*not my photo, it’s from FINISinc.com, but that is the actual unit I was using :)
Back in early January I got my hands on an early Hydro Tracker tester unit and got to spend some quality time with it out in the ocean. Now that it’s been officially launched I can finally talk about it! Overall I liked it a lot. It’s very simple and not real heavily featured, but it does it’s job well and comes in at about $220 dollars less than my Garmin 310xt. Although I do miss certain features when using the HydroTracker, I don’t miss them $200 worth!

Things I Like

  • The built-in swim clip is awesome – very secure hold on your goggles and it wasn’t uncomfortable on my shaved head with the added pressure of a swim cap over the top of it
  • The GPS tracking is very good – my open water swim lines came out nice and straight with no weird deviations – I also did a pool test to see how close it can get to me swimming in a lane and doing flip turns, my Hydro Tracker map was a lot tighter than my Garmin map although still not perfect
  • The software set up is easy as well as workout uploading
  • Operation is very simple – There’s only 2 buttons and 3 lights on it, it can only get so complicated, I’m pretty confident that just about anyone could figure this thing out
  • It’s only $129!!!!!!!! This is the most fiscally accessible waterproof GPS that I’m aware of

Things I Don’t Like

  • There’s no display screen – I like to know how far I swam right away, but for 1/3 the cost this is a forgivable omission
  • No feedback while swimming – my Garmin gives me a buzz every kilometer, I’ve always liked that feature
  • Lights on the unit can be hard to see in direct sunlight – the lights let you know if the unit is on and the GPS signal is active, this is a small inconvenience but it bugged me enough to write it down

Both the HydroTracker and the Garmin 310xt are very good GPS devices and I would recommend either. Choosing between the two of them comes down to how much money you want to spend and how featured up you want your GPS. You can read my review of the 310xt here, and you can learn more or go buy the HydroTracker from FINIS here (btw, don’t forget to toss in my discount code if you do! robaquatics09).

(*full bloggerly disclosure, I have a working relationship with FINIS via my day job)

update 10:30am
And one more thing… since my pool testing has generated some interest here’s a mashup of the Hydro Tracker vs. the Garmin in outdoor pools. A quick note on the Hydro Tracker map, the spike furthest out to the left was actually me getting out of the pool to grab something out of my swim bag so that little deviation actually happened :)

18 Responses to “First Thoughts on the New FINIS Hydro Tracker Swim GPS”

  1. Saad says:

    Fantastic! Is it required to have it on the back of the head instead of a diving belt or arm/wrist band while swimming. The obvious answer is to ensure optimal GPS signal strength but have you tried any other configuration?

  2. Rob D says:

    I’ve only used it on my head, not sure how well it would perform on an arm or some where else that’s more frequently submerged. The production version ships with an armband of some sort for dryland sports.

  3. Lloydo says:

    I would totally buy one of these if it integrated with Sports-Tracker.com where I track everything else. In the meantime I will have to come up with a way to waterproof my phone and attach it to my swimmers so the surf can’t take it!

  4. IronMike says:

    I’ll be buying one when i return to the states. I’ll use your discount code unless amazon gets it in stock (and cheaper) by then.

  5. Bart Cobb says:

    I used mine for the first time yesterday in an open water swim (thanks for the discount code). It was easy to attach and use. However, my track is scattered. I had set the sample at 4 seconds thinking that more often is better. What do you have yours set at? Your lines are much straighter than mine. http://www.finisinc.com/streamline/share/workout/view/4f5773553c358.

    I also see that the workouts are measured in yards. Do you know of a way to set it to miles.

  6. Rob D says:

    I belive that my sample rate was set to the lowest setting in my maps. I’d be more likely to use the 4 second setting for a longer swim where I was more concerned about battery life.

    Out of curiosity how big are the buildings around your swim spot? Do you think you’re possibly getting some disturbance from that? Just wondering because when I turn my car’s GPS on in the middle of a city sometimes it has a hard time figuring out where I am because it can’t get a clean line of sight on me.

    As of right now I think your only choices are yards or meters, a desire to have miles available would be good feedback to send them though!

  7. GarbageBarge says:

    It looks like the time/distance/pace included your walk from the car. To just track your swim, you’d have to turn it on in the water? Can you turn it on/start it with it already strapped to your head?

  8. Rob D says:

    The swim at Avila Beach does include the walk from the beach to the water. Normally I wouldn’t do that but it was the first time I was using the device so I started it in my hand to make sure I did it right and then put it on my head under my cap. You can start it while strapped to your head, the only problem is it doesn’t make any noise or vibrate so unless you’re looking at it you have no confirmation that it’s actually running.

  9. GarbageBarge says:

    So I got one and I’m trying to follow the instructions booklet. Downloaded the bridge software, but I don’t see a settings link to adjust the sampling rate, I don’t see a device link to check the battery level, and I don’t see the help link to find out what’s going on. No one’s picking up at Finis’ live chat. Sent the email inquiry, but still waiting on that too. Any thoughts?

  10. GarbageBarge says:

    Think I sorted it out. My computer wasn’t picking up the docking device. Had some trouble again this morning, but got working after a restart.

  11. Saad says:

    Ok I have my first OW swim of the season this weekend and I intend to use the hydro tracker, however I am using very basic sweedish goggles. GPS feels a bit heavy on the latex bands and I am just concerned that I may loose it during a 2 hour swim. Have you tried putting it under your swim cap? Thanks again.

  12. Rob D says:

    Saad – I typically do both… attach it to my goggles and put it under my cap. If you’re worried the bands on your swedes are too weak maybe think about swapping them out with silicone straps or maybe a bungee

  13. Saad says:

    Thanks Rob that sounds like the way to go, I’ll probably do a test tomorrow at the pool. I had some trouble in the past with Bungees not holding my swedes properly but I’l l give it another try.

  14. Dave S. says:

    Hi Rob,

    I was excited when I heard that there was FINALLY a swimming GPS tracker on the market. I ordered the Hydro Tracker straight away. I have mixed feelings about it.

    It maps the swim accurately.

    The data is displayed in US time only. I live in Sydney, Australia, so my 2pm swim is shown as 4am, which is not helpful at all.

    As you have stated, it is almost impossible to read the display in sunlight.

    Today I swam a length of the beach then wanted to compare my return trip. I pressed the button at the bottom, noticed the micoscopic green light flash (whilst cupping my hands to block the sunlight) and set off to the other end of the beach. I pressed the button again to stop recording. I had a quick break, repeated the technique with cupped hands, then swam back and stopped.

    When I returned home and uploded my data, I noticed that only the first lap had recorded, whilst I had 3 recordings of 13 metres, 0 metres, and 3 metres of where I thought I had started/stopped recording.
    Ideally it would be great if the device had different beeps to indicate that it has started or stopped recording. I wonder how much R&D went into this when they were initially testing it.

    Also, the clip is awesome if your goggle strap is thin. I use Blue Seventy goggles and their strap is thicker, so I have to go through a painful prcedure when connecting the goggle strap each time.

    So Finis has the makings for a great product… but… the cons far outweigh the pros.


  15. Leslie warren says:

    Iv’e used the Finis HydroTracker For a number of swims now.
    For me the cons are outweighing the pros.
    Pros -1) it seems accurate,
    2) it’s comfortable on my head attached to swim goggle straps.

    Cons – 1) I can’t see the light displays when I’m outside, they are too small and dim with any sunlight. I make a tunnel with my hand to peer at each light but still have difficulty seeing them.
    2) because I can’t see the lights, I’m never really sure if it’s ready to record. I’ve done swims and been very disappointed that I had actually turned the device off when I thought I was turning it on.
    3) battery life seems very limited – thinking I have another several hours of battery life left, I’ve gone off to a swim to find it won’t stay on or won’t turn on at all.

    If I could return it and get a refund I would.

  16. Scott Tapley says:

    I’ve had mine for about 2 months. I agree with Leslie and others. The cons outweigh the pros.

    At the beach, it is VERY difficult to tell when it is on/off, paused/recording.

    Pressing and holding the pause/record button doesn’t always seem to work – takes several attempts to switch, so the only way to know that you are paused is to turn it off and restart.

    Docking is always an issue – 9 out of 10 times my PC will not recognize the unit (even after cleaning and drying). Sometimes I can’t get the Bridge software to recognize the unit at all.

    When it works I love it. But that’s not very often. If I could return it and try a different unit I would. Maybe the next gen of Hydro Tracker will be better (let’s hope).

  17. Marion says:

    I have just bought the hydro tracker and am still trying to find out how it works. What definetely does not work is the docking. After trying many many times, only once could I connect the unit.
    With the bad docking and the problems I have read about here, if I could, I would give it back.

  18. Rusty Skelton says:

    I had great difficulty with docking, turned out (with advice from Finis) you had to press all four corners of the tracker firmly until they give a slight click. It then worked like a dream for three weeks and now the pause/start button fails to respond. Don’t know what the answer is, but have asked. It is a brilliant device for ocean swimming, unfortunately it has unsolved bugs that make it less than reliable. Agree about the indicators lights: in bright sunshine they are impossible to read. Lets hope the next generation is much improved. I also agree that it would be good to have a visual display on the unit. If Timex Ironman watches can do it, why not the tracker.