I’m pretty old skool when it comes to heading into the hills, taking separate compass, altimeter and watch, all perfectly reliable but sometimes a pain to access and read.
So when I got the chance to slip the Garmin fēnix onto my wrist I jumped at the opportunity. It features a GPS navigator along with altimeter, barometer and compass in a lightweight and not too bulky package to provide you with hands-free access to vital information in mountain environments.
The sensors are self-calibrating so you don’t have to be constantly updating them and you can create and follow routes and mark up to 1,000 waypoints as well as storing up to 10,000 track points and sharing data wirelessly with other compatible Garmin GPS units and smartphones.
Additional useful features include a fully-functional watch (almost forgot about that…) and temperature sensor.
There are so many features on the fēnix that there isn’t room here to go through them all in detail, but here are the basics:
GPS - this records a track log, creating a GPS ‘bread crumb trail’ as you move. It also allows you to mark waypoints, such as your vehicle location, safety shelter, great viewpoints and other points of interest.
You can also use BaseCamp, Garmin’s free trip-planning software, to plan your route. That said I found the ‘Quick Start’ manual that comes with the watch far from easy to understand which means you have to download the full manual (as ever these days a manual isn’t provided) before you use the watch in the wild; and because operating the GPS is not especially intuitive (if you’re as thick as me) you’re probably initially going to have to use the unit in conjunction with the manual – somewhat irritating.
Wristwatch – as well as time this includes timer, stopwatch and world cock with settings for alarms, chimes and vibration alerts.
Altimeter - features automatic calibration, although you need to bear in mind that any altimeter may struggle with the constant and rapidly changing air pressures of our damp and windswept island.
Barometer - shows short-term changes in barometric air pressure to help you predict the weather.
Compass – the fēnix includes a 3-axis electronic compass that keeps your bearing in any position whether you're moving or not.
Performance features – there are lap and autolap functions and performance data such as distance, vertical speed and pace. The fēnix is also compatible with Garmin's optional heart rate monitor.
Temperature – this features ‘Tempe’, Garmin's new temperature sensor which gives you precise ambient temperature reading without the influence of body temperature so the temperature you’re reading is the air temperature rather than that of your wrist.
So, heaps of features that will be of use to all sorts of outdoor types all packes into a great looking watch; but at a price.