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I’ve been wearing Garmin watches for the last three or four years and I have tried out a couple of different ones in that time. I’ve always been happy with them, and I haven’t really had any issues with them besides the occasional software update that – temporarily – broke something on the watch.

My first Garmin was the Vivoactive. It was a nice watch, had a reasonable battery life for what was mainly a fitness tracker with GPS added in, and it held up for the first ultra I ran in Ploeren in 2015. One feature that was extra nice with this watch was that I could wear it while charging it thanks to the shape of the charging cable and its connection to the watch. While all the Garmin watches I have had allow you to charge during an activity (important for long races) only some of them make that charging possible while still wearing the watch.

The Ultrawife upgraded me to the Vivoactive HR in 2016. This watch was a different shape (more rectangular than the square Vivoactive) but it got the job done. This was the first watch I had with the wrist-based heart rate monitor, and it worked a treat. Again, this was more beefed-up fitness tracker than sports watch, but it tracked a bunch of different activities and held up through a bunch of ultras. It also allowed charging on the go while on the wrist…the last of the Garmin’s I’ve had to do so.

In 2017 I upgraded again to the Vivoactive 3. It had a longer battery life, still had the wrist-based heart rate monitor, and had a nice, intuitive touch screen. The only thing that wore out on this one was a watch band but, unlike the Vivoactive or the Vivoactive HR, replacing the band was simple: a spare band from Amazon was only a couple of euros, and so easy to make the change.

A few months after I got the Vivoactive 3, though, a few new features came out on an updated Vivoactive 3. The most interesting? Music. Yes, instead of having to carry an iPod or a phone, I could stream music from my watch to a pari of Bluetooth-enabled headphones. Pretty cool, huh?

But as well as missing out on the music – not such a big deal as the iPod Shuffle weighs almost nothing and doesn’t need headphones that have to be charged – I was starting to be a little envious of a couple of higher-level features that didn’t exist in the Vivoactive range at all. There was mapping, for one, and routing; the difference, as far as I was concerned, was that mapping features would tell me where I was, while routing would allow me to fix a route and then follow it turn-by-turn. 

I was also envious of the battery life of some of the upper range watches. While I could get a good nine or ten hours out of the Vivoactive 3 and while I could always recharge on the run (if not on the wrist), it would be nice to start a race like the Saintelyon (50 miles) or a 100K race and not have to worry about bringing a charger and cable with me. Hell, if I dropped into Ultratrac mode, I could finish 24 hour races with ease without having to carry a charger to the race, too!

And so I decided that this year’s Christmas present to myself would be a Fenix 5 Plus

Among the features I am looking forward to exploiting:

  • the mapping
  • the routing
  • the music
  • the Garmin Pay (it’s on the Vivoactive 3, too, but France is way behind…)
  • the Trendlines (popular running route suggestions when traveling)
  • 18 hour GPS-on battery life
  • 42 hour Utratrac mode battery life
  • 12 day smartwatch battery life

It’ll take a bit of getting used to, I think, as it will be the first Garmin I’ve bought that is operated with the buttons instead of the touchscreen – this is a bonus, actually, considering that sweaty or wet fingers make for poor touch screen interactions – but I’m really looking forward to slapping it on my wrist when it arrives on Wednesday.