After the Garmin Connect outage in July 2020, I started looking into alternative options for syncing podcasts to my Garmin Fenix without using Garmin Express. Since I have a Mac, macOS does not natively support MTP to access the filesystem of the Garmin smartwatch. You can use the Android File Transfer application, but I have not been impressed with the functionality of that application.

This tutorial should also work for the following Garmin devices, which use MTP for accessing the filesystem:

  • Forerunner 945 and 645
  • Fenix 6 Series
  • Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Series
  • Garmin MARQ series, and
  • Vivoactive 4 series.

In may case, I have a Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, and I’ve implemented this using Xubuntu 20.04.

Also, you can easily use this method for syncing music, not just podcasts. But because podcasts need to be synced more frequently with an up-to-date playlist, this may be more applicable to podcasts.


  • gPodder for downloading the most recent podcast episodes
  • Mutagen for tagging the downloaded MP3 with a title
  • glib which bundles gio providing to the file system of the smartwatch via MTP
    • Under Ubuntu, glib should come pre-installed for Gnome-based flavors. There is klib for KDE-based flavors.
    • Under Mac, you can install glib using homebrew.
  • rsync for identifying which podcasts to transfer or remove from the smartwatch

Step 1. Install and configure gPodder

On Ubuntu, you can install gPodder with:

sudo apt install gpodder

Also, install Mutagen to enable id3 tagging post-download:

sudo apt install python3-mutage

Configure gPodder to manage your podcast subscriptions. For example, add a podcast using the subscribe command (or do this with the GUI):

gpo subscribe

Enable two post-download extensions that enable the downloaded files to be suitable for syncing to the Garmin Fenix.

  • Rename episodes after download
  • Tag downloaded files using Mutagen
gpo extension enable rename_download
gpo extension enable tagging

In my case, I also edited the module in gPodder to tweak how the episode titles are “sanitized.” These next few steps related to are optional.

Open the module:

sudo vi /usr/lib/python3/dist-packages/gpodder/

In the function sanitize_filename, replace the line that sets the filename with this:

    # custom sanitize expression
    filename = re.sub(r"[\"“”.*/:<>?\\|]", "", filename)

If you have multiple podcast subscriptions, create a folder where we can stage the podcasts for syncing. We will be hardlinking the podcasts to this common folder, so it shouldn’t use any more storage space.

For example, I created a Podcasts folder in my home directory:

mkdir ~/Podcasts

Step 2. Access the Garmin Fenix with GIO

Under system settings on the watch (Settings->System-USB Mode), set the device to use MTP mode. Next, connect your Garmin smartwatch to your computer via the USB charging cable. You can verify that the Garmin smartwatch is detected with the lsusb command:

lsusb | grep Garmin
Bus 001 Device 043: ID 091e:4b54 Garmin International

Now, with the Garmin smartwatch plugged in, we can mount it:

gio mount -li | grep mtp | awk -F= '{print $2}' | xargs -I {} gio mount {}

You can also mount the smartwatch using your desktop environment. In my case, Thunar displays the smartwatch as a phone icon. Thunar still uses GIO to access the smartwatch. Regardless of which method you use, the smartwatch will be mounted in the same location as described below.

GIO will mount the smartwatch’s filesystem to a directory that begins with mtp under /run/user/$UID/gvfs/. For example, my Garmin Fenix mounts to this directory:


Some observations about GIO:

  • I have noticed that the gio copy and remove commands fail without being run locally from within the mtp directory.
  • GIO does provide a list command, but I have not had any trouble with ls.
  • The linux commands cp and rm as well as rsync will fail to copy or remove files from the filesystem of the smartwatch.

The directory structure of the watch is as follows:

  • Primary
    • Audiobooks
    • GARMIN
    • Music
    • Podcasts

I’ve noticed that Garmin Express will load most of my podcasts in Music. It does not really matter if you store the podcasts in either the Music or Podcasts directory. This tutorial will assume that the Podcasts directory will be used for storing podcasts.

Step 3. Sync the Podcasts

Set some variables:

MTP_DIR=/run/user/$UID/gvfs/mtp:host=<your smartwatch id>

Download any new episodes:

gpo update
gpo download

Sync the gPodder subscription download folders to the staging folder (e.g., ~/Podcasts):

find ${DOWNLOADS_DIR} -mindepth 1 -type d -print0 |  xargs --null -I {} rsync -av --exclude="folder.jpg" --link-dest={}/ {}/ $PODCAST_DIR

Remove any podcasts older than 2 weeks:

find ~/Podcasts -type f -mtime +14 -name '*mp3' -print0 | xargs -r0 rm -v --

Adjust the -mtime option to keep podcasts for a longer or shorter time.

Create the playlist file used on the Garmin smartwatch:

ls -t *mp3 | sed 's/^/Podcasts\//' > ${PLAYLIST}

Sync the podcasts and playlist file to the Garmin smartwatch:

options="-n --omit-dir-times --no-perms --recursive --inplace --size-only"
rsync ${options} --out-format="%n" --exclude=".*" ${src} ${dest} > ${sync_files}
cat ${sync_files}
xargs -a ${sync_files} -d '\n' -I {} gio copy -p {} ${MTP_DIR}/Primary/Podcasts/.

Remove old podcasts from the Garmin smartwatch:

options_delete="-n  --omit-dir-times --no-perms --recursive --inplace --size-only --delete"
rsync ${options_delete} --out-format="%n" --exclude=".*" ${src} ${dest} | grep deleting | sed 's/deleting //' > ${delete_files}
cat ${delete_files}
xargs -a ${delete_files} -d '\n' -I {} gio remove ${MTP_DIR}/Primary/Podcasts/{}