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If you’re shopping for the best hiking watches, your priority should be to filter watches for those that feature robust GPS with an ABC sensor. This ensures that you not only have access to maps and tracking but that you’ll get more detailed information about elevation and weather conditions. Also, think about the OS compatibility — especially if you’re also interested in smart features like music playback or responding to texts and calls. Fitness metrics are important especially if you’re training or want to review how long it took to complete a hike. And of course, battery life is an essential component as this will dictate how long you can go using various functions on your watch before it needs to be recharged.
After thoroughly reviewing countless customer reviews, we nominated the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro as the best hiking watch. Keep reading to learn more about our selection criteria and to see how these watches stack up against the best smartwatch on the market.
Award: TOP PICK
WHY WE LIKE IT: A rugged hiking watch with GPS, a barometric altimeter, and water resistance to depths of 100 meters with a robust array of safety features to keep you safe as you hike even the most aggressive trails.
The Garmin Fenix 6 hiking watch is one of the most popular watches for serious hikers who like to travel the road less taken. This is a watch that’s compatible with both Android and Apple devices. You’ll like that this is a full-color display watch that includes on-screen GPS mapping so that you can accurately track your hike as you go. Along with having a 100-meter water resistance rating, the Fenix 6 also meets military testing standards for thermal and shock resistance. You’ll get access to GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo satellite systems so that you can accurately track in more challenging environments.
Key features like ClimbPro allow you to download courses for real-time information. An acclimation feature not only monitors pulse ox but also checks heart respiration rate to confirm that you’re okay as you go up in elevation. As is common with Garmin smartwatches, you’ll have access to six battery modes giving you a range from as little as 10 hours in GPS + music mode to 48 days in Battery Saver Watch Mode. you’ll get robust safety features that live track, group live track, incident detection, live event sharing, and assistance. And the Garmin Fenix 6 also supports select smart features although options such as text response and phone call rejection are limited to Android users. For iPhone users, our best smartwatch for iPhone buying guide has more options.
Award: HONORABLE MENTION
WHY WE LIKE IT: A music-focused smartwatch that can store up to 500 songs, with a full-color screen and a commendable seven-day battery life that makes this ideal for more traditional indoor or urban fitness buffs.
Garmin watches are incredibly popular for fitness and outdoor enthusiasts alike. If you’re not necessarily in need of a more rugged watch because you get your exercise in a metropolitan environment like a gym or going for a run through the neighborhood, the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music is a great choice. This is a watch that’s designed to help you stay motivated with the ability to store up to 500 songs natively. While it does support the same robust GPS functionality found in Garmin’s more rugged watch models, this is truly designed to be something of a smartwatch for people who want to track their fitness but also want a more hands-free experience while running on a treadmill or in the park.
This is evident by the fact that the battery range is significantly shorter with this watch. While you get up to seven days, there are only three battery modes with the Forerunner 645 and the range is from 14 hours in GPS mode without music to seven days in Smartwatch mode. The watch can pair via Bluetooth to your headphones and can also sync with select streaming devices. Android users also have access to text response and phone call rejection. Also, note that the Forerunner 645 only supports incident detection and live track for safety features. Likewise, it’s only rated water-resistant for up to 50 meters. Still, you’ll get a wide array of fitness metrics and activity mode profiles. For training purposes, compare that to the best fitness smartwatch that also features sleep and fitness tracking, heart monitoring, blood oxygen levels, and ECG sensors.
Award: BEST QUALITY
WHY WE LIKE IT: One of the best outdoor watches with a 100-meter water resistance rating, full-color display that supports display map navigation, and ABC sensors so you can hit the trail with confidence.
If you’re looking for the best outdoor watches, hands down Garmin should be at the top of your list. Their Fenix 3 HR is a precursor to later models but is still packed with features that make it a worthy contender, and our Best Quality pick. This is another altimeter, barometer, and compass (ABC) sensor watch that relies on GPS that incorporates both standard GPS and GLONASS to give you accurate information as you hike. With the Fenix 3, you get a watch that’s water-resistant to 100 meters and features an oversized 51-millimeter watch face.
While you get most of the functionality seen with newer Garmin Fenix models, note that the battery isn’t as robust. The Fenix 3 is limited to three battery modes with a total life that ranges from 40 hours in UltraTrac mode to two weeks in Smartwatch mode. Health monitoring is limited to sleep and safety features include live track only. However, you do get tactical support by way of dual grid coordinates. Activity tracking is standard with steps, calories, floors climbed, intensity minutes, and distance traveled all being monitored. However, you get a wide array of training, planning, and analysis support and there are even golfing modes to help improve your game. If you also enjoying cycling, the best smartwatch for cycling has additional features you may find useful as well.
Award: BEST ON A BUDGET
WHY WE LIKE IT: A budget-friendly traditional digital LCD watch with temperature resistance, water resistance to 100 meters, and sensors that support direction and temperature data relay.
For someone who doesn’t need a smartwatch and just needs a watch that gives them key data as needed, the Casio Men’s SGW-1000-1ACR is a great pick. While it lacks some of the more enhanced functions you see from other brands we’re featuring, this option provides just the essentials. Along with telling the time and date, you’ll get a compass, barometer, and altimeter.
This basic watch is temperature resistant to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. It relies on a triple sensor to provide critical information for temperature and direction readings. You’ll also get water resistance for up to 100 meters. The LCD screen is divided into three segments so you can easily understand the readings and information being presented. And since it’s not a smartwatch, you won’t need to recharge it. The battery is rated for up to three years. Also, note that this is a pretty wide case at 54.7 millimeters. For a smaller case, you may want to consider the best smartwatch for seniors which comes in a 41 and 45-millimeter case size and boasts up to 56 hours of battery life!
Award: BEST FITNESS TRACKING
WHY WE LIKE IT: A GPS watch with map display support with ABC sensors, GPS, select smart functionality, and access to the proprietary Movescount app which supports photo and data sharing.
Suunto is another popular fitness and activity tracking watch brand which is why we’re including them in our guide. The Suunto Ambit3 Peak is a great option that includes ABC sensors with GPS support and a companion proprietary app called Movescount. With Movescount, you can not only track your activity but share key information about your run or hike with others and create movies that include those metrics. You’ll like that this is a GPS watch with map display support.
This watch has a decent battery life at around 30 hours when five-second GPS accuracy is enabled and 200 hours when one-minute accuracy is activated. Through the Movescount app, you can also rely on heatmaps to discover new routes or select training programs that can then be accessed through the watch. You’ll get limited smart support for text and call notifications as well. However, one aspect we found odd — which is common for all Suunto smartwatches — is that while steps, activity, and distance are tracked with data that’s accessible, your heart rate isn’t. It’s the one consistent complaint we found from consumers about this watch. To access heart rate monitoring, you’ll need to purchase a separate heart rate monitor. For the on-the-go medical professional in your life, the best smartwatches for nurses have some incredible features as well.
Award: BEST OVERSIZED CASE
WHY WE LIKE IT: A full-color display rugged watch with a 10 ATM water resistance rating that supports comprehensive GPS tracking over rugged terrain with a large 51-millimeter watch face.
For people that love oversized smartwatches, the Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire is a perfect choice. Even though we nominated it as the best-oversized case, you can opt for smaller sizes since this watch comes in 42-, 47-, and 51-millimeter sizes. The Garmin Fenix 5X features many of the enhanced GPS functionality seen in other models from this brand. The GPS includes GLONASS capability and also relies on full-color TOPO U.S. mapping so you can stay on track while being hands-free. However, the Fenix 5X doesn’t have quite as long battery life as other models from Garmin. You’ll get up to 12 days of battery life with the Smartwatch Mode. So, it’s in the median range as far as battery life goes.
This watch is water-resistant up to 100 meters and features 16 gigabytes of built-in memory. We did note that safety features are limited to live track and group live track but you do have access to the dual grid coordinates tactical feature. Important health metrics include women’s health, sleep, hydration, stress, relaxation, plus resting and active heart rate. Smart features support calendar, notifications, weather, find my phone, and find my watch. Note that text response and music controls are only for Android devices. But as with other Garmin devices, the Fenix 5X has a wide array of preset fitness profiles. If you’re a runner in need of something a bit smaller, we recommend the best smartwatch for running that offers many extensive features as well.
Award: BEST FOR SMALLER WRISTS
WHY WE LIKE IT: A hiking watch for small wrists thanks to the smaller length that includes GPS with ABC sensor, water-resistance for up to 100 meters, and essential metric tracking for steps and calories.
If you have smaller wrists or don’t like the idea of a watch that feels unwieldy on your wrist, the Suunto Traverse is a good option. This is a hiking watch for small wrists that still rivals functionality seen from other models with this brand. While this isn’t a full-color watch, the Traverse relies on GPS and GLONASS satellites for routes and POI for navigation support. You have access to real breadcrumb views that record your route. Like with other Suunto watches, you can rely on Movescount to access new routes, share activity and metrics.
The Traverse is another GPS watch that provides ABC sensors and is water-resistant to 100 meters. The watch face is 50 millimeters wide, making it an oversized face — but with a smaller strap length. The battery life is in the average range from 10 hours in select GPS modes to 14 days in smartwatch mode. You’ll also have access to select smart features including notifications for text and phone calls. Yet, while it offers a decent variety of sport modes and tracks steps, distance, and speed, access to heart rate monitoring requires a separate purchase. If you’re a parent, consider purchasing the best smartwatch for kids which offer you more parental control options than standard smart watches.
Award: BEST FOR ATHLETES
WHY WE LIKE IT: A full-color smartwatch with over 80 sport tracking modes, on-screen map navigation, and a 100-meter water resistance rating makes this great for land and aquatic athletes.
For people who aren’t as obsessed with hitting the trails to get their exercise, the Suunto 9 Baro hiking watch is something to consider. Just like the other Suunto watches we’ve featured, the 9 Baro comes with GPS and ABC sensors. But you’ll also get access to Climb and Loop, two tracking metrics that log how many floors you’ve climbed and runs you’ve skied respectively. The Suunto 9 Baro also relies on heatmaps to help you discover new trails and lets you sync with your watch so you can explore in a hands-free environment.
The Suunto 9 Baro is another 100-meter water-resistant watch. But what we like best is that it supports over 80 different sport tracking modes. This is ideal whether you want to track your latest rugged hike or keep track of your fitness routine in the gym. Key data includes steps, calories, activity, sleep, stress, and recovery, Depending on the mode, your battery life will range from 25 hours in training mode with GPS to 14 days in time mode. But again, heart rate tracking requires a premium upgrade. Selfie lovers will love the best smartwatch with a camera that also features WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity without tethering to a phone.
Award: BEST DURABILITY
WHY WE LIKE IT: A rugged watch meant to brave the elements that supports tactical GPS navigation support, with a screen that can shift into night vision mode for use with goggles, and limited smart functionality.
For people who like the idea of a night hike, then the Garmin Tactix Bravo hiking watch is a good idea. This is the only watch we saw through our research that has a screen mode specifically designed to be compatible with night vision goggles. But more importantly, this has a truly rugged design that’s meant to stand up to whatever you throw at it. Unlike the other watches we featured, this one features a durable nylon strap that’s paired with a stainless steel bezel. As with other Garmin watches, this is another GPS-supported ABC sensor watch that also relies on GLONASS for enhanced tracking in more intense environments. You’ll get an on-screen map display and tactical features like Jumpmaster projected waypoints and even dual-format positioning.
You’ll also get TrakBack, a feature that navigates you back to your starting point — so getting lost is a thing of the past. The battery life is in the standard range for hiking watches. In UltraTrac mode you’ll get up to 50 hours and up to two weeks in Smartwatch mode. The watch is also water-resistant to 100 meters. Simple health monitoring includes sleep with access to hydration and women’s health in the Garmin Connect App. Safety features are limited to live track but as with other Garmin watches the fitness tracking and activity modes are quite robust. Likewise, you’ll get smart functionality with text response and call rejection features limited to Android devices. Another impressive model is the best rugged smartwatch that features the Max Battery GPS Mode and several other features you may find useful on a more difficult hike.
Award: BEST MAP DISPLAYS
WHY WE LIKE IT: A smartwatch with a customizable screen that features detailed full-color maps that rely on GPS and ABC sensors, and a fully customizable display face makes this a great pick for serious hikers.
When you’re exploring unknown trails, you need to know where you’re going and be able to easily get your bearings. The Casio Men’s Pro Trek watch made our list because it has the best map displays that we’ve found from our research. Their full-color maps can be displayed in various formats including terrain and street level. You also get location memory support and the ability to download maps so that you can use them if you’re offline.
This GPS-based watch also relies on ABC sensors for more robust data. You’ll get access to activity apps to give you real-time stats on your activities and the freedom to review that information anywhere. The Casio Pro Trek also doubles as a smartwatch thanks to a built-in music player that supports downloading tracks directly to the watch or connecting with a streaming music app. You’ll like that this watch is also temperature resistant to as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Casio promises up to 24 hours of battery in GPS mode and up to a month in Timepiece mode. Note that this pick has a lower 50-meter water resistance rating. Another option to consider is one of the best hybrid smartwatch that features an on-screen display for more than just fitness metrics.
When you’re hiking in remote areas, a hiking watch with an accurate map is a must-have. To create our guide for the best hiking watches, we focused on the following key features — OS compatibility, fitness metrics, GPS and ABC sensors, functionality, battery life, and design. All of our picks included GPS support with a built-in ABC sensor. However, some brands offered GPS that included resources from multiple platforms such as GLONASS and Galileo while others only supported two or one GPS satellite system.
Likewise, all of our recommendations are compatible with both Android and Apple devices. And with our Best on a Budget pick, the fact that it wasn’t a smartwatch meant that anyone can use it and won’t face limited functionality because of their phone’s OS. All of the watches we included provided fitness tracking for steps, and distance. In some cases, brands treated heart monitoring like a premium feature that required an upgrade, which we found odd.
Most of our recommendations also doubled as smartwatches with some limited smart controls for music, notifications, and even syncing with calendars. Android users had the most robust options with access to text response and call rejection. Battery life is another key component — especially if you’re considering using a hiking watch to hit the trail for extended periods. Most hiking smartwatches offer a range of modes so that you can extend the battery life depending on whether GPS is activated or if you’re solely using it as a timekeeper.
And finally, we did consider the design. Since the idea is you’ll use a hiking watch out on the trail, we prioritized more rugged designs. But we did include an option with a smaller watch strap that’s ideal for smaller wrists. For more great rugged options, we have a guide on the best rugged smartwatch that you can check out.
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