Best Hiking Watch (Buying Guide)
A watch is a simple tool and accessory that many people choose to wear every day, from simple analog timepieces to high-tech smartwatches. For hiking, a watch can be an incredibly useful tool. Other than showing you the time and date, a hiking watch might inform a wearer of altitude, location, air pressure, and many other important pieces of information. A good hiking watch can help you navigate and keep track of essential data on the trail, helping you to become a better outdoor enthusiast. It’s important to make sure you have the best gear for your adventure, just like having the best hiking sandals for hot weather. When you equip yourself with the right stuff, hiking trips become so much more enjoyable.
In a hurry? Here’s the test winner after 10 hours of research:
And here’s an overview of the best on the market today:
One common feature of hiking watches is GPS location, which has numerous advantages. You may also have access to a compass, barometer, and other incredibly useful tools for backcountry adventures, all easily accessible on your wrist. Many hiking timepieces are known as ABC watches, which stands for their usual features: altimeter, barometer, and compass. With so many high-tech options and features, it can be confusing to figure out which hiking watch is best for you. That’s why we’ve put together this informative buying guide, to help you straighten out the details and make the best choice for your next camping or backpacking trip. Considering battery life, price, and user interface, we present the best hiking watches available to explorers today.
Best Hiking Watch – Overview
1. Garmin Fenix 5 X Sapphire
- Ultimate multisport GPS watch with full color Topo U.S. mapping, routable cycling maps and other outdoor navigation features
Garmin is known for producing high quality and high function sports watches, like the Garmin Fenix 5. This watch is a durable accessory, as hiking watches have to put up with quite the battering in the wild. A protective PVD-coated stainless steel bezel and buttons, along with reinforced watch housing make this a very durable hiking watch. Adverse weather conditions are common on hiking trips, but this Garmin watch is water-rated up to 100 meters, so you won’t have to worry about unexpected water damage. This fantastically advanced waterproofing is a feature we really love, as not all hiking watches have this high level of weather resistance.
To make tracking your hikes an absolute breeze, this watch has advanced GPS and GLONASS satellite reception installed. This means even in challenging and remote environments, you’ll be able to accurately track where your hike takes you. Battery life can be controlled using various power-saving settings, but on average this watch will last for 2 weeks on standard mode, or 24 hours using the GPS. The Sapphire lens is scratch resistant, and this same version of the watch is equipped with WiFi to automatically connect with Garmin’s network.
The Sapphire watch face is incredibly durable, which is a great feature for an outdoor watch, however, the rest of the watch is prone to scratches. As an outdoor accessory, we don’t mind some wear and tear so long as the watch remains functional, but campers who like their gear to remain in perfect condition might find an issue here. The Fenix 5X Sapphire is amazingly equipped with preloaded topographic maps, but budgeting hikers can get a less expensive watch without this addition. The built-in barometer and compass are highly reliable, however, the altimeter has been known to have issues following a software update. If you’re a mountaineer to whom altitude is of high importance, you may want to consider a watch with a more reliable meter.
- Highly scratch-resistant face for easy viewing
- Wifi connectivity
- Topographic maps right on your wrist
- Excellent GPS and satellite location
- Watch body prone to scratches
- The altimeter can be unreliable
2. Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR
The Suunto Ambit 3 Peak HR Running GPS unit is an amazing adventure companion, one of a few options that come with a heart rate monitor. This is a really useful feature, as a heart rate monitor can help you accurately track the calories you burn while hiking, as well as giving valuable insights about your health. You can connect the Suunto Ambit 3 to your smartphone, to keep track of information along the hike and give you easy access to your data.
When using the GPS hikers will get 30 hours of battery life, with an accuracy of 5 seconds regarding your location. Alternatively, hikers can select 1-minute accuracy and increase the lifetime of their watch charge to 200 hours. We love this feature because it allows you to keep tracking your movements while conserving battery life. Route navigation, a compass and altimeter, and even up-to-date weather information are all available directly from your wrist from this watch. The waterproofing even means it will accurately track your heart rate while swimming.
Also functioning as a smartwatch, the Suunto Ambit 3 Peak will pass on calls, messages, and push notifications to your wrist. If you want your hiking watch to also function as a smartwatch, you may want to consider the Suunto Traverse which has extra features in this area. The watch face is nearly 2 inches across, which can make it feel very large for smaller hikers. However, all the usability of this well-equipped watch comes through its large screen, so the size is a concession we’re happy to make. The only thing we would change about this hiking watch is the accessibility to settings, as any changes must be made through an app, and not on the watch itself.
- Accurate heart rate measurements, even underwater
- Great battery life
- Excellent GPS location
- The large watch face might be too bulky for smaller hikers
- Settings must be changed using the app
3. Casio Pathfinder Triple Sensor Multi-Function Sport Watch
- Black solar-powered sport watch with multiple features including digital compass, altimeter, barometer, thermometer, low temperature resistance (-10 C/14 F), EL backlight, world time (31 time zones,...
For a hiking watch absolutely packed with useful features, the Casio Pathfinder is a steal at only $150.99 on Amazon. You don’t need to worry about battery life as this watch is solar-powered, making it a great choice for the eco-conscious camper too. A triple sensor is installed on this hiking watch, to give you plenty of useful information in the backcountry. An altimeter, barometer, and thermometer all provide vital data to hikers, and additionally sunrise and sunset data is a very handy feature.
The rugged design is made for adventures, so this durable watch will last you through many a camping trip. Water-resistance helps when hiking in poor weather, and a compass means you’ll never lose your way. The Casio Pathfinder is not a GPS watch, nor a smartwatch for that matter, making it a significantly less high-tech option than previously discussed hiking watches. However, it’s also much more budget-friendly and offers a range of basic reliable functions which are so useful to hikers.
This Casio watch isn’t fitted with advanced features such as GPS location and Wifi Connectivity, it’s the right choice for a more low-tech outdoor enthusiast. Not all hiking equipment has to have all the bells and whistles, instead, the Casio Pathfinder offers basic but reliable features in a durable body. If you don’t need highly accurate tracking or a heart rate monitor, this solar-powered sports watch is our recommendation.
- Uses solar power
- Built-in triple sensor and compass
- Backlit for ease of use in the dark
- More affordable than high-tech alternatives
- No HR monitor
- No GPS location services
4. Casio Pro Trek
- Wear OS by Google, GPS, 5 Bar WR, Mil-Standard 810 G Durability, 50M Water Resistant
Casio is a reliable brand when it comes to timepieces, with Casio products you’ll always receive a highly functional and high-quality piece of kit. Unlike the Casio Pathfinder, this watch is equipped with GPS as well as many additional technical features. If the previous hiking watch didn’t pack enough technical punch for you, consider the Casio Pro Trek GPS watch.
Whereas the previous option was a relatively simple digital watch, the Casio Pro Trek is a full-blown smartwatch with tons of advanced features. A full-color map is viewable on the digital display, which you can even download for offline viewing. We love this feature because, during activities such as watersports or climbing, your smartphone may not be easily accessible. With this feature, you’ll be able to check your map without having to take out your fragile mobile phone, saving time and resources. This Casio watch has been submitted to military standard testing, ensuring it’s a reliable and durable backcountry accessory.
Extra features such as Hole19 and Fishbrain are accessible from the Casio Pro Trek, useful features outside of hiking that golfers or anglers will love. But, there are some missing elements that we’d love to see installed on this Casio watch. For example, the lack of a heart rate monitor means you can’t track calories burned, so avid fitness fans should consider a watch that includes this feature. Furthermore, the operating system isn’t as intuitive as more expensive hiking watches, so if you want full and easy use of all these advanced features, an investment into a more expensive smartwatch might be advised.
- GPS function
- Golfing and fishing applications accessible
- Durable and long-lasting
- No heart rate monitor
- Clunky user interface
5. Garmin Epix
- TOUCHSCREEN : 1.4 inch high resolution, sunlight visible color Chroma touchscreen display
The Garmin Epix is a high-resolution touchscreen GPS mapping watch, which features a very impressive worldwide shaded relief base map. With 8GB of built-in memory, you’ll be able to download maps for a lifetime of hiking. The touchscreen is 1.4 inches, and this ABC watch includes a 3-axis digital compass. We recommend this watch to serious navigators, and the detailed mapping provides so much technical information.
The barometer installed in the Garmin Epix can be used to predict weather changes if you can interpret the short-term air pressure changes, it’s basically a storm alarm for those who know how to read it. With an improved EXO antenna, the signal strength with this watch is very reliable. Bluetooth can be used to sync weather predictions from your smartphone, so you’ll never be caught off-guard in the rain. The battery life is reported to be good, with the average hiker needing to recharge this sports watch once a week.
The GPS tracking and mapping function are what really sets apart the Garmin Epix. No other hiking watch on the market offers such detailed and accurate live information. However, this high-tech watch isn’t as rugged as the Garmin Fenix 3 for example, nor the Casio Pathfinder watches. Additionally, the design of this outdoors watch isn’t exactly stylish, as this functional but bulky accessory could be a little more streamlined. This sports watch is a smart choice for those who need very accurate navigation, but otherwise, there are more suitable options available.
- Highly advances GPS tracking
- 8GB of storage for downloadable maps
- Good battery life
- Not as durable as other watches
- Unnecessary features for casual hikers
6. Palada Digital Sports Watch
- Digital watch: Fashionable sporty dial design, military style outlook. Big numbers display with light and large dial, show time clear even in the dark. Use import EL Lamp, press "LIGHT" button to see...
If you need a simple hiking watch and enjoy stylish design, consider the Palanda sports watch. This budget option has far fewer advanced features than Garmin or Casio sports watches, but at less than $20 it might be the right pick for hikers without hundreds of dollars to spend. This multisport watch is water-resistant up to 50 meters, making it suitable for swimming and other watersports. The Palada Sport Watch isn’t highly water-rated enough for diving, but most hikers won’t come across a need for this feature.
Plenty of simple but useful features make this budget accessory worth considering, such as the digital stopwatch and calendar. Also equipped with several alarm options, you get a lot of functionality for your buck. However, you can expect some issues with such a cheap alternative. The water resistance, while convenient for everyday splashes and accidents, is nowhere near as powerful as on other hiking watches. Palada recommends you don’t press the watch buttons underwater, and this is indicative of poor weatherproofing.
A handy backlight makes for easy viewing in the dark, so you can use these simple features day and night. Unfortunately, without functions like an altimeter or GPS, this watch can be recommended to casual hikers only. It’s a great option if you just need a simple watch with a few extra hiking features, but serious outdoor adventurers will need a watch with a more advanced design.
- Great budget option
- Has simple but useful features
- Backlight installed
- No GPS
- Waterproofing is unreliable
- No ABC watch features
7. Vikano Survival Bracelet Watch
- 【6-IN-1 Survival Bracelet Watch】 Outdoor survival watch kits - Digital Bracelet Watch + Compass + Whistle + Fire Starter Scraper + Paracord + Magic sticker strap. Scraper can be used as a knife...
This impressive survival watch from Vikano offers a lot of features in a small package, boasting a 6-in-1 design. One unique feature of the Vikano Survival Watch is the paracord band, the watch strap is made out of parachute cord, a strong and highly useful emergency feature. To find out why this feature is so useful, check out the best paracord bracelets. With this excellent addition, your hiking watch doubles as an emergency length of paracord.
This survival watch also features a built-in fire starter scraper, highly useful for starting campfires in the wild or at the campsite. An emergency whistle is also included, this watch is packed with features made to help you when you need it most. This watch actually doesn’t feature a digital compass; instead, there’s a physical compass built into the band. Although this might seem low-tech in comparison to the smartwatches we discussed previously, a physical compass is actually much more reliable and can’t fail due to battery outages.
We’d expect reliability problems from a budget option like this watch, but Vikano has impressed us with how sturdy, rugged, and reliable this hiking watch is. As an outdoors or sport watch, we really love the Vikano Survival Bracelet Watch. However, for hiking purposes, we’d love to see an altimeter or barometer added, for that extra functionality. Not every hiking watch has to be GPS equipped, but we’d at least add these simple features.
- Great survival features
- Built-in emergency paracord and fire starter
- Rugged and hardy design
- No altitude measurement
- No GPS
The best hiking watch needs to provide for its users in the backcountry, offering useful and often vital information in an accessible and well-designed manner. That’s why our top pick, and our recommendation for your hiking watch purchase, is the Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR. Although this timepiece is bulky, we can’t deny its endless array of useful features. With excellent GPS tracking, while still conserving battery life, the Suunto Ambit 3 is the best hiking watch for outdoor enthusiasts.
Up to date weather information and smartwatch functions, alongside hiking specific information like altitude make this a useful tool for any outdoor excursion. The included heart rate monitor provides vital information about the hiker’s health, it’s this addition that really pushed the Suunto Ambit over the edge as our winner.
For a highly useful, functional, and weatherproof hiking watch, choose the Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR. Accurate GPS location combined with ample battery life makes this multisport watch the ideal hiker’s companion.
Bonus tip: Watch this unboxing to see what you get upon purchase of a Suunto Ambit3!