GPS & Electronics, Hiking Gear

The Best GPS Watch for Hiking [2020]

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The Best GPS Watch for Hiking

The beauty of hiking is that it allows you to explore virgin territories that very few people have been able to set foot on. However, some hiking trails can lead to the middle of nowhere, and if you don’t have the right navigation tools, you might just find yourself disappearing without a trace.

A GPS watch serves as a crucial accessory during hiking and ensures that you stay on the right track no matter how remote the destinations your adventures take you.

A good hiking watch will not only show you the date and time but also provide essential information such as location, altitude, air pressure, etc. to help with safe navigation. Technological advancements have seen watches with hiking-specific features being produced to act as the perfect partner for hikers who want to remain in the know about their surroundings as they explore the great open spaces.

We have compiled a list of what we think is the best GPS watch for hiking to review in the article below:

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Best GPS Watch for Hiking- Buying Guide

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The latest models of GPS watches come with a slew of exciting advanced features; many of which will throw you off when it comes to their application. Usually, the more advanced features you get on a watch, the more it’s going to cost you. The following are just some of the useful features to look for in a GPS watch:

Altimeter, Barometer and Compass

Typically, GPS watches will come with an altimeter, barometer, and compass as their primary features. These are more popularly known as ABC watches; any additional features will usually cost you more.

Altimeters measure air pressure to determine the altitude you’re in, it can be a useful tool when you are hiking in a mountainous region.

A barometer, on the other hand, measures the atmospheric pressure and can alert you to an oncoming storm. This will prove crucial during a long hike when the weather is unpredictable. Finally, a compass may seem unnecessary on a GPS watch but remember you can’t always have your GPS on, especially if you want to preserve the battery life of the watch.

A compass comes in as a handy substitute in this case, as well as instances when you can’t catch a GPS signal.

GPS

It’s a GPS watch, so it’s a no-brainer that the watch should have GPS. The difference comes in when you look at how advanced the GPS is, and this ultimately affects the price of the watch. Most watches today support GLONASS and GPS satellites, with a few supporting BDS. These will pinpoint a location faster and more accurately. Other information such as distance, speed, and duration is also shown by the GPS.

Thermometer

This is not a common feature on GPS watches; however, it can be a great extra feature. It helps you to measure the temperature so as to adjust your layers accordingly. Since the watch is worn on the wrist, thermometers can be difficult to keep accurate as they may read your body temperature. For a more accurate reading, remove it from your wrist before reading.

Durability

The right hiking GPS watch should have an overall build that is not only rugged but also comfortable. Features like thick, double straps, as well as a sapphire lens that resists scratching, help to reduce the effect of wear and tear. While these features will drive up the cost of the watch and increase its overall weight, they can be useful for hikers tackling tough conditions in unpredictable terrains. More minimalist and lighter watches will be more suitable for day hikes that are generally lighter.

Battery Life

A long battery life is essential on GPS watches, especially if you’ll be hiking for days on end in the outdoors. If you have a watch packing all sorts of smart features like Bluetooth, WiFi, backlight, etc. using these at all times will be detrimental to your battery life. Learn to conserve your watch’s battery life and use these extra features sparingly and only when necessary.

WiFi Connectivity

Some more recent models of GPS watches have WiFi compatibility, which is an interesting feature altogether. It can connect to your phone and enable you to download hiking information on your smartphone. You can also do other interesting stuff like plot a graph representing your heart rate via an app and more. The only thing is having your WiFi on can really squeeze your battery life.

Water Resistance

Water resistance feature is an important feature, especially when hiking in open spaces where you can easily be ambushed by a downpour. A water-resistant will comfortably survive the storm and come out in one piece. However, “water resistance” shouldn’t be mixed up with “waterproof”; going swimming with it on may end up rendering it obsolete. If you plan to venture underwater with your GPS Watch, ensure that it is waterproof!

Heart-Rate Monitor

Some GPS watches can also show the heart rate of the user; a fantastic feature that enables you to keep abreast of your cardiovascular health. This can also be a nice way to motivate you to push harder on your trek and for long. The same way, it’ll also help you to maintain a constant pace on hikes. Unlike those watches that get the heart-rate reading from the pulse, some GPS watches need a chest strap to do this. Though uncomfortable, they are more accurate.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth-enabled GPS watches allow you to pair your watch with devices like a smartphone and computer without built-in WiFi. It is a nice alternative to WiFi connectivity as it is much cheaper yet offers the same functions as wiFi compatible devices. You’ll be able to sync it with other smart devices to download various useful apps to use during your hike.

Maps

Many GPS watches will have a pre-downloaded topographic map that you can use for navigation. Although they may not be a substitute for a GPS, they can still prove useful when you lose signal or when you want to conserve the battery. The knowledge of using a map or compass is a crucial life skill that any hiker will be wise to build on.

Best GPS Watch- Reviews

?Our Number 1 Choice: Garmin Fenix 3 GPS Watch For Hiking

Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire HR GPS Multisport Watch

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This impressive watch from Garmin is all you need when hiking in the wilderness away from civilization. It comes with a wrist-based heart monitor that allows you to help you stay in the know about your heart activity.

A chroma display that is water-resistant up to 100m is just one of the many advanced features that make this watch tick on all cylinders.

The Fenix 3 has a sleek design that is protected by a PDV stainless steel bezel, as well as reinforced housing to make it as durable as you may want it to be.

The high-resolution Chroma display features an LED backlight and remains visible in the sunlight.


The powerful battery will offer you up to 40 hours of use in battery save mode, which falls to 16 hours in GPS and two weeks in smartwatch mode. The GPS and GLONASS compatible watch can quickly and accurately pinpoint your location in remote environments, and you can still sync your hiking data with the help of Garmin Connect. Other interesting functions you get from this remarkable watch include advanced running dynamics for joggers and runners, as well as a built-in heart-rate monitor that provides real-time data. As expected, you’ll find standard features like 3-axis compass, barometer, and altimeter. With such a wealth of advanced features, it comes as no surprise that the Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire is at the top of our list!

Garmin Forerunner 235 GPS Watch

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This is another remarkable watch from Garmin which packs a slew of incredible features for the ultimate outdoor use. It comes with a heart rate monitor for your body activity analysis and can sync to Garmin Connect. With smart notifications, audio prompts, and social media sharing, you’re never too far from civilization when you don this GPS watch during a long-distance trek.

The watch tracks time, distance, pace, heart rate, as well as offers you several useful alerts. It is great for tracking your fitness regime if you’re trying to get back in shape; the watch monitors your daily steps, calories, distance, and sleep.


Smart alerts will let you know when you receive an email, text, call, or social media alert. For runners, there’s a V02 – maximum volume of oxygen used- estimate during activity, which is a remarkable fitness indicator. A move bar with vibration will also keep you active by alerting you whenever you sit still for too long. The battery life gives you 12 weeks of application in watch mode, which reduces to 12 hours in training mode. The Garmin Forerunner 235 GPS watch is an amazing outdoor watch that has been optimized for running, hiking, and swimming; it is great for all-round fitness tracking when you’re on the trail.

Garmin Forerunner 935 GPS Watch

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Another offering from Garmin, the Forerunner 935 is a wonderful choice for fitness enthusiasts. It has a lightweight, compact, and stylish design that will look marvelous on your wrist. The watch has countless advanced features that will be useful for anyone seeking to improve their lifestyle for the better.

This timepiece comes in an exciting black or yellow color.

It only weighs 49g, so you won’t even feel its weight after hiking for hours on end. It is fitted with an altimeter, barometer, electronic compass, as well as GPS/GLONASS connectivity; although its advanced running features provide that extra edge over other competitors!


The 935 will accurately assess your training status and provide feedback on whether you’re overdoing or underdoing it. It shows you a spectrum of dynamics and data for cycling, running, and even swimming to make sure that your training regime is just optimal. You also get other valuable statistics like stride length and ground contact time to help prevent injuries. The watch will recommend optimum training methods and analyze the technique you’re using to swim, run, or bike. Smart alerts will be delivered to your wrist at all times while a connection to Garmin Connect provides you with music controls, audio prompts, and allows your friends to monitor your run. You can also connect to Strava to get real-time feedback during activities.

Garmin Fenix 5S Sapphire GPS Watch

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This watch comes with a 9-day battery life that will suffice you through the entire hiking period. A wrist-based heart rate monitor enables you to follow up on our heart’s health while accurate GPS/GLONASS reception ensures that you remain on the right trail all through your hiking expedition. The Garmin Fenix 5S is a premium multisport watch. It will be useful for hikers, bikers, as well as runners and offers you built-in activity profiles, performance metrics, navigation function in an all-in-one package. The sleek and compact watch comes with a 3-axis compass that will step in for navigational purposes when you lose the GPS signal.


You also get a barometer and altimeter to complete the standard ABC features while a high-resolution full-color display with LED backlighting helps you to monitor all the information you need on your wrist. You get to choose from a selection of QuickFit bands such as premium leather, silicone, and metal. Other sophisticated features still help to assess your performance in the outdoors with accuracy for a wholesome and fulfilling experience.

Garmin – Best GPS Watch for Hiking

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Coros Unisex Pace GPS Watch

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The Coros Unisex Pace is a durably built timepiece with a sleek design that will look amazing on both men and women. It features a 3-satellite system for accurate readings and can connect with the Coros app to monitor your performance while providing crucial advanced statistics regarding your hiking activity.

This watch also has a wrist-based heart rate monitor, as well as performance metrics for swimming, running, and cycling. You will get alerts for texts, calls, emails, and other social media notifications when using this watch, allowing you to stay connected with the rest of the world even when you are in the middle of nowhere.


The battery is built to last and will offer you up to 30 days of use in standard mode or 25 hours in GPS mode. Unlike watches that only use GPS and GLONASS, the Coros Unisex Pace goes one better with a 3-satellite system that connects to GPS, GLONASS, and BDS for exceptional functionality and accuracy. You can also access the Coros app which will perfectly help to monitor and follow the progress of your performance during a hike. Graphical statistics available to you include cadence, elevation, pace, heart rate activity, etc.

Suunto Traverse Alpha GPS Watch

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If you’re searching for the ultimate outdoor experience, the Suunto Traverse ensures that you get to have a fantastic time while hiking in the great outdoors. It is endowed with a host of fishing and hunting features, on top of the standard ABC highlights that you get on a GPS watch.

This compact and stylish watch is available in a range of charming colors and allows you to look good in it. If you’re an avid hunter, you’ll find so much reason to take this watch with you on your hunting endeavours. The traverse Alpha boasts a rugged construction that’s ideal for the tough outdoor conditions.


The GPS and GLONASS allows you to accurately pinpoint your location whenever you feel lost, and the built-in compass is a great back-up in the event you lose your GPS signal. A topographic map will help you stay on the right track as you maintain your fishing or hunting diary on the Suunto Movescount web app. There’s also automatic shot detection that records when and where you shoot, which means you can mark important trails to help you plan your hunt more meticulously. Finally, a barometric pressure enables you to follow weather changes, which is a must-have feature for any fisherman or hunter.

Suunto Ambit3 GPS Watch

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With the Suunto Ambit3, you get one of the most powerful batteries in the industry; perfect for distant hikes and runs. This watch offers up to 200 hours of battery life to analyze your activity and provide accurate and useful data the whole time you’ll be spending outdoors. It is a great acquisition for fitness enthusiasts who want to keep a close eye on their progress and receive real-time feedback about their performance.

First off, the watch features all the ABC essentials; altimeter, barometer, and compass. Extras include GPS connectivity and 100-meter water resistance which ensures that it will survive an unexpected downpour in the wilderness.


The watch is available with or without a heart rate monitor. It is remarkably advanced and known for being one of the most sought-after sports watches out there. It can connect to your smartphone and sync with the Suunto MoveScount app to share your outdoor escapades. The watch allows you to benefit from route navigation and crucial information such as speed, pace, distance, activity-based recovery time, and other training programs. You’ll be able to share your activity, as well as receive instant alerts for texts, calls, and social media notifications. Whether you’re trying to conquer the Kilimanjaro or hoping to cut back on your half-marathon time, the Suunto Ambit3 promises to remain a useful partner every step of the way.

Suunto 9 Baro

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This incredible timepiece can easily hold its own against the Garmin Fenix 5 above. It comes equipped with a colour touch display and a stainless-steel bezel for a rugged and durable design. It further features buttons that enable you to comfortably use it when you are wearing gloves in cold environments. You get the standard altimeter, barometer, and compass essentials, in addition to a thermometer and GPS navigation.

This will enable you to find your way through meandering trails with ease by simply importing GPS routes from the Suunto MoveScount app, proving to be just what you need to preplan your hiking adventure. Additionally, you can use the Heat-map feature on the map which lays out popular routes within a particular territory and import them on your watch for a hassle-free time in the outdoors.


The MoveScount app will be useful in providing a complete summary of your workouts, which it shows through parameter readings such as distance, duration, burned calories, etc. This watch can record the distance walked and find the route leading back to your starting point, meaning there’s little chance of getting lost with it.

A wrist-based heart rate monitor follows the progress of your heart while Bluetooth connectivity to smart devices allows you to access valuable apps and receive alerts on your watch.

You can also find a version of the Suunto 9 that comes without a barometer; although we suggest getting the barometer version if you’re planning a hiking or backpacking trip. Finally, sapphire glass on the watch’s display makes for a great abrasion resistance feature that serves to enhance durability.

Casio Pro Trek GPS Hiking Watch

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If you’re the ultimate sportsman who derives fun from engaging in a variety of outdoor sports, this sophisticated watch from Casio comes with all the interesting features to enable you make the most of your hobbies. It has a high water-resistance level and has been designed to withstand up to 200 meters of water. This makes it a great pick for activities such as white-water rafting and kayaking.


You can credit this to its ability to withstand high water pressure and strong currents. The watch is meant to last ages and features a durable design with a mineral dial window. Furthermore, you get a stainless-steel casing, as well as resin bands to make for a rugged construction that will cope with the tough conditions of the outdoors.

This watch also provides you with valuable information regarding different activities with features such as a barometer, compass, thermometer, time data, and a GPS function to simplify your navigation in virgin territory.

Conclusion

Overall, GPS watches are an invaluable investment that will serve you remarkably during your outdoor exploits. Whether you’re using it to assess your hiking progress or making the most of its navigational features to avoid getting lost in the woods, there’s a whole range of wonderful watches for you to choose from. Choose form any of the above best GPS watch for hiking to try out on your next adventure.

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