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In this article, we'll be answering questions about navigation on Garmin GPS watches.

What does it mean when a Garmin GPS watch has navigation? Will you get full blown maps or bread crumb navigation? And what's the difference?

How do you use the Back to Start and TracBack® features on these watches—and which ones have them?

If you're looking to buy a Garmin fēnix 7, Forerunner—or maybe a more affordable Venu 2, what, if any, navigation features will you get?

We answer these questions and more below. And we have some help from our partner Dave at Chase the Summit. He's a serious runner who trains for ultra runs and 100-milers—so he knows his Garmin watches intimately.

Watch his Back to Start and navigtion video for a quick tutorial. Or read on to find out more!


Topographic Maps vs Bread Crumb Navigation

TopoActive maps provide topographic detail with terrain contours, searchable points of interest and turn-by-turn directions on roads and trails.You'll get routable roads, trails, and walking paths on full color maps. Points of interest that include restaurants, shops, schools and more.

This is an excellent choice during outdoor activities while using your Garmin watch, including running, biking, or hiking.

A bread crumb trail is different than a full blown map. This form of navigation on your Garmin GPS wearable lets you see at a glance where you are on a simple map. It consist of squiggly line and an arrow showing where you are, allowing you to follow the path in real time. Your watch will buzz or beep if you go off course.

Basically, with a full map on your wrist, you will see many other features in relation to where you are. You will know if you are close to a river, a highway, or a business where you can stop for food or water. You can't get that information with the bread crumb feature.



Garmin Watches with Bread Crumb Navigation

Garmin outdoor GPS watches that offer bread crumb trail in real time include:


Garmin Watches with Back to Start

With this navigation feature on several Garmin GPS watches, you don't have to panic if you get lost. Any time during your activity, you can return to your starting location in a straight line or along the path you traveled by triggering the Back to Start feature.

If you are running on a new trail or in a new city, and you are unsure how to get back to the trail head or hotel, you can navigate back to your starting location with any of these Garmin smartwatches:

  • Garmin Forerunner 955/955 Solar Series
  • Forerunner 945 LTE
  • Forerunner 255/255S Series
  • Garmin fēnix 7 Series
  • Garmin tactix 7 Series
  • epix 2
  • Garmin Enduro
  • Enduro 2
  • Garmin Descent G1
  • Descent Mk2/Mk2S/Mk2i
  • Garmin Instinct 2/2S Series
  • Garmin Venu
  • Venu 2/2S Series
  • Venu 2 Plus
  • Venu Sq

Garmin Watches with TracBack

TracBack is a simpler but similar feature to Back to Start.

The TracBack feature allows navigation back along a previously recorded track. It can only be performed using the current track log. If a saved or archived track is chosen, the Tracback option will not appear.

Once TrackBack is triggered, the device will navigate back along the previously recorded track. Both the Compass and Map page can be utilized in following the track.

Garmin GPS smartwatches that use TracBack are:

  • Forerunner 955/955 Solar Series
  • Forerunner 945 LTE
  • Garmin Forerunner 255/255S Series
  • fēnix 7 Series
  • tactix 7 Series
  • Garmin epix 2
  • Garmin Enduro
  • Enduro 2
  • Garmin Instinct 2/2S Series

How to Use Back to Start on Your fēnix, Forerunner, Instinct, etc.

If you are in an activity that uses GPS on your Garmin watch, getting lost while running a trail or biking a path through a new city is no sweat.

Simply activate the Back to Start feature. Here's how:

  • Hold down the middle button on the left side, which is the "Settings" button. This will bring you into your activity settings.
  • Scroll down to "Navigation" and select.
  • Within the navigation settings, scroll down until you see "Back to Start".
  • If you have one of the watches that supports built-in mapping (see section above), you will see an option for "TracBack" and "Route".
  • Pressing "Route" will create a course to get back to the location according to the activity as quickly as possible.
    Note: This may take a minute on older Garmin watches. On a newer watch, like the Garmin Forerunner 955 or fēnix 7, it will generate a course instantaneously.
  • Once you have your route/course loaded on your watch, simply scroll down to it through the data pages to your map. You will see a purple line on your map that indicates the direction you should be traveling, along with arrows at every corner or trail junction pointing the way—similar to turn-by-turn navigation.

According to Dave from Chase the Summit, this nav feature is incredibly powerful and can really save you in a pinch!

For watches that do not have built-in base maps or TracBack, like Garmin Venu series watches:

  • Select "Navigation" and then "Back to Start".
  • The compass will appear.
  • Move foward and the compass arrow will point you to your starting point.

How to Use TracBack on Your Outdoor Garmin GPS Watch

If you don't have built-in mapping or don't want to select "Route" to create a course, you can select TracBack, if your Garmin GPS watch supports it (see section above).

TracBack allows you to navigate back to the starting point of your activity on the path that you previously followed. Basically, you will retrace your steps back with the help of your watch.

This navigation feature is perfectly adequate in most situations, and would be your best option on Garmin watches like the Forerunner 255 and Descent G1 GPS dive and sport watch.


Garmin Smartwatch Maps and Navigation: Final Thoughts

While there are many Garmin smartwatches that have navigation, what that means exactly can play out differently from watch to watch.

Garmin's 2022 premium GPS watches all have built-in maps and offer both Back to Start and TracBack. These include:

The Garmin Forerunner 255/255S, Instinct 2/2S Series, and the Descent G1 offer bread crumb navigation and allow you to get back to where you started with the TracBack feature.

A few Garmin wearables that do not have navigation, like the Venu, Venu 2/2S, Venu 2 Plus, and Venu Sq will help you get back to your starting point with the compass.

We hope this article offered some insight on Garmin GPS watches with navigation so you can feel confident about choosing the right one for you and all your outdoor adventures!

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