Garmin GPSMap 66i

by Ray Blades | April 19, 2023
Garmin GPSMAP 66i

I wander and can get lost from time to time. What better way to keep me on track than by testing the Garmin GPSMap 66i.

What it is

With a quick search, you will find endless blog pages and hours of video on all the functionality of the 66i —  way more than we can cover here.

In a nutshell, it’s a merger of a GPS navigator with satellite communications and works in the most remote areas of the province or country outside of cell range. Some premium features require an inReach subscription for satellite functionality, but many applications can be used without it.

What we like

  • Look and feel: It’s a rugged unit with a big, bright screen that’s waterproof and built for hard use.
  • Battery life: With different mode options, Garmin claims you can get as many as 200 hours. My tests were impressive.
  • SOS function: In case of emergency, you can send an SOS message and location to the Garmin professional emergency response coordination centre. This could literally be a lifesaver.
  • Iridium satellite network: Full functionality is available when out of cell range.
  • inReach weather: This gives you the ability to get detailed weather forecasts for your location, waypoints, or destinations on your route.
  • Maps: It comes preloaded with topo maps, with the ability to overlay other map options.
  • Two-way messaging and location sharing. What’s not to like about that? And much more…

Reader review of the 66i

We gave the unit to OOD reader and avid GPS user Doug Bruce to take for a test spin. Here are his impressions:

As an enthusiastic geocacher in Sudbury owning two Garmin handhelds, including a GPSMAP 64sx, I was excited to learn OOD was planning a review of a 66i. I emailed the magazine for more info, and after several emails with the editorial team, they sent me the unit for my input.

At $829.99, the Garmin GPSMAP 66i is aimed at professionals and those who want peace of mind when out of cellphone range. This device operates off the Iridium satellite network, allowing you to send and receive text or email messages anywhere in the world. It has live location tracking, so you can share your location progress with friends and family. You can receive weather forecast updates. The GPSMAP 66i can send SOS alerts to a Garmin emergency response centre manned 24/7, anytime, globally.

Reader Testing Out The Garmin GPSMAP 66i

These messaging/SOS features require a subscription through Garmin.com, similar to a cellphone plan. You can choose a monthly plan that can be paused and reactivated as needed.

The screen is a bit bigger and higher resolution than on the MAP64 series. I found the display easy to read even in bright sun and snow. Boot up and satellite acquisition time was fast. The base map provided is also more advanced than previous devices, in colour and points of interest and street names here in Sudbury were shown. Navigating through the menus is easy via crisp push buttons. I prefer these over a touch-screen model. The internal lithium-ion battery is charged via a USB cord. Battery life provides as many as 35 hours or as much as 200 hours on expedition mode.

Avid geocaching

As an avid geocacher, I wanted to head out cache hunting. You can register this device at geocaching.com for ease of downloading caches. I did it manually. In the field, pulling up the cache on the device involved numerous attempts before I got the sequence right. Accuracy was, as expected from a Garmin, excellent. There is quite the learning curve with this device, and the 53-page downloadable owner’s manual is a must read.

Whether you are looking for peace of mind in the back country, or simply a fan of premium technology, the GPSMAP 66i is worth checking out. In telling friends of my test run with this device, the most asked questions were, “Do you get to keep it?”, “Do you have to send it back?” It was fun, but nope, and yes.

Ultra compact option

Garmin inReach Mini

If you already have a GPS unit and would just like to add the satellite functionality of inReach, check out Garmin’s new and very compact inReach Mini 2 (MSRP: $529.99)

GPSMAP 66i

www.garmin.com

MSRP: $829.99 Premium feature plans start at $11.95/month, and can be suspended any time.


Originally published in the April 2022 issue of Ontario OUT of DOORS

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Comments

  1. Real wrote: The device is good as a GPS and Sat communicator but the service plans turn me off. Monthly messages in a yearly plan that are not used should be rolled over to the next month.