Garmin Foretrex 401 Review – A Top Class Waterproof Survival GPS

Traveling off the beaten pack is a great way to leave all of your cares away. It’s just you and your equipment interacting with nature. You can even leave your smartphone behind and block out all the noise in your life. Your hiking or camping trip would be much more meaningful if you didn’t get a text message or a phone call every few minutes. It’s a good thing we created this handy garmin foretrex 401 review!

However, leaving your smart gadgets can also leave you vulnerable. If you get lost or injured, you won’t have a way to find your way back to safety. People won’t even know where you are in case you need to be rescued. For these cases, you must have a backup plan. This is where a GPS tracking device comes in handy.

Experienced hikers love the Foretrex 401 from Garmin. This wrist-mounted GPS device is an innovative product that can pinpoint and record your location with astounding accuracy. Besides being small, it is also lightweight. That means it won’t interfere with your movements whatsoever. This is not your typical GPS watch, though. This small device offers a ton of features. Let’s take a closer look at the features of this GPS device to decide if it is the best tracking system for you.

What Is the Garmin Foretrex 401?

Garmin Foretrex 401

The Garmin Foretrex 401 is a compact GPS receiver, barometric altimeter, and electronic compass all in one. You don’t have to worry about getting lost as long as you have this device strapped to your wrist. It has all the necessary features to keep track of where you are. It even eliminates the need to bring a map or even start a fire and send out smoke signals!. This device quickly displays your path and leads you to your next stop.

The Foretrex 401 has tons of features that make it the perfect companion for campers, skiers, hikers, military personnel, and other people working outdoors.

When you purchase this kit, you receive the Garmin Foretrex 401, wristband extension, USB cables, and a user manual. It doesn’t come with batteries, so you’ll have to buy them before using the device.


  • Popular among military personnel
  • TracBack feature to retrace your steps
  • GPS works anywhere
  • Marks your vehicles to find it on your way back
  • Compatible with cadence sensor and heart rate monitors
  • ‘Air Drop’ to other Foretrex 401s


  • Requires frequent recalibration
  • Needs a certain positioning to work properly

Tracking Feature

The device has a high-sensitivity receiver that works well with HotFix. It works exceptionally well, even in remote areas. HotFix enables the device to find the satellite seconds after startup. This feature exists because the tracker uses predictive technology. It calculates where the satellite will be positioned at any given time.

The readings come in quickly and are pretty accurate. This is helpful because you can’t really say where your adventure or work will take you. A tracker that doesn’t operate in specific places can be an inconvenience.

The GPS also has a TracBack feature. This lets you retrace your steps or past routes. With this feature, it is virtually impossible to get lost. The device records your journey and marks it as dotted lines on the display screen.

Once you activate this feature, you just need to walk in the opposite direction, and you will end up at your starting point. You can track not just your bearing but your altitude data too.

If you don’t want to go all the way to your destination, you can also save waypoints. You can mark your vehicle, landing point, or campground as a saved position and then conveniently track your way back to that location. This is perfect for long hikes where you cannot get from the starting to ending point in one go.

Not only does it have an interactive map, but you can also access three different pages filled with all the necessary information you need for your trip.

Quickly Access and Share Data

Garmin Foretrex 401 GPS Receiver

With the Foretrex 401, you can store various routes to your favorite places and access them with a few clicks. You can also store and read helpful navigational information like hunting or fishing data, sunrise and sunset times, and even a trip computer.

You can even create more data by connecting the tracker to compatible wireless accessories like a cadence sensor or heart monitor. This is an excellent feature for athletes who cover large distances in their runs. If you want to input specific trip information from your computer to the tracker, you can use its USB cable and instantly store waypoints and routes. The device has a large storage capacity and can save a total of 500 waypoints and ten tracks.

If you and your companions are all carrying the same Foretrex devices, you can send them your coordinates, waypoints, and routes wirelessly.

The device can also act as a mass storage device if you need to store data but don’t have a flash disk on hand. You just need to connect the GPS tracker to your computer via the USB cable that comes with the kit. Note that this gadget is not compatible with specific Windows and Mac OS versions, so you’ll have to check the manual for more details.

Military Use

The versatile features of the Garmin Foretrex 401 make it a popular device for military personnel. As mentioned, its ability to wirelessly clone itself is pretty handy for sharing routes and waypoints of your mission to other team members. Its 2-axis compass and barometric altimeter also make it easy for your team to get to where they need to be.

Again, you don’t have to pass information from one person to another physically. You can keep your mission’s details a secret more effectively with this GPS device.

Even if the location is under a canopy, you can rely on the tracking system to be accurate. It even takes forward throw, altitude, and wind speeds into consideration to generate the most accurate readings.

Additionally, it can pick up signals faster with the device’s improved sensitivity once it leaves an aircraft. There is virtually no downtime. It is important to note that the speed goes down when there is no clear sky view. This means if it is a little cloudy, the device’s data capturing speed can be affected.

However, in critical terrains, such as gorges or deep canyons, you’d find that the Foretrex 401 is quite capable, and the signal is constant as long as the sky is clear.

The device is also equipped with jump master settings. It is perfect for High Altitude/High Opening as well as High Altitude/Low Opening jumps.

Easy to Operate

Garmin Foretrex 401 GPS Watch

One of the features that users love about this GPS is its ease of use. The device brings all the benefits of a GPS watch in a more prominent form and advanced features.

The front of the tracker doesn’t have any buttons on it. This is to maximize the display space. Navigation is straightforward because there are only a few buttons to choose from. You have the power button, a GoTo, Page, Enter, and Mark buttons. Then there’s the typical scroll up and down buttons. These control buttons are well-sealed so that the device stays dustproof and waterproof.

The device is so easy to use that you probably won’t even have to read its manual. An inexperienced user can figure out how to access the GPS’s essential functions within a few minutes.

When you take the device out of the box the first time, you just need to click on the power button to turn it on. Once switched on, you need to step out into an open space. Wait a few minutes for the device to acquire a satellite signal. You can now navigate through the menus using the different buttons.

The view of the 401’s display is highly customizable too. You can change how the indicators are shown based on your preferences.

Reliable Even in Harsh Weather

Here’s another excellent feature of the Foretrex 401. You can use it in rainy conditions because it is waterproof with an IPX7 rating. If you enjoy being in the water, you don’t have to remove this device whenever you take a dip. It won’t be waterlogged if you get wet. You can even take a dip in the river for half an hour and not worry about destroying your gadget.

Long-Lasting Operation

The device works on AAA batteries. 2 lithium batteries will give you 17 hours of working time. You can pack a few replacement batteries with you so you can continue tracking your location even if you are going to be out for several days. You can also choose rechargeable batteries and bring a charger with you, so you’d never run out of power. Just take out the used-up batteries and pop in the fresh replacement to get continued operations.

The GPS tracker can be switched to different modes to maximize battery use. If you switch to the navigation mode, your device can run for up to two days. If you are going to be out longer than that, you can choose UltraTrac mode. This will give you enough power for up to 7 days. If you only want to utilize the watch feature, set it to watch mode and get a month out of the two lithium batteries.

High Display Quality

The black and white 1.6-inch display is pretty good for a device of this size. The resolution is pretty clear and shows 100 x 64 pixels. It also has dual-position options so that you can view your information horizontally or vertically.

The backlight makes reading what’s on the screen easy, even when you are in low light conditions. You can easily navigate your way through paths even at night.

Additionally, the display is quite readable even under harsh sunlight. This is why it is preferred for military use, especially in desert environments. You don’t have to find a shade to look at your route because it doesn’t throw out as much glare.

Lightweight and Tiny

Garmin Foretrex 401

The device is ultra-compact and lightweight. It only weighs 3.1 oz, and this already includes the two batteries.

The nylon wrist expansion strap is also quite comfortable to wear. Once you secure the Velcro strap, the device doesn’t feel heavier than standard wristwatches. The strap material is breathable, so it doesn’t feel sticky even if you sweat a lot.

The strap’s design makes putting on the watch super convenient. The hook-and-loop system secures the device on your wrist, so you are free to move as much as you want without worrying about the tracking flying off.

If you are a biking enthusiast, this GPS tracker is an excellent way to find your path. You can mount the gadget onto your bike, so you won’t have to wear it the whole time.

Downsides of the Garmin Foretrex 401

One of the common complaints lodged by users of this GPS device is that the compass needs to calibrate frequently. Additionally, you need to hold the device level if you want accurate results. Holding your arm down will set you slightly off track. This can be inconvenient because walking is typically a plus point of using a wrist-mounted device.

Another common issue with the Garmin Foretrex is that it cannot store maps. However, most agree that it is not what this device is meant to be used for anyway. Given its price, the features that are already built-in are more than enough.


GPS trackers have slowly become more sophisticated. The newer versions are compact and lightweight but packed with features and deliver commendable performance. While many Garmin’s GPS devices are hand-held, the Foretrex 401 goes one step further by being a wrist-mounted tracker. If you want a GPS tracker that can prevent you from getting lost, allow you to mark waypoints, and enable you to share your location with other devices, then the Garmin Foretrex 401 is one of the best GPS trackers you can buy online. These bad boys should definitely be of high priority on your tactical bug out bag list.

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