Hiking-specific watches have been very popular in recent years. ABS, GPS, and fitness trackers for hiking also used. Companies are adding countless new features to these hiking GPS watches.
GPS, altimeter, barometer are some common features present in the modern watches made to assist you during your hiking. As companies release new models with improved features every now and then to the already crowded list of options available in the market, it has become really tough for one to choose the best hiking GPS watch.
That’s why we have created this list of best GPS watches for hiking after hours of testing and research. There are two manufacturers, Garmin and Suunto who lead this race with their exciting features and price.
Best Hiking GPS Watches – 10 Watches Reviewed
Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire GPS Watch
After a year of being absent from the market, Garmin has returned with Fenix 5 GPS Watch. Though it is quite expensive, this all-purpose GPS-enabled watch is well worth it.
Designed to be used in deep wilderness and trails with functions designed for running and skiing, which can be surprisingly useful for hikers too!
With its durable body and the ability to track everything, this GPS Hiking watch makes it ideal for the outdoors.
Garmin Fenix 5 has a rugged design and tough exterior that enables it to be shock and drop-proof. It has a 1.2-inch display with five circular buttons with three on the left and two on the right.
The beveled and black bezel is held in a place with five screws. The inner bezel around the watch screen and outer bezel together measure half an inch which provides the smart look.
With the tough built-in design, the Fenix 5 is also water-resistant to 100 meters which is comparatively high among other outdoor GPS watches.
The always-on color display with the transflective surface in this Fenix 5 uses the sunlight to make the screen brighter. You won’t have a hard time reading the device even in direct sunlight.
Still, the screen is viewable indoors with lighter contrast than most of the smartwatches. Naturally, it also has a backlight for after-dark.
This Garmin Fenix 5 has a great battery life which will last long up to two weeks without using GPS or the heart rate monitor. So for a day out and trips that won’t last more than a week, you can take your watch without chargers.
With GPS usage it has up to 24-hour battery life which is far better than most other GPS models.
If that is not enough, by turning on the feature called UltraTrac mode. In this mode, it connects with satellite only once every minute than every second, which can extend the battery life up to 60 hours
This Fenix 5 GPS watch also offers the VO2 maximum score which is your overall fitness level measurement. This is the comparison of your fitness training with the past week and this smartwatch also predicts how fast you will finish a 5k, 10k, half, and full marathon.
Garmin Fenix 5 is a highly professional field watch. It has a rugged design and tough body which adds more weight and it is unfit for official wear.
- Customizable display
- Long battery life
- Fiber reinforced body
- Low-resolution screen
Garmin Fenix 3 HR Hiking GPS Watch
The Garmin Fenix 3 HR has the look and feel of its predecessor, but with a Heart rate monitor added….which will be where that “HR” moniker comes from!
It is a similarly durable, chunky, silicone strap, and rugged exterior, which is shockproof and water-resistant to 100m.
Fenix 3 HR has come with its latest software upgrade which in addition to its dedicated functions for running, swimming, cycling, hiking, now have data downloading settings particularly created for snowboarding, paddling, and golfing….something of an all-rounder
It has a rounded 218×218 pixels transflective color display. The display is covered by Garmin’s special Sapphire lens and has five buttons around the face.
This Fenix 3 HR has loaded with various and extensive features such as Altimeter, Barometer, Compass, Thermometer, and Accelerometer. It will tell you the time, day and date, sunrise and sunset times.
The watch case is water-resistant up to 100 meters.
On the fitness side, it calculates the traveled distance, steps, burned calories, and sleep time, so you can use this watch for your daily fitness routines also.
Heart Rate Monitor
Fenix 3 and Fenix 3 HR have no difference in their wrist design but when you turn the watch at the back you can find the major difference which is an optical heart rate monitor.
The New Training Status app available with this Garmin Fenix 3 HR estimates and adjusts your exercise routines. This feature improves the running or hiking goals of the user and their techniques.
This monitor records and stores the user’s heart rate throughout the day (24/7). The sensor is attached in the middle of the backside of the watch. There are three green lights that glow when it’s searching for a heartbeat.
A really tough, well-specced GPS watch. The only problem with Garmin Fenix 3 HR is the huge size and design. People who like to wear light watches may not be convinced of its weight.
- 24/7 Heart rate monitoring
- Crisp color display
- Easy to use UI
- Weighs a lot!
Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire Performance Bundle
The Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire GPS watch is one of the new smartwatches added to the list of outdoorsmen gears. Nowadays, fitness tracking GPS watches for various backcountry actions are steadily expanding their market with their amazing features and functions that were only handled by smartphones in the past.
This Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire is specially designed for cyclists and fitness fanatics for their adventurers in unknown mountains and wilds.
Fenix 3 Sapphire is available in three different models and six different color options. It has Wi-fi capability and is resistant to water and heat.
Garmin Fenix 3 GPS watch is designed as a multisport training watch that works great for all the sports you’re involved in. It will track the activities of hiking, running, swimming, cycling, training, climbing, and more. This GPS watch for backcountry has come with outdoor navigation and an Exo-Antenna.
This Garmin GPS watch has the Chroma Display which enables the user to easily read and operate the watch even in direct sunlight on a hot sunny day.
Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire has been commended for its iron-plated metal bracelet and stylish watch face with the high-grade sapphire crystal. The total finishing of this watch is designed as scratch-resistant, chip and flake proof at anywhere anytime
It also has the Exo Antenna which is the connectivity technology that proved to be faster than the GPS. This Exo Antenna is designed using stainless steel. You will get track steps, time, distance, and location with this GPS watch.
The watch also comes with a Storm tracker so the user will be informed about the possible storm conditions. The extended GPS and GLONASS support in this GPS watch offer precise and accurate information.
There is also a built-in sleep tracker and heart rate monitor. The stroke detector and open water feature benefit the swimmers.
The Wi-Fi option in this Fenix 3 Sapphire can connect to one or more hotspots networks automatically using Garmin’s special Garmin Connect App.
However, this Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire could have worked in their swimming features. Also, it only has one alarm and lacks the information about other timezones.
- Call, text, and email notifications
- Sunlight readable display
- 3D compass
- Little heavy
SUUNTO Ambit3 Peak HR Running GPS Watch
The Ambit3 Peak is a multi-sport watch that has a very accurate altimeter. The accuracy and GPS ability make it popular among outdoorsmen. Even though the battery life of this watch is not as great as other models, this GPS watch is comparatively easy to use and has a clear and crisp display.
SUUNTO Ambit3 Peak HR is accurate. In addition to barometric pressure, the altimeter in this watch also uses the sea level pressure as a reference.
If you are not new to Suunto, you know about the FusedAlti function. This GPS watch also uses this function to increase accuracy. This advanced feature autocorrects the altimeter using the GPS. So you will get benefited twice with accurate readings from the GPS and secured traditional barometer-based altimeter. It will help you in the case where you can’t get the signal due to dense forests.
It’s more comfortable compared to other watches with its soft and flexible wrist strap and rounded edges on the base. In GPS ping intervals at 1 or 5 seconds, GPS accuracy is great.
This GPS watch has adjustable profiles. You can select either automatic, barometric, or altitude information to view. There is an automatic profile that switches the altitude to barometric based on the user’s movement. If you are hiking, your watch will automatically change your altitude profile. It changes to a barometric profile if you are on the flat grounds. But you can’t see both profiles at once.
Suunto Ambit3 has Wi-Fi capability. So you can connect the watch with your smartphone and transfer your route information and files. Your activities will be synced with your gadgets while on the trail or moving. It can receive notifications in three ways: text, call, and email. This watch can be connected to the Suunto app and Movescount. These apps took the workout or activity data from the watch and you can access it further.
Ambit3 could have vibration alerts to help the runners at the loud places. As this watch has multiple layers, it is hard to hear the beep sound. In that case, a vibration sound would alert the runners about the operations.
- Easy to operate
- Extended battery life
- Multisport features
- Not an everyday watch
SUUNTO Spartan Ultra HR
SUUNTO Spartan Ultra HR is the latest updated GPS watches for hikers and professional athletes. The Spartan watch has a wide display and has a powerful battery. The manufacturer designed it as a durable and comfortable wristwatch even with water sports like diving or swimming.
It is a big watch with a 1.97-inch diameter, 0.67-inch thickness, and weighs 2.58 ounces. But it is lighter than Garmin Fenix 3. Spartan Ultra HR has a large display with 320×300 pixels, it is ranked high among other top models.
Though it is big, the watch is comfortable to wear all day. The silicone strap on the watch fits your wrist and prevents sliding while running. The rounded design and flat face avoid snagging.
This GPS watch has a touchscreen and three buttons on the right side. To start anything, you have to press the middle button. That is to start an activity, accessing the Settings menu, checking the notification and to see the step counts. After pressing, you can use the top or bottom button or even the touch screen to check through menus.
SUUNTO Spartan Ultra HR has TRIATHLON mode for sport and single button change over. The FreestyleMULTISPORT mode in the watch changes to any sport by press and hold of a single button.
Though the need of pressing the button for everything is annoying, it makes sure nothing will change if a user accidentally presses or taps on the screen.
The Spartan Ultra is water-resistant of up to 100 meters and you can use the watch in temperatures ranging from -5 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 degrees F.
SUUNTO Spartan has three individual GPS settings: Best, Good, and OK.
- Best is the default option which connects once in a second with full power.
- Good connects with the same 1-second rate but with low power.
- OK connects at 60-second (1-min) fixed rate with full power.
The hikers, runners, and trailers can use the OK as it saves battery life.
Remember that you can’t change the data fields in any of the modes. Suunto is limited to its presets and there is no customization option.
- Versatile watch
- Easy to read display
- Comfortable size and weight
Garmin Tactix Bravo GPS Watch
The Garmin Tactix Bravo is a relatively new and military-grade watch. it is rugged, durable, stylish, and smart in its features and functions. You can use it as a simple smartwatch or as advanced fitness gear.
This GPS watch is for serious adventurers and athletes. It is the all-black stylish multitude and multisport GPS watch for the backcountry. The face of the watch is protected by the domed sapphire lens and knurled bezel and has a carbon coating to be scratch resistant.
Garmin Tactix Bravo is exceptional for navigation and fitness tracking. This GPS watch also has an EXO antenna which eases the action of getting a signal with support from GPS and GLONASS.
The advanced fitness tracking features of this GPS watch are: workout recording, daily tracking, and can track real-time performance like burned calories, traveled distance, steps, and all other sport-specific information.
The Garmin Tactix Bravo is an extraordinary GPS watch for the outdoors. The design is durable, tracks all your activities, and has easy to use and read display day and night. This is perfect for adventurers and athletes.
The Chroma display in this GPS watch is readable even with glaring sunlight. The display with a special mode offers a clear display of data at extremely high lighting conditions as well as allows the user to pair the watch with night vision goggles.
Other basic features are the compass, a barometer to estimate the weather conditions and climatic trends. The built-in altimeter provides the monitoring of your uphill and downhill while hiking.
You can pair this smartwatch with your smartphones and tablets using Bluetooth and can synchronize and store data using the Garmin Connect application.
The notifications received in three ways such as email, call, and text.
This Garmin Tactix Bravo with Nylon Strap GPS Watch has the knurled bezel that snags on shirts or jackets sometimes.
- GPS/GLONASS and UltraTrac mode
- Night vision option
- For everyday use
- No touch screen
Suunto Traverse GPS Multifunction Watch
Suunto Traverse is most often recommended fitness watches with GPS capability. It is stylish, lightweight, and modern so you can wear this daily other than while hiking and outdoor adventuring.
This GPS tracking watch is basically designed for hiking and trekking. So this can satisfy all the requirements of hikers.
Apart from GPS, it has an altimeter, barometer, and compass. So you can record all your adventures and workouts.
It has a very accurate GPS. The other functions in the watch provide the elevation, weather changes, storm alerts, and direction.
Another best part of this GPS watch is that it can let the user know about the sunset and sunrise times so you can plan your hikes and outings in daylight time.
The Suunto Movescount app can review your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly fitness training and track your activities like calories, steps, distance, and sleep using the USB cables which are faster.
The watch offers other typical features that every GPS watch has such as the alarm and timer. It also has 5 customizable sports modes and 4 displays per mode.
This means not only can you use the watch for tracking your hiking activities but also for running or cycling.
The built-in sensor in this watch continuously measures the air pressure. There are three settings such as automatic, altimeter and barometer where the barometer mode displays the current sea level pressure and sea level pressure recording graph.
This GS watch is made of mineral crystal so the face of the watch is scratch and shock-resistant. This is connected with the silicone watch strap so it will be comfortable, durable, and waterproof.
The battery life of this watch is poor when compared to other GPS watch models. When you use the regular settings with GPS for every 60 seconds, the battery life lasts only about eight hours. Without GPS, it will extend up to two weeks. Sadly, most of the multi-day hikers can’t buy this watch for their adventures.
The Suunto Movescount app can review your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly fitness training and track your activities like calories, steps, distance, and sleep using the USB cables which is faster.
- POI navigation
- Clear topographic maps
- Storm alarm and Sunrise-Sunset time
- Shorter battery life (With GPS)
Garmin Epix GPS Wrist Hiking Watch
When you look at the Garmin Epix GPS watch, you could see that this is not like other watch models on today’s market. Most of the GPS watch companies focus more on its design and look to make their products to be used in any place with any clothing. But this Garmin Epix is purely designed based on the quality and capabilities in the mind.
To be honest, Garmin Epix is huge and weighs as high as 85g. It has a 1.4-inch full-color display which is similar to the screen used in the Garmin VIRB camera. This display offers a 205×148 pixels resolution which is high enough for a smartwatch.
There is a backlight for this screen that glows with the button press. In other cases, it needs ambient light. So the display is more visible in the sunlight, you just have to get the right angle for a clear view.
The watch has a touchscreen but most of the functions are controlled by the five buttons around the face.
Activate backlight for a single press
Power off/lock for long press
Below Two Buttons:
For scrolling the screen
Menu up and down
Garmin Epix is not a stylish or modern and sleek version of a GPS watch to wear for everyday use or special dinners.
Middle Left Button:
Opens up Secondary menu settings, configurations, and activity history for long press
Select current option
Start current activity
Bottom Right Button:
One back to menu level
Pause tracking while indoor swimming
A good sports watch should allow you to analyze your training and keep track of activities to improve your results in the future. Garmin has focused on this and developed the best UI application called Garmon Connect. Using USB cables is the main way to fetching the activities from the watch. The collected data will later show on Connect’s activity log. Based on that you can set goals for yourself and share your statistics with your friends.
Garmin epix is not the stylish or modern and sleek version of GPS watch to wear for everyday use or special dinners.
- Full-color maps
- Rugged and Durable
- Accurate and clear
- Not a sleek one
Suunto 9 GPS Watch
Suunto 9 GPS Watch is the fifth generation GPS mapping watch of Suunto. There is one physical difference in 9 Baro with the previous models that is the silicone band. Unlike the Suunto Spartan Wrist HR, this 9 Baro has a comfortable and flexible wrist band.
The Suunto Baro 9 GPS watch has designed specifically for athletes. To extend the operation time of the watch, Suunto has developed quality battery and battery monitoring software added with accurate GPS information.
Even though it does not have the list of advanced features as other high-end models, for those who need a fitness tracker that doesn’t get tired before themselves, this GPS mapping watch is the best option.
This fitness watch uses the U.S.’s GS, Japan’s QZSS satellites, and the Russian GLONASS. So the accuracy of this Baro 9 is higher than other watch models that use only the GPS.
Suunto has worked best on its battery in this Suunto 9 GPS Watch. The battery consumption during the workouts is relatively high compared to other watch models.
Sunnto planned to make a watch that should last long until the athlete doing their activities without ignoring the serious data. For that Suunto created the FusedTrack algorithm. It is the combination of limited GPS and motion sensor data to minimize the use of GPS readings so the battery will last long. The Baro 9 fetch them with an interval of two minutes.
To provide the tracking data, FusedTrack combines this information with data from the motion sensor. This way of tracking reduces battery usage considerably. This unique GPS technology in the smartwatch world provides highly accurate tracking while it is hard to get satellite signals.
Suunto 9 GPS Watch has connected via two apps, unfortunately, both need improvement and confusing the users in critical situations. It could be more user-friendly.
- Magnetic charging cable
- Slim heart rate belt
- Sapphire glass
- Apps need improvement
Garmin Quatix 5 GPS Watch
The Quatix 5 is the company’s third-generation GPS smartwatch which is dedicated to marine and sailors. The watch has a diameter of 47 mm which fits mostly everyone’s wrist. In maintaining the quality of the device, the model has quite the weight to it. It is made of premium quality waterproof material and coupled with a stylish look.
It has a full-color display with an LED backlight to make the screen easily visible at low light conditions. The glass lens used in this watch is made to be scratch-resistant.
Once you are familiar with the menu settings and five surrounding buttons, the navigation becomes so easy.
The added features from Quatix 3 to this version are the wrist-based monitor, extended battery life, internal memory, and advanced autopilot control for boating.
The Quatix 5 can integrate and provide the information directly to the watch from the various Garmin devices which are compatible such as depth, waypoint & MOB marking, boat speed, and autopilot control.
Garmin Quatix 5 GPS Watch is specifically designed for marine. So if you are a hiker and love to do fishing then you can use this watch for both activities.
Also, this GPS watch is waterproof up to 100 meters. The other includes a compass, thermometer, barometer, anchor alarm, sunrise/sunset times, and more.
When you pair your smartwatch with the compatible computer using Garmin Connect App, the watch can track and upload the daily actions, and health performance and alert you with text, call, or e-mail.
Garmin Quatix 5 Watch has intendedly created this watch for marine and sailing so it does not have induction charging.
- LED backlight
- Sunlight readable screen
- Great for fishing
What is Hiking GPS Watch?
Hiking watches are a sturdy and advanced version of the usual watch with various outrageous features like Altimeter, Barometer, Compass, GPS, Heart Rate Monitor, Thermometer, Wi-Fi, Water, and scratch-resistant. Some of the GPS watches are solar-powered so you don’t want to worry about charging the device in the dark wild or grounds.
How much does a GPS watch cost?
You can see the huge difference between the price of low and high-priced watches. With a price range from $150 to $600, you should make sure all the required features (we mentioned in our buying guide section) are available. Also, know that hiking watches with GPS prices high than ABC watches.
If you are ready to use two different gears a map and compass, you can save hundreds of dollars. But, the hiking GPS watches are remarkably helpful for your gaming. Considering the hiking watch with GPS which combines two expensive gears will surely a worthy buy.
Let’s find the features you can get from the GPS watch from various price ranges.
$70 – $200: You get basic ABC watches with Altimeter, Barometer, Compass, Timers, and Alarms. LAD Weather watches come under this price range. They are the best budget hiking GPS watch for hikers who need a basic unit.
$200 – $500: Accurate information – a few models from this price range has GPS connectivity. Probably, you’ll get stylish and sleek design watches at this price. You can use these ranged watches every day. The Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire, SUUNTO Ambit3, and Suunto Traverse are great options for outdoorsmen who need a quality product with a smart design.
Above $500: high-profile GPS watches with added options like heart rate monitor, WI-Fi, and bike sensors. The Garmin Fenix 3 HR, Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire, and SUUNTO Spartan Ultra HR are great for hikers, runners, and trekkers.
What Features Should A Hiking GPS Watch Have?
You have to consider specific requirements when you head into buying the best hiking GPS watch. Every manufacturer has inserted a few unique features into their products to make them profitable to the consumers.
If a fitness-focused person buys a hiking watch, he/she will be looking for the features like heart rate, traveled distance, calorie, and step counter while a hiker will need an easy-to-understand GPS, weather alarms, and a clear display in their units.
Let look into some of the common features any buyer should consider before purchasing the hiking GPS watch.
GPS is probably the most important function of all that any buyer would look for. It helps the hikers to understand their situation and give them hope to explore the unknown hiking areas and mountains. The information you get from GPS is based on several satellites. They are synchronized satellites that inform the user about their exact location constantly. In simple words, they navigate you in the land by acting as the reference points. The signals from the satellites are detected and processed by the GPS receiver and then the user receives the map.
Hiking watches with in-built GPS connectivity is a great advantage for hiking in remote areas. The distance, speed, and location are a few valuable data received from GPS.
Altimeters use the pressure sensor to measure the air pressure to judge your approximate altitude with relation to the air pressure. The approximate height calculation is based on the ISA (International Standard Atmosphere) values. Most of the high-end models allow you to download the route data.
An altimeter is reliable and accurate in most situations especially when you can’t receive GPS signals.
The Barometer measures the atmospheric pressure and updates you about the climatic trends. These details will let you know if there is a storm or rain coming. If there is a sudden drop in pressure, that is time to put on your raincoat on. When you go deep into the wild areas for hiking and trekking, this extra feature will guide you.
Today, all the hiking watches come with the compass. There are two types of compasses such as 2D and 3D compasses. You have to select the type of compass you want in your watch.
If you choose 2D, know that it works only if you held the watch horizontally but 3D compasses work well in every angle.
There is a sensor inside the compass which uses the magnetic field of the earth to show the direction with high accuracy.
The thermometer is helpful in some situations. You can predict the weather using this feature. The average temperature detection range offered by GPS watches is from -10 degrees Celcius to 60 degrees Celcius.
But nowadays most of GPS watches don’t have a thermometer as the readings may be influenced by the body temperature of the user.
Heart Rate Monitor
Nowadays, hiking watches include heart rate monitors which show and record the heart rate. Mostly, the recent versions have wrist-based heart rate monitors while in some models you have to use a chest strap transmitter.
It is amazing if you can connect your hiking watch with your smartphone or tablet. So you can transfer your information easily. You can make a record of your adventure by uploading the distance, route, and altitude to your personalized systems.
Almost all the manufacturers are designing their products as water-resistant. You have to consider the range of water levels to which the watch can be safe. The average range offered by most brands is 100 meters.
Design and Style
If the design and style of the watch are a concern, then consider the face size of the watch. For a stylish look and everyday use, select the one that has a low profile design and less plastic.
Some of the hiking GPS watches have a design that can blend with official wear and casuals.
More professional and survival hiking watches have a tough and durable body.
GPS watches now have become more fashionable and everyday wear as most of the companies focused on their style, look, and design. We could see that most of hiking GPS watches are applicable to other backcountry activities and water sports.
Though these are not cheap units, the information you get from these devices helps you know about your performance and training effects.
DISCLAIMER: IF YOU PURCHASE ANY PRODUCTS IN THIS POST, WE MAY RECEIVE A SMALL COMMISSION. WE PROMOTE ONLY THE PRODUCTS WHICH WE TEST AND RECOMMEND. READ OUR AFFILIATE DISCLAIMER HERE.
Matt Green, is an avid hiker and lover of the great outdoors. He is always planning his next big trip or hitting the trails for a solo hike.
He’s traveled extensively to many remote regions and has plenty of experience exploring various terrains, and stories to tell.