You might be asking, what is Search and Rescue Insurance and why would I need it. When I first signed up for my Garmin Satellite Communicator device, I was offered this plan and had the same question.
[UPDATED] Recently the offered GEOS SAR Insurance has been acquired by Garmin and the services are now all available on the Garmin website. Similar service, different provider. However, these two services were working in parallel anyways.
SAR Event and Costs
The Garmin Search and Rescue insurance policy covers essentially that -- search and rescue costs. If you have a problem outdoors, getting you back to safety can be expensive. This policy offers an insurance policy for those costs with a number of asterisks. T
Search and Rescue (SAR) Insurance plans offer financial reimbursement for qualified search and rescue related expenses incurred during the rescue of the individual covered by the plan. SAR insurance coverage requires the use of a Garmin Response supported device with an active subscription to report an emergency that warrants search and rescue to Garmin Response. Reimbursement coverage is based on the selected SAR plan. https://www.iercc.com/en-US/supported-devices/
About Garmin SARs Insurance
The coverage is what you would expect and reasonable for the recreational user. While there are some 'High Risk' plans, for the average outdoors person, the coverage is straightforward. For example, the plan calls out a number of 'High Risk' activities, fortunately, we only have one from that list (heli-snowboarding).
What does SAR High Risk cover that SAR 100 doesn't?
Both SAR High Risk and SAR 100 include $100,000 USD in coverage, but SAR High Risk does not have any excluded activities. SAR 100 excluded activities include: BASE jumping, cliff diving, sole free diving, fly-by-wire, free climbing (without ropes); hang gliding, paragliding, heli-skiing & heli-snowboarding, wingsuit flying, mountain climbing - (with intent to go above 5,000m), skydiving (including skysurfing).
For additional information, there are a number of links available.
GARMIN FAQs: Garmin SAR Insurance Plans - Frequently Asked Questions
SUPPORTED DEVICES: IERCC Supported Devices
As of November 2022, the following are listed as approved devices and applications.
CELLULAR DEVICES & APPLICATIONS
How Does the SARs Insurance Work?
So essentially, if something happens and you need to call for Search and Rescue assistance, this policy provides coverage (with a few limitations - like don't go hiking in a war zone).
You might have never considered this before, and neither had I at the time, but the average SAR can cost somewhere around $1,000. If there is a helicopter involved, upwards of $4,000-5,000. There have been a handful of cases where costs were upwards of $100,000 - but those were extreme situations.
Image courtesy of the-journel.com
Options for Assistance with Search and Rescue
It's hard to say if you need SAR insurance coverage, we're all different and we all have different experience levels and types of adventures that we take. But it's worth asking yourself the question if you ever might be in a situation that might require you to need recovery (and how expensive that could be).
When I started to venture into our National Park for fly fishing on the weekends, I immediately purchased the Garmin InReach Explorer+. But that was mainly due to adventuring into the backcountry with large boulders, water, and no cellular coverage and perhaps feeling a bit uncomfortable about the alone part. It made sense to me.
If you frequent heavily trafficked trails with low risk for recovery needs (no mountains, probably won't need ropes, backboards, etc) then you might say to yourself, I am not that type of hiker. Once I started to venture into remote areas, traveled out West for fly fishing expeditions, and found I spent quite a bit of time nowhere near basic medical services - it made sense to consider the SAR policy.
Fast forward to today, we still take trips into remote areas and look for trails that are lightly populated. I drive a Jeep, so it sometimes includes a trail on an unmanaged road to get there. It's a different risk profile and warranted the extra layer of security for us. I would encourage you to look at the types of trips and treks and adventures that you take and determine if this is something for you.
But, in order to gain coverage:
Handheld: You need a device like the Garmin inReach® Satellite Communication | Garmin | United States to signal SOS for help, which is a button on the side of the device
Subscriptions: You'll have to pay a monthly subscription for the handheld and an annual subscription for the GEOS SAR Insurance policy
All in, it's around $500 per year for both the subscription and coverage ($35 per month for the handheld with the NEW Garmin GEOS plan costing $39.95 - the old plan was $30).
Previous GEOS Policies [OLD POLICY]
New Garmin GEO Policy
It's great to know that this type of service is available and even better to make the decision for yourself if you'd want to go this route. Maybe, maybe not. Whatever it is, be safe out there, and happy hiking!