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Garmin Foretrex 401 vs 601 vs 701 Comparison Review: Top 3 GPS Devices For Hiking

In this technological era, every field has made some revolutionary improvements. From cameras to dog collars, everything has changed. However, there are some devices that provide ease in our everyday life. A GPS receiver is one of those devices. It is a valuable tool for travelers and people who like to roam outdoors.

Especially for hikers and backcountry explorers, this handheld device is essential. Basically, if you have GPS, it provides the necessary information you need when you are out on the road. Moreover, it gives you the details of your location. So, you can figure out your next destination easily.

In some cases, the visibility of the way is not clear. For instance, the landscape has a few or no different landmark, you will face difficulty even if you have a road map with you. This is where a handheld GPS device is useful for various reasons. You may think that smartphones do the same work for you, as they are often used for guiding the directions. By recreational hikers, they are frequently in use for this purpose. But, GPS devices are far more durable than phones.

With a relatively long battery life, they are best for navigation. Apart from that, you get extra batteries with them. So, you have the choice to replace disposable batteries. Usually, these are equipped with AA batteries that are easy to find anywhere. If you get stuck in a remote area where you can’t recharge the batteries, you can change the battery.

Comparison Table:

In this article, we will give you a quick comparison of the three popular GPS devices. With this detailed explanation, you are going to learn about the ideal device for your upcoming adventure. Without further ado, let’s dive into the major differences between these three models.

Here is a quick comparison table for a quick insight if you are not much of a reader

Best Choice

Garmin Foretrex 401

Premium Choice

Garmin Foretrex 701

Best in Budget

Garmin Foretrex 601


Garmin Foretrex 401 vs 601 vs 701: Comparison Review

Garmin Foretrex 401


  • The battery can last up to a week.
  • Great water resistance ability.


  • No storage for maps

A desirable handheld GPS device must have approximately 10 hours of battery time. In this way, you are not going to feel the need of changing the batteries often. Besides that, for recharging your GPS device on long backpacking trips, a charger is the most helpful gadget.

This model has a battery life of 48 hours when it is in navigation mode. When you need it to last up to a week, you can change the mode to UltraTrac. Plus, in the watch mode, your device will function well for a month.

When you are hiking in remote areas, quite a few times, the satellites may be blocked by trees, mountains, or just unavailable. In these situations, having a GPS system at your disposal is a blessing. The compass feature in this GPS is superb with a standard compass. The model has a standard compass and map for navigation. This feature gets you through difficult terrain.

Moreover, it saves around 500 waypoints and 10 tracks. Unfortunately, you are not able to store maps on this device. A high-sensitivity GPS chip is present that we mostly see in more expensive GPS units. This unit offers a 2-axis digital compass alongside a barometric altimeter.

This Garmin GPS device is light in weight. And, the size is small as well. That is what makes it suitable for hiking. This unit consists of a 1.8-inch black body. The color of the screen is white which makes the content readable in direct sunlight. 

The screen of this handheld GPS has a 100 x 64 pixels fine display. With an extendable wrist strap, you can wrap it around with ease. Other than that, the weight of this unit is 3 ounces. With an IPX7 rating, it can bear splashes of water. And, when your hand is 1 meter deep in water, it works for 30 minutes.

Garmin Foretrex 601


  • You can use it for up to one month without charging.
  • Highly precise and reliable.


  • The device is slightly heavy.

The most prominent feature of this device is its battery life. This device is constructed for military operations, hunting adventures, and scientific work. This doesn’t mean that you cannot use it for outdoor journeys like hiking. This model uses 2x AAA batteries like Garmin 401. Recently, the manufacturers have extended the battery timing from 17 hours to more than 48 hours. This is unquestionably an amazing upgrade for a GPS unit. 

Thus, you can use the GPS for two whole days. You will find other modes in this model that will increase the working time. When you use it in UltraTrac™ mode, it will operate for 1 week. This time extends further for watch mode that is one month. Whenever you want to keep this device running, turn off the GPS mode for a while.

In comparison to the previous model, the Foretrex 601 is an advanced version. It provides a Russian GLONASS system to satisfy your demands. Not only that, it has the European Gallileo system. These two features can catch a huge array of satellites. With strong signals, this device is trustworthy for everyone. To obtain accurate GPS information, you can opt for this unit.

Not to be outdone, this handheld GPS unit has an improved 3 axis compass, additional saved tracks, and Bluetooth LE. Mainly, the benefit of this compass is that you can use it on the go. Subsequently, if you are in a still position, you don’t need to hold it parallel to the floor. These systems are surely better than the standard compass. However, waypoint averaging, automated track archiving are absent in this unit.

This device has a 2 inches display with a higher resolution. Including the batteries, this unit weighs 3.6 ounces. The device is touch-free and allows you to receive emails, texts, and much more. In terms of resolution, the pixels of the display are twice the 401 unit. With the 4 shades of grey on the screen, it provides better details.

Garmin Foretrex 701


  • The device is resistant to heat, shock, and water.
  • The screen is highly visible.


  • The device can be quite heavy.

The battery time of the former types is highlighted in this review. In a similar manner to the other two, the battery life of this device works well. By changing the modes, you can save the charge for long-term use. The GPS mode consumes the most power. After that, the Ultratrac mode utilizes energy. Lastly, the watch in mode is exceptional for saving the battery.

Indeed, the Garmin Foretrex 701 is a multi-function device that has several navigation functions. On top of that, it is designed for shooters. As a result, to estimate the firing solutions, it runs the Applied Ballistics software. This system also calculates jump, spindrift, Coriolis effect, Max Ord, etc. You can see route mapping with almost 200 points per track with the aid of GPS/GLONASS and Galileo satellite network connectivity.

This unit is amazing for military operations as it reaches the standards for thermal, shock, and water resistance. You can use the 3-axis accelerometer and a 3-axis compass while standing still. As a bonus, you get an altimeter too.

The company has added an elasticated Velcro strap in this unit. Underneath the 55 mm display, you will find 5 buttons. You can clearly see the 2 inches LCD even if you are wearing night-vision goggles. This is not as light as the other two variants.

In Conclusion

All the details that you may need are mentioned in our Garmin Foretrex 401 vs 601 vs 701 comparison review. According to your preference, you can choose the ideal one for you. The Foretrex 601 is a drastic improvement over the 401, so you can consider buying it. However, if you are one of those guys who play with guns daily, go for the Foretrex 701.

The price tag of the unit is always a question for us. It helps us determine our need and if you consider it a good investment. The Foretrex 401 costs around $100, which makes it the cheapest and affordable hiking GPS on our list. In case you are not a fan of fancy features, this will turn out to be the perfect buy for you. 

Depending on your usage, only you can identify the best device for you. When you are hiking, trekking, or mountaineering, you need a device that allows you to explore your way. Nowadays, we have GPS-enabled watches that are beneficial for navigation. Still, handheld GPS devices provide an overview of the terrain in detail.

Some of these devices can display satellite imagery, whereas watches can guide your location and direction only. Also, you need to insert new waypoints and plan the routes on your device directly. Because of this, handheld GPS devices are famous as a valuable tool as far as hiking and mountaineering are concerned.

In addition to that, you must not rely entirely on any type of GPS device. Because they have limited battery life and accessibility of the GPS signal, it’s smart to consider a backup plan. On that note, we recommend you to bring a compass and map when you go out on an expedition on unfamiliar territory.

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