Garmin Foretrex 401: Should you buy the Foretrex 401 or go for the newer Foretrex 601?

The Garmin Foretrex 401 is a lightweight GPS that is designed to be attached to your wrist to give you hands-free access to a GPS whenever you need it.

The Garmin Foretrex 401 is a hands-free GPS navigator designed for outdoor activities of all kinds. It’s popular among hikers, mountain bikers, and military personnel. It can run for up to 17 hours in continuous tracking mode and uses replaceable AA batteries.

  • Weight: 3.1 oz w/batteries
  • Length: 2.9″
  • Width: 1.7″
  • Height: .9″

Its size, weight, and durability have made it a favorite among military members in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also makes it a perfect GPS for preppers, hiking, and other outdoor activities.

Who Should Buy The Foretrex 401?

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 Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS
  • Features high-sensitivity GPS receiver with HotFix for improved performance and reception in heavy...
  • Keeps track of routes, tracks and waypoints, and heart rate with add on heart rate monitor (sold...
  • TracBack feature retraces user's path on the easy-to-read LCD display;Display resolution 100 x 64...
  • Supports dual position readout so user can view current location in multiple formats. Audible tones....
  • Features trip computer, sunrise/sunset times, hunting/fishing information, electronic compass and...

Garmin Foretrex 401 Features

The Foretrex comes in a durable little package, weighing just 3.1 oz with two AAA batteries installed. The GPS 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 it’s normally 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 sold separately.

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

Garmin 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 the strap of a backpack.

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

I finally broke one of the pins that secured 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, 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 cannot 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 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 unfamiliar with GPS functions, you may need 10 minutes to get it up and running.


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 a loss to me. You may want to look for something else if you need a GPS that does more than basic GPS functions. The lack of these extra features makes the 401 more appealing. 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 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 401 Review

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 601 Garmin Foretrex 401 Garmin Foretrex 601
Dimensions (W x H x D) 2.9 in x 1.7 in x .9 in 2.9 in x 1.7 in x .9 in
Display Size 1.6 in Diagonal 2 in Diagonal
Display Resolution 100 x 64 200 x 128
Display Type Black and White LCD High-Res 4 Color Gray LCD
Weight 3.1 oz with batteries 3.1 oz with batteries
Battery Type 2 AAA 2 AAA
Battery Life 18 Hours 48 Hours in GPS Mode
Up to 1 Week in UtraTracUp to 1 Month in Watch Mode
PC Interface USB Up to 1 Week in UtraTrac
Waypoints/Favorites 500 Up to 1 Month in Watch Mode


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.

Lately, the 401 has been hard to find, so you may have to go with the 601 even if you don’t want to.

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