re going to be pretty much on par for that, especially the SOS capabilities. If you press SOS on either of these devices, you’re going to be connected to the exact same people. And what happens there is that you get connected to the GEOS IERCC service and then they connect you with local search and rescue.

One of the big benefits of the InReach Mini 2 is that it has a screen and you can message directly from the device. So you can use the device as a standalone, you don’t need to connect to a cell phone. Whereas with the Zoleo, you do need to tether it to your cell phone for a lot of the functionality. You can still send an SOS request through the device or a check-in, but that’s it. With the InReach, you can trigger an SOS or send messages to cell phones and email addresses right from the device.

One of the big benefits of two-way satellite communication devices paired with SOS capabilities is that if you do trigger an SOS, you can communicate directly with search and rescue, tell them where you are, coordinate, and even get advice on how to deal with the emergency that you’re in. And with the InReach Mini 2, you have a big benefit in that you have on-device communication. With the Zoleo, if your cell phone dies, you can’t have two-way communication with those SOS services. Whereas with the InReach, if your phone dies, you still could have that communication. And I’ve dropped my phone in the water, I’ve had it die on me, and if I had run into an emergency, I’d still be able to communicate with emergency response services with the InReach.

Another awesome feature is that with both devices, you can check weather. You can trigger that with your phone on the Zoleo and the InReach or directly through the device with the InReach. And that weather forecast is fairly accurate. It’s not always the best, but it’ll get the job done. I found that it’s super useful when you’re on long multi-day trips to check the weather to make sure that the forecast hasn’t changed on you because getting caught in bad weather can be very dangerous while out on the trail.

You can use both devices for navigation while tethered to your phone or directly on the device with the InReach. The Zoleo connects to two satellite constellations, GPS and GLONASS, whereas the InReach connects to four constellations, GPS, Galileo, QZSS, and Beidou. So it has slightly better accuracy compared to the Zoleo. If you want to use the InReach as a standalone device, not having your phone with you like you need to do with the Zoleo, you can load up routes right onto the device and get a breadcrumb trail that you can follow while you’re out navigating the backcountry. As well, it has a really good digital compass which you can use to navigate when you’re on trail as well.

While SOS is probably the most important feature that these devices have, the thing you’ll probably be using it for the most is messaging. So the messaging ecosystem for both devices is super important, something I want to talk about now. Both devices require a monthly subscription plan to use satellite communication services as well as the SOS services, and within those plans, you get a certain number of two-way messages that you can use per month. But what’s interesting with the Zoleo is that while the Garmin only uses the Iridium network for messaging, the Zoleo will use either Wi-Fi or cellular, whatever you’re connected to, to send messages and then you’re not using up your message allocation for the month. And if you’re in and out of Wi-Fi and cellular quite often, like if you’re doing a thru-hike on a trail that has good cell phone reception, then that’s going to be a big benefit for the Zoleo.

With the InReach, you also get unlimited preset messages as part of your plans, which is a really big benefit. You get three of them, and I like to set them as random check-in, starting the day, and finishing the day. And with those three presets, you can cover off a lot of the messaging that you do and not eat into your precious monthly message allocation. The Zoleo, by far, has the best messaging out of any satellite communication device that I’ve used. The app is just super intuitive, very clear, connects to the device very easily and consistently, and the messaging experience is just flawless. Whereas the InReach, it’s not quite as smooth sailing. The move to the Explorer app has improved the experience with the InReach. Connection to the device is a lot more consistent. The app always pulls messages from the device, which is something that I had an issue with with the InReach Mini 1. And sending messages is just a lot easier. You can also trigger those preset messages, which I talked about directly in the app. So if you want a purely messaging-focused device, the Zoleo is going to be awesome for you.

But which one has the better plans and which one costs more? Because that’s going to be a big factor for a lot of people. The Zoleo only costs $200 for the device, whereas the InReach Mini 2 costs $400. But the upfront cost of the device is actually a pretty small piece of the pie when you compare it to the subscription plan pricing that you’re going to be paying for the whole life of the device. And personally, I think the cheapest plan is probably what most people are going to be going with. And no matter how the cookie crumbles, however you do the math, the InReach is always going to be less expensive than the Zoleo.

The InReach has a one-year subscription plan, which is much, much cheaper but also has a similar plan to the Zoleo where you can pause it for certain months of the year if you’re not using it, for instance, during the winter time. For some hard numbers, for a year of subscription for the InReach, you’re paying $174, whereas with the Zoleo, it’s going to be $265, and that’s after all of your activation fees and everything. But let’s say you only want to use the device for four months of the year. With the plans that you can pause, the InReach costs $95, whereas the Zoleo is going

This article is a summary of the YouTube video ‘GARMIN INREACH MINI 2 vs ZOLEO // Best Satellite Communicator?’ by Justin Outdoors