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Garmin Foretrex 101

rated 4.0 of 5 stars

The Foretrex 101 has been discontinued. It was replaced by the Garmin Foretrex 701.

photo: Garmin Foretrex 101 gps watch

Good basic wrist GPS available for £xx on Ebay and actually more useful than many GPS devices at £xxx


  • Robust
  • Big screen
  • Mac OS and Windows accessible with right cables and SW
  • AAA Batt powered so great for isolated Expeds and no fiddly cradles or clips to charge
  • Fun to do what you need next to someone who has a 700 quid watch they are clueless how to use
  • Kind of nobility pushing old tech life to extremes
  • Has all the normal fields, average speed, distance, total time etc etc
  • You still can get a wrist pouch for it so it's more secure


  • No HR or Pod link
  • 9 pin serial cable needs a USB adaptor for modern PC/MAC, but it works if you do it right
  • Strap is fine but pins are watch standard so better with a wrist pouch
  • Does not have a internal battery so rechargeable AAAs are a good option
  • You need to learn your kit to get the best from it
  • GPS can struggle in dense canopy, though latest update does reduce this a lot


So why would I bother reviewing a bit of kit that is so old it was probably the second backup nav system for Noah after the dove and the olive branch and probably guesswork?

Simply put, I am a fan of writing down what you need then finding the cheapest but most bomb proof way of getting it. I understand the attraction of easy link wifi enabled blue-tooth watches, but in the end so few people even know what they can do let alone use the features of a 700 quid watch it's amazing how many are sold.  

Maybe it's my military training coming forward where systems are so long in development and have to last years before a replacement that you get used to adapting arcane tech. For me the first outing of the Foretrex was a revelation that owed more to SiFi than sport. A wrist mounted GPS module in 2004 (May 26th to be GPS accurate!) was a big innovation for people who need easy read of coordinates, time, distance...well in fact all the stuff you take as standard now. But the beauty of the big screen device was snapped up by military and outdoor enthusiasts. So much so it's on Foretrex 601 and 701 models now. 

Back to the 101, to get the Strava or a GPX for mountain experience e-logs you need the 9 pin cable (about 11-15 GBP) and unless you have a very old PC a 9pin (male) to USB adaptor normally with a internal chip and drivers.  Both amazon or ebay purchases  (though the GPS end adaptor is available of Garmin's own site at about 15£).

Keep with me here, if you use a programme like GPS Babel (free and linux/pc/mac versions) you can link it all up and get your tracks down loaded just like any USB based GPS and then up load to what ever programme/fitness app you need. But because it's based on a control system found in industry Windows 7+ and MAC OS X+ use it. The irony is the more usable Forerunner 205/305 systems will not work on MAC X High Sierra even with Garmin's own Express app because Apple doesn't support the drivers any more and Garmin doesn't care. But because of the link with industry Serial USB adaptors do such is the way of tech.  

But why bother. I got mine for 46 pounds on ebay. The cabling cost about another 20. The result is I have a GPS that will last as long as I feed power into it and does all the functions I need for recording and informing me on the move of my running and hiking. That's it! 

To compare the 401 is about £120-150 but like the ETREX series acts as a USB drive so no serial cable issues and the 601 is smart phone adaptable but at about £200. 

For me it's as basic as possible, cheap as is usable (without getting some useless knockoff), and also learning how my kit works so I can exploit it. With the Foretrex 101 in good working order it's hard not to fall in love with the arcane and kudos of doing what you want next to some head to toe matching outfit...runner...with a device they barely understand.

Mind you when you get someone who does understand the Garmin Fenix 7, settle in with a coffee. The explanation will be long because they do some amazing things !!!!

If you have the chance and time get one. You will enjoy the challenge and satisfaction of making it work.

Source: bought it used
Price Paid: £46

Awesome tool! I received this as a birthday gift. Prior, I was a bit skeptical of folks relying on too many gadgets in the outback. Too many gadgets on a hike resemble working at a desk, rather than savoring the ambience of the Great Outdoors.

It's just another point of reference in addition to common-sense wilderness wisdom, and a savvy with map, compass, and altimeter. All GPS instruments have limitations, and won't lead you out by the hand if you're lost. However, a significant utility of these tools is fostering interest in, and bolstering navigation knowledge. I've always packed along a map, compass and altimeter, but rarely invested much time studying maps. This little tool is prompting me to take time and study where I am.

I enjoy it because I'm a died in the wool techno-weenie. I like entering waypoints, routes, and tracks, and then downloading them onto my TOPO software after a trip. There was little if any learning curve. It's the first GPS I've owned, and the manual and quick start guide got me going in no time. Gradually, I'm building a small reference library of favorite local hikes with associated waypoints.

So far, after multiple snowshoe and hiking trips in the sloppy winter of Oregon's Cascades, it's proved rugged and waterproof. Moreover, it's sufficiently small so I notice it little more than a large watch.

I enjoy and use all the features -- each serving an important utility.


I initially purchased this product in 2006 at Bass Pro Shop (Fort Worth, TX). I use the unit to navigate while deer hunting. It is only worn when hunting. Herein lies the problem.

A few months after purchasing, for some unknown reason the right waypoint (up) toggle button broke off. I contacted customer service and inquired if they could send me another button, which should cost no more than ten cents or so, and that I would replace it myself. I was told to send the unit back for a replacement unit.

This was problematic due to the loss of input information stored in the unit. Obviously, the customer service department did not give a damn about the time and effort required to obtain this essential information, which is primary reason for buying the damned thing.

I sent the unit back and received a new unit sans my essential waypoint information. It is moronic that they would not at least transfer the information to the new unit.

Sadly, a few months later the very same toggle button on the new unit broke at the very same location. I contacted the company again and was appalled that they want to charge $60 to repair a ten cents button.

I will never buy Garmin bullshit again. It's this lack of attention given to minute details that results in employees looking up one day to face pink slips and wonder what the hell happened.

I'm a back-of-the-pack triathlete and I love this little toy. The things I especially enjoy are having speed and distance while running, the map while biking (in addition to the normal speed/distance etc), and uploading the data to is easy and makes all kind of cool maps, statistics, elevation profiles etc available.

Now if it only came with a heart rate monitor too, it'd be even better :)

Price Paid: $130

I absolutely love the Foretrex 101. It really doesn't get any easier or compact than this. So if you're looking for a no frills GPS, and don't need all the extra features that bloat /bog down most other GPS units, then the Foretrex is for you!

Battery life is excellent, and the GPS signal is surprisingly strong without the need of an external antenna.

Highly recommended!

Price Paid: $75

Excellent instrument. More is not needed. Being an avid hunter, I used before this unit five GPSs. This model is almost perfect. What I'd like to see in the future ? A color screen and a longer battery life.

Price Paid: $130

Easy to use with all the essential features, but it loses satellite lock under dense forest coverage which can be frustrating.

Price Paid: $130

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Price Historic Range: $109.96-$149.00
Reviewers Paid: $46.00-$130.00
Weight 2.75 oz / 78 g
Dimensions 3.3 in x 1.7 in x 0.9 in / 8.4 cm x 4.3 cm x 2.3 cm
Display size 1.4 in x 0.9 in / 3.6 cm x 2.3 cm
Display resolution 100 x 64 pixels
Display type Black and white LCD
Battery 2 AAA batteries (not included)
Battery life 15 hours
Waterproof yes (IPX7)
Floats no
High-sensitivity receiver no
Interface serial

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