Heading Up A New Trail? Garmin’s Fenix 5 Has Your Back

Posted by Beth Hartman

Those of us that like to be active and get outdoors and enjoy exerting a little energy in taking in the sights and sounds that Mother Nature serves up, know that getting off the beaten paths can sometimes provide the most rewarding benefits.  Whether it be discovering a new wooded trail, observing an unexpected flock of turkeys that came out in the open.  Or just listening to the quiet that surrounds you.  Enjoying these pleasures can provide you with a feeling of peace of mind, and we ALL need that sometimes.

Having with you  a GPS navigation device like the Garmin Fenix 5 can give you  peace of mind knowing that you  can retrace your steps or find your way back to your starting place because the Garmin Fenix 5 has advanced GPS and Glonass satellite reception capabilities, along with “ABC” which stands for (altimeter, barometer, and compass) sensor capabilities.

The built-in altimeter provides elevation data to accurately monitor ascent and descent, while the barometer can be used to predict weather changes by showing short-term trends in air pressure. The 3-axis electronic compass keeps your bearings, whether you’re moving or not. In addition, there’s an internal gyroscope to help improve position accuracy (and battery life) in UltraTrac™ mode, that can provide you with better tracking results then just GPS alone. So how’s that for a survival companion?

This is just one feature of the Garmin Fenix 5  !  If you want a great all-purpose GPS watch, look no further than the Fenix 5. This “All Purpose” Activity tracker, with Heart Rate Monitor, is meant for the outdoors, the Garmin Fenix 5 has a rugged exterior that looks like it can take some serious abuse.

Five screws hold a beveled, black bezel in place, while five circular buttons (three on the left, two on the right) ring the 1.2-inch display. There's an inner bezel around the screen, along with an outer bezel; together, they measure nearly half an inch, though that's mitigated visually by the design.

Instead of the “Touch Screen” functionality that some trackers have, Garmin has elected to stay with a series of buttons on either side of the watch display. One good reason why I like this choice is that when your out and about, your hands are going to get sweaty and you know how difficult it is to swipe a touch-screen when your fingers are moist. The same thing happens when its cold and your wearing gloves, even though the gloves have those “smart touchpads” on them, it usually takes several attempts to work the swipe. I think its more practical and simpler to navigate an interface with buttons.

Built tough, the Fenix 5 is also water-resistant to 100 meters, compared to just 40 meters for the TomTom Adventurer.  The Garmin Fenix 5 will even track you if you jump out of an airplane. How’s that for Glonass functionality?  You go jump, I’ll just stay on the ground and talk about taking that leap.

The Fenix 5 is the midsize version of the three watches Garmin introduced. The smaller Fenix 5S and the larger Fenix 5X being the other two. While the Fenix 5 has the same size display as the 5X (1.2 inches in diameter), the Fenix 5's case is 1.9 inches in diameter and 0.6 inches thick. The Fenix 5X is a tenth of an inch larger and thicker, and also half an ounce heavier, at 3.5 ounces.

It's tough to find an activity the Fenix 5 can't track!

The smaller size of the 5 makes it more comfortable for most runner’s and other activities, in our opinion that is.  It's much easier to use it as an “Everyday” watch and tracker, and for a runner, you can barely notice weight and space that it takes up on your wrist. It makes it the ideal fitness device for anyone.

The bands are easy to swap out and the one we tested had an elastomer band, but it can be replaced with a metal one if you want to head out for a night on the town. 


The Fenix 5 has an always-on color display (a plus) with a transflective surface that uses sunlight to make the screen brighter. This cuts down on issues in reading the display, even in direct sunlight.  When indoors, it has a “Backlight” functionality that makes viewing the screen as easy as using your smartphone.

Tracked Activities

It's tough to find an activity the Fenix 5 can't track! In addition to monitoring running, the watch can record your metrics when you're hiking, climbing, mountain biking, golfing, skiing (downhill and cross-country), snowboarding, stand-up paddle-boarding, swimming, and rowing.

A breadcrumb feature makes it easy to find your way back where you started.

The Fenix 5 was put through a test of running a half marathon. The 5 performed well and the Heart Rate Monitor capabilities proved accurate, naturally its hard to beat the data accumulation provided by using a chest-strap, but for my money, this is accurate enough.

A Training Status screen shows how productive your exercises have been and gives you a general sense if your fitness level is improving, holding steady or decreasing. After a week of not running, don't be surprised if you receive an ominous "detraining" message.  After all, your watch knows you need to keep active in order to maintain your physical powers.

After a run, you can cycle through screens on the watch, which shows the details of the run, the elevation plot, a map of where you ran, and how much time was spent in each heart rate zone.  The data accumulated by this training companion is abundant.

Battery Life

One of the reasons why the outdoorsy people prefer wearing Garmin's watches over other smartwatches is that they don't have to worry about recharging. If you're not using GPS or the heart rate monitor, the Fenix 5 will last up to two weeks. That means if you forget to bring the charger on a trip lasting more than a day, you won't have a useless hunk of metal on your wrist. If you are using GPS, the battery is rated to last up to 24 hours, which is more than twice what the TomTom Adventurer (11 hours) offers. If you turn on the Ultra-Trac mode (where the watch pings the satellite only once every minute, rather than every second), the Fenix 5 should last for up to 60 hours!

After a 2-hour, 13.1-mile run using GPS and the heart rate monitor, the battery decreased by 9 percent. After we left the GPS on for 2 hours while tracking runs, the battery again dropped by 9 percent. It definitely had enough battery life to monitor my activities for the day.

Garmin has continued to shrink the size of its charging cables. Rather than using a bulky wireless charger like so many smartwatches do, the Fenix 5 has a small USB cable that snaps into a port on the back of the watch.  Easy to charge, wherever you go.

The votes are in and the Garmin Fenix 5   comes in as a premium multisport GPS watch with the wrist-based heart rate functionality, along with advanced fitness features and interchangeable bands that let you go from workplace to work-out without breaking stride.

Whatever sport you want to track, the Fenix 5 has it covered, so that You Can Beat Yesterday!






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