Hiking is becoming a very popular outdoor activity all over the world. It gives you an opportunity to explore nature and relax from everyday life. There is no doubt that for this adventure you need good hiking gear which will assist and facilitate your journey. One of the things that you will definitely need is a GPS hiking watch. Whether you are a professional hiker or an amateur, you may need to have a GPS watch for hiking to not get lost. It is very convenient to have such a portable computer in your watch. GPS watches for hiking connect to satellites to get your location and follow you as you walk, hike or run. Furthermore, the best hiking GPS watch can accurately track your speed, pace, altitude, predict the weather and more. So it will be perfect, even for professional athletes.
Top GPS Watches for Hiking Comparison
So what is the best GPS watch for hiking? We’ve analyzed tons of GPS hiking watch reviews and tested these models to find the highest rated GPS watch for hiking. We’ve included the best hiking GPS watches that demonstrated high performance and were really durable and easy to use. Here is our list.
Garmin is a well-known manufacturer of watches for hiking. This brand has gained a good reputation for manufacturing high-quality watches. The Garmin Fenix 3 is at the top of the Garmin watch lineup. This watch is suitable for hiking, mountaineering, climbing, running, backpacking and other outdoor activities. The case of the watch is made composite materials with a stainless steel bezel. The Sapphire version has a metal strap while others come with the rubber strap which is rather comfortable and sturdy. The lens is made of a sapphire glass which offers the ultimate protection from scratches. Let’s take a look at the features of the Garmin Fenix 3:
- Weight: 85 g with rubber strap and 185 g with metal strap;
- 2” sunlight-visible high-resolution Chroma display with high-strength domed sapphire glass;
- 3-axis compass, altimeter, barometer and thermometer;
- Omnidirectional EXO antenna with GPS and GLONASS support;
- Smartphone synchronization via Bluetooth;
- Compatible with Connect IQ to customize apps, widgets, watch faces and data fields;
- Fitness training features like VO2 max, recovery advisor, race predictor;
- Backlight for better illumination;
- 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 is durable watch for hiking that will suit both professional athletes and amateurs. It features 3-axis compass, altimeter, and barometer that will make your navigation a breeze. The 3-axis compass provides accurate data, so you can easily follow your route. The altimeter shows your height above the sea level and the barometer is a necessary feature that will help you predict the weather showing the change of pressure. A GPS receiver will make your navigation even easier providing you with real-time data. The GPS allows you to create a breadcrumb trail when you move. So you can mark your locations, start or finish point or any other point of interest. So you can mark up to 1,000 locations and store up to 10,000 track points. To read the maps in the darkness, the watch features the backlight. The display is also well visible during daylight.
The Fenix 3 is designed with lots of amazing tracking features for different kinds of sport. It can show your speed, pace, distance, heart rate, calories burnt, cadence and many more metrics. One of the features we really liked is a Recovery Advice. It estimates your recovery time after running, so you will know how much time you need to wait to continue your workout. Another nice feature is a race predictor which can estimate your finish time based on your current VO2 max number. The Fenix 3 also comes with some special features for swimming and skiing. For instance, you can track your distance, pace, stroke count while swimming and your vertical drop while skiing. And there are much more great sports features that you can discover in this watch. The Fenix 3 is also suitable for other kinds of sport like cycling, mountaineering, climbing and much more.
The Fenix 3 connects to your mobile device via Bluetooth, so your activity will be saved on your smartphone. You can get it in the BaseCamp application. The Connect IQ feature allows you to customize your watch settings with apps, widgets, watch faces and data fields. You can also receive call and text notifications from your smartphone directly to your watch.
The battery life of the Fenix 3 is 20 hours in GPS mode, 50 hours in UltraTrec mode and up to 3 months in watch mode (depending on setting). The watch is also water resistant to up to 100 meters.
All in all, the Garmin Fenix 3 is incredible GPS watch which is highly recommended for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Check out this review of the Garmin Fenix 3 review on YouTube:
The Garmin Epix is definitely one of the best GPS watches for hiking or maybe even the best one. It provides excellent tracking and navigation capabilities and has similar features with the Garmin Fenix 3. And here are the features of the Epix:
- Weight: 85 g;
- 4” high-resolution, sunlight-visible color Chroma display with backlight;
- 3-axis compass, barometer and altimeter;
- 8 GB built-in memory;
- Omnidirectional steel EXO antenna;
- Supports GPS and GLONASS;
- Preloaded maps (TOPO U.S. 24K maps);
- Fitness training features;
- Smartphone synchronization via Bluetooth, USB or ANT+;
- Connect IQ for customization of the watch with watch faces, data fields, widgets, and apps;
- Vibration alerts, timer, stopwatch, alarm clock, world clock with auto time-zone calibration;
- 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).
The Garmin Epix comes with 1.4” high-resolution, sunlight-visible color display with a backlight which is rather handy in bright sun or darkness. It is rugged with a mineral glass display and PVD-coated surfaces. A stainless steel EXO antenna of the Epix paired with GPS and GLONASS provides better signal strength and fixes GPS faster. The built-in 3-axis compass, altimeter and barometer also work well and ensure better navigation.
The Epix has preloaded maps which include roads, trails, rivers, lakes, parks and other points of interest. Built-in memory allows you to add more maps.
The Garmin Epix wirelessly connects to your smartphone, so all your data are automatically synchronized. The Connect IQ software allows you to customize widgets, data fields and watch faces as well as receive smart notifications about incoming calls or messages on your watch.
The Epix offers advanced fitness training features like VO2 max, running dynamics (cadence, vertical oscillation and ground contact time). The watch is also compatible with heart rate monitor, cadence sensor, and foot pod.
This watch is water resistant to 50 meters and the battery life is 24 hours in GPS mode.
All in all, the Garmin Epix is a great watch for hiking, mountaineering, climbing, cycling, swimming, running, skiing and other activities. Though it’s a bit pricey, it’s worth the money you pay.
Check out this review of the Garmin Epix on YouTube:
In 2015, Suunto released its new Traverse watch which has already become one of the best GPS watches for hiking. This watch is designed for people who like outdoor activities like hiking, mountaineering, climbing, backpacking, running and need accurate tracking and navigation. The Suunto Traverse Collection comes in 5 colors: Amber, Black, Graphite, White, and Slate. The first four models come with silicone strap and are a bit cheaper than the Slate model which has a textile strap. It is very important that this watch is very durable. The case of the Traverse is made of composite materials and has a stainless steel scratch resistant bezel. The lens is made of mineral glass, so it also offers some protection from scratches, but it’s not as good as a sapphire glass. But we hope that in future Suunto will release this model with a sapphire glass. If you are looking for the best hiking GPS watch, then you probably need a good GPS tracking and navigation. The Suunto Traverse offers not only this feature but some other advanced features that you would like to have. Here they are:
- Weight: 80 g;
- Altimeter, barometer, compass;
- Supports GPS and GLONASS;
- Synchronization with a smartphone via Bluetooth;
- Five sports modes which show speed, pace, ascent, heart rate, etc.;
- Free topographic maps in Suunto Movescount app;
- Automatic breadcrumb trail;
- Steps and calories counter;
- Flashlight / backlight mode;
- Vibration alerts;
- Storm alarm;
- Water resistance: 100 meters;
- Rechargeable battery with up to 100 hours battery life in GPS mode.
Besides GPS, the Suunto Traverse also supports GLONASS navigation system. GLONASS is a Russian version of GPS which increases the GPS accuracy and it needs less time to get a satellite fix. But GLONASS is not available at the moment and the manufacturer plans to update it so you can use it soon. You can set 3 different GPS intervals and thus control the battery life of the watch. If you set a longer GPS interval, you will increase the battery life, but you will get the less accurate result of tracking. The Traverse also supports different coordinate systems like UTM, MGRS, and WGS84.
The Suunto Traverse is equipped with an altimeter, barometer, and digital compass. The compass makes your navigation easier showing the degrees or miles. The watch automatically switches from the barometer to the altimeter when it detects the altitude change and when the watch is still it switches back to the barometer mode. The barometer shows sea level pressure and the graph of the sea level pressure for the last 26 hours. Furthermore, the Traverse shows the weather trend indicator which helps you predict the weather. In a case of a sudden change of pressure, the watch will alarm you. The altimeter shows the altitude or it’s so called FusedAlti feature that combines barometric and GPS altitude.
The Traverse has an automatic breadcrumb trail feature which allows you to retrace steps when needed.
To sync your watch with the mobile phone or computer, you can use either Bluetooth or USB cable. With the Movescount app, you can get notifications from your smartphone directly to your watch. It’s very convenient while running when your phone is somewhere in your bag. In the Movescount app, you can plan your routes and see analytics of your workout.
The watch has 5 sports modes which can show you your heart rate, pace, speed and other information. You can also install up to 3 apps per sports mode. In addition, you can connect heart rate strap to the watch. There are also step and calories counter and vibration alerts. The Suunto Traverse doesn’t support cadence POD and it may be a downside of the watch. However, it’s not a deal breaker.
The Suunto Traverse has a flashlight mode. So you will be able to see the map even when it’s dark.
The battery life of the Suunto Traverse is up to 100 hours in GPS mode that is quite much in comparison with the competitors and it will be enough for the weekend. The watch is also water resistant to up to 100 meters.
So the Suunto Traverse is durable GPS watch packed with lots of great features for hiking and other off-trail activity. This watch is definitely worth your consideration if you want to get the best hiking GPS watch.
Check out this review of the Suunto Traverse found on YouTube:
The Suunto Ambit 3 Peak is another great watch from Suunto which you can find in many GPS watch reviews. This watch is similar to the Traverse but with more features for professional athletes. There is Sport version of the Ambit 3 which lacks a few features of the Peak model, namely a barometric altimeter and longer battery life. Other functions are similar. So you can also consider the Ambit 3 Sport.
The Suunto Ambit 3 Peak is a multisport GPS watch which supports external Bluetooth PODs, swimming mode and other advanced features for activity tracking. This watch is durable and the case is made of composite materials and has a stainless steel scratch resistant bezel. The Peak comes in 2 versions: Balck and Sapphire. The sapphire glass is more resistant to scratches though it’s a bit more expensive. And here are the features of the Ambit 3 Peak:
- Weight: 80 g;
- Altimeter, barometer, compass, thermometer;
- GPS accuracy;
- Fitness features like VO2, recovery time test;
- Tracks heart rate while swimming;
- Cycling sensor support;
- Storm sensor;
- Calories counter;
- Sunrise / sunset feature;
- Smartphone synchronization via Bluetooth;
- Compatible with Movescount app for iPhone and Android;
- Customization with apps, widgets, watch faces and data fields;
- Call and text notifications;
- Water resistance: up to 100 meters;
- Battery life: 14-day general use, up to 50 hours with GPS, 15 hours with 5-second GPS fix intervals.
The Suunto Ambit 3 Peak comes with built-in GPS, altimeter, barometer, thermometer and compass which facilitate your navigation and help you predict the weather conditions. You can import routes in GPX format from your computer to the Peak. You can also download routes in your Movescount application which is compatible with the watch. The navigation and tracking will be a breeze with the Suunto Ambit 3 Peak.
The watch can track your speed, pace, distance, calories and much more. You can get in-depth analysis of your activity in the Movescount app which you connect wirelessly to your smartphone via Bluetooth. This app allows you to create 3D map animation movies of your routes, customize your watch creating watch faces and data fields, receive call and text notifications directly on your phone and much more.
This watch has different sports modes, but you can also add up to 10 sports from the Suunto website and customize them as you wish. You even can switch from one sport to another when you are running.
The Suunto Ambit 3 comes with the heart rate strap which can track your heart rate even while swimming.
The battery life of the Suunto Ambit 3 Peak is 50 hours in GPS mode and 14 days when you use it as a watch. But take note that when you make GPS connections too often, the battery dies faster and you will have less than 50 hours.
The Suunto Ambit 3 Peak is water resistant to 100 meters. But if you want to consider the Sport version, you should be aware that it’s water resistant to 50 meters.
Overall, the Suunto Ambit 3 Peak is durable and accurate GPS hiking watch. It will be good both for amateurs and professional athletes. It is one of the best GPS watches for hiking on the market now.
The Garmin Tactix is one of the best GPS watches for hiking. This multifunctional watch is packed with the most important features for hiking and much more. It’s designed in military style and if you like such style, you will also like the watch. The watch is made of metal coated in black to be non-reflective. The lens is made of mineral glass and doesn’t reflect the sun. Here are the features of the Tactix:
- Weight: 82 g;
- Negative mode liquid crystal display with green LED backlight;
- High-sensitivity GPS;
- Altimeter, barometer, and 3-axis compass;
- ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity;
- Tracks distance, pace, cadence, calories;
- Smartphone synchronization;
- BaseCamp application
- TracBack to navigate back to your starting point;
- Comes preloaded with Jumpmaster software for skydivers, U.S. tide data, and a worldwide basemap;
- Sun/moon info; hunt/fish calendar; timer; alarm clock; stopwatch; vibration alerts;
- Word clock with automatic time-zone calibration;
- Water resistance: up to 50 meters;
- Battery life: up to 50 hours in GPS mode, 3 weeks in sensor mode, and 5 weeks in watch mode.
The Garmin Tactix is a high-sensitivity GPS watch with altimeter, barometer, 3-axis compass and tracker with 1,000 waypoints, 10,000 track points, and other features. With this watch, you can create your routes, record up to 1,000 waypoints and breadcrumb trails. TracBack feature will navigate you back to the recorded trail.
The Tactix can be synchronized with your smartphone and you can get all the data on the BaseCamp app. The watch tracks distance, pace, cadence, calories and it’s also compatible with heart rate monitor, speed/cadence bike sensor, and foot pod.
Besides these functions, the Tactix features sun/moon info, hunt/fish calendar, alarm, stopwatch, timer, vibration alerts, world clock with auto time-zone calibration.
The watch is water resistant to 50 meters and its battery life will be enough for 50 hours in GPS mode and up to 5 weeks in watch mode (depends on settings).
Overall, the Garmin Tactix is one of the best GPS hiking watches, which deserves your consideration.
Check out this review of the Garmin Tactix on YouTube:
There are lots of GPS watches on the market. But it is not easy to choose the best one for hiking. And there are a few reasons. First of all, you should realize that you may face harsh weather conditions while hiking and not all GPS watches are durable. So the best GPS watch for hiking should be sturdy and tough. It is very important for a hiking watch to be geared with ABC (altimeter, barometer, and compass). The compass is necessary for navigation. The altimeter will give you the data about your height above sea level and the barometer will provide you with information about the weather, so you can predict it. These features will really simplify your journey. Moreover, there are some other great features that you may like to have in your hiking watch.
The Bottom Line
We have reviewed the best GPS hiking watches available on the market. Garmin and Suunto are definitely the leaders among manufacturers. Their watches are well-known all over the world for their durability and accuracy. The watches in our list have not only the basic features of GPS watches, but they also come with lots of sports features that will be appreciated by outdoor enthusiasts as well as by professional athletes.
We hope that our review will be helpful and you can choose the best GPS hiking watch for yourself. But keep in mind that GPS watches are not very cheap gadgets, so you should carefully think what you really need to have most of all. Consider the features of the biggest importance for you and then make your choice.