Garmin’s latest range of fenix 5 sportswatches has stolen the spotlight, for understandable reasons, but that doesn’t mean the trusty fenix 3 Sapphire HR should be ignored. Granted, it may be an older model, featuring the company’s first-generation optical wrist heart rate monitor – but it’s still and incredibly sophisticated piece of kit, boasting a comprehensive list of navigational features. As strange as it may seem, though, much of it’s impressive direction-finding functionality has been left largely unexplored by many athletes.
1. Finding your way
The first and most obvious navigational tool is the TracBack function. Many travelling athletes have tales of getting lost in big cities and dense jungles while trying to squeeze in a run or a ride. When travelling abroad, the TracBack function is a lifesaver. When you run up a mountain or trail you are totally unfamiliar with, many unforeseen things can happen. But getting lost is a thing of the past with TracBack. If you get lost during your ride, run, or other GPS-tracked activity, press STOP, scroll down to TracBack, press START and let the arrow guide you back to your starting point.
Saving a location can also be a lifesaver. The TracBack function will guide you back along the route you have travelled, but that’s not necessarily the shortest route to your starting point. If you want be have a shorter, “as the crow flies” route back to your starting point, save the location of your starting point just before you start your activity. Should you get lost and the TracBack route would take too long, save your current activity as “resume later” so you can revert to Tracback if necessary. Then open your saved location of the original starting point, press start and follow the arrow that’ll guide you along the shortest route to your starting point. It might include a lot of bush-whacking, but you’ll definitely be back home before dark.
2. Sight ‘n Go
Sight ‘n Go can be applied for fun and function, but also for saving the day when you’re out in the wild. Sight ‘n Go gets used mostly when you need to traverse an area without a known course. If you want to run, hike or bike to a specific topographic point like a mountain peak or a big tree in the distance with valleys and obstacles in between that may throw you off-course, Sight ‘n Go is the go-to app. Open it up, point it to a visible point, like a high rocky outcrop, a river-crossing down below, or whatever the place is you want to get to. Press enter, select the activity and start. The arrow will guide you to the point you selected and re-direct you when obstacles force you off course. As an emergency tool, it can also supply an “as the crow flies” route to a familiar point or location in the event you get lost – as long as you can point your watch at it.
3. Navigating an activity as a course
Any activity or route you did previously can be navigated as a course. In most instances, a re-run or re-ride of a race course gets you lost, because route markers get removed after the race. Any activity can be accessed as a course, but it can become a problem when the activity shifts way down on your timeline. Firstly it becomes cumbersome to find it, and eventually it gets omitted from the memory banks by default, as your watch makes space in its memory for more recent activities. Saving a previous activity as a course sorts out this problem. For instance, if you want to sharpen you skills for this year’s Xterra bike route (given that the course is the same), just sync or save last year’s bike leg as a course and your fenix 3 Sapphire HR will guide you merrily along the route. This goes for any activity or race you have done previously.
4. Creating a course
Garmin Connect has a course builder where you can plot any course and sync it to your fenix 3 Sapphire HR. In essence this is a feature you get on the fenix 5X. The sophistication of the course builder is simply amazing. You click on the start and end point, and within a second a course is generated for you. You can set it as a one way, out and back or reverse course, with kilometre markers, estimated travelling time according to predetermined speeds etc. And, if you’re travelling abroad, it’s the go-to tool for plotting a great sightseeing tour.
If you want to get a friend to do the route of any activity you did previously, then a third party app that allows you to share the course is just what you need. For that matter, you can load any map from any other branded device as long as you can get it in GPX format – which most devices can do. Google maps and other GPS platforms allow you to save or export in GPX format. The most popular app to use is DWMaps, which you will find on Garmin’s Connect IQ store. The amount of downloads testifies to its success rate. Download the app, register on the DWMaps website so you and your friends can share your routes. It also has its own course builder. You simply export your activity as a GPX file and mail it to your friend. The GPX file gets added to his or her DWMaps collection of routes, and after a sync with Connect Mobile, it will be loaded onto the fenix 3 HR in the DWMaps app. Select the course, hit start and enjoy the route.
5. Using GPS coordinates
Navigating with GPS coordinates remains the most surgical way of getting to the exact point you intend to reach. Fortunately, this is surprisingly straightforward to do. You just enter the coordinates on your fenix 3 Sapphire HR and simply follow the arrow. Like all the other navigational apps, you’ll be advised regarding when you go off course, the distance remaining and your estimated time of arrival (once your watch has gathered enough info to make an ETA calculation).
Athletes apply their GPS watches mostly along predetermined routes, with pace and speed being the variables they want to measure. Using your sportswatch as a navigational tool allows you to abandon known routes and embark on less-travelled roads. Traversing unknown routes and getting to new destinations offer a different kind of reward, but surely you don’t want to get lost on the way – this guarantee is what you get courtesy of your fenix 3 Sapphire HR’s navigational functions. In fact, I have no doubt that using your fenix 3 Sapphire HR in this regard will add a huge amount of value to your athletic experiences. – (c) 2017 NavWorld