Navigation w/ Heart Rate Monitor

2:31 p.m. on June 14, 2009 (EDT)
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Doing some research for a friend who is interested in getting a heart rate monitor that also has GPS capabilities. She has been looking at the Garmin Forerunner 405. I tried looking up reviews here on Trail Space, but there is only one, and not very in depth. Anyone have any experience with this particular product? Or perhaps can recommend a similar product that will serve her purposes? Here is what she is looking for:

Time, Distance, and Pace

Calories Burned


2:56 p.m. on June 14, 2009 (EDT)
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Hopefully Bill S. will see this post i'm sure he will have some goon information for you on this subject.

10:14 p.m. on June 14, 2009 (EDT)
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"goon information?" Hunh?

The Garmin x05 series of wrist GPSRs is intended for training. As such, they are very poor for navigation. I have a Forerunner 305. It is pretty good for what it is designed for (training on foot, bicycle, skis) and competition in races for those events. However, the tiny screen and the awkward navigation interface make it unsuitable for navigation. The series has no map capability (yes, it shows a breadcrumb trail which you can backtrack on and will allow downloading a previous breadcrumb trail that you or someone else has saved, or a point to point route - but no topographic or street maps). Marking waypoints as you go to backtrack is awkward to say the least, though it can be done (fastest I have seen anyone starting from the data, compass, or breadcrumb screen to completely mark and name a waypoint is 3 minutes, and I have seen a number of people take 10 minutes or more - compare to a typical handheld hiker-oriented GPSR which can get a waypoint entered in 5-10 seconds). Add to that the very short life on the battery before a recharge is needed (8-10 hours - and how will you recharge on even a weekend backpack? No swapping of batteries is possible in the field).

Even with the training function, there are some weirdities. Supposedly the 205, 305, and 405 will track calories burned. Yet I often go without the chest strap heart rate transmitter, and it still gives a calories burned number. Same hike in the same time with the transmitter produces a quite accurate heart rate graph (comparing to a Polar HRM gives an almost perfect match), and the same calories burned (the Polar gives a very different calorie burn count, one that is close to the published tables of amount of calories typically burned for a given exercise session by the average athlete).

I do find it quite useful in orienteering events, training rides on the bicycle, and training hikes, and would recommend it for that. It works well for post-analysis as well, in that you can download the track onto a good mapping program like National Geographic's Topo!, Garmin's proprietary MapSource, or Delorme's Topo USA (Delorme downloads the heart rate information as well, and actually in a more useful format than the Garmin Training Center software that comes with the Forerunner units).

Among my orienteering and adventure race friends, and my impression, the 305 is more useful than the 405 (and costs less as well).

1:34 p.m. on June 17, 2009 (EDT)
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Check out the new issue of Runners World. They have a feature article where they gave different heart rate monitors, including the 405, to several different runners to try out to better their training.

As Bill already said, the GPS capability is not suitable for actual navigation, but RW claims it is pretty accurate for gauging distances. There's more info in the article, but I can't find it online for you.

9:40 a.m. on June 18, 2009 (EDT)
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Checked out Runner's World online. I think I found the article you were talking about:,7120,s6-240-321--12350-0,00.html


12:52 p.m. on June 18, 2009 (EDT)
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I just talked to Garmin's tech support (boy has that improved in the past couple years! Used to be terrible, now pretty reasonable). The reason I am finding "calories burned" with and without the chest strap (transmitter) is that the 305 and 405 calculate calories burned from distance and speed. The tech person said they do not take into account physiological information (the Polar and Suunto units do consider heart rate, VO2max, max heart rate, weight, and height). However, the Forerunner 405cx does take into account heart rate in calculating calories burned. I commented that I had never seen any numbers in the "Fat Calories" column of the Garmin Training Center downloads. The tech rep said you can only see that with a 3rd party program called "New Leaf".

So, PTogs21, since your friend wants calories burned along with time, distance, pace, and GPS functions, she will probably have to combine two instruments - the Garmin 305 or 405 for the GPS functions (including time, speed, distance, and downloading to a topographic map, such as NatGeo's Topo! or Delome's Topo USA), plus a dedicated heart rate monitor (I would highly recommend Polar's line, since they have been at it for something over 30 years, and I have been using their units for over 25 years and been extremely happy with them, as have many of my fellow orienteers and adventure racers I know). I will note that Polar has come out with a GPSR supplementary pod, and that Suunto has wrist GPSRs with HRMs. While I like Suunto's "wrist computers", I was not happy with the one Suunto unit that had an HRM included.

But again (and the Garmin tech rep strongly concured), the Forerunner series (including 305, 405, and 405Cx) is not intended for navigation. Their navigation capability is limited to backtracking and following a preloaded route. If your friend wants true navigation capability, she should get a pocket GPSR with a sufficiently large screen.

1:16 p.m. on June 18, 2009 (EDT)
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The article is "Times are Changing" from the July 2009 Runners World.

It doesn't come up on a search of, but maybe they'll post it in a month or so. Otherwise, you can pick up a copy.

Bill, it also has an interesting little sidebar called "Burning Issue: Why are calories so hard to count?"

11:30 p.m. on June 22, 2009 (EDT)
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No experience with GPS but I have a Suunto T6 fitness computer I bought for the gym. It has Altitude and Barometer, air temperature (but must be off the wrist!!).

The HRM is excellent and provides better accuracy than peers. I am very happy with it. I did see a more expensive outdoor model with less fitness but more orienteering features. If it is as good as the T6 you should take a look.

12:05 a.m. on June 23, 2009 (EDT)
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...Bill, it also has an interesting little sidebar called "Burning Issue: Why are calories so hard to count?"

Yeah, I saw that article/sidebar. One thing I didn't mention is that several years ago, before Polar and others put the calorie counter function into the HRMs, a colleague of mine and I did some calculations of how many calories were required additionally when going up hill (PhDs with too much time on their hands, you know). We used the canonical 100 calories per mile for running/walking to compare and see if we could figure out how accurate the old time algorithm (2 mph plus 1 hour per 1000 feet gained, making 1000 feet of altitude gain equal in energy required to 10,000 ft of walking, or climbing up the hill requiring 10 times as much energy as walking on the level). It turned out to be fairly accurate as a relative way of looking at hiking on the level vs hiking uphill. We also tried to account for various pack loads.

Well, when Polar came out with their HRMs that calculate calories, we were pleasantly surprised to find that our theoretical calculations were within 10% of what the Polar was giving. We took body weight into account, which the Polar does, but the Garmin 305/405 does not (though Garmin did say the 405Cx does, along with heart rate).

The upshot is, the numbers are just estimates. The only way found thus far to do it accurately is to measure oxygen usage (stick a mask on your face, and instrumentation that measures O2 in vs CO2 out, hence how much carbo/protein/fat is being burned, which directly gives the calories). You can do this on a treadmill, or you can have a car drive alongside you with the hoses from the mask connected to the machinery in the car (yes, it is done at the Olympic training camps). Not very convenient.

Richard (my colleague) decided to measure his body fat. So he got measured by the caliper pinch, body reactance (electronic method), and drowning, er, I mean, total body immersion in a water tank, methods. They were all different! In his case, he was under 10% body fat for all the methods (I am low body fat percentage, but not that low!).

7:30 a.m. on June 24, 2009 (EDT)
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I also have Suunto t6c. The Suunto heart rate monitor has some advantages for pros and semi-professionals. Because it can calculate metrics like oxygen consumption, respiratory rate, training effect… and EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption).

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