Smartwatches have come a long way from the days of the calculator watches - which I would argue to be the first instance of a “smartwatch”. These days, we have the likes of Samsung Gear, Apple Watch as well as others from multiple Chinese brands. The Garmin Instinct, however, is a rugged outdoors watch that has the capabilities of sports and fitness watches which they really want emphasised - just watch this product video for the watch
I may be far from a beefy firefighter combating forest fires, but I think 90% of us aren’t - yet we still want this watch though.
As mentioned earlier, the Garmin Instinct is made for outdoors so it’s built with that in mind. In terms of materials, the bezel and case are made from fiber-reinforced polymer, while the lens is chemically strengthened glass - constructed to the U.S. military standard of 810G for thermal, shock and water resistance up to 100 meters. Additionally, the straps are made from silicone, instead of the conventional rubber, giving it more stretchability and breathability with a comfortable clasp around your wrist. This impressive build weighs in at only 52 grams.
Personally, the comfort factor was a big thing for me - I’ve worn the watch while I was in the office and just working at my desk, while I was out for shoots, and even during sleep because the watch tracks sleep too. They’ve all been comfortable experiences. For the ruggedness of the watch, I can’t say I’ve put it through the gauntlet of the true outdoors but it has survived so far. The most danger you’ll put the watch in is smudges on the display - you’ll have to give it a wipe every now and then, especially the edges of the display where it does get grimey after a while.
There are simply five buttons by the watch - three on the left side and two on the right, with each having two functions that are activated through a press or a long press. For example, the ‘Light’ button on the at 10 o’clock is, as the name implies, the toggle for the backlight of the watch face and Settings Menu for the watch brightness, ‘Do Not Disturb’, time zone settings and more. It’s actually a lot to go through so I won’t - but you’ll be glad to know that it’s not hard to pick it up, play with it a little bit, and instantly know what you need to do to set up your next workout.
In contrast to its minimal design and monochrome display, it packs a lot of features. The navigation systems in particular is what makes it perfect for people who would go for long treks away from civilisation - GPS, GLONASS and Galileo satellite network capability can track where you’ve been, and the built-in 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter help you keep your bearings - taking the guesswork out of your return journey by using the TracBack feature to help you find your way back (if you’re lost, that is).
The Instinct also monitors your heart rate, activity and stress throughout the day, giving you more insight into your day-to-day. If you’re doing a specific activity, you can punch that in the watch and have the relevant information you want; including heart rate, distance, and lap time. There are various preset activities too - Strength, Cardio and Elliptical Training, Running, Hiking, Climbing, Mountain Biking, Skiing, Kayaking, Tactical, Biking, Pool Swimming and more.
Additionally, you can connect the Instinct watch to the Garmin Connect app in order to sync and track your activity, and also share it with your friends - or the Garmin Explore app that offers a complete mobile trip planning solution, letting you map and organise your trek from anywhere with unlimited cloud storage. My only issue is that Garmin Connect doesn’t stay connected with the watch for long which makes the notification feature redundant.
This is probably one of the most important aspects for an outdoors watch like this. Garmin claims that the Instinct will push out 16 hours with the GPS tracking turned on and 40 hours with the UltraTrac GPS optimising mode, which gives better battery life but bad GPS tracking. If you’re not using GPS at all, the watch will last far longer than the hours mentioned.
The Garmin Instinct is a comprehensive smartwatch for sports and outdoors people alike, but the navigation is what makes it leans towards ‘outdoors’ and is by far the central feature of this watch. If you’re the adventurous type that goes on actual outdoor adventures, this might just be the watch for you so that you won’t .