Best GPS Watches For Hiking

In a Hurry? Editors choice:
Garmin Fenix 3
Test Winner: Garmin Fenix 3
Amazon Link
GPS technology has allowed people the opportunity to explore even more of our world without the danger of going in completely blind. More and more people are taking advantage of this technology to help them safely navigate the trail (or lack thereof) and adventure to their heart’s content. In the deepest portion of the woods, it is convenient to have a device to turn to for navigation.

However, GPS watches are so much more than that. When you use one for hiking, they offer you additional functionalities to make them an all-purpose device. In order to help you sort through the best possible options for a GPS watch to keep you oriented, we've reviewed our top ten picks to help you with your buying decision.

Standout Picks

Garmin Fenix 3
Good luck finding a better company that makes GPS devices than Garmin. They consistently create superb GPS technology and when it comes to hiking. Not only is this a terrific hiking GPS watch, but it is also a terrific watch period. The Fenix 3 can assist you in route navigation while hiking, provides you with several training features and has superb battery life.
Garmin Foretrex 401
Simplicity is not always a bad thing and quite frankly, sometimes the simplest of gadgets are the most sufficient. The Foretrex 401 Hiking GPS from Garmin represents that notion perfectly as it may not blow you away with technology, but is as good as it gets with GPS.
Amazon Link
$249.99
Suunto Ambit 3 Peak HR
Garmin is not the only manufacturer that is competent when it comes to GPS technology, Suunto also knows a thing or two. Their Ambit3 Peak GPS unit provides stable and accurate GPS information, while also giving you extra functionalities.
Amazon Link
$271.00
Garmin Fenix 5X
Did not take too long for Garmin to make another appearance and their Fenix 5X is another reason why they are the go-to for GPS devices. While the display is not without its flaws, everything else is about as good as you could ask.
Suunto Core Outdoor
If you are looking for a great outdoors watch that only provides you with the tools that you need to explore the mountains without distractions, this is a great option for you. Some people may be disappointed by the lack of WiFi and Bluetooth, but others will see it as a better way to enjoy nature.
Amazon Link
$134.95
Suunto Traverse
This far down on the list, the Traverse from Suunto does not necessarily bring anything new to the table but it manages to stay relevant thanks to its quality. However, be aware of the advertised battery life, as it is shorter than you think.
Suunto Ambit 2
Before Suunto made their Ambit3 GPS watch, they were soaking in the glory of their Ambit2. It still holds up to this day, but the lack of Bluetooth functionality does make it a tad outdated.
Amazon Link
$219.99
Garmin Tactix Bravo
The Fenix from Garmin is another great example of a GPS watch that maybe a tad bit outdated by today’s standards, but one that remains highly effective and efficient. Besides a slight design flaw, it will make a terrific accomplice on your next hiking trip.
Amazon Link
Polar M430
Whether you prefer to run in the neighborhood or on the roads less traveled, the Polar M430 would be a great sidekick. It acquires GPS positions quickly and accurately, with three different recording settings. It is available in multiple colors that should please everyone.
Amazon Link
$146.99
Garmin Epix
Why not end this list the same way it started, with a Garmin GPS? Truly noteworthy is both the GPS and mapping integration. However, it also implements a touchscreen interface. With a small screen, to begin with, this can either be a good or bad feature.

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Battery Life

This just in, GPS technology will suck the life out of your battery. As great as it is, it consumes a lot of juice making the battery life even more important. With the amount of convenience, they provide, it sure would be disastrous for the battery to die in a crucial situation. Unfortunately, this is typically the area that varies the most in GPS watches. Some can last over 10 hours on one charge, while others you will be lucky to get eight. However, with some watches, you can adequately prepare.

For example, Suunto programs some of their watches to work on an interval updating system. So, they will update and load data every five seconds (or ten seconds, one minute, etc.) to increase the battery life. Some will allow you to choose the interval speed and enhance battery life. With some DIY GPS watches or GPS devices that can be strapped on your wrist, they may take AAA batteries in which you could simply pack extra. But, you also have the variations that rely solely on one type of battery. As long as you have an idea of how long you would use a GPS watch on one charge, you should be able to make an accurate decision on adequate battery life for you.

Features

At the heart of any technological device is its software. Without it, it would not be able to function and would be rendered useless. Ironically, most of the software that you see in these particular devices need to have GPS technology to work. In other words, the software works because it has a GPS to assist it. With watches, it typically revolves around training features and navigation capabilities. They, depending on the exact model, can track stats and metrics for hiking, running, swimming, skiing and various other activities.

For hiking, in specific, look for software features such as a TracBack feature. This will ensure that if you went the wrong way or need to go back to the start, the path is displayed on the screen. Also, a barometric trend that predicts weather changes and alerts you of upcoming storms can be convenient in the middle of the woods; as you never know when a storm can hit. Of course, other features, such as hunting and fishing information, sunrise and sunset times, or even a built-in music player can add functionality. The software is everything, so pay close attention as this can either make or break a specific watch.

Connectivity

Bluetooth is almost becoming mandatory for modern devices, as everyone is addicted to the idea of syncing devices to one another. Admittedly, Bluetooth is a very handy technology and you will see a good chunk of GPS watches integrate it. Thus, not only making them GPS watches but smartwatches, as well. This can be used for a multitude of reasons, including using a manufacturer’s application (Garmin Connect, Suunto Movescount, etc.) to access new features or updates.

But, people really love smartwatches as they can sync directly to their smartphone. With a simple glance at the wrist, you can then see all the notifications from your smartphone. This could include incoming calls and texts, emails, calendar alerts, and more. However, there probably is a generation of people that do not believe they will ever use Bluetooth technology. If so, you will have no quarrels if a GPS watch does not provide support for it.

Style

Yes, this one is quite simple but it still plays a pivotal role for some people. As watches are accessories, design and visual appeal do play a factor and there is nothing wrong with that. GPS watches, in particular, generally do not have loads of choices. But, some will and sellers may give you the option of different colored bands. Personal preference dominates here, so just find a watch that is visually appealing to you and you are good to go.

Past colors, you may also run into sellers who will provide you with extra accessories. For example, a heart rate monitor or extra maps for U.S. or Canada.

Top 10 Picks

1. Garmin Fenix 3

Where to buy
Garmin Fenix 3
Amazon Link

Good luck finding a better company that makes GPS devices than Garmin. They consistently create superb GPS technology and when it comes to hiking. Not only is this a terrific hiking GPS watch, but it is also a terrific watch period. The Fenix 3 can assist you in route navigation while hiking, provides you with several training features and has superb battery life.

Read more

Battery Life
It depends on how you utilize the watch, but in GPS/training mode you should get up to 20 hours of battery life. Using it as a regular watch, however, should permit you with up to six weeks of battery life.

Features
Outside of outdoor navigation capabilities, there are a full set of fitness training features for hiking, running, biking, swimming, skiing, and any other recreational activity that you can think of.

Equipped with an omnidirectional steel EXO antenna with GLONASS and EPO, the GPS technology integrated into this watch is ultra-fast and reliable.

Connectivity
When you are in the range of a Wi-Fi hotspot, you can sync your data with Garmin Connect. This could be used for multiple purposes, but this will allow you to update the software wherever you can find a hot spot.

Style
The design and colorization are phenomenal and there is no need for any other options.

2. Garmin Foretrex 401

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$249.99
Garmin Foretrex 401
Amazon Link

Simplicity is not always a bad thing and quite frankly, sometimes the simplest of gadgets are the most sufficient. The Foretrex 401 Hiking GPS from Garmin represents that notion perfectly as it may not blow you away with technology, but is as good as it gets with GPS.

Read more

Battery Life
Being simple in nature, this will require two AAA batteries. Depending on the brand you use, the battery life may vary but expect up to eight hours of battery life.

Features
Featuring a high-sensitivity GPS receiver, you can expect a precise and fast satellite connection. In addition, this high-sensitivity provides an improved reception when under heavy tree cover. It will also keep track of routes and waypoints for navigation.

For extra convenience, there is a TracBack feature that will retrace your path on the LCD display. This will ensure you know exactly where you came from at all times. Plus, you can see sunrise and sunset times and hunting and fishing information.

Connectivity
It does have Bluetooth support and if you connect to your computer and on the internet, you can receive a detailed analysis of your activities.

Style
Again, there is only one option available but most should not take an issue with the lone color.

Amazon Link
$249.99

3. Suunto Ambit 3 Peak HR

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$271.00
Suunto Ambit 3 Peak HR
Amazon Link

Garmin is not the only manufacturer that is competent when it comes to GPS technology, Suunto also knows a thing or two. Their Ambit3 Peak GPS unit provides stable and accurate GPS information, while also giving you extra functionalities.

Read more

Battery Life
You choose how long the battery life lasts. For five second GPS accuracy (updating every five seconds), expect up to 30 hours. However, bring that down to one minute and you can expect up to 200 hours.

Features
The Ambit3 features a compass, barometer, altimeter and a GPS. With this, it is able to provide accurate and consistent navigation at all times. No need to worry about getting lost with this strapped on your wrist.

With the Movescount training programs on the watch, you can discover new routes and heat maps. Bare metrics, such as speed, pace, and distance, are also tracked if you feel like going for a run with it on. The reliance on Movescount may be good or bad, depending on your perspective, at times the software can be buggy and unreliable. But, even without Movescount, you can still bank on excellent navigation.

Connectivity
To fully utilize this watch, you can wirelessly connect it to a compatible smartphone to access the Suunto Movescount App. Here, you can adjust your watch on the go and enrich the adventure.

Style
You have three choices to select from, black, sapphire, and sapphire blue. In addition, you can opt to purchase this with or without a heart rate monitor.

Amazon Link
$271.00

4. Garmin Fenix 5X

Where to buy
Garmin Fenix 5X
Amazon Link

Did not take too long for Garmin to make another appearance and their Fenix 5X is another reason why they are the go-to for GPS devices. While the display is not without its flaws, everything else is about as good as you could ask.

Read more

Battery Life
Overall, the battery life is very impressive. Expect it to last you through multiple hikes and runs without needing a charge (depending on the length of your trips).

Features
Garmin features all their best training data with a performance widget that displays your current training status. You can track your cadence, stride length, performance condition, and the lactate threshold.

Additionally, the Fenix 5X includes full-color TOPO U.S. mapping and full navigation features. With the addition of GLONASS, the GPS will have more satellites to lock onto leaving less lag time for you. Plus, it will lock in with greater efficiency in heavy tree cover.

Connectivity
To use this as a smart device, you can connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth. Through this, this watch can display you your smartphone’s notifications, incoming calls, texts, and emails.

Style
Even the pickiest of individuals should be able to find a color choice for them. Some options include a slate gray base with a yellow band, straight black, silver base, and turquoise band, and champagne base and gray band.

Everything is nearly perfect here, but it is worth addressing that the display’s contrast is below-average in bright lighting; making it difficult to see in sunlight. However, this is one small gripe on the otherwise impeccable Fenix 5X.

5. Suunto Core Outdoor

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$134.95
Suunto Core Outdoor
Amazon Link

If you are looking for a great outdoors watch that only provides you with the tools that you need to explore the mountains without distractions, this is a great option for you. Some people may be disappointed by the lack of WiFi and Bluetooth, but others will see it as a better way to enjoy nature.

Read more

Battery Life
This watch uses a Lithium metal battery that should last about 12-18 months, depending on use. Unfortunately, it is not rechargeable but replacing it once a year doesn’t seem like such a bad deal. After you’ve been alerted of the low battery warning, you have about 36 hours to change it out before the watch dies.

Features
This watch is full of features and nothing unnecessary that will distract you from your outdoor adventures. It features a built-in barometer and Storm Alarm technology which will provide you with information about approaching storms. The alert is activated by the changing of the air pressure within three hours. There is also a built-in altimeter that can help you track your ascent and descent to stay on track.

A few other features that this watch possesses is the ability to show the time in 12 or 24 hours, predicted sunrise/sunset times, a depth meter up to 30-feet, temperature readings, a stopwatch function, and water resistance up to 100-feet.

Connectivity
Whether you see it as a good or a bad thing, this watch does not feature wifi nor Bluetooth. This means that you will not be able to see any messages or missed calls from this watch, but there are plenty of other technical features that will keep you safe and informed outdoors.

Style
As sold, the watch is black on black. There are different bands available for purchase to change the style and overall look of the watch. It has been agreed that the military style of the watch is low-key and fits most people’s style.

Amazon Link
$134.95

6. Suunto Traverse

Where to buy
Suunto Traverse
Amazon Link

This far down on the list, the Traverse from Suunto does not necessarily bring anything new to the table but it manages to stay relevant thanks to its quality. However, be aware of the advertised battery life, as it is shorter than you think.

Read more

Battery Life
Suunto claims up to 100 hours in battery life and while they are technically not wrong (due to the way they word it), expect around 10 hours of battery life when using the GPS mode.

Features
With the assistance of both GPS and GLONASS satellite navigation systems, you can explore new terrains at the glance of your wrist. The integration of GLONASS technology enhances route and navigation capabilities.

Using the breadcrumb trail, you can conveniently retrace your steps to your initial location. You can also follow your progress with altitude and distance statistics. In addition, the barometric trend will help predicts weather changes and provide storm alerts.

Connectivity
Directly from your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, you can utilize the Traverse as a smartwatch receiving notification alerts, texts, and upcoming calls.

Style
A strong amount of color options feature graphite, white, amber, black and sapphire black.

7. Suunto Ambit 2

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$219.99
Suunto Ambit 2
Amazon Link

Before Suunto made their Ambit3 GPS watch, they were soaking in the glory of their Ambit2. It still holds up to this day, but the lack of Bluetooth functionality does make it a tad outdated.

Read more

Battery Life
The Ambit2 works on a special system, in which it records data every five seconds. What this provides for you is a stellar battery life of 24 hours, although know it will not update every second.

Features
This watch sports a full-featured GPS that will get you where you need to go. It also features multiple coordinate systems, waypoints, points of interest and creation route planning.

In correlation with the Suunto app, you can enjoy features such as sunrise and sunset times, alerts for upcoming storms in your current area, speed, pace, and distance in real-time, and even heart-rate information.

Connectivity
Unfortunately, there is no Bluetooth functionality here as it has not been integrated into the core of the watch. While this does not negatively affect the watch in any way, it is less of a convenience.

Style
There are a few color options at your disposal including black, silver, and sapphire.

Amazon Link
$219.99

8. Garmin Tactix Bravo

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Garmin Tactix Bravo
Amazon Link

The Fenix from Garmin is another great example of a GPS watch that maybe a tad bit outdated by today’s standards, but one that remains highly effective and efficient. Besides a slight design flaw, it will make a terrific accomplice on your next hiking trip.

Read more

Battery Life
In over an hour, around 10 percent of your battery will be drained in GPS mode. If you do the math, this would round off to approximately 8 to 10 hours of battery life.

Features
Fenix does a stellar job of directing you to the location you want to go, but also giving you the means to travel to a destination you have already been to. The power of its GPS navigation makes this possible.

To keep track of your ascent and descent, there is a built-in altimeter that will keep track of accurate elevation information. Plus, you can mark up to 1000 waypoints and store up to 10,000 waypoints. Also, it can function as a clock, stopwatch, or timer.

Every feature on this watch is above-average, besides the battery life, but there is a design flaw present on the display. For whatever reason, if the watch is in a cool environment, condensation will begin to build up inside. Thus, making it nearly impossible to read. Not a total hindrance, but something to take note of.

Connectivity
With a compatible Garmin GPS unit or smartphone, you can wirelessly share data between the multiple devices.

Style
Just the lone, basic model is available. Being a jet-black design, it should adapt to multiple people.

Amazon Link

9. Polar M430

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$146.99
Polar M430
Amazon Link

Whether you prefer to run in the neighborhood or on the roads less traveled, the Polar M430 would be a great sidekick. It acquires GPS positions quickly and accurately, with three different recording settings. It is available in multiple colors that should please everyone.

Read more

Battery Life
The Polar M430 features a rechargeable battery. Depending on the recording settings of the GPS, the battery will last you somewhere between eight and thirty hours continuously. We would have liked to see longer battery life, but with all of the features built-in to this watch, it’s always working hard.

Features
This watch is mostly geared towards runners but is a great option for the health conscious hiker as well. The GPS connects quickly and has proven to be very accurate. At the same time, this watch also monitors your heart rate, speed, distance, pace, route, number of steps, and calories burned.

In addition to being your guide on the trails, this watch also features a sleep tracker. In conjunction with the desktop and mobile app, you can see how your daily choices are affecting your sleep. Additionally, you can also view your training records and the app will let you know how long you should rest before engaging in further exercise.

Connectivity
You can connect this watch to your computer using a USB cord or Bluetooth. Once connected, you can use the Polar Flow app to track your movements, fitness journey, and routes.

Style
There are many color options to choose from with the Polar M430. You can choose from white, orange, green, blue, or black. The exaggerated number of holes in the wristband allows for better breathability and overall comfort. Some users have said that the face of the watch is quite large for small wrists.

Amazon Link
$146.99

10. Garmin Epix

Where to buy
Garmin Epix
Amazon Link

Why not end this list the same way it started, with a Garmin GPS? Truly noteworthy is both the GPS and mapping integration. However, it also implements a touchscreen interface. With a small screen, to begin with, this can either be a good or bad feature.

Read more

Battery Life
The battery life is definitely a positive, as it should last you a couple of days on continual GPS. Of course, this depends on the length of your days as it will vary.

Features
Featuring a stainless steel EXO antenna with both GPS and GLONASS reception, you can rest assured that it will pinpoint your position as quickly and accurately as possible. In addition, there are detailed maps displayed on the interface.

Connecting with the IQ app will allow you to customize the widgets, applications and data fields on your watch. Besides this, you do have quick access to multiple activities including hiking, mountaineering, and running.

Connectivity
With integrated Bluetooth functionality, you can wirelessly connect your smartphone to receive smart notifications directly from the watch itself. Also, you can automatically upload data wirelessly via Garmin Connect.

Style
While there are no color options to select from, you can choose a model with either TOPO Canada maps or TOPO U.S. maps.