Trail runners are really spoilt for choice these days when it comes to gear. We were lucky enough to get our hands on the Fenix 2 from Garmin, and take it for a test run in the Drakensberg. The Fenix 2 is not Garmin’s newest version (they have released the Fenix 3 recently), but at a lower price point and packed full of features it’s still a watch to match your trail running desires.
The Fenix 2 is a great looking watch. The face is solid and the strap is really comfortable, you can wear this watch through your longest runs and not get irritated with its presence. The display by default shows the time, and you can easily switch through the other metrics. A nice touch is having the light for the watch be red in colour, distinguishing the watch from competitors and giving a less harsh view when doing night runs.
There is some weight to the piece, making it feel sturdy and up for any task. I’m used to lighter watches, but quickly became accustomed to the weight. The style of the face and strap make it a piece you could easily wear throughout the day.
This is where the Fenix 2 shines. I set up the watch with my personal profile in preparation for the run. The process was really painless, and in no time I was ready to go. The watch had no problems picking up the heart rate belt, and found the GPS satellites within a few minutes. I decided to take the watch on a nice long run, and after choosing my type of activity as “Trail Run” I was ready to go. The activity options are plenty, making this a truly multi-sport instrument.
During the run, the watch automatically notified me of 1km laps, as well as 100m ascents. I know Garmin has some great additional functionality, such as setting training zones, workouts, and more which can all be done from their fantastic web interface. The Fenix 2 also shows you a host of additional information: altitude, temperature, compass, barometer to name a few. You can view all of a run’s details on the watch, as well as map of the route.
One of the most useful features is the Tracback, which will guide you back on the route you have run. I often run by myself, and when running in unknown and/or large areas I am paranoid about getting lost. In addition to notifying anyone I can to where I will be, this feature definitely helps put my mind at rest.
The battery life was fantastic, and is reported in at 15 hours when using high accuracy mode, and an incredible 55 hours when in ultra long battery mode. The difference in these two is the sample rate of GPS coordinates: 1 second versus 60 seconds.
During the run I quickly became accustomed to the weight of the watch and the strap. The new straps that Garmin have created are great, and I have worn them for runs of over five hours and not felt uncomfortable. I generally use watches as supplementary gear, looking down occasionally to see what my heart rate or speed is, to keep as much in the zone as I can. When stopping to take photos, I’d switch through the screens to see what my distance and altitude was and then carry on with the run.
The features are plentiful, and depending on what type of runner you are you can set the watch to work for you. If you’re focused on getting certain milestones (“80% of the run in HR Zone 4”) you can set the watch to make sure you achieve this.
After the run I stopped and saved the activity, which responded with how much time I needed to recover from the run – a handy feature to avoid overtraining. I then paired the watch with the Garmin mobile app (also, a painless process) and within no time the data had been uploaded to Garmin Connect. I kept the phone paired to the watch as we head out for some lunch, and was surprised when it alerted me with phone notifications – WhatsApp messages and phone calls all came through to the watch, gently vibrating to garner my attention.
The Garmin Fenix 2 has all the features you would need for hiking and trail running. Paired with the amazing Garmin Connect (I honestly cannot say enough about this service) you can channel your watch to do any number of things, from a specific route, to heart rate based training, to making sure you recover fully. In addition to a full feature set and great battery life, the look and feel of the watch will have you wearing it even when you’re not on the trail.