Top positive review
304 people found this helpful
Perfect Hiking GPS
on April 27, 2013
After combing through reviews for a good hiking GPS, I couldn't decide whether to buy the Garmin Foretrex 301 or 401, so I bought both. The reason I bought the 301 was because I had read a review from someone saying that the barometer on the 401 wasn't accurate and that this person had returned the 401 for this reason and bought the 301 instead, which is the older version. The 301 has not barometer, just a GPS.
After buying the 301, I realized that it was absolutely useless to me because it didn't track elevation change, one of the most important things for hiking.
I have been very pleased with the 401. I find the barometer and the compass to be extremely accurate. You can set both for automatic calibration but I usually calibrate the compass before each use for optimal performance. It only takes a few seconds. I haven't really needed to calibrate the barometer.
The 401 tracks elevation and distance very well. I took it to the Catskills last weekend, where max elevation was 3700 ft and it was dead on. It has a lot of cool features and you can change the items it shows you on the screen to fit your needs. The main page has a little map of where you've gone, the second page has the compass and average speed (customizable), then you have the screen where it shows you elevation change over a certain number of miles, which is pretty cool; and lastly you can see specific stats like elevation gain, elevation loss, moving speed, average moving speed, current elevation, moving time, stopped time, actual time etc.
When you're done with a hike or walk, you upload the data to BaseCamp, Garmin's free software, and it shows you almost minute by minute data on what elevation you were at, what time it was, and you're moving speed. You can also open your hike in google maps for a 3D view, which is pretty cool and save all of your information to keep track of what you've done and where you've gone.
GPS tracks really well even under tree cover in the woods. Had no problem connecting to satellites in the Catskills with no phone reception for 20 minutes around, for example. Didn't drop the signal once during the whole 8 miles we were hiking. Also has good reception when walking in the city, ie Brooklyn or Manhattan, though it does take longer to connect to satellite. Still under a minute though.
My only complaint is that I haven't been able to get the 401 to transfer wirelessly to BaseCamp but it's not a big deal. I just plug it in via USB. I'll update if I figure this feature out.
Battery life is good. I only go on day hikes so it hasn't been an issue. I've used it for approximately 10 hours this week and I'm still at two bars. Investing in rechargeable batteries is a good idea.
The wrist strap is pretty sturdy and the device isn't heavy. Really convenient way to be able to see where you are going/how fast/and at what elevation while you are moving or when you are stopped. I wear it higher on my wrist and find that to be the most comfortable way.
Another issue I should address is that a review I read was complaining that the GPS doesn't have a stop function, which threw me off when I was trying to decide whether to buy it. It's true that the GPS does not have a "stop" function to record when you aren't moving but that sort of function isn't necessary, precisely because it IS a GPS. It syncs with satellites so when you ARE at rest it ISN'T recording you. This makes sense because it's a GPS and it can only record you when you are moving. At the end, it even gives you total moving time and total time at rest, which is great. For this reason too, it is more accurate in tracking distance than devices like iphones or simple pedometers. When we're done, I can see the mileage for only the time we were moving without stopped time while my friends see both stopped and moving time, which makes their mileage inaccurate and always longer than mine.
Overall, I am very happy with the 401. I immediately returned the 301. I'd say strictly for hiking/walking purposes it is accurate and convenient. I love it.
Wanted to share my own experience for folks like me who are on the fence about which hiking GPS to buy and can't decide between the 301 or the 401 from posted reviews. Hope this helps!