Garmin Fenix 2

This watch has now been supplanted by the Garmin fenix 3, but I'm still rocking the fenix 2 and love it.

When I bought into the Garmin watch family, I started with the Forerunner 210. This was great for me. It gave me accurate distance, time and pace which I mostly ignored. But it lacked in a lot of areas that my training took me. I spend a lot of time in the mountains and found myself wanting to know my realtime elevation gain and current altitude. The 210 allowed me to go back and look at elevation later, but not in real time. It also had limitations as far as workouts. I could set alerts for basic interval workouts, but more complicated ladders with varying distance and time recovery periods was too much. 

fenix 2 collecting data I did not want
to see from Montana Cup
(pic from Mike Hermsmeyer)
The Garmin fenix 2 has been able to handle everything I have thrown at it so far. This fenix series began as an outdoor watch geared more towards hikers rather than trail runners. The second iteration of the watch has definitely strayed into the trail running/mountain biking/xterra athlete category while still staying true to its hiking roots. I can still upload waypoints, take waypoints, and create routes on the watch so I am never afraid of not being able to get back to the car.

My altitude problem has also been solved with an altimeter that I can even set to alert me every (x) feet gained (currently set at 250). The watch also has a barometer so if I knew how to read one I could tell when a storm is about to roll in. 

It is also incredibly easy to set up workouts. I can program them directly into the watch, but what I have found is easier is writing the workout on Garmin Connect then uploading it to the watch. Then I can either have vibrating or audible alerts so I don't have to look under gloves to see when an interval is over.

The fenix 2 is also designed for multiple activities. Before heading out for each training session I can select from 13 different activities (not counting any number of individual workouts I setup) that have preferences built in. If I'm going biking I can have the pace displayed in mph and it set to auto pause at stop lights. If I'm road running I have the altimeter alerts turned off, but on if I'm trail running. Cross country skiing automatically gives me distance in kilometers. Once I set my preference it has been incredibly easy to head out the door and have the data I want for each activity. 

One of my favorite features has been the mapping. The watch automatically tracks your current route so you can see the little snaking line on the screen. This is pretty useless as a map, but if you want to go back on a different route off-trail it comes in very handy. I have been able to cut straight down snow covered mountains and hit the exact switchback I needed to make it home without worrying. 
Data from a day downhill skiing

Another gem is the downhill skiing feature. I hardly use this since I'm more of a Nordork than downhill guy, but we went to Discovery on New Year's and it was awesome! I left the watch running all day and because of the altimeter it can tell when you're on the lift. While I the lift the display automatically featured the details of my last run (top speed, elevation loss, time). Then at the end of the day it gave me my run totals, elevation totals, and total ski time. Garmin even provides a longer strap for ski day to go over your thicker jackets!

The fenix 2 has been so much more than a watch for me. It has been a great training partner. The features above are really just the tip of the iceberg. Just the tip. The watch has all the run metrics of the 620 (vertical oscillation, recovery estimator, stride rate, heart rate, etc) and can easily pair with a power meter for bike rides. It also has swim capabilities for open water and indoors to measure distance, lap count and swolf score. To read everything the watch can do I'd recommend reading DC Rainmaker's review. He provides more details than you ever need.

Garmin just released the fenix 3, which is a slightly smaller version (this guy is big) and the battery life is a little longer. The fenix 3 looks like it's tailored more towards ultra-runners, so for now I will stick with the mountain-man-who-needs-sleep version, the fenix 2.