The Garmin Fenix 5s is one of my favorite hiking and fitness watches but if you’re new to the Fenix, as I was at one time, you may struggle a bit because you won’t know what buttons to push to get the watch to do or show what you want. For example, how do you show more data or view your widgets during an activity?  How do you save a point of interest while hiking or during any other GPS activity?  How do you navigate back to your starting point during a hike that isn’t following a planned route or course?  How do you zoom in or out on the map of your Fenix? So, I thought I’d share some how-to tutorials for using your Fenix 5 out on the trail.

The trickiest part to learning how to use the Fenix is knowing what button(s) to push.  If you’re accustomed to touch screen watches you’ll have to get used to navigating through the watch using the five buttons.

Eventually, it will all become second nature but you’ll need to practice a lot before you go on a serious hike.

Otherwise, you may find yourself not knowing what to do out in the middle of nowhere.  So practice in locations you know well first!

Below: Garmin Fenix 5s and Fenix 5 on BestBuy

Garmin – Fenix® 5s Gps Heart Rate Monitor Watch – White With Carrara White Band Garmin – Fenix® 5 Gps Heart Rate Monitor Watch Bundle – Slate Gray With Black Band

Learning Curve



The Fenix does have a little bit of a learning curve because it has so many features, probably dozens you’re not even aware of and you’ll come across them as you use the watch.

And then there are those times when you know the Fenix can show you certain data fields or information but you don’t know how to get to them when you’re doing an activity.

Fenix 5s Buttons

First, you need to know what buttons I’m referring to in the instructions below.  Here is an image with button labels for the Fenix 5s which also apply to the Fenix 5 and FX.

Fenix 5 Buttons

Fenix 5 Button Labels

How to Customize Data Screens

When I first went hiking with the Fenix I was surprised that there wasn’t many data screens or data fields that displayed by default.  I figured the compass would show by default but it didn’t but luckily you can customize the data fields and data screens to show whatever you want and you can add more data screens to display even more data or widgets.

To customize the data fields and data screens of any activity when the activity is NOT running on the watch press and hold the Menu button and then scroll to Activities & Apps and then scroll to the activity you want to customize.



Changing Hike Settings

I selected Hike for this example and then selected Hike Settings using the Start button.

There are several different preferences I can change but for this I’m going to be customizing the first Data Screen so I select it using the Start button after following the instructions of above.

fenix 5s edit screen

Edit screen, notice the pencil icon on the top right side of the screen

Now a pencil icon will show on the upper right side of the screen indicating that the screen is in edit mode and it also indicates which button I need to press to make a change on that data screen.  So if I push the Start button I’ll be able to select what changes I want to make to that particular data screen. In this case, I’m going to change the layout from two data fields to four so I can show more data on one screen.

I can change the layout to show 1, 2, 3, or 4 data fields and in different formats for preferred readability.

You need to think about what data you care about seeing the most, especially on the screen that you’ll have showing most of the time.

When I’m hiking the primary things I want to know with a quick glance are how long I’ve been hiking, the distance I’ve hiked so far, my heart rate, and calories I’ve burned.  You may want to show something different on your main screen.  It’s totally up to you.

My original screen only had two data fields and to change it to four I just scroll down using the Down button (after following the steps above) to select the appropriate layout.

data screen layout

My original data screen layout with 2 fields

After choose 4 data fields for my data screen layout

Once I have selected the layout (image directly above) I can then select each data field individually using the Start button and specify what data I want to appear in each field.

The screen after I chose which data I wanted to go into each field

Different data fields are grouped into different field categories and as you see below the Fenix 5 gives you plenty to choose from!  Of course not every activity will have all of these options.  See the full list at the end of the article.

Timer Fields:

  • Timer
  • Lap Time
  • Last Lap Time
  • Avg. Lap Time
  • Elapsed Time
  • Multisport Time
  • Moving Time
  • Stopped Time

Distance Fields

  • Distance
  • Lap Distance
  • Last Lap Dist.
  • Nautical Dist

Pace Fields

  • Pace
  • Average Pace
  • Lap Pace
  • Last Lap Pace

Speed Fields

  • Speed
  • Avg. Speed
  • Lap Speed
  • Last Lap Speed
  • Maximum Speed
  • Nautical Speed
  • Max. Nautical Speed
  • Avg. Nautical Speed
  • Avg. Moving Speed
  • Avg. Overall Speed
  • Vertical Speed

Heart Rate Fields

  • Heart Rate
  • Average HR
  • HR Zone
  • Aerobic TE
  • Anaerobic TE
  • HR %Max.
  • %HRR
  • Avg HR %Max.
  • Avg. %HRR
  • Lap HR
  • Lap %HRR
  • Lap HR %Max
  • Last Lap HR
  • Last Lap %HRR
  • L. Lap HR %Max.
  • Time in Zone

Cadence Fields

  • Cadence
  • Avg. Cadence
  • Lap Cadence
  • Last Lap Cadence
Temperature Fields

  • Temperature
  • 24-Hour Max
  • 24-Hour Min

Elevation Fields

  • Avg. Ascent
  • Avg. Descent
  • Max. Ascent
  • Max. Descent
  • Elevation
  • Total Ascent
  • Total Descent
  • Lap Ascent
  • Lap Descent
  • Last Lap Ascent
  • Last Lap Descent
  • Min. Elevation
  • Max. Elevation
  • GPS Elevation
  • Glide Ratio
  • Grade

Compass Fields

  • Heading
  • GPS Heading
  • Compass Hdg.
  • Navigation Fields
  • Dist. Remaining
  • Estimated Total Distance
  • VMG
  • Vert Speed to Target
  • Bearing
  • Course
  • Off Course
  • Vertical Distance to Destination
  • Location
  • Dest. Location
  • Lat/Lon
  • ETA
  • ETE
  • Dest. Wpt
  • Next Waypoint
  • Distance To Next
  • ETA at Next
  • Time to Next

Other Fields

  • Calories
  • Battery Level
  • GPS
  • Laps
  • Sunrise
  • Sunset
  • Time of Day
  • Ambient Press.
  • Baro. Pressure

Muscle Oxygen Fields

  • Muscle O2 Sat. %
  • Total Hemoglobin


How to change/add/edit data fields while doing an activity?

If you decide you need to see more or different data while already hiking (or during any activity), press and hold in the menu button and select Hike Settings (if you’re hiking) and use the same process as above.

You can also select Navigation during your hike by holding in the Menu button and choose from Back to Start, Courses, Activities (history of previous activities), Saved Locations, Sight ‘N Go, or Coordinates.

To get back to the hiking activity screen after making any changes or viewing the different options above press the Back button.


How to Mark a Point of Interest

You can specify a Point of Interest (POI) before or during an activity.  To do so just press and hold in the Light button and this will bring up the main menu.  Select Save Location and this will bring up the coordinates.

Press the Start button to save the POI. Press the Down button to edit the location to give it a Name or assign an Icon to it.  You can also view the Position (coordinates) and Elevation of this POI.


How to Zoom In/Zoom Out the Map

This is another thing that took me a while to figure out.  When I was hiking and viewing the map I sometimes wanted to zoom in but didn’t know how even though I knew it was possible but I finally figured it out.

While viewing the Map press and hold the Up button and select Pan/Zoom.  Now + and – symbols will be next to the up and down buttons.  To zoom out press the Down button and of course to zoom in press the Up button.

To get out of Pan/Zoom press the Back button.


How to navigate to a Point of Interest while hiking?

So you mark a POI on your hike but how to you navigate back to it?  Press and hold the Menu button and press the Down button and select Navigation from the menu and then go down to Saved Locations.  Scroll to the POI you want to navigate to and press the Start button.

This will bring up another menu.  Selecting Details will tell you the POI’s elevation, coordinates, and distance to the POI.  Selecting Go To will navigate you to the POI.


How do I navigate back to my starting point during a planned route or course?

Sometimes you may want or need to ditch your planned route and want to know how to simply get back to where you started.  To do this, press the Start button and then press the Down button and select Back to Start.


How do I navigate back to starting point during a hike when NOT following a planned route?

When you’re not following a route during your hiking activity or any activity using GPS you can still find your way back to your starting point.  Press the Start button while in the activity and then press the Down button and select TracBack.  This will navigate you back to where you began the activity.


How to view other screens and widgets during an activity?

Okay, so you have lots of cool widgets on your watch such as a compass, the weather, barometric pressure, active minutes, etc., but how do you view any of those while an activity is running?

To get to your main screen, press and hold the Down button and now you’ll be able to get to all of your nifty widgets and main watch face.

To get back to your activity’s screens, just press the Back button.

Well, I hope that these tips were useful.  More will be coming.  These were questions I had early on

If you have questions or tips to share, feel free to leave a comment.