Review: The Garmin Forerunner 405 Wireless GPS-Enabled Sport Watch with USB ANT Stick and Heart Rate Monitor | A Hiker's Perspective

I have been looking for an easy way to log hiking distances and watch my heart rate. I have tried heart rate monitors and hand held GPS units in the past, but I really was looking for one simple device that would take care of my needs. That is where the Garmin Forerunner 405 comes in. This wrist-watch sized device is a GPS unit that can accurately track you as you hike, bike or run. In addition with the heart rate monitor, it tracks and displays your heart rate as you are exercising. Plus in addition to that, the Forerunner lets you see information like your total trip time and distance and offers various training options and when you get home, you download all that information to visual your hike, jog or bike ride in ways that you never could before.

While the device is geared towards runners and joggers with its virtual partner and training modes, I have found it to be a great companion to have on my hikes. The watch logs my information and when I get home, the Forerunner automatically connects to my computer, downloads my information and has it waiting for me on the Garmin Connect site. Once there, I can analyze my trip with maps, minute to minute heart rate information, distance, time and pace information and information about elevation gains and losses.

Garmin Forerunner 405 Basics

The Garmin Forerunner 405 kit comes with several different items. There is the watch/GPS unit itself, the heart rate monitor that fits around your chest, a charging clip for the watch and the USB ANT stick that lets the watch connect wirelessly to your computer.

At its most basic, the Forerunner is a wrist-watch sized GPS unit. It tracks your location and elevation and logs this information, allowing you to see the distance you have traveled and your mile pace. In addition to those basics, by wearing the heart rate monitor, your heart rate is monitored constantly and can be viewed on the watch. Above that, the Forerunner gives you options for a virtual partner to run against and has several different training modes for running and biking.

All of this information is saved in the Forerunner and is wirelessly downloaded to the Garmin Connect software (and can be uploaded to the Garmin Connect community online). Once on your computer, you can see maps of where you have traveled and graphs and charts showing elevation changes, distance traveled, heart rate and pace. On the online community, you can share your routes and trip information in addition to just keeping all of your information online for your own private use. You can also export the GPS information in several different formats so you can import it into other mapping programs such as Google Earth.

The Forerunner is water resistant, so you do not have to worry about sweating on it or having it get splashed in a rain storm.

When you are wearing the Forerunner, all the functions of the watch are accessed through a touch bezel that runs around the edge of the face. You just have to touch the area of the bezel to access that menu and function. This is the one feature I am not totally sold on with the Forerunner because it is very easy to accidentally access menus as you are jogging, hiking or biking. That said, the touch feature does make it easy to quickly access functions and change screen information.

The screen is a simple black and white display, but through the various functions available, can display a number of different pieces of information from a standard clock to your GPS location.

The Forerunner needs to be charged before most uses. A full charge will last for about 8 hours if you are using the GPS function continuously. For most of my day hikes, I have been able to leave the GPS function on the watch going the entire time. On a few longer trips, I have paused the GPS function when we have stopped for breaks in order to make sure the battery lasts for the entire trip. For most other activities such as jogging and biking, I would think a full charge will last for the entire length of your trip.

The Forerunner is the size of a larger wrist-watch and weighs a few ounces. The strap is a plastic strap that is pretty thick.

Setting up the Forerunner

I was struck at how easy it was to get the Forerunner out of the box and running. The Forerunner is charged through a charging clip. Plug the clip in and then clip the clip on the watch. It takes several hours to fully charge the watch and that charge lasts about 8 hours if you are using the GPS functions on the watch.

I read the manual once as the watch was charging. I installed the Garmin Connect software on my machine and attached the ANT stick. Following the full charge of the watch, I put it on, put on heart rate monitor on my chest and I went outside. The Forerunner connects to the chest monitor wirelessly and quickly recognized it. I then turned the GPS function on and within a few minutes, the Forerunner had identified several satellites and started recording location information. I just started the training mode and I was off. My first trip was about a mile and when I got home, I took the Forerunner off, placed it next to my laptop and within a few seconds, the Connect software popped up and downloaded the trip information from the Forerunner. Then I was able to analyze that information in the Connect Software, which I have to say was really cool. I have seen GPS information before, but the idea that this watch captured my location, my speed, the elevation change in my trip and my heart rate the entire was really cool and to see all that information visually in front of me was even cooler.

Using the Forerunner

Since that initial use of the Forerunner, I have used it for several different hikes and have not had any problems with the GPS functions or the heart rate monitoring. The GPS seems to be sensitive enough to work in anything from an open field to a dense forest. I have used it while climbing mountains and on more level hikes and in both cases, the information capture seems to be spot on without any significant errors.

Accuracy wise from what I can tell when mapping out my routes, the Forerunner is very accurate, within a few feet of your actual location whenever I have used it.

As I have downloaded more and more information to the Connect software, it has been cool to be able to compare my trips. I am also able to go back and look at the various trips I have gone and if I did a hike where I was off trail, it is easy to visualize where I was going.

In a few months of use, I have not had any problems with the Forerunner. It works as well as when I first got it, though there are a few scratches on the casing.

Over the last few months I have come across a few things I am not terrible fond of on the Forerunner though. Nothing that makes me want to return it, but things to consider if you are looking at other options. My biggest gripe is the touch bezel feature. I find it way to easy to accidentally change screens while you are exercising because the touch feature is activated whether it is your finger or the back of your wrist touching the face of the Forerunner. Since the Forerunner is a bit bigger than an average wrist-watch, it is very easy to activate the touch function with the back of your wrist and I am constantly going to look at the watch and check on heart rate or pace and realizing I have the screen in a completely different function.

I wish the overall watch was a little less bulky and the strap was not quite so wide. It is not that bad, but I do find the bulkiness a bit distracting as I am swinging my arms hiking or jogging. Plus if you are exercising, it is not always pleasant to have this plastic thing stuck to your arm making you sweat more.

Considering all the features of the Forerunner, these two complaints really do not distract from my overall enjoyment or continued us of it. I wear it on every hike I take now, to catalog my trip, make maps of my hikes and to monitor my heart rate on trips. I do not jog that often, but when I do, I use the Forerunner and I have worn it on a few short bike trips and it has worked just as well.

Extra Features

You can purchase a kit to mountain the Forerunner on your bike and get a more accurate ground speed. You can also purchase a foot pad that lets you track your speed and distance in places where the GPS signal is poor.

Final Thoughts

I still find it amazing to think about all the information that the Forerunner is collecting as I am hiking. I am able to monitor my heart rate, save my location information, track my progress and even tell what time it is. All in a package that fits on my wrist and only weighs a few ounces. That is pretty cool.

I have a few minor gripes about some of the features on the Garmin Forerunner 405, but overall this is one of the most helpful monitoring and training devices that I have found. I am able to get real time information and then go home and look more in-depth at my performance and my trip. I can even export that information to make great maps of my trips.

If you are looking for a device that will provide real time location, heart rate and pace information, the Garmin Forerunner 405 may be what you need. Whether it is jogging, hiking or biking, the Forerunner will definitely provide you with plenty of information and feedback as you exercise and when you get home. I have found it to be a perfect hiking companion for me.