Garmin Foretrex 401 vs 601 vs 701: A Tactical Kind of Battle

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by  Karlton Miko Tyack | Last Updated:  May 11, 2021

A Trusty Field Navigator

Garmin Foretrex 401

Versatile and High-Tech

Garmin Foretrex 601 (701)

This ultra durable wrist-mounted GPS features a sensitive navigation system that’s famously reliable and has been a favorite among athletes since 2004. It doesn’t have smart capabilities, and doesn’t have as many features as the 601.

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This update to the 401 features smart capabilities and a higher resolution screen. It lasts three times as long and boasts multiple navigation systems. The 701 is identical to the 601, but with Applied Ballistics software for gun users.

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Pros:

  • Sensitive GPS allows you to hike into pathless territories without getting lost
  • Water resistance for all weather conditions
  • You can easily retrace your steps with waypoint and route saving capabilities
  • Three navigators (GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo) add extra reliability incase one satellite is out of range
  • High-resolution screen makes it easy to read at a glance
  • You can connect to your phone and receive all your alerts

Cons:

  • Won’t connect to your mobile device
  • Doesn’t automatically archive tracking or feature preloaded maps

Maybe you’ve gotten lost in the woods once or twice during a hiking trip because that trail of breadcrumbs always ends up getting eaten by some woodland creature.

Or maybe (more realistically) you’re sick of your phone losing data or reception when you need the maps app the most.

A wearable GPS is not only a helpful wayfinder, but a cool looking device you get to sport with the rest of your gear.

If you’re an outdoor athlete who likes roaming off the beaten path like I do, I recommend checking out the Garmin Foretrex GPS devices.

I pit the original Foretrex 401 against the Foretrex 601 and the 701 to see if the updates are worth it for you.

Let’s roll.

Garmin Foretrex 401 vs 601 vs 701: Overview 

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Garmin Foretrex 401 Garmin Foretrex 601, 701
Size and Weight 2.9” x 1.7” x 0.9”, 3 oz 2.9” x 1.7” x 0.9”, 3 oz
Screen size 1.6” 2”
Screen Resolution 100x64px, B&W 200x128px, 4 levels gray
GPS Navigator Yes Yes
GLONASS Navigator No Yes
Galileo Navigator No Yes
Waypoints You can save up to 500 You can save up to 500
Routes Up to 20 Up to 20
Barometer Altimeter Yes Yes
Smart Notifications No Yes
Compass Yes Yes
Battery Life 17 hours on navigation mode 48 hours on navigation mode. One week on UltraTrac mode. One month on watch mode
Smart Notifications No Yes
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Since 1989, Garmin has been an industry leader in GPS technology. Because of their developments in wearable tech, Garmin products are a consummate staple in the lives of athletes.

Garmin Foretrex 401

The Garmin Foretrex 401 came out in 2004 as a hands-free GPS for runners and outdoor sportsmen.

What I Like

  • You can save up to 500 waypoints and 20 routes.

  • Can withstand water exposure up to one meter for 30 minutes.

  • Features a barometer altimeter.

  • You can transfer waypoint and location information info to your phone or laptop.

What I Don’t Like

  • No backup navigators beyond the GPS like the 601 has. 

  • Doesn’t automatically archive tracking or feature preloaded maps like some wearable GPS devices do.

  • Same retail price as the 601 despite having less features.

Garmin Foretrex 601

The Garmin Foretrex 601 came out in 2017. It’s a more technologically advanced descendant of the 401 that still has all of the basic functionalities, and then some.

What I Like

  • GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo provide multiple navigation options.

  • Clear, high-resolution screen that’s easy to read at-a-glance.

  • Features smart technology capabilities and can actively sync with your phone.

  • Exceptional battery life in multiple modes, including 48 hours with the GPS on.

What I Don’t Like

  • Doesn’t automatically archive tracking or feature preloaded maps.

  • Has a chunky wear under clothes.

Garmin Foretrex 701

The Garmin Foretrex 701 has the exact same capabilities as the 601, but with added features to accommodate specifically to riflery and hunting.

Features Face to Face

The Screen

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If you’re a visual person, the 601 screen upgrades are a big deal. The screen size of the 601 is two inches, while the 401 is 1.6. It also features more screen details and four shades of gray, compared to the 401’s black-and-white situation.

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I sometimes mix up the N and the W on the compass of the 401 because the font is so jagged. Moreover, since it uses that skeletal, broken-at-the-joints, LCD digital font, the letters and numbers blend together sometimes.

As a hunter, I never want to look down at my GPS for any longer than I have to. I know runners who want to keep their eyes on the trail can agree with me on that. If I’m in the middle of a shot, the difference between one second and three seconds is huge.

The 601’s bigger screen and higher resolution make it easier to read. You can quickly orient to it, and the compass, routes, and waypoints are much more legible.

Winner: Better Screen
Garmin Foretrex 601

Garmin's update to the 401 features smart capabilities and a higher resolution screen. It lasts three times as long and boasts multiple navigation systems.

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GPS System and Compass

Both the 401 and 601 feature GPS, but the 601 also has GLONASS and Galileo.

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Have you ever been on a road trip, and the GPS suddenly disappears for an hour? This isn’t as concerning when you’re on a highway, but if you’re bushwhacking you never want to lose your way.

Having GLONASS and Galileo are great contingency options in case one satellite or another isn’t in view. When I’m out on a hike, I love going as far from my campsite as possible. I also love not getting lost and eaten by bears.

The 601 also features a three-axis compass, which means that you don’t have to hold the device level for it to work properly. 

Having two extra navigators makes the 601 a more reliable device, and its three-axis compass makes it easier to use.

Winner: Better GPS and Compass
Garmin Foretrex 601

Garmin's update to the 401 features smart capabilities and a higher resolution screen. It lasts three times as long and boasts multiple navigation systems.

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Technical Features

Both versions have the same basic navigation sensors: A compass and barometric altimeter. AKA are you going North or South, and if you’re hiking a mountain, how high up are you?

Both can save up to 500 waypoints and up to 20 routes.

However, the 601 also features a three-axis accelerometer, which calculates distance covered and how fast the device is going. It also features Smart notifications.

The 601 is more technologically advanced than the 401, and has more functionalities. 

Winner: Better Technical Features
Garmin Foretrex 601

Garmin's update to the 401 features smart capabilities and a higher resolution screen. It lasts three times as long and boasts multiple navigation systems.

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Battery Life

The 401 has a battery life of 17 hours when it’s on navigation mode, and the 601 has 48 hours.

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The 601 has a special mode called UtraTrac, in which it intermittently turns the GPS off to save power. This allows it to last for up to a week. If the navigation is completely off, it can last up to a month.

If you’re out in the woods on a camping trip and your car is an hour away, the 601 will serve you well.

The 601 lasts three times longer than the 401, and has multiple power saving modes.

Winner: Better Battery Life
Garmin Foretrex 601

Garmin's update to the 401 features smart capabilities and a higher resolution screen. It lasts three times as long and boasts multiple navigation systems.

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Strap and Wearability

Both the 401 and the 601 feature a hook and loop strap that come with an extender so you can wear it over your sleeve or on your forearm.

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The Velcro strap that each Foretrex comes with gets a lot of mixed reviews even among my hunters circle, and I think I know why.

It’s perfectly secure with continued motion if you strap it on tight enough. However, the Velcro can unfasten if it gets caught on anything (harnesses, for example).

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As a solution, I recommend replacing the strap with a durable rubber watch band.

The main difference between the 401 and 601 on this front is that the 601 is a bigger device and wears chunkier under clothes.

While the straps of the 601 and 401 are comparable, the 401’s smaller size gives it a lighter and easier wear.

Winner: Better Strap and Wearability
Garmin Foretrex 401

This ultra durable wrist-mounted GPS features a sensitive navigation system that’s famously reliable and has been a favorite among athletes since 2004. It doesn’t have smart capabilities, and doesn’t have as many features as the 601.

Check Best Price on Amazon Read Our Review
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Durability

The Foretrex 401 is IPX7 constructed, which means it can stand water exposure up to one meter for 30 minutes. This includes splashes, rain, and snow.

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The Foretrex 601 and 701 are built to military standards. They’ve been subjected to 29 tests against heat, gunfire shock, humidity, and more to achieve a MIL-STD-810G rating for combat-readiness.

The 601 can literally survive in a warzone. If you want the world’s best insurance policy for your Foretrex, go for the 601.

Winner: Better Durability
Garmin Foretrex 601

Garmin's update to the 401 features smart capabilities and a higher resolution screen. It lasts three times as long and boasts multiple navigation systems.

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Standout Features

While these Garmin navigators are similar, there are two updates that the 601 features that the 401 doesn’t.

GLONASS and Galileo

GLONASS is a Russian navigation system that has better accuracy at high latitudes than GPS does. This is a great feature for skiers and mountain climbers.

Galileo, a European navigation system, has generally greater accuracy than GPS. Having foreign navigation systems is a plus for when you’re overseas.

Smart Capabilities

The 601 features Smart notifications. Using the Garmin Connect app, you connect your 601 to your phone. The 601 will then let you know when you receive emails, texts, and alerts.

The LiveTrack feature allows others to follow your journey. This is helpful for group activities like competitions or fundraising.

My favorite part about the smart capabilities is that you don’t have to keep your phone on your person. You’ll receive phone notifications on your 601 if you connect the two devices.

I’ve used this feature as a way to responsibly unplug when I’m out in nature. Without my phone, I can avoid social media and unimportant phone business, but can make sure I know if anything urgent comes up.

Garmin Foretrex 601 vs 701: What’s the Difference?

I recommend the Garmin Foretrex 701 only to serious shooters. It’s exactly like the 601 with Applied Ballistics software that calculates aiming solutions. 

It’s an excellent calculator for long-range shooting and can measure solutions past 10,000 yards. If you aren’t carrying a gun 90% of the time you wear a GPS device though, I’d opt for the 601 which is often up to five times cheaper at online retailers.

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For the hunters and military men out there who are considering the 701, other cool features include:

  • The ability to save up to ten targets
  • A Gun Profile Management system that can save up to 100 gun profiles
  • Muzzle Velocity Temperature table (Anyone who has been hunting in the Northeast in February knows that temperature affects ballistics as much as it does your comfort!)
  • Personalized drag models for long range shooting
Garmin Foretrex 701

This update to the 401 features smart capabilities and a higher resolution screen. It lasts three times as long and boasts multiple navigation systems. The 701 is identical to the 601, but with Applied Ballistics software for gun users.

Check Best Price on Amazon Read Our Review
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Which is Best for You?

The only reason I can see someone opting for the Garmin Foretrex 401 over the Foretrex 601 is if you find it cheaper somewhere, which is entirely possible. If that’s the case, the 401 is a perfectly effective wearable GPS device.

If you find the 601 is the same price or even just a tad more expensive, I highly recommend it over the 401 if only for the more legible screen and the impressive battery life.

Our Winner
Garmin Foretrex 601

Garmin's update to the 401 features smart capabilities and a higher resolution screen. It lasts three times as long and boasts multiple navigation systems.

Check Best Price on Amazon Read Our Review
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

I recommend the Garmin Foretrex 701 to gun enthusiasts and those who shoot for a living as a helpful device to up your game.

FAQs

Is the Garmin Foretrex 401 waterproof? 

The Foretrex 401 can stand water exposure up to one meter for 30 minutes, which includes splashes, rain, and snow.

Is the Garmin Foretrex 601 recommended for runners?

Yes, it’s durable and hands-free, which allows you to keep your eyes up at the trail. It also has a two-day battery life even when on GPS mode, and is a great device to have on multi day running trips.

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