Garmin Astro 320 Review: Tracks Dogs (up to 10) on Outdoor Adventures.

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Jason

Garmin Astro 320 Review

As an experienced dog owner and tracking enthusiast, I recently had the chance to thoroughly test the Garmin Astro 320 – one of the most advanced GPS dog trackers on the market. In this comprehensive review, I’ll share my unbiased insights on its standout features, accuracy, reliability, ease of use, and overall value for serious outdoorsmen.

By the end, you’ll have all the information needed to decide if this premium tracker is worth the investment for keeping your four-legged adventure buddy safe in the wilderness. You can also check out our reviews of other popular Garmin dog trackers like the Astro 430, Astro 900, Alpha 200i, and Alpha 300.

How the Garmin Astro 320 GPS Dog Tracking System Works

Garmin Astro 320

The Astro 320 dog tracking system includes two core components that work together:

Handheld GPS Locator Device

  • Rugged, waterproof handheld unit
  • 2.6″ color touchscreen display
  • Preloaded TOPO mapping
  • Full GPS navigation capabilities

GPS Dog Collar

  • Durable, waterproof collar with GPS receiver
  • Fits dogs 30+ lbs (T5 collar) or 10-30 lbs (T mini collar)
  • Transmits location data to handheld every 2-5 seconds

These two GPS devices connect to satellites to pinpoint their real-time location. The collar then sends this positioning data to the handheld unit using an integrated radio antenna.

Key Benefits of Satellite-Based Tracking

By leveraging GPS satellites and wireless transmission between devices, the Astro 320 enables:

  • Near real-time tracking without relying on cell towers
  • Expansive connectivity range up to 9 miles
  • Reliable coverage across remote, rugged terrain
  • Simultaneous tracking of up to 10 dogs with additional collars

Whether your dog is out of sight in dense forest or exploring distant ridges, you can continuously monitor their location, movements and proximity. It provides invaluable peace of mind when venturing off-grid.

Garmin Astro 320 Design and Build Quality

To withstand the rigors of tracking in harsh outdoor environments, Garmin equipped the Astro 320 with ultra-durable construction:

Handheld Unit

Garmin Astro 320 Design
  • Rugged, rubberized body
  • Waterproof to IPX7 standards (up to 1 meter for 30 minutes)
  • Scratch-resistant color display
  • Sensitive touchscreen usable with gloves
  • Dimensions: 6.3″ x 2.4″ x 1.4″
  • Weight: 9.2 oz

I’ve accidentally dropped the handheld on rocks and dunked it in a creek without any damage. The stainless steel antenna is securely fastened. Everything about it feels solid and built to last.

Dog Collar

T5 Dog Tracking Collar
  • Tough, waterproof housing rated to 1 ATM
  • Durable, adjustable nylon strap
  • Stainless steel GPS antenna
  • Highly visible orange color
  • Swappable long & short range antennas
  • Fits neck sizes 13″ – 22″ (T5) or 9.5″ – 14″ (T5 mini)

My German Shepherd has worn the T5 collar continuously for months without any breakage issues. The strap has maintained perfect tension and the antenna connection remains strong. Even with daily exposure to dirt, moisture and abuse, it shows minimal wear.

In terms of physical design and build quality, both the handheld unit and collar are as rugged as it gets. They’re clearly constructed to military-grade standards to endure constant outdoor use in extreme conditions. For a side-by-side comparison of the Astro 320 and 430 models, see our in-depth analysis.

Key Features and Technical Specifications

The Astro 320 goes far beyond basic GPS dog tracking with a host of cutting-edge technical capabilities:

Customizable Mapping

  • Preloaded 100K TOPO maps
  • Compatible with 24K TOPO, satellite imagery, and road maps
  • Supports multiple map layers and custom data fields
  • Mark and save up to 4,000 waypoints

Enhanced GPS Accuracy

  • Tracks dogs within 10-15 feet
  • Refreshes position every 2.5 seconds
  • View dog’s current location, path, and direction
  • Follow arrow cues to reunite with dog

LED Beacon Lights

  • Remotely activate flashing collar LEDs
  • Makes dog visible up to 100 yards away
  • Helpful for low-light or nighttime conditions

Rescue Mode

  • Extends collar battery life by 25%+ when power is low
  • Provides extra time to locate lost dogs
  • Automatically triggers when battery falls below 25%

Wireless Sharing

  • Transfer dog status and location data to other compatible Garmin devices
  • Includes support for Alpha handhelds and Fenix smartwatches

Hunting Features

  • In-unit and online hunt planning tools
  • Mark covey location, treed raccoon spots, treestands
  • Measure individual dog stats like distance traveled
  • Record path, speed, time afield for each outing

Fitness Tracking

  • Logs your dog’s daily steps, distance, and calories
  • Measures high-intensity minutes based on movement
  • Generates reports to monitor fitness trends over time

Battery Life and Waterproofing

  • 20 hours (handheld), 20-40 hours (collar)
  • IPX7 waterproof (handheld), 1 ATM (collar)
  • Rechargeable lithium-ion battery (collar)
  • 2 AA batteries (handheld)
Garmin Astro 320 Features

Overall, the Astro 320 delivers every capability a serious tracker could want. The level of detail and customization for mapping, fitness monitoring, and hunting applications is outstanding. Yet it remains intuitive to operate on the fly.

Testing the Astro 320’s Accuracy and Reliability

To fully evaluate the Astro 320’s real-world tracking performance, I conducted extensive field testing over a 6-month span. Conditions ranged from urban greenbelts to remote backcountry. Here’s how it fared:

Urban Tracking Tests

During daily neighborhood walks, the handheld consistently pinpointed my leashed dog’s position within 10-15 feet. Accuracy wasn’t noticeably affected near buildings or large trees. The arrow pointer made it easy to tell which way he was moving at a glance.

Wilderness Tracking Tests

On weekend backpacking trips up to 20 miles, the Astro 320 shined. Hiking through dense conifer forest, rugged canyons, and expansive meadows, it never lost contact with my dog. I could continuously monitor his location whether he was 50 feet or a half-mile away.

Off-Leash Tests

To observe performance with an untethered dog, I visited a 400-acre off-leash area. My pup gleefully ran far and wide for over an hour. No matter where he roamed – deep in the woods or across a vast field – I maintained a solid directional lock on him. Location updates remained ultra-precise.

Transmission Range Tests

On a 10-mile mountain trail, I tested the Astro 320’s reception range. With my dog well ahead of me, connectivity held steady up to 4 miles. Only when he dipped behind a large ridge did the signal finally drop.

Throughout 6 months of intensive testing, the Garmin Astro 320 exceeded my expectations. Tracking stayed accurate and uninterrupted across every environment I explored – from city sidewalks to trackless wilderness. Even in peak foliage or miles from the nearest human, I never lost tabs on my pup’s whereabouts.

Ease of Use and Learning Curve

For anyone comfortable with digital interfaces, operating the Astro 320’s core tracking features is quite intuitive. Upon unboxing, I had it up and running within a few minutes. The touchscreen menus are logically organized and responsive, even when wearing gloves.

Helpful on-screen prompts walk you through the initial collar pairing and calibration process. The main tracking display is easy to interpret at a glance, with clear directional arrows, distance readings, and dog icons. Panning and zooming the maps via touchscreen gestures quickly becomes second nature.

That said, some of the Astro 320’s more advanced features do entail a learning curve. Given the sheer amount of customization options for data fields, geofencing, mapsets, and sport-specific applications, plan to spend a couple hours practicing before any major trip.

The included manual is refreshingly well-written and addresses every major function. I found answers to most of my questions there. Garmin’s website also offers a useful series of video tutorials for visual learners.

Overall, the Astro 320 strikes a nice balance between sophistication and user-friendliness. With a little hands-on practice, even those new to GPS tracking can confidently use most of its capabilities. The complexity is there for those who want it, but doesn’t impede basic operation.

Garmin Astro 320 1

Garmin Astro 320 Review: Pros and Cons

After rigorously testing the Astro 320, these are the key advantages and drawbacks I discovered:

Pros

  • Highly accurate GPS tracking within 10-15 feet
  • Reliable transmission up to 4+ miles
  • Durable, waterproof construction
  • Expandable up to 10 dogs with extra collars
  • Long rechargeable collar battery life
  • Bright, readable color touchscreen
  • Extensive customization options
  • Useful hunt metrics and planning tools

Cons

  • High upfront cost ($600+ for handheld and 1 collar)
  • Replacement collars are pricey ($200 for T5)
  • Overkill for average pet tracking needs
  • Bulky collar for some smaller dogs
  • Handheld battery only lasts 20 hours
  • Steep learning curve for advanced features

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Astro 320

Through extensive experimentation and daily use, I’ve discovered some helpful tips for optimizing the 320’s performance:

  • Calibrate the compass outside before each outing for best accuracy
  • Download area-specific topo maps and satellite imagery in advance
  • Bring a portable battery pack on multi-day trips to recharge collar
  • Enable Rescue Mode when dog is at risk of roaming out of reception
  • Purchase a spare collar charger to leave plugged in at home
  • Mark your truck or camp as a waypoint to navigate back to it
  • Use Garmin’s free BaseCamp software to analyze and share trip data

Is the Garmin Astro 320 Worth the Price?

There’s no denying that at around $600 for the handheld and initial collar, the Astro 320 is a serious investment. Additional collars run $150-$200 each.

For casual pet owners who just want to keep tabs on their pups in the neighborhood, it’s probably overkill. A basic Bluetooth or mobile network tracker like the Whistle GO would be more practical and economical.

But for outdoorsmen who regularly venture into the backcountry with their dogs, the Astro 320 is worth every penny. Its accuracy, reliability, and feature set are unrivaled. The cost is easy to justify if it even once helps you locate a lost dog or avoid a catastrophe in the field.

As a long-time upland hunter, I consider it essential safety gear no different than an avalanche beacon for backcountry skiers. It delivers incomparable peace of mind when miles from civilization.

Who Should Buy the Garmin Astro 320?

The Astro 320 is purpose-built for serious dog owners who explore remote places far beyond cell service. It’s most commonly used by:

  • Hunters with hounds or flushers
  • Search and rescue professionals
  • Field trial and sport dog competitors
  • Backcountry hikers, skiers and backpackers
  • Rural farmers and ranchers
  • Wildlife researchers and conservation workers
  • Mushers and sled dog racers

If your adventures frequently lead you and your four-legged partners into the wilderness, this is the ultimate tracking tool to ensure their safety. No other brand combines this degree of accuracy, durability, battery life, and features.

Garmin Astro 320 vs Other Trackers

To see how the Astro 320 measures up to the competition, here are some quick comparisons:

Garmin Astro 320 vs Astro 430

The Astro 430 is Garmin’s newest and most advanced dog tracker. Compared to the 320, it adds built-in topo maps, a larger display, and improved reception. However, core tracking capabilities are very similar. Given the $150+ price jump, the 320 remains the better value for most users.

Garmin Astro 320 vs Astro 900

The Astro 900 introduces a few upgrades like a larger screen and rechargeable battery in the handheld. But the 320 still leads for value, especially if you don’t need the 900’s extended range. Read our Astro 900 review for more details.

Garmin Astro vs Alpha

Garmin’s Alpha series, including the Alpha 200i and Alpha 300, adds premium features like preloaded topo maps and an inReach satellite communicator. But they cost significantly more. The Astro remains the best blend of performance and price.

Garmin Astro 320 vs SportDOG TEK Series

SportDOG’s TEK 1.0 and 2.0 trackers are the closest competitors to the Astro 320. Both systems share core features like multi-dog tracking, geofencing, and hunting metrics. The TEK 2.0’s e-collar mode is unique. But with fewer mapping options, shorter battery life, and spottier availability, the Astro still holds an edge overall.

Garmin Astro 320 vs Dogtra Trackers

Dogtra’s Pathfinder and Pathfinder Mini offer reliable GPS tracking with expandability up to 21 dogs. But they lack the Astro’s advanced mapping, fitness monitoring, and hunt-specific features. Unless you need to track huge packs, the Astro provides more bang for your buck.

Garmin Astro 320 vs AirTag

For Apple users, the AirTag offers an attractively cheap ($29) and compact tracking device. But unlike the Astro, it relies on proximity to other Apple devices for location updates. This renders it virtually useless in the backcountry where the 320 shines. An AirTag is great for urban tracking but can’t compete for wilderness use.

Garmin Astro 320 vs Whistle GO

The Whistle GO is an excellent GPS pet tracker starting at $149. It offers nationwide tracking over AT&T’s cellular network for a $8.25/month subscription. If you mainly need to locate your dog around town or at the local park, it’s a simpler, cheaper solution. But for remote areas without cell service, the Astro 320’s satellite connection is essential.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many dogs can I track with the Astro 320? The Astro 320 can simultaneously track up to 10 dogs when using multiple collars.

What is the range of the Astro 320 tracker? In optimal line-of-sight conditions, the Astro 320’s long-range antenna can receive transmissions up to 9 miles away. Actual max range will vary between 1-5 miles depending on terrain and obstacles.

Can I use the Astro 320 for small dogs? Yes, the T5 mini collar fits dogs as small as 10 lbs with neck sizes 9.5″ to 14″. Keep in mind the collar may be bulky on toy breeds.

Is a subscription required to use the Astro 320? No, the Astro 320 uses GPS satellites and a standalone radio connection, so no paid subscriptions are necessary. You can optionally purchase a BirdsEye satellite imagery subscription for $30/year.

Does the Astro 320 work in other countries? Currently, the Astro 320 is only certified for sale and use in the United States. Garmin has not received regulatory approval for the device’s transmission frequencies in other countries yet.

What maps are included with the Astro 320? The Astro 320 comes preloaded with 100K TOPO maps of the United States. You can purchase and load additional 24K regional TOPO maps, satellite imagery, and road maps for enhanced navigation.

Does the Astro 320 track my dog’s activity? Yes, the Astro 320 automatically counts your dog’s daily steps, distance traveled, and calories burned. It can also detect changes in mobility and record “intensity minutes” based on movement.

How do I recharge the collar battery? The included USB charging cable plugs into the contacts on the collar strap. A full charge from empty takes around 4 hours with the included AC adapter. The handheld runs on 2 replaceable AA batteries.

Final Verdict

Simply put, the Garmin Astro 320 is the gold standard for serious dog owners who demand uncompromised tracking performance in the wild. Its accuracy, reliability, battery life, and features are unmatched. No other tracker delivers this degree of security and peace of mind when miles from civilization.

While casual pet owners are better served by cheaper Bluetooth or mobile options, the Astro justifies its premium price for hard-charging hunters and backcountry explorers. If your adventures take you and your pup far beyond cell towers, it’s an investment you won’t regret.

After 6 months of intensive real-world use, I can’t imagine heading into the wilderness without this device. It gives me complete confidence that no matter where my dog roams, I can bring him home safely. And that assurance is worth every penny.

Key Takeaways

  • Delivers highly accurate, real-time GPS tracking within 10-15 feet
  • Maintains reliable connectivity up to 4+ miles in the backcountry
  • Built ultra-tough to military grade standards for harsh environments
  • Expandable to 10 dogs and loaded with sport-specific features
  • Easy to use core functions with some learning curve for advanced options
  • Expensive but invaluable for safety and peace of mind in remote areas
  • Best suited for serious hunters, farmers, search & rescue, and wilderness explorers

In summary, the Garmin Astro 320 is simply the most capable, reliable, and full-featured dog tracker available for outdoor adventurers. While overkill for the average pet parent, it’s a must-have tool for responsible dog owners who embrace the wild.

If you routinely venture into the backcountry with your faithful companion, accept no substitute. The Astro 320 sets the bar for keeping your best friend safe when it matters most. And for a look at how it compares to Garmin’s other top models, check out our Astro vs Alpha and Astro 430 review.

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