GAIA GPS and Garmin

Kelly and I have been using these Garmin watches for quite a while, but never really investigated the mapping features. Being that I’ve started running, and am looking for new places to run, I decided to dive into the feature set a little and see what all it could do.

First of all, I wanted to find some new trails. It seems there are a few ways to do this — traditional GPS devices (like the Garmin GPSMap series), a handful of websites and/or books and/or offline maps, and phone/cloud apps. I read quite a few reviews, and decided to try AllTrails and GAIA GPS, which are both websites that offer phone apps. I really liked that AllTrails has better search functions and in general a better method for finding nearby trails, but ultimately the mapping on GAIA GPS is far more detailed, with more customization options. Ultimately, I opted to focus on GAIA. You get basic map access free of charge, or premium map access varies from $19.99/year to $39.99/year, depending on the maps and layers you want. Ultimately, I feel that’s a very fair price to pay for the access it grants you. I found a free trial offer for their $39.99/year package, and am currently testing it out. I started by charting a few local trails that I frequent. Here is Lake Pflugerville:

Once the route was planned, I exported it to .GPX and dropped it into the NEWFILES folder on my watch for processing (requires the USB cable)…

And finally, when starting an activity on my watch, I can hit menu -> Navigation -> Courses, and select the course I added.

Once the activity is started, it zooms in on your location on the map and follows you. I’m disappointed that our Fenix 5S (Kelly) and Quatix 5 (mine) watches do not support turn by turn directions, but it appears that the “Plus” line that came out a couple months after we bought our current watches does (as well as the 5X, which we opted not to go with due to size). Even without turn by turn directions, it does vibrate to tell you that you that you are off course, so you don’t have to constantly look at the watch face in order to stay on track. So it works, but could work better if we had different watches. I was planning on skipping the “Plus” line and buying a Fenix 6 or whatever the next generation is, when it comes out.



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