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

 

3 thoughts on “Kitesurfing Waterproof GPS Watch Review: Garmin Forerunner 220”

  1. Hi, can you see actual heights of individual sent jumps? For example, I think I am jumping 30 ft vertically in my head and 20 feet out, but in reality how high/far did it go? Would love to know if this can measure that.

  2. Hi

    I just got one of these – only thing that seems to be missing is a screen field for max speed? Be nice to have that during a session.

    Any idea if it can be configured for that? I couldn’t find it.

    Cheers

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