The Garmin E Trex showing the temperature according to weather services
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Silent Walking and Garmin Instinct Battery Modes

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It rarely happens. I rarely forget my airpods at home, and when I do I usually turn around to get them. Yesterday I didn’t turn around. I went for my walk anyway. You might think “so what?” and you’d be right to. It doesn’t change much. I usually listen to podcasts and audiobooks, rather than music. I like my walks to be intellectually stimulating, as well as physically good for me.

Running Up and Down Like a Yoyo

Normally when I forget something I run back up the stairs, sometimes two or three times. Other times I would walk home, before starting the walk again. To leave the airpods at home is unusual. Sometimes I leave them because it’s raining and I don’t want them to get soaked, but that is rare.

Airpods fit easily into pockets. They fit so easily that I blogged about carrying two pairs in winter.

Noise Pollution

when you walk alone, and you forget your airpods you’re stuck with your thoughts, and the landscape. You hear the noise pollution from the nearby motorway, sounds of construction from the locations where grass once grew, that is being tarmacced over. People say that it’s important to listen to nature but between the Léman and the Jura there are roads everywhere, as well as cars, trucks, buses and tractors. It’s hardly quiet. To walk mindfully is to notice all the noise pollution. You don’t miss out by listening to podcasts and audio books.

Mindfull Cycling

I never listen to anything when I’m cycling. The noise of the wind is too loud. I also want situational awareness. I want to hear the sound of cars or other things approaching. I want to be focused on what I’m doing.

Driving in Silence

Many years ago I would listen to music when driving, and I wouldn’t dream of driving in silence. Eventually, because I drove such short distances that I would hear ads but no songs, I stopped automatically turning on car radios. Now I can do entire drives in silence. When you drive an electric car it’s funny to drive in silence, because at a traffic light you can hear things, as if you were not in a car.

Experimenting with the Garmin Instinct Solar

My Garmin Instinct Solar is at least two years old. You know that I have more watches than I have wrists so I struggle to decide which watch to wear on a daily basis, especially when I’m unhappy with some aspect of my life. That’s beside the point. I decided to put the Garmin Instinct Solar into max battery mode which turns off phone connectivity and heart rate monitoring.

When not fully charged the battery goes from 18hrs of endurance to 39 hours of endurance. My theory is that it will use so little energy that it should charge during the daily walk, rather than discharge in this mode. In theory a watch could be strapped to the bag and last forever in this configuration, especially in summer.

By using the Garmin Instinct Solar in “ultratrac” mode you still get step count, gps track, tempe connectivity, cadence and more. You can still see that you were walking for an hour and a half in 4°c at a cadence of 111 steps per minutes for a distance 8.58 kilometres.

Walking isn’t Sporty for Sports Trackers

If you go for walks like I do, fitness trackers by Garmin, Suunto, Xiaomi, Apple and others see it as a stroll, even when you’re walking with a heart rate of 100 bpm because of your walking pace. As a result it doesn’t matter whether you’re tracking HR or not. This is liberating because it means that the sports watch that you’re using to track a walk doesn’t need to be on your wrist, tracking HR. It can be in a pocket, on your belt loop, or even strapped to your bag straps facing the sun to charge as you walk.

If you’re not worried about heart rate you can wear Casio step tracking watches instead. They’re less invasive. They track your steps, and that’s it. No HR, no sleep, no standing and more. It just tracks your steps, and that’s it. You can wear the HR capable sports tracking watch when you’re running, cycling or doing other sports where you need that functionality. The rest of the time you can wear a “normal” watch.

What it Replaces

The Garmin Etrex SE is excellent in terms of battery life and it’s easy to swap batteries but it’s big and bulky and requires a large pocket to store it. The Garmin Etrex Solar is also interesting but it costs 270 CHF and I don’t think you can swap the battery. This means that it’s fantastic for summer, when it’s nice and sunny, but mediocre in winter, especially if you’re walking for a few days in heavy rain.

In theory the Garmin Instinct Solar isn’t great in several days of rain either, but it does track steps, temperature and more. it gives you a more comprehensive data set, wit temperature, step count, and the usual data. It’s also much lighter.

And Finally

I’m fine, walking without air pods and a podcast or audiobook to keep me company. I have also slowly weaned myself off of wearing two sports tracking watches. If Garmin, Suunto and Xiaomi respected walking as they should, then wearing their watches all the time would make sense. The truth is that Vo2 Max doesn’t care about walking, so unless you’re running or cycling, you can wear whichever watch you’re motivated to wear.

By strapping a Garmin Instinct Solar to your bag, rather than your wrist, for walks, you still get altitude, temperature, step count, speed, distance and more, but rather than 20hrs of battery life you end up with 79 when the watch is fully charged, and more if the sun recharges the device as you walk.

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