Gear Talk: One Watch To Rule Them All

Garmin’s new multi-sport GPS watch is the Rolls Royce of wearable fitness training.


Whether you’re getting ready for your first 5K race or diligently training to shave a few minutes off your pace in your next Ironman, I am confident in saying the Fenix 5X Plus watch will be your new personal trainer. I’ve been using this watch daily for the last three weeks, and I’ve found myself more interested in fitness metrics than I ever thought possible. 


 The most notable improvement in the Fenix 5X Plus is the addition of a wrist-based Pulse Ox Acclimation sensor that lets you monitor your blood oxygen saturation levels. On the fly, the sensor utilizes rapidly-flashing light beams to measure your body’s absorption of hemoglobin in the bloodstream. This is especially handy for anyone (like me) that lives near sea level and wants to accurately monitor how quickly their body acclimatizes to the thinner, less oxygen-rich air at higher altitudes.  

Through the Garmen Connect app, you can analyze a plethora of advanced performance metrics, like your aerobic and anaerobic training effect from each exercise, cadence, and strides per minute (SPM) while running and view your VO2 Max value to name a few. VO2 Max is an especially important statistic to monitor as it is a direct indication of your cardiovascular fitness and is defined as the maximum volume of oxygen your body can utilize per minute per kilogram of body weight at your maximum performance.

All jargon aside, finding this level used to involve an expensive and physically taxing lab-controlled test, but thanks to Garmin’s partnership with Firstbeat, you can trust your watches readings to within 95% accuracy of lab results. And like most high-end smartwatches these days, the readings get more accurate over time as the sensors and statistics adjust to your body specifically. 



The Fenix 5X Plus retails for $849.99. 

This rugged-adventure companion boasts Garmin Pay for unexpected refueling, space for roughly 500 songs of phone-free tunes - with Bluetooth wireless headphones, and outstanding battery performance of 13 hours in GPS mode with music playing and up to 20 days in Smartwatch mode. The only drawback I’ve found is that the Pulse Ox version only comes in a 51 mm case size, which is quite the presence if you’re converting from an Apple Watch or a naked wrist. I quickly got over it’s dominant size as I gave in to its slightly addictive metric tracking. 

I’m proud to say that even in the three short weeks I’ve trusted this super watch, I’ve already noticed my training efficiency and effectiveness increasing. If you take your outdoor recreation seriously, do yourself a favor and invest in this training tool.  


Nat Houston is an outdoor loving, maple syrup slurping, East Coast native who grew up skiing at Bromley Mountain just outside his hometown of Landgrove, Vermont. After graduating from the University of Colorado in 2014, he stuck around Boulder for business and pleasure, working for companies like Freeskier Magazine and Dynafit, but mostly skiing and climbing in the vast mountains of the American West. Today, he lives in Berkeley, CA so he can explore the mountains of California and the Pacific Northwest, sample the local taco offerings, and write gear reviews for Warren Miller Entertainment.