Monday, November 29, 2010

Product Review - Garmin Foretrex 301 GPS

For our anniversary this year, Irish Woman got me a wristwatch GPS, the Garmin Foretrex 301.  
I asked her for either this or the upgrade, the Foretrex 401, because of its small size and ease of use. 

This diminuitive GPS is about the size of two boxes of matches stacked one upon the other, and straps to a wrist or backpack strap using an included velcro strip.  It gave me a 10 meter resolution in locations and checkpoints under heavy tree cover at Fort Knox during the hunt.  The 301 is powered by two AAA batteries, and one set of batteries were less than halfway used up after two days of use at Fort Knox. The 301 weighs almost nothing, and I carry it in my pocket without a thought.

The unit was very easy to figure out, and can mark checkpoints, establish routes, show paths already taken, and a lot more.  When you drop a checkpoint, you have the opportunity to give it a specific symbol, such as a deer shape for hunting or a house for shelter.  You can edit the name of a checkpoint on the unit, and also the location of a checkpoint to preload.  All of this is done using up and down buttons, a select button, and a back button.  The power button also controls the back lighting for the display, which came in very handy while trying to find our blind location in the dark.  The back lighting is amber, and is soft enough that it didn't mess up my night vision too terribly.

The Foretrex 301 does not work with GPS software to pre-load checkpoints and routes, and does not have an on-board mapping feature like more advanced models.  The unit is, however, compatible with the Garmin Connect web site.  I haven't used it yet, but will try it out and post a review later. There is a mini-USB port on the unit to allow connection to a Mac or PC.  When connected, it shows up as a removable storage device, and you can back up and navigate through the files it uses for its software and configurations.  There is an XML file that contains all of the routes, checkpoints, and such that can be edited.  I am going to edit the file later to see if features can be added that way, saving time in the field.   I'll update later on how editing the XML file worked and on my experiences with Garmin Connect.

The only other limitation of the unit was that it could not get a satellite lock while in the truck.  It locked in seconds once I stepped out and stood still.

If you're in the market for a basic GPS, and don't mind reading a paper map, this is a great unit for you.  If you're not ready to use a map to figure out where you are, then one of the more advanced GPS units may be for you.  This unit is small enough for me to put into a pocket along with a paper map and have to find my way in the dark or unfamiliar territory.

FCC Disclaimer - The hardware I reviewed here was purchased with my household's own funds.  No-one, including Garmin, offered me anything in exchange for this review.

4 comments:

Lokidude said...

I love my eTrex, I have to say. But, with that said, nothing, not even the best GPS, is a replacement for skills and practice with a dead-tree map and a magnetic compass. Maybe it's just the boy scout in me, but that's just how I have to roll. Belt and suspenders, and all that.

DaddyBear said...

Agreed. I use the GPS to either find my position so I can map it, or to follow a route in the dark or unfamiliar territory. I still use terrain and compass to use a map during daylight or when planning a route.

David said...

Sounds like the battery life is a slight issue but not too bad.

DaddyBear said...

I should have mentioned that I was using plain off the shelf alkaline batteries. It's possible that some of the newer AAA battery types, such as lithium, would last longer.

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