For me, the flowing grasslands and dominating skies of the prairies are the perfect environments for big-running bird dogs. Often, quality bird habitats can be found in the most remote location, where long-range visual cues and a remote transmitter are the best way to communicate with your bird dog. This is where the best attributes of the Garmin Alpha 200i paired with a Garmin TT15X dog collar come into play and why I was excited to get it into the field.
So did it live up to my expectations?
In short: Aside from the price barrier, the Garmin Alpha 200i unit combined with a GPS tracking collar is an essential system for the upland hunter running bird dogs.
Garmin Alpha 200i
- Dimensions 2.7" x 6.4" x 1.3”
- Weight 9.9 oz.
- Resolution 282 x 470 pixels
- Battery Life Up to 20 hours
- Memory 16 GB
- Field Capable for multiple hunting dog applications
- Long Battery life
- Connects with other Garmin Products/Software
- Low Screen Resolution
- High Price
The Garmin Alpha 200i Review
The Garmin Alpha 200i handheld unit is priced at $749.99 and is eligible for the additional inReach satellite subscription plan. While the unit ranges at the higher end of Garmin’s handheld devices, its capabilities are exceptional. With a weight of 9.9 ounces, a responsive touchscreen, waterproof casing, and a high-speed software interface — this is an impressive piece of technology.
The Alpha 200i comes equipped with 16GB of memory and a battery life of 20 hours — 15 hours if you have the inReach technology enabled. There are three training/action buttons on the front of the unit and three buttons on the right side to cycle through various menus. Further down the right side is the inReach SOS button with a protective cover.
Each button, including the power button on the left side of the unit, is easily usable with or without gloves. For storage, I always choose to remove the antenna. Fortunately, the black and orange color makes the 200i easily identifiable if you drop it — make sure you properly mount and carry the unit. I use a lanyard and a shoulder clasp, two points of contact.
An Intuitive Garmin Ecosystem
Like many products in the Garmin lineup, the Alpha 200i pairs well with other Garmin devices. For my personal use, I run the Garmin TT15x Dog Collar to track my dogs. However, when I am hunting with a partner, I have them use the Garmin Alpha 10. The Alpha 10 allows them to simultaneously track my dogs and me. This experience is a great way to introduce friends into the Garmin ecosystem, but also a way to let them take a more active part of each hunt. Additionally, there is an assortment of watches, in-car units, and other devices that can communicate with the Alpha 200i.
Dog Tracking and Mapping Features Are Key
I mainly use the 200i/TT15x combo for its tracking and compass features when hunting. The 3.5-inch screen makes finding my dogs in the field or on point simple. While I keep the GPS collar refresh rate at 2.5 seconds, you can set the rate up to 2 minutes to accommodate different hunting scenarios. If needed, the 200i can track up to 20 dogs at distances of almost 9 miles. However, I enjoy the ease of changing between which dog collars to track — a great feature when running multiple dogs throughout the day.
The mapping features on the Alpha 200i are superb. You can download the BirdsEye Satellite Imagery or TopoActive maps and display them on the unit when navigating new areas. A seasoned chukar hunter, Everette ‘UB’ Giberson, says it best: “I love the 200i because it makes me feel completely prepared on my hunts. Chukar hunting ventures you to some of the most desolate places — having maps preloaded, inReach capabilities, and total control over my dogs give me full confidence I can go anywhere with my Setters.”
With very few glitches, the Garmin Alpha 200i paired with a GPS collar is an incredible resource when running dogs off the grid.
Offseason Training With the Alpha 200i
I have taken this Garmin combo across Montana, Canada, and all over the Great Plains. In each location, I was able to track multiple dogs at once as we chased various species of upland birds. With the enhanced mapping features and dog metrics, you can adequately pace your dog’s power over an extended trip. Additionally, the inReach capabilities provide an extra layer of safety throughout the hunt. The 200i is packed with plenty of features to suit your needs, and perhaps even a few you may not use. While I am primarily a prairie hunter, the Garmin 200i unit is ideal for the chukar mountains of the west, the grouse-filled Northwoods, or the bobwhite Piney Woods of the south. Put simply, the Garmin 200i will improve the experience of navigating birdy covers with your dog.
Throughout the offseason, I used the 200i to train my Lab. The six-button design allows me to switch through training cues and corrections effortlessly. When running long marks, the hunt metrics let me keep an eye on distance on hot summer days. Many pointing dog trainers prefer a neck and flank collar — so the ability to instantly switch stimulation types between two collars is an excellent feature.
The 200i also has multiple levels of stimulation, including vibrate and tone options to enhance your training sessions. I think the Alpha 200i could assist most dog handlers with basic to complex training scenarios for retrievers and pointing dogs.
The Safety and Security of Inreach
While you may be familiar with Garmin’s inReach technology, the addition of this technology into the 200i is vital when hunting. Whether you are hunting a preserve or through an expansive wilderness — the one-touch SOS button can be a lifesaver. Throughout my travels, I would regularly text my partner from my 200i before and after each hunt. While I did not use the location-sharing feature, I think this is also a great resource to allow others to track your position. Although I am sure there are areas where the inReach does not function properly, I have been unable to find one.
Regarding drawbacks, the screen resolution lacks the pixels of many cell phones. Additionally, it is one of the bigger dog handler units on the market. However, the functionality of the Garmin 200i makes it a premium tool for bird-dog owners.
Obviously, the price is a barrier for anyone who might not be serious about taking their dogs in the field. It certainly isn’t a wallet-friendly purchase.
To me, there is a particular beauty to watching bird dogs roll across an expansive prairie. I imagine the chukar, grouse, and bobwhite hunters share a similar feeling. The passion we have for the uplands is adequately matched by the performance and tracking capabilities of the Garmin Alpha 200i. Still, should an emergency arise, the inReach features are only a button push away.
The functionality of the Alpha 200i combined with the TT15X collar truly enhances the bird dog experience. At first glance, this may seem best suited for a pointing dog, but the 200i is also great for the retriever folks and city dogs. Ultimately, you can never fully prepare for all the dangerous variables you may encounter while hunting, but I believe the Garmin Alpha 200i accounts for many of them. It is certainly worth considering adding the Alpha 200i and TT15X collar to your bird dog loadout.