If you have a backpack, sleeping bag, tent, backpacking stove and mug, then you are almost ready for backpacking. But one more essential thing that you will definitely need is a backpacking watch. Yes, it’s better to have a special watch for backpacking which includes lots of helpful features that you will need during your journey.
So what is a decent backpacking watch and how can you choose the best watch for backpacking? It’s not so easy, especially if you don’t have much experience with this issue. Our reviews will help you find the best backpacking watch that will meet your expectations and needs.
Top 5 Best Bacpacking Watches
In our review, you will also find the backpacking watches with basic features as well as with a set of amazing fitness features and other functionality. So here is our list of 5 top backpacking watches.
This watch is one of the best watches for backpacking with some functions of a smartwatch. This watch has hundreds of features for sport tracking. It is suitable for backpacking, hiking, climbing, cycling, running, swimming, skiing and other outdoor activities. The Fenix 3 comes in different colors: Gray with a black band, silver with a red band, and 3 models with sapphire glass (rose gold-tone with a white band, black with a metal band and silver with the leather band). We recommend the version with the sapphire glass as it’s more resistant to scratches, but it’s also more expensive at $100. So what does the Fenix 3 offer?
- 2” high-resolution, sunlight-visible color Chroma display with backlight;
- 3-axis compass, altimeter, barometer and thermometer;
- Omnidirectional EXO antenna with GPS and GLONASS support;
- Tracks activity by counting steps, distance, calories, speed, cadence;
- When paired with heart rate monitor (sold separately), features recovery advisor, VO2 max estimate and race predictor;
- Smartphone connectivity via Bluetooth or USB;
- Compatible with Connect IQ for customization of watch faces, data fields, widgets, and apps;
- Smart notifications from your smartphone;
- Move bar with vibration alerts to motivate your moves;
- Alarm, stopwatch, timer;
- Water resistance: 100 meters;
- Battery life: up to 20 hours in GPS / training mode, 50 hours in UltraTrac mode, and 6 weeks in watch mode.
The Garmin Fenix 3 comes with all the functions you need for navigation. It is equipped with 3-axis compass, altimeter, barometer and thermometer. So you will know not only where to go but also the weather since the barometer can predict the change of pressure and inform you about it. A sun-visible high-resolution color Chroma display with LED display will show you the data at any time of the day.
The Fenix 3 has omnidirectional EXO antenna that supports GPS and GLONASS. The GPS accuracy of this watch is great. The Fenix 3 can get a GPS fix very quickly, within a few seconds. But keep in mind that each connection reduces the battery life. In general, you can use the Fenix 3 for about 6 weeks in watch mode, up to 20 hours in GPS / training mode and 50 hours in UltraTrac mode. The GPS also allows you to create breadcrumbs, so you can mark your start and finish point or any other point of interest. You can mark up to 1000 waypoints and store up to 10000 track points.
The Garmin Fenix 3 also has lots of tracking features for different sports. It can track your distance, speed, pace, calories, cadence, heart rate and much more. However, the heart rate sensor is not included, so if you need it, you have to buy separately. Furthermore, there are some other nice features that will help you estimate your workouts like VO2 max, recovery advisor, race predictor, cadence, vertical oscillation, stroke count, pace and distance for swimming and vertical drop for skiing.
To get your data, you can sync the watch with your smartphone via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. All your data will be stored in the Garmin Connect app, which is available for iOS and Android. The Connect IQ platform allows you to customize your watch with watch faces, data fields, apps, and widgets. The Fenix 3 also features smart notifications, so you don’t have to worry about missed calls or unread messages since you will receive call and text notifications from your smartphone to your watch.
The Garmin Fenix 3 is water resistant to up to 100 meters, so there will be no worries while crossing the rivers or swimming with it.
All in all, the Fenix 3 is smart multisport GPS watch that is a must-have device for people who like backpacking, hiking, cycling, running, swimming, skiing and want to track their activity. This watch will be a reliable assistant even in harsh weather conditions. Taking into account its performance and functionality, the price you pay is quite reasonable. So if you want to have the best backpacking watch, you should consider the Garmin Fenix 3.
Check out this review of the Garmin Fenix 3 review on YouTube:
The Epix is another great backpacking watch from Garmin. This watch offers very similar fitness tracking capabilities of the Fenix 3, but its mapping and navigation are more advanced and work great in the wilderness. This watch is very durable. It is made of reinforced stainless steel and has scratch resistant mineral glass lens and rugged PVD finish. And now let’s take a closer look at the features of the Epix:
- 4” high-resolution, sunlight-visible color Chroma touchscreen display with backlight;
- 8 GB internal memory;
- 3-axis compass, barometer and altimeter;
- Omnidirectional steel EXO antenna;
- Supports GPS and GLONASS;
- Preloaded maps (TOPO U.S. 24K maps included);
- Free 12-month subscription to Birdseye Satellite imaging;
- Advanced track recording for starting and stopping track recording;
- Track navigation assistance for loaded or saved tracks and locations;
- Fitness training features: VO2 max, heart rate, distance, pace, cadence, vertical oscillation, ground contact time tracking;
- Smartphone synchronization via Bluetooth, USB or ANT+;
- Smart notification from the smartphone to the watch;
- Connect IQ platform for customization with watch faces, data fields, widgets, and apps;
- Vibration alerts, timer, stopwatch, alarm clock, world clock with auto time-zone calibration;
- Compatible with heart rate monitor, cadence sensor and foot pod;
- Water resistance: 50 meters;
- Battery life: up to 24 hours in GPS mode, 50 hours in UltraTrac mode and 16 weeks in watch mode (depends on settings).
So the Garmin Epix is a nice watch for backpacking because it has all features needed for it. This watch is equipped with a color touchscreen display which is sunlight-visible and has a backlight, so you can easily read the maps in bright sun or when it’s dark. So for those people who prefer touchscreens, it will be a nice bonus, but all features can also be operated by buttons.
The Navigation is a breeze since this watch supports GPS and GLONASS and has preloaded maps which show towns, roads, rivers, lakes and other places of interest. You can also download more maps from the Connect IQ store. 8 GB of built-n memory will be quite enough for this. Moreover, the Epix offers a free 12-month subscription to Garmin’s Birdseye Satellite imaging. And of course, the Garmin Epix features built-in 3-axis compass, altimeter and barometer that will help you find your route and predict the weather changes.
The Garmin Epix connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth. Pay attention that there is no Wi-Fi connection. To sync your data, you have to use the Connect IQ platform. It allows you to customize your watch faces, data fields, widgets, and apps. Furthermore, you can receive notifications from your phone directly to the watch. So the Connect IQ software has lots of nice features for tracking and storing your activity.
Besides VO2 max and running dynamics, the Epix can track your heart rate, cadence and much more. It’s compatible with heart rate monitor, cadence sensor, and foot pod.
Overall, you will be pleased how this watch operates. It’s water resistant to up to 50 meters and the battery life is 24 hours in GPS mode and up to 16 weeks in watch mode. Though the price may seem a bit high, but it’s fair for the functionality and good performance. The Epix will be not only the best backpacking watch, but it is great for other sports and it will also serve you as a good activity tracker.
Check out this review of the Garmin Epix on YouTube:
For those people who like adventures and active lifestyle, Suunto designed a new multifunctional watch that provides all the data you need for navigation, exploring and taking your fit to the next level. Whether you go backpacking, hiking, climbing, swimming, cycling, running or you just want to track your daily activity, this watch will be your perfect assistant. Either you are a professional athlete or an outdoor enthusiast, the Suunto Ambit 3 Peak will satisfy your needs. So what are the benefits of this watch? Let’s take a look at its features:
- Altimeter, barometer, compass, and thermometer;
- Supports GPS;
- Sunrise / sunset feature;
- Storm sensor;
- Tracks multiple sports in 1 log;
- Tracks recovery time, speed, pace, distance, VO2 max and other fitness activities;
- heart rate strap that can be used while swimming;
- Calorie counter;
- Wireless connection with a smartphone via Bluetooth;
- Free Suunto Movescount app to customize the watch with apps, widgets, watch faces, and data fields;
- Smart notifications from a smartphone;
- Foot pod and cycling sensor support;
- Water resistance: up to 100 meters;
- Battery life: 200 hours with 1 min GPS interval; 20 hours with 1 sec GPS interval, 30 days in watch mode.
The Ambit 3 Peak Sapphire is made of composite materials. The bezel is a stainless steel and the lens is made of a scratch-resistant sapphire glass.
To make the navigation easier, the Suunto Ambit 3 Peak features built-in GPS, compass, altimeter, barometer, and thermometer. There are no preloaded maps. But you can import routes in GPX format from your computer. Compared to the Garmin Fenix 3 and the Garmin Epix, the Suunto Ambit 3 Peak has only 100 waypoints. So it may be a deal breaker if you want more waypoints.
Th Suunto Ambit 3 connects to the smartphone via Bluetooth and can track all your activity and store it in the Movescount app. It can track your distance, speed, pace, calories, VO2 max, heart rate (even while swimming) and much more. The watch also supports the foot pod and cycling sensor. The Movescount app allows you to customize your watch faces, data fields, apps, widgets and create 3D map animation movies of your routes. You can also receive notifications about calls and messages from your smartphone to the watch.
The Ambit 3 Peak has rather long battery life. You can use it for 200 hours with 1 min GPS interval or 20 hours with 1 sec GPS interval and up to 30 days in watch mode only. But take a note that the accuracy is worse if the GPS interval is longer. The Peak is also water resistant to up to 100 meters.
Overall, the Suunto Ambit 3 Peak does a great job. Its quality and functionality make this watch one of the best watches for backpacking, hiking or other sports activities. This watch has lots of sports modes and you can add up to 10 sports from the Suunto website. Keep in mind that watch is not a cheap one. But if you want a durable watch which provides the detailed analysis of your activity and serves as a reliable navigation tool, then you should certainly consider the Suunto Ambit Peak 3.
If you are looking for the best watch for backpacking and you don’t like watches with built-in GPS, then you should take a look at the Casio PAG240-1CR Pathfinder. So what does this watch offer? Here are the features of the Casio PAG240-1CR Pathfinder:
- Tough solar power;
- Digital compass, altimeter, barometer, and thermometer;
- Full auto LED backlight with afterglow;
- Sunrise / sunset data, world time, 31 time zones (48 cities), 12/24 hour format, countdown timer, 5 daily alarms, 1/100 second stopwatch, full auto calendar (preprogrammed until the year 2099);
- Battery life: up to 6 months on full charge (without further exposure to light);
- Low temperature resistant (-10⁰C / 14⁰F);
- Water resistance: 100 meters.
The Casio PAG240-1CR Pathfinder has a stainless steel case with mineral dial window and resin band with buckle closure. The watch stays well on the wrist. It’s equipped with a digital compass, barometer, altimeter, and thermometer for easy navigation. Besides these navigation features, the Casio PAG240 also comes with a stopwatch, countdown timer, sunrise/sunset data, world time with 31 time zones, 5 alarms and much more. The watch is water resistant to up to 100 meters and operates in temperature as low as -10⁰C/14⁰F.
All in all, the Casio PAG240 is a durable and reliable watch for backpacking. It comes with all the necessary features for navigation and much more. This watch is very reasonably priced and it’s twice cheaper than watches from Suunto and Garmin. The Casio PAG240 is solar-powered, so you don’t need to change the battery. And it’s a great advantage if compared to GPS watches. The battery of the Casio PAG240 requires very little light to be recharged. And approximate battery life can be up to 6 months on full charge (without further exposure to light). This watch is also recommended in many backpacking watch reviews.
Check out this video of the Casio PAG240-1CR Pathfinder on YouTube:
The Casio PRW-3000-1ACR Protek incorporates Casio’s new Triple Sensor Version 3 engine. The new sensors of this watch deliver better accuracy and energy efficiency. This multifunctional watch combines a precise altimeter, barometer, thermometer, and digital compass with endless solar power and precise atomic time. Here are the features of the PRW-3000 Protek:
- Tough solar power;
- Digital compass, altimeter, barometer, and thermometer;
- Multi-band 6 atomic timekeeping;
- Full auto LED backlight (super illuminator) with afterglow;
- Sunrise / sunset data, world time, 31 time zones (48 cities + UTC), 12/24 hour format, countdown timer, 5 daily alarms, 1/10 second stopwatch, hourly time signal, full auto calendar (preprogrammed until the year 2099);
- Battery life: up to 7 months on full charge (without further exposure to light);
- Low temperature resistant (-10⁰C / 14⁰F);
- Water resistance: 100 meters.
The Casio PRW-3000-1ACR Protrek is solar powered. It features a battery life indicator and power saving function, so you don’t have to worry that the battery may die very quickly. And you don’t need to recharge it for up to 7 months. It’s a big value point for those people who are looking the best backpacking watch.
The PRW-3000 features a digital compass, barometer, altimeter, and compass that will make your navigation a breeze. The compass measures and displays directions within 60 seconds as one of 16 points. The altimeter measures altitude in 1m increments from -2,300 to 32,800 ft. (-700 to 10,000m) and stores up to 30 records of high/low altitude, ascent/descent and data/month/time. The barometer tracks atmospheric pressure from 260 to 1,100 hPa (7.65 to 32.49 inHg). For accurate timekeeping, the watch automatically receives Atomic Clock time calibration signals in the US, UK, Germany, Japan, and China.
The watch also comes with lots of handy features like world time with 31 time zones, sunrise/sunset data, countdown timer, stopwatch, auto calendar, hourly time signal, 5 daily alarms and much more. The PRW-3000-1ACR Protek is also water resistant to 100 meters and operates in temperature as low as 10⁰C / 14⁰F. For its functionality and performance, the price of this watch is quite reasonable. So consider this watch as one of the best for backpacking.
Check out this review of the Casio PRW on YouTube:
What to look for in a watch
But before purchase, you have to know something about the backpacking watches. The most important is that such watch must be sturdy and tough. It’s not easy to walk through the mountains especially if the weather is unpredictable there. It’s not difficult to break or scratch your watch in the mountains. And what will you do if you need to swim and your watch is not water resistant? To avoid all these troubles, you should have the best backpacking watch which is durable and reliable.
The best backpacking watch should also have some features. First of all, such watch should be equipped with a compass, altimeter and barometer. Now there are lots of GPS watches which make the process of navigation easier. So if this watch features GPS, it’s really good. However, there are nice models without GPS. Secondly, think about the battery life. Keep in mind that if you use a watch with GPS, it will consume more battery every time when it connects to the satellite. So the solution is to make the intervals longer, but in this case, the accuracy will suffer. Normally, good backpacking watches with GPS can work up to 50 hours and then you will need to recharge the watch. Thirdly, during your journey, you may walk through rivers, so the watch should be waterproof.
These are probably the most important criteria that you should know for choosing the best backpacking watch. Of course, the more features the watch has, the better it should be. But don’t be allured by too many features, just think whether you need some fitness training capabilities and other tricks that the watch offers or maybe some basic features will be enough for you. For example, GPS is an advantage for some people, but others don’t like it and prefer to have a watch without GPS, so we’ve included both variants.
The Bottom Line
The watches reviewed above were chosen as the best watches for backpacking for their functionality, performance, durability and price. Three of five models are equipped with GPS and lots of sports tracking features. Two others are solar powered and aimed mostly at navigating, but they also have lots of additional features that will be very handy for backpacking. The reviewed watches from Garmin and Suunto are more expensive while watches from Casio are cheaper. So just think twice which features you need most of all and make your purchase carefully. We hope that our review will help you find the best watch for backpacking.