By Chris Andrews

June 21, 2024

Garmin inReach Mini 2 vs Zoleo

garmin inreach mini 2 feature
Zoleo satellite messenger features

Choosing the optimal satellite communication device is crucial for anyone venturing into remote areas. Two leading contenders in the market are the Garmin InReach Mini 2 and the Zolio. These devices are vital for ensuring your safety by providing reliable SOS and communication capabilities.

The InReach Mini 2 is the lighter option, weighing just 100 grams, while the Zolio tips the scales at 150 grams. Although the InReach Mini 2 might have slightly less water resistance, both are robust and built to last through challenging conditions. Beyond weight and durability, battery life and charging methods also set these devices apart. The InReach Mini 2, with its efficient battery, can last between seven to eight days, outperforming the Zolio’s six to seven days of battery life.

Our satellite messenger comparison aims to help give more information on the pros and cons of each device.

Key Takeaways

The InReach Mini 2 is lighter and has a longer battery life than the Zolio

Both devices offer SOS and satellite communication but the InReach Mini 2 has on-device messaging

Subscription plans for the InReach Mini 2 are generally more cost-effective.

Device Specifications

Weight Comparison

The Garmin InReach Mini 2 is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a lightweight option, weighing in at just 100 grams. On the other hand, the Zolio is slightly heavier, tipping the scales at 150 grams. This makes the Zolio 50% heavier than the InReach Mini 2, a significant consideration for those who prioritize ultralight gear.

Size and Durability

Both devices are built to withstand the elements with dust and water resistance ratings. The Zolio can handle being submerged in water up to 1.5 meters for 30 minutes, while the Garmin InReach Mini 2 can go to a depth of 1 meter for the same duration. This slight advantage in water resistance might not matter much unless you plan to use your device underwater. In terms of size, the Zolio is a bit bulkier compared to the more compact InReach Mini 2, affecting portability.

Battery Life and Charging

When it comes to battery life, the Garmin InReach Mini 2 outperforms the Zolio despite having a smaller battery. The InReach Mini 2 features a 950 milliamp-hour battery that can last seven to eight days with regular use, including Bluetooth connection and messaging. Meanwhile, the Zolio, with its larger 1400 milliamp-hour battery, lasts about six to seven days under similar conditions.

Charging methods also differ between the two devices. The Garmin InReach Mini 2 uses a USB-C port, allowing for faster charging times and higher power input. The Zolio uses a Micro-USB port, which charges more slowly. For thru-hikers and those on the move, the quicker charging Garmin InReach Mini 2 may be more convenient and efficient.

Connectivity and Communication

Satellite Network Access

Both Garmin inReach Mini 2 and Zolio connect to the Iridium satellite network. This network ensures global coverage for both messaging and emergency SOS services. The inReach Mini 2 features a built-in screen, enabling you to send messages directly from the device. This feature is essential if your phone battery dies while you are out in the wilderness.

FeatureGarmin inReach Mini 2Zolio
Direct MessagingYes, from deviceNo, requires phone connection
Device-Only FunctionalityYesNo

Moreover, inReach Mini 2 includes navigation capabilities without needing to sync with your phone. Zolio, on the other hand, requires a phone connection for most of its functions.

SOS Service Connection

SOS capabilities are critical for preppers and outdoor enthusiasts, especially since SOS devices for preppers is a key consideration for disaster scenarios.

Both devices connect to the same emergency response service, ensuring that your SOS signal reaches the required authorities promptly.

With the inReach Mini 2, you can initiate an SOS and communicate directly with rescue teams from the device itself. This feature allows you to provide information on your situation and receive guidance without needing a phone connection. In contrast, Zolio requires a tethered phone connection to maintain two-way communication during an emergency.

The convenience of screen-touch functionality on the inReach Mini 2 grants it an advantage in dire situations, ensuring that you remain connected even when your cell phone is unavailable or no longer functional.

Messaging Features

Device Independence

When you’re out in the wild, the last thing you want to worry about is being glued to your phone. With the Garmin inReach Mini 2, you can send messages directly from the device, thanks to its built-in screen. This means even if your smartphone runs out of battery, you can still communicate. On the other hand, the Zolio requires a connection to a cell phone for most of its functions. While it can still send an SOS or check-in message on its own, you’ll need your phone for more complex tasks.

Two-Way Messaging

Two-way messaging is crucial for effective communication during emergencies. The inReach Mini 2 offers seamless two-way communication, allowing you to send and receive messages without needing a phone. This feature can be a lifesaver if your phone dies or gets wet. The Zolio, while it supports two-way communication, depends heavily on its connection to your phone. This could be a disadvantage in critical situations where your phone is unavailable.

Standard Messages

Both devices come with plans that include a certain number of two-way messages per month. A standout feature of the Garmin inReach Mini 2 is the unlimited preset messages. You can set up three simple presets, such as start of day, end of day, and random check-ins to keep your loved ones updated without using up your messages. This is especially handy for long trips where message quota is a concern. The Zolio also integrates well with wi-fi and cellular networks, thus saving on your satellite message quota when within reach of those networks. However, it doesn’t offer the same level of unlimited preset messaging that Garmin provides.

Navigation Capabilities

GPS and Satellite Systems

You need reliable GPS for your outdoor adventures. The Garmin inReach Mini 2 and the ZOLEO offer robust GPS services, but there are differences. The inReach Mini 2 connects to four satellite systems: GPS, Galileo, QZSS, and Beidou. This variety can provide better accuracy in various environments. The ZOLEO, on the other hand, connects to two systems: GPS and GLONASS. Both devices aim to keep you accurately informed about your location, but the inReach offers a bit more precision.

navigating without a smartphone

Navigation without a Smartphone

Being able to navigate without relying on a smartphone is crucial for many preppers. The Garmin inReach Mini 2 excels here. You can upload routes and follow a breadcrumb trail directly on the inReach Mini 2. This device also includes a reliable digital compass, making it easier to find your way. The ZOLEO requires a connection to your smartphone for most navigation features. If your phone battery runs out or your phone gets damaged, the inReach Mini 2 continues to offer navigation solutions, while the ZOLEO’s capabilities become limited.

Weather Forecasting

Weather forecasting is a crucial feature of satellite communication devices like the Garmin inReach Mini 2 and the ZOLEO. With these tools, you can get weather updates even when you’re deep in the wilderness, away from cellular service.

Both devices offer weather forecasts through their respective apps. For the inReach Mini 2, you can get weather information directly on the device or view it via the Garmin Explore app when paired with your phone. On the other hand, the ZOLEO requires you to check the weather through its mobile app.

Here’s a quick comparison:

FeatureGarmin inReach Mini 2ZOLEO
Weather ViewingOn device and appApp only
Internet ConnectionSatellite onlyWi-Fi, Cellular, Satellite


Zoleo satellite messenger weather forecasts

The ability to get accurate weather forecasts can be a lifesaver on extended trips. Use this feature to stay ahead of storms and make informed decisions about your outdoor activities. Checking the weather regularly can help you avoid dangerous situations and plan your adventures more safely.

Subscription Plans and Costs

Comparison of Monthly Plans

Both the Garmin inReach Mini 2 and ZOLEO require monthly subscription plans for their satellite communication services, including messaging and SOS.

Garmin inReach Mini 2 Plans

Garmin offers several plans that cater to different needs. Here’s a simple look at what you get:

Plan NameMonthly CostIncluded MessagesAdditional Message CostAnnual Subscription Cost
Safety Plan$14.9510$0.50 per message$174
Recreation Plan$34.95UnlimitedN/A$420
Expedition Plan$64.95UnlimitedN/A$780
  • Safety Plan: This basic plan costs $14.95 per month and includes 10 messages. Extra messages cost $0.50 each.
  • Recreation Plan: Priced at $34.95 per month, this plan includes unlimited messaging, making it suitable for regular users.
  • Expedition Plan: At $64.95 monthly, this plan provides unlimited messaging and is ideal for extensive use.


ZOLEO also offers a range of plans tailored to different needs:

Plan NameMonthly CostIncluded MessagesAdditional Message CostAnnual Subscription Cost
Basic Plan$2025$0.50 per message$240
InTouch Plan$35UnlimitedN/A$420
Unlimited Plan$50UnlimitedN/A$600
  • Basic Plan: Costs $20 per month and includes 25 messages. Additional messages are $0.50 each.
  • InTouch Plan: For $35 per month, you get unlimited messaging for those who need frequent communication.
  • Unlimited Plan: At $50 per month, this plan offers unlimited messaging and is suitable for heavy users.

Garmin’s and ZOLEO’s plans allow for flexibility, with some differences in messaging limits and pricing. Garmin’s annual subscription costs can be more budget-friendly especially with the Safety Plan, while ZOLEO offers a slightly higher upfront cost for more messages in the basic plan. Choose the best plan based on your communication needs and usage frequency.

Final Thoughts

When choosing between the Garmin inReach Mini 2 and the Zoleo, weight and size play an important role. The inReach Mini 2 weighs just 100 grams, making it lighter than the Zoleo’s 150 grams. For ultra-light gear lovers, this might be a deciding factor in this satellite communicator comparison.

Both devices boast water and dust resistance; however, the Zoleo has a slightly better rating, capable of withstanding 1.5 meters underwater for up to 30 minutes. The inReach Mini 2, slightly behind, can handle 1 meter for the same duration.

Battery life is another key consideration. Even though the Zoleo has a larger battery (1400 mAh compared to the inReach Mini 2’s 950 mAh), the inReach Mini 2 offers longer real-world battery life (7-8 days compared to Zoleo’s 6-7 days).

In terms of charging, the inReach Mini 2 uses USB-C, allowing faster and more efficient charging. In contrast, the Zoleo relies on a slower micro-USB connection.

Both devices utilize the Iridium satellite network for SOS and communication services, providing reliable and comparable performance for emergency situations.

The inReach Mini 2’s screen provides significant functionality, enabling the sending of messages directly from the device, a standalone feature absent in the Zoleo, which requires connection to a mobile phone for most operations.

When it comes to navigation, the inReach Mini 2 connects to four satellite constellations (GPS, Galileo, QZSS, BeiDou), whereas the Zoleo connects to just two (GPS and GLONASS). This difference might affect the accuracy of navigation; the inReach Mini 2 holds an advantage here.

In messaging capabilities, the Zoleo excels with an intuitive app and seamless connection. While the inReach Mini 2’s app experience has improved, it still may not match the flawless performance of the Zoleo.

Cost is another consideration. The inReach Mini 2 is priced at $400, while the Zoleo is more affordable at $200. Despite the higher upfront cost, inReach Mini 2’s subscription plans are often cheaper, potentially leading to cost savings over time.

Ultimately, your choice may come down to weight, battery life, standalone functionality, and cost. Both devices offer reliable communication and essential SOS features, keeping you connected and safe in the backcountry.

garmin inreach mini 2 feature
Zoleo satellite messenger features


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Chris Andrews

About the author

Hi, I'm Chris and these days I love nothing more than spending quality time with my son outdoors. As an army cadet in the 80s I was given a real insight into how to look after myself and those around me in unfamiliar environments. No huts, no tents, just survival rations for food and ponchos for makeshift shelter. This started a drive within me to be able to take care of myself and, nowadays, my family in any eventuality.

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