Garmin Foretrex 401 Definitive Review (2020)

Tough, Accurate and Great Value For Money An Awesome Companion for Your Next Outdoor Trip

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Table of Contents

25

Models Reviewed

19

Hours Of
Research

24

Field Test
Hours

55

Users
Surveyed

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Top Pick Award Winner

Looking for an accurate and reliable GPS for your next trip?

Hello ‘Garmin Foretrex 401’.

We’ve trialed the 401 across varied terrains worldwide testing the best handheld GPS’s to bring you our comprehensive TopNotch Garmin Foretrex 401 2020 definitive review.

In this article, we’ll discuss the various aspects of this GPS including accuracy, display, and ease of use.

In addition, there’ll also be a thorough comparative analysis of the Garmin Foretrex 401 with the other top GPS devices on the market.

TopNotch News:

We chose the Garmin Foretrex 401 as our Top Pick in this category – we were unanimous in our decision that the 401 was outstanding in delivering performance alongside accuracy.

Sounds good?

Stick with us for the rest of the review to find out why it’s our Top Pick.

Reception
9
Ease of Use
8
Display Quality
7
Speed
7
Weight and Size
10
Versatility
7
Overall Score
80
  • Manufacturer: Garmin
  • Display Size: 1.6 inches
  • Display Type: Black and white LCD
  • Weight: 3.1 oz
  • Average Battery Life: Up to 17 hours

Bottom Line : An affordable and easy to use device that delivers top-class performance with its accuracy.

Pros


  • A compact and ultralight model.
  • Excellent signal reception
  • Very easy to use.
  • Effective TracBack feature for retracing the route
  • Offers point-to-point navigation
  • Comes with a wrist strap

Cons


  • Basic functionality
  • AAA batteries are handy but support for rechargeable ones would have been better

Our Verdict: Garmin Foretrex 401​

The Garmin Foretrex 401 is a wrist-ready device that keeps the basic functions simple but extremely effective.

You’ll find this a small and compact device with a minimalist look.

But make no mistake, whether in the wilderness or an urban jungle, this GPS will be a trusted companion.

The highly sensitive GPS chip delivers top-class accuracy.

At the same time, the very fair price won’t stretch your wallet.

And no Garmin 401 Review would be complete without mentioning the excellent durability of this GPS.

To top it off, the device allows you to keep your hands free.

If you’re into cycling or skiing, you’ll love using it.

But, come on, what about the snags?

The Foretrex perhaps lacks some more advanced functions. And if you’re looking for a more modern  display you might prefer to check out the Garmin Foretrex 601.

But, the reliability and the ruggedness of this value for money GPS makes it a perfect choice for any outdoor setting.

The result?

It was selected as the TopNotch Top Pick product in this category.

So, let’s take a closer look at the finer details of this GPS.

RELATED: 10 Best Handheld GPS

Our Analysis, Comparisons & Test Results

As a part of the Foretrex 401 Review, we carried this device across a wide range of terrains from the Lake Tahoe to Yosemite – so we could see for ourselves how it performed.

We kept it handy and also tested its ‘versatility’ while busy on a range of activities at home including trekking, kayaking, and cycling.

Garmin Foretrex 401 Reviewer

We loved the convenience it offered and found the overall performance flawless.

The team also enjoyed the lightweight ergonomic design.

Guess what?

The not-so-expert members of the TopNotch team (aka the kids!) appreciated the lack of advanced features in this GPS.

Reason being, it made the Garmin Foretrex 401 easy to use.

But, for those looking for a better display and more battery life, the Garmin Foretrex 601 will be a better option.

So let’s take a closer look to find out what makes the Foretrex 401 our Top Pick.

The Garmin Foretrex 401 is a slim wrist-mounted watch style GPS navigator perfect for outdoor activities that require the use of both hands.

Reception

This was the first metric we tested whilst compiling this Garmin Review. We found the reception quality seamless.

The high-quality GPS chip does its job efficiently.

What this means is, even under dense tree covers, the 401 picked up signals with ease. While trekking to the sacred lakes in Gokyo in Nepal, phone reception was hardly available.

Garmin Foretrex 401 Review Expedition

Reception Rating

Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS
9
Garmin Montana 680 Touchscreen GPS/GLONASS Receiver, Worldwide Basemaps
9
Garmin GPSMAP 66st Handheld Hiking GPS
8
Garmin GPSMAP 64st
8
Garmin in Reach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator
8
Garmin Oregon 700 Handheld GPS
7
Garmin eTrex 20x, Handheld GPS Navigator
6
Garmin etrex Touch 35
6

But, we found the Foretrex 401 connecting steadily with the satellite all through the trail. Awesome!

Overall, the Foretrex 401 is one of the highest scorers under this metric.

In addition, the TracBack feature can be a great help as it allows you to retrace 20 different routes. The path is shown as a dotted trail on the screen. Brilliant.

Think about it.

While moving in any unknown terrain, this feature can be very helpful in case you’re separated from your group.

You can also save locations as waypoints, which makes finding your way back to a given location even easier.

We feel the first-time users choosing the Garmin Foretrex 401 for hunting will be delighted with its performance.

How can we be sure?

The TopNotch team tested the accuracy of the device in the Glacier National Park in Montana.

Fact is, the Foretrex 401 guided us within five to six feet of the waypoints, reliably, at all times.

Note: The device connects with the US GPS system. It doesn’t interact with the Russian GLONLASS system and the European Galileo system.

This is a major difference when comparing the Garmin Foretrex 401 vs 601.

Ease of Use

Let’s be honest.

Most people prefer a simple GPS that’s easy to use and gets the job done. Actually, this is one area where it scored high marks in our Foretrex 401 Review. 

Even though it’s a super compact size, the 401 isn’t at all compromised when it comes to ergonomics.

Apart from an interactive map, three different pages place all the necessary data, at your fingertips.

Garmin-Foretrex-401

Ease of Use Rating

Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS
8
Garmin eTrex 20x, Handheld GPS Navigator
8
Garmin Montana 680 Touchscreen GPS/GLONASS Receiver, Worldwide Basemaps
8
Garmin Oregon 700 Handheld GPS
8
Garmin GPSMAP 66st Handheld Hiking GPS
7
Garmin GPSMAP 64st
7
Garmin in Reach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator
7
Garmin etrex Touch 35
6

In fact, our experienced team felt no need to search through the Garmin Foretrex 401 manual.

Even our inexperienced GPS users were able to figure out the basic functions after 10 minutes or so handling.

It really is that simple.

The 401 also allows you to set up a customizable view. The various indicators can be adjusted according to the preference(s) of the user.

Yet more good news.

The device offers 17 hours of battery life and the AAA batteries are easily replaceable – you won’t run out of juice on the trail.

All the four buttons are well-designed and we found them as very responsive.

In addition, the wrist strap makes handling easy. We also found the strap effective for attaching it to your backpack harness or a belt.

Display Quality

The display is an interesting aspect to discuss in the 401 Review.

It’s a 1.6 inch display with 100 x 64 pixels.

Moreover, the black and white LCD screen offers a dual-position display.

We think it’s a cool addition.

Why? Let me explain.

This display offers the advantage of both horizontal and vertical viewing. This was super useful.

Garmin-Foretrex-401

Display Quality Rating

Garmin Oregon 700 Handheld GPS
9
Garmin GPSMAP 66st Handheld Hiking GPS
9
Garmin GPSMAP 64st
8
Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS
7
Garmin Montana 680 Touchscreen GPS/GLONASS Receiver, Worldwide Basemaps
7
Garmin in Reach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator
7
Garmin eTrex 20x, Handheld GPS Navigator
7
Garmin etrex Touch 35
7

The backlight makes the display easy to read in low light conditions.

The cool thing is…

…that even under the harsh sunlight of higher altitudes, the display was clearly readable. This makes the Foretrex 401 a great choice for military,use or bright sunny days, especially in desert environments.

However, it’s not designed to support onscreen navigation. The basic features include routes, tracks, and waypoints.

For those looking for a simple and efficient device that’s easy to carry, the black and white display is more than sufficient.

Speed

After a thorough test of the Foretrex 401, we were well satisfied with the speed it offered.

Keep in mind that the speed and accuracy of the device will depend on the location. If the GPS does not have a clear view of the sky, the data capturing speed can come down.

It turns out that the GPS chip in the Garmin Foretrex 401 is highly capable even in critical terrains.

Garmin-Foretrex-401

Speed Rating

Garmin Montana 680 Touchscreen GPS/GLONASS Receiver, Worldwide Basemaps
9
Garmin GPSMAP 64st
9
Garmin Oregon 700 Handheld GPS
9
Garmin GPSMAP 66st Handheld Hiking GPS
8
Garmin in Reach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator
8
Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS
7
Garmin eTrex 20x, Handheld GPS Navigator
6
Garmin etrex Touch 35
6

Our team used the device while passing through some deep gorges in the yosemite terrain. They happily noted that quick signal reception was constant throughout the trail.

In addition, they also found the readings of the electronic compass to be spot on.

Once you figure out how to use the Garmin Foretrex 401, you’ll find the overall speed impressive at all levels.

The Foretrex 401 might not be as fast as the more advanced (and of course more expensive) models from Garmin. We did find the Garmin Foretrex 601 device to be marginally faster.

But, considering the affordable price and ease of use, the overall speed of the device is well within acceptable limits

In our Garmin Foretrex 401 Review, we gave it a score that placed it just below the more advanced models from Garmin.

Weight and Size

First impressions count.

When you take a first look at this device, you’ll see it’s a super-compact GPS.

If you’re looking for an ultralight model, the Garmin Foretrex 401 GPS – Come – Altimeter is the right choice.

… it only weighs 3.1 oz with batteries.

Garmin-Foretrex-401

Weight and Size Rating

Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS
10
Garmin eTrex 20x, Handheld GPS Navigator
10
Garmin etrex Touch 35
9
Garmin Oregon 700 Handheld GPS
8
Garmin GPSMAP 66st Handheld Hiking GPS
8
Garmin GPSMAP 64st
8
Garmin Montana 680 Touchscreen GPS/GLONASS Receiver, Worldwide Basemaps
4
Garmin in Reach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator
2

Note that the device works on two AAA batteries, so carrying spares will not be a problem at all.

Having your hands free while fishing, cycling or hunting is a big advantage, right?

We really loved the fact that this device can be used like a watch, thanks to the ingenious design.

In fact, the compact nature of the device also makes it an ideal choice for military personnel.

So what else is there?

The sturdy nylon strap comes with a Velcro strip and is light and comfortable for wearing throughout the day.

Some of our team members preferred the lightweight comfort of the Foretrex 401 over other advanced models.

What about the final result?

The device scored a perfect 10 under this metric in our 401 Review

Versatility

Firstly, we were full of praises for the all-round efficiency of the Foretrex 401 after our thorough testing.

Why?

Apart from the hands-free convenience, the Garmin Foretrex 401 also has a water rating of IPX7.

This means it can be immersed in water for 30 minutes at a maximum depth of one meter.  So bad weather won’t be a problem at all with the 401.

In addition, it comes with an electronic compass, altimeter, and jump-master settings. This makes the 401 useful for HAHO, HALO and static-line jumps.

Hold on, there’s even more.

Garmin-Foretrex-401

Versatility Rating

Garmin GPSMAP 66st Handheld Hiking GPS
9
Garmin GPSMAP 64st
9
Garmin in Reach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator
8
Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS
7
Garmin eTrex 20x, Handheld GPS Navigator
7
Garmin etrex Touch 35
7
Garmin Montana 680 Touchscreen GPS/GLONASS Receiver, Worldwide Basemaps
7
Garmin Oregon 700 Handheld GPS
6

We also noted the screen of the Foretrex 401 is pretty resistant to scratching.

What about connectivity?

Apart from wireless data exchange, the device also offers data transfer through the USB interface. All the routes can be stored in GPX format for analysis after you’ve downloaded them.

Moreover, it can save 500 waypoints and 10 tracks in total.

To top it off, it also offers wireless data sharing with another device.

This a nifty feature for sharing data among the group.

However, the device does not support rechargeable batteries, which can be an issue for some users. On the other hand, triple-A’s are handy when batteries cannot be recharged.

Even so, we felt that the average battery life of 17 hours could have been better.

Also, those who prefer using preloaded maps should check out the xxxx. The 401 doesn’t support advanced navigation.

Garmin Foretrex 401 lets you create and store routes to up to 20 of your favorite places and provides other helpful information, including a trip computer, sunrise/sunset times and hunting and fishing information.

Conclusion: Garmin Foretrex 401

So let’s sum up the facts and see what makes this device so special.

At this point, you’ll no doubt realize the Garmin Foretrex 401 is a super handy device that makes any level of navigation easy.

If you’re on a tight budget you’ll be delighted that the high levels of accuracy and a rugged build of the 401 come at an incredibly pocket-friendly price.

It’s lightweight, easy to use, and perfect for an active day outdoors.

At the same time, high-quality electronics make it fast and reliable.

The result?

The Garmin Foretrex 401 is a great choice for those who need an excellent basic GPS that’s durable enough to deal with rough use.

It stands out as a GPS you can depend on that performs without missing a step.

Bottom line:

After analyzing the overall scores we were unanimous in awarding this GPS as the TopNotch Top Pick product in its class.

You’ve decided you want a GPS – the Garmin Foretrex 401 is a great buy.

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