Everything was going good…and then it wasn’t. 

A few weeks back, I extolled the virtues of Garmin’s inReach Mini 2 GPS, in which I proclaimed it to be the one piece of powersports gear you should never leave home without. Whether you’re riding a motorcycle, snowmobile, ATV, driving a UTV, or out anywhere in the backcountry where service is spotty, it should be attached to your person. 

Hand on heart, I didn’t think I’d have to put it to the test so soon after hitting "Publish." But I’m here writing this story because of it.

It all started like so many other days. I’d just picked up a pre-production snowmobile and went for a late afternoon rip in the backcountry. I know the area well, having hunted and ridden all manner of dirtbikes and motorcycles, as well as driven our family’s Can-Am Maverick X3 through on numerous occasions. It's my home turf. So I felt comfortable going alone for what I felt would be a quick, two-hour trek.

I'd grab some content for our social channels (please like and subscribe) and be back well before dinner. And like I said above, everything was going great. In fact, it was awesome. I was the only person back there, having fields and mountains all to myself. I could go fast, go slow, and grab a ton of stuff for later use all without having anyone else’s two-stroke snowmobile yapping in the background.

It was a stunning day. 

Garmin inReach Mini 2 Stranded story

But as I made my way deeper, I heard a beep come from the sled’s infotainment screen and an “Engine Overheat” warning began blarring on the dash. I pulled over, shut the sled down, and decided to wait 15 minutes to see if it cooled off. “That’s odd,” I recall saying to myself, as I hadn’t pushed the snowmobile super hard, and had taken frequent breaks to stop and shoot video and photos, plus admire the astounding beauty around me. 

Yet, after the stop, the temp hadn’t gone down and as soon as I started turning the sled back toward my truck some 13 miles away, it went from “Engine Overheat” to puking every ounce of coolant it had within its systems.

The realization of me being stranded and the isolation I’d loved just an hour or so before quickly became “Oh shit, I’m actually alone.”

 
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After dragging the broken sled off the road—I didn’t know if I’d have to leave it overnight and didn't want someone ripping hard to crash into it—I relaxed, had a quick drink of water and opened my inReach Mini 2's iPhone app. Sure, my phone didn’t have service, but my Garmin had satellites. And so I texted my wife and started what would become a late-night rescue/retrieval. 

Like I said, I was 13 miles from my truck. I was at 10,000 feet in the mountains, the sun was dipping quickly below the horizon, and though my gear was well-insulated—full review on it coming soon—that’s a helluva hike when temperatures were starting to drop below freezing and darkness was upon me. There are also bears and lions in the surrounding forest.

For many, it could’ve been a death sentence, or at least something that may have caused frostbite. I didn’t suffer either because I had my Garmin. 

Not only was I in constant communication with my wife and rescuers, but I had my longitude and latitude, I had my elevation, and every other data point to help folks find me and the sled. The whole thing worked so well, I was able to relax, wait, and eat a peanut butter and jelly I’d packed in my Klim backpack. And around 7:30 pm, four fellow snowmobilers from my neighborhood found me and the sled just a little over an hour and a half after I’d made that first text.

Peter, Tom, John, and Nick—my rescuers—I can't thank you all enough. These four guys' fast response was a godsend and my apologies to their wives, as they were heading out the door to go to dinner but dropped everything to come get me.

And not only did they pick me up, but they helped me tow the sled back to my truck and got it into the bed by helping me push the damn thing up the ramp.

I owe them a case of beer each. Probably more.  

Garmin inReach Mini 2 Stranded story

Now, as much as the Garmin saved my bacon, here’s also where I admit I was stupid and say tell you something both my wife and rescuers reiterated to me; don’t ever ride alone. Things can go sideways real quick, as occurs every single year with snowmobilers. Peter, the man responsible for assembling my search party, is also part of the local Search and Rescue group and told me of a story of a guy breaking his femur and having to be carried out of a cornice just to get to a trail and get out of the woods.

And I can't help but think of Ken Block’s unfortunate passing last year, too. 

Though a quick rip is something I’ve done hundreds of times, that hubris is how you get hurt or killed. Always ride with a buddy. I know that’s my rule going forward in addition to having my Garmin. 

And that’s the story. I’ll probably have more to say in the coming days and weeks, but I wouldn’t be here right now without my Garmin inReach Mini 2. It’s the most vital piece of gear you could own if you do any sort of backcountry wilderness riding, hiking, hunting, or driving. Just bite the bullet and get one, cause it could literally save your life. 

Mine did. 

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