Garmin Foretrex 401 Review

Garmin Foretrex 401 Review and a Garmin 601 vs 401 Comparison

Garmin Foretrex 401

The is a lightweight GPS that is designed to be attached to your wrist in order to give you hands-free access to a GPS whenever you need it.

It’s size and weight, along with its durability, have made it a favorite among military members in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also makes it a perfect GPS for preppers, hiking, and any other outdoor activity.

Garmin Foretrex 401 GPS






Battery Life


Ease of Use



  • Uses normal AAA batteries
  • Light weight at 3.1 oz
  • Small at 2.9 x 1.7"
  • Rugged
  • Easy to use


  • Not the latest model
  • Battery life could be better
  • Doesn't have some of the extras that other GPS have
  • Low-res black and white display

Who Should Buy The Garmin Foretrex?

Anyone interested in a durable, reliable, no-frills GPS should be interested in picking up the Garmin Foretrex 401. Hikers, military, preppers, and mountain bikers will love this little GPS.

Garmin 401 Review


The Foretrex comes in a durable little package, weighing just 3.1 oz with two AAA batteries installed. The GPS itself is 2.9″ x 1.7″ and has a backlit, 1.6″, black and white display.

It claims a run time of 17 hours on batteries but I found that it’s normally somewhere between 12-15 hours.

It can track your routes, mark your location with the push of one button and wirelessly share waypoints with other Foretrex 401s.

The Foretrex is waterproof to 1 atmosphere. This means you’re good for rain and snow, but you’re probably not going to want to go swimming with it.

It can also track heart rate and steps with extra Garmin sensors that are sold separately.

Offers many other types of data that can be found within the menu system.

Foretrex 401



The Garmin Foretex 401 is super lightweight and fits nicely on the wrist. I’m not a fan of having anything on my wrists that can snag on stuff while I’m working so mine has spent most of its life hanging on the front of my body armor or off of the strap of a backpack.

Durability is another one of the Foretrex’s strong points. I had a one of these hanging off the front of my body armor for years. It was banged around all over Afghanistan, inside vehicles and on dismounted patrols, blown up twice, and kept on going with no problem.

I finally broke one of the pins that secure the wrist strap to the body by dropping my body armor on the ground and smashing it with the full weight of the plates. A little duct tape later and the wrist strap was reattached. The electronics still functioned like a dream.

Another great feature is the fact that it takes regular AAA batteries. This is a lifesaver when you’re not going to be able to recharge batteries for a while. A lot of GPS these days have rechargeable internal batteries. These batteries give them more life than the Foretrex 401, but they can’t be swapped out if they die. With the Foretrex, you just toss two more AAAs in it and you’re back up and running.

The ease of using the Garmin Foretrex 401 is another strong point. I was able to pick it up without using the directions and figure out how to do everything that I needed it to do in about 5 minutes. If you’re not familiar with GPS functions then you may need to take 10 mins to get it up and running.

Foretrex 401 GPS


The Foretrex 401 has been around for a long time now. Their latest model, the Garmin Foretrex 601 looks really good, now that we’ve gotten our hands on one I can say that it seems superior to the 401. The difference in the display quality is enough for me to stick with the 601 from now on.

The 401 lacks some of the added features and programs that you can find in other GPS. I don’t ever end up using them so it isn’t really a loss to me. If you need a GPS that does more than basic GPS functions you may want to look for something else. The lack of these extra features actually makes the 401 more appealing to me. It just makes it easier to use.

The screen is a monochrome back and white. For some people, this can be a deal breaker. I actually prefer it.

Battery life for the 401 is much worse than Garmin’s latest offerings. This is easily fixed by carrying more AAA batteries, but it still needs to be said.

Garmin Foretrex 601 vs 401

Foretrex 401 vs 601

The chart below pretty much says it all. In my opinion, the Garmin Foretrex 601 is a step up from 401 across the board. It keeps the same size, seems just as durable, and adds a great looking display and battery life.

It’s replaced the 401 on my body armor.

Garmin Foretrex 401 vs 601Garmin Foretrex 401Garmin Foretrex 601
Dimensions (W x H x D)2.9 in x 1.7 in x .9 in2.9 in x 1.7 in x .9 in
Display Size1.6 in Diagonal2 in Diagonal
Display Resolution100 x 64200 x 128
Display TypeBlack and White LCDHigh-Res 4 Color Gray LCD
Weight3.1 oz with batteries3.1 oz with batteries
Battery Type2 AAA2 AAA
Battery Life18 Hours48 Hours in GPS Mode
Up to 1 Week in UtraTrac
Up to 1 Month in Watch Mode
PC InterfaceUSBUSB


Overall, the Garmin Foretrex 401 is a great little GPS for those that want something, small, reliable and easy to use. I highly recommend it.

2 thoughts on “Garmin Foretrex 401 Review and a Garmin 601 vs 401 Comparison”

  1. Appreciate the review and model comparison. I too carried the 401 in OEF ( VII, VIII & IX ). My 401 been retired from regular service for a few years now, after I retired from military service. I got it out of mothballs recently, as I’ve gotten back into hiking now that the military is a few years in the rear view mirror and I wanted to get out and start doing a few things recreationally that the military has a knack for taking the fun out of ( as a vet, you probably know what I mean ). On a whim I decided to see if there was a more modern offering, and that’s how I found your concise and helpful review. Thanks for your helpful feedback on the model differences.

    1. Jim,

      Thanks for your service! The Foretrex 401 is a workhorse. So many people are still using them after years and years.

      If you decide to go for the 601 I don’t think you’ll be disappointed at all. Have fun on those hikes now that you can do them under your own conditions!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top