A couple of weeks ago, I walked from Cannock Chase to Lichfield along the Heart of England Way. To navigate, I used a recent purchase, namely a Garmin Foretrex 401.
This unusual unit is a stripped down GPS unit with Barometric Barometer (and hence Altimeter) and proper compass.
There are no maps on the unit but you can follow a pre-loaded track with turn by turn notifications. On Cannock Chase, the unit worked fine apart from me putting un-charged batteries in it !
For a long event, the 401 has the added bonus of running on 2 AAA batteries. A slight problem with a long event is that the unit can only record 10,000 points. Recording every second gives 10,000 / 3600 or 2.8 hours. Luckily, the recording interval can be changed and there’s even a Smart mode which adjusts the interval depending on the activity / terrain.
I was getting on fine with this unit but started to yearn for more. After scouring the various websites and blogs I came across the Garmin Fenix 3 HR. I bought one from Go Outdoors as they had a sale on !!!
More like a conventional sports watch, the Fenix does all you’d expect from a running watch.
The Fenix also has similar navigation capabilities to the Foretrex.
Other extras include wrist based heart rate monitor, smart notifications, many different sports profiles of which running, trail running and walking will be quite useful.
The barometric altimeter and magnetic compass will be handy out in the wilds but the unit I got was faulty – showing me at 45,000 feet one minute and under the sea a few minutes later.
Checking the forums reveals this as a not uncommon problem for which, so far, there is no solution.
I contemplated returning it for a refund and getting something from another manufacturer, Suunto perhaps, but nothing came close to what I wanted. In the end, I went back to Go-Outdoors and swapped for a new unit.
Before leaving the store, I did a quick check and was relieved to find that Coventry is around 300 feet above sea level.
I ‘tracked’ my drive into work and was happy to see a decent altitude profile of the journey. Fingers crossed – I’ve got a good unit.