Comparing the Garmin inReach messenger v Zoleo two-way satellite communicators
In this video we compare the Garmin inReach messenger v Zoleo two-way satellite communicators.
We look at which is best, the Garmin inReach messenger or Zoleo, by looking at the two products side by side.
We were excited at GPS training to get our hands on two new products, the Garmin inReach Messenger and Zoleo ZL1000 2way Satellite communicators.
The products do have some similarities and they are both two-way Satellite communicators hence we thought it would be great to have an initial look at the two devices side by side to compare not just the physical attributes but also the functionality and costings of both packages.
What is a two-way Satellite communicator
Both the Garmin inReach Messenger and Zoleo ZL1000 are devices that primarily provide two-way text communication, live tracking, and have an emergency SOS button to summons help from a 24/7 emergency response centre all of these functions can be used if you have no mobile cellular coverage by using the 100% global Iridium® satellite network1
Giving you piece of mind that without mobile cellular coverage you can still communicate with friends and family whilst or if needed summons help using the dedicated SOS button when out on your trips and adventures whether at home or abroad1
We take a look at the dimensions & weight of the InReach Messenger and Zoleo ZL1000 side by side.
Length Width Depth Weight
Garmin inReach Messenger 7.8cm 6.4cm 2.3cm 113.9g
Zoleo ZL1000 9.1cm 6.6cm 2.7cm 150g
Both units are compact in size and are light weight, the inReach Messenger being the lighter and more compact of the two units.
The inReach Messenger has a slightly more rugged feel to the casing but having said that the Zoleo Zl1000 has been tested to MIL-STD 810G: shock-resistant standard, both units are rugged and compact in design.
Ingress Protection Ratings + Operating Temperatures
Both the Garmin inReach Messenger and Zoleo ZL1000 are rugged tough units, they both have high IP Weather rating and Operating temperatures from very wintry weather to higher temperatures as follows:
IP Rating Operating Temperature
Garmin inReach Messenger IPX7 -20°C to 60°C
(IPX7 -Withstands incidental exposure to water of up to 1 metre for up to 30 minutes, suitable for splashes, rain or snow, showering)
Zoleo ZL1000 IP68 -20°C to 55°C
(IP68 - Withstands incidental exposure to water of up to 1.5 metre for 30 minutes, suitable for splashes, rain or snow, showering)
N.B. When charging the two devices the temperature range does need to be between a minimum of 0°C to 45°C.
We now take a closer look at the physical attributes of both the Garmin inReach Messenger and Zoleo ZL1000
Starting with the Garmin inReach messenger, the unit is available in the one colour black, it has a slightly softer more tactile feel than the Zoleo unit. The underside of the unit is red which helps standout some basic instructions that are etched on the red base in relation to initiating an SOS button alert and cancelling the SOS message alert, the unit’s serial number is also printed on the base.
As you turn the unit around on the topside there is a square etched with the Garmin Logo, this is where the patch Antenna is situated, from what we have read so far when sending messages ideally the Garmin Logo should be facing upwards for the best signal.
Also on the top of the unit we have a small monochrome display window measuring 2.53 x 1.1 cm, in this display you will be able to view various menus on the device and navigate around the menus using 2 x arrow buttons & a OK button located on the front edge of the unit.
With the small monochrome screen on the inReach Messenger as well as navigating around the various menus and settings screens to make changes you are also able to view messages received, navigate to the pre-set or quick messages to send, type a message to send by selecting letters using the arrow buttons (Although not tested yet we would expect typing a message this way to be a bit slow, we will discuss further down in this article), view weather data, view time & battery status, start a track back to the start of your trip with a directional pointer arrow displayed pointing to the either the next saved track point or back in a straight line to your start point along with distances to the next point or start of trip, this will give you some basic track back navigation to re-trace your steps albeit on a small screen but still nice to have as backup.
On one side of the unit we have the SOS button protected by a rubber flap to stop accidental presses and also the power button is located on the same side, on the opposite side of the unit there is a rubber flap protecting the USB-C charging port, it was nice to see Garmin using a more universal USB-C port which also is easier when attaching the included cable to charge as the USB-C side of the cable can be connected either way round unlike the more fiddly mini or micro USB ports we see on older devices.
An additional feature that we have on the inReach messenger that we really like is as backup you can connect a USB-C cable from the device to your mobile phone to give your phone a power boost if your phone battery is depleted, this quick boost is designed to allow you to use the Garmin Messenger app on your paired phone to type and send some text messages, this reverse charge function is only intended as q quick boost to use the text message function of the app for ease and speed of typing and not to keep the inReach messenger connected to your phone for charging.
On one corner of the unit there is a small Lanyard slot, this is the only source on the unit for carrying it, Garmin show in their spec two available Lanyards that can be used with the inReach messenger as per the links below:
With the inReach messenger only weighing 113.9g using the Lanyards to carry the device would work fine, although we could see the device simply being but in the top pocked of a backpack but ideally making sure the patch antenna on the top is facing upwards.
As the device can also be controlled by a number of Garmin Watches / Devices or the paired messenger app on a phone this negates the necessity of having to have the unit in your hand to use, although if you do not own a compatible Garmin watch / Device or have your phone packed away in your backpack, the lanyard option would be a good option so that the unit is always quickly accessible when needed.
N.B the FAQ’s on the inReach messenger product page on our website list all of the compatible Garmin Devices that can be paired with the inReach Messenger.
We now look at the physical attributes of the Zoleo unit, the unit is available in the one colour a dark grey with some green colouring on the top, the unit has a harder feel to it than the more tactile rubbery feel of the inReach Messenger.
On the top of the unit we have the Zoleo logo and like the Garmin inReach Messenger this is where the patch Antenna is situated, from what we have read so far when sending messages ideally the Zoleo Logo should be facing upwards for the best signal.
Also on the top of the unit we have the SOS button which is also protected with a rubber flap to stop accidental button presses, continuing on the top of the unit there is a recessed button with a Tick logo, this is the check in button to send check in messages, continuing on the top of the unit we also have 4 x led light in each corner, these lights will indicates various statues relating mainly to messages being transmitted and received.
On one of the long edges of the Zoleo we have the power button and on the other long edge a rubber flap that protects the micro USB Charging port, a micro USB cable is included on the box for charging, the rubber flap does need a firm press to ensure it is located back in position after use.
Very like the Garmin inReach messenger on the base of the Zoleo unit we find some instructions for using the SOS button and on the base also we find the IMEI number and serial number of the device. The IMEI number is required during the account activation process.
On one of the short edges of the unit there is a webbing slot that is for connecting a Carabiner clip which is include in the box with the Zoleo, you could also loop a lanyard through this webbing.
Unlike the Garmin inReach messenger the Zoleo unit does more choices of carry attachments available with a couple of accessory kits that can be purchased separately.
Zoleo universal cradle kit includes: a cradle attachment which wraps around the unit and then included with the Zoleo cradle kit are the following attachments: a Belt Clip to secure your Zoleo device to be worn on a belt, a Strap infill to secure your Zoleo device flat against a backpack or other installations using a strap or tether. Simply slip the strap through the insert and a Camera Mount which secures your Zoleo device to any universal camera mount. Ideal for use with other RAM mounts and other accessories with a camera mount.
Zoleo Universal Mount Kit includes everything that you get in with the Zoleo universal cradle kit but also includes a Ram mount suction cup kit and car charger for fitting the device to the windscreen of your vehicle.
We are now going to look at how the messaging and tracking functions work on both devices
N.B. To get the best out of the messaging functions do we recommend that the inReach Messenger is paired with the Garmin Messenger App on a mobile device, you can still send messages without a paired phone, but it does make typing longer text messages much easier,
Starting with the Garmin inReach messenger:
We are going to look at the three main types of messages that we can use on the device as follows:
Check-in messages – these are messages with predefined text and recipients. You can use the Garmin Messenger™ app to customize recipients.
These quick check-in messages can be accessed and sent directly from the inReach Messenger unit or via the paired Garmin Messenger app on your phone, what we like about these messages is that they do not count of your satellite message subscription allowance.
Text message – these are messages that you can type in using the paired Garmin Messenger app or you can type them in directly using the device, for this type of message it is far easier to type it using the paired Garmin Messenger app on your phone, you can also select from your contacts who the message is to be sent to, these type of messages will count of your Satellite message subscription allowance if they are sent via the iridium network when you have no mobile data connection.
SOS Message – by pressing and holding down the SOS button on your inReach Messenger, the device sends a default message to the emergency response service with details about your location, you can reply to the confirmation message from the emergency response service.
Your reply lets the emergency response service know that you are capable of interacting with them during the rescue. If you do not reply, the emergency response service will still initiate a rescue.
TIP: You can also initiate an SOS rescue and interact with the Garmin® IERCC (International Emergency Response Coordination Center) using the Garmin Messenger™ app. You must have an active satellite subscription to use the SOS feature on the device or in the app.
Your Text Messages when sent via the Iridium Satellite network if you have no mobile connection will count off your Satellite message allowance, but what we really like about the new inReach messenger is that when it is paired with the new Garmin messenger app on your phone if when sending a text message from the app your phone does have mobile data the message will be sent this way rather than via the Iridium Satellite network thus keeping your satellite messages allowances unused, the same goes if you share the Garmin messenger app with friends and family so that they can message you via your Garmin Device, if you have mobile data the messages will come through this way,
If friends and family do message you via the Garmin messenger app and you do not have mobile date the incoming messages received via the Iridium network will come of your satellite message allowance, hence this new feature of the app only using the iridium satellite network when needed for your messages is a great way of keeping your Satellite messages allowance down.
Tracking function of your Garmin inReach Messenger
One of the great features of the Garmin inReach messenger is that you can setup within your inReach account something called Mapshare and then by sharing this MapShare web address with friends and family, when you start a trip you can notify friends and family with a Mapshare message and when they click on your Mapshare webpage link they will be able to see a breadcrumb trail of your movements across a detailed map once you start the tracking function on the device.
For tracking functionality we do tend to recommend the mid-priced subscription packages as 10 minute tracking points are included with no additional charges.
We are now going to look at the messaging and tracking functions of the Zoleo device
N.B. There is an app that works alongside the Zoleo device, to use all the messaging functions the Zoleo app needs to be installed on a mobile device and paired with the Zoleo device.
You can still send an SOS or check-in message directly from the device without a paired phone.
We are going to look at the three main types of messages that we can use on the device as follows:
Check-in messages – On the top of the Zoleo device is a Check-in button, holding this button in momentarily sends out a simple I am OK check-in message to up to 5 people, you setup in advance via your Zoleo account website page the 5 x people that you would like to receive the check-in message, the check-in message can also be set to display your longitude and latitude grid ref location with a link that the recipient can click on to view your location.
The check-in message can also be sent via the paired Zoleo App on mobile device.
N.B. If a check-in message is sent vis the iridium satellite network it will count of your satellite subscription allowance.
Text message – to send a text message via your Zoleo device you do need to have the Zoleo app on your mobile phone paired with the device, the app is very simple to use and allows you to select contacts directly from your phone to then type and send a message.
Unlike the Garmin inReach messenger for friends and family that you would like to be able to message you they do not need to install an app, when you activate your Zoleo device you are assigned a mobile number and an email address for the device, you can simply give these details to your friends and family for them use to send you messages.
SOS Message – by pressing and holding down the SOS button on your inReach Messenger, the device sends a default message to the emergency response service with details about your location.
When the Zoleo emergency response coordination partner receives your SOS alert, they’ll know the GPS coordinates of your ZOLEO device. They will confirm your alert and contact the appropriate authorities to dispatch help. With progressive SOS from ZOLEO, you’ll also receive step-by-step status updates throughout the incident via the ZOLEO app.
Using the ZOLEO app, you can message back and forth with the emergency response coordination partner to exchange updates until your emergency has been resolved.
Even if you’re using the ZOLEO communicator on its own, without the app, you’ll get confirmation that your SOS message was received (via the LEDs on the device). Which is great for peace of mind.
Your Check-in and Text Messages when sent via the Iridium Satellite network if you have no mobile connection will count off your Satellite message allowance, but what we really like about the new Zoleo device is also like the Garmin device it will use mobile date if it is available.
When the Zoleo is paired with the Zoleo app on your phone, when sending a Check-in or Text message from app, if your phone does have mobile data the message will be sent this way rather than via the Iridium Satellite network thus keeping your satellite messages allowances unused, the same goes if friends and family send a message to your Zoleo mobile number if you have mobile data the messages will come through this way.
If friends and family do message your Zoleo number and you do not have mobile date the incoming messages received via the Iridium network will come of your satellite message allowance, hence this new feature of the Zoleo app only using the iridium satellite network when needed for your messages is a great way of keeping your Satellite messages allowance down.
Location Share - for an add-on subscription of currently £4.50 a month you can share your location with your 5 x check-in contacts, you can select share intervals from every 6 minutes to 4 hours. Your 5 x check-in recipients will need to use the free ZOLEO app to view your current location and breadcrumb trail on a map.
This add-on subscription includes unlimited check-in and location share messages.
We are now going to look at the expected battery life of both devices
Starting with the Garmin inReach messenger, for such a small compact unit we have some very impressive battery figures, and we are looking forward to getting out and testing these to the full,
Garmin inReach messenger – manufacturers quoted battery life figures based on various tracking intervals:
Up to 6 days with a message or location sent every 2 minutes with full sky view; up to 3 days with moderate tree cover
Up to 28 days with a message or location sent every 10 minutes with full sky view; up to 14 days with moderate tree cover
Up to 46 days with a message or location sent every 30 minutes with full sky view; up to 23 days with moderate tree cover
Zoleo ZL1000 - manufacturers quoted battery life figure
200+hours checking messages every 12 minutes
This is the only figure Zoleo currently quote for the device, but as we start using the device ourselves more and more, we will have a better idea on the battery life based on other tracking intervals and will be able to advise further.
Devices costs and Subscription charges for both devices
Garmin inReach Messenger - Current price £249.99
Zoleo ZL1000 – Current price £209.99
We have some links below to the full subscription packages available for both the Garmin inReach Messenger and Zoleo ZL1000, with monthly subscriptions starting from £12,99 a month for the Garmin inReach Messenger and £18.00 per month for the Zoleo.
Our initial comparison below is for what we feel are the two closest matched packages from both manufacturers, based on what we personally feel would work best if you wanted the devices not just for the SOS and messages but for family and friends to be able to track you breadcrumb trail.
The choices will be personal depending on how each individual would like to use the device but hopefully this will give you a good idea on how they compare.
Garmin inReach Recreation Package – Annual contract
Monthly cost £24.99
Activation Fee £29.99
Summary of main features
SOS : Unlimited
Text Messages : 40
Pre-set Messages : Unlimited
Tracking intervals : Minimum of every 10 minutes
Additional Messages : £0.50 per additional message over the limit of 40
Zoleo Basic Plan + Location Share + Add-on – Minimum term 3 months
Monthly cost £18.00 + £4.50 Location Share+ Add-on
Activation Fee £23.00
Summary of main features
SOS : Unlimited
Text Messages : 25
Check-in : Unlimited with Location share Add-on for £4.50 a month
Tracking intervals : Minimum of every 6 minutes
Additional Messages : £0.55 per additional message over the limit of 25
Garmin inReach Messenger – link to complete choice of subscription charges here
Zoleo ZL1000 – link to complete choice of subscription charges here
We think both devices are a great edition to our range of two satellite communicators, it will often come down to personal choice and features that you may not or do require as well as costs to your preference of unit.
Our initial thoughts are as follows:
Garmin inReach Messenger - £40.00 higher cost over the Zoleo but has more stand-alone features that can be used without the need for the phone to be paired, the bigger battery life will appeal to customers going of grid for a much longer period. The lightest and most compact of the two units for someone wanting to travel light on long treks.
If using for mainly SOS safety backup and check-in messages without using the live tracking the inReach messenger has a very competitive monthly cost starting from £12.99.
If you do go for one of the mid-priced subscriptions starting at £24.99 a month and then use tracking mapshare function this can be shared with unlimited friends and family where-as the Zoleo currently only allows 5 x people using the free Zoleo app to see your tracking although this may change.
Zoleo ZL1000 - £40.00 cheaper but do loose some of the standalone functionality but some customers may prefer the more simplistic use without the extra features, although less battery life 200+ hours will suffice a lot of customers. Very simple approach to simple one button check-in, although for the check-in function to be used at more regular intervals we do recommend the £4.50 Location Share subscription add-on which gives unlimited Check-in Messages.
The Zoleo is the easiest unit to share between family members with a very simple unpair and repair to the app we out any need for login to accounts etc.
1 Active Garmin inReach or Zoleo satellite subscriptions are required to use the SOS and messaging functions for both devices. Some jurisdictions regulate or prohibit the use of satellite communications devices. It is a user’s responsibility to know and follow all applicable laws in the jurisdictions where the device is intended to be used