Updated Spring 2017
Garmin bought DeLorme and introduced the Garmin inReach Explorer+ to replace the DeLorme inReach Explorer. Similarly, the Garmin inReach SE+ replaces the DeLorme inReach SE. We detail the changes below and in the individual reviews.
Best Overall Messenger
Garmin inReach Explorer+
Easy one-handed SOS operation
Awesome two-way messaging
Smartphone interface works well
Pairs automatically on startup
Largest of the devices we tested
The Garmin inReach Explorer+
is by far the best for sending and receiving messages. It's expensive but worth it. If there are concerned people who want to track you, this device is by far the most reliable. The inReach models are the only devices that reliably let you communicate two ways. We especially like the unlimited text messaging plans that let you communicate much easier and cost effectively than a SAT phone. If you don't need weather reports, a barometer or as much on-device mapping, consider the Garmin inReach SE+ and save $50.
Read full review: Garmin inReach Explorer+
Best on a Tight Budget with Annual Plan
SPOT Gen3 Satellite Messenger
Lightweight and compact
Improvement over previous version of SPOT
No 2-way messaging
low transmission power
Globalstar satellite network is less effective than COSPAS/SARSAT or Iridium
The SPOT Gen3 Satellite Messenger
does not support two-way messaging like the Garmin inReach
. However, it's much smaller, lighter, and is much less expensive up-front and for an annual plan. It's by far the best value if you don't need two-way messaging and want an annual plan. However, if you only plan to use your device for one or two months a year, either inReach device is less expensive per year and gives you the two-way messaging.
Read full review SPOT Gen3 Satellite Messenger
Top Pick For Emergency Use
ACR ResQlink 406 Personal Locator Beacon
Dual frequency SOS transmission
COSPAS/SARSAT is very reliable
No annual fees
Easy to operated one-handed (even while wearing gloves)
If messaging is not important to you, and you just want an emergency signaling device, the **ResQLink is your best option. It's a little expensive up front, but there are no annual fees or plans to subscribe to. It's also much smaller than the Garmin devices. That said, you don't get the piece of mind of being able to confirm, by a message, that someone has received your distress signal.
Read full review ACR ResQlink 406 Personal Locator Beacon