12 Best Hiking Watches

See how the best hiking watches and GPS watches performed in our tests.

Updated on October 13th, 2022
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Hiking watch models have so many different features and specs to consider. That's why we tested the best hiking watches on the market today. Read on to see what model is best for you and receive some buying advice to help you choose.

Best Hiking Watches

The best hiking watches are:

MODEL PRICE Navigation System A/B/C Water Resistance Battery Life Weight Score
1. Garmin Instinct $299.99 GPS, GLONASS, Galileo Yes 100m Up to 14 days 1.8 oz 9/10
2. COROS Apex 42mm $299 GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BeiDou, QZSS Yes 100m Up to 25 days 1.6 oz 9/10
3. Garmin Fenix 6X $649.99 GPS, GLONASS, Galileo Yes 100m Up to 21 days 2.2 oz 8/10
4. Garmin Vivoactive 4 $349.99 GPS, GLONASS, Galileo Yes 50m Up to 8 days 1.8 oz 8/10
5. Suunto 9 Baro $499 GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, BeiDou Yes 100m Up to 14 days 2.9 oz 8/10
6. Timex IronMan R300 GPS $129 Phone-free GPS No 50m 20hrs 1.5 oz 8/10
7. Casio SGW-1000-1ACR $130 None Yes 100m 2yrs 1.9 oz 7/10
8. Casio F91W-1 $18.95 None No 5m 7yrs 0.7 oz 7/10
9. Suunto Core Alpha Stealth $299 None Yes 30m 12mos 2.4 oz 7/10
10. Suunto Ambit3 Peak $449 GPS Yes 100m 200hrs 3.1 oz 7/10
11. Casio Pro Trek PRG-270-1 $200 None Yes 100m 9-24mos 2.4 oz 6/10
12. Casio Pathfinder $280 None Yes 100m 6-23mos 2.3 oz 6/10

Best Overall Hiking Watch:

GARMIN INSTINCT

Price: $299.99

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Garmin Instinct hiking watch

PROS:

✅ Lightweight

✅ Great features for the price point

✅ Best overall

CONS:

❌ Plasticky feel

KEY SPECS

  • Navigation: GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO
  • Altimeter/Barometer/Compass: Yes
  • Water Resistance: 100m
  • Battery Life: Smartwatch mode: 14 days; GPS mode: 16 hours; UltraTra mode: 40 hours
  • Other: Heart rate monitor, Bluetooth, notifications

Garmin's Instinct watch hit the sweet spot for our testers making it our best overall hiking watch. We found it has the core hiking features we wanted - ABC sensors, support for multiple global navigation satellite systems, and breadcrumb navigation. All while still being affordably priced.

It’s durable with a hard polymer casing and strengthened glass. We love that the monochrome display is easy to read, especially in bright light. A must for a hiking watch. While we didn’t love the plasticky feel, it does help keep the weight down.


Best GPS Watch for Runners:

COROS APEX 42MM

Price: $299

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COROS Apex 42mm

PROS:

✅ Slew of stats

✅ Ultralight

✅ Durable

CONS:

❌ Display hard to read in direct sun

KEY SPECS

  • Navigation: GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou, QZSS
  • Altimeter/Barometer/Compass: Yes
  • Water Resistance: 100m
  • Battery Life: 35-70 hours, 30 days
  • Other: Heart rate monitor, 24/7 blood oxygen monitoring, night-mode, built-in coaching software

A 2021 Trail Running Magazine award-winning multi-sport watch, we’re impressed with the featherlight 59 gram weight of COROS Apex. We found the titanium frame and sapphire touch-screen lens to be one of the most durable we reviewed. This multi-sport watch is geared towards runners with coaching software spitting out stats like cadence, stride length, and VO2 max.

We wish the battery life, 24 days in normal mode or just over a day when using the GPS, was a bit longer. And we find the display is tough to read in direct sun. With the robust feature set, light weight, and excellent GPS the Coros Apex is our best watch for runners.


Best Premium Hiking Watch:

GARMIN FENIX 6X

Price: $649.99

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Garmin Fenix 6X

PROS:

✅ Full-color topo maps

✅ Durable

✅ Lightweight

✅ Extensive range of features

CONS:

Price

KEY SPECS

  • Navigation: GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO
  • Altimeter/Barometer/Compass: Yes
  • Water Resistance: 100m
  • Battery Life: Smartwatch: Up to 9 days; Battery Saver Watch Mode: 34 days; GPS: Up to 25 hours; GPS + Music: Up to 6 hours ; Max Battery GPS Mode: Up to 50 hours; Expedition GPS Activity: Up to 20 days
  • Other: Heart rate monitor, pulse oximeter, Bluetooth, apps, color topo maps

If you want all the features and price isn’t a concern the Fenix 6X is the watch for you. It ticks all the boxes for us. It’s ultra-durable, ultralight, and has the longest battery life of the GPS watches on our list. We can’t help but drool over full-color topo maps that feature trails, summits, and other important topographic features.

We loved the slew of health monitoring software, smart features, and safety tracking software, including incident detection capabilities. But again the price tag, the most on our list by far, will be a deal breaker for many. The Fenix 6X is our best premium hiking watch.


Best Budget GPS Watch:

TIMEX IRONMAN R300 GPS

Price: $129

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Timex IronMan R300 GPS

PROS:

✅ Lightweight

✅ Easy to use

CONS:

❌ No ABC

❌ Short battery life

KEY SPECS

  • Navigation: Phone-free GPS
  • Altimeter/Barometer/Compass: No
  • Water Resistance: 50m
  • Battery Life: 20 hours
  • Other: Heart rate monitor, coaching activity tracking, three customizable alarms

We found the Timex IronMan R300 is a comfortable and lightweight hiking watch. It monitors your activity 24/7, tracking steps, speed, and heart rate. We liked the simple-to-use interface with easy-to-navigate drop-down menus. There’s also a phone-free GPS system that lasts up to 20 hours (battery rechargeable).

Though geared towards athletes, the Timex IronMan is a straightforward workout-inspired watch that’s good for many activities, including hiking. We like the price, it’s the second cheapest on our list making it our favorite budget GPS hiking watch.


Best No-Frills Hiking Watch:

CASIO F91W-1

Price: $18.95

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Casio F91W-1 hiking watch

PROS:

✅ Lightweight

✅ Extremely long battery life

CONS:

❌ No GPS

❌ No Altimeter/Barometer/Compass

KEY SPECS

  • Navigation: None
  • Altimeter/Barometer/Compass: No
  • Water Resistance: 5m
  • Battery Life: 7 years
  • Other: Stopwatch, alarm

The F91W-1 is all about keeping track of one thing - time. There are no fancy functions or complicated user interfaces. We appreciate that it does have a few basic features like an alarm, stopwatch, and date.

We found it to be a plasticky watch, but it costs under $20, so we wouldn’t worry too much about scratching it or losing it. The battery on this watch will last for ages. We can complain about the weight either, it’s the lightest on our list. If you need a no-frills hiking watch this is our top pick.


The Other Noteworthy Models

Garmin Vivoactive 4

Price: $349.99

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Garmin Vivoactive 4

PROS:

✅ Packed with features

✅ Lightweight two size options

CONS:

❌ Battery life

❌ Price

KEY SPECS

  • Navigation: GPS, GLONASS, Galileo
  • Altimeter/Barometer/Compass: Yes
  • Water Resistance: 50m
  • Battery Life: Smartwatch mode: 8 days
  • Other: Smart notifications, heart-rate monitor, fitness age, all-day stress monitoring, relaxed breathing timer, calendar

We love the robust feature set of Garmin’s Vivoactive 4. It includes features like GPS tracking, contactless pay, pre-loaded fitness apps, and 3.5GB of storage. What makes this watch unique to us is its extensive health tracking software with built-in sensors that track the body’s energy levels, blood oxygen saturation, stress levels, hydration, sleep, and women’s health.

There’s also a live-tracking feature that can update your contacts on your location while doing your outdoorsy thing. We found the 8 days of battery life leaves a bit to be desired compared to similar watches.


Suunto 9 Baro

Price: $499

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Suunto 9 Baro hiking watch

PROS:

✅ Full-featured

✅ Bright display

CONS:

❌ Weight

❌ Bulky size

❌ Price

KEY SPECS

  • Navigation: GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, QZSS, BEIDOU
  • Altimeter/Barometer/Compass: Yes
  • Water Resistance: 100m
  • Battery Life: 170 hours, 7-14 days
  • Other: Heart rate monitor, pulse oximeter, Bluetooth

Suunto 9 Baro GPS watch has a touchscreen interface that is bright, colorful, and easy to use. We found it has an outstanding battery life for a full-featured GPS watch thanks to Suunto's smart battery management. It can continuously track for up to 120 hours.

We found the lack of topo maps a bummer, especially for a high-end watch. We found the size to be bulky and heavy. The second heaviest on our list. We know it’s expensive, but if you’re shopping for high-end watches it’s significantly cheaper than the Fenix 6x.


Casio SGW-1000-1ACR

Price: $130

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casio SGW-1000-1ACR

PROS:

✅ Price

✅ Durable

✅ Long battery life

CONS:

❌ No GPS

❌ Fussy calibration

KEY SPECS

  • Navigation: None
  • Altimeter/Barometer/Compass: Yes
  • Water Resistance: 100m
  • Battery Life: 2 years
  • Other: Stopwatch, alarm calendar

If you want an ABC watch without all the complicated features or the hefty price tag, we recommend taking a closer look at the Casio SGW-1000-1ACR. It’s a triple-sensor ABC watch with an additional temperature sensor and we found it lives up to Casio's reputation for rugged and dependable watches.

A drawback to the triple sensor design is the need to calibrate regularly to maintain accuracy. We found this multi-step process takes time and practice to master.


Suunto Core Alpha Stealth

Price: $299

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suunto core alpha stealth

PROS:

✅ Durable

✅ Long battery life

CONS:

❌ No GPS

❌ Not rechargable

KEY SPECS

  • Navigation: None
  • Altimeter/Barometer/Compass: Yes
  • Water Resistance: 30m
  • Battery Life: 12 months
  • Other: Temperature, storm alarm, red backlight, sunrise/sunset times, measures sea level pressure

If you need an ultra-durable watch, we love that the Core Alpha Stealth is crafted from military-inspired standards (MIL-STD-810). The body of the watch is made from aluminum and composite with a screen of mineral crystal.

The battery can last 12 months functioning in temperatures ranging from -5 to 140F. We don’t like that the battery isn’t rechargeable, so you’ll need to replace the batteries once a year. We’ve found the Alpha is a favorite of thru-hikers who don’t need GPS or smartwatch features.


Suunto Ambit3 Peak

Price: $449

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Suunto Ambit3 Peak hiking watch

PROS:

✅ Durability

✅ Long battery life

CONS:

❌ Heaviest watch we reviewed

KEY SPECS

  • Navigation: GPS
  • Altimeter/Barometer/Compass: Yes
  • Water Resistance: 100m
  • Battery Life: 200 hours
  • Other: Bluetooth, notifications

Suunto has a reputation for delivering rock-solid watches and we found it delivered. We were impressed with the outstanding battery life, the Ambit 3 Peak can track for 200 hours in low power mode. The Suunto Ambit 3 Peak is a large size - it's about as big and bulky as the Baro 9. That's because the watch has a similar steel and glass construction.

We like that it feels solid on your wrist too. Similar to the Garmin Instinct, the Ambit 3 Peak has a monochrome display, which is great for reading in bright light. We didn’t like that this is the second heaviest watch on our list. And it also has a hefty price tag, the most expensive mid range watch on our list.


Casio Pro Trek PRG-270-1

Price: $200

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Casio Pro Trek hiking watch

PROS:

✅ Battery life

✅ Price

CONS:

❌ Heaviest non-GPS watch

❌ Crowded display

KEY SPECS

  • Navigation: None
  • Altimeter/Barometer/Compass: Yes
  • Water Resistance: 100m
  • Battery Life: 9-24 months
  • Other: Storm alarm, stopwatch, alarm calendar

We like the Pro Trek PRG-270-1 as another great budget ABC watch from Casio. It’s water resistant to 100m and can accurately predict sunrise and sunset times. We found the small size of this watch to be both a pro and a con. On one hand, it makes it discreet; on the other, its display felt a little too crowded.

We like that the small solar panel recharges the battery, giving you extra battery life. For a watch with less features, we don’t like that the weight is the third heaviest on our list.


Casio Pathfinder

Price: $280

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Casio Pathfinder hiking watch

PROS:

✅ Long-lasting battery life

CONS:

❌ No GPS

❌ Heavier

KEY SPECS

  • Navigation: None
  • Altimeter/Barometer/Compass: Yes
  • Water Resistance: 100m
  • Battery Life: 6-23 months
  • Other: Solar charging

The Casio Pathfinder is all about longevity. It can last up to 6 months - without sunlight. If outside, the solar panel around the display will keep the watch charged almost indefinitely. We like that the watch pairs the three core ABC sensors with sunrise/sunset times, handy for knowing when to set the alarm.

We found the bright backlight to make the Pathfinder easy to use during the day and at night. We don’t like that the feature set is a little skimpy. And it’s on the heavier side.


Key Factors to Consider When Choosing

Battery Life

How you use your GPS watch will affect battery life. If you use GPS all day to track your hikes, you’ll need to charge it frequently. Some watches, like the Suunto 9, have unique power-saving modes that cut down on GPS usage in exchange for longer battery life. If battery life is an issue, consider a non-GPS watch that lasts weeks and even months without charging. Some of the models can recharge with solar power, which extends their battery life. The below models performed best in our battery test.

The Longest Non-GPS Watch Battery Life:


The Longest GPS Watch Battery Life:


Durability

Durability comes down to a mix of considerations. The material a watch is made of, water resistance, and wristband to name a few. Look for a watch face made with sapphire or gorilla glass for high durability. Most watches are water resistant, but if you plan on swimming or showering with your watch look into more waterproof models. And watchbands that can be replaced if broken will save you from needing a whole new watch if just the band breaks.

The most durable Hiking Watches:


Price

Prices range widely with hiking watches, from $20 for a simple timepiece to $600+ for an advanced GPS unit. Premium watches tend to be made from lightweight, durable materials and have sapphire glass displays that won't scratch very easily. They will take a licking and keep on ticking. High-end watches also are packed with sensors that'll measure elevation, weather, and even the oxygen level in your blood.

Hiking Watches that provide the greatest value:

Affordable hiking watches:

Premium hiking watches (Most Expensive):


Other Things to Consider

Common Features

Navigation system

GPS is an acronym for the global positioning system, which is a satellite-based navigation system owned and operated by the United States. The US-made GPS isn't the only satellite navigation technology in operation. Many watches also support competing satellite systems such as Russia's GLONASS or Europe's Galileo system. Inside a GPS-equipped watch is a small receiver that can connect to one or all of these satellite systems. Ideally, you want a watch that can connect to more than one satellite system to ensure you'll get a signal even in challenging situations.

When you have a strong signal, GPS is accurate down to 3 meters or 10 feet. Getting a strong signal is not always easy as your physical location can affect the watch's connection to the navigation satellites. Hiking in a thick forest canopy or deep in a ravine can make it difficult for your watch to connect to GPS. Ideally, you want to be out in the open with an unobscured view of the sky, so your watch can get a strong signal and connect to as many satellites as possible.

Having a strong GPS signal is critical for tracking and orienteering (finding your direction) in real-time as you hike. You want to be able to see which trail you are on and where you need to go. GPS is not only useful for real-time data but it also can be used to record the position data for an entire hike. You can start recording at the beginning of a hike and then save the completed GPS track when you are done. This GPS track contains useful information such as the distance you hiked, how long it took you to hike, and the elevation change. These previously recorded tracks, then, can be uploaded to the watch for future use or analyzed on your computer when you get home.

hiker wearing timex ironman
Timex Ironman R300

Altimeter

The altimeter in a watch is used to measure the altitude as you climb. Knowing your elevation can help you pinpoint your location on a map. Some altimeter watches have a barometric altimeter that can measure atmospheric pressure. The lower the atmospheric pressure, the higher you are in elevation. These barometers can measure between -2,000 to 30,000 feet and are accurate within +/- 50 feet.

Watches that don't have a barometric altimeter can estimate the altitude using the elevation information that it gleans from the current GPS data. The measurements provided by the altimeter sensor, however, tend to be more accurate than the estimations supplied from the GPS coordinate data. GPS accuracy is based on the signal strength, and anything that interferes with a GPS signal also affects the barometer. 

Barometer

A barometer on a watch is there for one thing—to measure changes in air pressure. These fluctuations not only can be used to estimate elevation but also can be used to detect incoming storms. Basic barometers take atmospheric readings that you can view, while more advanced watches allow you to see a graph of the changes in air pressure. Some even come with a storm alarm that will alert you when significant changes occur. When the pressure drops rapidly, you better get yourself out of the woods or batten down the hatches to ride out the storm.

Garmin Instinct watch showing elevation gain (altimeter)
Garmin Instinct

Compass

Nearly all GPS watches nowadays have a digital compass that you can use to get your general sense of direction. Some will have a 2D compass that requires you to hold it horizontally, while most will have a 3D compass that works in any orientation. A watch-based compass can help you walk according to a bearing, but it is not as accurate and does not work with a map as well as a baseplate compass.

Heart-Rate Monitor

Almost all watches come with a heart rate monitor that tracks your heart rate 24/7. This data can be used to gauge your exertion level. A higher heart rate means you are working harder. Some hikers will carefully watch their heart rate so they can walk at a low exertion level. This HR data allows them to walk slower and longer instead of pushing themselves to exhaustion early in a hike. Heart rate also reflects your overall health - an unexpected spike may be a sign that you are starting to get sick.

Other common functions

Other features you may find on a watch include a thermometer that'll measure the outside temperature. It's a handy measurement to know, but it can be inaccurate. The sensor may mistakenly read the temperature of your body instead of your surroundings. Some watches also sync with your phone sending over weather data, sunrise/sunset times, and event notifications.

Music is another common feature on some hiking watches. You can download your favorite tunes onto the watch and use Bluetooth to connect to your headphones.

hiker wearing coros apex
COROS Apex 42mm

Wristband

COMFORTABLE, DURABLE, AND/OR REPLACEABLE

Most wristbands are made with a soft, flexible material like silicone. They often have vents that allow airflow, so sweat doesn't build up between the band and your wrist. Higher-end watches have replaceable bands, so you can swap them out if they break or you don't like them.

adjusting watch strap

Glass 

sAPPHIRE, gORILLA, AND CHEMICALLY-STRENGTHENED GLASS

One factor that influences price is the material that covers the display on the watch. High-end hiking watches like the Fenix 5X Plus use sapphire glass which can handle the rigors of the outdoors because it's highly scratch-resistant. Sapphire is quite expensive, which is one reason a lot of watches built for the outdoors use Gorilla Glass instead, which is similar to sapphire but tends to be slightly less expensive. Mid-tier watches cut costs by using chemically strengthened glass, which offers better protection than plastic, but isn't nearly as durable as sapphire or gorilla glass.

suunto baro 9 getting wet
Suunto 9 Baro

WATER RESISTANCE 

SHOULD YOU WORRY ABOUT GETTING YOUR WATCH WET?

Most hiking and mountaineering watches nowadays are water-resistant, meaning you don't have to worry about it getting damaged when doing the dishes, washing your hands, or hiking through the pouring rain. When it comes to showering or swimming with your watch, however, you need to be a little more careful. Each watch comes with a different degree of water resistance.

As a general rule of thumb, you don't want to bathe with a watch that has less than 50 m of water resistance. If you're looking for a watch to take swimming, go with something water-resistant to 100 meters or more.

water resistant hiking watch

Ease of Use 

BUTTONS VS. TOUCH SCREEN

Another consideration is the interface. Does the watch use a touchscreen or buttons for navigation? A touchscreen-based interface may seem more intuitive, especially if you’re accustomed to using a phone or tablet. The biggest problem with touchscreens is that you need to touch the screen for it to work physically. Gloves or wetness on your fingers makes it impossible to select things on the screen. Buttons may be easier to operate, but this type of interface is not as easy to navigate as a touchscreen. You have to press the buttons in a specific order.

hiking watch while hiking

Style/Design 

A WATCH THAT'LL GO BEYOND THE TRAIL

Many hiking watches have a rugged design that looks best in the woods. They often are bulky and don't have the style you would want for a night on the town. Some do have replaceable watch bands that can help dress them up. That's something to consider if you want to be able to wear your watch when you're not hiking.

coros apex hiking watch
Coros Apex

Weight 

50 GRAMS AS A SWEETSPOT

Weight is essential when packing a backpack. It's also crucial when choosing a watch to slap on your wrist. You want to aim for around 50 grams or less. Any heavier and you will feel the weight on your wrist. When you get up to 70 or 80 grams, you have to decide if the extra features are worth the excess weight.

hiker wearing garmin fenix 6x
Garmin Fenix 6X

FAQs

Which smartwatch is best for hiking?

The smartwatch best for hiking is the Garmin Instinct.

What is the best GPS watch for walking?

The best GPS watch for walking is the COROS Apex 42mm.

Can I use my Apple Watch for hiking?

Yes, you can use Apple watch for hiking… but there are a few drawbacks. First, battery power. Apple claims its watch will last around six hours when tracking continuous outdoor activity, while some hiking watches can last upwards of a hundred hours. Second, although the Apple watch is durable, its screen is still more breakable and prone to scratching compared to a heavy-duty hiking watch. A big problem if you’re scrambling over rugged terrain.

On the plus side, though the Apple Watch isn’t specifically designed for hiking, its hiking feature option will get you by and keep track of elevation gain, distance, pace and calories burned. Also, being an Apple product, you’ll have a great selection of every hiking app out there. So, should you use an Apple watch to hike? Sure, but it’s better suited for easy day hikes. As for longer and more technical hikes? Best leave those up to the big guys (aka hiking watches).

Which Garmin watch is best for trekking?

The Garmin watch best for trekking is the Garmin Fenix 6X.

Can hiking watches be used offline?

Yes, all hiking watches can be used offline for navigation and counting your steps. The only thing you will miss is the mobile syncing that allows you to transfer your fitness data to your phone for long-term safekeeping. You also won't be able to download updated weather, receive notifications, and similar features that require an internet connection.


📸 Some photos in this post were taken by Ross Enlow (@rossaenlow)

Justin Sprecher photo

About Justin Sprecher

By Justin Sprecher (aka "Semisweet"): Semisweet is a Wisconsin-based thru-hiker, adventurer and digital storyteller.

He's thru-hiked the Pacific Northwest Trail, LASHed the Great Divide Trail and Arizona Trail, and sectioned hiked large parts of the Continental Divide Trail, amongst others.

About Greenbelly

After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.

Stoveless Backpacking Meals
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