I have an update on this product. Last year, the HRM functionality stopped working. I changed the battery on the chest strap, tried to re-synch several times, to no avail. So basically, this is now "merely" a GPS and not a HRM.
As such, it is of little use to me. I've replaced it with the Garmin Forerunner 305 (which I got for $128 from Amazon). I'm completely happy with the 305.I've used this GPS for just over a year. This is an older model, replaced by the newer 305 (though the 301 is still available and apparently still being manufactured).
I got the 301 instead of the newer 305 because:
- The 301 is (or at least was) less expensive (I got mine for $147, though the Garmin website currently is listing $199.99 for both the 301 and the 305). I seem to recall at the time (Nov 2008), there was a fairly dramatic difference.
- The 301 has a much larger display. Since the unit is located quite a distance away (mounted on the hull of my surfski, just past my feet), it is useful for the display to be large so that you can see it! This larger display does NOT come at the expense of more weight -- the 301 and 305 have virtually identical weights (78g and 77g, respectively).
This unit comes with a Polar-like Heart-Rate Chest Transmitter. However, Polar HRM transmitters don't work with it -- the Garmin transmitter is somehow encoded. This is supposed to make it less likely that somebody's transmitter who is standing (or running, kayaking, etc.) next to you will interfere with your signal, giving you faulty readings). Also, unlike a Polar HRM transmitter, the Garmin transmitter has a user-replaceable battery. I haven't had to change the battery yet -- after over a year of use.
There are many potentially useful displays available. While kayaking, I always display the current speed up top, the mileage in the lower left and the current heart rate in the lower right.
It claims to work for about 13 hours on one charge and that sounds realistic (the 305 claims 10 hours/charge). When you turn it on, it gives you an estimate of how much longer it expects to go on the current charge. This estimate has proved reasonably accurate.
My primary complaint with this unit is the HRM function. Sometimes the HRM display goes blank (i.e., consistent with having no signal) or reads low. I **THINK** that this may have to do with the fact that the receiver is so far away from the transmitter (i.e., the transmitter is on my chest, the receiver is four feet away). Now that I am checking into it, while the chest transmitter manual claims to have a range of 9.8 feet, the 301 manual claims a maximum range of 35-43" (the 305 manual claims a range of 3m, about 117"), which completely explains my poor performance. I guess that I need to try to somehow attach the 301 to my Lincke Foot Strap, which would bring it to almost exactly 35" from the chest transmitter. I don't think I'll like that placement as much -- since I'll have to look closer into the cockpit to check my speed/HR/distance.
I've been attaching the 301 to my kayak with a (no longer available) Lincke Watch & GPS Holder -- a piece of foam that the wristband wraps around -- with suction cups that attach to your hull. This has worked out well for me (except for the HRM issues described above).
There are features that I've never used. For example, a friend showed me that it has the ability to "remember" past workouts. I just reset the thing after each workout -- presumably erasing the data. It also has the ability to show you a track of your course after the fact. It is difficult for me to see any benefit to this.
You may be able to tell that my principle (only) complaint at this time with the 301 is the short maximum range for the HRM function to work. Other than that, I have no complaints and would recommend it wholeheartedly - above the functionally similar (but smaller display) 305 model.