Garmin Alpha 100 Review Facts
Some people enjoy hiking or hunting alone, or perhaps with a small group of friends whether for safety in numbers or for purely social reasons. Others enjoy going on those treks with man’s best friend, but now have the option of keeping the dog on a leash or letting it roam more comfortably without a tether. If you want to keep track of your furbaby or two-legged hunting or hiking companions, or just know that you are accurately keeping track of yourself, the Garmin Alpha 100 is a device that will see you through safely and will even tell those in your relative vicinity if you need help.
The Garmin Alpha 100 is, at heart, a GPS tracking system
with over 100k worth of maps available to pinpoint your position when you aren’t on a real road. If you find yourself using it just for the purposes of your own location and to ping others wielding a Garmin in the area, then you will be satisfied knowing you are that much safer out in the wilds. However, the Garmin Alpha 100 is also fully equipped to be paired with a GPS dog collar – up to fifteen collars can be connected at once, if they are of a compatible make and model - if you plan to take your dog hiking or hunting and want to keep track of them
, as well. These are the base functions of the system: keeping you and your animal(s) safe out in the world when you need peace of mind. There are even LED beacons for low light conditions that can be seen up to one hundred yards away.
The details and specifics – such as the rechargeable battery, waterproof rating, touch screen, compatibility with other technology, and so on – could be present in other makes and models of GPS and dog tracker, but whether or not they are commonplace in the product field, they are certainly nothing to take for granted. The GLONASS system, BaseCamp computer tie-in, and the VIRB recording system are all potentially widely available, but their presence here on so multi-functional an item makes that item all the more impressive.
The Alpha 100 can be used with or without a dog tethered to your unit and still serve its purpose of locational safety, if all you want to do is keep track of your buddies while you are all hunting the same relative area. It tracks your precise altitude and monitors the weather thereabouts, it tells other Garmin carriers in the area where you are if you are in danger, and it can be monitored in real time from a home computer through the BaseCamp program, if you choose to include that option in your setup. Primarily, linking a home computer is so that you can watch the dogs you are training, but however you choose to use the BaseCamp system, you are covering your bases more widely than leaving a paper map on a desk with a big circle around a thousand square miles. Assuming you have a compatible GPS collar, you will know where your dog is as you go out for a hike or on a hunt, even if they find themselves out of line of sight. The core purpose, with or without a furry friend, is safety. A side effect of this device keeping you and any pets safer is that the people waiting for you back home will have better piece of mind knowing that you will not be completely off the radar, so to speak. It is always a safe practice to tell people roughly where you will be, and then stick to that area. If you are hiking a marked trail of some sort, there are ranger stations you can check into or, sometimes, even log books you can sign in and out of when you begin and end the hike. Many campgrounds have such log books in a weather-safe box near the heat of a trail so that if you do not sign out your hike, and no one can find you after a certain amount of time, they can see which book you signed in on, and know where to start looking for you. There are safety measures like this in place so that your location is known, and you can be saved if you are in danger; obviously peace of mind is important, and this way you can not only train your dogs and keep track of your buddies, but others can potentially keep track of you.
The Garmin Alpha 100 has 2 lengths of removable stainless-steel contact points which keep a good, strong connection even in wet weather. In more desirable weather conditions, which is when most people hike and hunt, you will have between five and ten miles of reach via the antenna – depending upon which collar you paired with your tracker – and the integrated GLONASS positioning system uses an electric compass and barometric altimeter to keep close track of where you and your dogs are. If you bring more than one dog with you, these readouts will be color coded for separate dogs so that you do not confuse any crossed paths or closely-kept compass directions of travel and will also tell you information about your dog: their speed, distance, and if they are moving or on point to something. If you find yourself in need of assistance, your location will be pinged to other Garmin Alpha users in the area – provided there are any. If you are out on a wide-scale hunting party and have other people in the area with you, try to be sure that everyone has compatible Garmin devices and you will be able to use pre-set messages to check in with them.
As with most electronic devices in this day and age, the power comes from a rechargeable battery. In this case, the battery is an Li-ion battery with up to 16 hours of life with continuous usage. If you have the most commonly paired dog collar (the TT15 or TT15 mini) the dog’s GPS collar has a battery life of up to 28 hour
s. Once their battery – another Li-ion – reaches under 25% life, it pings every 2 minutes instead of every 2.5 seconds, conserving power in what is referred to as “Rescue Mode.” Rescue mode will give you up to 12 hours to find a lost dog before the power runs out. Both recharge on the same cord system (most compatible dog collars have the same port) so if you do opt for acquiring a dog collar GPS to link to your Alpha 100, know that you will either need to share, or you will need a second charger.
Having 9 miles of reach on the signal to the TT15 dog collar (or 4 miles to the TT15 mini), a frequent ping, and a boast of no distortion through heavy tree cover and deep canyons is a tall order to live up to. For the most part, user feedback seemed to coincide, reporting that the Garmin Alpha 100 lived up to the promise. There were a few instances that mentioned a problem, but it was temporary. Someone had a dog collar whose connection would drop from the Alpha and need to be restarted during a hike, but less than 20% of their hikes with the apparatus would have the problem, so it is not a common or crippling problem. To be on the safe side, see about testing out everything before you go on your trip, just so you have a working knowledge of how well it will function, and how the readouts and displays are articulated. Even if you have used a GPS before, give yourself some time to get to know how to use this one when you purchase it, because if there is a problem with it you do not really want the middle of nowhere or the side of a mountain to be where you are standing when you find out.
Having stainless-steel contact points for added strength in wet weather makes an already durable GPS tracker even more impressive. The handheld device has a waterproof rating of 1PX7, meaning it is protected from being dropped into a puddle for up to 1 meter of water for up to half an hour. The IP Code can be learned more about elsewhere, but in layman’s terms for the purposes of the Garmin Alpha 100 it means if you drop it in a puddle and get it out fairly quickly, it should still work. Just try not to make a point of taking it out during monsoon season – and frankly, keep yourself indoors during monsoon season too, if you can. The collar’s waterproof rating is 1 ATM. According to Garmin’s chart for such things, they are suitable for splashes, rain or snow, swimming
– which is handy for fetching water fowl – or jumping into water
if they need to quickly pass through a stream or traverse a pond quickly. To be clear, this means the collar is more suitable for being in and around the water while out training or on a hunt; the handheld device is not able to withstand all of the same conditions. Do not go into this thinking you can take a romp in a lake with the handheld on your belt, it is not wise to borrow trouble.
Ease of Use
The Alpha 100 boasts an easy to use interface with three preset quick reference buttons, bringing you to 3 different quick glance items instead of poking or swiping your way through the touchscreen menus for a few select notes of importance. There are also, if connected with a dog collar, 18 different pattern options for either tonal or vibration signals to signal your dog or dogs – you can have up to 15 on a single Garmin Alpha 100 handheld. There is also the option to record information via the VIRB system from the handheld at the press of a button (or onscreen selection, if you are using the touchscreen instead of a quick reference button for such a thing). Additionally, you can set up beforehand for the recording to begin automatically when a dog you’re monitoring triggers an event. You can mark a perimeter on your Alpha and it will notify you if any of your dogs – or fellow hunters – go beyond that range. This is a great feature for keeping your buddies away from known hazards, property lines, or even just to train them to stay within a certain mileage.
Having a 3-inch color touchscreen that is glove friendly
and readable in sunlight sounds like an amazing display. Despite some user feedback that it is not as useful and visible in any kind of shade, it seems to be sturdy and legible when being viewed. The feedback of shade lowering one’s ability to read the display did mention turning up screen visibility but be wary of the fact that you will be affecting the device’s battery life if you do so. Additionally, you can lock the screen so that if you put it in a pocket or pouch while hiking or hunting it will not be grazed by various objects and take your screen display to some strange menu selection you have no memory of ever seeing before. Simply put: lock the screen so you avoid pocket scanning. The actual readouts are simple, bright-colored, and easily discernible. If you have multiple dogs, you will have different colors automatically assigned to them and can name each collar for the dog wearing it. If you look at the compass screen you will see their direction of travel all at once, as a line in their designated color. You can also select an individual dog to see their speed if they are moving, as well as more specific stats for that dog. How you use the information is limited to your own imagination, but for the purposes of training the dogs to seek you can watch how long it takes them to get from point A to B, and C if you increase complexity, and so on and so forth.
There is a price tag on the Garmin Alpha 100 that might make some people blanch, but when you consider how much it can do and how much safer you and your dogs
are while utilizing it, you might not think it is unreasonable. If you plan on using it to train and use with a dog, or even multiple dogs, you can usually find bundle packs that come with one or more compatible collars
and the handheld, plus some accessories. Those will cost you more, naturally, but it might be worth the package deal, especially if you train dogs for a living
. Be sure to shop around and find the price and package that best suits your needs. If you want just the handheld tracker, the Garmin Alpha 100 will run you in the $500-$600 range depending on your retailer. Packages of one collar and tracker usually start closer to $700, which might be discounted based on sales or promotions. If you purchase a handheld and more than one collar as a set, the price range jumps further. Seek out something of that nature so you can be sure you are finding a good deal and a proper bundle for your specific needs.
-electric compass and barometric altimeter
-emergency alerts can ping to other Garmin users nearby
-Rescue Mode controls location ping frequency and power control to preserve battery
-compatible with multiple dog collars for group control and monitoring
The Garmin Alpha 100 is a GPS tracker with up to 15 dog tracking connection capabilities. It will keep you connected to all of your hunting pack while seeking out boar, deer, or whatever else you may be hunting. If you are just out to seek the top of a mountain, or hike through some woods off the beaten track, it will keep you and your pet connected to one another, and potentially to every other Garmin owner in the area. You can give up to 18 different signals to your dog without being able to see them, via either tone or vibration. Depending on how you have trained your dog(s) with these signals you can tell them to come back, go in another direction, sit, and several other things; the limits are your imagination. This GPS tracker will give you a hefty amount of piece of mind, making a hefty price tag seem a lot more reasonable. If you train hunting dogs, this is an especially helpful tool for multitasking the training of several dogs at once. You will be safer, your dog(s) will be safer, and the people at home who want all of you to come home safe will feel better about you heading out on a trip.