There are quite a few GPS devices out there and several companies who make good ones. However good is subjective and dependent upon what you need it for. When it comes to a GPS unit I need something that is light weight. More so than that I need something that conserves battery power and can give me accurate readings quickly. I’ve found that the Garmin Foretrex 401 is largely without competition in these categories.

Prior to using the Foretrex 401 I was issued the Garmin eTrex 30 which does offer some advantages (detailed topographic maps installed on the GPS for example). However I found that for executing missions that required precision the unit was somewhat unwieldy despite some of the excellent holders and pouches that I tried. After moving to the Foretrex 401 I was immediately impressed with the weight (3.1 oz with batteries) and it’s ability to run on 2 AAA batteries for around 9 hours. Due to the weight I am easily able to attach the GPS to my wrist and can pull 10 digit MGRS coordinates whenever necessary.

The Garmin Foretrex 401 GPS

This isn’t to say that I couldn’t do that with my eTrex 30, but rather that it took more time to take it out of my kit. With the Foretrex 401 I can do my map work and simply rotate my wrist to get coordinates that I need. I’ve found that the Foretrex 401 tends to acquire at about the same speed as my eTrex 30 (which depends on how long it’s been since it was last turned on). On average it acquires within 12-20 seconds and if left on will stay acquired unless bad weather or terrain prevents it from communicating.