Garmin Instinct Solar | Review - Outdoors Magic

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Garmin Instinct Solar | Review

Find out how we Garmin's new Instinct Solar fared over the course of our long yomp through the Lake District

Continuing on from last year’s update to the Fenix series with the solar-powered Fenix 6X Pro, multisport GPS technology makers Garmin have added three new outdoor smartwatch lines to their collection. These include the Instinct Solar, the Fenix 6 Solar and Tactix Delta Solar (a military-focused watch which we won’t cover in this article).

Last year, Garmin managed to create something they call ‘Power Glass’, a transparent lens that harnesses the sun’s energy to provide additional charge to a watch. It was an innovation that gave their first model to feature it, the Fenix 6X Pro, three additional days of charge. Now, with the release of these three new watches, this tech been further refined and improved, to the extent that Garmin are claiming it has allowed them to achieve a world first in watch technology.

Pictured: Garmin Instinct Solar

Instinct Solar

In a new watch design from Garmin, the Instinct Solar is the first watch to be able to offer unlimited battery life when used in battery saver mode (providing you’re able to capture enough sun to provide charge, of course).

You’ll also get some phenomenal battery life while using the full functionality of the watch. For instance, when used as a regular smartwatch, you’ll get up to 24 days, or 54 days with solar. With GPS tracking on, you’ll get up to 30 hours, or 38 hours with solar, and finally, in Expedition GPS tracking, it’ll see you through up to 28 days, or 68 days with solar. These times are all assuming all-day wear with 3 hours per day outside in 50,000 lux (bright) conditions.

As you can see, this watch is equipped with a GPS device that makes use of GPS, GLONASS and Galileo system of satellites (standard from Garmin), meaning you’ll be able to track all of your activities including trail running, hiking, ski touring, among many others.

On top of this, the Instinct Solar is also carrying a wrist-top heart rate monitor (chest heart rate sensor can also be purchased separately for accurate readings) and smartphone pairing, all tied together in a military standard casing that’ll withstand pressures equivalent to a depth of 100 metres.

Price: Starting at £350
Weight: 53g
More Info:

Pictured: Garmin Fenix 6 Solar

Fenix 6 Pro Solar

The newest member of the Garmin flagship multisport GPS smartwatch line, the Fenix 6 Pro Solar promises up to 14 days of battery life in its standard mode, and up to 48 days (80 with solar charging) in its power saver mode. Of course, being part of the Fenix family, the 6 Solar offers a wealth of features packed onto this wrist-top computer.

These features include: full mapping with GPS tracking, smartphone compatibility, music storage, contactless payments, hydration tracking and heart rate monitoring, to name just a few.

Price: Starting at £740
Weight: 85g
More Info:

Pictured: Trail running in the Lakes with the Instinct Solar. Credit: Holly Burns
Pictured: The Instinct Solar provided more than enough power for a multiday trip. Credit: Holly Burns

Following the release of these watches, Garmin quite boldly claimed that “the day of never having to charge your smartwatch is closer than you think”, but can this really be the case? I’ve been out with the new Instinct Solar for the past two weeks in the Lake District. Here are my initial impressions of this solar powered smartwatch.

Related: Best Walks In The Lake District

The standout feature of the Instinct Solar is of course its solar charging capabilities. While out in the Lakes, I went ‘off-grid’ for five days of wild camping and even with three days of trail running, with GPS and heart rate tracking, the battery life didn’t seem to flinch too much.

Pictured: The screen is simple, yet easy to navigate. Credit: Holly Burns

I did however notice a steep drop off in battery performance when I turned my mobile onto flight mode and turned off pairing on my Garmin inReach Mini in order to save battery on both devices. This resulted in the watch to start constantly ‘searching’ for these two devices, presumably draining the battery.

Once discovering that the battery life had dropped significantly, I turned the watch onto battery save mode, ensured my sleeves were rolled up to expose the watch to the sun, and the battery life steadily climbed from 7 minutes, to two days within an hour or so. A pretty impressive recuperation of power.

Pictured: The Instinct Solar can easily pair with your phone, or a Garmin satellite communicator. Credit: Jordan Tiernan

With this in mind, I’d be hesitant to title this an ‘unlimited power smartwatch’ as you’re going to have to turn off pretty much every smart feature off on this watch to ensure unlimited power. That’s not to say that the battery life on this watch isn’t impressive (it is), but we’re not quite at unlimited power levels (with GPS and heart rate tracking switched on) just yet.

With technology becoming more and more ingrained in our time in the mountains, it’s great to see a product that doesn’t lean on your already sparse portable battery pack capacity, particularly when on multi-day trips. Combine this with GPS tracking, and heart rate monitoring, and you’ve got an impressive watch that can do the job of the £700+ devices but with much lower power consumption, at a significantly more modest price tag and all wrapped up in a pretty tough casing. Garmin certainly have taken another step closer to the holy grail of a zero charge smart watch, in the Instinct Solar.

Header Image: Out with the all-new Instinct Solar. Credit: Holly Burns


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