Gear: Fitness Devices (2016)

Here are my experiences with specific fitness devices as of October 2016:

GPS Watches (Running, Cycling and Hiking)

I started out with the Garmin 305 when I took up running seriously here in Amsterdam.  The 305 was a good runner watch for its time and it helped me train for and run three half-marathons. I ended up killing it during a very rainy training run in 2012 and picked up a 610 to replace it.  The 610 was also pretty solid as a running watch. The major downside of my 610 was the wristband; I like many others managed to rip the anchoring pin through the band itself.  I ordered a replacement but found the 610 design had changed slightly over time and the new band would not fit my older watch.  Some black electrical tape fixed the problem.

In 2015, I started to read more about the new multi-sport Fenix 3 and thought it would be a good upgrade on the 610.  I’m happy with the Fenix 3 in every way; it’s a very impressive piece of technology and looks good enough to wear for daily use. The management of workouts, the handling of various sports and the increase in precision are all upgrades over previous Garmins.  Even something seeming unimportant as the ability to change the watch face is really well implemented and various 3rd-party developers have produced some beautiful watch faces, giving the Fenix 3 a lot of style. Definitely recommended.

Heart Rate Monitors

Like most users, I started with the chest strap version for measuring heart rate. And like many users, I had a constant battle with chaffing, scratching and communication dropouts.  I finally decided to try an optical HR monitor and haven’t looked back. The Mio works well and has proved very reliable. Its only downside is that its Bluetooth transmission distance is relatively short, so I have to wear it on the same arm as my GPS watch. I’m not going to win any fashion contest this way, but the elimination of my chaffing issues with chest bands makes this a small price to pay.

Activity Monitors

  • (2016-) Fitbit Charge HR2
  • (2015-2016) Fitbit Charge HR
  • (2012-2015) Fitbit One

I got a Fitbit One soon after they came out and found it to be a positive influence on my lifestyle, especially around work.  Paired up with the FitBit app, I found that I could watch my food intake and energy output more directly and made some good strides in getting aspects of my weight under control.

When I unfortunately lost my FitBit in the summer of 2015, I decided to move to the Charge HR, which includes an optical HR monitor.  While I don’t use it during fitness activities, I have found the HR measurement, especially the resting HR calculation to be very valuable to assess my basic health (am I getting sick? have I over-trained?).  I also like the auto-calculation of sleep intervals; it works well and it’s one less thing that I need to remember to start and stop on the FitBit One.  The only downside of the Charge HR was a bit of chaffing on my forearm in the early days, the shorter interval for recharging (the One would get a week or more out of a charge; the Charge HR got 3 days maximum).

In September 2016, I replaced the Charge HR with the brand-new Charge HR2, as I managed to delaminate the Charge HR sensor from its integral wrist band after a year of fulltime use.  I really like the new larger display and the new band attachment system; this should fix the delamination problem.


SportTracks 3 fundamentally changed how I tracked my fitness and outdoor activities.  The ability to analyze the GPS and HR time series captured by GPS watches made detailed analysis of my training very easy. I can also summarize a variety of activities, answering questions like how many cycling trips from Amsterdam and what is the total number of miles I’ve run in a year.

While SportTracks 3 is fundamentally powerful, it is the capability for others to develop plugins that yields some of its most powerful functionality. I use the following plugins almost everytime I used SportTracks 3:

  • Elevation Correction
  • Calculated Fields
  • Training Load
  • Weather
  • GPS2PowerTrack

I used Garmin Connect account to manage my Fenix 3. In addition, I have a account to get the workout information from Garmin Connect to SportTracks 3.

Like the Fenix 3, SportTracks gets the highest recommendation from me.

Handheld GPS Navigators

While I started out using these Garmin units for geocaching, both proved to be equally useful as navigation units for cycling.  Paired with the open-source mapping initiative, OpenFietsMap, these Garmin units will route cyclists on bicycle paths throughout Europe. I’ve always got the Oregon on my Santos when out cycling, and it’s a good geocaching device as well.

Barry Cott Written by:

Barry is one of the driving forces behind Station Studios. An avid photographer and outdoor enthusiast, when he's not traveling, he calls Port Stanley, Ontario home.