GPS Watches For Advanced Navigation and Tracking

GPS watches tend to fall into two distinct categories in functionality with some crossover in between. GPS running watches and GPS navigation watches.

This article discusses GPS watches with navigation.

Navigation GPS allow you to find your way in the world. Most common navigation feature sets allow you to enter routes into the watches memory, enter specific locations or waypoints, follow a route or go to a specific location and in the case where a GPS has a larger screen, view your position on a map.

The Navigation mode of a GPS watch can be used to pre-plan a destination and ensure that you find it. You can also create a “waypoint” at specific locations that can be uniquely tagged and navigated to later.

Navigation mode can shows you the:

  • distance
  • direction
  • estimated time of arrival (Suunto X watches only)
  • and other essential information for all the waypoints of the selected route

A GPS watch can also guide you back to your starting point.

The following GPS watches can be considered to have at least a basic level of navigation features:

  • Garmin Forerunner 405 and 405CX (basic waypoints and compass)
  • Garmin Forerunner 205, 305 and 310XT
  • Garmin Forerunner 301
  • Garmin Forerunner 201
  • Timex IRONMAN Bodylink Trail Runner
  • Suunto X9/i and X9M/i
  • Suunto X10
  • Globalsat GH-615
  • Globalsat GH-625

In the next section we will look at some of these common navigation features.

There are X general navigation features in GPS watches that support navigation. They are:

  • Map Mode – The ability to view routes and waypoints in a graphical map representation
  • Mark Waypoints/Locations – The ability to enter a location into the watch’s memory
  • Create Routes – The ability to create a conjoined series of waypoints
  • Breadcrumbs or Track Logs – The ability to automatically lay down a route in real-time
  • Navigate to Waypoint – GPS watches have the ability to direct you to a waypoint
  • Navigate Route – Navigation watches have the ability to direct you along a route

Map Mode

Most GPS tracking/navigation watches feature a visual map that allows you to view your position and nearby waypoints or your entire route within the current vicinity. Map modes are available in the Forerunner 205, 305 and the new 310XT and the GlobalSat watches GH-615 and GH-625. Not all GPS watches support a map viewing mode. On a watch screen size is limited, and in watches that attempt to reduce the burden of size and bulkiness often present in a GPS watch, the ability to present a map is often sacrificed.

The Forerunner 305 Map ModeThe GlobalSat GH625 Map Mode

Marking Locations/Waypoints

The ability to flag a location in three dimensions (latitude, longitude and elevation), in the watch’s memory is a feature of all GPS watches that offer you the ability to navigate, whether that be entered via computer software or the watch (flagging the current location). The waypoint can be saved using the watch’s unique numbering system with the option of assigning it a custom label.

Garmin Forerunner 205 and 305 waypoint entryGlobalSat GH-625 waypoing entry

Creating and Modifying a Custom Route

A route is a straight line path between two or more points on the map. Navigation GPS watches let you create and save routes into the watch’s memory, then navigate to a specified route. Locations can be entered and saved in the watch’s memory and then used to construct routes.

Navigating. Finding a Waypoint, Compass View and Finding Your Way Home

Watches featuring GPS navigation have the ability to navigate to an individual waypoint and about a sequence of waypoints within a route. Some GPS watches lie the Forerunner 305, GlobalSat feature a compass view screen that graphically displays the direction to the next waypoints, the distance to the next waypoint and in some watches, the ETA to the next waypoint.

The Forerunner 305 Compass mode is displayed here presenting the direction to the next waypoint, distance and estimated time.Selecting NAVIGATE in the Forerunner 305 your route will appear as a dark line connecting each location within the route.

Finding Your Way Home

A useful navigation feature is the “return to start” of a run or route that directs you back to your starting position, based on your most recent run.

The “back to start” feature of the Forerunner 205 and 305 is displayed here the route of your most recent run.

How GPS Navigation Watches Compare So how do navigation watches stack up? Below is a chart that illustrates how navigation gps watches differ:

 Map ViewWaypointsRoutesTrack LogsCompass
Forerunner 405

Forerunner 205/305

Suunto X10

(up to 50
25 tracks
(max. 26000
track points)
Suunto X9i/X9Mi

(up to 50
25 tracks
(max. 8000
track points)
Garmin Forerunner 301

Garmin Forerunner 201

Garmin Forerunner 101

Buy For $259.99
Timex Trailrunner

Globalsat GH-625

Globalsat GH-615


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