Garmin Fenix 6X Pro, or...?

Good day all.

I’m asking on behalf of my partner who’s eyeing out this gps/watch, the Fenix 6X Pro. Now it’s quite a tool and quite a financial outlay, so running parallel to online reading/watching I thought I’d ask for ideas, feedback, alternatives…

She wants it for (I’m quoting):

Uploading & following GPX tracks.
Topographical features.
Good battery life.
Accurate navigation.
Weather & shock resistance.

She also asks “Would it like work in the Drakensberg, if you’ve uploaded a GPX, or is it only great for American settings, where most reviews are made? You know.”

I suppose some of these points require further questions like “compared to what?” and so forth, so any input would be appreciated, as well as alternatives…(just started on this quest, may god have mercy on our souls)

Thanks in advance.
c.

p.s. If anyone has experience with these gps-watches as well as hand held gps devices and phones I’d love to hear a comparison re “joy of useability”, appreciating that a ph is also a ph and camera, etc.

For my part I’m somewhere between “Ooh that’s nice” and “Naah don’t need it”, but then I’m still very much in love with my map and compass.

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I tested the Garmin Fenix 5X a few years ago. This was my feedback:

  • The built in map function is very useful when uncertain of which split to take at a fork (for example), but I wouldn’t want to use for navigation (referring to your Drakensberg example)
  • I think you can install 3rd-party topographical maps on the watch for more terrain info.
  • The watch was quite weighty and I was always aware of it on my wrist, especially when running.

The battery life is very impressive, but you would still need to charge it every third or fourth day (if being used in GPS mode all the time), so it doesn’t remove the need for a battery bank on a longer hike.

If I was faced with a choice between the Garmin Fenix 6X Pro (R17999) or a combo of the Garmin Instinct Solar (R7999) and the Garmin GPSMAP 66i (R10999), I would definitely choose the latter.

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Another option is also the Suunto 9 Baro which comes with a better price tag but bearing in mind that it does not have all the features of the 6X Pro. I have been using it for about two years and am quite happy with the features. Route planning etc beforehand via the app is good and easy and you won’t get lost but for topography a map is still easier to see the lay of the land than the small screen on your wrist.

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I really like my Suunto ambit 2.

For navigating it’s SUPER good enough.

I feel like it has the necessary features with long battery life and a really accurate GPS.

And it’s a lot cheaper. (Especially if you buy it second hand)

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Check this out:

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I have had the Fenix 6 (not the Pro) for 18months. Outstanding watch! You can get it for R8k on a special at times, otherwise R9k. Does all the following without the Topo:
Uploading & following GPX tracks.
Good battery life.
Accurate navigation.
Weather & shock resistance.

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I jumped in at the Garmin 5S. Had it nearly two years
(Conclusion - Love it)
Its a huge outlay for a device with a longevity restricted by its battery life. I am guessing that It’ll be good for 5 years, but once the battery life starts dropping its going to be pretty useless as a navigation device. For Context my Casio Promaster is still ticking along on the mantle piece brought in 2011 and untouched It most likely will be for another 10 years

Navigating:

The Map is fiddly to zoom in and out and use for navigating but is useful to see where there are paths on the trail and whether you want to be going left or right as Arno suggests.
The Track on exposed mountains gets very lost, so thats something t consider in decision making, as visually you may be up to 1 km away from where you actually are.
I find it useful to have it on the navigation screen when hiking and monitor it frequently to see whether I am on course or off - especially approaching an indistinct junction that isn’t marked by a cairn

The battery life on GPS + Galileo mode is ok, typically about 1 & 1/2 days hiking. I usually use about 45% on a 7 hour hike
In the Extended (inaccurate GPS) mode the battery life is good for 3 hiking days navigating.
I find the distance travelled a useful feature, and the compass is actually pretty good too.

Bottom line a Dedicated GPS with spare batteries is much better, but you could drop it, loose it, forget it which youre not likely to with the watch. Its an absolutely nice to have.

But figuring out how to keep it powered is a whole different conversation. It likes my 20,000 1mah Uniross power bank, but doesn’t like my 8000 2mah solar powered RedE one. At the moment Im looking to rebuild a Solar panel for direct charging off USB for the Power banks GPS

As a guide having the messages come through to your wrist is particularly useful in so much as guests dont feel your are prioritising the communication over them and Ive had several people ask if I actually have a phone. (i get that any device does this) but having the turn signals vibrate on your wrist is great too!

I haven’t uploaded GPS tracks yet nor figured out how to nor needed to yet.

I do take mine off when washing as the chemical aspect isn’t great but the water resistance is very good. That said, buy the little caps that fit over the contacts as the salinity of your exercised body tends to make charging difficult as you need to wash them before connecting.

In short its a great companion to a MAP and Compass enabling you to be very much more aware of where you are and only bringing out the map at lunch or at night time.
Battery life isn’t great, typically I recharge once a week unless I have a hike on, but it charges quite quickly From a practical standpoint Id say it uses about 14% over 24 hours.

Its very awesome for the extras, like monitoring weather, adding on tidal predictions and when lion woke me up swatting my tent and I smelt her breath as she sniffed Flehmen through the vent of a First Ascent Luna 30cm from my face, the next day my watch recorded that my heart rate went from 64 to 120 at 03:26

Also cross referencing activity to the GPS track against heart rate is another interesting tool for reflection.

As a reference the App Maps.me is very good (probably better but youre using a communication device for mapping not a great idea), Garmin Etrex and Montana GPS’s are so much easier to interact with.

Ive just had a little play looking at and zooming on and out the Drakensberg area, it took a while but I did find Monks Cowl fork before I got bored. the screen refresh is not exactly quick, but I am sitting in Cape Town and the Contours at 50m intervals are visible, as well as “rivers” For this the device isn’t useless but your rather use anything else.

I have not uploaded routes to follow yet, but in Navigation mode use the Garmin to find things “around me” whilst travelling ona new road. Hey it found Bagdad Cafe on the N7, so thats a bonus Whilst typing this, It hasn’t found “Giants Castle” yet…

Obviously the 6 Pro (with the solar charger) will be better, last longer and find things faster, but still not as much use as a GPS

Also Its interesting to put it onto Tactical mode and monitor distance & speed whilst someone else is Skippering or Flying

All in all Im a big fan, and when this one’s battery life diminishes to the point it won’t last a 7 hour hike I hope Ill be in a flush position to buy another one (but Ill still have my Casio Promaster on the mantelpiece to tell the time whilst hiking.)

When the battery dies on you; you do feel kind of lost for a while

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Hi Carl,

I’ve used GPS’ses for many years now, and have used many different types (Magellin initially, then Garmin, Suunto and Tomtom(car) ), and here is how it’s worked for me.

Currently I use a Fenix 6, my wife uses a Suunto 9, and we also take a Garmap 64S along. I started with the Fenix 2 and have been through the many iterations up to the current model.

I also have a Garmin Montana (offroading and Berg hiking) but I’ve stopped using it in the Berg for 2 main reasons, no, 3. It’s big, heavy and have a touch screen. Touch screens works well, except when it gets really cold (you have to press hard on any icon) and in the rain (I’ve wiped icons off the screen by mistake more than once - super frustrating!!).

So, back to your specific questions. The Fenix 6 ticks most of the boxes, but in terms of accuracy it is unfortunately not the best. It is definitely better than the previous generations, but still not up to standard with a handheld unit as the Garmap 64S. It’s ok for open lower level areas but once you are in the passes, boy, the tracks sometimes resembles spaghetti. However, I can even live with that (have been up to now, on the Fenix 6 less so), but my main gripe is with it’s altitude readings. They are often out by 30m or more. If you are trying to find a cave in the mist/rain/dark you could be disappointed. Not so with the handheld, it’s altimeter is much better. In fact, on a few hikes the Garmap 64S got us to the cave, while the Fenix 6 showed us under or over the cave. Again, depending on the terrain, this could be problematic or not a problem.

What I do is to use the Fenix 6 (and my wife does the same on her Suunto 9) as sort of a running commentary. I typically have the following on my main screen: Speed, distance, time and altitude. This tells me most of what I want to know in terms of being on schedule. Screen 2 then contains track details etc. to verify that I am still on course. However, once I have to start searching for the cave (if I don’t know where it is) I’ll pull out the handheld device and use that to get me to the cave. I also keep it as a backup should the Fenix 6 fail or run flat.

So to answer your question, yes, the Fenix 6 is amazing and can do most of what you are asking it to do, but a handheld is better if you want super accurate measuring. That being said, I’ve twice used the backtracking function on my fenix 3 at night in a storm when I was lost, and it got me back to the cave, so using it’s own measurements it works very well.

As always, it’s a case of horses for courses. For me, I really like using it, but I carry a handheld along, just in case.

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Thanks for all the responses.

We’ll probably sit this one out for a while, seems more “nice to have” than “need to have”.

Sounds like a hand held device is far superior for navigation - if we’re to fork out bob best get accuracy for it. Couple that with how-many-ever phones there are already in the hiking party and a good map/compass-combo one is as prepped as can be.

The

mentioned with InReach tech is very smart, and attractive.

Though I’m inclined to look at a Spot Device too. Will need to make some comparisons between Spot and InReach.

Cheers
c.