DeLorme device navigates to top industry honor

Yarmouth-based DeLorme’s new two-way satellite communicator has received a prestigious 2012 Backpacker magazine Editor’s Choice Award, the company said Tuesday.

DeLorme’s inReach device is one of only 13 products to get such an award this year, the company said.

I wrote about DeLorme’s inReach last year — it’s a very cool way for people to stay in touch with civilization when they’re in the backest of back country.

Chip Noble, a product and design manager at DeLorme, displays the award-winning inReach device.

Chip Noble, a product and design manager at DeLorme, displays the award-winning inReach device.

According to a DeLorme release, the awards go to products that Backpacker editors have chosen “as the best of the year based on months of trail testing by teams of highly experienced hikers and climbers.”

“No other magazine or website conducts in-depth field-testing as vigorously or impartially as the crew led by Gear Editor Kristin Hostetter,” said Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Dorn in the release. “The results are reviews that lead consumers to smart, durable products that consistently prove their worth with years of best-in-class performance.”

The inReach is essentially a bridge between either a DeLorme PN-60w GPS device or an Android phone and the Iridium satellite network. Using the inReach to connect to Iridium, users can send text messages of up to 160 characters. But the real advancement is that they also can receive messages of up to 160 characters — two-way communication.

This is the first time such capability has been offered at the consumer level, according to DeLorme.

In its product review, Backpacker called inReach a “game changer.”

“The two-way text messaging enabled me to maintain a running dialogue with friends and family,” said editor-in-chief Dorn, who had first-hand experience with inReach during recent trips to the Andes and Tetons.

“We are delighted to be honored for innovation by such an esteemed publication,” said Jim Skillings, DeLorme VP for commercial products. “This award is a further validation of how important this product is to outdoor enthusiasts.”

Last year, the inReach was given a “Best of What’s New” award by Popular Science in the recreation category. Each year, the magazine lists 100 such devices.

For the over 30-year-old DeLorme, the inReach represents the continuing evolution of leveraging extensive mapping technology in new markets. The company started in 1976 with topographic map books, evolved into computerized maps, GPS systems and, most recently, the combination of maps, GPS and messaging. Today, the company employs about 120 people.

The inReach also marks the company’s first real foray into a recurring monthly revenue model where it’s selling a product that also generates user fees each month. The inReach costs $249.95. But there is a monthly fee to have the capability to connect to the satellite. The basic “safety” level is $10 a month and allows for 10 messages a month. The “recreation” plan is $25 a month and allows for 40 messages and unlimited tracking of a user on a website. The “expedition” level is $50 a month allows for 125 messages a month and tracking.