Sunday, March 18, 2012


Garmin Foretrex 401

Garmin Foretrex 401 The Garmin Foretrex 401 is a bit unusual. This wrist-mounted unit isn’t a full-fledged sportswatch, nor does it have the feature set found in some of the nicer handheld GPS receivers. It’s probably best suited for folks wanting to minimize the weight of backcountry gear and have the unit conveniently available.

One of the biggest things you’ll give up with this unit is the ability to add detailed maps. The Foretrex 401 is not capable of displaying topo maps. It can only display rudimentary maps, featuring waypoints, routes and tracks, as shown above.

It does however have an electronic compass, barometric altimeter and the ability to wirelessly share data with compatible Foretrex, Oregon and Colorado receivers, features you’ll lose if you drop down to Foretrex 301 (Amazon link).

If you’re looking for a low-cost backcountry model, I’d suggest the Garmin eTrex Venture HC instead. For a lot less money, you’ll get a brighter color screen and the ability to add maps. To see how the Foretrex 401 compares to other models, check out my  Garmin handheld GPS comparison chart.

More Garmin Foretrex 401 reviews

I’ll be posting more hands on GPS reviews as they appear, but in the meantime, here are some…

Other Garmin Foretrex 401 resources

Compare prices on the Garmin Foretrex 401 at these merchants:


About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.


  1. I use this unit for offroad enduro mtorbike riding and mountain biking. It servs the prupose well for that. If you need to keep track of your rides or simply download a track or route so you can go explore it works perfectly with good accuracy. Generally we over spec our needs for these simple disciplines when all we need is to know where we have been how far we rode how long altitude and speed readings etc. When coupled with mapsource or Garmin Connect we can get more specific and analyze. The heart rate monitor facility is simple but accurate and is there more for refernce to see what your “beater” is doing while you are in the moment When we are riding we should be looking at were we are going not at a tiny screen Simply put this unit works brilliantly keeping track of where we are and to assist when you go off course.

  2. I do like this device, I know a few of my army buddies rave about it in the field but I use it for bush walking and hunting. It is a simple device but its really handy to have on your wrist like a wrist watch instead of getting a device out of the pouch all the time, and for that happy to give up detailed maps.

    I like when shooting, you can kill your target press a button on your wrist to mark the spot and then come back – easy.

    This device is not designed to be detailed but simple and accessable and there on your wrist rather than big, bulky, detailed and prohibative.

  3. For those who want accurate results on e.g. speedsailing, running .. it’d be best to turn the track recording to ”off” mode while erasing previous tracks..the unit seems to be storing your last known position and adding it to your track miles away and if you upload to a sports analysis website to determine your speeds it calculates even the time/distance from your house if you erased it there.The result is a severe “spike” that I have to manually delete in gpstrackmaker. Am still trying to figure out why it retains this. I use GpsTrackMaker to download into a gpx file and upload for analysis and there is always a point somehwere that could be your first known position when you turned on your brandnew unit.

  4. Just wondering if this unit can be used for geocaching,and if not would it be good for hiking in unfamiliar areas?

  5. I believe there is a geocache icon which presumably is for that and you can store waypoints to get to that area. As for hiking it’s an inexpensive but great all around gps unit that has very excellent reception even under heavy canopy. Regards JP

  6. thanks for the responses as I am a total newbie if I were to use this one for hiking or geocaching would I need a topo map as well? also what are your thoughts for the gpsmap 60csx is it outdated or still a good unit? I really like the small size of the foretrex 401 for hiking so where does this unit excel?

  7. sorry what would be an ideal use for the foretrex 401?

    • Hi nthest mostly for basic type users who wan’t to pack light. You have to understand this unit doesn’t have built in maps only “breadcrumb” trailing, compass and waypoints but it can get you to and back to your destination or by plugging coordinates. It’s not handheld but rather look and see type of unit from time to time however very light to hike out with. Can withstand weather and very receptive even in crowded covered areas.

  8. Yep, best use of the Foretrex is for someone who really wants/needs lightweight. I think you should always carry a topo map. And unlike many handhelds, you cannot load maps to the Foretrex. The 60CSx is definitely outdated. Check this out…

  9. I was thinking the 60csx but it has been around and is prob outdated as you say. How about the new etrex 20 thats coming out anybody have any info on a release date and also if I would be able to load the free maps you suggest on here onto the new unit? Im not really keen on spending a hundred or more bucks on maps ,so the free ones are def in my sights for my unit whatever I decide on.Much thanks everyone and any info is appreciated as I need all the info I can get haha

  10. September 15 (though that date could slip):

    Yes, you’ll be able to load free maps to it.

  11. Newbie owner to GPS Foretrx 401. My question is, if I have selected Track mode, and will also use backtrack to return the same way I came….can I during the track flight, designate waypoints with names (for example if I come upon a bridge) so I can store that way point for another day, without losing my track/back track capability so I can still return safely? How exactly would I do that? Many thanks

    • You should be able to by using the Mark button to mark the waypoint, then using Page if necessary to exit that or return to the navigation screen. But I’d try it out at home first. Take a short walk down the block, start backtracking, set a waypoint along the way and see if you can return to the backtrack function without starting it again.

  12. Or in addition to Rich Owing’s store your track point with Goto mark and when you want to go back to that location find the stored point and the pointer plus odometer will bring you back to the location(MARK all locations by pressing that button everytime you stop at a route change and name it as such.

  13. Any idea whether a new Foretrex will be released anytime soon?

    • No idea. But it is a relatively popular unit. Still, the Foretrex update cycle seems to be every few years, so we may be another year or so away from it.

  14. I am climbing Kilimanjaro in October 2015. Up & down in 6 days.
    Would this watch/device capture my ascent and descent. Showing my starting & finishing altitude on each day ? I would not have a laptop to download any data to, so I wondered if the battery died, would it lose all the data I had previously done ?

    I would love to complete the climb, and then when back home, download the data, to use in a presentation of how far & high & temperatures each day involved.


  1. […] Garmin Foretrex 401 review – GPS Tracklog – GPS reviews … – Feb 06, 2010 · Garmin Foretrex 401 review including comparisons to similar units, links to other reviews, price comparisons, owners manual, message forums and more… […]

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!


nine − 9 =