Full disclosure: I’ve never been a GPS guy and have never owned a GPS unit. I’ve always been a compass guy, so my impressions of the Garmin Foretrex 401 should be largely without bias. Upon opening the package, I couldn’t help but notice this unit’s small, compact size. The wrist strap is generously sized and keeps the GPS unit from flopping around during movement.

After putting in the two AAA batteries, I decided to power the unit up and go through the setup. To my amazement, I had completed the setup in under five minutes! It picked up the satellites extremely quickly, and calibrating the compass only took about a minute. You can’t get much simpler than this. No wonder the military uses this model.

Unit size: 2.9″ x 1.7″ x .9″

Display size: 1.4″ W x .9″ H; 100 x 64 pixels

Mounting type: Wrist-mount strap included. The wrist strap can also be used to mount the unit to a backpack shoulder strap or a belt.

Weight: 3.1 ounces

Power source: Two AAA batteries. This is a bonus, as it takes a standard-size, easily attainable battery.

Battery life: 17 hours

Garmin Foretrex 401 Wrist Strap
Garmin Foretrex 401 wrist strap

Water rating: IPX7. What does this mean? The Garmin Foretrex 401 can withstand incidental exposure to water of up to one meter for up to 30 minutes. It can be used in the presence of rain, snow, and can resist brief splashes of water.

Features:

  • Barometric altimeter to track elevation changes
  • Electronic compass
  • Ability to set and save waypoints, create navigation routes between waypoints, and record your tracks as you move
  • Features jump-master settings for use with HAHO, HALO, and static-line jumping, although I wouldn’t trust this as my primary altimeter
  • A really nice backlight for navigating in complete darkness
Garmin Foretrex 401 Backlight
Garmin Foretrex 401 backlight

MSRP: $199.99 direct from Garmin

Bottom line: After only the time it took me to get the Garmin Foretrex 401 operational and during the little bit of time I spent playing around with the different screens, I’m sold. I plan on having it strapped to my wrist or the shoulder strap of my backpack whenever I’m out on a day hike or scouting around in the field. Although it’s not meant for running, you could also use this to run with, since it does track your distance and time to cover that distance. I do plan on doing some running with this during my field testing. Stay tuned for a full field review in the near future after I run this thing through its paces.