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How Frequently Should My inReach, ZOLEO, or Other Device Update My Location Automatically?

Jean-Stéfane (J.S.) Bergeron

June 19, 2024

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You can adjust the frequency of the location updates provided automatically by your inReach, ZOLEO or other device. But what update frequency should you set your device to?

While we do not require a specific location update frequency for our service, we recommend as frequent location updates as are practical for your adventure.

How Frequently Should My Device Update My Location?

Generally, the more frequently we receive location updates from your device, the more accurate and location-specific our alerts can be. Our service will send alerts to your device based on the most recent location we have received for your device as soon as an alert is issued, whether that location was updated a few minutes or an hour earlier.

However, the update frequency interval is a personal decision based on several factors that will vary significantly from one user to another.

How Quickly Are You Travelling?

The most important consideration for location update frequency is your speed of travel. Frequent location updates increase in importance based on your activity or mode of travel. The faster your travels, the more critical frequent location updates are as you may travel through several potential alert areas during a shorter time period.

If you’re riding two-track through the desert, the location provided an hour earlier may not allow you to receive an alert for flash flooding until it is too late.

Are You Optimizing Battery Life?

Another important consideration is the battery life of your device. More frequent location updates will generally consume more power to operate your device. For an older, compact device like in inReach Mini (1st generation) used by a hiker on an extended trip, frequent location updates may deplete your battery too quickly for their planned adventure, while for a larger device that is vehicle mounted and powered by the vehicle, battery life is much less of a consideration.

More recent devices, like a ZOLEO satellite communicator or inReach Mini 2, have significantly longer battery life than older devices. In addition, when a device can use your smartphone’s data connection instead of the satellite network to report its current location, this can extend your device’s battery life.

In contrast, conditions when your are travelling under dense tree cover or in a narrow canyon, your device’s satellite connection may be less reliable, leading to shorter battery life as your device attempts connecting to the satellite network repeatedly before a successful location update.

When Cost Is a Factor?

Cost is generally not a factor for location update frequency.

ZOLEO customers must subscribe to the Location Share + add-on plan to provide location updates and all location updates are included in the add-on service.

Location updates are free for Garmin inReach users on all subscriptions other than Basic or Safety plans. Garmin inReach Basic or Safety plan users pay $0.10 per location update. As a result, we generally recommend that Adiona Alert users have at least a Recreation or Advanced Garmin inReach subscription.

However, for some Garmin inReach users who only occasionally use their device with our service, a Basic or Safety plan may be suitable when used for short periods, with hourly location updates. For instance, a user who only expects to be on one or two day-hikes a month may choose to provide hourly location updates for a few to several hours, paying a dollar or two for the location updates instead of subscribing to a more expensive plan. It may be adequate and offer the peace of mind that some less active users need.

How Likely Is Severe Weather to Impact Your Day?

Probably the most important consideration when choosing a location-update frequency should be the potential for severe weather or other safety risks. More frequent location updates are advisable on days of very dynamic weather conditions, such as when there is a risk of severe thunderstorms or even tornados. Since the weather systems responsible for severe thunderstorms or tornados can have a narrow and specific path, more frequent location updates allow you to receive more accurate alerts as the weather forecasters monitors an evolving storm.

Thru-Hikers vs Adventure Motorcyclists

So, while a thru-hiker on a month-long adventure using an inReach Mini may elect to update their location only hourly, an adventure motorcyclist using an inReach GPSMAP 67i in a powered mount connected to his motorcycle battery should probably choose a short location-update frequency.

Of course, a thru-hiker using an inReach Mini should increase their location-update frequency on a day when a severe thunderstorm watch is issued early in the day so that they can get the most accurate and timely alerts as the day’s storms evolve in the afternoon or evening.

The Most Important Reason for Frequent Location Updates?

The most compelling reason for frequent location updates is your safety! Long interval between location updates not only limited the accuracy and timeliness of the alerts we provide you, but they limit the information available to your loved ones or rescuers in the event of “a bad day”.

Frequent location updates can save your life since your rescuers will know where to begin looking for you and have a better understanding of your travels before you missed a check-in or once you have triggered an SOS. Add to that the benefits of our service, and we can't recommend strongly enough that you use as frequent location-updates as practical for your adventure.

In short, if battery life is not a significant consideration or your adventures occur on a very active weather day, we always recommend the most frequent update interval possible. If battery life is an important consideration, we recommend considering bringing a way to charge your device for the duration of your adventure (e.g., a battery pack or a solar panel) and managing the frequency of your location updates based on your assessment of the risk you are managing.

Updated: June 21, 2024

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