Best Garmin Watch for Triathlon

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If you’re after sports watches, you can’t go wrong with Garmin. They’re one of the most reputable names in the smartwatch market where it comes to running watches, so it only makes sense that you’d want to have one on your wrist during a triathlon too. It can be confusing enough leafing through their catalog of ordinary running watches but preparing for a triathlon adds another layer of uncertainty.

We’ve gathered our favorite Garmin products that we believe will perform the best during triathlons, as well as any other sports activities you may find yourself doing. You can find the five watches we liked below, along with some pros and cons so you can see why we liked them. There’s also a buyers’ guide for you to read. Knowing what goes into a smartwatch is a surefire way to make better purchases in the future.

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Our Pick

Is the triathlon coming up? If you haven’t got the time to get clued in yourself, then check out our favorite sporting watch right here. We think the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is the best for triathlon performances in Garmin’s catalog, since it’s a multisport watch that’s designed to support the wearer through different sports in different environments. See some of its great features summarised below:

  • PacePro and other training software offers guidance and adjusts for your environment with the help of a built-in three-axis compass and barometric altimeter. It also tracks your heart rate and blood oxygen levels so you monitor your condition in real time.

  • Packed with useful features from TOPO navigation maps to amenities like Garmin Pay and streaming service compatibility.

  • Easy to read because of its 1.3-inch display, which stays on through its 10-hour to 48-day battery life, depending on which mode you have the watch set to.

Best Garmin Watch for Triathlon - Comparison Table

Best Garmin Watch for Triathlon - Reviews

The first watch we like is the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Multisport GPS Watch, a high-end sports watch designed to cater to those involved in everything from multiple sports to extreme outdooring activities. 

It uses great tech like the PacePro training guide that is designed to track your pace and the surrounding environment, adapting to the locales you’re currently in to provide the healthiest and most responsible fitness advice for the situation. Part of its navigation also comes from the preloaded TOPO maps that use global satellite positioning to keep map information in high detail. Its maps include sporting facilities nearby, such as the maps of over 2,000 ski resort grounds.

At the wrist is a sensor that estimates your heart read, as well as a Pulse Ox monitoring system that keeps an eye on your blood’s oxygen levels. Monitoring oxygen levels is a handy indicator of one’s sleep pattern or the altitude that they’re standing at, making this a good watch for sports events that involve verticality. It monitors your place in the world via GPS, three-axis compass, and a barometric altimeter so that you always know where you stand with this watch.

On the calmer side of this watch’s features, it’s compatible with Garmin Pay should you wish to make contactless payments, and it can also store music and stream music from streaming services if you have premium subscriptions to them. All of its software features are easy to read thanks to a 1.3-inch display that doesn’t get washed out by the sun.

It’s a powerful watch that’ll last for your triathlon, putting in about 10 hours of intense use. However, since this watch is designed for more rugged outdoors activities in mind, it has battery modes that allow it to last from 28 to 48 days. This makes the Fenix 6 Pro a great option for those who want a capable watch that can last a long time.

Pros

  • PacePro provides training via pace guidance and tracks your position in the environment.
  • Preloaded TOPO maps in this watch help with navigation and route preparation.

  • HRM and Pulse Ox wrist sensors monitor heart rate and blood oxygen levels.

  • Built-in compass and barometric altimeter make this a perfect watch for verticality.

  • Helpful software features like Garmin Pay and syncing music with streaming services.

  • Easy to read 1.3-inch display.

  • Powerful watch carries all features for 10 hours, and then can be used for 48 days in battery saving mode.

Cons

  • Weightlifting isn’t tracked very well by this watch.

The second watch is one of the other high performers at Garmin, the Forerunner 945 Triathlon Smartwatch. What better name could you ask for? It features a lot of the same base features as the above Fenix 6 Pro, only at a reduced price and a smaller design.

The Garmin Forerunner 945 has features that monitor your fitness and sports progress, the main one being VO2 max that is a monitoring system that estimates your oxygen intake and how that intake is used during exercise. With that comes adjustments for heat and altitude, and it allows you to train your performance during aerobic and anaerobic respiration.

There are map guides that are in full color preloaded into the smartwatch, ensuring that you never get lost during any workouts, and these can be great for if your triathlon covers a lot of distance and you need to strategize. The incident detection system on the watch also sounds great for triathlons since it pays attention to your exercise and during certain exercises, like riding bicycles, it can send out emergency alerts should you get into an accident.

This watch can also download songs from your favorite streaming services and make use of companion apps like Garmin Pay to add more functionality to your watch, making it a convenient piece of kit to use in your day to day. Speaking of days, this smartwatch lasts about a half day when used a lot with the GPS and music functions, otherwise it can last two weeks with reduced functionality.

Pros

  • Performance monitors features like your VO2 max estimate.
  • Full color onboard maps guide you on your run.

  • Incident detection during certain activities can alert contacts of emergencies.

  • Can download songs and make contactless payments with Garmin Pay.

  • 10-hour, 60-hour, or two weeks of battery life depending on settings.

Cons

  • The buttons on it can lose their click and feel mushy and fragile.

The next product we have is another in the Forerunner series with the Garmin Forerunner 935 Running Watch. Like all of the Forerunner series, it’s a premium GPS running watch that can keep you on track during triathlon performances. It also monitors your heart rate during so you can keep a track of your BPM and the calories you’re burning. The heart rate doesn’t work in real time sometimes, though.

It also uses an electronic compass and altimeter that track your bearings and altitude respectively, so it’s a good watch for if your triathlon includes tackling ground with verticality. The Forerunner 935 is fitted with training monitors that tell you when you’re overdoing it or underdoing it and can tailor feedback to what you’re doing whether that’s swimming, running, or cycling.

It also has smartphone compatibility with the three major OS systems, iPhone, Android, and Windows, so you can connect the smartwatch to your cell phones to receive notifications and read messages.

Pros

  • Premium GPS running watch that keeps you on track.
  • Monitor your heart rate while you exercise.

  • Loaded with training functions to manage your performance and suggest improvements.

  • Uses an electronic compass and altimeter to track your bearings.

  • Smartphone compatibility with iPhone, Android, and Windows phones.

Cons

  • Heart rate monitor delays sometimes.

The next watch we have is the Garmin Forerunner 735XT Multisport Running Watch, a good multisport smartwatch from the Forerunner series for those interested in getting their tech at a bargain. This watch too offers VO2 max estimates to try and discern your oxygen intake during exercise, and it can be used with worn chest strap heart rate monitors to more accurately detect your lactate threshold.

Otherwise, it estimates heart rate at the wrist like most of the Forerunner series, and you can use this to manage your pacing in real time during the triathlon. The physical watch itself is also shock resistant so that it can stand up to the punishment it might face during any of those multisport activities.

It’s also capable of many connectivity features such as smart notifications, uploading to Garmin Connect, and live tracking. You also get access to the Connect IQ store where there are a multitude of apps and digital watch face background that you can get.

Pros

  • Offers VO2 estimates.
  • Estimates heart rate at the wrist.

  • Shock resistant.

  • Connectivity features via Garmin Connect

  • Access to Connect IQ store.

Cons

  • The display can be difficult to see in certain lighting.

One of the more basic watches in the Forerunner series, our next Garmin watch is the Forerunner 45 GPS Watch. It’s a standard running watch that works in tandem with the Garmin Coach smartphone app to enable added functionalities that would be built into higher end models of the same series.

The watch takes estimates at your heart rate during workouts and runs and tracks your movements with its built-in GPS all the while. It can be used with heart monitor peripheries that you can wear if you want more accurate readings.

It can connect to smartphones to receive their notifications for text messages and phone calls, but the standout feature for this model is the fact that it has emergency incident detection much like our second option above, but for a fraction of the price. It’s great for detecting should something go wrong during the bicycle segment of your triathlon, and nobody is nearby.

The battery isn’t the greatest, but the lower-priced smartwatches often suffer in battery longevity. It can last about 14 hours, but actual use in the field seems to make it half of that and makes it a watch you’ll have to recharge every night if you plan on wearing regularly.

Pros

  • Decent running watch that uses the Garmin Coach support app.
  • Tracks your movements and estimates heart rate.

  • Notifies of calls and messages if paired with a smartphone.

  • Can contact emergency contacts if it detects emergency incidents.

Cons

  • Sub-10-hour battery life in the field.

Best Garmin Watch for Triathlon - Buyers Guide

How to find the best running watch

Anything we say about Garmin watches specifically can probably be said for smartwatches as a whole, so this buyers’ guide will focus on what features make certain sports watches stand out over others. Such features include GPS capability, built-in measurement devices, battery life, heart rate monitors or other health indicators, incident detection, waterproof, and the downloadable content that can make these performance watches pleasant day to day companions.

GPS Capability

Almost every smartwatch worth buying will have GPS capability, including Garmin’s capability, and if they don’t then you should avoid them. Not because GPS capability is an essential feature, but more because it’s something of a baseline that shows a running watch’s general competency. With GPS you need to discern how basic the system is, like whether it keeps track of you, how fast you got there, and in what time, allowing you to see your own performance and speed up in the future.

Built-in Measurement Devices

These are features you’ll only really find in multisport watches. Most smartwatches will have rudimentary compasses but seeing instruments like gyroscopes and barometric altimeters in a product’s specs lets you know you’re dealing with a performance watch. That’s because they are able to monitor your altitude, your bearings, and your position within both all at once, and often adjust your fitness advice to suit that environment.

We doubt that your triathlons take you halfway up a mountain upside-down that much, so gauge your purchase on how likely you are to use these instruments, but the presence of these features can help you discern higher-end products in general.

Battery Life

Battery life is dependent on how long and hard the watch gets used, so it can be a difficult feature to judge. High-end watches can suffer from poor battery just as much as others if you use them all day every day. That’s why watches will have power modes so you can wear them on a lower power setting for most of the time and then really turn them on for things like triathlons. Stay away from any watches that don’t have these power settings, especially if they make claims that the one power setting will last for a long time. It won’t.

Mid-range watches suffer the most from poor battery performance, in our opinion. This seems to be because they have to balance great features with a subpar battery, since that’s often the first spec on the chopping block when a manufacturer looks to cut costs. You could probably get better battery performance out of so-called low-end smartwatches than some of the mid-range ones available, but they’d also be worse in terms of their net features.

Heart Rate Monitoring

Heart rate monitoring is something common in smartwatches too, often via estimations connected by wrist-contact sensors on the back of the watch face (heart rate estimations are also useful for doing other kinds of workouts like CrossFit). There are peripheral items that can be used to make these readings more accurate, but they can just introduce unnecessary maintenance if your heart rate isn’t something that you’re keenly interested in.

There are also features like the Garmin Pulse Ox that try to measure blood oxygen levels, usually great at altitudes or to study your sleep. These aren’t necessary if you aren’t interested in these things, but multisport watches often have features like this since they’re concerned with altitude and verticality.

Emergency Incident Detection

Certain watches will have an alarm feature that, during certain activities like bicycling, will trigger should any unexpected sudden stops and slowing of heart rate occur. There are always some differences in how they work, but most cycle through an approved emergency contacts list until somebody answers. 

If you have any underlying health conditions that might give you pause at the idea of an intense triathlon, then these are good features to have. Needless to say, they’re also a great feature to have if you’re planning any of the extreme sports that multisport watches are designed for, like snowboarding or rock climbing.

Water Resistance

Pretty much every triathlon involves a swimming section, so you’ll want your watch to have some water resistance. 5 ATM should do, but you should also pay attention to the swim tracking capabilities since they can track stroke count, pool laps during training, and other useful features to have in the water.

Downloadable Content

Downloadable content, or DLC, is often a handy way that low to mid-range watches can achieve some of the tracking features of higher-end models since they’re often preloaded into them. These are apps like Garmin Coach or downloading maps that can help with fitness tracking or planning. There are also more convenient apps like Garmin Pay and the Connect IQ store that give access to features like contactless payments and music streaming.

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