Do we need a Garmin InReach or Spot when we thru-hike the Enchantments ?

Bottom line: Yes, a satellite communicator or PLB of some kind is a great idea for your safety while day-hiking through the Enchantment Lakes, because there is virtually no cell service there.

You should expect to lose cell phone connection on your way out Icicle Road as you approach the Snow Lakes trailhead, and not find any connectivity again until you are headed back to Leavenworth at the end of the day hike. 

Helicopter hovering over the Enchantment Lakes Basin. PC: Joshua C.

Except for a few lucky spots for certain mobile carriers, there will be no cell coverage in the Enchantments anywhere along the trail. Considering that fact, there is practically zero chance of getting cell reception at the place where you become injured.

That means, to be safe and self-reliant, you would need to have a satellite communicator, personal locator beacon (PLB) or other means of calling for help. 

The Garmin InReach and Spot devices are the most popular. There also are several alternatives to the InReach. Look through the options and consider device cost, sign up fees, and monthly or annual plan costs.

Also take some time to research how these devices work when you press the SOS button — so you’ll know what to do and what to expect in case of a real emergency. 

And “real emergency” is the key phrase here, as in, life threatening. The SOS button will trigger a resource-intensive and possibly risky rescue effort on your behalf. SAR volunteers, Sheriff’s Departments and even the military are called out for SOS’s. Don’t use the big red button just because you’re exhausted or it’s getting dark. Poor planning, by itself, isn’t an emergency.

Generally speaking, mountain rescues take several hours to overnight. Be prepared. 

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