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Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS Review | SportAndOutdoorHQ.com

Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS Review

On our Garmin Foretrex 401 waterproof hiking GPS review, we will help you decide whether Foretrex 401 is a good fit for hiking. Or any other outdoor activity, for that matter!

Below, we’ll have a look at the features of 401, drawing parallels with other members of the Foretrex family. Let’s get started with our overview of 401’s advantages and features!

Features & Advantages Of Garmin Foretrex 401

Build and durability


As a mid-end model in the Foretrex line, Foretrex 401 offers middle-range quality and durability. It’s quite durable and tough, but we wouldn’t advise it for avid outdoorsmen. But, on the other hand, it’s far better than the low-end 101 or 201.

In terms of water resistance, Foretrex 401 is rated IPX7 – like all other members of the Foretrex family. If you didn’t know, IPX7 implies that the device will withstand exposure to water at depths down to 3.3 feet for up to 30 minutes. You definitely shouldn’t take this thing swimming, but it will survive splashes just fine.

Navigation

Navigation is why you would get something like Foretrex 401 in the first place, so let’s dwell in this section a little longer.

Here is what Foretrex 401 offers in the navigation department:

  • TracBack. TracBack allows you to return to the starting point of your journey. According to the Garmin documentation, this feature is based on a breadcrumb trail generated while you travel. TracBack chooses 30 most significant tracking points and guides you to the starting point. This is an insanely useful feature if you ever get lost.
  • Waypoints. Foretrex 401 allows you to save up to 500 waypoints/favorite spots/locations. This should be enough for most people, but we’d imagine that especially active travelers will quickly exceed this number. With that said, 500 is the most you can get in the Foretrex line, so you will have to work with it.
  • Routes. The 401 can save up to 20 routes, which is decent and probably again sufficient for most hikers or travelers. If you want more, you will have to go for higher-end Foretrex models – in 701, for example, the route limit is 50.
  • Track log. All devices in the Foretrex line can save up to 10,000 track points. These are the points that TracBack uses to help you find your way back. Foretrex 401 automatically stores points as you travel.
  • Garmin Basemap. This is a pre-programmed piece of software that offers worldwide shaded relief information, including international and state boundaries, highways, time zone info, oceans, rivers, and more.
  • Sight ‘N Go. This interesting feature allows you to more easily access locations that are within sight but not immediately accessible. While you are navigating to the point of interest, Sight ‘N Go will show you its direction, allowing you not to lose orientation.
  • GPS speed, distance, barometric altimeter, electronic compass, elevation, distance to destination, total ascent/descent, vertical speed, GPS coordinates, and other similar features.

In terms of overall accuracy, this Garmin hiking watch is solid. It’s way better than in 101 or 201 as well. All in all, its accuracy isn’t point-to-point as in the very best GPS units you can find, but it’s stable, consistent, and doesn’t seem to give weird jumps, like cheaper units do.

Clock features

Although Foretrex 401 is primarily aimed at navigation, it has some clock features as well. Among them are:

  • Time/date with GPS sync.
  • Alarm clock.
  • Timer.
  • Stopwatch.
  • Sunrise/sunset times.
  • Sun and moon information.
  • Hunt/fish calendar.

As you can see, Foretrex 401 has all the clock essentials one would need. With that, this device is pretty much a GPS watch!

Display & UI


Foretrex 401 sports a 1.6-inch black and white LCD. The display in this GPS unit isn’t the biggest in the Foretrex line – 701’s display is sized at 2 inches and is also color – but it’s pretty nice.

The UI is particularly good in Foretrex 401. The elements here are large and clear, and you can even customize what’s displayed on the LCD! You may create multiple pages too, each with its own arrangement of elements.

Downsides Of Garmin Foretrex 401

No GPS unit is perfect. In the case of Foretrex 401, we would like to point out 2 downsides – short battery life and non-rechargeable battery.

Short battery life


The battery life in this Garmin hiking watch is only 17 hours in GPS mode. For some perspective, the low-end 101 has a 15-hour runtime, while 601 or 701 reach a whopping 48 hours! For a mid-range Foretrex product, 17 hours isn’t that impressive.

Non-rechargeable battery


Foretrex 401 appears to not have any electric circuitry that would allow you to recharge the 2 internal AA batteries, even if you insert rechargeable ones. Though AA batteries are easy to find and replace, it would be nice if there was a way to recharge them while inside the GPS unit.

With that said, when hiking, just replacing the batteries with fresh ones can be easier than recharging. So although rechargeable batteries are common in modern GPS units, for the use cases of Foretrex 401, non-rechargeable batteries aren’t a huge downside.

Our Foretrex 401 Verdict

For the money, Garmin Foretrex 401 offers an excellent feature set. We would really want to see longer battery life in it, but since swapping AA batteries isn’t too difficult, this isn’t that big of an issue for hiking. 

What’s much more important is that you are getting navigation and timekeeping essentials along with a pretty rugged water-resistant build. 401 also fits quite nicely in the Foretrex line, offering good value for the money. For limited-budget hiking, Foretrex 401 is an excellent choice.

If you wonder how 401 compares to higher-end 601 or 701, then here’s how they mainly differ:

  • 601 provides Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity along with longer battery life.
  • 701 additionally offers the Applied Ballistic software as aiming aid for shooting.

You can find 601 for a little more money than 401, so if you do want its benefits, it may work out better for your hiking needs. As for Foretrex 701, it’s really expensive, but its aiming aid might be nice for some people.


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