I am looking to purchase a waterproof GPS running watch. I also occasionally do triathlons and need a GPS watch that has a waterproof rating that will support swimming, yet versatile enough to train during long runs. I see running watches that have various IPX ratings. What exactly do these mean and how do I know my watch complies with this rating?
First, thank you for the question. As you mentioned, IPX is just a rating standard that distinguishes the level of water proof capability a watch has. I describe the standards below, but I also want to put the IPX6, IPX7 and IPX8 into perspective in terms of what that means for a runner or triathlete.
Generally speaking, watches really falls into two main categories when it comes to how they hold up in water:
water resistant running watches and water proof running watches
Generally speaking, a water resistant watch is OK for running and cycle. This would include all running watches rated at IPX6, or IPX7. These watches will protect against rain, and short periods of time immersed under water.
IPX7 rated watches are specifically rated to protect against immersion up to one meter in depth and up to 30 minutes. IPX6 and IPX7 watches are not safe for swimming. Even if it says 30 minutes and one meter in depth, they are not specifically designed for swimming and thus damage could occur.
Water proof watches on the other hand will hold up to longer periods of immersion and are recommended if you like to do triathlons, or swim as a cross training activity.
I have two recommendations for triathletes. They are the Garmin 735XT and Garmin 935. Both are the gold standard when it comes to triathlon/multi-sport watches. The Fenix 5 is another great option, and adds activity tracking and comes with generally a lot more features but looks like a watch you could wear day to day, even when not training.
Note: These links go to Amazon.com. You are certainly under no obligation to buy from Amazon. I include them so you can see the watch, read the reviews, see additional product specs and make an informed decision. Should you decide to purchase, I may receive a very small referral commission, but there is never any extra cost to you.
Garmin 35 if you are looking for an entry level running watch with the basic features that most runners desire.
Garmin 235 if you are looking for a mid-range watch of slightly higher quality, faster GPS sync, and more features.
Garmin 245 if you are lookin for a mid-range running watch that can stream music.
Garmin Fenix 5 if you are looking for a top of the line watch that can handle any type of fitness event, swimming, activity tracking, etc.
Last update on 2019-10-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
If you want to see a side by side comparison of several Garmin running watch features, check out my Garmin GPS Comparison Chart.
IPX6 Waterproof Standard
Protected against heavy splashing and rain. Must not fail or show water seepage when exposed, but not when immersed.
IPX-7 Waterproof Standard
Protected against short durations of water immersion. Max immersion for less than 30 minutes and at a depth of less than 1 meter. IPX-7, while water resistant, is still not recommended for swimmers, as a precaution.
IPX-8 Waterproof Standard
Designed for continuous underwater use. The best rating for sport/GPS watches used for swimming.
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