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October 2015 Issue
Home / Gear reviews / Outdoor watches

Garmin Fenix 3


$749 ($819 with heart rate monitor)

Our Rating:

Packed with sensors, outdoor watches tend to be clunky and bulky. Garmin’s Fenix 3 is no exception to the bulky tag, but clunky it is not.

With easy-access menus just the press of a button away, the watch – for despite its ability to track your movement, monitor your vitals and graph your performance, it is still a watch – is intuitive to use and, for it’s size, remarkably accurate.

During testing, I used the ‘hike’ function only (a plan to use the ‘climb’ function on Mt Ngauruhoe was scuppered due to bad weather) – one of 12 activities the watch can be used for. Once ‘hike’ was selected, the watch quickly gained a lock on satellites and began charting my route, measuring the distance I walked in 10m intervals, the time I walked, ascent and speed. The watch also measured barometric pressure, altitude and has a compass that does not need any figure-of-eight movements to sync.

In hike mode, as you walk, the watch will plot your route, so in scrolling to the screen which displays this, a squiggly line appears, representing your walk. When doing a loop walk, like Taranaki Falls in Tongariro National Park, it was pleasing to see the start and finish join up perfectly. This function enables use of the backtrack option, so if you become unsure of your location you can select ‘backtrack’ and retrace your route back to somewhere familiar.

The watch comes with a large strap, allowing it to be worn outside your layers for easy viewing and access. The buttons are large enough to press while wearing gloves.

The watch weighs just 82g and uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that offers up to 20 hours’ use when the GPS is activated and up to six weeks in watch mode. I found this to be accurate during testing.

You can review your hikes within the watch, but far better is to sync with the smartphone app or to view them on the Garmin Connect website for colour graphs and maps.

The watch comes with a quick start guide, which has a paucity of instructions so trial and error is needed in many instances. The Fenix 3 is also expensive – but I would prefer this watch to a heavier handheld GPS.