Eight days backpacking with a DeLorme inReach SE
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Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Eight days backpacking with a DeLorme inReach SE on 05/11/2014 23:37:15 MDT Print View

I was worried about DeLorme inReach SE battery life for an 8-day trip with no resupply. Those worries were justified, but the story was more complicated than that.

Short version:

I can get about 6 days out of a fully charged inReach SE, with 10-minute tracking, sending or receiving 6 messages per day, running the device about 10 hours per day, without a paired smart phone, and enough power for an SOS message at the end.

Your experience very likely will be different.

-- Rex


I use the inReach SE as a standalone device when backpacking - no paired smart phone.

I used these settings to maximize battery life, except for tracking:
- Bluetooth: Off
- Message check interval: 20 minutes
- Ring until message is read: Off
- Display timer: 15 seconds
- Sounds - Mute All: On
- Tracking: 10 minutes (max battery life would be Off or 4 hours)
- Display brightness: 10%
This brightness is unusable in daylight, even in the shade. I turned brightness up and down each time I used it for the first few days. That took so much time and battery life, that I reset brightness to 75% and left it there.

General usage: Turn it on when I leave camp in the morning. Remember to turn on tracking, too. Send a preset "starting hike" message. On arrival at camp, send a preset "camped for the night" message, reply to one or two messages, then turn it off for the night.

I thought the battery would last 8 days based on linear extrapolation of day-hiking usage, so I didn't take an external battery pack or charger.

Daily notes:

-- April 6, 2014

Stored inReach SE inside the top of a silnylon tent stuff sack, which is carried vertical in a side pack pocket. Forgot to turn on tracking today. Annoyed that it goes to sleep so fast.

3 hours running time, no tracking.
6 messages sent or received.
100% battery at camp that evening.

-- April 7, 2014

Moved inReach SE to shoulder strap, easier to check for messages during the day.

8 hours running time, with tracking.
4 messages sent or received.

-- April 8, 2014

9 hours running time, with tracking.
5 messages sent or received.
76% battery at camp that evening.
24% of battery used over previous 2 days.

-- April 9, 2014

Forgot to turn on tracking on that morning leaving camp. Turned on tracking a couple hours later. When you power off the inReach SE and power it back on, you must turn on tracking again. The screen lock kicks in very quickly, which can waste time and power. I also wasted time and power changing brightness up and down from 10%, so set it at 75% brightness and left it there. Forgot and left it running about three hours after I got to camp that evening.

10 hours running time, with tracking.
5 messages sent or received.
56% battery at camp that evening.
20% of battery used that day.

-- April 10, 2014

Spent a long time trying to send messages that evening. Old inReach SE behavior: Start a new text message, select a Quick Text message (long messages you enter on explore.delorme.com web site, different from Preset messages), edit the Quick Text message, and send. New inReach SE behavior after recent firmware updates, discovered that evening after much cursoring/cursing: Must send a Quick Text message as a reply to an existing message, and the message is sent immediately, with no opportunity to edit. Cannot select Quick Text message starting from a new text message. I liked the old behavior MUCH better.

9 hours running time, with tracking.
5 messages sent or received.
43% battery at camp that evening.
10% of battery used that day.

-- April 11, 2014

Noticed screen getting scratched up, exposed on shoulder strap of pack. I plan to get a screen protector.

12 hours running time, with tracking.
8 messages sent or received.
23% battery at camp that evening.
20% of battery used that day.

-- April 12, 2014

At mid-day check, it says "Battery below 25%. Reduce casual messaging and turn off tracking to preserve SOS".

10 hours running time, with tracking.
5 messages sent or received.
11% battery at camp that evening.
12% of battery used that day.

-- April 13, 2014

Leaving camp: Turned it on without tracking, sent "starting hike" preset message. After 90 minutes, received three messages, and a 10% charge warning message. Turned it off, will turn it on again near the end of the trip today.

Plan to add Quick Reply messages, something like:
"Running out of power, turning off tracking."
"Running out of power, turning off device, except morning/evening checkin messages."
"Running out of power, turning off device, except for emergencies."

I turned it on near the end of the trip, and exchanged a few messages with my wife while waiting for pickup. After my wife picked me up, she expressed concern that I did not return her text messages quickly. She was expecting "normal" texting behavior, where the recipient replies as soon as a message arrives. I've never behaved like that, and probably never will on a backpacking trip. Before my next trip, we need to agree on how I will respond.

4 hours running time, no tracking.
8 messages sent or received.
7% battery at the end of the trip.
5% of battery used that day.

Trip usage summary:
8 days
58 hours with tracking
7 hours without tracking
46 messages sent or received
93% of battery used.

Edited by Rex on 05/11/2014 23:51:24 MDT.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Eight days backpacking with a DeLorme inReach SE on 05/11/2014 23:41:14 MDT Print View

[Edit: removed question]


Great information.

Thanks.

Edited by greg23 on 05/11/2014 23:46:21 MDT.

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Re: Re: Eight days backpacking with a DeLorme inReach SE on 05/11/2014 23:42:58 MDT Print View

Sorry, let me try again:

The battery life gauge read 7% at the end of the trip.
5% of the battery life was used that day.

I'll edit to clear the confusion.

-- Rex

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Eight days backpacking with a DeLorme inReach SE on 05/11/2014 23:58:50 MDT Print View

Rex - Thanks for posting your detailed trip experience with your inReach. Your results seem to verify what I had estimated with my use of the inReach on shorter trips. Certainly shows that real world usage of the inReach gets you far less than the 100 hours of usage claimed by Delorme.

I find it interesting that our usage pattern is similar in that I fought with the screen brightness (wanted to shut it off but ended up leaving it on), and have forgotten to turn on tracking quite often.

Certainly justifies the exhaustive quest for a light weight power supply that has been going on in your other inReach thread.

As for a screen protector... the solution I came up with was to buy an Invisible Shield screen protector for an iPad and custom cut a piece to fit my inReach. I've also managed to cut a piece for my iPhone, GPS and camera from the same iPad protector and still have a nice sized chunk left over.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Eight days backpacking with a DeLorme inReach SE on 05/12/2014 09:03:03 MDT Print View

Rex - thanks!

This also mirrors what I had with mine as well. I frequently forgot to turn on tracking...but I'm getting better as I've gotten used to having it with me. I really, really like looking at the maps I create when I get home :)

I've kept the screen at 50% and find that it works well enough...but the one time I needed to stretch it for 10 days without a charge I turned the tracking to every 4 hours (not a nice map at the end...), kept the screen at 10% (since after a while you pretty much know where the presets are...and if I were going to actually converse with someone with messages I generally did it in my tent at night so the 10% was fine for that).

But I'm one of the ones seriously thinking about what to do about charging during longer trips and I've pretty much convinced myself I need SOMETHING. Just haven't decided yet.

Suntastics 5s maybe????????? Too many decisions.

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
DeLorme inReach S on 05/12/2014 10:37:00 MDT Print View

Rex, your report was interesting, and rather thorough. In addition, it happens to be quite timely for me. Tomorrow night, our Boulder Lightpackers meet-up group will be discussing "Communications on the Trail." The main speaker will be our local DeLorme representative, who will do his presentation on the inReach SE. In addition, we will be discussing PLBs, the Spot system, ham radios, and satellite phones. Your initial field-test report will better equip me to ask decent questions of the DeLorme rep. Thanks for sharing your expertise.

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Re: DeLorme inReach S on 05/12/2014 10:45:54 MDT Print View

Gary,

These BPL articles and discussions might be useful for your meet-up:
Two-way Satellite Communications for Backpacking: Part 1 - Introduction
Two-way Satellite Communications for Backpacking: Part 2 - Satellite Phones
Two-way Satellite Communications for Backpacking: Part 3: Satellite Texting
DeLorme inReach SE announced, ships mid to late April

-- Rex

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Unpredictable battery life, or unreliable battery life indicator? on 05/12/2014 10:55:28 MDT Print View

If you look at my day-by-day battery life in the original post, you'll see some days that used over 20% of battery life, and some that used barely 10%, on very similar days. At the end of the first day, with several hours of "on" time (no tracking), and several messages exchanged, the inReach SE showed 100% battery life! This makes predicting battery life very difficult.

Either true battery drain varies dramatically with similar usage, or the battery life indicator is not very reliable. In my experience, most devices have unreliable battery life indicators, so I'm guessing that's the problem.

Now the engineers can explain why battery life indicators are unreliable.

-- Rex

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
BPL articles on 05/12/2014 11:27:23 MDT Print View

Actually, Rex, I will be taking copies of those to the meeting, and I will be paraphrasing your words extensively. A year ago, Ryan gave me the OK to photocopy the 3-part series for handouts to the group, but he didn't want any electronic versions floating around. No one wanted to pay for the photocopying, so I just suggested that people buy a BPL membership to get to your articles. Your contributions to BPL are impressive, Rex.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Unpredictable battery life, or unreliable battery life indicator? on 05/12/2014 12:01:34 MDT Print View

"Now the engineers can explain why battery life indicators are unreliable."

First of all, it is not acting like a battery life indicator. It is acting like a battery charge indicator, and that is approximated by it being a battery voltage indicator. Let's say the nominal voltage is supposed to be 3.7V. If you get it all charged up from a 5V source, then the battery might come up to 4.25V maximum. If your battery is fairly new and you gave it a good charge period, yours might come up to 4.3V.

Inside the circuit design, they probably set the "100%" point to be 4.25V, so you might have gotten a bit of overcharge in it. It might take a small amount of usage to settle that down to the 100% point. Once you got into the normal usage pattern for a few days, the battery drain was more consistent, so the percentage scale should have dropped more consistently.

I don't think that is a problem, is it?

I feel that the bottom end of the scale is much more important, because you really want to know when operation is going to fail from a dead battery. Besides, a dead battery state is kind of hard for the future life of a battery like this.

--B.G.--

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Re: Re: Unpredictable battery life, or unreliable battery life indicator? on 05/12/2014 22:42:34 MDT Print View

Once you got into the normal usage pattern for a few days, the battery drain was more consistent, so the percentage scale should have dropped more consistently.

I don't think that is a problem, is it?


Yes, that's a problem for me, for several reasons.

- Before this trip, I really tried to figure out how many days the inReach SE battery would last. I thought the battery would last 9 days, because I was mislead by the charge indicator. I was off by 3 days.

- Here are the daily "% battery charge used per hour" numbers from my trip, dropping the anomalous first and last days:

1.4% per hour (over two days)
2.0% per hour
1.1% per hour
1.7% per hour
1.2% per hour

That doesn't look consistent to me.

For the last half of the trip I was somewhat stressed over how long the battery would last, especially with the inconsistent charge usage. As it was, I had to turn off the inReach SE on the last day, which caused some communications problems.

If I had known all this before the trip, I could have tried reducing the tracking interval (with unpredictable results), or taken an external battery or charger.

I don't need more stress from electronics when I'm backpacking.

-- Rex

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Unpredictable battery life, or unreliable battery life indicator? on 05/12/2014 22:55:48 MDT Print View

Why did you think that the battery would last for nine days?

I can understand that if the device tries to send a message, but if it can't get an ACK from the satellite, then it will keep trying until it gets the ACK. That could use a little extra battery power. If you have open sky with a good constellation overhead, then it might get the message out on the first try. Or, there could have been some unusually high traffic passing through the satellites right then, and that could have slowed down the ACK.

I'm in a little different boat, because I expect to leave tracking off, so the whole thing will be powered down except for whatever few occasions when I decide to send a message, maybe once per day at most.

--B.G.--

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: Unpredictable battery life, or unreliable battery life indicator? on 05/12/2014 23:02:43 MDT Print View

I bet that inconsistency is consistent

Test it a couple times at home - leave it on, keep track of how long and what the battery percent indicator is at a number of points

You could come up with some conversion factors, like when it says 55%, it's really 50% (or whatever)

Or, just time it so the battery indicator will be 20% (or whatever) at the end. Then, if the indicator goes down faster the last couple days, the battery won't die.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Unpredictable battery life, or unreliable battery life indicator? on 05/12/2014 23:23:53 MDT Print View

Part of the problem is that we (as users) don't really know what is going on inside the device. I mean, we think we know what it is doing by displaying GPS coordinates, or what it is doing when it sends a message, or sends tracking, etc. But, we really don't know the internals. This thing might have to do some kind of internal maintenance on itself.

Jerry, as you suggest, we users need a lot more test data before we really know what we've got.

--B.G.--

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Unpredictable battery life, or unreliable battery life indicator? on 05/13/2014 22:57:02 MDT Print View

The "figure out" link I posted above explains the testing I did, and how I extrapolated to 9 days.

Quoting myself:
Note that realistic testing is challenging, because you must keep moving to keep the inReach SE awake.

So you must test by almost continuously moving for many hours at a time. Testing any black box in varying conditions is especially challenging.

All the more reason an accurate charge indicator would be very, very useful. Too bad the inReach SE doesn't have one.

-- Rex

Jim Milstein
(JimSubzero) - M

Locale: New Uraniborg CO
Recharging the SE in the Field on 07/07/2014 09:26:24 MDT Print View

I've experimented with portable recharging of the SE. Except for extremely long trips without resupply, solar PV charging is both much heavier and much less convenient. This leaves electro-chemical recharging, i.e., batteries.

There are two major styles of batteries (or rather cells): one-shot and rechargeable. The cells with some kind of lithium chemistry are the only ones worth considering for various reasons, including weight and power density.

I have used both kinds of chargers, the Energizer PP-3AAMC which uses 3 AA Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA cells, and the Miller ML102, which uses a single Panasonic NCR18650A rechargeable lithium cell. The Energizer device includes a very short USB micro-B pigtail. The Miller must be supplied a USB cable. With a stout 12" micro-B cable, the rechargeable setup weighs 92g, and the Energizer setup weighs 90g. The Energizer capacity (12.6 Wh) is a bit more than the Panasonic's (11.2 Wh), but both hold enough to double the SE's life (8.8 Wh). Three Ultimate Lithium AA cells weigh the same as one NCR18650A cell, 45g. The ML102 can charge devices at the full USB spec, 5V x 1A. I haven't measured the Energizer charger, but expect the same from it.

The ML102 is also used to recharge its 18650 cell, using the same cable, from any USB power source. It can do both at once, so it would work well with a USB PV panel. Having a battery between a PV panel and an Apple OS device avoids a lot of the charging orneriness they are known for. I carry an iPod Touch (88g) for navigation display, with GPS info Bluetoothed from the SE. A one gram tip adapter permits iPod recharge from the same chargers.

Unlike Rex, I take battery backup with me even on day trips. I think the 3 oz cost is worth it. The total weight of my navigation, communication, recharge, and photography gear is 13.3 oz.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Recharging the SE in the Field on 07/07/2014 11:59:13 MDT Print View

"The total weight of my navigation, communication, recharge, and photography gear is 13.3 oz."

Interesting. Perhaps you have posted the specific of this before but could you again. My inreach SE is 6.8 oz. If you Battery is 3 oz that doesn't leave much room for evenmost point ans shoot cameras.

I currently am working with Inreach SE (6.8 oz) turned off except for once a day, Busnell solar charger/battery pack (3.5 oz) , Lumix camera (4.3 oz) , usb to iphone/micro usb cable (0.6 oz), and this is already 15.5 even without the USB wall unit (0.8 oz) and the camera battery recharge unit (1.2 oz) I need to take with me on the JMT. Extra camera battery 0.6 oz extra too.

Also when I add it all up like that I feel like an ass taking my iphone as well. I should have stayed a Luddite. I have the small consolation that I would only take the camera and and and extra battery on a weekend trip. But on a weekend trip weight is irrelevant anyway, so very small consolation. :-(

Edited by millonas on 07/07/2014 12:02:00 MDT.

J R
(JRinGeorgia) - F
Lumix weight? on 07/07/2014 12:44:37 MDT Print View

Marko, what Lumix do you have? I have the ZS25 and it weights 6.84oz on my scale with the battery and wrist strap but no other accessories. For spare camera power I carry a few extra batteries and leave all the cords and chargers at home.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Recharging the SE in the Field on 07/07/2014 12:51:18 MDT Print View

"I should have stayed a Luddite."

There are still career opportunities for Luddites.

--B.G.--

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Lumix weight? on 07/07/2014 13:06:20 MDT Print View

"Marko, what Lumix do you have? "

I have the Lumix DMC-FH6:

http://www.amazon.com/Panasonic-Lumix-Digital-Camera-Optical/dp/B00728Z8U0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404760019&sr=8-1&keywords=Lumix+DMC-FH6

I bought it firstly for its weight. Distant second was the Leica Lens (I used a real Leica for many years) though I am pretty sure this thing is nothing like my summicron lenses. Also it was cheap - I am a klutz, and only more so when I'm fumbling for it because a bear just dashed across my path. I have it attached to a bungie lanyard, but I may still find a way to smash it.

Measured weight of 4.3 oz is with the battery in, BTW, and included wrist strap as well. Also with added anti-reflective protector on the LCD. This is BPL after all - I want to be precise.

Edited by millonas on 07/07/2014 13:32:54 MDT.