Adventure Tech: The Garmin Fenix GPS Watch

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The battle for technology on your wrist has just gotten a bit more interesting. Over the past year or so, the Sunnto Ambit has been the darling of the outdoor community, offering adventurers a host of functionality, including GPS technology, in a stylish and rugged watch. But Garmin, one of the leaders in both GPS and outdoor timepieces, hasn’t exactly been sitting on their laurels. Today the company has officially announced the newest addition to its line-up, the fenix watch, which looks to be an outstanding product designed specifically for the outdoor market.

As you’ve no doubt already guessed, GPS functionality is at the heart of the fenix. Garmin promises simple and easy to use, “hands-free” navigation no matter which direction the watch is facing or how thick the forest canopy overhead. Navigational tools allow users to not only mark waypoints (Up to 1000!) along their route but also download trails from their computer, while a built in tracklog plots the course and provides an easy “trackback” option to get you safely back to the trailhead.

In addition to the typical watch functionality that we’d all expect he fenix also includes an altimeter, barometer and 3-axis compass, all of which come in handy when hiking and backpacking, particularly in the mountains. It contains a database of sunrise and sunset times based on location, keeps track of distance traveled and elevation changes, and is waterproof down to 50 meters (165 ft).

 If all of that isn’t enough, the fenix also has the capability to wirelessly connect to other devices to extend its capabilities even further. For instance, it can be paired with an external temperature cage to get more accurate weather readings. Runners will have the option to add a heart monitor to track performance more closely and the watch will even be able to interact with “compatible” smartphones to share data as well. If I had to guess which phones will be compatible, I’d say iPhone and Android, although I haven’t seen that confirmed anywhere as of yet.

As with all GPS devices, battery life is key to performance. The fenix comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that is rated for 16-50 hours in GPS mode, which is to say when the GPS featues are activated. Sensor mode, which is when the watch is configured to work with external devices, will net you a battery life of about 3 weeks, while watch mode doubles that to 6 weeks.

The fenix is available for pre-order now with a $399.99 price tag. That puts it squarely in the same market as GPS enabled watches from competitors and is fairly reasonable considering the tech they’ve got packed in here. It is expected to start shipping in August.

I’m looking forward to checking the fenix out while at Outdoor Retailer next month. I’m sure Garmin will have it prominently displayed in their booth and I’d love a watch like this not only for travel but for daily runs and bike rides. If I get my hands on a review unit I’ll be sure to share some thoughts.

Kraig Becker