First Look: Garmin Instinct 2X Solar Tactical

The new Garmin Instinct 2X Solar Tactical has features for hunters and long-range shooters. Tanner Denton

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As a kid I wanted nothing more than one of the giant Swiss Army Knives with tons of gadgets. They were bulky monstrosities with a mix of useful and useless tools, but they were undeniably cool. The grown-up version of that is a smartwatch like the new Instinct 2X Solar Tactical, which tells time, has a built-in flashlight, is solar powered, can help you ring steel at a grand, and performs about 100 other functions.I’ve been wearing the just-released Instinct 2X Solar Tactical for 10 days, and unlike the Swiss Army Knife of my childhood dreams, I’ve been finding it convenient and highly functional. Here’s a first look at what the watch can do and my initial impressions of its features.

Garmin Instinct 2X Solar Tactical Specs and Key Features



Case Size: 50 mm

Solar charging

Fits wrists with a circumference of 145-228 mm

Weight: 2.36 ounces

Battery Life: 40+ days

Sunrise and sunset times



GPS navigation



Weather forecast display (when connected to app)

Find my watch


Stealth mode

Dual grid coordinates

(Too many features to list them all)

Battery Life and Solar

How long does the battery last on an Instinct 2X Solar Tactical? It depends. If you’re just using the smartwatch function it will last 40 days and much longer if you’re spending a lot of time in direct sun thanks to the solar charging. If you’re running the GPS constantly, you can expect 60 hours of battery life, and you can double that battery life if you’re in the sun. You can also use the expedition GPS mode to navigate with your watch and extend battery life to 60 days.


If you tap the CTRL button twice, a beam of light shoots out from the 12 o’clock position. The Fenix line has this feature, but this is the first time it has been in an Instinct.


The Instinct 2X has several ways you can use its GPS and GLONASS capabilities.

The Instinct 2X offers point A to B navigation. You’ll see an arrow that indicates your direction, a line that indicates your heading, and the distance you have left to reach your destination. Any saved or programmed waypoints are also visible on the watch face. 

You can save a waypoint, name it, and then navigate to it later. For example, you can save your parking location and then set a course back to it at the end of your hunt. The watch navigates to saved locations. 

With Sight N’ Go you can point your watch in a direction and it will keep you on that heading. 

You can input coordinates and navigate to that location.

You can pair the watch with a handheld and use it as a quick reference as you navigate a route.

You can save a trail in the watch and then use the watch to navigate the same course.

Applied Ballistics

The Instinct 2X displays firing solutions. Garmin

If you’re a hunter or long-range shooter, you can get your firing solutions right on your watch with the Instinct 2X Tactical and Garmin AB Synapse app. It costs $100 for the Ultralight features and $300 for Elite.

Health Insight

A look at the sleep breakdown. Scott Einsmann

The Instinct 2X’s sleep score function. Scott Einsmann

The Instinct 2X watches have a ton of features for workouts and monitoring vital signs. Here’s a look at some of them.

The Instinct 2X monitors your heart rate, displays it in real time, and uses your heart rate data to inform other health insights like Body Battery and Recovery Time.

Sleep score and sleep monitoring. You can see how long you’ve slept and how much recovery the sleep provided.

The Body Battery gives you a metric based on heart rate, stress, sleep and other data to gauge when you’re ready to be active or when you may need to rest.

For altitude acclimation or sleep monitoring, a Pulse Ox sensor uses light beams at your wrist to estimate how well your body is absorbing oxygen.

Everyday Functionality

You can use your Instinct 2X to pay for items at the store and view your calendar. You can also receive emails, texts, and app notifications.

Tactical Features

If you’re running nods, jumping out of planes, or need to wipe your GPS data, the Instinct 2X Tactical has you covered. It has a night vision mode, which drops the brightness so you can read your watch through nods. With Stealth Mode on your watch stops sharing GPS info and disables wireless connectivity. Jumpmaster has HAHO and HALO modes for calculating release points. The Kill Switch deletes all user data from the watch.

Testing the Instinct 2X Solar Tactical in the Field

The author tested the new Garmin smartwatch during the OL gun test. Tanner Denton

My everyday watch is a Sangin Neptune, which has a rotating dive bezel, automatic movement, and displays the date. I thought those three functions were all I needed until I strapped the Instinct 2X Solar Tactical to my wrist.

I started using some of the basic functions like the flashlight, which admittedly, I initially thought was a gimmicky feature. But, I use the hands-free light all the time now. On a pitch-dark night, I compared the Instinct 2X to my iPhone’s flashlight and the watch was significantly brighter with more throw and spill. It’s been a surprisingly useful feature to have on my wrist whether I’m using it for every day tasks or while getting ready for a turkey hunt in the morning. 

Scott Einsmann

The Track Me function has been useful for turkey hunting as I chase gobblers over a couple ridges and then need to find my way back to where I started. I’ve also used the Sight N’ Go to make my way to roost sites and the Saved Locations to make it back to where I parked. The simple navigation screen is all I needed for those applications, but for advanced route planning, you’d want to use a handheld GPS or phone in conjunction with the watch. 

Bremont Supermarine S500 (left), Garmin Instinct 2X Solar Tactical (center), and Sangin Neptune (right). Scott Einsmann

I’ve been enjoying the added functionality of a smartwatch and the Instinct 2X Tactical’s feature set. Seeing heart rate, the sunrise/sunset time, and current weather with just a turn of the wrist is convenient. Even in the bright, desert sun, I had no issues reading the watch. Packing all that info onto a watch face means you need a big display. The 50mm case dwarfs my 40mm Neptune, but it wears much smaller because it’s so light on the wrist.

The large case also means it can gather a lot of sunlight for solar charging. I received the watch right at the start of the 2023 Outdoor Life gun test at Gunsite in Paulden, Arizona. The watch came with some charge and the battery indicator read 12 days. I never plugged in the watch and was amazed to see the battery life increase by several days as I wore it outside all day in the sun. I can see why Garmin claims unlimited battery life. Of course if you start using the GPS, the battery life goes down hill very quickly.

What the Instinct 2X Does Best

If you’re looking for a tool watch that has all the smartwatch capabilities you need and added features for shooting and hunting, then the Instinct 2X Tactical is worth a look. I’ve found it easy to wear and that it has the right mix of features without being overly complicated.

Where the Instinct 2X Can Improve

Garmin watches use a proprietary charger that charges watches quickly, but I wish they used something more standard like a USB-C. If you lose or forget your charging cable, you can’t just pick up a Garmin cable anywhere.

Another con for some people is that while you can get text and call notifications from an iPhone, you can’t respond to texts or reject calls from your watch — that’s an Android only feature. 

To use one of the flagship features, Applied Ballistics, you have to pay an extra $100 (Ultralight) or $300 (Elite). While I haven’t yet tested this feature to see if it’s worth those prices, it does seem pretty steep. Especially considering you can get the Applied Ballistics app for $30. 

Final Thoughts

I’ve only had the Instinct 2X for 10 days, but so far I’ve enjoyed using it as a watch, flashlight, and for navigation. Once I’ve throughly tested all of it’s functions I’ll update this story with a full, in-depth review.

The post First Look: Garmin Instinct 2X Solar Tactical appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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