Kitesurfing Waterproof GPS Watch Review: Garmin Forerunner 220

 

by Jono Woodhouse

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Product

Garmin Forerunner 220 with (optional) Heart Rate Monitor

Colour: Comes in a manly red or cute girly purple.

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Cost

Garmin 220 Forerunner and Heart Rate monitor: Approximately AUD 255 to AUD 265 (see details below)

Review

As a keen kitesurfer I’ve been on the lookout for an affordable waterproof GPS Watch for a while. The big challenge is that most of the affordable GPS Watches that have become available in the last 5 years are only “water resistant”. Which just isn’t good enough for kitesurfing. However Garmin have now introduced two GPS watches that are finally waterproof and aren’t going to cost you an arm and leg.

Enter the Garmin Forerunner 220!!

I’m a kitesurfing fanatic, but I also enjoy running, cycling and swimming, so you’ll see some comments in the review about this too.
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Pros

  • Waterproof to 50m !! I take the Forerunner 220 into the sea on a regular basis. Kitesurfing and ocean swimming, and I’ve not had any problems with water leaks. They suggest you don’t press the buttons while actually underwater. And I find the buttons can get a bit salted up, but a quick clean in fresh water and it’s back to normal. You can shower with it too. It sounds like the Heart Rate (HR) monitor is waterproof too, but I haven’t taken that into the sea yet.
  • Kitesurfing. Fantastic for recording kitesurfing sessions. For example you can:
  • record the distance that you kited
  • record downwinders kite trips.
  • see how far out you go to sea
  • see the angles you ride upwind and downwind
  • record your speed, distance, time etc.
  • and impress your mates (upload your activities to Strava.com)
  • Battery life: Garmin estimate the battery life to be:
  • 10 hours battery with the GPS on. I’ve not tested this. But gauging on the battery percentage after long sessions – it’s probably not far from the truth.
  • 1 month of battery life in watch (only) mode. Again not tested, as I’ve never gone a month without using the GPS
  • What you can display on the screen. There are actually there are 5 screens that you can scroll through (by pressing the up/down arrows)
  • The first 2 screens are fully customisable. You can view 3 data fields on each screen. For example I use:
  • Screen 1: Distance, average speed, time
  • Screen 2 Lap distance, lap speed and current speed

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  • Heart Rate is another screen (if you use the HR monitor) – which shows you current heart rate (in beats per minute) and your HR Zone (you can setup 5 heart rate zones which correspond to your heart rate levels)
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  • Clock is another screen
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  • Also if you configure your own “workouts” – you get one more screen which tells you your average speed for the workout and an indication of your progress in the current lap you are working on. e.g. Distance covered, or time left etc.
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  • And if you set up a “work out” or turn on auto lap (where for example every 1km is a lap), you get apace notification every lap too, which tells you the lap number and your average speed for that lap. This notification screen pops up for about 5 seconds at the end of every lap. This is quite useful when kiting (and running) as it beeps and vibrates after each kilometer and shows you your speed for the last 1km.
  • The display is very visible in low light, and also in bright sun.
  • Looks good enough to wear as a watch, all the time. Unless you are into fancy fashion watches… :)
  • It’s designed by Garmin as a Running GPS Watch.
  • And it’s really good at this.
  • Provides measurement and analysis for running training and racing.

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  • Has accelerometer for times when GPS signal is poor (for example when running through the city behind tall buildings). I’ve had varying degrees of success with this. Sometimes it’s great, other times it’s pretty bad.
  • Fast GPS turn on time
  • If you’ve synced your GPS Watch with a PC within the last week the turn GPS time is typically 10 to 15 seconds. (It achieves this by loading a week’s worth of data about the positions of the GPS satellites onto the watch)
  • Otherwise, it typically takes about a minute to acquire the lock, which is still pretty good. You can also start your session before it’s acquired the lock, and it will start recording as soon as it can.
  • Accurate GPS recordings. Better than the older GPS watches and mobile phones.

Cons

  • From a kitesurfing perspective: the biggest missing feature is a Show My Current GPS Location (eg for emergency sea rescue). I’ve submitted this idea to Garmin – and it would also be useful for Mountain Bikers and Trail Runners.
  • From a running perspective: 4 fields on screen would be better (and this is available in the Forerunner 620)
  • From a cycling perspective: Not great. While it can record your bike rides, it’s not really designed for cycling. By default the speeds are in minutes per km (this can be changed in the settings – but it’s a mission to do quickly) And to be fair this is not really multi sport GPS Watch. Garmin have other watches for that.
  • From an ocean swimming perspective: Because your hands spends most of the time under water – the GPS really struggles with accuracy during an ocean swims. You can still see where you’ve swum (when you upload to a map), but the route is pretty jagged and the distances are often considerably out. For example a 1.4km ocean swim often records as about 2.5km. This is true of all GPS devices – and if you google it – the work around is to put the watch into the back of your swim cap (which I’m too scared to do in the surf) or pull a small float behind you.
  • The Bluetooth is version 4.0 (BLE) which very few mobile devices support. So I upload using their custom USB cable direct to Strava on my PC. I’m also not aware of a way to use the custom USB cable and a tablet, which would be handy too.
  • Only one charging/syncing cable. Two would be better. One at work and one at home.

Conclusion

I’m very happy with Garmin Forerunner 220 and highly recommend it. It’s fully waterproof and works amazingly well for kitesurfing and running.

(GPS kiting session uploaded to Strava)

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Where to Buy

I bought one from DWI Digital Cameras with the Heart Rate monitor (which also included free shipping to Australia from Hong Kong – arrived within 10 days) $265 – $275

http://www.dwidigitalcameras.com.au/astore/Garmin-Forerunner-220-GPS-Watches-with-Premium-Heart-Rate-Monitor.aspx

And I found a $10 off discount here:

http://www.retailmenot.com/view/dwidigitalcameras.com.au?c=5526908

Further Reading

 

VIDEO : Endless kiteloops

Check out this awesome video. It took me a while to find where the bar was but it shows at the end. Looks like this poor chap has binned the safety and the bar has got caught on the post pulling it into this loop. It’s a long video so FF maybe your friend.

For those people curious as to why it didn’t snap a line sooner, and for those people that want to learn more about looping kites safely this is whats happening. When the kite is looping for the first 19 off minutes, notice how the kite isn’t actually flying anywhere, its looping inside its own length so it’s not generating any apparent wind and is pretty much stalling itself, then all of a sudden towards the end it starts opening up its turn and really starts whipping a good loop, that is where the power of the kite loop is being generated! A few mins of that and something had to give and sure enough a line snaps ending the almost comical 20mins of looping and probably saving the kite.

anyway, here is the vid..

Some weekend WA wind, swell — and rain…

For most of us in WA, it’s been since about Easter that anyone’s had a kite.  I must say, moving over I didn’t realise how infrequently there’d be any any kiteable wind through the winter season. You’d usually be expecting the sea breezes to start trickling back by about mid-September but no sign of that happening yet. But we do have a winter weather system moving through from tonight that will push some wind and some very big swell our way over the next three or four days. I’d be guessing that down south, we’re going to see some of the biggest waves of the season, if not for a few years.

Tonight there’s a 970hp low pressure system sitting about 1,000km SW of Margaret River and moving SE. By tomorrow, it’ll strengthen to around 965hp and by Sunday to about 955. That’s a seriously powerful storm.  Anyone in a vessel at sea in those sorts of conditions is going to be in for a serious fight.FridayBOM1

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For those of us in the Mid West, that means we’ll get some rain tomorrow, swell up to 6m and winds from the West around 25 knots. By Sunday afternoon, it goes all pear-shaped with lots more rain moving in and continuing big swell and 35-45+ knot Westerlies.

So, if you are up to the task, and have a decently small kite, tomorrow afternoon looks like the best time for a shot at it. But do expect to get rained on at times.

Rain and swell continuing til about late Tuesday and the wind trailling off to about 20 knots on Monday and next to nothing by Tuesday. The swell finally fades by mid-Wednesday, along with the bad weather.

Might be worth looking at in a few instances but do take care. You do recall the tragedies that happened last year round this time. Let’s not repeat those.

Take care,

Rob

Drone / SUP action

So, on Sunday I get a call from Andrew Forsyth saying something along the following lines ‘offshore, big waves, sunny. Bring the Drone!’

Now I’m always up for some fun and getting some cool shots so I hooked up with the boys out at White Rock and got some great drone footage! They guys got SMASHED! kudos to all of those guys for taking some on the head. One thing the drone does is make people show off!

Here are some stills from the video, we’re editing up some shots together and we’ll post em as soon as we see it.

My personal favourites are getting a little too close to one drop in! He looked concerned.. And the 3 SUP carnage in one closeout set. Check out how high that board got! haha..

Enjoy..

REPLAY : Another week of wind and rain

 

Just look at it! it’s another replay of last week almost! Last week (bar the blue-bottle stings) was awesome, I had a day off and got some of the best waves in ages at Longy / Dee Why. Then the surf jacked up, cleaned up and gave Sydney some of the best surfing conditions we’ve had in ages. Swell was still around today but smaller with a nice 4-5ft at DY point and light winds keeping it super clean.

Now, this week looks like a repeat, as long as we’re not looking at too much west then it’s going to be a cracker! BIG surf forecast so if you aren’t up-to scratch then maybe hit the bays and harbours for safety until it backs down a bit. I’ll be hitting the surf if I can early in the mornings before work.

IF ANYONE HAS A JETSKI AND WANTS TO COME GET SOME SICK WAVES AND FOOTAGE LET ME KNOW ASAP!!

sydney forecast 1Sept14

 

Stay safe.. Pete