Garmin's GPS sports watches offer tonnes of ways to get more from your workouts, but the ability to add and follow routes and courses is a powerful feature that isn't very well publicised.
You can add GPX or TPX routes to your Garmin watch and follow them as you run. It's not possible on all Garmin sports watches, but the Fenix 3, Fenix 5, Forerunner 630, Forerunner 735XT and Forerunner 935 are all capable.
It's a great feature, too. Hikers can use it for long, off-the-beaten-track walks, and it's especially reassuring to follow when the path fades away and you're really off piste. It's not just ramblers that can benefit, either. City runners can also take advantage, mixing up runs made in Strava and adding a variety to workouts, without having to pull out Google Maps every five minutes when you've lost you're bearings.
The process is simple when you know how, so follow our guide to get started.
1. Download Garmin Basecamp
First download Garmin Basecamp from the Garmin website. Basecamp is a little-known piece of Garmin software that's great for those who love the outdoors. Aside from building and importing routes, you can also build full 'adventures', geo-tagging and sorting pictures as well as planning hikes and trips. It's available for PC and Mac.
2. Download or create a GPX file
Next, you'll need to get a GPX or TCX file of your route. Our favourite for building runs is Strava. While it's a little complex at first, it's pretty easy to click out a running route, find popular areas frequented by other runners, and handily, 'flatten' the route to take out any nasty and unexpected hills. Come on, we all deserve a break.
But you can also download GPX files from the web. wikiloc.com is a great source of routes with GPX downloads, and in the UK you can grab them from gps-routes.co.uk. There are loads of sites out there besides those.
3. Import the GPX or TCX file into Basecamp
In the Basecamp app simply go to File > Import into Basecamp and go and retrieve that GPX file. Press Import and it will be listed in the right-hand pane, under My Collection.
4. Connect Garmin watch
Connect your Fenix 5 or supported Garmin watch. You'll need to have Garmin Express installed, and you'll then see it listed in the top right, under My Garmin Devices.
5. Sync to watch
Select your GPX route from the left hand pane with a single click, and then click the UP arrow in the top-left-hand corner. A new window will appear, and you can choose your Garmin device from the list. Press Sync and it will be pushed to your watch.
6. Start run
Now it's time to start your session. The following applies to the Fenix 5 but should be similar for all Garmin watches. First, start an activity – can be running, hiking, cycling; as long as it's outdoor, it can pretty much be anything. When the activity starts, press the menu button. Scroll down to Navigation and choose Courses. Your GPX course should appear within the list. Press Select and you can then access a bunch of information.
You can check elevation, look at the route, start a TracBack (navigate to the start). You can also simply hit Do Course to start following the route. Just keep the arrow over the mapped line to stay on course.