Updated on: August 23, 2017
The GPS hiking watch means you are truly dedicated to hiking and are ready to invest in the gear that is able to ensure the success of your any hiking experience.
The GPS watch keeps track of time, distance, pace and calories and typically comes with other features that help your hiking.
There are many models of GPS hiking watches out there and choosing the one that fits your needs and liking might get a little more complicated.
Why use a GPS hiking watch?
You need to ask yourself not only how often you are going to hike, but also how often you are going to use your GPS hiking watch. If you are a beginner when it comes to hiking, maybe it’s better to wait until you get truly dedicated to hiking. It might get some time until you get to learn how to use and when to use a GPS hiking watch.
Before invest in a GPS hiking watch, it’s also a good thing to check if your smartphone doesn’t already have an app that might help you in the beginning.
What’s great for a GPS hiking watch is that you can use it not only for hiking, but also for running, skiing, rowing or other outdoor activities. You can basically use a GPS watch for any outdoor sport, not only for hiking.
If you want to take your GPS watch under water also, you need it to be waterproof as not all of GPS watches out there are water resistant. The GPS watch to take under water needs to be at least waterproof to at least 30 meters. On the other hand, though, you might find a GPS watch that comes with features that make it adjustable from one sport to another. The more features your GPS hiking watch has, the more you need to be willing to pay.
What features do you want on your GPS hiking watch?
There are many features on your GPS hiking watch and you can divide them in four main categories.
When it comes to the hardware features, it’s important to know that the battery life of a GPS hiking watch is from 5 hours to more than 50 hours. You might get built-in features like altimeter and thermometer. The screen size is various and the smaller the screen, the lighter the watch is. But, at the same time, a large display might tell you more information.
The data tracking refers to the information that your watch displays. It may include distance, speed and pace, heart rate and elevation. A GPS hiking watch might also tell you about temperature, vertical speed (how fast/slow you climb up/down).
There are several functions on your GPS hiking watch for the data it tracks. For instance, you may set automatically the watch to mark a lap every mile and inform you at each lap with an audible alarm. A GPS hiking watch may come with vibration alerts, auto pause, on-screen maps and so on. When it comes to the alerts and functions that your GPS hiking watch has, the variety if big and the more you pay…the more features you get.
As for the accessories that come with your GPS hiking watch, the offers are also quite various. Your GPS hiking watch might come along with track cadence, foot pods, cadence sensors with quick-release mounts.
There are manufacturers that create their own, one-of-a-kind accessories. Some GPS hiking watch offer you a highly customizable screens, whereas other feature functions related to heart-rate.
A fair conclusion
You need to give a thought on how much you like hiking and if you really want to take it to the next level. Afterwards, you need to take a look in your wallet and decide which features are more important to you. As the market gives you so many options, for all budgets, it’s only your needs and particular taste that have the final word.
Top 5 GPS Hiking Watch Reviews
Versatile and highly functional when hiking, the Garmin Fenix Hiking GPS Watch is a reliable GPS hiking watch to get.
The Garmin Fenix has many features and functions that make your hiking experience nicer and more sophisticated.
You can store your tracks with the Trackback function and the navigator GPS is highly sensitive and dependable.
When it comes to the watch per say, the Garmin Fenix notes up to 1,000 waypoints and stores up to 10,000 track points, taking you to them just as well.
The useful and efficient features that you’d want on a GPS hiking watch are there. The Garmin Fenix comes with altimeter, barometer and a 3-axix compass with automatic sensor calibration. We also need to mention the compass with temperature sensor. The worldwide base map is useful for your hiking and the watch is waterproof up to 50 meters.
The watch tells you also on your current speed and may connect with other devices as it’s wireless with communication ability.
When it comes to things that come along, we need to mention the strong flashlight, the user manual and the USB cable for easy charging the watch. The AC adaptor with plug is used for the same thing.
Don’t forget to update the software to version 3.60 from Garmin com/support.
The most important pros are the following:
- The Garmin Fenix comes with GPS, compass, altimeter, barometer
- The watch is not complicated to use
- The compass is accurate and so are the other functions
- The watch is versatile and functional
As for the cons, there are only few:
- The watch is a bit large, but that’s likely to happen with a GPS hiking watch
- The instruction is not very clear
Fairly priced for its quality and performance, the Garmin Fenix is a sure buy for any avid hiker.
Fast and reliable, the Garmin Forerunner 230 – Black/White is a great choice to consider as your next GPS hiking watch.
The watch comes with many functions and addresses to the competitive hiker that doesn’t settle only for knowing his performances, but also tries to improve by staying in competition with other hikers.
The watch comes with a large screen that is easy to read and use. The interface is pretty intuitive and the watch feels lightweight, despite the rather big sized screen.
The GPS is immediate and sensitive and lets you know your position at any time.
The audio prompts from your smartphone connected to your watch are efficient and fats. You can see immediately incoming email, text messages, call alerts, calendar reminders and so on.
The Garmin Forerunner comes with an activity tracking feature just as well. The watch helps you count steps, calories and distance the entire day. The move bar has a vibrating alarm that doesn’t let you sit too long and pushes you to keep moving.
The watch is also able to download data fields, widgets and applications from Connect IQ.
The watch is easy to use and read. The charts, graphs and maps are useful to get a full picture on your activities and to improve your performances. You can compare your current results in real time with your friends using the LiveTrack feature.
The watch is powered by a Li-Ion battery that is long lasting and reliable.
Let’s pinpoint the main pros:
- The watch has responsive, instant GPS
- The watch has many useful features and functions that ultimately push you forward with your performances
- The watch comes with an easy to read, large display
- The watch is easy to use
Along with the good things, come the not-so-good ones:
- The watch needs better backlit
- The connection with your phone is a bit slow at times
Despite the small cons, the Garmin Forerunner 230 is still a great GPS hiking watch made to be your motivational partner when hiking.
When you want to get an upgraded Garmin Fenix, get yourself the Garmin Fenix 3 GPS Watch.
The watch has a rugged construction and a great built and takes the heavy duty jobs when hiking. It comes with a scratch-resistant sapphire dial and stainless steel band. The bezel and button are also stainless steel and ready to take the heavy use.
The watch is water rated up to 10ATM/100 meters 1 and may be used when swimming.
The Exo antenna is an Omni-directional steel antenna that gives precise and fast position when paired with Glonass and Epo.
You can use one or more Wi-Fi spots to connect sync your data with Garmin connect and update the software.
The 1.2in sunlight color Chroma display is easy to read and use. The LED backlight makes the watch easy to read in dim light also. The watch is sophisticated, yet intuitive and user-friendly.
The watch has also some fitness training features like VO2 Max and Recovery Advisor.
As for the outdoor navigation features, we need to mention the 3-axis compass, altimeter and barometer that always give accurate readings. We don’t forget the TrackBack and Sight’N’Go features either.
The watch is compatible and customizable for apps, widgets, watch faces and data fields.
The watch comes with a USB charging/data cable and an AC adapter also. the battery is rechargeable and may run for 20 hours in training/GPS mode.
The most important pros are:
- The watch comes with efficient and fast GPS
- The watch has built-in altimeter, barometer and compass that give accurate readings
- The watch is easy to use and read
- The construction is rugged and the watch can take the heavy use
As for the cons, the list is very short:
- The watch doesn’t come with heart rate monitor
- The watch is a tad big
All in all, as it comes with precise and reliable GPS and many useful features, the Garmin Fenix 3 is un upgraded and more performant model of the older Garmin Fenix.
When you want to get practical and only want to use a watch for all your outdoor activities, the Suunto Ambit3 Vertical Running GPS Unit is a great choice to consider.
You can see the altitude profile of your journey straight from the watch, with real-time ascent gain and remaining ascent. The Suunto Ambit 3 Vertical also helps you measure running power, but also keep track of your recovery status with the quick and sleep recovery tests. The watch comes with three data views: the total ascent, the remaining ascent and the graph showing you the altitude profile with your position marked by a dot.
The built-in barometric pressure that records your ascent is precise and efficient.
You can connect the watch to your smartphone to sync your activities, customize it as you like it and see your calls or notifications on the watch. The Suunto Movescount App helps you plan your hike and the vibration alerts on the watch guide keep you constantly informed on your performances. You can also add photos in movement and make a Suunto Movie with the best moments of your hike. There is also instant social media folder for the sharing.
The watch is lightweight and very comfortable to wear. The battery has a 100 hours’ life and the GPS is highly sensitive and fast.
Let’s highlight the main pros:
- The GPS watch comes with many useful features
- The built-in barometer is accurate
- The GPS is sensitive and fast
- The watch connects immediately with your phone
When it comes to the cons, there are some to remind also:
- The watch doesn’t come with a heart rate monitor
- The GPS hiking watch is not as small as you’d think
Highly responsive and able to connect to your phone, the Suunto Ambit 3 Vertical is an efficient GPS hiking watch to have at some point.
Rugged, yet nicely designed, the Suunto Traverse Alpha Stopwatch is the watch able to upgrade your hiking experience.
The watch comes with a rugged, knurled stainless steel bezel and everything on the watch says high quality and great finish.
The automatic shot detection technology records when and where you shoot on a hunting and maps the GPS coordinates of your location for later checkup.
The GPS records your path and helps you find your way in case you get lost with the automatic breadcrumb trail. The location-based moon Phase calendar shows moon rise and moon set times so that you can find the best hunting/fishing times.
The watch is water resistant to 100m and comes with a case made of glass fiber reinforced composite with stainless steel coated, knurled bezel and pushers. The lens is made of sapphire crystal and is scratch resistant.
The strap is made of nylon textile and is comfortable to wear, with nice feel on the hand.
The battery is Li-Ion, rechargeable and long lasting.
The supported satellite systems of the watch are the GPS and Glonass and Bluetooth Smart for radio communication.
The watch also comes with vibration alerts and is night-vision-google-compatible. The red backlight is efficient at night and the built-in flashlight helps you find your way in dim lit spaces. We also need to remind of the digital compass that ensures fast orientation in unknown terrain. The built-in barometric pressure sensor informs accurately on your altitude and weather readings.
Even though it’s a bit challenging, let’s try to highlight the main pros:
- The watch comes with GPS/Glonass navigation
- The watch comes also with built-in compass and barometric pressure sensor that give accurate readings
- The watch has rugged, yet nice built and design
- The watch is easy to use, with intuitive menu
As for the cons, there are only some:
- The display could be sharper than it is at the moment
- The watch is a bit difficult to read in the brightest sun
As these cons are way too less important to count, the Suunto Traverse is a great option for any hiking experience or outdoor activity.
Best GPS Watch for Hiking and Cycling
For the passionate hiker that also likes cycling when spending time outside, the Polar V800 GPS Sports Watch is a great option to consider.
The Polar V800 GPS Sports watch comes with a built-in GPS that stores your tracks, hikes or bicycle ride, giving accurate information on your distance, speed and route.
You can also customize your own profile for various sports with this watch and also get some guidance when in need.
The watch ensures accurate recovery info as it combines training load and 24/7 activity data. The watch features a heart rate sensor and is compatible with Bluetooth Smart running and cycling sensors for a clearer image on your training.
The built-in barometer and altimeter give accurate readings and keep you posted on your ascent/descent. The GPS is fast and highly accurate.
The watch has a rugged build and it features a scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass lens. The watch is large, easy to read and the high-contrast, black and white display make the watch easy to read even in poorly lit areas.
The watch is waterproof to 100ft. and syncs your workouts to the Polar flow app and web service.
The watch is powered by a rechargeable battery that runs for long time.
The watch is comfortable to wear and the strap leaves a soft feel on the hand.
The very short list of pros is:
- The watch has a strong build that makes it ready to take the heavy use
- The watch has accurate GPS, altimeter and barometer
- The watch is also water resistant to 100ft.
- The watch is easy to use and read
As for the cons, there are also some of those:
- The Polar Flow is not that fast
- The watch is a bit too big for a small wrist
But, if you want a GPS watch that works both for your hiking and cycling, this is a great choice.
Best GPS Watch for Hiking and Running
If you like running as much as you like hiking, the TomTom Multi-Sport Cardio gives you the info you need when doing your favorite outdoor activities.
The watch comes with a large display so that you can easily and fast see your data.
The GPS Fix Technology on the watch lets you know where you are and helps you on your running/hiking.
The watch is user-friendly and is very easy to use. There is only one-button control that provides easy navigation through the menus.
The watch has a tough build, but it’s lightweight and comfortable to wear. The watch is long lasting and features a scratch-resistant display. It comes also with a bike mount in case you decide to take it when cycling.
The watch comes with vibration alerts and is also able to track your swim metrics in indoor and outdoor pools. You can keep informed on your cadence when you ride and on your elevation just as well.
The Bluetooth Smart Connectivity is efficient and immediate.
You can take the watch also underwater as it’s waterproof up to 165ft. /5ATM.
The watch comes with Desk Dock for charging and sync.
Let’s sum it all up and state the main pros:
- The watch is easy to use and lightweight
- The watch comes with a fast, accurate GPS
- There are several vibration alerts
- The watch is also waterproof
As for the cons, the list is also rather small:
- The watch doesn’t come with preloaded maps
- The watch is a good choice for the entry level runner/hiker
For the quality and reliable performance, it has though, the TomTom Multi sport Audio is a great option to consider.