(2021 Update: Garmins have come a LONG way in recent years. Take a look at our head-to-head review of the Garmin Forerunner versus the Garmin Fenix 6).
For years, we have extolled the virtues of the Garmin Forerunner GPS watches for training and racing. They make some of the best biking and running watches around. Now, we finally have the opportunity to talk about a waterproof version of the Garmin watch, the Forerunner 310XT (shown here) . In the past, the Garmin 305 and 405 models were great for running and cycling, but did not give users a safe waterproof option. We would hear stories of people swimming with it anyway, risking major problems and voiding the warrenty. We also heard stories of people putting the Garmin watch in a plastic bag and then tucking it inside their hat — alot of hassle just to find out how fast or how far you swam.
The Garmin Forerunner 310 XT indicates that it is waterproof to 50 meters, way more than enough considering that a typical open water swimmer skims along the top 12-18 inches of water. Having Garmin extend its 1-year warranty for water use will make this a very compelling product for many swimmers an triathletes.
While simply having a waterproof GPS watch is the headline news, there are some other additions to the Forerunner 310 that make it an upgrade over past versions. Many users of the 305 and other models complained about how bulky that watch is. Truth be told, it is hardly noticeable on your wrist once you get used to it, but for some users the size was too much. The 310 XT has made a significant improvement on the length of the watch head. Garmin reduced the watch head length from 2.7 inches to 2.2 inches. This means that the small portion on the 305 that curves around your wrist is eliminated, creating a much more compact GPS watch. This change also reduced at a quarter of an ounce from the watch weight, and at 2.5 oz the Forerunner 310 packs alot of incredible technology into a small package.
As far as other features, the main addition for the Garmin Forerunner 310 XT is the ability to wirelessly transmit information to the user’s pc. This replaces a cable-based transmission in the past models. Other than that, the 310XT carries most of the same bells and whistles as the Garmin 305 — frankly, way more features than the average triathlete, runner, cyclist or swimmer will use. Our experience suggests that the typical user will get into a habit of using a handful of the watch’s features over and over, neglecting much of the functionality, but will be perfectly happy with the watch nonetheless.
At a price of $350 -$399
There are plenty of Garmin watches on the market today, ranging from the sleek Garmin Vivoactive health watch to some basic carryover models from yesteryear. We like the Vivoactive alot, and with its waterproof capabilities it does everything that the 310XT used to. We would not hesitate recommending it.
Outside of the Garmin family, you should probably also consider the Microsoft Band 2 and the Fitbit lineup. The problem with Fitbits, though, is that except for the Wave model, they are not waterproof. The Band 2 is not waterproof either. If that doesn’t bother you, all are excellent devices.
Our recommendation has always been that triathletes and other athletes should explore a Garmin GPS watch to help add purpose and intelligence to their training. In our opinion, the 310 XT takes it to a new level and is worth the upgrade for those who can afford it and are active open-water swimmers, or simply want a smaller GPS watch on their wrist. In addition to being a fun gadget to have during your training, it can help add precision to any training plan which in the end can help make you faster, healthier, and injury-free.