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Garmin Forerunner 735xt Review for Trail Runners

Garmin Forerunner 735xt Review for Trail Runners

Besides a good pair of shoes, there is essential gear that can aid runners, improve performance, and assist in an overall positive experience. Watches are a common piece of gear for trail running; furthermore, not only do they track time, but certain ones can provide navigational features.

While trail running, getting lost is more likely and sometimes the trails can require a map. Getting the right watch can help you run along the right path without constantly carrying a map to your favorite trails.

The Garmin Forerunner 735xt is a great investment for trail running as it provides many features, including heart rate measurement, VO2 max estimate, race predictor, recovery advisor, automatic uploads to the Garmin Connect App, compatible with Strava Live Segments, and advanced dynamics for running, cycling, and swimming.

I recommend that runners should purchase the Garmin 735xt as the watch is perfect for trail running and any ultramarathon they might attempt.

Why I Bought the Garmin Forerunner 735xt

I have been taking advantage of my Garmin 735xt since 2017. When I first purchased the watch, I was looking for something to help motivate me in training as I began my passion for trail running.

Utilizing the Garmin Connect app and the fact that the watch is compatible with Strava Live Segments held me accountable since my performance could be compared and the activities would be uploaded  for other athletes to see; therefore, the watch helped drive me to get out and train.

Other running watches possess similar features, but the Forerunner 735xt also has navigation aspects that help in ensuring safety. All the essential features of the GPS work as expected, and is even accurate in densely forested areas where GPS would be a struggle to get.

If I were to get lost on a course, the 735xt makes it easy to Navigate Back to Start. A compass will appear when on the Back to Start feature, and users can orient the watch so that the compass can point  in the correct direction.

My Typical Weekly Use

The Garmin Forerunner 735xt is essential in preparing me for races. Weekly, I run about six out of the seven days for anywhere between one to four hours. I use my watch every run, and usually keep it on 24/7. The Forerunner 735xt collects data and tracks my position, which I later use to follow my progression and make improvements to my training.

When reviewing data, I specifically focus on elevation gain, pace, and cadence as all these are specific to trail running and making developments in my running ability. Most of my training is specified to the actual course I plan to race. I attempt to replicate the elevation gain and loss on my training runs, and the watch is a useful tool in making necessary adjustments.

Favorite Features

My favorite feature of the Garmin Forerunner 735xt is that it is compatible to Strava Live Segments. The watch gives you the  option to use Garmin Segments or Strava Live Segments if you are a premium user on Strava. Strava Live Segments allows users to receive  real time feedback and updates on achievements as they run.

The real time feedback allows me to see how I am stacking up against other runners, and updates me on the watch face as I run specific segments of a trail.

Another great feature of the Forerunner 735xt is the Intensity Minutes. Intensity minute metrics apply credits, and are gained by comparing your current heart rate versus your average resting heart rate. To earn credits, you must have at least 10 consecutive minutes of increased step rate or a heart rate elevated above the moderate intensity threshold.

If the intensity is higher during an activity, users can get double the credits. Having an overview of your intensity minutes for the week is not only helpful in hitting training goals but can determine if you are moving fast  or strenuously enough during workouts.

Lastly, the Forerunner has other higher-end running features like the metronome. The metronome will buzz and beep at various cadence ranges that you configure in the settings. The feature plays a steady tone at a constant rhythm so that runners can keep a consistent cadence, steps per minute, during runs.

Especially in ultramarathons, getting the right cadence is key to preventing injuries and aiding in race performance.

How does it perform during races?

The watch has never failed during races. The Forerunner 735xt allows runners to construct four data pages with various possible information on them. Pages can be setup in the settings, and there are optional pages, such as HR Zone, Map, Virtual Partner, Running Dynamic Page 1, Running Dynamic Page 2, and the clock.

There are multiple data fields that can  be customized on these pages and designed specific for races.

During races, I love the ability to switch throughout my set pages and look at certain fields. Also, sometimes ignoring data can help in races, which switching to the clock can be favorable. I have worn other trail running GPS watches in the past, and the Forerunner 735xt is less bulky while still giving me the specific data that I find suitable for trail racing.


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Battery Life

The battery life of the Garmin Forerunner 735xt can last up to 9 weeks if you were to just use the watch mode. In activity mode it lasts around 14 hours in the GPS mode and with the wrist-based heart rate. Usually this is the mode I keep it in, and  the battery life has been pretty spot on.

I have noticed that over the past three years the battery life has not really decreased. To this day I still get around 12-14 hours in the activity mode. As the battery life is sufficient enough for anything around 50 miles or less, I am required to bring a charging block if I want to have it last for longer races.

The watch does have an UltraTrac mode that will last up to 24 hours. Since a charging block is not super expensive and can be relatively lightweight, I opt for charging my watch for 100k races and longer. The Forerunner 735xt has a battery life less than the Forerunner 920xt and the Fenix 3, but is still acceptable for most trail races.


The Garmin 735xt is pretty much accurate in all areas except sometimes with the GPS. The watch does not have a barometric altimeter, but instead uses a GPS based altimeter which comes with issues in itself. For example, the watch will not count stairs in the activity tracking mode, which most cheaper activity trackers have the capability of doing so.

The elevation charts can also be off sometimes due to the fact that it does not have a barometric altimeter. Overall the accuracy can sometimes be affected.

Rain and Snow

The Forerunner 735xt has a water-resistant rating of 5 ATM, which means that it can withstand depths of up to 50 meters underwater. The built-in heart rate sensor does not work while swimming, but that is usually the case for most watches with a built-in heart rate. That being said the watch works perfectly in rain and snow.

Garmin Forerunner 735xt FAQs

Does it have touch screen capabilities?

The Garmin 735xt is not touch screen. Garmin does make touch screen watches like the Vivoactive series and the Forerunner 630.

Will it play music?

The Garmin 735xt does not play music. Garmin sells the Forerunner 645 which is the first high-end running watch that has music storage capabilities. The watch locally stores around 500 songs, and runners can listen to music without their phone.

Does it have Wi-Fi?

The Garmin 735xt does not have Wi-Fi, but Garmin’s sapphire editions of the Fenix 5, Fenix 5s, and Quatix 5 have Wi-Fi. The Fenix 6 has Wi-Fi with the Pro and Solar editions as well.

Will it track sleep?

The Garmin 735xt does automatically detect sleep and tracks movement during normal sleeping hours. Users can set their normal sleeping hours in the Garmin Connect Settings. Statistics provided are the total hours of sleep, sleep levels, and sleep movement.

When was the watch first released?

The Garmin 735xt was released in May of 2016.

Does it count steps?

The Garmin 735xt does count steps and resets every night at midnight.


My closing thoughts and verdict…

After having the Garmin Forerunner 735xt for three years, I would highly recommend the watch for trail running. As there are some downfalls like the GPS based altimeter and having a lesser battery life than other models, the Forerunner 735xt is still a high-end running watch that lasts in trail races 50 miles and under and provides pretty accurate GPS without a barometric altimeter. T

he watch also allows for me to access and analyze data to improve my performance.

The Forerunner 735xt is durable but also slim compared to other Garmin versions like the Fenix and Forerunner 920xt. The watch consists of many features and was the first to be compatible with Strava Live Segments.

High-end features like the metronome, Running Dynamics, interval mode, downloaded workouts,  and racing past activities really gives the watch and edge to other watches on the market. Not to mention the navigation piece is simple to use and priceless when it comes to trail running.

Overall the Garmin Forerunner 735xt has never had any minor or major issues since I purchased the watch three years ago. I will continue to use it until there are significant upgrades in watch technology, as it still continues to provide features that compete with watches new to the market.


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