Garmin Alpha 10 Review: A Reliable Dog Tracking and Training Handheld
Garmin’s new five-ounce handheld allows you to track and train up to 20 dogs, locate and communicate with other hunters in the field, and much more
Over the course of the twenty-five years I’ve spent competing in hound hunting events, I’ve seen a remarkable change in dog tracking and training technology — with many of these advances driven by Garmin products. The new Garmin Alpha 10 offers all the features most hunting dog owners need in a lightweight, simple-to-use, and surprisingly affordable package.
The new handheld measures just 2.6-inches tall without the antenna, and weighs less than six ounces. In addition to tracking and training capabilities, the Garmin Alpha 10 allows you to communicate with your hunting partners, track their position, find your truck, and much more. In addition, this handheld unit connects wirelessly to a smart phone and allows you to track and map your hunt via the Garmin Explore app, so you can mark locations where game was jumped, pointed, or treed, and identify areas you haven’t yet hunted.
Garmin Alpha 10 Overview
Garmin’s lineup of GPS-equipped products is expansive, including everything from GPS watches to marine and aircraft navigation equipment. Garmin’s product lines also effectively communicate with one another, which means if you already own a Garmin 200i handheld tracking device, you can connect that unit to the new Alpha 10. Having both units paired means you can hand off the Alpha 10 to a friend and instantly locate them and send selected messages. When your hunting partner has the connected Alpha 10 in hand, they can track your dogs. There’s even an option to allow connected devices to access the train feature, meaning your hunting buddy can correct your dog.
While the Garmin Alpha 10 doesn’t offer all the advanced mapping technology built into the Alpha 200i series, it does provide quick access to the most important features. Pressing the button on the right side of the Alpha 10 brings up a menu that includes Start Hunt, Mark Truck, Add Device, and Setup. A new joystick control allows you to quickly respond with the Alpha’s easy-to-use interface. Moving the joystick up, down, left, or right allows you to toggle through settings much more quickly and efficiently than traditional buttons, and pressing down on the joystick allows you to select an option. That makes the Alpha 10 the simplest handheld controller to operate.
Having the capability to pair the Alpha 10 with other Garmin devices also prevents losing the handheld controller. It’s very easy to drop a handheld in CRP cover or while crossing an agricultural field, and if you do so without having the controller paired, your odds of finding the handheld are slim. If your handheld is paired with another device such as a Garmin 200i your partner can locate your lost handheld, your dogs, and your pickup. The Alpha 10 also connects with other Garmin products including Instinct, Fenix, and Tactix smart watches via a dog tracking widget and Garmin’s DriveTrack, Tread, and Montana 700 units.
Whether you run retrievers, bird dogs, beagles, squirrel dogs, or hounds, the lightweight Alpha 10 offers the features you need to train and track up to 20 dogs simultaneously. Tracking range is up to nine miles, and the customizable training settings allow you to select and tone and vibration settings as well as 18 levels of momentary or continuous stimulation on your training collar. Refresh rate is a very fast 2.5 seconds.
MSRP for the Alpha 10 is $399.99.
Testing the Alpha 10 in the Field
All the latest and greatest technology is pretty useless if it doesn’t actually perform in the field. So I’ve been putting my unit through the paces all summer while training my beagles.
Last month a high-pressure system settled over my area of the Midwest, resulting in daytime temperatures in the mid-90s with high humidity. The most effective way to train and condition dogs was to do so late at night or during the early morning hours. That extended period of warm weather and ample moisture resulted in rapid growth of agricultural crops, and most of the cottontails my beagles were pursuing were hiding in corn and soybean fields.
It was one o’clock in the morning and I hadn’t heard my young dog Rosie for more than an hour. She’d crossed a bean field, struck a cottontail on the far edge, and pursued the rabbit down a narrow creek and into the adjacent cornfield. I was standing under a grove of hickory trees a half-mile away watching the progress of the chase on my Alpha 10. I share this anecdote to illustrate the trust I have in this unit — the Alpha 10 has earned that trust with unfailing performance.
For most of the year, I wear a lightweight Nite Lite Summer Hunting Vest while training or running dogs, and the Garmin Alpha 10 can be placed in a pocket or attached to D-rings on the vest via the included carabiner so it’s easy to access and doesn’t add a lot of bulk. The Alpha unit allows me to instantly track my dogs equipped with GPS collars, but it also allows me to find the truck, which can be challenging when you’ve covered several miles in total darkness (and don’t want to add extra miles taking wrong turns looking for your vehicle). The unit is light and intuitive, and with a 40-hour battery life per 4-hour charge, I don’t have to worry that my unit is suddenly going to go dead. The standby setting allows you to preserve battery when tracking isn’t required, and with an IPX7 rating you don’t have to worry about moisture damaging your handheld.
I especially like the Alpha 10’s easy-to-operate interface. The joystick design is more intuitive than most anything else currently on the market, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the design become the new standard among handheld track-and-train controllers. The features I needed were instantly available, and if I chose to use the maps I could do so within the Garmin Explore app. I find mapping particularly useful when running hounds because it offers a more complete picture of where game animals are spending their time and the habitats they are utilizing, but any hunter can benefit from a detailed history of his hunting dog’s movements. And with Garmin’s sophisticated mapping technology, I can access satellite and topographical maps and gather more data on the game I’m pursuing.
If all you really want is a light, compact, easy-to-use tracking and training system that makes the basic features simple to access, then the Alpha 10 is the ideal option – especially since you have the option to explore more advanced features this unit offers in the future. That’s the beauty of the Garmin Alpha 10 system: it’s lightweight and simple to operate, yet it offers access to Garmin’s vast satellite mapping and communications technology. And it does so at a very good price point.
What the Alpha 10 Does Best
The Garmin Alpha 10 is an ideal add-on if you already have a dog tracking system. Hand off the Alpha unit to your hunting partner (which improves safety and efficiency). You can both track your dogs instantly, and the Garmin Alpha 10’s interface is easy enough for beginners to learn to operate in minutes. The Alpha 10 also makes a suitable standalone track/train unit, too. No, it doesn’t offer all the features found on the Garmin Alpha 200i handheld, but if you don’t need that advanced mapping technology on your track/train unit you’ll be well-served by the Alpha 10.
What the Alpha 10 Does Worst
The Garmin Alpha 10’s joystick is easy to use, but there is a learning curve and it’s easy to swipe too far if you’ve got oversized fingers. I do wish the power button was easier to see, and some of the smaller icons like battery life and signal strength can be hard to see for those with less-than-perfect vision.
Whether you purchase the Garmin Alpha 10 as an add-on or a stand-alone unit, you’ll be pleased with its performance. It’s an easy and user-friendly way to track and train dogs, map hunts, find your hunting partners or your truck, and more. Because it’s a Garmin product, it communicates with a long list of other products: everything from your existing Alpha unit to your Instinct watch. The new Garmin Alpha 10 offers astounding versatility coupled with a lightweight, easy-to-use handheld design that works for any hunter and any dog.