Garmin Foretrex 701 wrist watch - test & review
PUBLISHED: 15:40 19 October 2019 | UPDATED: 13:41 04 August 2020
Chris Parkin takes a closer look at Garmin’s Foretrex 701 wrist-mounted GPS navigator with Applied Ballistics – ideal for long-range precision shooters
BRIEF OVERVIEW - GARMIN FORETREX 701 WATCH
FOR: Use of Applied ballistics works perfectly with complimentary tools like Kestrel 5700 and Sig Sauer Kilo 3000; Reliable functionality in all conditions; A full suite of navigation tools is incorporated; I think it's good value for money
AGAINST: It is quite bulky so not to be considered a day to day watch
VERDICT: Perhaps not one for a random Christmas list donation to just any shooter, but long-range precision marksmen with travelling needs and serious atmospheric considerations to contend with will appreciate the compact usability of the Foretrex 701.
IN DEPTH REVIEW - GARMIN FORETREX 701 WATCH
Garmin's Foretrex 701 is a multi-function watch incorporating many of the company's characteristic navigation functions but, crucially to shooters, it runs the Applied Ballistics (AB) Elite software to calculate firing solutions. Covering the entire capability of this tool in two pages would be impossible, but here are the key features for shooters.
The watch is supplied with elasticated and solid Velcro straps and, although quite bulky, it's lightweight and fits securely above or below clothing. There are five rubberised buttons below the 55mm (diagonal) LCD display, which are clear to see and capable of use with night vision goggles. I can't deny many of the capabilities descend from military requirements with tools like Jumpmaster for calculation of HALO and HAHO parachuting requirements, unlikely to be used by shooters, but like all packaged tools, not all functions will apply to every user.
Unlike smartphones, use with gloves is tactile and you won't be disturbed by calls, yet you can opt for smart notifications, with emails and messages displayed on screen. The Garmin Connect Mobile app can initiate the LiveTrack1 feature, allowing others to follow your journey, which might help with a combined hunt if there's enough coverage. Other features include automatic uploads to the Garmin Connect online fitness community and automatic software updates when paired to a mobile.
Functions such as location and route mapping with 100/200 points per track are catered for with GPS/GLONASS and Galileo satellite network connectivity throughout the globe with varying positional accuracy promises from 5m down to 1m precision.
The Foretrex 701 is constructed to satisfy military standards (MIL-STD-810G for thermal, shock and water performance) with 3-axis accelerometer and a 3-axis compass, which remains functional when stationary, so good for bearings - plus there's a barometric altimeter.
Battery life exceeds 48 hours in 'navigation' mode, up to a week in UltraTrac and nearly a month in 'watch' mode from twin AAA batteries. To be fair, it's big and makes a statement, so you are unlikely to wear it as a fashion accessory, but it's nice that it does actually tell the time alongside more complex functions like the built-in altimeter. This runs elevation data to accurately monitor ascent and descent, which can offer a fascinating insight into your quarry's ability to draw you up and downhill all day long, thereby explaining your tired legs.
The barometer gives a useful nod to predicting weather changes, showing short-term trends in air pressure. Other features such as sunrise/set and moon phase are again all of definite benefit to hunters.
When it comes to ballistics, the Foretrex really scores as an individual unit or partnered with associated tools. Working solo, all Applied Ballistics Elite tools are on board with multiple gun builds supported by the full AB database that can be incorporated into your ammo's recipe. Full support of metric and imperial units, atmospherics, wind angles, spin drift, Coriolis, truing with drop scale factors - the list is long, and thankfully, an instruction manual is supplied. The four-colour display (mainly black on grey for ballistics) is easy to read with decent sized text and painless gloves on/gloves off operation.
Temperature and humidity are included in calculations but, crucially, it will not measure range or windspeed, which have to be input manually from complimentary devices. No single tool covers all these parameters as yet, but any serious long-range shooter is likely to have these factors covered by other kit.
If you are already a Kestrel user, the structure, functionality and ballistic engine is identical, with the data produced collaborating to display mistakes in programming - assuming you are used to using one.
GARMIN FORETREX 701 In The Field
My preference is for the Foretrex to be fitted atop my rifle rather than on my wrist when shooting so I can access the buttons one-handed without disrupting my position. You can also connect to a set of Sig Sauer Kilo 3000 binoculars, which will allow an alternate set of functions.
If distances are likely to be quickly altering from a fixed firing point and you want wind calculation on fixed variables at these distances, those can be left as a set value with range updated from the binoculars to display the firing solution on the Foretrex.
Long-range solutions can be calculated without any realistic limitations, far beyond anything even the ELR guys are doing. At that distance, you have far more to worry about than your immediate location; we're talking about shots measured with specialist equipment like military rangefinders or even GPS location data itself! There are many cheaper phone apps available and all these ballistic solvers benefit from time and effort spent learning the ropes.
For the Garmin, the Applied Ballistics Elite software is currently known as the optimum solution, and with a remote display on the rifle or buttons at your wrist, access is simplified. There's less hassle from phone limitations such as poor weather or battery life, physical durability or lack of fingertip access when wearing gloves. Call me paranoid, but I quite like being away from my phone and connectivity with the world - I go shooting to escape.
With everything tied to Garmin's suite of navigational tools, I found it 100% reliable with linear battery life clearly displayed and low battery levels displayed with plentiful warning time. Runtime estimates have been accurate but, as always, the more you use it, the more juice gets sucked away, with satellite connectivity drinking the fastest.
TECH SPECS - GARMIN FORETREX 701 WRIST WATCH
Display resolution: 200 x 128 pixels
Physical dimensions: 7.3 x 4.3 x 2.2 cm
Weight: 87.8 g with batteries
Battery: 2 AAA batteries (not included)
Battery life: Exceeds 48 hours in GPS mode; up to 1 week in UltraTrac™ mode; up to 1 month in watch mode
Water rating: IPX7
Display type: High-resolution 4-colour grey
GPS antenna type: patch
Clock features: time/date, watch mode, military time format, GPS time sync, automatic daylight-saving time, timer, stopwatch, sunrise/sunset times
Customisable data pages
Touch and/or button lock
GPS speed and distance
GPS-based distance, time and pace
Distance to destination
Barometric trend indicator
Unit-to-unit route/location sharing