The best GPS smartwatch for hiking

Wearable Technology

Most GPS smartwatches are not only good for outdoor hiking adventures but come in handy when tracking everyday fitness goals and daily steps.

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Which GPS smartwatches for hiking are best?

Hiking is the perfect way to enjoy the great outdoors. Whether you’re a casual weekend hiker, outdoor fitness enthusiast or serious trail explorer, adding a GPS smartwatch to your hiking kit is a must. These intuitive devices not only make hiking safer by keeping you on the right trail but also have tons of additional features, enhancing your outdoor experience.

The best GPS smartwatches for hiking include features that keep you protected, on track and in the know. One of the best is the Garmin Instinct Solar Smartwatch, which features premium GPS tracking, military-grade durability and health-tracking software. 

What to know before you buy a GPS smartwatch for hiking

Interface

There are two types of interfaces for GPS smartwatches: touchscreen and push-button. Touchscreen smartwatches operate just like a smartphone, which means that you’ll need skin-to-screen contact in order to interact with it. This can be difficult if you often hike in wet environments or cold weather where you’ll be wearing gloves. While touch screens may be easier to navigate, you can also purchase a push-button watch, which can be more convenient for all-weather hiking. 

Comfort

Nothing can ruin a hike more than your gear making you uncomfortable. This is true for your smartwatch as well, which is why finding a lightweight device with a soft band is crucial. For hikers with smaller wrists or those who prefer something extra-lightweight, look for a watch that weighs around two ounces. Some watches also have removable bands, so you’ll be able to purchase a third-party strap if you want to swap it out for something more comfortable or for a look that better fits your personal style.

Additional features

GPS watches can have a ton of additional features aside from GPS tracking. Some more advanced watches have weather tracking abilities that can notify you of an incoming storm and tell you the exact temperature outside. Other watches feature barometric altimeters that track elevation changes, making them ideal for mountain hikes. Check out the Best Reviews list of the best smartwatches for more.

What to look for in a quality GPS smartwatch for hiking

Water-resistant

This is a no-brainer when it comes to hiking watches. The outdoors can be unpredictable, and you’ll want to make sure your devices are protected. GPS smartwatches usually offer an estimated depth at which the watch will stay protected underwater. If you’re planning on going scuba diving, look for depth protection beyond 30 meters. Anything less will be sufficient for sudden rainstorms, kayaking, paddleboarding and other situations where the watch won’t be submerged.

Battery life

Battery life is amongst the most important considerations for any smartwatch, let alone one built for hiking. There are many variations of batteries for GPS smartwatches. Some are rechargeable, using solar power, which is very convenient for multi-day hikes. Others use lithium-ion batteries that offer up to three weeks of use or a full 24 hours of GPS tracking. Certain models even boast quick-charging capabilities that can get you back on the trail within one hour.

App compatibility

GPS smartwatches that sync with your phone offer a superior experience to standalone watches. For example, if your watch is compatible with your phone, it will be able to communicate weather information which can be crucial while on a multi-day hike. Smartwatches that sync with health apps on your phone can be used to track your heart rate and stress levels. Having this vital information will help you stay calm and cool during high-intensity hikes.

How much you can expect to spend on a GPS smartwatch for hiking

GPS smartwatches for hiking can cost between $300-$620. Less expensive models with fewer additional features will be around the $300 mark, while higher-end, brand-name GPS smartwatches are going to be the most expensive and sit around the $620 mark.

GPS smartwatch for hiking FAQ

Will my GPS smartwatch be able to detect the weather?

A. Yes, some smartwatches have built-in barometers that can detect changes in air pressure. This smart feature can alert you of any sudden dips, which may mean a weather event is on the way. 

Can I use an Apple Watch for hiking?

A. The Apple Watch is suitable for casual hiking because it offers GPS tracking. However, this watch isn’t built for the outdoors and can easily become damaged or dirty from the elements. 

What’s the best GPS smartwatch for hiking to buy?

Top GPS smartwatch for hiking

Garmin Instinct Solar smartwatch

Garmin Instinct Solar smartwatch

What you need to know: This is an all-weather military-grade GPS smartwatch designed specifically for serious hiking enthusiasts.

What you’ll love: The strong, durable materials keep the watch safe and clean in all environments. It also features premium GPS tracking plus fitness and health monitoring capabilities.

What you should consider: This watch may be too complex for casual day-hikers.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top GPS smartwatch for the money

Coros APEX GPS watch

Coros APEX GPS watch

What you need to know: The Coros APEX is a fairly priced smartwatch with a ton of cool features that are easily accessible through its touchscreen, making it great for hiking.

What you’ll love: This watch has an impressive design that includes a stainless steel bevel and sapphire glass screen. This, on top of the sleek interface and modern fonts, makes it a great-looking watch.

What you should consider: Some of its fitness tracking features aren’t as accurate as other brands.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Garmin Forerunner 945

Garmin Forerunner 945

What you need to know: The Forerunner from Garmin was originally designed for triathlon runners, which means it has serious features for serious outdoor activity.

What you’ll love: Included with the watch are a pair of compatible earbuds and a charging case, allowing you to listen to your favorite music on your next hike.

What you should consider: This is one of the most expensive GPS smartwatches for hiking.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Jordan Beliles writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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