5 Best GPS Watch For Hiking

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If you’re a fan of the great outdoors, a good GPS running watch should almost certainly be on your wishlist this year. These devices offer some fantastic functionality when it comes to tracking a variety of outdoor activities, becoming somewhat of a go-to for hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

Currently, this space is dominated by Garmin and Suunto, with both companies producing several excellent options in recent years that have taken the market by storm. In this guide, we will be looking at the best hiking watches these two companies have to offer and comparing their various pros and cons. If you’re after a comprehensive hiking watch, there is a good chance that one of these companies has what you’re looking for.

Budget
best-budget-gps-watch-for-hiking
Garmin Instinct GPS Watch
4.6/5.0
Case Size: 46mm
Battery Life: Up to 2 weeks
Low cost, rugged design, decent features.
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Best Value
best-value-gps-watch-for-hiking
Suunto 9 Baro GPS Smartwatch
4.7/5.0
Case Size: 50mm
Battery Life: Up to 5 days
High-quality construction, decent features.
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Top Pick
top-value-gps-watch-for-hiking
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Smartwatch
4.8/5.0
Case Size: 47mm
Up to 10 days
Premium design, excellent features.
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GPS Watch For Hiking Comparison Table

Make and ModelSizeConstructionFeaturesBattery LifePrice
Garmin Fenix 5 PlusCase Size: 47mm
Thickness: 15mm
Casing: reinforced fiber polymer
Bezel: titanium
Strap: silicone
Activity tracking, heart rate
monitoring, performance monitoring,
sleep tracking, GPS, altitude
tracking, music storage, Garmin
Pay, one-way notifications
Up to 10 daysCheck Price
Garmin Fenix 3 HRCase Size: 51.5mm
Thickness: 16mm
Casing: reinforced fiber polymer
Bezel: stainless steel
Strap: silicone
Activity tracking, heart rate
monitoring, performance monitoring,
GPS, altitude tracking, one-way
notifications
Up to 2 weeksCheck Price
Garmin Instinct GPS WatchCase Size: 46mm
Thickness: 15mm
Casing: plastic
Strap: silicone
Activity tracking, GPS,
altimeter, one-way
notifications
Up to 2 weeksCheck Price
Suunto 9 Baro GPS SmartwatchCase Size: 50mm
Thickness: 17mm
Casing: plastic
Bezel: stainless steel
Strap: silicone
Activity tracking, heart rate
monitoring, altitude tracking,
GPS, sports modes, sleep tracking,
one-way notifications
Up to 5 daysCheck Price
Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR Running
GPS Watch
Case Size: 50mm
Thickness: 18mm
Casing: plastic
Strap: silicone
Activity tracking, GPS,
altimeter, one-way
notifications
Up to 8 daysCheck Price

1. Top Pick: Garmin Fenix 5 Plus

Garmin Fenix 5 PlusView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.8/5

The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus has been a huge success story for the company, with the device offering a premium construction and a wide variety of useful features. The watch is certainly one of the more expensive options in this space, but if you are looking for something that delivers on all fronts, without compromising on design, it is a fantastic option to consider.

Design

The watch has a masculine appearance, with a rugged casing and thick, durable watch strap. Weighing in at 76g, the Fenix 5 Plus is definitely one of the heavier options in this guide. However, this only serves to reinforce the fact that this device is a high-quality product.

The watch measures 47mm across, which is rather large for a smartwatch, despite the device being one of the more compact options on this list. The Fenix 5 Plus also has a thickness of 15mm, meaning it could feel bulky, especially if you have particularly slender wrists.

The casing is made from plastic, which would usually raise some durability concerns. However, in this case, the plastic used is a reinforced fiber polymer that should hold up well in most environments. The casing also receives an additional layer of protection from the titanium bezel fastened to the top of it.

The strap is made from silicone, making it extremely comfortable to wear even when worn tightly. Other straps such as leather and titanium options are also available if you are going for a classier look.

The Fenix 5 Plus is also water-resistant up to 100 meters, making it a perfect companion device to go swimming with or to use during most other water-related activities. One activity that should probably be avoided with the watch, however, is deep-sea diving, as the watch is only water-resistant, not waterproof.

Features

The watch has an extensive feature-set that includes activity tracking, heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, performance monitoring, GPS, altitude tracking, music storage, Garmin Pay, and one-way notifications. There are also a variety of activity modes on the device, including hiking, running, and other GPS-enhanced options.

The GPS itself is built into the device, meaning the watch doesn’t require the need for a smartphone tether to use this function. For the most part, the GPS works well, offering accurate location data and real-time updates. The watch also supports GLONASS and Galileo, meaning it can track you in more extreme environments, such as those you might encounter on long hikes.

The watch also comes with color TOPO maps, which feature Trendline popularity routing. This lets you see popular routes other people have taken in your area, giving you the option to also follow the same route. This is especially useful for hiking, as it can prevent you from becoming lost if you aren’t sure which direction to head in, provided someone else has recorded the route beforehand.

The Fenix 5 Plus features Garmin Pay, which is a proprietary piece of software developed by Garmin to make NFC payments more secure. So far, this payment method has only been included on a select few of Garmin’s smartwatches, but as the software develops, more devices are likely to feature it. As it stands, Garmin Pay is only compatible with a handful of banks. However, this will likely change as the software becomes more popular.

As for the music storage, the watch is able to store up to 500 songs, which can be streamed from the device directly to a pair of Bluetooth headphones. Loading the music onto the device is easy enough, but it requires the use of Garmin’s Express desktop application. This application does the job perfectly well, but it would have been more efficient to be able to transfer music directly from a smartphone instead.

Battery Life

The Fenix 5 Plus can last up to 10 days on a single charge, making it a fairly decent performer when it comes to power consumption. The watch also takes only 2 hours to charge, meaning you shouldn’t need to take the device off for too long between uses.

The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus might be pricey, but it can’t be denied that the device is a seriously competent piece of kit. The watch’s feature-set is full of useful functionality, and its design is second to none in terms of appearance and construction. The battery life on the device is also respectable, making the Fenix 5 Plus a solid option to consider.

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Tech Specs
Size: Case Size: 47mm
Thickness: 15mm
Construction: Casing: reinforced fiber polymer
Bezel: titanium
Strap: silicone
Features: Activity tracking, heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, performance monitoring, GPS, altitude tracking, music storage, Garmin Pay, one-way notifications
Battery Life: Up to 10 days
The Pros
Well sized for larger wrists
Reasonable thickness for a hiking watch
Premium construction
Durable bezel
Lightweight
Comfortable strap
Feature-rich
Includes GPS
Includes Garmin Pay
Includes built-in music storage
Includes an altimeter
Decent battery life
The Cons
May feel bulky on slender wrists
A metal casing would have been preferred
Shorter battery life than some of the other options in this guide

2. Garmin Fenix 3 HR

Garmin Fenix 3 HRView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.6/5

The Garmin Fenix 3 HR is an updated version of the original Fenix 3, which now includes Garmin’s new Elevate feature, a wrist-based optical heart rate monitoring function designed to record and log your heart’s activity 24 hours a day. The Fenix 3 HR also includes a number of other useful features and boasts a very premium design, making it a great option if you are looking for a decent all-round smartwatch.

Design

On the surface, the Fenix 3 HR looks much the same as the Fenix 5 Plus. The watch features the same five-button design as its bigger brother, as well as a highly durable bezel, which adds some extra protection for the internals. The display on the Fenix 3 HR is also the same size as on the more premium device. However, due to the thick black border surrounding the display, it can give off the impression that it is smaller.

The watch measures 51.5mm across, making it not only the largest smartwatch in this guide but also one of the largest options on the market. This makes it a difficult sell for anyone with slender wrists. However, the watch looks great on chunkier wrists, thanks to its increased size. The watch is also 16mm thick, meaning you will certainly be aware of the watch’s footprint while using it.

The casing on the watch is made from the same reinforced fiber polymer that has been used on the Fenix 5 Plus. This makes it highly durable and also lightweight, which is especially useful considering the size of the device. The bezel on top is also made from stainless steel, which will not only protect the watch against impacts, but also corrosion.

The strap is made from silicone, giving it plenty of durability, while also providing excellent levels of comfort. Leather and stainless steel straps can also be purchased for the device. However, for hiking and other fitness-related activities, the silicone option will be the way to go.

The Fenix 3 HR is also water-resistant up to 100 meters, just like the Fenix 5 Plus, making it a competent smartwatch to use while swimming or taking part in other light water activities. What isn’t clear, however, is how well the watch performs in saltwater, so we recommend exercising the right amount of caution if you decide to use this device in the sea.

Features

The Fenix 3 HR isn’t quite as feature-rich as the Fenix 5 Plus, but it still holds its own in this space rather well nonetheless. Its main features include activity tracking, heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, performance monitoring, GPS, altitude tracking, and one-way notifications. However, on top of this, you also get access to Garmin’s Connect app, which is packed full of useful information about your health and fitness.

Garmin has consistently delivered in the activity tracking department for many years now, so it’s no surprise to see that they have once again produced a smartwatch capable of providing incredibly accurate feedback in this department. What is surprising, however, is the depth of information the watch is able to provide. Not only is all of the tracking done automatically, but the watch is also able to show readings from a variety of different sensors, allowing it to calculate many different performance metrics.

The one-way notifications functionality isn’t the most extensive we’ve come across, but it does allow you to read SMS and WhatsApp messages, as well as alerting you about any calls you might receive. The watch also provides you the option to turn notifications off while exercising, which is useful if you want to avoid any distractions.

Connecting the device to your smartphone is easy enough, but the watch does require you to turn on location services in order to do so. This isn’t the end of the world, but it is likely to have an impact on the battery life of your smartphone, as GPS functions are usually very power-hungry.

The sleep tracking functionality on the watch is also extremely accurate, offering feedback on a variety of metrics such as your overall sleep time, as well as your periods of light and restful sleep. It isn’t the most advanced sleep tracker we’ve seen, but if you want some basic, reliable information on how well you sleep, it is still a decent option to consider.

Battery life

The Fenix 3 HR can last up to 2 weeks on a single charge, making it one of the better performers in this guide when it comes to power consumption. It is also a notable improvement over the Fenix 5 Plus, making it the better option of the two if you are looking for maximum performance in this department.

Despite offering many of the same features as the Fenix 5 Plus, the Fenix 3 HR still lacks a few key features that make its price tag difficult to justify. Price aside, however, this smartwatch performs exceptionally well in most cases and has a premium design with some excellent construction elements. Its size may make it off-putting for some, but overall, this smartwatch is a decently refined piece of kit.

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Tech Specs
Size: Case Size: 51.5mm
Thickness: 16mm
Construction: Casing: reinforced fiber polymer
Bezel: stainless steel
Strap: silicone
Features: Activity tracking, heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, performance monitoring, GPS, altitude tracking, one-way notifications
Battery Life: Up to 2 weeks
The Pros
Well sized for larger wrists
Premium construction
Durable bezel
Lightweight
Comfortable strap
Includes GPS
Includes an altimeter
Accurate performance monitoring
Competent activity tracking
Excellent battery life
The Cons
Larger than the other options in this guide
A metal casing would have been preferred
Not as feature-rich as the Fenix 5 Plus

3. Best Budget: Garmin Instinct GPS Watch

Garmin Instinct GPS WatchView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.6/5

The Garmin Instinct GPS watch is an affordable hiking watch designed to bring the best aspects of the Fenix series to a more budget-friendly marketplace. The watch isn’t quite as premium as some of the other devices on this guide, but if you are looking to get value for money above all else, this is the option to go for.

Design

The Garmin Instinct features a rugged, utilitarian design, reminiscent of Casio’s outdoor sports watches. This gives the watch less of a premium appearance than its more expensive counterparts. However, the Instinct still manages to avoid looking cheap, thanks to its practical approach.

The casing on the watch measures 46mm across and has a thickness of 15mm. This means the device is slightly smaller than the other options on this list, making it a great option if you have slender wrists or any general concerns about bulkiness.

The casing is also made from plastic, which helps with weight reduction, while also providing a decent level of durability. A metal casing would have been preferred to give the device a more premium look, but considering this device has been designed for practicality first and foremost, we can’t be too critical.

The strap is made from silicone, which means it will provide plenty of comfort regardless of how tightly you choose to wear the device. The design of the strap also complements the rest of the watch extremely well, to the point where an alternate strap may look out of place.

The Garmin Instinct is also water-resistant up to 100 meters, putting it on par with both of the Fenix models featured in this guide. This makes it a fantastic option for swimming. However, you might want to avoid activities such as diving to ensure the device doesn’t get damaged.

Features

The Garmin Instinct isn’t the most feature-rich device in this guide, but it does come equipped with a variety of useful functionality for hiking and other outdoor activities. Its main features include activity tracking, GPS, altimeter, and one-way notifications. However, on top of this, you also get access to over 25 different activities to track, including obvious choices such as running and swimming, as well as more obscure options such as hiking and skiing. There is even the option to add custom activities as well.

The watch is also able to calculate your stress levels by using the information captured by the device’s other sensors. If it detects your stress levels are too high, the device will then offer relaxation exercises, such as breathing sessions to help you find some calm.

Like on the Fenix watches, the Garmin Instinct supports both Galileo and GLONASS, meaning it can track your location, even in more remote locations. One thing the device, however, is color TOPO maps, as this feature is unsupported by the Instinct’s monochrome display.

Instead, the watch offers its own maps feature, which comes with a variety of navigation features, including a compass, as well as the option to upload routes. There is also a backtracking feature that helps you find your way back to the start of your route if you get lost on a long hike.

Battery life

Thew Garmin Instinct can last up to 2 weeks, which is very impressive for a smartwatch, despite the somewhat low-quality display it features. As for charge time, the Instinct will need around 1 hour to fully charge, which is a notable improvement over the Fenix 3 HR, even though both devices offering very similar battery performance.

If you are looking for a competent hiking watch, but would rather not break the bank to obtain one, the Garmin Instinct is an excellent option to consider. Its rugged design makes it the perfect companion device for tackling the great outdoors, and the watch is also loaded with plenty of features designed to enhance whichever activity you take part in.

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Tech Specs
Size: Case Size: 46mm
Thickness: 15mm
Construction: Casing: plastic
Strap: silicone
Features: Activity tracking, GPS, altimeter, one-way notifications
Battery Life: Up to 2 weeks
The Pros
Well sized for most wrists
Reasonable thickness for a hiking watch
Premium construction
Lightweight
Comfortable strap
Includes GPS
Includes an altimeter
Excellent battery life
The Cons
May feel bulky on slender wrists
A metal casing would have been preferred
Not as feature-rich as some of the other options in this guide

4. Best Value: Suunto 9 Baro GPS Smartwatch

Suunto 9 Baro GPS SmartwatchView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.7/5

The Suunto 9 Baro is a great all-round adventure watch for anyone looking to make the most of their time out and about in the great outdoors. The Finnish company has found a lot of success in the smartwatch space in recent years, but the 9 Baro is arguably the pick of the bunch thanks to its premium design and extensive feature-set.

Design

The 9 Baro has a masculine design that offers both a rugged form factor, as well as classy detailing. It isn’t quite as impressive as the Fenix 5 Plus in this department, but it holds its own as a premium option in this space nonetheless.

The casing measures 50mm across, making it one of the larger options in this guide, which could be an issue if you have slender wrists. The watch is also 17mm thick, meaning bulkiness could be a concern if you aren’t used to wearing a larger watch.

The casing is made from plastic, which isn’t ideal, however, it does receive adequate protection from the stainless steel bezel that sits on top of it. This means the watch shouldn’t cause any issues in terms of durability, but it will likely accumulate cosmetic scratches over time.

The strap is made from silicone, which isn’t surprising considering the purpose of this smartwatch. However, you might want to invest in a third-party alternative if you would prefer a truly premium look.

The 9 Baro is also water-resistant up to 100 meters, just like the previous entries on this list, making it perfectly suitable to use while swimming or taking part in most other water-related activities. Again, however, we recommend that you avoid diving with the device, especially if you are out at sea.

Features

The Suunto 9 Baro is one of the company’s more feature-rich models available, with a list of functionality featuring activity tracking, heart rate monitoring, altitude tracking, GPS, sports modes, sleep tracking, and one-way notifications. The watch is also capable of tracking over 80 different sports and multisport events, allowing you to tailor your workouts.

One of the best functions on the Suunto 9 Baro is its FusedTrack feature, which has been designed to improve tracking and distance accuracy. The technology works by using the devices built-in GPS and can be used in multiple sports modes where hand movements are periodic.

Another useful exercise feature is the 9 Baro’s training summary function, which comes complete with graphs and lap tables to assist you with your training. You can also view your long-term progress with trends and summaries.

The heart rate monitor is sufficient enough for casual use. However, if you are looking for more detailed feedback, you might want to invest in a chest strap as well. A chest strap will also provide more reliability during exercise sessions, as the 9 Baro has been known to underwhelm with this particular feature.

As its name suggests, the Suunto 9 Baro also comes with a barometer, which runs even when you are not training. This is useful if you need to keep an eye on the weather during day trips, for example, as the barometer can help you predict if there will be any changes. The barometer can also be used to accurately record vertical gains and losses, which is useful if you are hiking or mountain climbing.

Battery life

The 9 Baro can last up to 5 days on a single charge, which is somewhat disappointing, considering the battery performance of the other devices in this guide. There are also a variety of different battery modes available on the device, which you can toggle between while using the GPS to tailor the watch’s performance to suit your training.

The Suunto 9 Baro is a premium smartwatch with some excellent functionality that makes it a decent hiking and adventure watch. The watch does lack a few key features compared to the Garmin models on this list, however, and its battery life could also be improved.

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Tech Specs
Size: Case Size: 50mm
Thickness: 17mm
Construction: Casing: plastic
Bezel: stainless steel
Strap: silicone
Features: Activity tracking, heart rate monitoring, altitude tracking, GPS, sports modes, sleep tracking, one-way notifications
Battery Life: Up to 5 days
The Pros
Well sized for larger wrists
Reasonable thickness for a hiking watch
Premium construction
Durable bezel
Lightweight
Comfortable strap
Includes GPS
Includes an altimeter
Wide variety of sports modes
Average battery life
The Cons
Will likely feel bulky on slender wrists
A metal casing would have been preferred
Not as feature-rich as some of the other options in this guide
Poor battery life compared to the other options in this guide

5. Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR Running GPS Watch

Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR Running GPS WatchView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.5/5

The Suunto Ambit3 Peak is one of the best hiking watches on the market, thanks to its impressive altitude tracking functionality and accurate GPS. The watch also features a rugged design with a rigid casing, making it a decent option in terms of longevity.

Design

The Ambit3 Peak isn’t much to look at, but its practical approach is somewhat refreshing to see on a smartwatch, as it lets you know the device means business. This makes it a great option if you want your watch to show it is very much a tool. However, the Ambit3’s appearance may be off-putting if you are looking for something a little more stylish.

The watch measures 50mm across, and has a thickness of 18mm, making it rather large for a smartwatch. There is also an inflexible piece of plastic that extends from the bottom edge of the casing that will likely cause some comfort issues if you have slender wrists.

The casing is made from a durable plastic, which should offer plenty of protection for the internals due to its chunky construction. Once again, a metal casing would have been preferred from a quality perspective, but in terms of practicality, the plastic casing should perform fine.

The strap is made from silicone and features a proprietary design, which will make replacing it rather difficult. Finding an alternate strap will also likely be a challenge. However, a leather or metal variant would probably look out of place on this device anyway.

The Ambit3 is also water-resistant up to 100 meters, placing it in the same ballpark as the other options in this guide for this particular feature. It means the watch is suitable to use for a variety of different water-related activities. However, you might want to avoid diving with the device to be on the safe side.

Features

The Suunto Ambit3 Peak isn’t as feature-rich as the 9 Baro, but it does come equipped with activity tracking, GPS, an altimeter, and one-way notifications. The watch also features a built-in compass and all of the expected timekeeping functions.

The altimeter on the device is highly accurate, using both a sea-level pressure reference, as well as a barometer to calculate altitude. There is also a special FusedAlti function on the device, which increases the accuracy even further, by using GPS to auto-correct any inaccurate readings.

The GPS on the watch comes with many of the features you would expect it to, including showing coordinates and storing waypoints. You can also use the device to navigate to a pre-programmed landmark, making it a competent companion for hiking and backpacking.

The activity tracker on the watch is not only able to capture basic fitness metrics such as steps taken and calories burned, but also provide tailored feedback for a variety of different activities. Multisports tracking is also available on the device, making it a viable option for triathletes as well.

The watch also monitors the sunrise and sunset times, which is very useful if you are camping or taking part in any other activity that requires monitoring of daylight hours. There is also a storm alert feature on the watch. However, some users have reported issues with its reliability.

Battery life

The Ambit3 Peak can last up to 8 days on a single charge, making it a decent performer in terms of power consumption. The watch also takes between 2 – 3 hours to fully charge, which isn’t the fastest we’ve come across, but at the same time, it is still pretty admirable.

The Suunto Ambit3 Peak won’t appeal to everyone, but for those of you looking for a practical, easy-to-use watch that doesn’t come littered with frills and gimmicks, it is a decent option to consider. The watch is also one of the more reasonably priced options in this guide, making it a good choice if you are on a budget.

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Tech Specs
Size: Case Size: 50mm
Thickness: 18mm
Construction: Casing: plastic
Strap: silicone
Features: Activity tracking, GPS, altimeter, one-way notifications
Battery Life: Up to 8 days
The Pros
Well sized for larger wrists
Reasonable thickness for a hiking watch
Premium construction
Lightweight
Comfortable strap
Includes GPS
Includes an altimeter
Decent battery life
The Cons
Will likely feel bulky on slender wrists
A metal casing would have been preferred
Not as feature-rich as some of the other options in this guide
Shorter battery life than some of the other options in this guide
0/50 ratings