Last Updated on March 8, 2020
Hiking is an activity enjoyed by people of all ages across the globe. It is a great way of getting exercise, appreciating beautiful surroundings, and getting back to nature. However, many modern hikers enhance their hiking experience by using gadgets. One piece of equipment they may buy is a hiking watch and the watches that feature GPS are some of the best. Here, you can learn about the things to consider when buying a GPS watch for hiking. You can also read reviews of the best hiking GPS watches on the market today.
Quick Overview of The Best GPS Watches For Hiking
|Garmin Fenix 3 HR||3.2 Oz||1.2 Inches||Check Price|
|Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire||3.1 Oz||1.2 Inches||Check Price|
|Suunto Traverse Alpha||2.72 Oz||1.97 Inches||Check Price|
|Polar M430 GPS Running Watch||5.8 Oz||3 Inches||Check Price|
|Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS||3.04 Oz||1.6 Inches||Check Price|
|Casio Men's Pro Trek PRW-2500R-1CR||4.4 Oz||2.2 Inches||Check Price|
|Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro Watch||2.6 Oz||1.97 Inches||Check Price|
|TomTom Adventurer GPS Hiking & Trail Running Watch||1.92 Oz||2 Inches||Check Price|
|Suunto Traverse Watch||2.88 Oz||2 Inches||Check Price|
|EZON Climbing Hiking Watch||2.4 Oz||1.76 Inches||Check Price|
Reviews of The Best Hiking GPS Watches
Anyone who enjoys the advantages of technology while hiking and wants to track various aspects of their trails will love this GPS watch for hiking.
Advanced GPS System:
The Garmin software combined with the GPS antenna give better information in challenging environments than GPS alone.
Health Monitoring Features:
Tracks various aspects of your health during activities, such as heart rate, VO2 max, and recovery rate.
This watch boasts PVD-stainless steel bezel and buttons, reinforced housing, and a treated silicone band. These materials make this watch a durable option.
- Good quality
- Good for navigation
- Health monitoring
- Advanced GPS
- Customizable screens
- Poor backlighting
- You need your phone for many of the features
The sheer amount of data available using this GPS watch is one of the reasons it is such a popular choice and certainly the best GPS watch for hiking. It is suitable for a variety of activities, not just hiking. Therefore, it is a good option for active people who enjoy a range of sports and outdoor pursuits. The major negative with this watch is that many of the features need you to carry your phone with you or they do not work. However, if you take your phone hiking with you anyway, this is not an issue. Some people have said that the backlighting is poor on this phone, but not all buyers agree with this statement.
This sturdy watch has a sleek design that is perfect for the modern hiker and features the latest technology in sports watches.
Excellent Tech Features:
The range of features includes health and fitness monitoring, smart notifications, and automatic Garmin Connect uploads. Hiking features include a 3-axis compass with gyroscope and barometric altimeter.
You can personalize this watch with the free watch interfaces and apps provided. This means the watch can look how you want it to and deliver the most relevant data.
The rugged design of this hiking watch means it is durable and suitable for both fitness and adventure. The bezel, rear case, and buttons are all constructed using stainless steel.
- Advanced tech
- Best compass for hiking
- Option to customize
- Poor watch strap
- Some data inaccuracies
The negative comments about this watch relate to the watch strap and the accuracy of the data. Some buyers said that the watch strap is not of the same quality as the rest of the watch. The data inaccurate data mostly relates to altitude as some hikers said they had to recalibrate the watch regularly to get accurate altitude data. Other than these two issues, most hikers are very impressed with this watch. It is especially appealing to hikers who enjoy other sports as there are functions that relate to different activities.
Designed for hunting and fishing, the features of the Suunto Traverse Alta are also useful for everyday hikers.
The watch is made from durable materials. These include a durable water-repellent nylon strap and a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass dial. The watch case has a knurled stainless-steel bezel.
Although this watch is for hunting and fishing, the GPS navigation feature is useful for hiking. It tracks your path and uses an automatic breadcrumb trail to help you find your way back. It also has a digital compass and topographic maps for route planning.
This watch has a barometer and an altimeter. It also gives storm alerts and tracks weather trends.
- Good for navigation
- Accurate data
- Good battery life
- Difficult to read
- Takes time to switch functions
Buyers have used this for a range of outdoor activities and find the data accurate and useful. As the watches are durable and have a good battery life, people say that they are ideal for hiking. The main complaint is that despite having a backlight, the display is hard to read in some lights due to poor contrast. Some people also found that it takes time to switch from one function to another and say the watch takes patience to use.
If you are a passionate runner and want to monitor your health, progress, and performance, then this is the watch for you.
It is compatible with many PCs. These include Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8 and later. It is also compatible with Mac OS X 10.6, OS X 10.7, OS X 10.8 and later.
Great for monitoring various aspects of health, performance, and progress for both indoor and outdoor running.
This watch has a funky design and is available in six color options.
- Funky designs
- Good for measuring performance
- Compatible with lots of PCs
- Not many features for outdoor pursuits
- Inaccurate heart rate monitor
- Short battery life
This GPS watch is ideally suited to those who enjoy running. However, some of the features will also work well for those who hike. This has a funky design with different color options and is suitable for both men and women. It takes plenty of measurements if you want to track progress and performance. However, it is not the best option for navigation as it does not include these features. Some people have reported that the heart rate monitor is inaccurate and find the short battery life an inconvenience.
A budget-friendly option for hiking enthusiasts who want a reliable GPS watch for hiking that doesn’t cost a fortune.
Losing GPS signal when you need it the most is a common problem for people enjoying outdoor activities. However, this watch features a high-sensitivity GPS receiver with HotFix. This improves reception and performance in deep canyons and tree covered areas.
Hikers like this watch because of its navigation features. It keeps track of routes and waypoints and has a feature for retracing your steps. It also has an electronic compass.
There is plenty of other data that is useful for hiking, hunting, and fishing. It has a trip computer, a barometer, an altimeter, and sunrise/ sunset times.
- Useful for navigation
- Accurate data
- Easy to read
- Heart rate monitor sold separately
- Short battery life
This is one of the best hiking watches on the market for those on a budget. For under $200, you can own a hiking GPS tracker that has many of the same features and benefits as an expensive GPS watch. It provides accurate and useful data that is easy to read, and the watch is simple to use. The negative of this watch is that it has a short battery life and you will find yourself replacing the batteries regularly.
For people who enjoy a range of sports and outdoor activities, this innovative watch has interesting features to help you get the most out of your hobbies.
High Water Resistance:
It has a high level of water resistance as the manufacturers made it to withstand high water pressure, depth, and strong currents. It is water-resistant to 200 meters and is good for extreme activities, such as water rafting or sea kayaking.
This is a durable watch. It boasts a mineral dial window, a stainless steel case, and a resin band.
A range of useful data is available that gives information relevant to different activities. These include an altimeter, a chronograph, a barometer, a compass, a thermometer, and tide data.
- Useful data for various activities
- Easy to read graphs
- Good water resistance
- Large watch
- Small Screen
This Casio watch has some useful features and will appeal to hikers and people who enjoy several sports. It is one of the best GPS watches for hiking in terms of its water resistance and the graphs are a great way of comparing data. The main complaint is the ratio of the watch to the screen. Those who have worn this watch say it is bulky and the screen size is too small. They would prefer a smaller watch with a bigger screen.
A watch for those who want to combine navigation and other outdoor features with monitoring their fitness and performance.
For hikers, trekkers, and backpackers, there are various navigation features on this watch. It has a digital compass and a route navigation system that highlights points of interest and estimates time of arrival.
Features for Outdoors:
It has a barometer, an altimeter, good water resistance, a storm alarm, and sunrise/ sunset times.
Just some of the data that this watch measures are heart rate, speed, distance, calories burned, cycling and running power, pace, swimming distance, and daily activity level.
- Excellent information
- Useful for many activities
- Good for navigation
- Vague manual
Buyers have praised almost every aspect of this watch. They have found the data accurate and useful. The main gripe does not relate to the watch itself, but to the manual. People say the information is vague and this means they need to work out the different functions themselves. They said some information did not relate to the watch and other instructions were missing. If you have the patience to work out how to use this watch, it is well worth the money as it is such a versatile option.
This watch is for people who are passionate about a variety of sports and it has functions that are specific to each along with useful functions that apply to several activities.
It has special modes for hiking, skiing, trail running, and snowboarding. You can use the different modes to track your performance in each activity.
Outdoor Fitness Features:
The outdoor fitness features include a compass, water-resistance, and a barometer.
Health and Fitness Monitoring:
Some of the health and fitness monitoring features include heart rate monitoring, time active, performance feedback, steps taken, and calories burned.
- Suitable for lots of activities
- Music player with Bluetooth headphones
- Great outdoor features
- Fitness monitoring
- Easy to read
For those who enjoy various activities, this is one of the best GPS watches. Using the different modes allows you to track your performance for each activity. It is also good for those who like to collect data about their health and fitness. The main negative of this watch is its size. Both the watch and its interface are large, so it feels bulky to wear. People remove it before bed because it is uncomfortable. This means they cannot use the sleep tracker function.
For the modern hiker who wants accurate information at their fingertips, this smart-looking watch is an affordable option.
Receive Smartphone Notifications:
This watch keeps you informed of any incoming information from your Smartphone, such as phone calls, emails, and messages.
It is great for hiking as it has features suitable for navigation and the outdoors. It boasts a compass, distance progress, route tracking, a breadcrumb trail feature, altitude statistics, barometer trends, daylight hour’s data, and storm alarms.
There are five colour options for this trendy looking watch. It is waterproof and made from durable materials. These include a stainless-steel case and a mineral dial window.
- Excellent outdoors features
- Smart design
- Smartphone connectivity
- Easy to read
- Poor computer app
- Short battery life
The range of features on this watch is what appeals to buyers. They have said it is simple to setup, easy to read and has useful functions. However, they have found the computer app disappointing and say that when you close the app you lose Bluetooth connection. The other issue is that the watch only has a short battery life.
This multifunctional sports watch has all the key features that you will need for the outdoors, no matter what activities you enjoy.
The large dial measures 1.76 inches in diameter and shows a clear digital display. Viewing the information in darkness or poor light is aided by a backlight.
The main feature of this watch that will appeal to outdoors enthusiasts is that it has multiple functions that are useful in an outdoors environment. These include a thermometer, altimeter, barometer, compass, weather forecast, sunrise and sunset information, stopwatch, world city times, and a 50-year calendar.
This watch is waterproof to a depth of 164 feet. This means it will easily withstand heavy rain and even watersports. However, it is not suitable for scuba diving.
- Multiple features for the outdoors
- Cool, military-style design
- Good water-resistance
- 365-day standby
- Clear digital display
- Some reading inconsistencies
- Back light only lights for a few seconds
The features on this watch make it the perfect choice for people who enjoy the outdoors who are looking for a GPS watch for under $100. The fact that this watch does not need charging makes it ideal for those who spend long periods outdoors without the technology to charge a watch.
Things to Consider When Buying Hiking GPS Watches
There is a wide choice of hiking GPS watches and each has its own features, pros, and cons. If you are buying this type of watch for the first time, the information can seem confusing. This guide is to help you identify the key features of a GPS hiking watch and decide the best option for you.
The price for GPS watches varies greatly. When choosing a GPS watch, the price is an important factor for many people as most will have a budget. There are some things to consider relating to the price of the watch:
- Watches with GPS are generally more expensive than basic hiking or sports watches.
- The price does not always reflect the quality and the most expensive is not necessarily the best.
- A well-known brand, the quality of materials, and the range of functions are all factors that impact on price.
- If you want a top-of-the-range hiking watch with GPS but can’t afford one, search for deals and discounts.
Types of Activity
There are GPS watches available that are suited to different activities. Even if your main passion is hiking, you might want to consider a watch that is suited to a range of activities if you have lots of active hobbies. For example, you might want a GPS watch with navigation features for hiking and a decent level of water resistance for swimming.
It is not necessary to have a separate fitness app if you opt for a GPS watch that monitors health and fitness. Choosing a watch with health monitoring may include the following features:
- Heart rate
- Daily activity levels
- Calories burned
- Daily steps
- Stairs climbed
- Hours of sleep and sleep quality
- Water resistance is an important feature of a watch if you intend to wear it for outdoor activities.
- The level of water resistance you need depends on the type of activities you enjoy.
- If you only use your watch when hiking, you only need a low-level of water-resistance as heavy rain is your biggest concern.
- For those who also enjoy water sports, snorkeling, and swimming, you need a higher level of water resistance.
- Anyone who enjoys scuba diving needs a GPS watch with the highest level of water resistance. These are specialist watches that can cope with water depth and pressure.
Some GPS watches for hiking give advanced metrics, which are extra pieces of data. Most people will need only some pieces of information while others want as much information as possible. It is worth noting that you are likely to pay more for a watch with extra features, so only buy them if you really feel you need these features. These metrics can help someone to improve their performance. They can also make sure the watch-wearer is enjoying their hobby in a safe and healthy manner. Some of the advanced metrics available include:
- Maximum heart rate (HR Max)
- Stride length
- Vertical oscillation
- Maximum oxygen rate (VO2 Max)
- Lactate threshold
- Ground contact time
- Recovery time
Size and Weight
- The larger the screen, the heavier the GPS watches.
- Small-screen watches are light in weight but difficult read.
- Large-screen watches are easy to read but heavy.
- Decide whether the size of the screen or the weight of the watch is more important to you.
A Few Frequently Asked Questions & Tips
What is a Hiking GPS Watch and Benefits of Buying One?
GPS stands for Global Positioning System. This uses satellite information to give useful data and to track various aspects of your performance. It can track you no matter where you are on the planet. GPS gives you information about the surrounding terrain and current position. It also helps you to check your performance and progress. Using a GPS watch while hiking can help to keep you safe and plan the best routes. It can also check your speed, the distance you cover, and the heights you climb.
Is it Free to Use GPS Services?
If you buy a gadget with GPS, it is free to use and you will not need to pay a monthly fee. This is a service owned by the United States government. The service is not limited to United States citizens and it is free to use for everyone no matter where they are in the world.
Is GPS 100% Accurate?
GPS is an amazing advancement in technology and is one of the best ways to get accurate information. However, GPS information is not always 100% accurate. Unfortunately, an obstacle can sometimes stop a gadget from connecting to the GPS system properly. This will affect the information it receives and displays. This is a common problem with activities that involve outdoor navigation, such as hiking. Go here to learn more about GPS accuracy.
Tips for Using and Maintaining a GPS Watch for Hiking
- Read the instructions thoroughly as each GPS watch is different.
- Practice using the different features and functions at home before trying to use on a hiking trip.
- When setting up the phone and entering the coordinates, use the same system as your source of location information.
- Calibrate your GPS hiking watch with satellite as soon as you get the watch. Just step outside your home and turn on the GPS. It will then begin searching.
- If your GPS signal is blocked during a hike, move to an open area away from obstacles.
- Choose a power-saving mode if your GPS watch has one as this will improve the battery life.
- Think of your GPS watch as a form of handheld GPS for hiking. You should keep it on your wrist and not stuff it into your backpack.
Wrapping it Up
When it comes to buying hiking GPS watches, there is lots of choice available. Each of the watches has its own pros and cons. Therefore, what suits one person is not necessarily the best option for another. Also, some GPS watches are best-suited only to hiking while others are a versatile multi-sports option.
Possibly the best GPS watch for hiking is the Garmin Fenix 3 HR as this has some fantastic features for outdoor activities and is fantastic for navigation.
For those on a budget, one of the best options is the Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS as it has all the basic functions you need for a low cost.
If you want a watch that is suitable for many activities, then the best GPS watch is the TomTom Adventurer GPS Hiking & Trail Running Watch + Heart Rate Monitor. This watch has features for various sports and allows you to track performance in each activity.