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Is a Garmin Foretrex going to do the job?
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Alessandra Bisi

Locale: Playa del Carmen, QR, Mexico
Is a Garmin Foretrex going to do the job? on 05/28/2014 17:56:09 MDT Print View

Hi. Me again. I must be famous on this website by now! :-P

So I went through every single one of the discussions I have initiated, but I still have a few questions playing in my mind, so I thought I'd ask them, hoping not to tick anybody off (Cameron aside of course...).
Time is ticking and I need to start making decisions... :-)

I'm going to post them on this forum's category one by one (they are only 4 really).

Are the Garmin Foretrex models good enough to:

.Display position

.Do point-to-point navigation

.Do route navigation

.Detect temperatures

.Record a track-log (NOT my main need this though, to be honest)


And are they better than a watch GPS?

Edited by AlexBambifluff on 05/28/2014 18:13:35 MDT.

Cameron Habib
(camhabib) - F
Re: on 05/28/2014 18:05:25 MDT Print View

Despite having never used one, a 28 second look over the Garmin site (who would have thought to look there) would indicate that, no, there is no thermometer, you can't load maps, you can add waypoints, and you can trace (imagine what you could learn if you even did something wild YouTubed a video of one in action).

Alessandra Bisi

Locale: Playa del Carmen, QR, Mexico
Re: Re on 05/28/2014 18:16:01 MDT Print View

I don't need to do that, cause I have got someone like you who knows everything, who will give me all the answers I need! Thanks!!

Cameron Habib
(camhabib) - F
Re: on 05/28/2014 18:19:01 MDT Print View

Apparently that old saying "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime" never really took into consideration someone who just can't learn to fish.

Andrew Stow
(AndyS) - F - MLife

Locale: Midwest USA
LMGTFY on 05/28/2014 18:21:24 MDT Print View

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Is a Garmin Foretrex going to do the job? on 05/28/2014 18:46:14 MDT Print View

A large hand-held GPS is always better than a small watch-sized GPS for 2 reasons: much better signal due to the much larger antenna, and much better battery life due to larger batteries.


Albert C.
(Albsthehiker) - F
I have a Foretrex on 05/28/2014 19:04:01 MDT Print View

I currently use a Foretrex 301. I love mine.

That being said, if there are any Foretrex users feel free to correct me, but these are my opinions about the Foretrex.

In regards to your original inquiry, I do not believe that either of the 301 or 401 Foretrex models would fit your needs. The screen is too small and not detailed enough for effective navigation. The advertised point to point navigation is almost non-existent and I believe to be misleading. The 401 model does track temperature, but I personally feel that the feature is unnecessary.

Spending nearly 2 months shopping for a GPS device that would fit my needs, I choose my Foretrex because I only needed a GPS that could accurately display my current position (in UTM) and used AAA batteries (My cell phone was too unreliable).

For my needs the Foretrex is perfect.

If I wanted anymore from my GPS, I dont think that Foretrex is a good choice.

EDIT: to answer question about maps

For nearly most of my navigation for personal and professional (I work as a outdoor guide for week long trips) I find that GPS devices cannot be solely relied upon. I have been mislead by them too many times. You've most likely research other individuals who have said this, but GPS...


I primarily rely on USGS Topo maps for both my personal and professional use. I understand that you may be out of the country and that accurate topo maps may not be easy to access. But I would not purchase a GPS hoping it to be a silver bullet for proper navigational tools such as a good map.

I have had no experience with watch GPS, but from my 2 month search for GPS devices, I found that most of them had severely limited battery life.

Edited by Albsthehiker on 05/28/2014 19:13:38 MDT.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Is a Garmin Foretrex going to do the job? on 05/28/2014 19:17:11 MDT Print View

Do you have a smartphone? In my opinion, the gps device on my smartphone is better than the dedicated gps devices. And it's multi-use. You can get phone chargers that run off regular batteries for recharging.

Alessandra Bisi

Locale: Playa del Carmen, QR, Mexico
Re: Re: Is a Garmin Foretrex going to do the job? on 05/28/2014 19:19:33 MDT Print View

Nope. No iphone, no ipad, no tv, no facebook account :-)

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Is a Garmin Foretrex going to do the job? on 05/28/2014 20:08:07 MDT Print View

>> .Display position
Yes, and you can select your coordinate system and projection (important to consider if you are transferring position locations from the GPS to a map)

>> .Do point-to-point navigation

>> .Do route navigation

>> .Detect temperatures
Not with the 301

>> .Record a track-log (NOT my main need this though, to be honest)

>> with PAPER MAPS?
I don't know what the question is...

And are they better than a watch GPS?
No, not if you are doing multi-day trips and plan on navigating with it.

Now, more importantly, with the Foretrex, what may not be obvious is that you can't "pan" on the little screen. So if you want to view points along a route, you can't zoom in and then pan along the route. This becomes frustrating when you have a lot of way-points stored because you have to zoom out to see them all and then they just show up as a blob because the screen is so small. When you zoom in, the more distant points will disappear from your screen and you can't pan to them. To follow a route you have to rely on the compass screen (map pointer) to tell you which way to walk... I don't like this, I like seeing the points I'm walking to.

My mapping GPS is much better for quick navigation reference but I still rely on my paper map because the screen on any GPS I've ever used is just too small for navigation. You can pan around on the mapping GPS's so that helps but the screens are still too small for any real navigation or route planning.

As far as the a smart phone goes, unless I just want to transfer my current location to a paper map, I wouldn't use one. The screens are hard to see in bright light, most aren't waterproof, so they have to be protected and even then they are fragile and the batteries die too quickly for serious (long term) navigation.

Alessandra Bisi

Locale: Playa del Carmen, QR, Mexico
Re: re: Is a Garmin Foretrex going to do the job? on 05/28/2014 20:12:21 MDT Print View

>> with PAPER MAPS?
I don't know what the question is...

As I will be using it with paper maps, not with digital maps.

Why are watch GPS better than Foretrex?

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Is a Garmin Foretrex going to do the job? on 05/28/2014 20:18:58 MDT Print View

Display position- It will display your coordinates and you must transfer them to a map to find out where you are.

Do point-to-point navigation- Probably can if you have a route or track preloaded with waypoints to head to. May take longer than with mapping gps.

Do route navigation- Yes you can if the route is preloaded. May take longer than with mapping gps.

Detect temperatures- Yes with foretrex 401..probably about as accurate as a watch therm...not very.

Record a track-log- Yes they can.

Edited by jshann on 05/28/2014 20:22:27 MDT.

Don Morris
(hikermor) - F
Foretrex and paper on 05/28/2014 20:19:02 MDT Print View

I have used a Foretrex with perfect satisfaction for years - in conjunction with paper maps. You will be going through batteries....Can you replace/recharge easily?

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Is a Garmin Foretrex going to do the job? on 05/29/2014 00:26:54 MDT Print View

I taught GPS classes for years and years starting in 1994.

First of all, any GPS receiver the size of a wristwatch or the size of a Foretrex has minimal GPS functions, so I would never use them for practical navigation except in an emergency. The displays are just too damned small, and they can't display much of a map except for the track log of where you have already gone. So, they they will work, and they will show you your GPS position and a few other basics, but they are more of a gadget and less of a practical tool. Also, as others have mentioned, the batteries in these gadgets are too small to sustain use for a long time. The GPS receivers that I use most often use either four AA batteries, two AA batteries, or two AAA batteries. Still, you are going to need a lot of batteries for a long time, so you want battery types that are either cheaply replaceable or quickly rechargeable, or else lithium primary batteries that will run for a long time.

Realistically and practically, you want a very good set of printed topographic maps and a compass. For backup, you can use a GPS receiver or a smart phone that has that built-in, and that is just to give you the coordinates of where you are when you are lost on the map. There are a few other devices, such as the inReach SE satellite communicator, and it has GPS built-in to show you your coordinates.

A thermometer function is irrelevant. You will know it is cold when you knock the ice off your tent.