We had lots of fun with this one: the Garmin fēnix includes a magnetic compass, which means that it doesn’t depend on GPS nor active travel to tell you which way you are pointing.
With the compass screen showing, when you stand still, the unit functions as a normal compass, using the red marks at the top and bottom of the bezel to line up. When you are moving, the compass displays the direction in which you are travelling, regardless of which way the unit is pointed.
Visually, the display emulates a compass, as well as displaying degrees.
There are some pretty advanced calibration options which I imagine would be used by adventure racers and the more hardcore adventurer: you can specify whether or not you want to use North Reference as True, Magnetic or Grid. And, for those that need it, you can also override the magnetic variation and specify a custom value.
When you are following a Track with the unit like I did during my Black Ops Testing exercise, the Compass view points you in the direction that you should be travelling in to stay on course. If you deviate from the Track, the Compass will guide you back on to it.
Remember that the reading of a magnetic compass is subject to external interference — just ask Sir Thomas Maclear!
- the unit is being loaned to me for one month by Garmin SA
- I already own a Garmin Forerunner 910XT (and prior to that a Garmin Forerunner 305)