Garmin Foretrex 601 Review

The Garmin Foretrex 601 is the latest in the Foretrex line of GPS products that provides an easy-to-use device for tracking your hike or run. It combines the data recording features of a traditional sports watch with an integrated GPS receiver, allowing you to map out your path on its integrated digital compass and barometric altimeter. It is ideal for hiking, cycling, similar sports, and marine applications such as kayaking.

Garmin Foretrex 601 and Standard

The Garmin Foretrex 601 has many similarities to the previous generation of Foretrex 401s, including the exact 1.7″ x 1.7″ x .9″ dimensions, 6 oz weight, and robust plastic case covered in a simple form-fitting rubberized coating. It has the same 3.6 peak hour battery life for GPS tracking but upgraded to include backlighting for Garmin’s transflective 65K colour display. 

An encouraging upgrade is that the 601 is now directly compatible with Garmin’s QuickFit bands, widely available for purchase. Also noted is that Foretrex has gone to a flat magnetic charge cable, which Users can charge by plugging into the wall or being attached to your computer’s USB port.

With most devices, you need to calibrate their altimeters before going outside to best estimate your elevation change. The 601’s altimeter has a configurable calibration factor, so changing the offset is as easy as powering it on, pressing the up button till you see “CF” displayed, then entering in your calibration factor using the down key once. After that, you are good to go.

The most significant upgrade in the Foretrex 601 is its digital compass. With the Foretrex 401, once you turned off the GPS, it would only display your last direction, even if you knew where you were and were trying to navigate back to a trailhead or other point. One workaround I found was to use the barometric altimeter to factor in the pressure change as I moved, then use that to indicate my direction of travel. 

The 601, on the other hand, will display your current bearing along with your distance back to the last waypoint you created during GPS tracking. With this new feature, it is much easier to navigate your way back to your starting point.

I have been impressed with how accurate the Foretrex 601 has been in my testing thus far. Compared to other GPS devices I have used, including a smartphone and a Garmin handheld GPS, the readings from the Foretrex 601 have been dead nuts on, at least when acquiring satellites while outside.

The only time the readings haven’t matched up is if there is some interference, like moving buildings or other tall structures. This isn’t surprising for a device that doesn’t cost all that much compared to its competition.

Another handy feature that has been added to the 601 is waypoints. This is nice because it starts you off with two default locations, your home and work. This enables you to track where you are going, how long it will take to get there, what roads you should take, etc…

Once Back at the Office, I Told Belle About My Day

However, it doesn’t work out too well when you’re trying to track your route and find the waypoint’s location. I tried it with Google Earth and had difficulty finding my waypoints because of their small and low-resolution digital compass display.

Instead, I found it easier to use the USB cable to load all my waypoints onto BaseCamp, and then view the folder on my desktop and manually zoom in and out and click around to find each location.

Suppose you have been looking for a watch that can also provide GPS tracking, navigation, or other functions where accurate measurements are needed. In that case, I will give the Foretrex 601 a vital consideration. You can pick one up from Amazon for $189, the same price as the previous model (the 401), but with twice as many features.

Read More: Choosing The Best Handheld GPS Device