Will I join the modern age? Recommendations for a GPS watch

In the past few weeks stomping around off-road and even off-trail up on Hammond Hill and Robinson Hollow, it occurred to me that it might be nice to see where I’ve been – how did I come out on Lacey Rd. anyway?? – and I see all you gearheads plotting your runs. I suppose I need a GPS-enabled watch (will it work in the woods?) and software to show the route. Any suggestions? No need for heart rate, pacing, goals… etc. just to see where I’ve been.

How much time do you have on your hands? (Or want on your wrist?)

The short answer from my perspective is, get a Garmin Forerunner that matches your budget. They’ll all have more features than you need, but what’s important is a good GPS system that picks up satellite well in forested areas, and my experience is that Garmin does pretty well there. I have an old Garmin Forerunner 620, which is a fairly high-end model, and my experience is that it acquires satellite faster than the newer (but cheaper) 235s that some other High Nooners have.

The long answer, if you’re really, really bored, is to go to the DC Rainmaker Web site and read his reviews. This guy is insanely detailed, and as a real triathlete and serious geek, he really tests the heck out of every device on the market. And there are a LOT of them. Most will work fine for what you want.

If you were interested in more of a smartwatch, an Apple Watch will do a pretty good job at just marking your trail; it’s not nearly as good as the Garmins for on-wrist usability while running, but it’s a much more capable device otherwise.

In the interests of supporting local businesses, perhaps @Ian can say what he recommends and sells in the store. Last I looked, his prices were pretty much the same as online retail prices.

One final note. Only very occasionally have I had to rely on my GPS watch’s map to find my way back to a road or trail. That can be difficult (or impossible on some models) to do, so if that’s useful, make sure a visible map feature is an option, and try it before relying on it.

Thanks Adam, I was really bored until today when my Cornell teaching started up again! But I will geek out with the DC Rainmaker. And indeed buying locally would support local business and also get the device on my wrist quicker!

Another option is to download the Strava app on your phone and use it to record activities. You’ll see your track in real time, which is nice if you get lost and need to backtrack. The app is free and easy to use. The downside is that you’d need to carry your phone on every run.

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Concur w/ Adam in that DC Rainmaker is the most comprehensive and that we do sell units that fit the bill, but also with Pete that you can do it on your phone, if you’re okay with carrying your phone, for relatively free. You can use Strava or MapMyRun as two options that work with your phone. Otherwise, we sell Garmin on the GPS front, and, currently their baseline Forerunner 45 (as well as others). For sure lemme know if you have questions or if there’s certain functions you might be interested and need the watch to accomplish aside from recording the track and uploading for viewing after.

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Thanks Ian. I was really behind the curve, I had no idea of what could go on a wrist. I have no interest in heart rate, sleeping pattern, downloadable workouts etc. etc. let alone music while running (an Abomination with a capital A). I do have nice heavy L5 phone, I have downloaded Strava and I will see how that works out. The only disadvantage, for me, is how to carry while running. I guess in a fanny pack. And I don’t know how good is the GPS in the woods, compared the Garmins (that is their core business). Actually, it’s amazing how well GPS works when you consider the technical challenges. Anway, many thanks for the opinions. DC Rainmaker is a bit (??) obsessive about testing technology, good for the rest of us.

My experience with running with an iPhone is that the best approach is a waist belt that can put the phone at the small of the back. I do it every now and then when I have to carry a phone, but I don’t love it and would never do it regularly. Armbands always struck me as even more annoying, and asymmetrical.

The phone GPS radios will probably be better than the watch radios, purely on antenna size and power levels.

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