If you’re an outdoor enthusiast who loves getting lost in the wilderness or immersing yourself in a new adventure, a reliable GPS watch is just what you need. Not just any GPS watch, but one that is specifically designed for rugged conditions that the outdoors can throw up. Outdoor watches can be a great safety tool too as the best GPS watches for hiking have a whole range of features that make navigation so much easier. They also have additional features such as a heart rate monitor and pulse oximeter, which allow you to keep track of how your body is reacting to certain conditions.
A good hiking watch provides you with vital information such as air pressure, altitude, location, and the time of sunrise and sunset. The best GPS hiking watches also have inbuilt maps which makes navigation a whole lot simpler. You can also synchronize these watches with your smartphone to add some more features. While watches with GPS are great for navigation they sometimes use up too much of the battery life. However, the best watch brands have been able to work around this issue too by using solar energy to give your watch that extra edge. While we’ve picked out what we think are the best GPS watches for hiking we’ve also added a non-GPS watch for the outdoor enthusiasts who prefer a straightforward outdoor watch.
The next time you’re on one of the best hiking trips in Europe or trekking in the Himalayas, make sure to add a good hiking watch to your hiking gear.
Important Features To Look Out for In A Good Hiking Watch
When investing in a watch for the outdoors, you’re not looking for a device that just tells you the time. What you need is something that also keeps you updated about the external conditions. A good hiking watch will have features to alert you about the weather conditions, including storm alerts, and also provide easy navigation options.
Barometer, Altimeter, Compass
These three features are extremely important when you’re outdoors. While the compass helps you determine your current location, the other two features tell you what to expect from your surroundings.
Any changes in the atmospheric pressure are recorded by a barometer which will in turn alert you about the kind of weather that you should expect. An increase in the pressure indicates good weather whereas a sudden dip in the pressure could indicate a storm. Most of the watches on our list also have a storm alarm feature to alert you when you’re on the trail.
An altimeter on the other hand shows you the altitude, how high you are above sea level. A GPS altimeter gives you precise readings without the need for calibration. It’s easy to locate a place on the map when you know the altitude.
Not all hiking watches have GPS features but the ones that do usually support multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, Galileo, and GLONASS). The great thing about a GPS watch is that you can get coordinates of your current location instantly. You can also import routes in GPX formats to your watch which makes it a great navigation tool. Besides navigation, it can also show you ascent, descent, distance, and current speed. The downside to GPS watches is that they run down the battery.
When you’re out in the wilderness you’ll want a watch that will survive several rugged conditions. One that will not die out on you if you have to wade through water or knock your hand against a rock. While most of the hiking watches have highly durable straps and robust cases some even have Sapphire glass lenses. These lenses are highly resistant to scratches. Almost all hiking watches are constructed to U.S. Military Standards which makes them even more resilient to harsh conditions.
Garmin Instinct, Solar Rugged Outdoor Smartwatch
With an extended battery life powered by solar energy, the Garmin Instinct Solar is one of the best GPS watches for hiking. You can expect to go up to 24 days when indoors in the smartwatch mode. However, with regular exposure to sunlight, the battery will last up to 50 days. To extend the battery life, even more, you can switch to the power-saving mode. When you switch to GPS mode, the battery should go for up to 30 hours.
With the Instinct, you get a wide range of features such as Multi-GNSS Support which allows you to access multiple global navigation satellite systems. These systems (GPS, Galileo, and GLONASS) enable you to stay on track in challenging environments. Apart from this, the Instinct also has a built-in-3-axis compass and barometric altimeter. Constructed to U.S. Military standard 810 for thermal shock and water resistance, it is also water-rated to 100 meters.
The watch lacks some proper mapping features but you can upload GPX routes, storm alerts, and elevation data. It also has a TrackBack feature that helps you get back to your starting location. The best thing about this watch is that it’s extremely comfortable and lightweight.
If this isn’t enough, the watch also helps you track various activities, check your heart rate, and also has a Pulse Ox sensor to estimate how well your body absorbs oxygen. However, this is not a medical device so it should not be used to monitor any pre-existing medical conditions.
- Solar Powered extended battery life
- Water Proof up to 100 meters
- U.S. Military Standard 810 for thermal, shock and water resistance
- Built-in 3-axis compass, barometric altimeter
- Multiple Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo)
- Heart rate monitor and Pulse oximeter
Suunto Ambit 3 Peak
Another great watch that sits high up in the ranks of best GPS watches for hiking is the Suunto Ambit 3 Peak. Although the display is not as sophisticated as the other watches from Suunto, this one is less expensive and quite user-friendly. Featuring GPS, altimeter, barometer, thermometer, and compass, this watch is the full package when it comes to hiking and other sport. You can count on the watch to deliver accurate and stable altitude and weather information. With very competitive battery life, you know you can’t go wrong with the Suunto Ambit 3 Peak.
The GPS reception is excellent on the Ambit 3 because of its high-performance GPS antenna. When synchronized with the Suunto Movescount App, you can customize the watch on the go. You can also view real-time GPS data, calls, and notifications. The first Bluetooth-compatible watch from Suunto allows you to connect it to your Smartphone so you don’t miss any calls or messages when you’re on the go. Besides the Movescount app, there are a few other apps available on the web platform for the watch.
- Heart Rate Monitor
- Compass, Altitude, Weather Information
- Speed, pace, distance, route navigation, backtrack
- GPS accuracy
If you’re looking for a good outdoor watch that will not burn a hole in your pocket, your best bet would be the Amazfit T-Rex. This outdoor sports watch is not only affordable but has a host of features that puts it on par with most of the best GPS watches for hiking.
Waterproof to 5ATM and built to military-grade toughness with 12 Military Certifications, the Amazfit T-Rex also has commendable battery life. With daily use, you should get up to 20 days of battery life but when the GPS is constantly activated, it drops to 20 hours. The watch is heat resistant to 70 degrees celsius and cold resistant to -40 degrees celsius for 90 minutes so you can rest assured your watch will survive the harshest outdoor conditions.
With the custom operating system Amazfit Watch, the phone works well with both iPhones and Android devices. You won’t miss your notifications or messages when you’re out, as the app also allows you to toggle notifications for Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp. As far as the GPS is concerned there’s no mapping built into the watch but it uses a high-end Sony GPS chip for signal efficiency.
- Solid craftsmanship with 12 military-grade certifications
- Ultra-long battery life
- High precision GPS
- 50-meter waterproofing
- 14 exercise modes
Coros is a fairly new player in the adventure watch space. However, its outdoor-centric Vertix delivers the goods. This Coros Vertix GPS Adventure watch has an unparalleled battery life with 45 days of regular use. In full GPS mode, it can go up to 60 hours but in the UltraMax GPS mode, it will easily cut 150 hours. A great thing about the Vertix is that it is extremely lightweight for an outdoor watch, at just 54 grams. The 48mm sized watch comes with a titanium bezel and sapphire glass covering.
The zoom in/out digital knob makes navigation a breeze even with thick climbing gloves on. It’s also a great advantage in the pool as it makes it easy to scroll through your data screens. With a waterproof depth of up to 150 meters, it goes one up on its rivals which generally go to a max of 100 meters. Other than altitude and depth, it also has an accelerometer, compass, barometric altimeter, thermometer, and gyroscope. In addition to all this, the Vertix also includes an optical pulse oximeter which is great for climbing. The oximeter indicates the amount of oxygen being absorbed by your body giving you an indication of how you’re acclimatizing to various altitudes.
Navigation is a breeze with the Vertix as it allows you to import GPX files with various routes and also share GPS files from your phone. Apart from the great outdoor features on this watch, it also works well as a standard sports watch with a heart rate monitor and other apps.
- Unparalleled battery life with up to 60 hours in full GPS mode
- 150-meter waterproof rating
- Blood oxygen monitoring
- Digital Knob for easy operation
- Titanium bezel with Sapphire glass
Suunto 9 Multisport GPS Watch With Baro
Suunto 9 Baro is a close contender for the top spot in the rankings of the best GPS watches for hiking. This multisport watch has been tested to the extreme in the toughest of conditions by the company’s testing team, to ensure that it will safely make it through any outdoor adventure.
It comes with three predefined battery modes that deliver various hours of recording time with GPS tracking on. This ranges from 25hours to 120hours depending on the usage. In most outdoor watches, the GPS heavily drains the batter but not with the Suunto 9. Its FusedTrack algorithm combines GPS and motion sensor data to improve track and distance accuracy. With this feature, you also have the advantage of extending the battery life by lowering GPS power. In addition to this, the watch is also waterproof up to 100 meters and has GPS/GLONASS as well as a wrist-based optical heart rate monitor. You’ll also find an altimeter, barometer, thermometer, and compass.
You can synchronize the watch with the Suunto Movescount App to import GPX routes and maps. The Heatmap feature is especially handy as it shows you popular routes within a given area. Another impressive feature of the Suunto 9 is that has 80 sports modes to help you track whatever physical activity that you’re into. Although the watch has a color touch screen it also has buttons that you can use even when wearing gloves. However, the interface is not all that user-friendly and will take a few days to get used to.
- Three predefined battery modes
- Can extend battery life by lowering GPS power
- Paired with the Suunto app you can track all your adventures and other trends
- Heart Rate Monitor
Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F30
This is Casio’s third attempt at a good outdoor smartwatch and it seems to have finally got things right with the Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30. This slimmed-down version has a better battery life and better GPS features too. That’s why it figures on our list of best GPS watches for hiking. Even though the watch has been trimmed down a bit, it still has the rugged features of an outdoor watch. The smaller size, however, has not compromised its military-grade protection with up to 50 meters of waterproofing.
The WSD-F30 is packed with a wide range of sensors and apps that measure altitude, pressure, direction, and tracks activities. What stands out about this watch is its mapping smarts, making it the best GPS watch for hiking with maps. Two map options, Google Maps and Mapbox, are built into the software which pop up as soon as you press the top button on the watch. Additionally, you can also download up to 50km of maps using your phone.
Casio has tied up with Google to use its WearOS to synchronize the watch with your phone. Via Bluetooth, you can receive all of your notifications. You can also set reminders and notifications to assist with your activities. The buttons make it easy to use access the various tools and functions. However, the touchscreen requires a bit of practice.
- Digital compass, altimeter, barometer
- Activity tracker
- Water-resistant up to 50 meters
- Full-color maps
- Location memory
- Moment setter
The attractive design and advanced features on the Suunto Traverse made it an instant hit with hikers and mountaineers, pushing it way up the list of the best GPS watches for hiking. It’s not a sports watch per se like the Suunto Ambit 3 but is designed for the recreational outdoors people with a step counter and calorie counter.
Like most of the Suunto watches, it connects to the Movescount App to allow you to import GPX routes and points of interest. With this app, you can also receive notifications for incoming calls and texts. For powerful accuracy when navigating it uses both the GPS and GLONASS systems plus FusedAlti technology. This technology graphs your vertical speed, altitude, total ascent, and distance information so that you’re never lost on the mountain. A digital compass and barometric trend information with storm alerts are also handy features to have in the wilderness.
- GPS and GLONASS navigation systems
- Digital compass, barometer, FusedAlti altitude tracker
- Step and calorie counter
- Text, incoming call and push notifications
Suunto Core All Black Military Men’s Outdoor Sports Watch
Although the Suunto Core is a non GPS watch, it features on our list because it is one of the best-hiking watches out there. This is a great watch for the outdoor enthusiasts who prefer a straightforward hiking watch without the GPS feature. The Suunto Core has the three other essential features that make a good hiking watch; a barometer, altimeter, and compass. Added to this are preset sunrise/sunset times for over 400 locations to help you plan your activities.
The Suunto Core also has a weather Trend graph and storm alarm to alert you to changing weather conditions. If a storm is brewing the alarm will go off to warn you. It also automatically switches between the altimeter and barometer mode.
- Altimeter, barometer, and compass
- Preset Sunrise/Sunset times for over 400 locations
- Trend graph and storm alarm
- Available in a variety of designs
Garmin Epix Hiking Watch
Garmin Epix Hiking Watch stands out as the best GPS watch for hiking with maps. It aims to give you the complete mapping solution right on your wrist. This watch comes with built-in maps that allow you to view trails, roads, and even the topography on your wrist. Unlike the other watches from Garmin, this one has a chunky and square face. It’s not uncomfortable on the wrist though.
The pre-loaded maps give you the advantage of finding your way even without a data connection. However, the watch has both GPS and GLONASS which are both super fast and accurate. It also has a built-in compass which is pretty good. The best thing about the maps is that they’re quite user-friendly so you won’t have to break your head too much to find a place. Added to the map features, the watch also has an altimeter, barometer, accelerometer, and thermometer which helps when you want to review what you’ve done.
All Garmin smartwatches use the Connect software so it’s a one-stop-shop for whatever data you need. You can also use it with external sensors such as ANT+ or Bluetooth heart-rate monitors if you want to use it as a sports watch. For all the mapping and data, the battery life on this one is quite commendable too.
- Chroma touchscreen display
- Expanded memory
- Connect IQ App
- Easy and quick access to multiple activities
- Helps you stay connected
- Pre-loaded maps make navigation simpler
Garmin Fenix 6
Garmin has some of the best GPS watches for hiking with some outstanding features that are clearly visible in the Garmin Fenix 6. This watch is designed for harsh conditions with a high-resolution color display. The materials that it is constructed from make it durable and abrasion-resistant. What sets this watch apart from others in the category is that it is elegant enough to be worn to a business meeting. Most hiking watches are quite bulky so they look a little out of place ina formal setting.
Despite its sophisticated design, the Garmin Fenix 6 has all the features that you would look out for in a good hiking watch. It has a 3-axis compass, thermometer, barometer, and altimeter. While the compass and altimeter are calibrated automatically, you can also connect the watch to an external temperature sensor for readings that are spot on. It’s easy to navigate the outdoors with preloaded ski maps and topo maps. The multiple global navigation satellite system is also an added bonus. Plus you can import routes and points of interest to get directions from the Connect app or third-party apps like Strava.
The training features on this watch are also pretty good with an enhanced wrist heart rate monitor and pulse oximeter. Other training features include PacePro for grade adjusted pace guidance and environmentally adjusted VO2 max.
- Rugged sophisticated design
- Enhanced wrist heart rate and Pulse O
- Performance data
- Built-in 3-axis compass, gyroscope, barometric altimeter
- Supports multiple global navigation satellite systems
- Good battery performance with up to 36 hours in GPS mode
Coros PACE Multisport GPS Watch with Heart Rate Monitor
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly hiking watch, the Coros PACE Multisport GPS Watch is a good option. Although more popularly used as a sports watch, the Coros PACE has a host of handy features that make it great for hiking too. For one thing, it is is not bulky so you can comfortably wear it for long periods. The information on the screen is also organized from top to bottom which makes it easy to search for stats.
Getting used to the various buttons may take a while but the watch is quite user-friendly. The Coros app is also intuitive and easy to use. It also syncs well with third-party apps such as Strava. Other features that make this a great outdoor watch are the accelerometer, the barometric altimeter, and the internal compass and gyroscope. The battery life on this model is great too with impressive 25-hour battery life in the GPS mode. In the standard mode, the battery lasts up to 30 days. What keeps the Pace from being at the top of the pick for best-hiking watches is the lack of navigation information, unlike the Vertix.
- Packed with 13 workout modes to track various activities
- Optical heart rate monitor
- Good battery life with 25 hours in full GPS mode
- Built-in altimeter, barometer, and compass
- GPS and distance tracking via GPS, GLONASS or BDS satellites
Polar Grit X
Another great GPS watch for hiking that won’t burn too much of a hole in your wallet is the Polar Grit X. Despite being the first outdoor watch from Polar, this watch packs in quite a few great features. From a long-lasting battery that can last up to 40 hours with full GPS tracking to some great endurance and recovery features, the watch is definitely one that you should consider. It also has military-level-durability with standard 810G.
Polar Grit X is big on navigation with a tie-in navigation app Komoot. However, to be able to get the maximum from this app you’ll require a paid-for account. You can be sure you won’t stray from the track with the real-time-turn-by-turn route guidance. The Hillsplitter is another interesting feature that lets you know if you’re wasting time on the slopes by tracking your ascents and descents. The watch also provides you with smart fuelling recommendations to stay energized with the FuelWise fueling assistant, hill tracking, and route planning and guidance.
- Military-Level Durability
- Ultra-long battery life
- Extremely lightweight
- Real-time-turn-by-turn route guidance and route import
- Automatically detects uphill and downhill stats
Garmin Fenix 6S Pro Solar
Garmin upgraded its Fenix 6 series to include the Fenix 6 Pro Series and Fenix 6S Pro Solar with more updated versions. The solar-powered Fenix watch is much bigger than the previous models so if you’re not comfortable wearing a big watch, this one may not cut it for you. That being said, it still stands out one of the best GPS watches for hiking with preloaded TOPO maps and multiple global navigation satellite systems.
What sets this apart from the regular Fenix 6 series is the under-glass solar panel that allows the phone to be charged by the sun thus increasing battery life. The battery has always been great on the Fenix 6 series but with this extrasolar juice, you’ll get at least 46 days in expedition mode. It also has a bouldering activity profile and surfing activity profile which is an addition from the previous series. There’s also a whole lot of new software features with this one and a host of sensors. Another feature that is different on the 6X Pro Solar is that it uses titanium and bezel instead of the steel case.
Like its predecessor, this watch also comes packed with preloaded activity profiles for swimming, trail running, biking, hiking, and whatever else you can think of. Before you get overwhelmed with all these features you can customize what you need using the smartphone app. The performance metrics that are displayed on this one after a good workout are quite phenomenal.
- Solar-powered for extended battery life
- Advanced training features
- Preloaded TOPO maps and ski maps
- Multiple global navigation satellite systems
- Support for Garmin Pay contactless payments
- Music storage with premium streaming service