Advances in modern technology mean that hiking watches have come a long way since the days when they could simply tell you the time and resist a splash of water.
Not only are they now built to endure the harshest of environments but they’re packed with heaps of extra features too. The most common features that you’ll see are altimeters that measure elevation, barometers that monitor changes in air pressure (which can help to predict short-term weather changes), and compasses to keep you on track.
You’ll also find that lots of the higher-end hiking watches have various ways of tracking your fitness, ranging from a heart rate monitor to race predictors. Plus, if you like to explore routes that take you off the beaten track, you’ll love that many hiking watches now come equipped with some kind of navigation system. And, if you’re really tech-savvy, you can even sync some watches to your smartphone, so you can receive updates on the go.
Although hiking watches aren’t always easy on the wallet, their vast array of quirks and perks means that you’ll end up using your watch for more than just hiking. Many double up (or even triple up) as fantastic watches for running, swimming, and even casual day-to-day wear, making the investment much more worthwhile.
However, with such a range of models out there, deciding which one is right for you can be a little tricky. To help you decide, we’ve put together a list of the best hiking watches currently on the market, and picked out some key things to bear in mind when you’re shopping around.
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Best Without GPS
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Best Of The Best
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The first watch to make it onto our hitlist is the Garmin Instinct. We were pleasantly surprised to find that although this watch exhibits some high-end features, it doesn’t come with a ridiculous price tag.
Granted, the Garmin Instinct isn’t super cheap either, but it does come with everything you need, and more, for hiking adventures. As well as being able to track your elevation and measure air pressure, it also supports three navigation systems – GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo – so you can explore the unknown with confidence, and we love the trackback feature that sends you back to your start point no matter how far you’ve strayed.
And if you’re a planner then you’re in luck, the Garmin website even gives you the option to plan your routes in advance.
With a battery life that will last you longer than your legs will carry you, water resistance up to 100, and chemically strengthened glass, this watch makes a great companion for your outdoor adventures. Plus, you can keep in touch with the real world while you’re on the go, thanks to the optional smart notifications, and it even has a heart rate monitor.
Our only complaint with this watch is the feel of the silicone strap, which can get a little sweaty. However this really is a small complaint, and, if you want a watch that won’t let you down, covers all the basics and then some, yet is surprisingly affordable, then we’d certainly recommend the Garmin Instinct – oh, and it comes in a cool range of colors too.
The Casio Pathfinder Hiking Watch is a great choice if you’re looking for a hiking watch without GPS. Leaving GPS behind gives you a much longer battery life and a lower price too.
The Pathfinder gives you pretty much everything you’ll need for hiking, except GPS. It includes an altimeter, barometer, compass, and a thermometer as well. It’s also been designed to work at low temperatures and operates down to 14F or -10C.
The face of the watch is a solar cell and will ensure this watch never runs out of battery, as long as it sees sunlight, which won’t be hard while hiking. In the dark, it’ll manage up to 6 months of battery life from a full charge.
As well as hiking features, it also comes with normal extras like world time, backlight, alarms, stopwatch, calendar, and more. It’s very easy to switch between all the features using the labeled buttons too.
Overall a great option for a hiking watch without a GPS.
Note: if you want to know about the difference between the Pathfinder and Protrek series keep readding.
The Suunto Ambit 3 has to be one of the sleekest hiking watches on the market, but that’s not the only reason we love it so much.
Fully equipped with an altimeter, barometer, compass, and more, it has enough features for most. Plus, you can sync it to your phone and view calls and other notifications on the watch screen itself.
It also has an impressive battery life, and it monitors not only your heart rate (even when swimming if using the Suunto Smart Sensor) but also your activity-based recovery time, making this watch a top choice for anyone that’s into cross-fit activities. But don’t worry if monitoring heart rates isn’t your thing, this is an optional feature and you can opt for a model with or without it.
Although this watch doesn’t support GLONASS or Galileo, it does have an excellent GPS signal, although this comes at the price of having to put up with an external antenna.
However, the thing that really sets the Suunto Ambit 3 apart from other watches of its nature is its ability to produce movies of your activities. Yes… you did read that right. By pairing your smartphone with your watch and taking snaps on the go, you can put together a clip of your adventures. The photos speak for themselves, and the watch incorporates speed, distance, and other data.
The free Sunnto Movescount App then puts it all together and creates a movie of your activity, with a 3D map, key metrics, and more incorporated – pretty neat huh?
Tip: The Suunto Core is another option worth considering in this range.
If you want something that’s just as well-suited to life on the trail as it is around town, then the Casio Pro Trek should be right up your street.
At first glance, you might not realize just how sturdy this watch is – but don’t let that fool you. With a band made of titanium and water-resistant to 200m, this watch can certainly withstand some bad weather. And for anyone that spends a lot of time on the water, you’ll love that this watch provides tide and moon data too.
This watch has the basics covered – a compass, altimeter, thermometer, and barometer, as well as a standard alarm and stopwatch. It might not come with all the frills, such as the ability to monitor your heart rate and GPS, but the lack of modern touches saves a considerable amount of battery life – up to five months when fully charged! Plus, if you do happen to be out and about when your watch packs in on you, the battery is solar rechargeable, phew.
If you’re after a watch that’s suitable for everyday use but can also keep you on track in the wilderness and up-to-date with the tides, then this is the watch for you.
Garmin is a reputable brand in the world of outdoor watches, so it’s not surprising that another of their watches has made its way into our list of favorites. The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is a high-tech watch that’s essentially a smartwatch been designed with hiking, and other sports, in mind.
Unlike some of their cheaper models (such as the Garmin Instinct), the Garmin Fenix is constructed of super-durable, corrosion-resistant materials. Not only does this GPS watch utilize multiple global navigation systems (GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo), but it also has an impressive collection of monitoring and training systems in place.
Sleep, heart rate, and even altitude acclimation can be tracked using the Garmin Fenix, and it can also provide you with grade-adjusted pace guidance while you’re on the move. On top of that, you can preload this watch with various topo maps, including maps for more than 2000 global ski resorts!
And in case that wasn’t enough, it’s smartphone compatible and you can even use it to pay for things thanks to its Garmin Pay contactless feature – is there anything this watch can’t do?!
The main drawbacks of this watch are its hefty price tag – it certainly isn’t the cheapest option out there – and the slightly short battery life. However, if you’re willing to fork out for a watch that does it all, then we can’t think of a better option.
The Garmin Tactix Bravo is a tactical upgrade of the Garmin Fenix 5X. It’s been made to be exceptionally durable and be able to deal with you jumping out of planes.
This GPS watch comes with highly accurate GPS/GLONASS tracking and will find your position quickly and accurately. You can use it to guide yourself pretty much anywhere. The TracBack feature is also super useful and will ensure you can follow the way you came if need be. You can also put in waypoints, track to them, and read your location in two GPS formats.
The extra features give you live info on your heading, elevation, and weather information. As well as this, you can also connect it to your smartphone to get emails, texts, and notification alerts directly to your watch, and read them.
The battery life varies from up to 50 hours in UltraTrac battery saver mode, 20 hours in GPS mode, and up to 3 weeks in smartwatch mode, depending on the settings. It’s also been made to survive with a protective stainless steel bezel, buttons, and reinforced housing for extra durability.
If you’re in the market for a GPS watch, but know you’ll treat it rough, this is a great choice.
If you’re looking for a hiking watch that’ll survive anything, then the Casio G-Shock Mudmaster is worth a look. It’s pretty basic as far as the watches in the review go, and the only added hiking features include a compass and a thermometer.
Outside of the basic side of things, the watch is made to be bullet-proof and survive a rugged life in the outdoors. As well as the compass and thermometer, you get world times, calendar, alarms, stopwatch, backlight, and more.
Overall, it’s a tad simple and really is a durable watch with a compass, but that might be all you need. Otherwise, check out all our other favorite G-Shock watches.
The Suunto Traverse is a more affordable option than the Suunto Ambit 3, yet it’s still packed with great features.
As for all the watches we’ve looked at so far, the Suunto Traverse covers the essentials and comes equipped with an altimeter, barometer, and compass. It’s also smartphone compatible, so you can get those handy vibration alerts when you’re on the move (which even the Ambit 3 is lacking) as well as scroll through your activity data on your phone at home. This watch is also compatible with the Suunto Movescount App, so you can log your workout and add your favorite spots.
Thi GPS watch also supports both GPS and GLONASS navigation, whereas the Ambit 3 only supports GPS. However, it’s lacking some of the ‘smart’ features of the Ambit 3, such as Bluetooth connectivity and advanced training analysis.
Overall, this is another great watch by Suunto and costs less than the Ambit 3 (particularly the models with the heart rate monitor). Ultimately, your choice of the Traverse or the Ambit 3 will probably come down to how much you like to mix up your activities. If you’re into cross-fit, go for the Ambit 3, but if you’ll mainly be using your watch for hiking, mountaineering, and running, then you may as well save some pennies and for the Traverse.
TomTom, one of the worlds leading car GPS companies, has of course got a watch too. The TomTom Multi-Sport GPS Watch is made for training and the inbuilt training modes even let you race against yourself.
The watch is a watch but it’s also a GPS, altimeter, barometer, compass, heart rate monitor, and training partner, all at once. All of this is displayed on a tough and large display, plus there is just a single button to easily run through the modes.
You can set it to walking, running, cycling, and swimming modes and ask the watch to monitor your heart rate, progress, and more. It’s a bit more than a hiking watch and is aimed more at people who love to train.
The only thing lacking is a compass, but I’m sure you can find your heading with the GPS. And the battery life is not the best, doing just 10 hours in GPS mode.
If you love to train though, this watch is a great choice.
There is a large range of pricing between hiking watches and this all comes down to features. If you’re looking for a hiking watch without GPS you’ll be spending $150 to $250 and for more sophisticated GPS watches up to $700. You truly do get what you pay for and the more expensive the watch (in their respective non-GPS and GPS categories) the better, and more durable they will be.
All the hiking watches in the review are simple and easy to use. They all operate via button controls, meaning you don’t have to have the hard task of a touch screen where gloves or using wet hands is tricky.
While you’re hiking on the trail, the last thing you want is your hiking watch to run out of battery. Some of the watches without GPS in the review have a long or infinite battery life (solar charging) while GPS watches tend to chew battery more or less depending on what modes you’re using.
Make sure to buy a watch that matches your battery needs for being on the trail. GPS watches can get up to 20 hours in GPS mode, which is enough for most. But, if you’re planning on multi-day hikes, then a non GPS watch might suit you better.
A GPS feature allows you to track and follow your location down to 3m of accuracy. It’s an awesome feature to have, especially if you’re going into the backcountry. All the watches in the review are connected to a GPS system, and the more systems they use, the better the accuracy. Some use all three; GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo, while others just use one or two of them. If accuracy is important to you, pick a hiking watch that uses atleast two nav-systems.
As well as showing your location, the GPS feature will also let you track yourself, set waypoints, follow your route back, and more.
Almost all the watches in the review come with an altimeter. This tells you your elevation and therefore lets you know how much your elevation has changed, plus knowing your current elevation can help you pinpoint where you are on a map.
A barometer measures changes in air pressure and is used to predict changes in weather. A sudden change in pressure means a storm is coming and some of the watches even have a storm alarm that lets you know.
All the watches in the review come with a compass, which is the most useful feature of them all. Knowing your heading and direction is what’s going to get you out of trouble and keep you on course.
The best hiking watch without GPS is the Casio Pathfinder Hiking Watch. This watch is rugged, durable, has an infinite battery life plus all the features you need including an altimeter, compass, and barometer.
The best all-round hiking watch is the Garmin Instinct. Its durable, water-resistant and has an excellent feature set including accurate GPS.
The best hiking watch is the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro. This watch takes things to the next level with a smart computer and range of maps to make spending time in the backcountry as safe and easy as possible. It’s also pretty much a smartphone an allows you view and receive texts, emails, notifications, plus you can pay with it too.