A die The nation’s largest urban forests go by the uninspiring name Forest Park and stretch across the west side of Portland, Oregon like a great tree-covered blanket. It’s accessible by car, bike, or on foot, but once inside the trails seem quiet and remote. It’s an urban legend that people live in the park undetected for yearslike in a Mr. Knight Shyamalan movie.
This combination of being extremely rugged, yet accessible, makes it the perfect place to test out GPS-enabled fitness watches. On a recent Sunday afternoon, I parked at a trailhead, pulled out, and started logging a trail. Unlike other low-end watches I’ve tried, Garmin’s new Fenix 7S Sapphire Solar connects to GPS instantly, even in dense forest cover.
On each trail crossing, I compared the Fenix 7S’ recorded mileage to the trail markers. I clicked on stats to compare the maps of the Fenix to the maps displayed along the trails. It was dead. At about two miles the sun came out and I rolled up my sleeve to let the watch charge in the sun. If you also spend a lot of time in the woods and are sometimes nervous about finding your way back, the expensive Fenix 7S can give you peace of mind.
This year, Garmin has released six stunning new updates to its product line, which I’ve spent the past few months testing. This includes the entry-level Vivomove Sport; an update to my favorite watch, the Instinct 2 Solar; and two new high-end adventure watches, the Epix and Fenix 7S Sapphire Solar.
Of the two new high-end adventure watches, I’ve decided the Fenix is the best candidate for anyone looking for a high-end Garmin. We’ve been fans of watches in this series over the years – several reviewers have loved them – and especially for people with smaller wrists, the case size is as small as 42mm. The most noticeable difference between the Fenix and the Epix is the screen. The Epix has a 47mm case size with a large, bright AMOLED touchscreen compared to the Fenix’s Memory In Pixel Display (MIP). Yes, the Epix’s screen is gorgeous, but it does have some significant downsides.
Garmin claims the watch has up to 16 days of battery life, but in my testing the Epix barely lasted three days. It’s hard for me to recommend a GPS watch that you can’t use on a basic camping weekend. The East a Battery Saver mode, which lets you reduce the watch to its basic functions to save power, but uh, what good is a full watch if you can’t use the features most of the time? On outdoor excursions, the Epix’s size – for someone with a smaller wrist – makes it harder to use. I tried to record my runs on a recent snowboarding trip, and every time I sat down, adjusted my jacket sleeves, or took off a glove, the watch slipped, the buttons would hit the back of my hand and the recordings would turn on or off. randomly. It was so boring to use that I stopped trying.
Perhaps the biggest difference between this iteration of the Fenix and the 6S Pro from 2019 is that it has new colors and a touchscreen. In addition, the solar charging function has improved significantly. It was still a sleek sports watch, but my dark bronze model is handsome enough to pass for a fashion accessory. The touchscreen also doesn’t seem as responsive as the Epix’s – I’ve never accidentally triggered it while trail running in the rain or pulling my sleeves up and down.