What type of Garmin is recommended for tracking distance and time of open water swims?

nvr2latenvr2late Central VirginiaCharter Member
edited May 2012 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.

Comments

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

    http://blogs.marathonswimmers.org/ironmike

    Where the hell is IronMike located? Find out here: https://what3words.com/

  • 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 inch.houseboat.primeCharter 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.

    http://blogs.marathonswimmers.org/ironmike

    Where the hell is IronMike located? Find out here: https://what3words.com/

  • 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 Charter Member
    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 inch.houseboat.primeCharter 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?

    http://blogs.marathonswimmers.org/ironmike

    Where the hell is IronMike located? Find out here: https://what3words.com/

  • 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 inch.houseboat.primeCharter 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.

    http://blogs.marathonswimmers.org/ironmike

    Where the hell is IronMike located? Find out here: https://what3words.com/

  • NiekNiek Heiloo, NetherlandsCharter Member
    edited September 2013
    USB 3.0, the latest version of USB (Universal Serial Bus), provides better speed and more efficient power management than USB 2.0. USB 3.0 is backward compatible with USB 2.0 devices; however, data transfer speeds are limited to USB 2.0 levels when these devices inter-operate. http://www.diffen.com/difference/USB_2.0_vs_USB_3.0
    Meaning you can put the device in a USB 3.0 slot despite what your pc tells you.

    Get the latest software for your device http://www.garmin.com/uk/support/

    http://openwaterswimming.eu - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!

  • IronMikeIronMike inch.houseboat.primeCharter 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.

    http://blogs.marathonswimmers.org/ironmike

    Where the hell is IronMike located? Find out here: https://what3words.com/

  • 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.
  • NiekNiek Heiloo, NetherlandsCharter Member

    http://openwaterswimming.eu - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!

  • 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.
  • curlycurly Issaquah, WAMember

    Are there any new trackers that are being used successfully? Seems like the Finis doesn't exist any more. I don't know much about the Garmins. I've been using iPhone with Nike Plus. Phone in Ziplock, in a swim buoy. It is fairly OK. I've used it for seven swims. It failed to record my two best swims. I had two days of smooth surface and I was moving right along and I got nothing. The other days were rough going and it recorded those honestly. One swim wasn't recorded at all and one swim had the time and distance way off although it showed the track completely. It's like the fish that got away... "I'm telling you I was moving. Probably 10 minute miles..." ;)

  • robrechtrobrecht Princeton, New JerseyMember

    I'm still liking my Garmin Forerunner 735XT that I got for Father's Day. Does open-water swimming and pool swimming. Not as heavy, bulky, or expensive as the Garmin fēnix 3 HR, but almost as capable. The fenix has longer battery life (if you're a slow Ironman) and an altimeter, but if you're in to biking, the 735XT is already capable of integrating with the cool Varia radar biking gear. None of this is really necessary, of course, and I'm kind of a purist in eschewing electronics over good old-fashioned hard work and fitness, but if you want a good Garmin for open-water and pool swimming, definitely take a look at the new Forerunner 735XT.

  • kejoycekejoyce Member

    I recently got a Suunto Ambit3, and so far I absolutely love it. It cost me $250 when I found it on sale at Clever Training online. I had a finis tracker that just wasn't doing it for me.

    It keeps track of distance, stroke rate, and pace really well in open water. The battery life is billed at 10 hours with a decent sample rate, though I haven't tested it out that long yet. There are two swimming modes, one for open water and another for pool swimming - it detects when you turn around and keeps a lap count. There's an interval feature, too - you can program in a workout if you care to go through the work ahead of time. It's also swimming HR-compatible - which I don't think Garmin has mastered yet. One of the more expensive Suunto watches can also do water temperature which is nice to have.

    One downside if you're a triathlete is that it's not ANT-compatible, it's bluetooth. So if you have all ANT sensors for your bike you'd have to invest in new ones. I find that the bluetooth makes for an easier upload to the phone app, and then to the website. I also like the website display, it'll make a little movie of where you've gone.

    So far I've used it only in open water, and on some long walks through Boston when I turned it on just for kicks. This is what the website version looks like: http://www.movescount.com/moves/move112027172

    Also they come in fun colors, and who doesn't love fun colors?

  • suziedodssuziedods Charter Member

    So, here's food for thought...distances are measured point to point. When one uses a garmin or other type of device, that device measures every little bit.. the zig to the left and the zag to the right. Oddly enough some also also measure elevation, so if one is in lumpy conditions you can gain and lose elevation! This means that while the distance is 10.2K ( or what have you) your garmin shows you swam 11.5(eg). But you didn't! You swam 10.2, you just zigged and zagged enough to show 11.5. As an avowed luddite( barring email and fb) I count time in the water (using my timex ironman watch) and point to point distances. In the pool, I count distance from the workout I do , which is in scy or long course meters. And i write those distances in pencil on an MSF calendar. :)

    evmokejoyceJenANiek

    Looking for the next big thing.. ... @suzieswimcoach www.suziedodsswimcoaching.com

  • kejoycekejoyce Member

    Suzie you're totally right about it adding every little zig and some of the metrics available now are waaaaay too much information!

    Most of it for me comes down to my brain... I'm really analytical and also lived a stint as a triathlete where everything is numbers and metrics and splits and HR and aaaaagh. I found that all horribly overwhelming after a time, part of why I've retreated back to the water :)

    Metrics aside, there are a couple reasons I like having a GPS. I like seeing exactly where I've been and how closely I actually followed the line I thought I was following. When I'm swimming into the sun in the evening I can see how horribly off my line I've gone, which is mostly just for fun... but when swimming in places with significant tides the point-to point can vary. If I follow the curve of the bay at low tide, I swim significantly less distance than if I follow it at high tide (it's a pretty shallow area). If I swim the same route multiple days, I still like to be able to correlate how I felt with how far or how fast I was going.

    I've heard triathletes whine before about their Garmin measuring a 5K as 3.3 miles. I think if it's taken that seriously it's overkill... but it can be a nice training tool when used for fun :)

    suziedodsslknightJenA
  • timsroottimsroot Charter Member

    suziedods said: I count time in the water (using my timex ironman watch) and point to point distances. In the pool, I count distance from the workout I do , which is in scy or long course meters. And i write those distances in pencil on an MSF calendar. :)

    While I prefer a spreadsheet to the paper log method (excel can convert the units for you, making everything on a consistent unit basis, and yes, I am an engineer, why do you ask?), but other than that, I agree. If I swim extra because I can't swim in a straight line, or count laps correctly, that's on me.

    suziedodsJenA
  • curlycurly Issaquah, WAMember

    Thanks for the info on the Garmin and the Ambit. I will look into those. Also, a strange thing happened yesterday. I was using my iPhone in a bag again. This time it gave me a really good track and accurate distance and time. I was thinking back to the days where it was messed up and trying to figure out what was different. On the bad days, it was really overcast, low clouds etc. Yesterday it was pretty clear sky. I don't know much about GPS and satellites, but I'm wondering if that could be the difference. Would GPS devices work better than a iPhone GPS? Any scientists here?

    Plus in response to the concerns regarding the over technicalization of this pure sport. I've been interested in the tracking because like some of the other responders here, I'm trying to figure how straight I'm going. Plus I'm interested to see if my perceived effort matches my measured effort. (And yes, I check the pace clock in a pool, so I guess old habits die hard...)

  • NiekNiek Heiloo, NetherlandsCharter Member

    source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Positioning_System
    The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a space-based navigation system that provides location and time information in all weather conditions, anywhere on or near the Earth where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites.

    source: http://gpsinformation.net/gpsclouds.htm
    Cloud, Rain, Snow, weather in general does NOT attenuate the GPS signals enough to effect accuracy.

    http://openwaterswimming.eu - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!

  • jbsjbs Member

    I have the Suunto Ambit -- the one that tracks temperature. The main point of it to me is to see how straight (or not) I am swimming and get some information about the swim, particularly in terms of temperature, stroke rate, and pace. The temperature is particularly useful, since it gives measurements throughout the swim.

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