Fenix 5x Hiking Review

Garmin Fenix 5x Hiking Review

In This Guide
  • Picking the Right Fenix Model
  • Using The Fenix 5x For Hiking
  • Upgrading Your Maps for Free
  • Is the Fenix 5x Worth It?
  • Tips & Tricks

I’ve been testing the Garmin Fenix 5x for over 6 months now, and it’s a great watch, but it might not be worth the money for some folks. Having a topo and trail map on your wrist is incredible. And the Fenix 5x is also a very powerful tool for anyone who loves the outdoors and/or fitness, with hundreds of features. But it comes at a price, a high price that is. This review shows you all the ins-and-outs of the watch, how to use it, and how to decide whether it’s right for you.

I’m up to four weeks with the Fenix 5x. The watch has become inseparable from my daily activities. Really grown on me. More so than the Apple Watch had. I keep looking at it, its stunning black rugged design with capabilities that surpass expectations. Anyone on the fence, go for it. You won’t be disappointed. – Amazon Reviewer

If you find this guide helpful, you can help support this site by buying the Fenix 5x with this link to REI. You get a discount up to 10% with an inexpensive REI membership and free shipping. It ends up being cheaper than buying from Amazon, there are benefits to buying from REI, and you help support free hiking guides for everyone.

RAREUnder $300 at Amazon now! https://amzn.to/2DIqMHn

I’m now using the Fenix 6x Pro Solar, please see my review on that model too.

FYI >>REI 50% Clearance Sale on now

Which Fenix 5 Should I Buy?

Okay, I’ll make this easy. The Fenix 5x is the only model that has maps, so for hiking, the Fenix 5x is your only option. The other Fenix models are more fitness oriented with some navigation functions built in, similar to the Fenix 3. I won’t go into the details of each here; there are plenty of posts on that elsewhere. Here’s the important info for hiking:

Fenix 5x Maps On Computer
You can also access the Garmin topo maps on your computer when you plug in your Fenix 5x. You’ll need the free Garmin Basecamp program to do that.

And if you’re wondering what happened to the Fenix 4, here’s the skinny (according to DC Rainmaker who works with the Garmin test teams). In Chinese, the phonetic pronunciation of Fenix 4 roughly translates to “fast rise to quick death,” which isn’t a great moniker for a survival watch.

Garmin Fenix 5x Review Video

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What Is the Fenix 5x Like to Wear?

Basically, it’s a big watch. It’s not like one of those huge watches that rich guys wear, but it’s big. If you have a Fenix 3, it’s only a little bit bigger than that.

I don’t want to take this watch off, ever. – Amazon Reviewer

Fenix 5x Fenix 3 Comparison
You can see the Fenix 5x is pretty much the same size as the Fenix 3. I also put a D cell battery in there to give you a sense of scale.

Since the Fenix 5x has maps, the screen resolution is important. The first thing to know is that the experience isn’t anywhere as good as an Apple Watch. The large Apple Watch has a resolution of 390×312 pixels, while the Fenix 5x is 240×240 with 64 colors. That size is still good enough to see maps and get a decent viewing area. More importantly, the Fenix 5x is easily viewable in daylight (and night with the backlight). The Apple Watch is getting better as a hiking tool, but as a rugged, outdoor, hiking and navigation tool, it doesn’t come close to the Fenix 5x.

Fenix 5x And Apple Watch
The colors don’t really compare, but the Fenix 5x is a rugged outdoor instrument, while the Apple Watch isn’t. (Apple Watch shot courtesy of William Hook)
Fenix 5x Backlight
The watch has a backlight which is customizable.

The watch is made out of stainless steel, and the watch face is sapphire crystal, which is scratch-proof. Overall it feels beefy and rugged, although you get used to wearing it after a day or two. It’s also waterproof to 10 ATM (100 meters deep), which in English means you can get it wet and dirty but you can’t scuba dive with it. For hiking and swimming, it works great.

The band is rubber and comfortable. The heart rate monitor on the back is almost flush with the body, and is undetectable. Overall it’s comfortable to wear.

Fenix 5x Band
The heart rate monitor doesn’t really protrude on the back, making it as comfortable as a regular watch.

The button layout is straightforward and the same as the Fenix 3. Here’s how you work everything.

Fenix 5x Buttons
The buttons are pretty straight-forward and work the same across all apps. Long-pressing the backlight gives you power off and some shortcuts. Long-pressing the up button brings you to the settings for whatever you are in at the time.

I like this watch so much more than the Apple Watch. Better overall for outdoor activities and daily use. – Amazon Reviewer

Fenix 5x Everyday Use

I’ll be brief here, there’s just a few things to note about using the Fenix 5x as a regular watch. There are basically two things you can be looking at, a watch or widgets.

The watch face is pretty straightforward. One of the cool things is that you can customize not only the data, but also the look and feel. For me, I find the digital face that has the next sun event (sunrise or sunset) with the batter percentage works best. But there are thousands of variations of what you can do here; check out the customization section below.

Fenix 5x Watch Face
Here’s one of the many watch faces that you can use. The 4900 number is my daily steps.

From the watch face, you can use the up and down buttons to cycle through what Garmin calls widgets, which are basically other types of status screens. The watch comes pre-loaded with some helpful ones including heart rate, steps (it’s also a step tracker), compass, altimeter, weather, notifications, etc. And there are hundreds of widgets that you can download for free from the Connect IQ Store (see below).

Fenix 5x Add Widget
There are a ton of widgets that you can add, both pre-packaged on the app and downloadable from the Garmin IQ store (free).
Fenix 5x Abc Widget
The ABC widget – altitude, barometer, and compass.

Some widgets let you “click into” them for even more data.

Fenix 5x Resting Heart Rate
Here’s a ‘clicked in’ detail screen on heart rate, which shows me my resting heart rate over the last few days. Notice that today’s HR is way off. That sometimes happens on resting heart rate, usually another sync solves the problem.

Many of these widgets require the use of a smartphone connection. In fact, when you get the watch, one of the first things you should do is sync it with a smartphone if you have one. It uses Bluetooth to sync your hikes and workouts back to the phone and to Garmin Connect. It also updates the Fenix 5x firmware (system software). Once it’s connected, you’ll be able to see widget data that updated from your watch.

Fenix 5x Weather
Here’s the weather widget that’s bundled with the watch. It needs a cell phone connection to get the weather info. There are also other weather widgets you can download for free.
Fenix 5x Weather Forecast
Clicking into the detail screen on the weather widget gives me the forecast. The up and down buttons cycle through hourly and daily.

The Fenix 5x also gets smartphone notifications from your phone (like an Apple Watch). So if you get a text message, email, or whatever notifications show up on your phone, you’ll also see them on your watch. You can turn this function off. One of the handy features is that you can decline phone calls on the watch, which I love.

Fenix 5x Notification
Your watch can also get notifications when paired with your phone. You can turn this off.

I wear mine 24/7 as my main watch, activity tracker, hiking tool, and workout computer. It’s great to just have one device for all of these scenarios.

How To Track Hikes With the Fenix 5x

My favorite piece of outdoor gear. Period. – REI Reviewer

The basic mechanism to track your hike on the Fenix 5x is pretty straightforward. It’s also the same way you track most other activities on the watch (like a run, bike ride, walk, swim, etc.).

Fenix 5x Choosing Activity
You use the up and down buttons to choose which activity that you want to do. You can also use courses on runs, bikes, walks, etc.

The unit needs to lock onto the GPS satellites before you can start. The red bar on the circle means no GPS signal, the orange bar means almost there, and the green bar means go. When you change locations dramatically it can take a little longer to lock onto a signal because it stores the position of the satellites from your last activity. It’s almost always locked on within a minute, if not seconds. The old Garmin units could take a long time. This one doesn’t.

Fenix 5x Gps Ready
The green bar around the edge means that the GPS is ready. You also get a beep to let you know.
Fenix 5x Hike Start
Hit the upper right button to start (and stop or pause) or hike.

One of the nice things about the Fenix 5x is that you can customize the data that you see on the watch during an activity. So for the hike, I’ve set it up to show things like distance, sunset, elevation, etc. You can also have multiple screens of data, and a multiple number of fields on each display. You can customize these fields before starting, or even in the middle of your activity.

Fenix 5x Custom Layout
You can customize the number of data items on each screen, and you can add multiple data screens that you cycle through with the up and down buttons.
Fenix 5x Cutome Data Fields
For each field you can display any type of data you want. Distance, elevation, temperature, pace, whatever; they’re all available.

When you’re done the hike, just hit the stop button. Then it will ask you if you’re finished. Click on done, and that’s it, the hike is tracked. At that point it will sync with your phone, or if you’ve setup WiFi and are at home, will sync using WiFi. You can then view all the details of your trip on the app or website (more below).

Fenix 5x End Activity
You hit the same button to stop the hike that you hit to start it (the upper right button). At the end you can save it, discard it, resume, or resume later.

How To Use the Fenix 5x for Navigation

Love the maps. People that are having problems are not setting it up right or they just don’t know how to use it yet. – Amazon Reviewer

Fenix 5x Preloaded Maps

So the big draw of the Garmin Fenix 5x is that it has maps and mapping included. The maps are the standard 100k Garmin Topo maps, which are good but not great. These maps will show you major landmarks and trails and are generally good to figure out where you are and where you need to go. It also includes routable cycling maps and golf courses if that’s your thing.

The maps you get are limited to the continent you are (USA buyers get North America). You can load other continent maps for free using Garmin Express.

Fenix 5x Map Detail
You can really zoom in on the maps and get trail and topo detail. The coverage on the Garmin maps is so-so, and you can get better maps for free. Keep reading!

Updating the maps is easy, whenever you update the watch on Garmin Express (see below), it will automatically update your maps.

Fenix 5x Map Updates
Updating the maps is pretty easy. Just sync your watch with the free Garmin Express program to get the updates.

You can also buy other Garmin maps to load on the device, but I don’t recommend spending your money there when you can get better maps for free.

How To Install Free Maps on the Fenix 5x

So having the maps pre-loaded is great, but you have better options out there (that are free). Some specific reasons why the built in maps might not cut it for you are:

Fenix 5x Map Comparison
The (free) Open Street Maps are on the left. They’re not as pretty but have much more detail and trails. The Garmin maps are on the right. Also, this is the computer view. On the watch, the Garmin maps look more basic without shading.

I have a whole article on how to get free maps and install them on your Garmin device and it holds true for the Fenix 5x too. If you’re going to use this as a hardcore navigation device, I strongly recommend putting better maps on it. You use the free Garmin MapInstall program and it’s a breeze.

Fenix 5x Map Install
Installing free Open Street Maps (OSM) is as easy as a few clicks.

Using the Map on the Fenix 5x

If you’re not following a course (more later) and just want to look around the map, it’s pretty straightforward.

Fenix 5x Map Detail
When you first go into the map, the up/down buttons let you zoom in and out.
Fenix 5x Pan Up
Tap the upper right button to switch modes to up/down pan. You’ll see the indicators on the left side of the map change to pan.
Fenix 5x Pan Right
Another tap on the upper right button gets you cycled to panning left and right. Tapping the upper right button again brings you back to the zoom function.

You can also find points of interest ‘around me’ and the Garmin will automatically route you to them, but this isn’t too handy for hiking.

The performance of the map, that is, the screen redraw and load, is so-so, especially when you want to browse far away from your current location. If you are on the west coast and want to peruse trails on the east coast, this is not the way to do it. However, for zooming and panning around your location, it redraws reasonably well. To improve performance, you can also go into the map settings and turn off any maps that you don’t use, such as the cycling map and worldwide base map.

Navigation Sensors

In addition to GPS, the Fenix 5x also has:

Navigating With the Fenix 5x

There are a few ways to navigate with the 5x. I’ll cover the ones that you’re most likely to use when you’re hiking. And if you’re in doubt that this is a powerful navigation tool, Navy pilots have used their Fenix 3 (w/o maps) to navigate home when their instruments froze. If they can do that, you can use the Fenix 5x to find a trail.

First you can follow a route. In this case, I’ve created a route on my computer beforehand and loaded it onto my device. This is my typical workflow.

You can also create a route on the Garmin Connect website.

Fenix 5x Other Courses
You can browse hikes that others have shared on the Garmin Connect site and download them to your watch. You can also share your courses with the public. This is similar to GaiaGPS or AllTrails, except that it’s integrated into the Garmin and Fenix 5x ecosystem, making it easy to do the hike.
Fenix 5x Courses
You can also create your own courses (which I have an article on too). Here’s I’m creating a hiking course in Rocky Mountain NP. It conveniently shows me the elevation profile as I go too. You can do this for hiking, biking, and running.

Once I’ve loaded my hike onto the Fenix 5x, here’s what I do to follow the route.

Fenix 5x Select Hike
Click the upper right button to get your activities, then cycle through to find hike, then click upper right button again to select.
Fenix 5x Navigation
When you’re in the hike, long press the up button and go to navigation to follow the course you built.
Fenix 5x Courses
You have a few navigation options, select course to use the route we planned earlier.
Fenix 5x Test Course
Select the course you want to do.
Fenix 5x Course Loaded
The course is loaded and ready to go, and you have a green GPS bar. You’re all set.
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Tap the upper right button to start the hike.
Fenix 5x Follow Course
Then simply follow the purple line on the map, which is the course you created.
Fenix 5x Follow Course Compass
You can also navigate with this compass screen.
Fenix 5x Follow Course Data
Most of the time I just keep my data screen on when I navigate. There’s a handy little red arrow that tells me which way my course goes. If I want to look at map detail, I just scroll through the screens until I’m back at the map.
Fenix 5x Off Course
If I stray off the trail or course, I get an alert that pops up telling me that I’m off course. From there I can go back to the map and look for where the trail is. This display also points me back in the right direction.

There are other ways to navigate too, and they all follow the same routine, they’re just different ways of picking a destination.

Here’s the thing. The routing on the Fenix 5x isn’t great. To start, a lot of the routing has to do with the maps and trails available, so if you load routable OpenStreetMaps, the watch will have a better chance of routing you on trails.. But if you find a point on the map and say “route me there,” the actual routes are sometimes disappointing. Sometimes it would route me miles on roads, or do a big loop around a mountain range when there was a trail directly across it. You have the option to tweak the routing settings, including minimizing distance or climbing.

I don’t really think planning hikes like this is a common scenario, and I don’t think I’d want a watch making those decisions for me anyway. But if you did need to navigate on the fly, you can simply use the Fenix to find your destination, and then hike, consulting the map detail as you hike.

Fenix 5x Route Options
You can customize the way the Fenix 5x creates routes.

A helpful feature that I use fairly often is the “save location” function. There’s a shortcut for it on the main main where you can quickly drop a waypoint. It’s good to get in the habit of dropping these occasionally. I drop waypoints for places that could be useful later: the trailhead, junctions, watering holes, clearings (for a helicopter evacuation), places to camp, etc.

Fenix 5x Save Waypoint
You can save a waypoint through the menus, or use the shortcut, which is holding down the upper left button for the power menu, then clicking “save location.”

There’s also a “navigate” app which just has the navigation functions but doesn’t have the hike screens. I find that coming in it from the “hike” activity makes more sense.

Fenix 5x Navigation Final Thoughts

Here’s where I’ve found the value in the Fenix 5x mapping and navigation over my 6 months using it.

First, I plan the hike out in advance and send the route to my Fenix 5x. I also have a trail guide, paper maps, and a handheld GPS with the route (and it’s on my phone too because I’m crazy about redundancy). In general, I know where I’m going.

When I hike, I follow the course on the Fenix 5x. As I hike, I periodically glance at it to check if I’m still on the course (and trail). When I come to junctions, I look at the Fenix to confirm which way that I need to turn. If I need to dive deep and make ad-hoc navigation changes, I’ll generally pull out the paper map and use it with the Fenix 5x.

I also use the Fenix 5x to keep an eye on my heart rate, elevation gain, speed, etc. to make sure everything is going to plan. If not, I use that data to change plans (which usually means turning around). It’s really much more than just a map, it’s more like a dashboard for my body (more later), the trip, and the landscape.

I use all of that data as part of my decision-making process. And that’s where I think the real value in the Garmin Fenix 5x lies for hikers.

How Long Does the Fenix 5x Battery Last?

You basically have to charge the Fenix 5x after two or three long hikes. With the GPS on, it lasts about 20 hours, and without the GPS on (in smartwatch mode), it’s lasts 12 days.

It takes about an hour to charge and works off of any USB charger. The plug (unlike the Fenix 3) is simple and just plugs into the back. It is however proprietary, so you can’t just use any micro-USB charging cable.

Fenix 5x Battery Cable
The cable is proprietary but works well with a good physical connection. Just don’t loose it!

One of the great things about this watch is that you can customize almost every aspect of it, including the watch face. I use the watch face that has a battery percentage on it so I can monitor it. You can also get (free) 3rd party apps that give you time left, etc.

Fenix 5x Charging
When you charge the Fenix 5x it also gives you a big battery percentage readout.

Generally, the battery is fine for me. My longest hikes are 2-3 days, and the battery lasts on a single charge. But if you want to maximize your battery life, you have a few options.

So after having used this watch for about ten days I have to say that I am absolutely in love with it. One of my biggest concerns was battery life, but having used it continuously, having it connected to my phone and having gone on 4 mile runs every day for the last 10 days, the battery is still at 41%. I am astounded with how well this watch had molded into my everyday life. The smartphone notifications are awesome, the GPS is crazy accurate and the heart rate monitor (which I thought was stupid at first) is a pretty cool addition, and I have found to be accurate to within a beat or two per min. I will update again once my watch has finally died but it has exceeded my expectations so far. – Amazon Reviewer

Is The Fenix 5x GPS Accurate?

One of my concerns when I first got the unit was the GPS accuracy. I head read on some forums that people were having problems with it. I can happily report that it’s worked well for me.

First, you should update your firmware to the latest version. That should clear up 99% of the issues.

The unit has Glonass in addition to GPS, which you can turn on or off. It takes a little more battery to use. I’ve tried it both on and off and I can’t really see a difference, and some people see worse performance with Glonass on.

Fenix 5x Gps Settings
It’s easy to change your GPS and Glonass settings in the menu.

I’m not setup for hardcore GPS comparisons, but I did do a comparison between the Fenix 5x and an iPhone 7Plus. The tracks were pretty much the same.

Fenix 5x Gps Comparison
The purple line is the Fenix 5x, and the red line is the iPhone 7Plus. Nothing is too off or crazy here.

I tried to recreate the problems that people were talking about, which were incorrect distances and drop outs, without success. What I learned is that there are a lot of variables when it comes to GPS reception. The list includes cloud cover, trees, tall buildings, how close to another GPS receiver it is, wrist position, and satellite position. I was able to get variations in my track, but never a glaring “way off” error.

Here’s the thing. Know that this is not a professional level instrument (like an airplane GPS with external GPS antenna). This is a 1″x1″ piece of metal on your wrist. It does a great job of telling you were you are on a map. You can figure out whether you’re on the right trail 99.999% of the time. And in my book that’s fine.

With any of these devices, as you zoom in, you’ll see the deviations. In most cases, it’s within 50 feet, if not much less.

Fenix 5x Trail Deviation
Here you can see some of the deviation on an out-and-back trip to the summit of Mt Whitney. In general it’s putting me in roughly the same place on the climb and descent, and those positions are jibing with the position of the trail that Google has. Accurate enough for me to know where I am.

What does this mean in practical terms? When I hike with my friends, we all have different GPS units. At the end of the hike, everyone has a different mileage number. Not by a lot, but every once and awhile a number (on a random device) will be way off. It could have been from a lot of factors, but given that it’s a rare occurrence, we normally chalk it up to an environmental factor.

You will get more accurate distances if you pause your Fenix when you’re stopped.

The GPS works, you’ll be fine to hike and navigate with the Fenix 5x.

Fenix 5x Gps Signal
You can add GPS signal strength as a data field.

Reviewing Your Hikes Online

One of the coolest things about the Garmin Fenix 5x and the Garmin eco-system is that you can easily review all the details of your hike after you’re done. All you need to do is sign up for a (free) Garmin Connect account. You can then use the online website (full features) or the mobile app (limited features) to review your hikes.

The Garmin Fenix 5x has Bluetooth and WiFi, so once you setup your Garmin Connect account and sync your Fenix 5x with your phone and/or WiFi, your hikes (and other activities) will automatically upload to Garmin connect. And if you don’t want to do that, you can also manually connect the Fenix 5x to your computer and upload with Garmin Express.

Fenix 5x Mobile Hike Recap
You can view your hikes on the Garmin Connect app and switch between map types.

Once your hike is uploaded, you can deep dive into everything. The map, the elevation, your pace, heart rate, etc.

Fenix 5x Hike Recap Map
Viewing a hike recap on the Garmin Connect website. The map is interactive and you can share the hike with others.
Fenix 5x Hike Recap Graph
You can do a deep dive on your stats too. It’s interesting to see your heart rate as you hike.

You can also export the hike to view it in Google Earth, etc.

If you don’t like Garmin Connect, you can also download and view your hikes in the (free) Garmin Basecamp program. I use this more as a planning tool, but you can also review hikes there.

You can also connect your Garmin account with other services such as Apple Health, MyFitnessPal, Strava, and more.

How To Customize Your Fenix 5x

You can customize almost every aspect of the Fenix 5x. I’ve already covered using custom maps and custom data fields for your hike, but wait! There’s more!

Garmin has created a programming language for it’s devices, so independent developers are free to create apps for the Fenix 5x just like mobile developers create apps for iPhone. It’s fun to browse the gallery and try new apps, but after months of use, I’ve found that the pre-packaged Garmin apps on the Fenix 5x work fine for me.

Garmin has something called the (free) Connect IQ Store where you can browse everything that you can download to your Fenix 5x. The types of things you can download fall into four buckets: apps, data fields, watch faces, and widgets.

Apps are similar to apps on a phone. You can get an app for an activity (such as elliptical) or for things like Uber. The Fenix 5x comes bundled with a bunch of apps, including the map, hiking, running, find my phone, etc.

Fenix 5x Apps
Here are some apps in the gallery. You can see there’s a wide variety to choose from.
Fenix 5x Fishing App
Here’s an example of an app that you can download for free. This is one that keeps track of the fish you caught and has a timer for tournaments. There’s a huge variety of apps out there.

Then there’s also data fields. These are little chunks of data that you can include in an activity. For example, you could download a data field for UTM Coordinates and include those in your hiking activity.

Fenix 5x Data Fields
There’s a lot of data fields you can add to the Fenix 5x.
Fenix 5x Graphical Elevation Dtra Field
Here’s an example of the (free) elevation graphic field. You can see it slots into the existing fields you’d use for hiking. Some data field apps take up the whole screen, others fit in with other data.

Next, we have watch faces. This is a cool one because you can make your Fenix face look like a Rolex or whatever. The watch face is used when you’re just wearing it for everyday use.

Fenix 5x Watch Faces
You can pretty much make your Fenix 5x look like anything. There are tons of watch faces you can download for free.
Fenix 5x Watch Face
This watch face would drive my eyes crazy, but it works for some folks. You can make it as simple or complex as you’d like with all the options. Many watch faces, included the pre-packaged ones, allow you to customize aspects of the faces as well.

Lastly, you can add widgets to the Fenix 5x. Widget are similar to apps, but you can scroll through screens during normal use to see them. The Fenix 5x comes packaged with a lot of widgets, including elevation, calendar, weather, music control; there are tons.

Fenix 5x Widgets
The variety of widgets is wide, similar to apps.
Fenix 5x Weather Widget
Here’s a third-party weather widget from Accuweather. Many widgets depend on a smartphone connection to get their data (like this one). The Fenix 5x can’t connect directly to the internet to access data such as weather.

Fenix 5x Health and Wellness Benefits

The Fenix 5x really shines here. If you do any other workouts or fitness in addition to hiking, the Fenix 5x is an even more attractive option. There are a few features that I use in my everyday health routine that I love.

Garmin Fenix series are simply the best products out there for active people – Amazon Reviewer

First, there’s the optical heart rate on the back of the watch. Unlike the raised heart rate monitor on the Fenix 3HR, this one is flush and more comfortable. The sensor is always on, and takes your heart rate every 1-2 seconds, 24 hours a day. The accuracy of the heart rate monitor is based on a few factors, including skin color, hair on your arm, etc., but the most important thing is that the watch fits snug. Not super-tight, but snug enough so that you shouldn’t be able to slide a finger underneath it.

Fenix 5x Hr Sensor
Those three dots are the optical HR sensor.

When I’m hiking I keep an eye on my heart rate to see how much of an effort I’m putting out. From monitoring that (a lot) I can see how tired I am, and whether I should slow down, turn around or push on. Training with heart rate is a whole subject onto itself, and if you’re interested in fitness I highly recommend digging deeper. It’s an effective way to train and monitor your progress. I use heart rate zones based on my lactate threshold, and Ben Greenfield is a good resource if you want to learn more. The Fenix 5x allows you to set heart rate zones (1-5) so you don’t have to memorize your numbers.

Fenix 5x Hr Zones
I can easily setup my HR zones in Garmin Connect and they automatically get synced to my Fenix 5x. I can also tweak the zones to some specific sports.

The Fenix 5x also lets you sync to external heart rate monitors (which override the internal one when connected). I use two other monitors when I train. First, I use the HRM-Run, which give you running dynamics such as cadence and stride length. I also have a HRM-Swim, which measures my heart rate underwater. Overall the internal optical heart rate monitor was almost as accurate as the chest strap. There were a few swings where it was over or under, but never by more than a few beats.

Fenix 5x Running Dynamics
Here’s some of the extra information you get when using the HRM-Run chest strap. I use this type of info to improve my running form.

The heart rate sensor and data is also used to measure some additional important fitness metrics.

Fenix 5x Fitness Readout
According to this Training Status widget, I’m ready to win my first Olympic gold.

The other helpful fitness function is sleep. The Fenix 5x is a sleep tracker which shows you how much time you’ve been asleep deeply, lightly and awake. It’s a good way to make sure you’re getting enough sleep and monitor on a regular basis. Like the other data, you can monitor this on the Garmin Connect app or the Garmin IQ website.

Fenix 5x Sleep
Every day you can get metrics on the quality of your sleep.

And there’s some more fitness functions (I told you this thing measures everything!).

Should I Upgrade to the Fenix 5x from the Fenix 3?

I don’t think it’s worth the money to get a Fenix 5x if you already have a Fenix 3, unless you really want the maps. You can still follow tracks on the Fenix 3, although it doesn’t have the loaded topo map. Most people will use the Fenix as a reference to a GPX track on their hike, and you can do that with a Fenix 3. The Fenix 3 also gives you many of the benefits of the Garmin fitness tools, such as step counter, activity tracking, sleep tracking, etc. At some point the Fenix 3 will stop getting firmware updates, but it will always be a GPS unit on your wrist, which is still pretty powerful.

My best multi-sports watch ever (I’ve had a bunch of Garmins, Polars and Suuntos). I upgraded from Fenix 3HR and I’m happy with the new features, in particular maps. I use the watch primarily for running, hiking and kitesurfing. – Amazon Reviewer

Is the Fenix 5x Worth It?

Fenix 5x Unboxing
Here’s what you get in the box, which is really all you need.

I’ll make this easy, if you can afford the Fenix 5x, it’s worth getting. Here’s why I say that:

If you’re on a tight budget and you want the core experience of the Fenix 5x, get a Fenix 3 HR.

I think the Apple watch is very cool, but it’s not designed for the outdoors, and the battery doesn’t have the kind of life needed for a longer hike. The Suunto Ambit is another option, but doesn’t have maps, doesn’t have all the apps and customization, and doesn’t plug into a fitness network as extensive as Garmin.

If you’re thinking about buying the Garmin Fenix 5x, there’s something important you can do to help support this site. Click on the link below to buy your Fenix 5x from REI. You get REI dividend money back, free shipping, you can easily return it, and there’s a host of other benefits. I get a small percentage of every sale, so you’ll help support my website hosting costs and all that dumb stuff.

Reviews & Prices for the Garmin Fenix 5x at REI

It’s a little pricey, but if you’re into this sort of thing and considering this watch, it will not disappoint. – Amazon Reviewer

Fenix 5x Tips & Tricks & Notes

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