Garmin GPSMAP 66i – I like it A great GPS

Garmin GPSMAP 66i - I like it. The battery is still 3/4 full being on for over 9 hours
Garmin GPSMAP 66i
The battery is still 3/4 full after being on for more than 9 hours

Bye bye the 64S. Hello the 66i

Garmin GPSMAP 66i – I like it. Why ? A while back in 2017 I wrote about the Garmin 64s that I had but wasn’t really happy about some of the workings on it. https://bit.ly/3mKzs7W even if it did get better with updates after a rather long wait.

INREACH. Yes this is good

This year 2020 I bought the Garmin Inreach 66i model. Basically the same as the 64s, with most of my gripes with the 64s corrected. It also has Inreach capabilities. Now what the hell is that?

In a nutshell. Inreach means that the device is capable of calling for help (‘calling’ not vocal like a telephone. It sends a ‘I need help message’ when you push a certain button. This works even when there is no telephone network available as it uses satellite coverage. Believe me, no telephone coverage is still quite often, In three treks I found myself in a area with no telephone GSM at all.

I’ll try very briefly to explain but there are lots about in on the web and better written than me.

Last year while out trekking I got caught out in an area with no telephone network what so ever. Yes yes this does exist and so I couldn’t get hold of my wife just to say, all okay, no problems, tent up, etc. Of course if I had hurt myself, fallen down, broken a bone etc, well then that would have been a real problem. No telephone network. No way of calling for assistance. My last three treks, I have seen places with no network.

So I decided on the Garmin Inreach 66i. It’s quite expensive to purchase. Over 500 euros plus the cost of the Inreach ‘plan’. This plan is not obligatoire but needed for the Inreach option. It can be bought and used only when you are out and about. A purchase option, month by month.

INREACH. Not that expensive

Inreach subscription costs. Once a year, about 50 euros. A per month subscription, (three different plans to choose from concerning the monthly subscription). The cheapest starting from around 20, 40 or 75 per month. The monthly plans can be suspended when not being needed. I use the 40€ one as you can send a tracking position every 10 minutes free of charge, so that my wife and a friend can always see where I am.

In other words, if you use it twice a year for treks in two different months  where you want the Inreach capability, the cost would be the yearly cost + monthly + monthly, so not the end of the world

You can use the 66i without the Inreach capability. But for peace of mind especially if you go out alone like me, I feel it’s worth it. I actually used on several occasions. Set up camp only to find no telephone network. Impossible to contact my wife. With the 66i just sent out pre-recorded SMS message to my wife to say, all okay. Wife happy… so me too… 🙂 and the SMS is free of charge as it’s covered by the monthly abonnement.

When subscribed to Inreach, not only ‘call’ for help but also sent SMS messages, and also tracking details, so that somebody, in my case my wife and a mate can ‘see’ where you are at all times, while out walking. Very similar to LiveTrack on some Garmin watches like my Fenix 6x.

Better than the 64s

The 66i is basically the same as the 64s. It’s has a clunky interface, if you are used to Garmin older models like me, it’s not a real problem. But sometimes it’s a weird way of changing screen, getting into the settings etc. It does take getting used to.

The screen is slightly bigger than the 64s and is perfect for reading the GPX trace that I had recorded. When I go on a trek I always download the GPX trace to follow, just in case I need it.

The battery life was far better, last year, I had to charge it every night, this year I could have managed two days or three so that’s a big improvement. After many times using it. I have found that I use between 25 and 30% of the battery per day. This is following a GPX trace on it so looking at it quite often, also recording the trace and sending a ‘fix’ every 10 minutes.

I like it. Again it’s like the 64s but better and of course newer. It’s tough. I just hang it from my rucksack and let it dangle away, whatever the weather, it doesn’t care. Do add a screen protection film on it before you start using it though. For me there are loads of stuff that I’ll never use, best times for fishing, Geocaches etc.

GPX files, yes you can

You can upload, which I do very often, GPX traces to the 66i, so that you can follow them while out walking. Since 2020 I no longer use Basecamp as I’m now running Linux instead of Windows, (Garmin programs like BaseCamp on Linux are a no no) . I now use a program called QMapShack. This works just fine with the 66i. I create, read, modify a GPX track on the computer with QMapShack them upload to the 66i. Later when I’ve finished my walk which I’ve recorded on the 66i I then upload this to QMapShack. So not only can you upload a GPX file to the 66i, you can also record the walk and upload it to the computer. It woks both ways.

Garmin 66i and details of a trace that I uploaded to it.

Details of my latest trace that I uploaded to the 66i.
The trace and some waypoints that I had inserted

Installing free maps

If you want, like with my previous 64s you can install free maps.

https://garmin.opentopomap.org/ Is the address to download the files for your Garmin device. Download the files for the country you want and copy them directly onto your Garmin. Download the ‘Garmin’ and the ‘Garmin contours’. In my case France.

Download openstreet maps

Once the two files have been downloaded. Place them in the Garmin folder, in my case on the SD card. You can see I have installed Spanish maps as well.

Garmin 66i save the maps here

Now all you have to do is activate the maps using map setup in the settings menu. Choose the maps that you want to use. VoilĂ 

There’s a semi active forum on the 66i here https://bit.ly/3CGJFrn

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