Garmin vs Zoleo: In-Depth Comparison for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Garmin vs Zoleo

In the realm of satellite communicators, two major players have emerged as top contenders: Garmin and ZOLEO.

These devices provide a vital lifeline for outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers who often find themselves in remote locations without access to traditional cell service.

As technology continues to evolve, these companies have developed and improved upon their respective satellite messengers to provide reliable communication systems for those venturing off the beaten path.

Garmin, known for their GPS technologies, dominates the market with products like the inReach Messenger and inReach Mini 2. On the other hand, ZOLEO offers a more budget-friendly Satellite Messenger, catering to a wider audience.

Both brands boast durable, waterproof devices designed to withstand harsh environments.

With varying features and service plans, each satellite communicator caters to different user needs, making it crucial for individuals to weigh their options carefully before deciding on the right device for their needs.

Garmin and Zoleo Overview

Garmin inReach® Messenger Handheld Satellite Communicator, Global Two-Way Messaging
ZOLEO Satellite Communicator – Two-Way Global SMS Text Messenger & Email, Emergency SOS Alerting, Check-in & GPS Location – Android iOS Smartphone Accessory

Garmin’s Background

Garmin is a well-known global company that specializes in GPS technology and outdoor electronics.

Founded in 1989 by Gary Burrell and Min Kao, the company has grown significantly over the years and now offers a wide variety of products, including fitness trackers, smartwatches, and satellite communicators.

Among their offerings is the popular inReach series, which allows users to send and receive messages, navigate, track their location, and trigger an SOS in case of emergency, even in remote areas without cellular coverage.

Take a look – Garmin Instinct vs Forerunner Comparison

Zoleo’s Background

Zoleo Inc., on the other hand, is a relatively new player in the satellite communication market.

Established in 2018, Zoleo is a joint venture between Iridium Communications and Roadpost Inc., aiming to provide affordable and reliable satellite communication solutions for outdoor enthusiasts, adventurers, and remote workers.

Their flagship product, the ZOLEO Satellite Communicator, is designed to offer seamless global messaging and SOS capabilities through a user’s smartphone, making it an excellent option for those who require off-the-grid communication in challenging environments.

Despite being a newcomer, Zoleo has gained impressive traction in the industry, thanks to its robust device and versatile features.

Both Garmin’s inReach series and Zoleo’s Satellite Communicator have proven to be reliable options for outdoor adventurers, each with unique aspects to consider when choosing the right device for your needs.

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Product Offerings

Garmin’s Satellite Communication Devices

Garmin offers several satellite communication devices that cater to various needs of outdoor adventurers. One of the most popular devices is the Garmin inReach Mini 2.

Garmin inReach Mini 2, Lightweight and Compact Satellite Communicator, Hiking Handheld, Black
  • Compact, lightweight satellite communicator enables two-way messaging and interactive SOS globally (Active satellite subscription required. Some jurisdictions regulate or prohibit the use of satellite communication devices.)
  • Navigate back to where you started by using TracBack routing
  • Share your location with loved ones back home at any time (active satellite subscription required) by using your MapShare page or with your coordinates embedded in your messages
  • Get accurate heading information using the digital compass — even when you’re not moving
  • Sync with the Garmin Explore app and website on your compatible smartphone for trip planning and topographical mapping, and create waypoints, courses, activities and collections you can sync to your device

This compact, lightweight device offers GPS navigation, tracking, and communication features. It has an IPX7 waterproof rating, meaning it can be submerged in up to three feet of water for 30 minutes without damage.

Some Garmin devices also come preloaded with Garmin TOPO mapping, Birdseye Satellite Imagery downloads, or coastal charts, providing users with valuable resources during their travels.

Key features of Garmin inReach Mini 2:

  • GPS navigation and tracking
  • 24/7 emergency SOS message coordination with Garmin IERCC
  • IPX7 waterproof rating
  • Preloaded mapping (depending on the device)

Zoleo’s Satellite Communication Devices

Zoleo is another brand that offers reliable satellite communication devices for outdoor enthusiasts. The main offering from Zoleo is the ZOLEO Satellite Communicator.

ZOLEO Satellite Communicator – Two-Way Global SMS Text Messenger & Email, Emergency SOS Alerting, Check-in & GPS Location – Android iOS Smartphone Accessory
  • 🌎ZOLEO GLOBAL TWO-WAY SATELLITE COMMUNICATOR: Rugged, GPS location-aware and Iridium satellite based, the ZOLEO device links with the free ZOLEO app on your smartphone to keep you connected when outside cell coverage. Monthly subscription required: $20, $35 or $50 (25, 250 or unlimited satellite messages) with unlimited check-in, SOS, cell and Wi-Fi messages included. After the initial 3-month commitment, suspend for just $4/mo. Plans available in USA, Canada, Australia, EU but work globally.
  • ✉️GLOBAL MESSAGING AS IT WAS MEANT TO BE: ZOLEO extends your messaging coverage to everywhere on earth transmitting over the lowest cost network available (satellite, cellular or Wi-Fi). ZOLEO offers a familiar text messaging experience to and from any SMS text number, email address or another ZOLEO app user. By taking advantage of cellular or Wi-Fi when available and the Iridium network (a truly global satellite network) when it isn’t, ZOLEO offers seamless coverage wherever you go!
  • 📲DEDICATED SMS PHONE NUMBER & EMAIL ADDRESS: Your assigned ZOLEO SMS number and email address allows your contacts to initiate messaging with you, as opposed to them waiting to receive a message from you to which they can reply.
  • 🆘EMERGENCY ALERTING & MEDICAL ASSIST: If something goes wrong, declaring an SOS ensures your SOS alert and GPS coordinates are sent to the expert 24/7 emergency monitoring service. Your ZOLEO service also includes Medical Assist, a convenient 24/7 chat service for non-emergency medical advice, help locating medical services or replacing medical supplies.
  • ✅CHECK-IN & LOCATION SHARING: Check in to let others know you’re OK (using built-in device button or the ZOLEO app) and share your GPS location via messages, check-ins, automated Location Share+ updates or through a secure Share Map URL. Location Share+ (add-on at $6/mo) allows for automatic location sharing at a selected interval and includes a breadcrumb trail viewable on a map.

This device offers a unique tri-network communication system that utilizes Wi-Fi, cellular data, and satellites to stay connected no matter where users are located.

Additionally, ZOLEO has an IP68 waterproof rating, allowing it to survive in up to five feet of water.

Key features of ZOLEO Satellite Communicator:

  • Tri-network communication (Wi-Fi, cellular data, and satellite)
  • Location Share+ tracking feature
  • IP68 waterproof rating
  • 24/7 emergency SOS messaging

Both Garmin and Zoleo offer reliable satellite communication devices suitable for various outdoor adventures.

Each brand has its strengths and unique features that appeal to different users’ preferences and requirements. By understanding these offerings, adventurers can make informed decisions in choosing the most suitable device for their needs.

Key Features Comparison

In this section, we will compare the key features of Garmin’s inReach Mini 2 and Zoleo satellite messengers, focusing on their connectivity options, ease of use, battery life, durability, and emergency features.

Connectivity Options

Garmin’s inReach Mini 2 and Zoleo satellite messengers use the Iridium satellite network, providing global coverage and reliable communication in remote and challenging environments.

Both devices require a subscription to access the satellite network, offering various plan options depending on the user’s needs.

ZOLEO Cradle Kit Accessory Including 3 Inserts – Belt Clip, Strap Infill Connector and Camera Tripod Mount
  • The ZOLEO Cradle Kit is designed to keep your ZOLEO satellite communicator conveniently within reach wherever you go. The main cradle secures and locks your ZOLEO device in place when used with any included insert (to remove or swap any insert, first remove the ZOLEO device from the main cradle). Cradle dimension: 2.93 x 3.74 x 1.09 in. Cradle weight: 0.10 oz. INCLUDES:
  • BELT CLIP INSERT: Secures your ZOLEO device to be worn on a belt. Weight: 0.07 oz.
  • STRAP INFILL CONNECTOR: Secures your ZOLEO device flat against a backpack or other installations using a strap or tether. Simply slip the strap through the insert (fit straps up to 1 inch wide). Weight: 0.03 oz.
  • CAMERA TRIPOD MOUNT: Secures your ZOLEO device to any universal camera mount. Ideal for use with other RAM mounts and other accessories with a camera mount. Weight: 0.05 oz.
  • OEM: Manufactured by ZOLEO Inc. and designed specifically for the ZOLEO satellite communicator.

Ease of Use

The Garmin inReach Mini 2 has a display measuring 0.9 x 0.9 inches with a resolution of 176 x 176 pixels, featuring a sunlight-readable, monochrome, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) screen.

The device has a straightforward user interface, allowing users to send messages, track their location, and access various features efficiently.

Zoleo, on the other hand, relies on a smartphone or tablet to access its full functionality via a dedicated app.

This design choice makes it simpler for users to type messages and manage contacts, as they can use a familiar touchscreen interface.

Battery Life

The inReach Mini 2’s battery life lasts up to 14 days, making it suitable for extended trips in remote areas.

Battery performance can vary depending on usage, settings, and environmental factors, but the device offers users multiple power-saving options to maximize battery life.

Zoleo’s battery life has not been explicitly mentioned in the search results.


Both the Garmin inReach Mini 2 and Zoleo are shock-resistant and waterproof.

The inReach Mini 2 has an IPX7 rating, which means it can withstand being submerged in three feet of water for 30 minutes.

Zoleo has an IP68 rating – slightly higher than the Garmin device – allowing it to survive in five feet of water for a longer duration.

Emergency Features

Both devices offer emergency features that allow users to send an SOS message in case of a crisis.

They also provide two-way communication with search and rescue teams for rapid and efficient assistance.

While the Garmin inReach Mini 2 has additional navigational features, such as waypoints and courses, both devices prioritize safety and communication in outdoor environments.

Subscription and Pricing

When comparing Garmin and ZOLEO satellite communicators, one crucial aspect to consider is their subscription plans and pricing.

Users will have to choose a suitable plan that offers the required features and fits their budget.

Garmin’s Pricing Plans

Garmin inReach® Messenger Handheld Satellite Communicator, Global Two-Way Messaging
  • Small, rugged, lightweight satellite communicator enables two-way text messaging even in areas with no cell coverage (Active satellite subscription required. Some jurisdictions regulate or prohibit the use of satellite communication devices)
  • Send two-way messages globally; easily text back and forth directly with friends via the Garmin Messenger app, even when you’re out of cellular coverage. (Active satellite subscription required. Some jurisdictions regulate or prohibit the use of satellite communication devices.)
  • Group messaging via the Garmin Messenger smartphone app lets you share your adventures with multiple contacts simultaneously — and have group text chats with friends and family
  • Check in with contacts directly by using preset messages that do not count toward your allotted text messages (Active satellite subscription required. Some jurisdictions regulate or prohibit the use of satellite communication devices)
  • Share your GPS location (Active satellite subscription required. Some jurisdictions regulate or prohibit the use of satellite communication devices)

Garmin offers a range of flexible subscription plans for their inReach devices.

There are two categories of plans available:

  • Annual/contract plans: These are 12-month plans that come with lower monthly fees but require a one-year commitment. There are three tiers to choose from: Safety, Recreation, and Expedition.
  • Freedom plans: These plans are month-to-month, with no annual commitment required. The available tiers are Safety, Recreation, and Expedition, just like the annual plans. Users can switch between plans or pause their subscription as needed.

It is essential to review each plan’s features before making a decision, as each tier offers different message allowances and tracking intervals.

Additionally, Garmin charges a one-time activation fee upon signing up for a subscription.

ZOLEO’s Pricing Plans

ZOLEO follows a similar subscription structure with three available tiered plans: Safety, In Touch, and Unlimited.

Here’s a brief overview of these plans:

  • Safety Plan: Provides the basic satellite messaging service, with a limited number of messages, free Check-In messages, and unlimited SOS alerts.
  • In Touch Plan: This plan caters to users who want the added advantage of tracking service, with a more generous message allowance and tracking intervals.
  • Unlimited Plan: As the name suggests, this plan offers unlimited satellite messaging, free Check-Ins, and unlimited SOS alerts for users with intensive communication needs.

ZOLEO also has a Location Share+ add-on, which is similar to Garmin’s inReach MapShare feature. Like Garmin, ZOLEO requires a one-time activation fee when signing up for their service.

When comparing Garmin and ZOLEO in terms of subscription and pricing, it is crucial to consider one’s communication and tracking needs and assess the overall value provided by each plan.

Real-World Applications

Outdoor Activities

Garmin and Zoleo satellite messengers provide a reliable way to stay connected during various outdoor activities like hiking, backpacking, and camping.

They offer essential features, such as GPS tracking, two-way messaging, and SOS buttons to ensure your safety and provide peace of mind while you explore the wilderness.

Both devices use the Iridium satellite network, ensuring excellent coverage and faster message delivery.

Global Travel

When traveling internationally, staying connected with friends, family, and even emergency services becomes more critical.

getgear Case for ZOLEO Satellite Communicator, Designed case with Size and Shape Matching, Black case Contrasted with Green Zip
  • Perfect fit: getgear Case designed for ZOLEO Satellite Communicator
  • Designed case: all in one case with matching green zipper color, good for home storage and travel carrying
  • Protection: Semi-hard carrying case protecting the device from shock, shake, scratch. PEVA materials with pressure or hit absorbing and water resistant
  • User friendly design: Strong compact light weight case with mesh pocket for the cord, charger and other small carrying on items, elastics secure strap in the base to avoid drop of the ZOLEO Satellite Communicator
  • uarantee: 100% satisfaction guarantee and refundable with quality problem. For sales the protective case only, exclusive the Device or accessories.

Garmin and Zoleo satellite messengers are suitable for global travelers, as the Iridium satellite network provides coverage in remote locations.

These devices offer a convenient way to stay updated with weather forecasts, share your location, and communicate with others when cellular service is unreliable or unavailable.

Maritime Communications

Ensuring constant communication in marine environments is crucial for safety and coordination.

The Iridium satellite network used by Garmin and Zoleo devices provides excellent coverage over open waters, making them suitable for maritime applications such as sailing and other water-based adventures.

In addition to GPS tracking and two-way messaging, these devices offer weather updates and SOS features, which are invaluable during maritime emergencies.

Emergency Preparedness

Emergencies can happen anywhere, and being prepared is essential. Garmin and Zoleo satellite messengers can serve as integral components of your emergency preparedness kit.

With their SOS buttons, they can alert emergency services and provide your GPS location during critical situations.

These devices also enable two-way communication, allowing you to receive important updates and share your emergency status with loved ones.

Being able to access weather forecasts can help you avoid potentially dangerous situations while in the great outdoors.

Customer Reviews and Ratings

Customer reviews for both Garmin and Zoleo satellite communicators suggest a high level of satisfaction with the performance and features of both devices. Many users are pleased with their respective reliability and ease of use.

Garmin inReach Mini 2 has received positive reviews for its compact design, lightweight nature, and reliable messaging capabilities.

Some users have praised its IPX7 waterproof rating, which allows the device to be submerged in three feet of water for 30 minutes.

However, a few users have reported minor difficulties with the smartphone app and found the monthly subscription plans to be a little costly.

Zoleo also has several satisfied customers who appreciated its IP68 rating, meaning the device can survive in five feet of water for a longer duration.

The Zoleo Satellite Communicator is noted for its dependable emergency and non-emergency messaging features. Its portability and size, similar to a smartphone or pack of cigarettes, are applauded by hikers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

In terms of ratings, both Garmin inReach Mini 2 and Zoleo Satellite Communicator fare well in professional comparison reviews.

In a review conducted by GearLab, Zoleo scored an overall score of 75 and ranked #4 out of 11 in the best satellite messengers of 2023. The test covered aspects such as signal coverage, ease of use, emergency messaging, non-emergency messaging, and portability.

While the exact score and ranking of Garmin inReach Mini 2 were not shared in the search results, it was mentioned as the “most feature-rich satellite messenger” by GearJunkie, indicating it is a top choice in the market.

In conclusion, both Garmin and Zoleo have received positive feedback from customers, highlighting their durability, messaging capabilities, and portability. Although their unique qualities might appeal to different users depending on their needs, both devices have proven to be reliable and efficient in keeping people connected, even in remote locations.


In comparing the Garmin InReach Mini 2 and ZOLEO satellite communicators, it’s evident that both devices have their strengths and are suitable for various use cases.

Garmin InReach Mini 2 boasts an IPX7 waterproof rating, allowing it to be submerged in three feet of water for 30 minutes, while ZOLEO has a higher IP68 rating, meaning it can survive in five feet of water.

Garmin inReach® Messenger Handheld Satellite Communicator, Global Two-Way Messaging
ZOLEO Satellite Communicator – Two-Way Global SMS Text Messenger & Email, Emergency SOS Alerting, Check-in & GPS Location – Android iOS Smartphone Accessory

This difference in water resistance suggests ZOLEO might be a better option for users who expect frequent contact with water during their adventures. Battery life and message transmission speed also seem to favor ZOLEO, as users have reported longer battery life and faster messaging with this device.

In terms of pricing and messaging plans, ZOLEO appears to offer more cost-effective options, with more messages available in its Safety (25) and In Touch (250) plan tiers compared to Garmin’s Safety (10) and Recreation (40) tiers. This difference in messaging allotments might make ZOLEO more attractive to users who prioritize communication and weather updates over other features.

The ZOLEO Satellite Communicator has taken the top spot in several reviews, edging out the popular Garmin InReach Mini 2. With a price point $200 less—half the cost of the Garmin—it’s an appealing choice for budget-conscious adventurers. However, each user should weigh the pros and cons of both devices based on their specific needs and preferences before making a final decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which device has better coverage: Garmin or Zoleo?

Garmin and Zoleo devices both provide global coverage, but they work on different satellite networks. Garmin devices use the Iridium satellite network, while Zoleo devices connect to Globalstar and Iridium satellites. Both networks have their strengths and limitations, so the best coverage for you depends on your location and communication needs.

How do subscription plans compare between Garmin and Zoleo?

Subscription plans for Garmin and Zoleo devices vary based on the features and services offered. Garmin offers multiple subscription levels with different usage allowances and billing options, including both monthly and annual plans. Zoleo has a more straightforward subscription model with options like monthly and seasonal plans. It’s essential to consider your usage and needs when comparing subscription plans for both providers.

Is battery life better in Garmin or Zoleo devices?

Battery life can vary significantly depending on the device model and usage. Garmin inReach Mini 2 has an estimated battery life of up to 90 hours with 10-minute tracking intervals, while Zoleo Satellite Communicator’s battery life is approximately 200+ hours with 12-minute location updates. Individual usage patterns, such as message frequency, could impact the battery life of each device.

Which device offers more reliable messaging: Garmin or Zoleo?

Both Garmin and Zoleo devices are designed to provide reliable messaging in remote areas. However, each device might perform differently depending on factors like signal strength, satellite reception, and device firmware. While there may be slight differences in messaging performance between the devices, both Garmin and Zoleo are generally regarded as reliable options for satellite communication.

Do Garmin and Zoleo differ in terms of emergency features?

Garmin and Zoleo devices both offer SOS and emergency features. They both provide 24/7 global emergency response coordination by sending your SOS message to a professional monitoring center. The main differences lie in the user interface and ease of access to the SOS button on each device.

What are the main differences in device size and weight between Garmin and Zoleo?

The Garmin inReach Mini 2 is compact and lightweight, weighing only about 3.5 ounces (99 grams) and measuring 2.0” x 3.9” x 1.0”. The Zoleo Satellite Communicator is slightly larger and heavier at approximately 5.3 ounces (150 grams) and measuring 3.6” x 2.6” x 1.3”. The choice between these two primarily depends on personal preferences and how much importance you place on device size and weight when carrying or using them on your adventures.

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