Ideal GPS for serious backpacker
The correct way to use GPS while hiking is together WITH A PAPER MAP and a simple magnetic compass. You can't rely on GPS alone in the wilderness. The batteries might die, the electronics might fail, the screen size of even the best GPS units is way to small when you are seriously lost, like out in the desert. What you need from GPS is the ability to find your current location (waypoint), so as to find yourself on the map, record waypoint for later uploading to a computer, download waypoints from a computer so you can compare your current location to a desired waypoint. This unit makes it very easy to accomplish these tasks. Because it acts like an ordinary USB flash drive when attached to a computer, you can use it with Windows, Mac, Linux or any other operating system that support USB flash drives. The data format is standard .GPX, which makes it compatibile with all modern mapping software. The unit supports all the major map datums and also allows entering your own map data specs, in case you are using unusual maps (I had to do this with some Greek maps). The SiRF chip means it picks up satellites very quickly, much quicker than the Foretrex 101. Like the Foretrex 101, it uses AAA batteries, so you can bring along spares. If you only use the device to take occasional position fixes, it will last 6 months on a single set of batteries, or long enough for the entire length of the PCT. I removed the wrist strap and store the device in a belt pack when not in use. It is waterproof and quite rugged, so you don't have to worry about babying it. This is the perfect GPS for hikers concerned with maximum functionality and minimum weight.
I picked this product over the other type of gps devices because I need a tiny portable system
that has basic capabilities. What I've found out is that this gps is extremely versatile. All you need is basecamp and google and you can download a bunch of free topomaps and tracks/routes into your computer and send it the watch. I did have the system locked up on me because of a gpx file I've copied from mapmyride.com into the gpx folder that caused some issue. Problem fixed after 1 phone call that took less than 10 minutes. The support guy taught me a cool trick to tap into the mass storage mode to delete the file. If after the master reset doesn't solve your problem, you can try this: With the unit off, hold down the power and up arrow button, then plug the usb into the computer. You then can view your files in windows explorer and eliminate the problem file.
After that incident, I pretty much do all the tranfers through the basecamp software with no issues. Overall I use this watch for biking, hiking, running, and other vacations and am extremely satisfied with it.
It's a Garmin.
As was stated in the previous review, land navigation with GPS should be done in concert with map-and-compass techniques. I am not a fan of using GPS for navigation, but I like using the Foretrex/Forerunner series because of their ability to only navigate back, not forward. I enjoy leaving the real navigation skill up to me when going out, tracking my progress with the GPS, and then using the GPS to simply guide me back. This allows me to maintain my skills with a compass and not allowing dependence on the technology, as is becoming the trend. The Foretrex/Forerunner units are very simple to operate, don't take up much space in your pack (or your wrist), and most use AAA batteries, which is usually the same batteries in your headlamp. The battery life is nearly the same as the lithium-ion models, but the life is extended when you carry extra AAAs, which you should have already. The high-sensitivity receiver in the 301/401 models make satellite acquisition much faster and more reliable.
Wow - Great product in a compact package
The last GPS I had was an old Brunton MNS, which while being sturdy, sucked in every other category - heavy, ate batteries like mad, and worst of all, rarely was able to get a signal in anything but clear blue unobstructed sky conditions. I eventually threw it in the trash. Prior to that, I had experience with the old garmin 12XL, which wasn't much better, but at least it could pull in a signal. Being a skeptic, I reluctantly ordered this Foretrex 301 a few weeks ago and am totally blown away by how well it works for such a featherweight unit. Fast signal acq, even in timber; long battery life, simple menus, and easy computer interface. The excellent All Topo Maps software even has an updated GPS interface module for Garmin's USB-type units. Now I can upload waypoints and print great maps (on paper, for use with a compass)with ease. Highly recommended for all your on and off-trail hiking adventures.
Accurate and Solid
This unit is not for the beginner. It requires some prior knowledge of route-finding and navigation to fully utilize its capabilities. There's no base map or built in electronic compass so it's best use is in conjunction with a traditional map and compass. However, when used as such, it's fantastic. Satellite acquisition and lock is fast, it's accurate and it has all the data options that you'll ever need in the field. I chose the 301 vs. the 401 because the 401 had too many data options that I will never use. Battery life is great (10 hours in field conditions) and the unit is very small, light, water proof and straps around your wrist for quick access. You can also download your routes into Google Earth for a fantastic satellite view of your route. Very nice unit for the price.
Nice piece of kit for hiking/kayaking
I looked at simple GPS units to augment my hiking and kayaking for several months. A friend had just gotten the eTrex 10 and it was simple enough, but I wanted the wrist based unit for kayaking. The functions seem quite similar. I can say on my first few uses, I have no complaints about the unit or its functions.The buttons are easy to use, the display is easily read in bright light, and it seems to track very accurately. The only complaint I have is with the documentation. The only printed documentation is a quick start guide, which is really too basic to be functional. Thye manual on the included CD is only a bit better. Plan on surfing the webs for more concise guidelines.
great little gps
I'm basically a gear junkie and have several GPS units. I've had great luck with Garmin, but was skeptical how good this unit would be due to the low price. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I used this along with GPSMAP60CSX and this little unit grabbed and kept a signal as well if not better than the more expensive unit. It's definitely basic, so depending on what you plan to use it for, it may not have all the functions you want, but for a basic gps, I found it to be spot on. I'll never give up my better unit (unless I breakdown and buy the newer version...), but this little unit is definitely worth the price and then some.
Everything You Need, Nothing You Don't
Like the other posters have mentioned, this is really all the GPS you need for the great outdoors. Having used a lot of various Garmin models over the years, from basic handhelds to advanced mapping units, the Foretrex 301 is just about perfect. The ability to connect the unit to the computer with the supplied USB cable and download/upload waypoints & tracks (GPX format) makes usage a breeze. My most recent unit was an Oregon 450 loaded with maps -- believe it or not, this gets more use. Simple to use, simple to understand, no fluff. If you are looking for a lightweight unit with great battery life, look no further.
Combine this unit with their TOPO 24K DVD software and you have an incredibly powerful navigational tool. Adding a basic gps with downloaded waypoints greatly improves off trail navigation.
Pros: Light weight—2.4oz (w/o wrist strap, eTrex neck lanyard added, lithium batteries), high sensitivity receiver, powerful navigation tool when used with a few waypoints and a paper map, basic and easy to use—not cluttered with too much electronic fluff, well built—has survived many drops w/o damage.
Cons: Unit software does not have tide tables, might not work with NG TOPO software, neck lanyard not included.
Couldn't be easier to use
I am using this to record maps for future reference. The format is compatible with popular mapping utilities, and I use the waypoints marked on the Foretrex track as markers for my photos. Using this gps is so intuitive it's hard to imagine an easier interface. It is really light enough to wear on your wrist, and that lightweight implementation fits in perfectly with my desire to put together the lightest gear kit possible. I am delighted with this product.