With today’s advances in GPS and wearable technology, there are lots of options for hiking watches with all kinds of apps and features. From GPS and navigation systems to music and messaging apps, the number of features and products available on the market today can be a little overwhelming. Don’t let all of the bells and whistles fool you – a solid hiking watch can help keep you safe on the trails, especially ones that are less popular. In fact, we consider a hiking watch to be an essential piece of hiking gear for any adventure in the wilderness. After doing a lot of research and testing, we created this guide to the best hiking watches to help you choose the best one for you!
What to Consider When Buying a Hiking Watch
Features & Functionality
With the plethora of features available on smart watches these days, it can be difficult to decide which ones you need. Critical features usually depend on what you’ll be using the watch for. At a very bare minimum, the best hiking watches include the following:
- Weather & Temperature
- Sunrise/Sunset Times
- GPS* (see below)
Today, most (but not all) sport watches include some kind of GPS mapping and navigation capabilities. GPS watches are usually larger and more expensive, but they have navigation capabilities to help minimize your risk of getting lost. Non-GPS watches are less expensive, smaller, and usually have fewer features, but provide adequate information for your hikes at a fraction of the cost.
Usually, we recommend getting a GPS watch if you’re going to spend money on one at all, but we’ve included a few non-GPS hiking watches on our list so you can decide for yourself.
The best hiking watches will have enough battery life for your entire adventure and then some. Some watch batteries last for hundreds of days, while others only last a few hours. A watch’s battery life greatly depends on many factors, including the screen type, available apps and functions, and the amount of time you spend running the GPS (if applicable).
Watches with color screens and touch screens usually have a much shorter battery life than those with monochrome screens. GPS watches, in general, need to be recharged much more often than those without. As a general rule of thumb, the more apps you run at a time (GPS, music, etc.), the quicker the battery will run out.
For those who do a lot of backcountry hiking and camping, we’d recommend getting a solar watch, which recharges with sun exposure. A trusty external battery pack can also help ensure you can always keep your watch charged while out on the trails.
There are two main kinds of screens you’ll find on most hiking watches – screens controlled with buttons and touch screens. Screens controlled with buttons often have a little more of a learning curve to use, but are a bit more durable than touch screen watches. Touch screen watches are more intuitive, but can be hard to use if the screen is small. Which one you prefer is really up to you – they both have pros and cons.
Avid hikers know that the weather can change in the blink of an eye, and the best hiking watches will have some kind of weatherproofing so they can withstand wet, cold, or snowy conditions. We wouldn’t recommend purchasing any watch that can’t get wet, as it will likely break in the rain or during water crossings.
If you plan to use your watch for water sports, make sure you purchase one that has a water depth rating that’s suitable for your activities. Some watches can be submerged in up to 300 meters of water!
Extra Features & Add-Ons
Premium hiking watches often come with different capabilities that users find useful. Some can even replace many aspects of a smartphone! In general, the more features a watch has, the more expensive it will be. However, more features will add to the functionality and convenience of your watch, and can help supplement or replace other electronics you may need on the trail.
Some of the most common add-ons for hiking watches include:
- Heart Rate Monitor
- Maps & Navigation
- Mobile App Compatibility
Comfort & Style
If you’re going to be hiking and adventuring with your watch on your wrist, you’ll want to make sure it’s nice and comfortable. Watches can vary in size, shape, and weight, and comfort can vary from person to person. On top of that, there is often a lot of variation in watch bands – materials, breathability, and color can all play into your decision to buy. In general, the lighter a watch is, the better, and bands that are made of flexible, breathable materials are the most comfortable.
While we try not to let a product’s price bias our reviews, we know it’s a huge consideration for most people. Most hiking watches cost between $200 and $800, but the best watches aren’t always the most expensive. Determine your budget, decide on the key features you want, and choose a watch from there. We’ve included watches at every budget to help you find one that works for you!
Our Picks: Best Hiking Watches in 2021
After lots of research, testing, and sifting through hundreds of customer reviews, we came up with our list of 12 of the best hiking watches on the market today at any budget. We’ve included some of the most minimal hiking watches to the most “tricked out” ones so you can find the one the works best for you and your budget.
At a glance, here are our recommendations for the best hiking watches:
- Overall Best Hiking Watch: Garmin Instinct Solar
- Best Multisport Hiking Watch: Garmin Fenix 6 Pro
- Best for Battery Life: COROS VERTIX
- Best for Casual Hiking: Apple Watch Series 6
- Best Bang for Your Buck: Suunto 7
- Best Non-GPS Watch: Suunto Core
Garmin Instinct Solar
Best Overall Hiking Watch
- Battery Life: Up to 145 hours (with solar)
- Navigation: GPS, GLONASS, Galileo
- Display Size: 1.2″
- MSRP: $399.99
With its useful features, battery life, and durability, the Garmin Instinct Solar is the best hiking watch out there for adventures in the backcountry or on your favorite city trails. With a heart rate monitor, solar charging, navigation, and all of the necessary hiking watch functions, this watch has all of the essentials for a safe hike. If you’re planning to use your watch primarily for hiking, trail running, or trekking, this is one of the best hiking watches to choose, and comes at a great value for the price.
This watch connects to 3 satellite systems – GPS, GLONASS and Galileo – to maximize your ability to navigate no matter where you are. Additionally, the Instinct Solar comes with Garmin’s TracBac feature to guide you back to your starting point via the route you took.
To ensure its ability to stand up to the elements, the Garmin Instinct Solar was built and tested to meet U.S. military standard 810, constructed to perform in extreme temperatures, high impact, and up to 100 meters underwater. Additionally, you can track your activity and heart rate and upload your usage stats to the online Garmin community.
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro
Best Multisport Watch for Hiking
If you’re seeking a watch that does it all, the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro (and its various versions – more on this below) is our recommended option. Designed as a multisport smartwatch, this watch boasts a full color screen, GPS navigation, and all of the main hiking features necessary for a safe hike, including a compass, barometric altimeter, and gyroscope. It’s most useful if you participate in multiple sports, as it’s designed to perform at 100 meters of water immersion and has capabilities for skiing, surfing, biking, running, and more.
One of the things we like the most about the Garmin Fenix 6x Pro is that it is built to serve as both as smartwatch and a rugged hiking companion. You can opt for a scratch-resistant Sapphire screen in order to avoid damage, and there’s also a Solar option for charging during use. Some of the other options for the Fenix watch include:
- Smaller (Fenix 6s) or larger (Fenix 6x) screen size
- Music, Contactless Pay, and Bluetooth capabilities
- Topographic maps
- Heart rate monitoring
- Sleep monitoring
- Pulse oximeter
There are few things this watch can’t do…but it does come at a premium price. We’d recommend this as an investment for people who want all of the bells and whistles or outdoor adventurers who want a watch that performs in multiple sports and environments.
Best for Battery Life
A newer, lesser known option in the hiking tech world, the COROS VERTIX is an excellent hiking watch to take along with you on your adventures. This is an excellent competitor to the Garmin Fenix for our “Best Multisport” ranking, and we’d definitely recommend it as one of the best hiking watches on our list.
With access to 3 satellites – GPS, GLONASS and BEIDOU – you’ll have navigation capabilities in rugged and remote areas. However, what makes this one of the best hiking watches is its long-lasting battery life – up to a week with GPS/ULTRAMAX use, and up to 45 days on regular mode. It’s built for rugged use, with a water depth rating of up to 150 m and a scratch-resistant sapphire glass screen. It’s also got plenty of apps and tracking options for various sports.
Apple Watch Series 6
Best for Using On & Off the Trail
While it’s not a hiking-specific watch, the Apple Watch Series 6 is a great option for wearing during casual day hikes and out on the town. Whether you already have an Apple Watch or are considering a smart watch with hiking capabilities, this is a great choice if you want one of the best watches for hiking with functionality for your everyday life.
With compatibility on hiking and sport apps like AllTrails, Strava, and Google Maps, you can track all of your steps and activities via Apple’s GPS system. Additionally, the watch has bluetooth, music, messaging, and more and integrates directly with your iPhone and other devices via your Apple ID.
We wouldn’t recommend this watch for navigation in the backcountry or for any technical hiking, but for casual hiking in your city or in well-maintained trails, this is a great option with a lot of other functions that are useful for your regular routine.
Best Bang For Your Buck
- Battery Life: 12 hours (average)
- Navigation: GPS
- Display Size: 1.4″
- MSRP: $399 ($499 for Titanium)
The Suunto 7 is a fantastic multisport watch for the price, with navigation and tracking functionality that’s comparable to some of the best watches for hiking out there. It’s got GPS functionality with offline maps, music, 70+ sports modes, and all of the basic hiking functions necessary for a safe and successful adventure on the trails. It’s compatible with Android and Apple phones to sync messages and notifications, making it a great lifestyle smart watch in addition to its outdoor sport modes.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the Suunto 7 is the reduced battery life relative to other options on the market. However, if you only plan to use this watch for day hikes or alongside a portable battery charger, it’s a great option for the price given its various smartwatch capabilities. It’s also only water resistant up to 50 meters, so it’s probably not the best watch for diving or other water activities.
Overall Best Hiking Watch without GPS
If you’re looking for a no-frills hiking watch with all of the necessary tools, the Suunto Core is one of the best watches for hiking on a budget. There’s no GPS capability on this watch, but it includes an altimeter, barometer, and compass for backcountry navigation. There’s even an alarm to signal bad weather ahead!
While there aren’t smart watch features on this watch, it does have the ability to record your hikes and offers altimeter readings up to 29,500 feet. It’s also water resistant up to 30 meters for light water sports or inclement weather. Because it’s such a simple interface, the battery lasts around 1 year without needing to be replaced or recharged. Those looking for a GPS offering might want to consider a different option, but for hikers who want a simple, easy-to-read watch that will hold up in any conditions, the Suunto Core is a perfect option.
An upgrade from the Suunto 7, the Suunto 9 Baro has everything you need to track virtually any sport you want to do outside, including swimming, hiking, running, and more. It can sync with several fitness apps to make tracking even more streamlined across all your devices. Much like the other Suunto watches, there are weather alerts available, and the GPS tracking can help you navigate even in more remote areas. You can also pair this watch with your Android or iPhone to receive notifications and messages.
The Garmin Tactix Delta Solar is one of Garmin’s most robust and resilient watches, created for the most rugged and extreme adventurers. Tested to meet U.S. military standard 810, this watch can go through the ringer and withstand extreme shock, temperatures, and immersion in water up to 100 meters. As the cream of the crop in outdoor navigation, this watch is specifically for tactical activity. As the most expensive option on our list, it’s definitely overkill for most hikers, but if your adventures bring you to some of the most remote ends of the world, it may be worth considering.
Many people swear by the Casio Pro Trek as one of the best watches for hiking, and we knew we had to include it in our list. Its battery lasts up to 5 months without being recharged, and it’s fully solar rechargeable (no cables or shore power required!). It keeps time based on the atomic clock and keeps super precise time no matter where you are. Water resistant up to 200 meters, super durable, and armed with all of the main necessities, you’ll be full equipped for any hiking adventure you want to tackle. There’s no GPS, but other than that, this watch has everything you need for a rugged backcountry adventure.