GPS watches for tracking distance and time of open water swims

nvr2latenvr2late Central VirginiaCharter Member
edited April 2017 in General Discussion
I would like to invest in a Garmin to track my open water swims. There are so many models, I thought that I would open this thread to see which one is favored by forum members. Thank you for your input.
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  • BillBill Member
    910XT - Love it. Great for OW and pool swimming.
  • GarbageBargeGarbageBarge NY (Hudson Valley)Charter Member
    Not a Garmin, but I just got the Finis hydro tracker. Still working out some kinks with it, but for knowing how far you went, and seeing a track of your swim, it seems pretty good. AquaRob and few other places have discount codes for 20% off. Complaints: my computer seems to have trouble picking up that it's docked, and you have no way of knowing if you turned it on successfully, unless you have it off and are looking at it (with cupped hands in bright day light). In the mean time, the clock has started while you put your goggles on.
  • IronMikeIronMike Arlington, VACharter Member
    How funny. My finis swimsense has trouble docking. Or rather my computer doesn't recognize the watch is docked.

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  • AquaRobAquaRob Humboldt Bay, CACharter Member
    Personally I've swam with the Garmin 310xt and the Finis HydroTracker, I like both. The Garmin is far and away the better GPS unit with a lot more features, but the HydroTracker is pretty awesome for the price (it's like $200 cheaper). I haven't had a chance to play with a 910xt yet but I know @jenschumacher has one, she wrote about it here: http://jenschumacher.org/blog/comments/garmin-910xt/
  • WaterGirlWaterGirl Scottsdale, AZCharter Member

    How funny. My finis swimsense has trouble docking. Or rather my computer doesn't recognize the watch is docked.

    I love the SwimSense for the pool when it works, but I'm waiting for my THIRD replacement right now. Some of them dock fine, some not so well. Design quality is great, product quality is lacking.

    I wish I had a 910xt. I use a Garmin 205 for open water. It's not supposed to be waterproof, but I haven't had a problem. I put on a silicone cap, then my goggles. I anchor the Garmin straps under my goggle straps, buttons pointing up. Then I cover the whole thing with a latex cap. I turn the Garmin on before I strap it on. I hit start when I start, and I hit lap before and after every feed. If you don't hit lap, it's very difficult to get split information.

    When you're finished swimming, you have to turn the Garmin off. If you just hit stop, the timer stops, but it maps your route home.

    It takes some practice to get used to hitting the buttons while it's on your head. Aside from the waterproof issue, wearing on your head captures a more accurate route.
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited May 2012
    For open water I put a Garmin 205 (with wrist straps removed) in a plastic sandwich bag under a single cap - but Katie's method sounds more refined. Paths and distances seem very accurate. Incidentally, I also use it for hiking, though I've found the transponder isn't quite strong enough to hold a signal in canyons with heavy forest cover.

    For lap swimming I use a Swimsense. FINIS replaced it after about a year when the digital display started flickering. On both the replacement and the original, I've had problems docking with the computer. Agree with others that the quality of construction on the Garmins is higher... though I've heard from some tri friends that the Swimsense is more accurate at stroke counts & lap counts, compared to the 910xt. That could change with future firmware upgrades...
  • IronMikeIronMike Arlington, VACharter Member
    I would be waiting for a replacement swimsense, but we can't ship anything with lithium batteries from here. So, by the time I get back, the warranty probably will be dead. Oh well.

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  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    IronMike said:

    So, by the time I get back, the warranty probably will be dead. Oh well.

    They didn't ask for a receipt or date of purchase when they replaced mine...
  • WaterGirlWaterGirl Scottsdale, AZCharter Member

    They didn't ask for a receipt or date of purchase when they replaced mine...

    They're great about that part.

    I never had one replaced for the docking issue. I could always get around that by pressing it in very firmly and holding all four corners until it showed up. The replacements have been for more serious issues. They start to leak a little, and then they freeze up while you're swimming. On my last one, the auto pause feature didn't work right.
  • heartheart San Francisco, CACharter Member
    Slightly off-topic, but I'm really enjoying my little Chrono 100 for pool workouts. I bought it as a consolation prize in lieu of the Garmin I can't afford this month. The little gadget is worn on your finger and it keeps track of your laps and splits. I love it!
  • i had a Neoprene cap made with a 'pocket' on top to house a Garmin 310XT. It's worked a dream. The new 910xt has a swim function that compensates for stroke and underwater (pull on stroke) such it still keeps good tracking while on the wrist.
    With the Garmin on the head you can set the time and distance alert it to 'Buzz'. ie 500m and 15minutes with different buzzes, kinda fun. Be warned when i first wore it and it Buzzed i jumped out of my skin, - one hell of a fright. Have tried to get the HR strap to pick up, alas failed. Side benefit of GPS tracking is checking out how direct you are swimming. helped me on that front. all in all a winner
  • BillBill Member
    evmo said:

    Agree with others that the quality of construction on the Garmins is higher... though I've heard from some tri friends that the Swimsense is more accurate at stroke counts & lap counts, compared to the 910xt. That could change with future firmware upgrades...

    I find my 910xt has been bang on in pool workouts for distance and stroke counting. However, when I'm sprinting free, it has been known to record those laps as butterfly laps... probably stroke problems vs the garmin.
  • jenschumacherjenschumacher Los Angeles, CAMember
    I should update that, I grew disenchanted with the 910xt and sold it. It worked well, but I preferred my old 310 without wrist straps which I put in a waterproof pouch under my cap, similarly to @watergirl and @evmo. I did not find the 910's stroke count feature very accurate, and it was almost never accurate in the pool. I've been using the FINIS Hydrotracker, which is great when it works, but I have been having issues with my computer recognizing it, as well as user-errors because it is difficult to tell when it's on/tracking.
  • bcobbbcobb Member
    I am currently waiting for my 3rd Hydro Tracker. When it works it is accurate and it is comfortable to swim with. Their tech support has been very accommodating and did tell me that the unit had to be turned off when docking or the computer won't recognize the unit. I also found that you have to really push the unit firmly into the dock to get a good connection.
  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoCharter Member
    I'm another 310xt user. I used to have it attached to my goggles but now just just shove it under my swim cap. Fits nicely and is sufficently waterproof to not require anything else. WIth the 910xt out I suspect you could get a good deal on a used 310xt from craigslist or the like.

    http://notdrowningswimming.com - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer

  • IronMikeIronMike Arlington, VACharter Member
    edited September 2013
    OK you guys, I need help. I have a Garmin 310XT. I've had it connected and even uploaded a bunch of my swims and bikes to Garmin Connect.

    We bought a new computer (Dell) which has Windows 8. I've plugged the thumb drive (ANT+) into a USB 2.0 port (computer said not to plug it into a 3.0). No matter what I do, it cannot find my device.

    I've restarted several times. I've also checked and the drivers are all updated.

    Ideas?

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoCharter Member
    @IronMike try some of the other ports. It's weird but I have had issues where certain devices will only work in certain ports (so much for the idea of standards)

    http://notdrowningswimming.com - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer

  • IronMikeIronMike Arlington, VACharter Member
    Thanks @dc_in_sf, I've tried it in all the 2.0 USB ports, which are the only ones it'll work in.

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • IronMikeIronMike Arlington, VACharter Member
    Thanks @Niek. I downloaded to my computer the latest software, no joy. I tried the ANT+ stick initially in my 3.0 slots. No joy. I'll keep trying.

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • why has no one mentioned the garmin swim?
  • I don't have a garmin, but i got a finis hydrotracker this year and its proven pretty reliable. It doesn't have a display, so it may not suit the "I need to know NOW" brigade, but for me it means it doesn't distract you while you're swimming. USB connection can be tempermental, but all I need to do is give the contacts a wipe. They seem to build up a salt residue after a few swims which affects their operation. Online analysis of the swim does give 100m splits, which is handy.
    It can take a few minutes to find a signal, so turn it on when you start getting undressed. It's better than hopping around at the waters edge in the freezing cold waiting for the LED to go green.
    I would recommend it.
  • I have a number of triathlete friends who are very satisfied with their 910 in the open water but not as happy with it in the pool. I have a 310 that I tried swimming with in my cap but it bothers me after longer than an hour. I use mapmyrun.com to track my swim distances before or after the fact. You can draw the map on water if you uncheck "follow roads".
  • I'm on my 3rd or 4th hydrotracker and my 2nd swimsense through FINIS tech support. I have had the docking problems, and sometimes the hydrotracker would show me going through land with inaccurate distances on my swims. Now neither device will upload a workout. uggh!
  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoCharter Member
    RiverRat said:

    I'm on my 3rd or 4th hydrotracker and my 2nd swimsense through FINIS tech support. I have had the docking problems, and sometimes the hydrotracker would show me going through land with inaccurate distances on my swims. Now neither device will upload a workout. uggh!

    Finis doesn't really have good build quality, I ditched my swimsense for a garmin swim when it broke and have been very happy (and very much like having all my data in one place since I was already using Garmin for GPS).

    http://notdrowningswimming.com - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer

  • I like my 910 XT. I just wear it on my wrist and am interested in hearing why those who tuck it into their caps do so. Is there a problem with keeping it on one's wrist over long periods of time? The most I've worn it for was 2.5 hours, but it was still comfortable at that point.
  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoCharter Member
    JonML said:

    I like my 910 XT. I just wear it on my wrist and am interested in hearing why those who tuck it into their caps do so. Is there a problem with keeping it on one's wrist over long periods of time? The most I've worn it for was 2.5 hours, but it was still comfortable at that point.

    My sense is that the distance tracking is more accurate when it is under your cap. I've not done any studies to confirm that though.

    http://notdrowningswimming.com - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer

  • hmeermanhmeerman Encinitas, CAMember
    I agree with @dc_in_sf. I always swim OW with my strapless 310xt under my cap. It is more accurate (both distance and line) than when I originally tried wearing it on my wrist, and comfortable indefinitely (at least through ~8.5 h). Despite swimming for many years (including many long swims) wearing a wristwatch, I stopped doing so about 2 years ago and haven't looked back.
  • I'm pretty happy with my 910 XT. I've worn it on my wrist for nearly every (over 65) open water swim this year and, despite the rather bulky appearance (it's definitely ugly), I've never found it to be uncomfortable (even after 4 hours and 15 minutes of the Boston Light Swim). I have it set to record laps at some distance interval (anywhere from 200 to 500m). In addition to providing information that may be interesting to examine later, the regular lap-marking vibration tells me I'm actually making progress, which can be reassuring. I tend not to look at it while swimming - especially racing - but I've found I'm usually able to read the biggest display while only missing one arm stroke. I haven't scrutinized the stroke counting much, but have decided I don't trust it completely.

    I rarely use it in the pool - pretty much only when I'm in a 25y pool without an easily readable clock and I'm planning to swim something longish (i.e. where I'm at risk of losing the lap count in my head). I find it will occasionally miss a lap, but that's easy to spot when looking at the activity later. The stroke identification leaves something to be desired. It gets freestyle right, but almost always thinks my butterfly is freestyle, and sometimes confuses breaststroke and backstroke. This could be due to poor form on my part, although I'm confident my strokes are at the very least legal. But Stroke ID is more of a gee-whiz feature to me. I know what stroke I did and will get it right when I enter my workout in my spreadsheet.
  • MvGMvG Brussels (BE) and Lith (NL)Charter Member
    Hi all,

    I was wondering if there's a watch that can do all or most of the following:
    - count laps (25 and 50 meters) reliably
    - stopwatch with automatic restart at set intervals ( for sets of 50s, 100s, etc.), preferably with a start beep
    - measure water temperature
    - allow GPS tracking / measure distance swum in open water
    - measure heart rate (preferably without a chest band, but from the pulse in one's wrist ( not even sure this exists?))
    - measure (average) stroke rate

    Is there a watch doing all or most of these things?

    I'd be grateful for your recommendations, advice, experiences, links, etc. so I can tell Santa!

    Milko

    (I know swim watches have been discussed on the MSF in bits and pieces in various threads, but I haven't found the info I am looking for, so launch a new discussion. But ok if Administrators prefer to add my question onto an existing thread.)
  • Kevin_in_MDKevin_in_MD Senior Member
    edited November 2014
    The garmin 910 xt, 920 xt and fenix 2 do everything on that list except the heart rate.

    The new polar triathlon watch supposedly will do those things when they release a firmware update for it.

    There are several other options that work indoors only.
    MvG
  • IronMikeIronMike Arlington, VACharter Member
    @MvG, looks like the Bia might do some of what you need.
    MvG

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • MvGMvG Brussels (BE) and Lith (NL)Charter Member
    Thanks both. Suunto Ambut3 seems cool ( and expensive) too. Pity about the chest strap, which tends to move off one's chest when pushing after the turn.
  • mpfmarkmpfmark Teesside England Charter Member
    Suunto ambit3
    MvG
  • BrendanBrendan Portland, ORMember
    I have the ambit2 s. I cannot recommend it enough. its an amazing watch with a variety of pretty awesome apps.
    MvG
  • I've been looking for a watch that will counts laps and tracks GPS distance in open water (salt). I also don't like the 910 because it seems incredible bulky for swimming. Any comments or preferences between the Fenix2 and Ambit2s for indoor and outdoor swim training?
  • Can't really add to the discussion other than to say I really am curious which one you decide on. Let us know!

    I am torn between the Garmin Fenix 2 and the Suunto Ambit 3, but leaning towards the Fenix, since my daily watch and indoor swimming companion is the Garmin Swim, which I really love since it has had some serious software upgrades.

    Follow me on [b]"The Great Big 10k Marathon Swimming Adventure"[/b] (yes, I know, but getting to 10k is a big marathon for me!) at http://www.wimmerblog.com

  • MvGMvG Brussels (BE) and Lith (NL)Charter Member
    edited March 2015
    Ok, so Father Christmas and then my birthday came and went as I wasn't able to make up my mind... :-)
    But I have managed to reduce the options to just a few, and would appreciate further advice and your experiences with these. Best to post below for the benefit of others, but you can pm me if you prefer.

    Suunto Ambit3 looks fantastic and has all the functionality I need and then some, but has still no Android connectivity, only IOS. I'd like to use it with a Samsung smartphone. They have been promising an Android App since October last year but seem to keep procrastinating, to the dismay of a lot of Android-using Suunto customers, who are even petitioning Suunto on forums and Fb to hurry up on the Android front.

    Garmin FR 920XT also has phenomenal functionality, with full Android and IOS connectivity but with its (black and blue plastic look I would hesitate to wear it in a more formal office environment and I don't like changing watches all the time.
    Thankfully Garmin will soon (this month) release the Fenix 3 which combines the functionality of the 920XT with much more pleasing aesthetics. Only one worry there: Garmin's heart rate sensor, designed more for runners, seems clunkier than Suunto's and looks not very suitable for swimming?

    So: happy to hear about experiences with Suunto Ambit3 and Garmin 920XT (or 910XT), including the HR sensor issue.

    Thanks all!
  • GarbageBargeGarbageBarge NY (Hudson Valley)Charter Member

    Can you tell if you're in your target heart rate range while swimming with any of the above? If so, do you have to look at the watch or do any have a vibrating alarm? I haven't seen many positive reviews of the Finis AquaPulse, but it will audibly tell you your heart rate. I'd prefer to just get an alarm if I'm above or below target, which is the way most dry land HRMs operate, but I haven't found one that can do this for swimming.

    Thanks for the knowledge.

  • Kevin_in_MDKevin_in_MD Senior Member

    GarbageBarge said: Can you tell if you're in your target heart rate range while swimming with any of the above?

    The finis is the only thing out there right now that can conceivably alert you if your heart rate is out of your intended zone one way or the other on the fly, and do it dependably - if you're a man.

    The problem is a combination of heart rate straps and of information conduction. On a man, you just won't be able to get the strap to stay on when doing turns in the pool, whether open or flip variety, though you might be able to do it in open water. The strap slips down. For ladies who can put it under their suit, it will work fine.

    This is halfway solved with a couple of different diode-based straps which shine a light into your skin and can see the heartbeat from the difference in amount of light reflected back from your blood with each beat. Some of these go on your arm, your leg and so forth.

    HOWEVER, all of these diode-based straps currently produced use a 2.4 GHz transmission frequency which doesn't travel through water. So they can't alert you in real time if your hr is too high for example, thoguh some of them have a memory and you can review your heart rate later.

    Hopefully in the near future we'll have a watch with the diode based heart rate sensor built into it. Probably the next big upgrade for garmin in 2 or so years I reckon.

    In a strange twist of fate, the tomtom cardio sport already HAS the sensor in it, AND measures swimming but the heart rate is turned off when swimming mode is active.

    loneswimmer
  • IronMikeIronMike Arlington, VACharter Member

    @Kevin_in_MD, couldn't you wear a rash guard over the strap? If it's tight enough, that could help keep the strap in place over the heart.

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • GarbageBargeGarbageBarge NY (Hudson Valley)Charter Member

    Even if you can keep a strap in place, and the signal could travel through water, how would you be alerted when you go out of your intended range? You're not going to hear a beep on your watch while swimming. I won't anyway. I can barely hear my ironman when running. Finis might be the only solution, but it's not ideal for running (I think I read in a review that someone attached it to a hat), and I don't want to constantly know my rate, just if I go above or below my target. It's kind of surprising that no has produced this yet with all the products marketed for triathletes.

  • IronMikeIronMike Arlington, VACharter Member

    @GarbageBarge, I can hear my repeat timer on my Casio.

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  • GarbageBargeGarbageBarge NY (Hudson Valley)Charter Member

    @IronMike, I think I'm losing my high frequency hearing. Regardless, the Casio would have to be pretty loud to hear while swimming. I may need to check it out. I've bought a few Speedo vibrating alarm clocks so I could monitor my pace in longer sets, but the band breaks without fail after a year, and you can't replace it. It's molded around the watch face.

    IronMike
  • GarbageBargeGarbageBarge NY (Hudson Valley)Charter Member

    The Mio Fuse says it works in water and it has a vibrating alarm, and no chest strap. I just can't find a review of someone who has actually used it while swimming to stay in a zone. All the reviewers seem to care about is being able to store their data. Anybody familiar with the Fuse?

  • IronMikeIronMike Arlington, VACharter Member
    edited September 2015

    Isn't that Mio the watch that some of our colleagues here developed? I thought I remembered reading smthg here about it.

    Edit: Nope, that's not it. I'll search for it and post here when I find it.

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • IronMikeIronMike Arlington, VACharter Member
    edited September 2015

    The BIA! Dammit, that was killing me.

    www.bia-sport.com, although the URL is not working for me. It looks like they got the funding from their Kickstarter campaign, so maybe it's just me. @sylmarino?

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • Kevin_in_MDKevin_in_MD Senior Member

    Bia went out of business a year or so ago.

  • GarbageBargeGarbageBarge NY (Hudson Valley)Charter Member

    I tried a Mio Fuse in the pool this morning. It basically worked for what I wanted it to do. I was able to set a zone and it would vibrate if I was out of the zone. I could see the led light on it to tell if I was above or below zone. I was mostly below . When I ran with it earlier in the week, I kept going over. I may need to lower the floor rate for swimming. I set a range based on 180 - my age to 180 - (my age + 10). In my case that's from 122-132 beats per minute. That seems pretty narrow for any exercise, but I'm new to heart rate training. I tried a kick set with the heart rate on. I never got up into the range and the display kept cycling through all the data, even though I had turned off most of the data like calories and distance with the app. The app can be clunky from other reviews that I've read.

  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoCharter Member

    GarbageBarge said: I tried a Mio Fuse in the pool this morning. It basically worked for what I wanted it to do. I was able to set a zone and it would vibrate if I was out of the zone. I could see the led light on it to tell if I was above or below zone. I was mostly below . When I ran with it earlier in the week, I kept going over. I may need to lower the floor rate for swimming. I set a range based on 180 - my age to 180 - (my age + 10). In my case that's from 122-132 beats per minute. That seems pretty narrow for any exercise, but I'm new to heart rate training. I tried a kick set with the heart rate on. I never got up into the range and the display kept cycling through all the data, even though I had turned off most of the data like calories and distance with the app. The app can be clunky from other reviews that I've read.

    for what it's worth I have previously read somewhere that your heart rate while swimming is reduced (vs say running at same effort) so you may need to adjust your heart rate targets for swimming vs running for the same target zone.

    http://notdrowningswimming.com - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer

  • ChrisgreeneChrisgreene Mercersburg PA/Atlanta, GAMember

    I just bought the fenix 3, love the watch, very intuitive -especially considering this is my first smart watch. I'm not really concerned with heart rate while swimming so that is not an issue. What is strange is in open water mode while swimming in an open water way ( 320 meter loops, not within lane lines, in out door pool) it measures distance at about 40% of actual. Not sure if it's because I'm in a pool. True test is a 10 Mile point to point race this weekend.

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