Garmin Instinct Tactical Rugged GPS Watch

8.4 score
[Editors rating (8.4)] = ( score (8.4)/10

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Editor rating: 8.4 / 10
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Editor’s Conclusion
Adventure awaits. The Garmin Instinct is a man's (and woman’s) best friend. It is loaded with features and has 16MB of memory. Some of the most notable features include built-in sports apps, a heart rate monitor, a sleep monitor, GPS, stealth mode, and jumpmaster mode- just to name a few. To make it even better, it is lightweight and stylish.

While it does have a bit of a learning curve, it should only take you a couple of days to discover all that it has to offer and organize the watch to your liking. If you’re wondering what this Garmin watch can’t do… I’m not really sure what to tell you. At this price point, with this durability, and this level of reliability, there’s really not a lot of bad things to say about it.
Garmin Instinct Tactical Rugged GPS Watch Review Facts
Editor's Pros & Cons

Loaded with features

Comparatively affordable



Easy to read display (128 x 128)


No color screen

Heart rate monitor and sleep analysis are not always correct

Key Features


Designed for stealth missions, the Instinct provides a barely-there comfortable fit. Honestly, if it weren’t so useful, you would probably forget that you are wearing it. The tactical watch weighs only 1.8 ounces. It can be adjusted to fit a man or woman’s wrist between 5.1 inches and 8.8 inches. The removable keeper loops and numerous size notches make it very easy to size. Additionally, the included band is slightly curved, which makes putting it on alone quite easy.

The five buttons on the sides of the watch are very responsive. While it is unlikely that you will accidentally press a button while bending your wrist, I guess it is possible. Luckily, there is a feature that allows you to lock the buttons.

The brightness can be easily adjusted to put less strain on your eyes. It has a high contrast black and white display that is easy to read in the sunlight and in dark areas. There is even a daytime and nighttime view setting. If it comes down to it, the watch face can even be read while wearing night-vision goggles. One other comfort factor that I should mention is the vibration alerts. You’re not likely to miss them. They are rather strong, but not audible.


Let’s start with the battery life. It all depends on how you use the watch. In smartwatch mode, the battery can last up to fourteen days. In GPS mode, it can last up to sixteen hours. If you use it in battery ultratrac saver mode, it will last for up to forty hours.

It is compatible with most smartphones. You will need to research your specific phone to find out if you can just view your messages and calls or respond with the watch. It functions well with most Androids.

It has all the features you can imagine, and more. It has your typical ABC features - but elevated. For example, the three-axis electronic compass is fast and reliable. It has satellite connectivity, which also makes the barometer and GPS more accurate than many others.

Speaking of the GPS, it uses multiple GNSS satellites. It uses GPS, Glonass, and Galileo - all combined with outdoor sensors. Traceback routing can be used to help you find your car or to lead you out of a dense forest.

There are many built-in sports apps. You can enjoy apps specifically for running, biking, swimming, and more. The wrist heart rate monitor is decent (not as good as a chest monitor but the watch is compatible with a Garmin chest monitor). The heart rate monitor is also able to track your stress - although I don’t feel like I need a watch to tell me about my stress levels. To each their own.

For the truly tactical adventurers, there’s a stealth mode. This mode halts GPS tracking and cuts off your communication with the outside world. If you’re on a secret mission, this will come in handy. Additionally, jumpmaster mode is great for parachuting or skydiving. It will help you navigate your way through the skies.

Of course, you can download the Garmin app to share, sync, map out, or track your outings. You can also pair the watch with other apps to communicate with other satellites or even emergency response teams.

In terms of style, it’s a great-looking device. There’s nothing too masculine or feminine about it. It can easily go from the gym to the office, to the trails, and to a wedding. It is largely available in tan or black, but you may find another color option if you spend some time searching.


Think about your wildest adventure. The Garmin Instinct can more than likely handle it. It is built with military standard durability. It is military-rated 810G thermal, shock, and water-resistant (up to 100 meters). The case is made from fiber-reinforced polymer and the scratch-resistant display is chemically strengthened. The silicon band is comfortable and seems to be built to last.

It comes with a one-year warranty from Garmin. While I don’t foresee you having any issues, it’s always good to have reassurance. As an added bonus, Garmin seems to have great customer service if you have any issues further down the line.


At first glance, the price might seem high. However, compared to other smart or tactical watches that are loaded with similar features, the Garmin Instinct is a steal. The features work well, are reliable, and abundant. If it’s strong enough for the military, it should be strong enough for your everyday life.

Comparison to Similar Watches

The most popular outdoor watch from Garmin is the Fenix 6. It has a metal bezel that makes it look even more luxurious, while still maintaining its ruggedness, and is available in three different sizes. It uses the same satellite navigation and GPS as the Instinct.

Even though the Instinct offers amazing features, next to the Fenix, it’s much simpler. The Fenix offers a color screen with a higher resolution (260 x 260). Two of the major features that make this item different are that it supports contactless payments and has Wi-Fi. The price of the Fenix is about double the price of the Instinct.

From a different brand, the Casio GBD-H1000 has the typical G-Shock design. It is bulky and not as comfortable to wear all day, and even less overnight. It has a much more rugged design. It is waterproof up to 200 meters, scratch-resistant, and thermal resistant. It weighs about double that of the Instinct at 3.6 ounces.

The features are similar but they tend to lag a bit. However, one feature that makes this watch stand out is the solar charging option. It makes the battery life very impressive. Comparatively, this is also an expensive option.


It’s a watch. It’s a GPS. It’s a compass. It’s a barometer. It’s loaded with multiple fitness apps. If you are considering buying two or more of these items, you might as well invest in the Garmin Instinct. The military-grade durability speaks for itself. I am honestly surprised to see such an impressive product at such an affordable price.

If you haven’t noticed, I think this is one of the best options on the market. However, if smartphone compatibility is essential for you, you should investigate that further beforehand.