In the age of fitness trackers like Fitbit and smartwatches like the Apple Watch and the Samsung Galaxy line of smartwatches, it’s easy and simple to have a GPS right on your wrist wherever you go. Getting lost might just became a nuisance of the past. Of course, if you’re an avid hiker, you might need a hiking watch a bit more rugged than what will satisfy the average customer.
For all you true nature lovers, we’ve made this list of the best GPS watches for hikers so that you can stay grounded and at ease while you explore the great outdoors. We want to help you find a hiking smartwatch that’s as tough as you are.
Carry on reading to see our full list of the best GPS watches for hikers, followed by a recap breaking down what makes each product on our list stand out. Or jump straight to our number #1 pick here.
- What Should You Look For in a GPS Watch for Hiking?
- Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Hiking GPS Watches
- #1: Suunto 9 GPS Sports Watch (Best Value – All-Purpose)
- #2: Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Hiking Watch (Best Overall GPS Watch for Hikers)
- #3: Suunto Traverse Alpha Hiking Smartwatch (Best for Staying in Sync with Nature)
- #4: Suunto Core Regular Black Digital Display Quartz Watch (Best Low Cost)
- #5: Topo Canada Garmin Epix Smartwatch (Most Intuitive Design)
- What Separates a Hiker’s GPS Watch from Any Other GPS Watch?
- Verdict: Your Best Hiking GPS Watches
What Should You Look For in a GPS Watch for Hiking?
Now that we’ve established why you might want a hiking watch to keep you grounded on the trail, we need to show you what to look for in the best hiking watches. We’ve already established that any old smartwatch probably won’t get the job done, so what does that leave us with? We’ve broken down all the essential criteria below so that you can become an expert in no time at all and feel ready to make your purchase.
Criteria #1: Durability – Like we said earlier, we want to find a hiking watch that’s as tough as you are. Hiking isn’t always a particularly safe sport, and between those pesky branches and the occasional tumble, your hiking watch is inevitably going to receive its fair share of the beating. That’s why our top priority is to find hiking watches that will be able to handle the abuse and that will be able to keep on trucking for years on end. We also want to find watches that are scratch-resistant and at least somewhat water-resistant.
Criteria #2: Battery Life – Who knows how long you’ll be out on the trail? Even if you’re planning on getting into a hotel overnight in between hikes, you may just not have a good outlet situation, or you may forget to bring your watch charger entirely. Nobody has ever been upset that their hiking watch’s battery is too good, and we want to see how far we can push that. We’re looking for hiking watches with a battery that will last for days or even weeks on end while you blaze on down the trails without a care in the world.
Criteria #3: Extra Features – The difference between extraordinary and ordinary is just that little extra. Small extra features can go a long way, and we definitely don’t want to neglect these little bonuses when we’re evaluating the best hiking watches out there. We want everything including the kitchen sink. The best watches out there will have heart rate and breathing rate monitors, altitude measurements, and extra modes specifically for certain workouts or activities, and we definitely don’t want to rob you of those amazing features.
Criteria #4: Price – We’re not here to make you spend a ton of money for no reason. Meeting this criterion is less about being cheap and more about justifying your price. We’d rather buy an expensive product that’s cheaper than it should be than waste money on a cheaper product that isn’t worth the money and that will just break on you or not perform well.
Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Hiking GPS Watches
We measured the specs of the top products on the market against our listed criteria to see how they held up and if they’re worth buying. We then checked customer reviews, blog posts, and “best GPS watch for hiker” articles to see if the products on our list performed as advertised. We also looked for any notable features that may not have squarely fit in any of our criteria, and we made sure to include products from a wide variety of niches and price ranges. This way, all of our readers will be able to find the best hiking watch for their needs no matter what.
And without further ado, here is our list – tailored to your specific needs – of the best GPS watches for any hiker.
#1: Suunto 9 GPS Sports Watch (Best Value – All-Purpose)
Our list starts off with the Suunto 9 GPS Sports Watch. Get used to the name Sunnto, because I promise you’ll be seeing it again in our list of the best hiking watches – or any other list of the best hiking watches for that matter. Along with Garmin, Suunto is just about the premier name in hiking watches, and the Suunto 9 GPS Sports Watch is one of their best models available.
To start things off, this Sunnto hiking watch features a battery life of 120 hours or 5 days. So unless you’re doing a full cross-country trek, you should have no problem making the Suunto 9 GPS Sports Watch’s battery last for your entire hike or camping getaway.
With their premium hiking watch, Suunto also offers 100 meters of water resistance, so you can go for a quick swim or dive in that beautiful lake without a care in the world. You’re also getting over 80 sports modes to help you stay goal-oriented and in shape and a heart rate monitor that will give you a blast of dopamine when you get a great visual of exactly how hard you were working on that steep climb. Nothing keeps you going like a little positive reinforcement and easily-measured progress. Finally, the Suunto 9 GPS Sports Watch also includes the Suunto Sports App which will help you access new workouts and get advice from the rest of the active community.
Suunto promises that this watch has been “tested to the extreme with thousands of hours of real use in the toughest conditions,” so you know you’re getting a proven and durable watch. The Suunto 9 GPS Sports Watch has an optional built-in barometer available that will provide you with a storm alarm, weather trends, and sunrise and sunset times. The fact that you can take a solid chunk out of the price of this watch by passing on the barometer is just the cherry on top, and it’s part of what makes this product such a great value that’s perfect for anyone. Plus, the Suunto 9 GPS Sports Watch has full smartwatch capabilities, so you can leave your phone in your bag and still be reachable in case of an emergency. And to cap things off, it boasts an intelligent GPS system that manages to maintain accuracy without draining your battery.
We already mentioned that Suunto is at the top of basically every list of the best hiking watches, and the Suunto 9 GPS Sports Watch is no exception. In addition to being featured on multiple lists, this versatile hiking watch has a slew of positive reviews from paying customers on Amazon. Customers praised this watch for its battery life, durable design, and easy-to-use interface.
And on top of all that, it comes in at a competitive price that’s cheaper than most of the comparable hiking watches out there, especially if you decide to pass on the barometer. That’s what makes the Suunto 9 GPS Sports Watch the best value of any hiking watch, and that’s why it’s our number one pick for the best hiking watch.
#2: Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Hiking Watch (Best Overall GPS Watch for Hikers)
We praised the Suunto 9 GPS Sports Watch as the best value out there in terms of return on your dollar, and that’s why it earned our number one spot. However, if you are willing to take a loss on your return if it means a better overall product, then you may decide to splurge for a more luxurious watch. If you’re the kind of customer that won’t settle for anything but the best, then you’ll definitely want to consider the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Hiking Watch.
While this watch is a little (okay, a lot) more expensive than our number one pick, it has some specs and features that just separate it from the pack. If you’re looking to pay top-dollar for a top-dollar hiking smartwatch, then here are some features that might convince you to break the bank for the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Hiking Watch.
Reason #1 to Choose This Product: Insane Battery Life
While you might think that the 120 hours of battery life from the Suunto 9 GPS Sports Watch is pretty amazing, this is actually more or less standard amongst hiking watches. On the other hand, the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Hiking Watch features the most insane battery life out there. Straight from the horse’s mouth, Garmin proudly boasts that this watch provides “up to 14 days in smartwatch mode, up to 10 hours in GPS and music mode, up to 28 days in expedition GPS activity mode, and up to 48 days in battery-saver mode.”
So to recap, if you use this watch in the GPS activity mode, it’ll last you about the entire month of February. That’s one long hike! And then if you turn on power-saving mode, you’ll get almost 2 months. According to Google Maps, that’s more than enough time to walk from New York to California.
So if you want to enjoy the trail without once checking how much battery you have left, then the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Hiking Watch is the only hiking watch for you.
Reason #2 to Choose This Product: PacePro Guidance
Do you tend to get a little ahead of yourself on hikes or runs? I know I do. It’s perfectly understandable to get a bit overzealous with your pacing. If you want to lower the amount of starting-and-stopping on your hikes or on your morning jog, then the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Hiking Watch’s amazing PacePro Guidance feature is just perfect for you.
This amazing guidance feature will keep you on pace with grade-adjusted guidance as you run a course so that you’ll be able to keep moving and become a more skilled runner or hiker. When you combine this with the performance metrics this watch provides such as estimated running dynamics, heat- and altitude-adjusted VO2 max, recovery advisor, and more, this watch is the best watch to help you better understand your running and hiking habits.
On top of the PacePro Guidance and the out-of-this-world battery life, the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Hiking Watch comes with all of the standard features including a heart rate monitor, sleep pattern analyzer, and an always-on display that’s 18% larger than the previous Garmin Fenix models. Just to top things off, you’re also getting pre-downloaded maps courtesy of Togo, and information and difficulty ratings on 2,000 different ski resorts. Finally, an altimeter barometer compass means you’ll always know exactly where you are and you’ll always have a good bearing on the situation.
It comes at a hefty price, but whether you’re hitting the hiking trail, the running track, or the ski slope, the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is just about the best watch out there.
#3: Suunto Traverse Alpha Hiking Smartwatch (Best for Staying in Sync with Nature)
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At the end of the day, what is hiking really about other than connecting with nature? If you want a hiker’s watch that will not only stop you from getting lost but also make sure that leave the trail with a deeper appreciation for the great outdoors and mother nature, then the Suunto Traverse Alpha Hiking Smartwatch is the only watch for you.
Just like our best overall watch from Garmin, the Suunto Traverse Alpha Hiking Smartwatch tells you the sunrise and sunset times so that you can perfectly plan your route, knowing exactly when to wake up and when you’ll run out of daylight. But what’s even more incredible is that this watch, which is the best friend of outdoorsy folk everywhere, comes included with a location-based moon phase calendar with moonrise and moonset times. This means you’ll know exactly which nights are best for a little night swim or when you’ll have a completely dark dusk that’s perfect for stargazing. If you’re into watching the fish, this moon chart will also give you a good idea of when certain fish will be out and active, so you can observe nature in action in its purest form.
As for the actual watch, the Suunto Traverse Alpha Hiking Smartwatch features a glass fiber reinforced composite with stainless steel coated, knurled bezel and pushers, and it’s water-resistant up to 100 meters deep. You’re getting a great watch that’s durable and can handle a quick swim or two.
In the standard setting, the battery lasts for 14 days, while in active GPS mode it can last for 10, 15, or even 100 hours depending on the setting you use. The Suunto Traverse Alpha Hiking Smartwatch also lets you plan your route with accurate topographic routes, and it has a pressure barometer to help you keep track of the conditions as the trail starts to escalate. On top of that, you have a form alarm that will help you keep track of the weather so you can stay dry if some rain is coming in.
The Suunto Traverse Alpha Hiking Smartwatch is very well-reviewed, both from blog posts and from customers, but it’s definitely on the more expensive side of things if you buy it new. That means that unless you can get a good deal on a used one, you may want to pass on this hiking smartwatch unless you just can’t say no to that moon chart and some of the other less common features this watch offers. But if those features are just calling your name, then the Suunto Traverse Alpha Hiking Smartwatch is the only watch out there that will meet your needs.
#4: Suunto Core Regular Black Digital Display Quartz Watch (Best Low Cost)
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I told you to get used to the name Suunto. The leaders of hiking watches manage to nab their third spot on our list, this time with the incredibly affordable Suunto Core Regular Black Digital Display Quartz Watch.
We’ve hit a wide spectrum of prices on this list so far, but you might still have felt that you need to be prepared to break the bank for a good hiking smartwatch. Well, the Suunto Core Regular Black Digital Display Quartz Watch is here to assuage those fears. This budget Suunto product has an altimeter, barometer, compass, and depth measurer that will quickly and clearly show you your current elevation, ascent speed, and descent speed, and it will record your hiking progress. This watch even measures your current depth and your maximum depth reached while diving, so you can get a little competitive and try to break your record. Not bad for a smartwatch you found in the bargain bin.
While customers have complimented the water-resistance of the Suunto Core Regular Black Digital Display Quartz Watch, there isn’t an actual official maximum depth listed for this watch, so I’d be a little cautious before going deep-sea scuba diving with it.
The biggest flaw of this watch is probably that it’s missing the heart rate monitor that’s become pretty much a given in any other hiking or fitness watch. Plus, I’m not a big fan of its pixelated display, which almost looks like you’re playing Snake on an old Nokia flip-phone from the 90s. But it does have sunrise and sunset times for over 400 locations, and it boasts warranty-covered accuracy for up to 2 years, so you’ll be able to carefully plan out your mornings for a few hiking seasons to come.
If you want to keep things cheap and still walk away with a great smartwatch that will make your time on the trail that much more enjoyable and organized, then the Suunto Core Regular Black Digital Display Quartz Watch is the best option for you.
#5: Topo Canada Garmin Epix Smartwatch (Most Intuitive Design)
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Okay, I know it may not seem like it from reading this list, but I promise there are other hiking watches out there other than Suunto and Garmin. Of course, Garmin and Suunto have the market pretty much cornered, and that’s how they’ve managed to make up the entirety of our list. But enough about that. The final smartwatch for hikers on our list is the Topo Canada Garmin Epix Smartwatch, and it’s the perfect choice for anyone who prioritizes a good and easy-to-understand user interface over everything.
The reason the Topo Canada Garmin Epix Smartwatch is such a good friend of technophobes everywhere is that it uses the same intuitive and simple user interface that you already use with your smartphone and tablet and even with most standard smartwatches that aren’t specifically geared towards hiking – the touch screen. That’s right, the Topo Canada Garmin Epix Smartwatch’s interface is entirely touchscreen dependent, so there are no buttons or dials that you need to worry about or figure out. Just touch what you want to interact with, and you’re done.
Now, don’t make the mistake of thinking that all this watch has to offer is a fancy touchscreen. The Topo Canada Garmin Epix Smartwatch comes with 8 GB of internal memory to store maps from Topo USA and Canada, as well as the large library of maps that come preloaded. You also get an altimeter, barometer, and compass to help keep you grounded at all times. Keep track of your whereabouts, your elevation, and the upcoming weather all with one quick look at your new watch.
This rugged watch has a tough frame, and it’s water-resistant up to 50 meters. Finally, you get the heart rate monitor and sleep pattern analyzer that we’ve come to love and expect.
The Topo Canada Garmin Epix Smartwatch falls firmly on the cheaper end of things compared to our other hiking watches. It only has 111 reviews on Amazon, but most of those reviews are pretty positive, so this is definitely something of a hidden gem.
The price and the intuitive touchscreen combine to offer a product that’s perfect for anyone newer to hiking smartwatches. You get to keep the spending cheap while you decide if you’re into hiking smartwatches, and you’ll get an easy-to-use watch to get you started.
If you want a cheap smartwatch for hiking that has a great intuitive touchscreen and that comes with all of the standard features to help you along the trail, then the Topo Canada Garmin Epix Smartwatch is just about the only watch that’s a real option for you.
What Separates a Hiker’s GPS Watch from Any Other GPS Watch?
The honest short answer is “not that much.” You definitely could use your Apple Watch or a similar product as a hiking smartwatch if you just download the right third-party apps. Of course, you’d definitely be missing out on a few key traits.
For example, standard smartwatches are not water-resistant. They aren’t nearly as durable as the hiking watches on our list, and their batteries certainly can’t last for days or weeks on end like some of our watches can.
Theoretically, you could find a typical smartwatch that meets these criteria, and you’d have a reliable hiking or diving smartwatch on your hands. Of course, the simplest option is just to look for the smartwatches geared towards hiking, which are sure to have the durable design, incredible battery life, and water-resistant frame that you need while on the trail.
Verdict: Your Best Hiking GPS Watches
We’re reaching the end of our list, and you’re hopefully starting to get a good idea of which of our products is best for you. But if you haven’t made up your mind yet, not to worry. We don’t want to rush, and we know how important it is to make sure you’re getting the hiker’s GPS watch that’s perfect for you. That’s why we’re going to recap all of our GPS watches for hikers and focus on their standout features. This way, you’ll be able to see the highlights and really know what each product has to offer for you.
If you want the best value for your money, pick the Suunto 9 GPS Sports Watch.
This Suunto product was our number one pick for a reason. It provides just about everything you can ask for and manages to keep it affordable, with the option to make things even cheaper by passing on the barometer. Water-resistance? How does 100 meters sound? Battery life? This baby will last for five days. You also get 80 sports modes that will help you vary up the ways in which you stay physically active. This watch also comes with, of course, a heart rate monitor that will help you see where your workout was the most intense, and a sleep pattern that will help you better understand your body. Did we mention it’s cheap? Suunto is one of the best brands out there in hiking smartwatches, and the Suunto 9 GPS Sports Watch is one of their best products. So get the best of the best with our number one pick.
If you need to really enjoy nature, pick the Suunto Traverse Alpha.
Almost every sports watch at this point comes with a calendar for sunrise and sunset times, but the Suunto Traverse Alpha is just about the only watch out there that also has moonrise and moonset times. This means that you can perfectly plan out your days and nights so that you get the most out of your visit to Mother Nature. Squeeze in a night swim when you have the light of the moon, and make sure to stargaze when you know the night will be as dark as possible. You’re also getting 100 meters of water-resistance and 14 days of battery life, so you really don’t have to rejoin civilization until you’re ready. It’s a bit expensive, but if you can find a better watch for the true nature lover than the Suunto Traverse Alpha, please let me know.
If you want to keep the spending cheap, pick the Suunto Core Regular Black Digital Display Quartz Watch.
Maybe I should’ve just made this a list of Suunto products. They definitely gave me enough material to work with. The Suunto Core Regular Black Digital Display Quartz Watch gives you all of the must-have features and proves that you don’t need to break the bank for a good sports watch. You get the full combo of an altimeter, barometer, compass, and depth measurer, and you have sunrise and sunset times for over 400 different locations. My only problem with this watch is that I don’t really like the design, but that may seem like a small compromise for most customers. The altimeter, barometer, compass, and depth measure is the go-to for anyone trying to stay within a budget.
That brings us to the end of our list, and we hope you’re starting to have a good idea of which watch is best for you. If you weren’t interested in any of the highlighted products above, you may be more interested in the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Hiking Watch with its ultra-long battery life or the intuitive and simple Topo Canada Garmin Epix Smartwatch.
A word of advice, it’s a good idea to have in mind which trait is most important to you when you start researching. This will help you save some time by quickly skipping the watches that don’t have the features you’re looking for.
That’s all for now. We hope this list helped, and we hope you enjoy the hiking!