Register | Login
Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: Which current Garmin/GPS model to buy?

in: Orienteering; Gear & Toys

Nov 19, 2016 2:29 AM # 
My Forerunner 305 seems to be on its last legs. At the time when I got it, the 205/305 was pretty much the go-to model for orienteers, but there were only a few types available. With many new models since then, I'm curious which of the current or recent (still readily available) models people are using for orienteering now and how they like them. Suggestions of other brands are welcome too, but I definitely want a watch style with heartrate sensor capability and not a screenless logger.
Nov 19, 2016 3:34 AM # 
Forerunner 235 does the job. I don't know enough to give a great comparison to other models though. I'm a big fan of the wrist-based HR. Never liked the chest straps.
Nov 19, 2016 3:57 AM # 
FR 235 should also work with the chest strap from your 305 (at least it does with my FR 225). I also like the wrist-based HR measurement but get flakey HR readings much more often with the wrist than with the strap. YMMV. FR225 (and I assume 235) has much better battery life than the 305.
Nov 19, 2016 3:41 PM # 
FR220 is available with a HR strap that is more flexible/comfortable than previous straps I've used. (Not that I use mine much at the moment.)
Nov 19, 2016 4:08 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
I'm happy enough with my refurb Fenix as long as I don't overfill it (i.e., occasionally empty trash on MacBook after deleting). $90 and you can just reuse your strap (I don't mind the straps, although 235 is tempting for one less thing to find when getting ready).
Nov 19, 2016 7:54 PM # 
I picked up a 235 in September when my refurbished 610 started de-charging and then went dead. (Got to get it back to Garmin) What I like about the 235 - much faster locating the satellites than my 610 or the earlier 405, very accurate with the 1 second waypoint recording option which I use for mapping, wire attachment to computer for downloads which again seems faster than the others that used wireless technology through an ant+ stick.
Also it is slim and has a nicer face and interface than the others. Virtually idiot-proof which I need.
Nov 21, 2016 5:49 AM # 
Gord when you say "very accurate" do you have objective comparisons with the real world? Telling a lie more often doesn't make it the truth:-) PS I need a wristwatch too. Does it do all the usual things?
Nov 21, 2016 8:56 AM # 
"Telling a lie moew often doesn't make it the truth" Those are pretty strong words. Find out for yourself whether it is a wristwatch, too.
Nov 21, 2016 9:04 AM # 
Does it receive US and Russian satellites?
Nov 21, 2016 9:06 AM # 
I'd suggest checking these three models: Garmin 910xt, Polar V800, Suunto Ambit 3 sport/peak. These still had proper antenna and it shows in forest.

Nov 21, 2016 9:14 AM # 
@Log - yes. Both GLONASS and GPS. Finds satellites way faster than my old 405 and seems to be more accurate to me. I am yet to wear it in the bush.
Nov 21, 2016 11:01 AM # 
How easy is it to batch upload your training runs into Attackpoint with the FR235?
Nov 21, 2016 12:11 PM # 
Very (not that I need to seeing as I'm only training once per week).
Nov 21, 2016 1:13 PM # 
I am having trouble with dual GPS mode on Ambit 3 Vertical -- it is precise but unstable. There were a few cases when the watch would completely miss a turn in a trail, and then go off with half-kilometer offset for another half-hour or just wonder in random directions. It does not happen when I turn GLONASS off.

Something like this:
Nov 21, 2016 8:43 PM # 
How easy is it to batch upload your training runs into Attackpoint with the FR235?

AP can import directly from Garmin Connect. Doesn't get much easier, aside from the fact that AP doesn't store credentials so you need to supply username & password each time you upload.
Nov 23, 2016 11:01 AM # 
Amazon (at least in the UK) has FR235 on sale today. Just saying.
Nov 23, 2016 1:09 PM # 
Amazon UK has the 235 for 200 pounds, Amazon US $329.99. These prices don't anywhere near match the AU$299 I just paid at JB HiFi in Australia (AU$299 = 178 pounds and $US221). I bought it basically on Fletch's recommendation. My previous gps was FR305, the buttons fell out 2 years ago. So far the 235 is good, but probably way more complicated than what I need (I don't have a smart phone, don't want one). Satellites are very quick - 2-5 seconds with GPS + Glonass, HR seems to work well, matches what I've always thought my HR should be, and Garmin Connect download is good. I must start donating to AP so that my routes can be added :-)
Nov 23, 2016 7:23 PM # 
I used Garmin Forerunner 920 for 2 years - is still a top model.
Nov 23, 2016 7:35 PM # 
All sorts of Black Friday sales on many of the watches. If you don't know it, check out DCRainmaker's site for reviews on almost any watch. His latest Sports Gadget Recommendations was just released and his Product Review page is at - and note the link in the first paragraph to his 'Product Calculator'. All of this can help determine what watch would work best based on whether you only want it for orienteering/running or additional sports. Always a major factor is how easy it is to sync with the tools you use or want to use.
Nov 23, 2016 8:20 PM # 
I'm very happy with my FR735XT: Very light, wrist base heart rate sensor, multi sport mode (and the ability to create and modify your own sport mode). And you can use it as a daily watch: The Fenix2 or 900series are much to heavy and dominant.
Nov 24, 2016 12:12 AM # 
You know what bugs m most about Garmin Connect: Despite there being thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of orienteers wearing their watches they do not recognize orienteering as an activity listed on their drop down bar for editing activities and they don't allow write-ins..
Nov 24, 2016 3:03 AM # 
Hi gordhun, I was able to add orienteering under 'What I do' in my Public Profile in Garmin Connect.
Nov 24, 2016 9:09 AM # 
probably hundreds of thousands of orienteers

Ha! That's a good one.
Nov 24, 2016 9:49 AM # 
Hi simmo, this does not work.
I have for long time the record "orienteering" in my Garmin Connect profile, but still there isn't "orienteering" in the list of available types of activity :(
Nov 24, 2016 4:07 PM # 
Agree on the activity type, same goes for Strava though! Attackpoint wins out there...
Nov 24, 2016 7:57 PM # 
I really like my Suunto ambit3. Easy to upload and has orienteering as a training option :)
Nov 24, 2016 11:12 PM # 
Nothing beats FR305. You can replace the battery if it gets weak.
Or buy another one on ebay
Nov 28, 2016 9:35 PM # 
Agree with yurets. ("didn't think I'll see the day I type this :) )

But with one caveat. It is not waterproof. Over the years I went through 5 or 6 FR305 due to battery dying or getting it wet. One died just from a long run in the rain.

Finally I caved and got the FR 920XT. Waterproof, wireless uplaods, swim tracking. It was a nice upgrade reagarding quality of life features. Hope it lasts another 10 - 15 years :)
Nov 29, 2016 7:04 AM # 
Is there any reason people don't like the simple (and cheap) forerunner 15?
Nov 29, 2016 1:21 PM # 
Depends what you want to be able to do with it. I've got some FR15's that I use with my students at school. But they need a HR strap, can't set intervals for run training, take longer to find satellites, don't store extra activities in the memory etc etc

For what they do, they're not bad. They are very simple to use, which is important when working with kids!
Nov 29, 2016 2:51 PM # 
Ambit 3 peak/sport are kind of Suunto's FR205/305. A manufacturer trying to get GPS accuracy better and better and it then peaked mostly for gps chip manufacturer making significant improvement. Forerunner sirf2 to sirf3 made huge leap in accuracy, and case sirf5 if Ambit3 made major difference from Ambit and Ambit2 with sirf4. I suspect in both cases accuracy got way better than manufacturer originally though. And after that in models manufacturer has focused on getting watch smaller and slimmer and letting accuracy get compromised, they saw it was more than good enough. FR305 is still the most accurate Garmin watch in forest, and same with Suunto, recent models Traverse, AmbitVertical or Spartan does not quite seem to reach the accuracy of Ambit3 peak/sport in forest. I'd say at the moment it is hard to find better watch for O than Ambit 3 peak Nepal edition (slightly lighter than normal version for aluminum bezel). There is no color screen or touch screen, but it is accurate and bulletproof. But it may be pricey. I haven't tried Polar V800, that may be quite a workhorse too.
Nov 29, 2016 3:56 PM # 
Sort of changing the topic but I need help getting apps to work on my 920xt. I download the apps, Garmin Express says I have synced the apps to my watch, but for the life of me I cannot figure out how to access/use them. My understanding is that they should just appear as one of the activities. Has anyone figured this out? Thanks in advance.
Nov 29, 2016 11:32 PM # 
Love the FR 305....tried to change the battery but the contacts were corroded. Should have gone to ebay and tried to get another one, instead I went with the cheaper FR!% (waterproof and uses my 305 hr monitor)
re: dhdh....What's wrong with the 15?
Although the GPS locks fast its poor and needs a lot of route correction on route gadget, quick route, or anything does give you a general idea of where you were though...
The display is just big enough for my waning eyesight...again live the 305!
The distance is off quite a bit sporadically....I have compared identical runs that I have done for years with and without garmins and there is a very high degree of variability. I have compared laps of a local track and a local straight stretch of road both of which I measured by hand with a measuring tape ..only some times good.
(example..this summer I should have recorded 10 km for a 25 lap run but 10 km was measured by the FR15 @ lap 22!)
I'm learning how to "tweak" and live with the upload issues with AP...(I avoid garmin connect)

I like the looks of the 920...still out of budget range for now.
I don't like any of these smaller touch screen type more thing to go wrong
Nov 30, 2016 3:47 PM # 
What budget range are you looking for? 920XT is on sale for US$200 currently.
Nov 30, 2016 5:52 PM # 
Garmin Fenix 3 for me, best battery life. Used for a 12 hr AR race no problems. No HR built in, but has pretty much every other feature you could want. And you can pair it with a HR chest strap. The GPS is mostly reliable and accurate, only one hiccup where my data got corrupted out of tens of sessions.
Feb 23, 2017 6:09 AM # 
Weighing up the above, DCRainmaker etc, and got a FR235. OK as a watch, OK as a secondary mapping device. Frustrating tendency for my jacket sleeve to terminate recording. Is there a reason why wrist GPS's don't have a waypoint button (or is it there and I haven't found it, my random jacket jiggles have found pretty much everything else.) Somewhat uneasy about having to download thru a Garmin website, and I may not always have an internet connection. I read the Garmin privacy policy, couldn't see a single thing about their collecting all this info about my whereabouts and my heartbeats.
Feb 23, 2017 6:38 AM # 
Is there a reason why wrist GPS's don't have a waypoint button

Because everything after the FR305 seems to have dropped the concept of using them as a navigation device. The functionality is sometimes there, but it's buried in the menus.
FWIW, it's a trivial exercise to strip coordinates out of a GPX/TCX file for every time you press the Lap button, if you just want a way to mark positions.
Feb 23, 2017 7:04 AM # 
Thanks, I suspected there would be something like that, I'll give it a try.
Feb 23, 2017 7:45 AM # 
terminate recording: you may lock your device against accidental button press:

The nice thing about Garmin is that they let you access the fit files without going through Garmin Connect by mounting it as an USB device. Just plug it into your computer ant it will show up as a drive. Look for the *.fit files. You will need a tool to converti it to gpx (e.g. gpsbabel).
Feb 23, 2017 9:22 AM # 
Thanks again. I was put off by my ignorance of fit files. All I know and want is gpx.
Feb 23, 2017 9:36 AM # 
Couldn't you just upload to Attackpoint direct from the watch (after donating)? And then there is a gps or kml option export available. I don't think that goes through or needs Garmin Connect (but I could be wrong of course)
Feb 23, 2017 12:31 PM # 
Juffy wrote: FWIW, it's a trivial exercise to strip coordinates out of a GPX/TCX file for every time you press the Lap button, if you just want a way to mark positions.

If you use EasyGPS or ExpertGPS for Windows to download data from your Forerunner, it will create a waypoint every time you press the lap button, with stats on that lap. Both programs will save your FIT/TCX data in GPX format.
Feb 23, 2017 2:45 PM # 
I think you can also "generate" waypoints by stopping/restarting the watch. This method has worked on other Garmin watches I've owned.
Feb 23, 2017 7:37 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
Using a Garmin watch for mapping is actually very easy:

Start the watch and start jogging through you area of interest, each time you get to an interesting feature you hit the split time button.

Afterwards you import the track log into QuickRoute (be it .TCX or .FIT) where those splits will show up as control locations.

Next you export the trip as a .GPX file which you can import into OCAD (or OOM I assume), and each of the control/split time locations will turn up as waypoints which you can point at and change individually into the proper symbol.
Feb 24, 2017 12:48 AM # 
It's no fun if you're not hacking XML files yourself. >_<
Oct 8, 2019 2:51 PM # 
any more news/updates in what watches will replace better a dying forerunner 305 ? ( and still within a budget)
Oct 8, 2019 5:30 PM # 
Garmin Forerunner 235 is worth every penny you pay for it... and more.
Oct 8, 2019 6:41 PM # 
Using FR235 for a year now after the battery in FR305 died, it lasted 8 years. IMO it is an ok-ish replacement, probably suitable for millennials. 235 has lots of 'cool' features that attracts them. They are not likely to notice the difference in GPS quality, which is btw hugely inferior to my old FR305.
Did anyone replace the battery successfully in 305?
Oct 8, 2019 6:58 PM # 
Maybe I am also a millennial, as I approach 1,000 years of age. I find the FR235, cool features and all, a magnificent upgrade on the old FR305. Best feature is that it is also a watch, not just a gadget for orienteering, and I don't have to remember to bring it, because I am already wearing it.
Oct 8, 2019 10:07 PM # 
+1 Charlie

I wear my 235 every day because it's a more comfortable watch, especially on my smaller wrist. The tracking quality is only slightly inferior to the 205/305 generation (I replaced a 205 which I only wore orienteering because it was HUGE).

I am so *not* a millennial.

If yurets thinks the 235 is so bad, what does he suggest as a replacement? Hmmm?
Oct 8, 2019 10:39 PM # 
I'm somewhat surprised that folks find the tracking of the 235 inferior to that of their older watches.
I had a 405 then two 610s before my 235 Here is what I like about the 235 besides the sleek look.
1) it locates the satellites much more quickly than the other two.
3) it records a point every second IF YOU GO TO SETTINGS AND SELECT THAT OPTION.
With those two options selected I have been very confident with the accuracy of the 235.
I also like the wrist sensor heart rate monitor and the hard wire connection for download rather than through the ANT+ stick.
Oct 8, 2019 10:46 PM # 
I ended up with a 230 as the result of posting this thread, and have been happy with it. (I paired it with the strap from my 305 rather than get the version with the wrist hrm.)
Oct 8, 2019 11:31 PM # 
205 also has one-second recording (but it used a lot of battery).
Oct 9, 2019 1:22 AM # 
Nick, I have an old Forerunner 310XT with charger, ANT, etc. that I'll probably never use again. You're welcome to it. No guarantees but it was working fine when I switched to an Ambit 2 in 2013.
Oct 9, 2019 1:24 AM # 
It's had six years of rest so it should be in Perfect Condition!

Seriously though, has anyone else had issues with ANT sticks whenever Garmin Express does an update? I find I have to uninstall and reinstall the device and the ANT and even then it doesn't always take on the first go. I'd rather go back to the old cradle system from earlier models than trust crappy wireless technology.
Oct 9, 2019 1:27 AM # 
Even though it's been 6 years, I remember how much I preferred the old cradle to the ANT!
Oct 9, 2019 1:35 AM # 
It’s easy to justify the pricepoint necessary to achieve a Bluetooth-enabled device if it gets away from ANT+.
Oct 9, 2019 2:03 AM # 
Well I think my current Garmin 310XT is about to die anyway so maybe time for a new model. The buttons on the side are wearing out so it's no longer waterproof and the strap has developed a break in it. I think it's only two years old; I've yet to possess one long enough for the battery to die.

It's the 3rd 310XT I've had - I keep getting 'refurbished' ones when the old one wears out, usually due to the same issues (never the battery). Bluetooth would be good if it meant I didn't need to carry my laptop with me on extended trips just so I can upload my traces (I had the laptop stolen once on a trip doing this and have been wary about it ever since)!
Oct 9, 2019 4:57 AM # 
That's why I moved to an Ambit 3 - to get Bluetooth so I could leave my laptop behind when we travel.
Oct 9, 2019 6:29 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
I currently have three working and currently charged Garmin watches: The old 410 (a free replacement for a 405 which failed), a 620 and the one I'm wearing which is a 735XT. I also bought a 235 for my son at the same time as the 735, since that 235 has the same dual-gnss chipset, wrist HR monitor and one-second tracking interval.

As @gordhun wrote, it is _crucial_ to enable the extra sat constellation and the one-second tracking!
Oct 10, 2019 11:21 AM # 
The 235 uploads directly to Attackpoint as long as my iPhone app is open. No action required on my part. No ant+ stick, no laptop.
Jan 10, 2020 10:04 PM # 
I still love my FR735XT. Bought 3 years ago, and still no Need for upgrading: waterproof, light and slim (daily use as normal wristwatch, business compatible), swim functions, full control via bluetooth and phone.
Now for less than half the price available ...
Jan 10, 2020 10:18 PM # 
I think among the new "4" series, the 245 is the sweet spot for running. It has a lot more training information and customization than the basic 45, it has interchangeable watch straps, and it will run for 12 hours or so in GPS mode. The 645 costs $100 more than the 245, but its only feature that seems worth having is the altimeter, if you're hiking or trail running. The 945 is even more expensive, and has features that are meant for swimming and triathlons. But whichever one you use, get a chest strap. It's a lot more accurate than the wrist heart-rate monitor. The Garmin training advice is actually pretty good, but not if it gets garbage input.

All that having been said, there are great deals on the 235 now.
Jan 11, 2020 12:46 AM # 
+3 Charlie for the FR 235.
Jan 11, 2020 1:58 AM # 
@TomN, the 645 (and 945) also has Garmin pay, which could be useful for some people (myself included) who like to run with minimum gear, but might still want to buy a bite to eat along the way.
Jan 11, 2020 12:02 PM # 
I have the 245 and I love it (replaced my old 230). I bought it specifically because of the wrist HR (because I can't be bothered to use a chest strap). It isn't always great, but it means that i get a better idea of my HR throughout the day, including my HR while sleeping. That for me is what makes wrist HR the best option nowadays (of course you can complement it with chest HR). I think that the wrist HR sensors are also getting better and better as well...
Jan 11, 2020 2:05 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
For orienteering the priority list should be
1) Best possible tracking, fixed 1 sec interval. This means at least a modern multi-constellation chip set and the best possible antenna.

2) Very good service policy, since we tend to abuse these watches. This is the point where Garmin really shines imho, I have had 6-8 free replacements over the last 20+ years.

3) Compatibility with Livelox/Strava etc. is also required, preferably without any extra steps needed, i.e. automatic upload via bluetooth or wifi.
Jan 11, 2020 4:38 PM # 
Does anyone know how much better tracking accuracy/precistion there is to use the combined GPS+Galileo in Garmin FR245 or FR945 compare to (older models) only GPS or GPS+Glonass?
Jan 11, 2020 10:26 PM # 
If I believed my writs HR data I would be getting weekly heart health assessments.
Jan 12, 2020 12:36 AM # 
2) Very good service policy, since we tend to abuse these watches. This is the point where Garmin really shines imho, I have had 6-8 free replacements over the last 20+ years.

How do you manage that? I've had to pay for a 'refurbished' model every time a button wears out and water gets in or for a new strap if that breaks. I've never had one last long enough for the battery to become useless due to the button issue (usually 2-3 years).

My present 310XT has both a button issue (so I can't wear it paddling) and a broken strap and I can't even be bothered sending it back for a replacement due to the cost (I'm using Tash's old 910 since she has upgraded).
Jan 12, 2020 3:57 AM # 
@Invis Ditto. (It's a 235.)
Jan 12, 2020 9:20 AM # 
The 245 has the newer wrist HR sensor. It isn’t perfect and occasionally detects a much higher HR while I’m at rest which I assume is just because of the way the watch is sitting. Other than that I haven’t had any issues.
Jan 12, 2020 8:58 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@tRicky: I'm sad to hear that, maybe Garmin's service policy varies by country, or at least how it is handled?
Jan 12, 2020 9:41 PM # 
I've had great service in Canada. They we're quite happy to replace my water damaged watch. Just paid for shipping. I was surprised actually, because my read of the warranty seemed to indicate I was out of luck.
Apr 19, 2024 2:24 PM # 
Resurrecting this thread to ask if anyone has used the Garmin Vivoactive 5 watch for orienteering, and whether they would recommend it? In particular, does it have the same frequency of recording with the GPS as the classic 305, 235 etc. Thanks in advance!
Apr 19, 2024 4:36 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Hey Boris, I have the Vivoactive 4 (and use it for orienteering and everything else), and before that, the Vivoactive HR.

As far as frequency goes, I'm pretty sure all Garmins these days have 1-second recording as an option.

The Vivoactives don't have multi-band GPS chips like some of the Forerunner and Fenix watches. From what I hear, those are usually more accurate, especially under tree cover.

One annoying thing is that from the evolution from Vivoactive 4 to Vivoactive 5, Garmin took out the barometric altimeter (and its daily floor-climbing counter). I guess with the new AMOLED display, they wanted to have more differentiation in its "fitness" line of watches: the Vivoactive 5 and the more expensive Venu 3.

Generally, though, I've really liked the Vivoactives I've had, as they have been a nice mix of touchscreen daily smartwatch, running watch, body monitoring, etc, but not at a premium price (but understanding that I'm not getting some of the premium features).
Apr 19, 2024 7:18 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@tRicky: My first experience with Garmin's service here in Norway was _many_ years ago, when my original Garmin 2+ fell down 2+m landing on a metal floor: It still worked, but the serial port communication was broken so I could no longer connect it to my PC. This must have been in the second half of the 1990'ies.
I contacted the Garmin distributor in Norway and they asked some questions:
"How old was it?" 3+ years
"Where had I bought it?" In the US.
At this point they told me that they could not service a US model GPS since the firmware was different from the EU model, but that if I bought a replacement GPS locally, they could offer me a $300 refund on the broken GPS, so I immediately got a GPSMAP 72 which I only needed to pay $250 for after the refund.
Later on I got first a 76C, then a ForeRunner 405 and a Montana (which I still have, including a lifetime US and EU quarterly map update setup).
The 405 had battery failures so it was twice replaced with refurbished units, then on the next round they had no more 405s so now it is a 410.
In the meantime I had gotten a 620 which has also been replaced two or three times. It still works but I am currently using the 735XT which has a multi-constellation chipset. BTW, the 735 has also been replaced at least once.

I have also gotten a Polar Pulse as a gift, it has comparable tracking performance but a slightly worse interface and it is harder to interface to QuickRoute and Livelox.

When I run with my GoPro 11 Black, I have the camera GPS set for maximum performance. The results when wearing the camera on a headstrap is the best tracking I have experienced so far, but it is a bit of a hassle to extract the track log from the 10GB individual video parts, merge them and filter/adjust to make the gpx track log compatible with QuickRoute.
Apr 20, 2024 12:41 AM # 
Whoah a response from four years ago! I'm currently using the Garmin Forerunner 55 but it doesn't have all the features my old 310XT and 910XT used to have, e.g. virtual pace partner and the ability to set training sessions, so I'm thinking of upgrading. It also seems less accurate as many parkruns I do come out at over 5km (this morning's was 5.13km but the RD tells me it was measured at 5.02km; being the B course it had to be slightly longer than the original).

Both the 310 and 910 I used to have got destroyed on the same weekend over in NZ way back in 2022 and Garmin no longer did the refurbished replacements on either model, that I could find anyway - the 310XT is not even listed on their site anymore - which is why I now have the much cheaper and less functional 55 model though it does allow the use of MapRun (although this rarely works so I don't use that feature).
Apr 20, 2024 4:24 AM # 
I had 310XTs quite a few years ago, and then 235s that were better. I use a 245 now, very satisfactory, much better than the older ones, and much more reliable. I’ve had it several years now and no issues. The old ones failed pretty regularly. I am able to use it as my regular watch, a big improvement over the 310XT.

Please login to add a message.