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Backpacker Magazine – Gear Guide 2013

Editors' Choice 2013: Garmin fenix

Stay found and stay fit with this best-in-class GPS watch.

by: The Backpacker Editors

Garmin fenix (Ben Fullerton)
Garmin fenix (Ben Fullerton)

Finally, a GPS watch that really nails performance and ease-of-use for backcountry navigation, elevation, and fitness tracking. The heart-rate-strap-compatible fenix wowed our testers with accurate readings, reliable posthike data, and intuitive interfaces—all with more personalization and better data integration than other watches in the category. One editor purposely skipped the manual, yet in less than 10 minutes determined how to drop waypoints, save tracks, and set up custom display fields. Another says, “Mapping is as easy as one click—no multiple menus to scroll—you just push the big red button to mark a POI. During a ride or run, the easy-browse screen makes it simple to track calories, heart rate, and other stats.”

After a hike, uploading data is a no-fuss process via Bluetooth or with the included USB cable. Garmin’s free BaseCamp software features standard editing and exporting tools that make saving and sharing trips a snap. Compared side-by-side with standalone GPS units and smartphone apps, the fenix’s accuracy was often more precise, with fewer track dropouts or misplaced waypoints—pretty amazing for a watch. A few tips: Exploit the battery-saving options on overnights. We averaged eight hours of battery life during hardcore navigation use, but stretched it to a full weekend by turning off the HR monitor and recording limited tracks. Fits large wrists best. Extras: HR monitor ($60) and an external temperature/barometer sensor ($30). $450; 3 oz.; garmin.com



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