Hiking watches have come a long way since their humble, bulky beginning. Nowadays the watches we rely on to power us through hikes are more relatable to wrist-worn computers. We break down the best hiking watches on the market.
Before we dive in and show you what watches we recommend for hiking, it’s imperative that we clear the air and give you the lowdown on some other pieces of crucial information.
Important Factors to Consider When Buying a Hiking Watch
This kind of goes without saying, but a hiking watch has to be very durable. It should be able to handle a beating and stand up to the elements of nature. Opt for a watch that comes with a good manufacturer’s warranty to ensure that you’re getting maximum value for money.
Because hiking watches aren’t “just” watches, the need extra features like barometers, altimeters, thermometers and compasses. Some hiking watches also sport GPS technology, which makes trekking that much easier and eliminates the need for a hiking GPS.
With that being said, it’s time that we showed you what your best options are as far as hiking watches go.
Top 6 Hiking Watches
The Garmin Fenix 3 is an excellent hiking watch that will is used by many ultra runners, mountain climbers, cyclists and swimmers.
It comes in as our top pick in this category, and since its so feature rich, we’re betting that it has a little something that everybody will like. With its high-resolution color screen, the Fenix 3 looks more like a smartphone crammed into the body of a sports watch, but it can definitely handle wear and tear of the outdoor world. It’s made with super scratch-resistant glass, and the best part is; it looks so smart, it can easily double up as an everyday time piece.
The Garmin Flex 3 also has the ability to sync with your smartphone, which enables you to stay up to date with notifications and calls.
- 3-Axis Compass
- Altimeter and barometer that are calibrated with a GPS receiver
- Time adjustments based on current location
- VO2 estimator
- Recovery advisor
- Race predictor
- GPS for navigation and tracking
- Base Camp app which saves and analyzes movement
- Connect IQ feature for personalization with apps, widgets and watch faces
- Great display and features
- Supports various apps and smartphone sync
- Very customizable
- GLONASS support
- It's an expensive watch
- It might be too bulky for some folks
Our runner-up pick goes to the Suunto Ambit 3, which can be used for the same applications as the Garmin Fenix 3. It’s not only a great hiking watch, but an exceptional sports watch that made it pretty hard for us to decide between this model and the Fenix as a winner.
Maps can be imported to the watch in GPX format before a hike and exported once you’re done to the Suunto Move Scout app. This makes it easy to review and analyze your hike. The fact that its Bluetooth compatible as well as having the ability to operate with a heart rate monitor makes the Suunto Ambit 3 a top notch hiking watch.
- Comes with built in GPS, altimeter, barometer, thermometer and compass
- Bluetooth compatible
- Syncs with smartphones
- Heart rate monitor
- Tons of features for a reasonable price.
- Can sync with smartphones and is Bluetooth compatible
- Very accurate GPS
- Multisport mode
- Maps can be imported
- Suunto apps offer more usability and you can also create your own apps
- It sports an external antenna, which is unattractive to say the least.
As an older model (released in late 2015), the Suunto Traverse is another great hiking watch from one of the industry-leading brands.
This is a great watch for hikers, mountaineers and outdoorsmen.
The big difference between the Ambit 3 and the Traverse is that the Traverse doesn’t have a multisport mode; it’s not suitable for athletes, unlike its younger brother.
The more elegant and sophisticated design makes it a perfect everyday watch. This also means that it you won’t find Bluetooth PODs connectivity on the Traverse. We reckon that those “missing” features won’t be a deal breaker if you’re serious about a watch that performs AND looks great, like the Traverse does so well.
- Vibrational alerts
- Step counter
- Flashlight backlight
- GLONASS navigation
- Altimeter, barometer, thermometer and digital compass
- Smartphone sync available
- Bullet Point 2
- Fantastic looking watch
- Syncs with smartphones
- GLONASS support
- It doesn't support PODs
- It doesn't have a multi-sport mode.
Generally speaking, the Suunto Core Crush is a great everyday watch that’ll handle trekking and backpacking with a smile.
We just wish that is was as modern as out other picks, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t still bring some serious value to the table. If your budget is a little tight and you’re not too hard up on the idea of getting a GPS-enabled watch, this might be your deal.
The Core Crush looks cool and still has a bunch of useful features for its affordable price tag.
- Compass, altimeter and thermometer
- Provides weather information and storm warnings
- Automatically switches between altimeter and barometer
- Has a simple design
- Sleek look
- Very easy to use
- It doesn't have GPS
- It's not compatible with Bluetooth or heart rate belts
The Casio Pro Trek PRW 300 is very similar to the Suunto Core Crush. The big difference between the two is that the Pro Trek runs on a solar-powered battery, which can run for a whopping 7 months without any exposure to the sun. This is a feature that draws most folks to the watch.
The Pro Trek also receives calibration radio signals roughly 6 times a day, which means that the time you see is always, the most accurate time.
- Digital compass, barometer, altimeter and thermometer
- Runs on solar-rechargeable battery with a runtime of 7 months without being charged
- Calibration radio signals for time keeping
- It's smaller than a lot of the other options on this list
- Its light weight
- Relatively speaking, it's inexpensive.
- It doesn't have a GPS
- It can't operate with other features like heart rate belts.
Garmin Tactix GPS Navigator
Coming in as our “honorable mention pick” the Garmin Tactix was initially designed for use by the U.S. military, but since more and more folks began talking about it, its popularity saw a steep incline in a short period of time.
It has an anti-reflective lens that’s also scratch proof. The green backlight is suitable for nighttime use. It comes with the basics you’ll need for a hike such as a barometer, altimeter and a compass, plus it also has the ability to track your movement and has excellent navigational software.
- Scratch and reflective resistant lens
- Altimeter, barometer & compass
- Base Camp App for superb navigation and tracking
- Barometric altimeter and GPS altimeter for better accuracy
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Bullet Point 2
- Clever design
- Compatible with smartphones
- Feature rich
- Very durable
- It's a heavy watch
We’ve rounded up 6 of the best hiking watches that are currently available on the market, which should highlight your options pretty clearly. We sincerely hope that this post has helped you navigate through the vast wilderness we call the World of Watches, and that you’re now equipped with the information you’ll need to make the most informative decision regarding the purchase of your next hiking watch.