The 10 Best Hiking Watches of 2017

best-hiking-watch

Getting lost in the wild can be amazing, but at some point along your intrepid journey, you might need to get back home.

Outdoor watch manufacturers are constantly competing to pack the most powerful features into the best hiking watch so you can forget about getting lost or caught in a freak storm while enjoying the great outdoors.

Unfortunately, there are several rip-offs and sub-par products which will only leave you frustrated with poor functionality and even worse battery life!

Look no further! We have traversed the mountains of options and have compiled a list of the most awesome outdoor watches based on their incredible features, build quality and value for money.

The Best Watch for Hiking the Great Outdoors

garmin-fenix-3-sapphire-large

Garmin remains a leader in the GPS navigation field and the Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire does not disappoint. It’s essentially a powerful smart watch in that you can personalize it with widgets, apps and custom faces depending on your preference.

garmin-gps-watch-faces

Being GPS enabled, the Fenix 3 Sapphire by Garmin accurately records a bread-crumb trail of your movement and allows you to mark your course with up to 1000 points of interest! You can use it easily return to camp or even just to find your toilet tent.

The watch also connects with your Bluetooth smartphone with email and text alerts straight to your watch. You can even add the heart rate monitor (not included) for additional data tracking.

Available Designs

garmin fenix 3 sapphire range

The Garmin is clearly designed with the tech savvy in mind but you don’t have to be a genius to use it. The functions are simple to understand easy to use, even if you’re just looking to use the basic functionality.

You should definitely consider the Garmin Fenix 3 if you love tracking as much info as possible and like to explore the incredible features and the unbelievable amount of customizations.

  • Thermometer: Yes
  • Altimeter: Yes
  • Barometer: Yes
  • Compass: Digital
  • GPS: YES with Breadcrumb Trail
  • Strap: Choice of Titaniun, Leather, White Silicone,  and Black Metal.
  • Face Customization
  • Water Rating: 100 Meters (330 Feet) Swimming only
  • And many more features
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Garmin Fenix 3 HR with Heart Rate Monitor

garmin-fenix-3-hr

The Garmin Fenix 3 HR is the exact same watch as the Sapphire but has a built-in Heart Rate monitor behind the face that cleverly measures your heart rate from your wrist.

It also comes with a black silicone band instead of the myriad of strap options of the Sapphire.

The only real reason we gave it 4.5 stars and not 5 was that the battery life is slightly shorter given the built in heart rate monitor. (In our opinion, the built-in Heart Rate monitor, though a powerful feature, is more applicable to fitness training than hiking.)

  • Built-in Heart Rate Monitor
  • Thermometer: Yes
  • Altimeter: Yes
  • Barometer: Yes
  • Compass: Digital
  • GPS: YES with Breadcrumb Trail
  • Strap: Silicone
  • Face Customization
  • Water Rating: 100 Meters (330 Feet) Swimming only
  • And many more features
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The Suunto Traverse GPS Watch

suunto-traverse

With beautiful styling and a strong build, the Suunto GPS hiking watch is as perfect in a boardroom as it is on any extreme hike around the world.

There are features like “storm alarm” and “sunrise and set” times but these pale in comparison to the one thing Suunto is really known for… Navigation! It has a lightning fast satellite connection to GPS and GLONASS with insane accuracy. You can track your position and record an active cookie crumb trail for reverse navigation. (The satellites connect slightly faster than with the Garmin.)

suunto watch modes

We loved the large, clear display which can also be inverted for better visibility.

The rechargeable lithium ion battery keeps the watch running for 3 days while in GPS tracking mode but it can also last around 11 days in normal mode. It even tracks your steps and the amount of calories you burn. Color options include Black, Graphite White and Amber.

gps suunto model

Honestly we could not find anything really wrong with this hiking watch… If you are on a slightly tighter budget, this is a perfect choice!

Alternatively, the more powerful Suunto Traverse Alpha  also adds extra features like automatic shot marking for hunting and moon phase tracking for fishing. Although, even with the extra features, we simply couldn’t justify the much higher price of the Alpha model, making the standard Suunto Traverse our clear choice here!

  • Thermometer: Yes
  • Altimeter: Yes
  • Barometer: Yes
  • Compass: Digital
  • GPS: YES with Breadcrumb Trail
  • Water Rating: 100 Meters (330 Feet) Swimming only
  • And many more features
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Best ABC Watch by Casio

best-abc-watch-by-casio

“ABC” refers to the fact that it has an Altimeter, Barometer and Compass. The Casio PRW-3500T-7CR Pro Trek watch is the best ABC watch on the market. This is not a “smart” watch with GPS tracking but offers incredibly accurate ABC data for a much lower price than a GPS watch. The weather alarm is great and has helped many a hiker stay out of trouble.

It’s solar powered. The titanium “clasp” band insinuates indestructibility while still looking sharp indoors. It looks solid and tough, but its actually quite light.

It can be submerged to 200 meters and the unidirectional bezel can be turned to help guide your compass bearing while hiking.

It syncs with an atomic clock that keeps the time super accurate at all times and several daily alarms can obviously also be set if needed. (up to 4 alarm times)

The temperature/barometer works better if you remove the watch from your wrist for a minute.

  • Thermometer: Yes
  • Altimeter: Yes
  • Barometer: Yes
  • Compass: Digital
  • Water Resistant: 200 Meters (660 feet) Diving

Here’s what we didn’t love about this amazing watch

The altimeter is accurate and simple. Don’t expect too much. It shows an altitude “tendency” graph. To get this straight, you can’t see an actual graph of your altitude history. It merely shows if you’ve been moving up or down in the last few minutes.

The compass shows bearing (degrees) in large digits with very small North, East, South, West markers around the outer ridge of the face. This is OK, but not fantastic.

I guess we’ve become used to the cleaner look of the smart watches which is why the face/bezel area can look a bit “noisy”. Also, unlike the Pathfinder, the Pro Trek makes it a little harder to see which button does what.

Make no mistake, this is a great watch! Overall, we love it and strongly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a mid-priced outdoor ABC timepiece by a quality brand known for its accuracy and durability.

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Under 200 with Altimeter, Barometer and Compass

hiking-watch-under-200

The Suunto Core (Pictured here in Military Black) is another clever “Altimeter, Barometer, Compass” watch that must be the most comfortable on the list. The lightweight body combined with a wide tapered strap makes this an incredibly good hiking companion. (Due to it’s ‘softness” there are some complaints about the strap durability in rougher conditions.)

The design is smooth with very little chance of catching on fabric or branches while trekking.

In terms of tech, Suunto never disappoints. There is a storm alarm that activates when it senses sudden drops in pressure. The altimeter shows your current elevation and also records the trek, showing you how much you’ve ascended and descended along your journey.

With a cleaner face than the Casio Pro Trek, the compass still gives the same information. Your bearing in large digits in the center.

The watch is pretty big, but also not heavy. We do find the buttons have a less solid feel than the other ABC watches.

It’s significantly cheaper than the Casio Pro Trek making the Sunnto Core is great value for money. A fantastic gift for backpackers and outdoorsmen who need a good, comfortable ABC watch that doesn’t need to take too much of a beating.

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Casio Outdoor Watch

casio-outdoor-watch

The large, clearly marked buttons make the Casio PAG240-1CR Pathfinder with Triple Sensor, the easiest ABC watch to use on the list. The Altimeter, Barometer and Compass buttons are very clearly marked and even more so, the light button for night and low light use. The button ergonomics, though “loud” is very easy to operate.

It’s plastic with a silicone strap and works like a charm in the wild. You won’t be stressed about bumps and scratches cause this guy loves to get dirty. The elaborate, busy design actually hides a lot of wear and tear and for the price, you won’t be overly precious about knocks and rocks.

In terms of the accuracy of the 3 sensors, you’ll find the very same trustworthiness as with the higher-end Casio hiking watches.

The Casio’s can operate in low temperature conditions (up to 14 F / -10 C) and still accurately measure the environment. Other great aspects include being 100 Meters water resistant and being able to notify you of sunrise and sunset times.

A great budget timepiece for the adventurer.

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Best Under 100

best-watch-under-100

The stylish and powerful LAD Sensor Master is loaded with tech. Most unique of which is the weather function which will warn you on your hike when a storm is about to hit. It has an awesome negative display which is super bright in the daytime. At night, the backlit display is great too.

Other great hiking watch features include a really accurate digital compass which can be calibrated, an altimeter, a barometer and even a thermometer. You can even track your barometer & altimeter graph for the last 24 hours! Cool.

One small downside is that the thermometer is sometimes out by a few degrees which is a little unfortunate. The other sensors are amazing and are near perfect.

For the price, the features this watch offers blew us away. If you’re looking for an affordable hiking watch that can keep up with the big boys, this is the one.

  • Thermometer: Yes
  • Altimeter: Yes
  • Barometer: Yes
  • Compass: Digital
  • GPS: No
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Casio G-Shock Outdoor Watch

casio-g-shock-outdoor

No list of rough and tough watches could be complete without the ever popular Casio G-shock. This watch doesn’t have the tech of the more pricey watches but it outshines the rest for a retro cult-like brand that spans decades.

The newer G Shock is sleeker than the original model (with less sharp corners to catch on things) and is definitely not as bulky. But it never loses it’s well known character.

The primary reason the G-Shock is so well known is for its shock resistant capability. This has made it the toughest outdoor watch for anyone who wants to take it off the beaten track and into some more extreme conditions.

That being said, thanks to the brand’s following, this watch will be just as cool in a skate park in NYC as it would in a Mexican Cenote. (200 Meters water resistant and great for diving.)

It’s chrono… isn’t that just flipping the bird to all the other digital pansies that “can’t handle the pressure” of untamed nature. Furthermore it has a small digital display on the lower half of the face.

The only real issue we could find is that the illumination function doesn’t light up the main face, only the digital area. This is a little annoying at night since only the date lights up.

Other than that, this is the toughest little watch you’ll ever find. It’s compact design and high impact resistance, makes it an unbelievably good choice for a non-sensor, trekking watch.

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Survival Tool By SharpSurvival

survival-watch

The really affordable Sharp Survival Tool Watch is the perfect analog hiking watch for extreme situations.

Its water resistant and consists of:

  • 12 ft nylon Emergency Paracord
  • A small but functional Compass
  • Magnesium fire starter flint rod and a stainless steel scraper (check vendor for inclusion)
  • A 150 db whistle
  • O Yeah… and a watch!

This watch is for rough, tough and ready for any survival situation and it looks super cool. A true outdoorsman who enjoys hiking into the wild. The luminous face won’t leave you lost in the dark.

Being analog means it’s for the rugged bastard who doesn’t need fancy technology like an altimeter or GPS. The military grade paracord comes in 4 color variations including black, camo, pink/black and beige.

We just don’t love that the compass is located on the inside of the wrist (you have to tilt your wrist forward to see it) but being further from the watch casing does make it more accurate. It’s super easy to light a campfire with the magnesium fire starter.

The manufacturer suggests the watch is water resistant only and shouldn’t be submerged for more than 15 minutes. (But if you’re hiking and you’re submerged under water for more than 15 minutes, you have much bigger problems.)

We absolutely LOVE this hiking watch and can wholeheartedly recommend it as a fun, afforable survival tool that also keeps perfect time.

  • Thermometer: No
  • Altimeter: No
  • Barometer: No
  • Compass: Magnetic
  • GPS: No
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Cheap Outdoor Timepiece

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The Casio Forester just made it onto our list for its extremely low price compared to its unique style. It’s the cheapest quality adventure watch on the market. Look, it has no gadgets, no smart GPS technology or advanced sensors. This is a simple chronological watch that says one thing: “I belong outside.”

The band is a combination of cloth and leather which is uniquely rugged and styled for adventure. It has Casio’s reliability as far as keeping the time and is also 330 feet (100 meters) water resistant! (An insane depth for this price.)

There is a small date window in the sandy face. A smooth backlight with afterglow makes night viewing easy.

The strap cleverly folds back and is secured by velcro. This means you can get it to fit perfectly on your wrist. (to the last micrometer)

It’s not meant for high impact or shock, but it can definitely handle itself in mild outdoor situations. Don’t expect too much durability. The price is super low and the quality is good for what you pay.

In conclusion, the low price makes this simple adventure watch pretty good value for money.

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Which of These is the ideal Outdoor Watch for You?

There are a few factors to consider, let’s break them down:

  • Tech
  • Style
  • Price

Tech

So let’s begin… If you need GPS Navigation you’ll have to choose between the Fenix 3 Sapphire or HR models and the Suunto Traverse. They all have breadcrumb trail recording and you can map out points of interest along your way.

Between Garmin and Suunto, the Garmin has much more tech features and customization while the Suunto Traverse has simpler and (slightly) faster GPS.

If it’s tech features you’re after, the Garmin is for you though the price tag is a little higher than the Suunto.

Style

With the metal band, the Garmin Sapphire has a clean “dress watch” look which can be worn anywhere. It is beautifully designed and with an incredibly good battery life, serves very well as a dual purpose watch. For an executive who demands competency both in- and out of the boardroom, you’ll love the Garmin Sapphire GPS watch for hiking.

On the other end of the spectrum is the very unique Survival Watch by SharpSurvival.  It’s really affordable and the paracord strap just can’t be mistaken for anything other than a rugged AF wilderness watch. The face is clean and solid with just a hint of military. If you’re buying a cheap & simple watch for your partner who loves nature enjoys roughing it, this one’s for you.

The G-Shock is a middle of the market legend. A unique style which simply cannot be mistaken. We particularly like the faux matt-metal look of the body. It adds a slight touch of class to the impenetrable feel of the design.

Price

The Suunto Traverse offers a great deal of value for a lower price than the Fenix. It meets the perfect harmony of price and quality with everything a hiker will need from GPS and Cookie-Crumb navigation, setting points of interest, accurately monitoring weather and altitude and simply looking insanely stylish.

The Casio Pro Trek is classy in a different way. You can certainly take this watch anywhere you go. Whether it be diving the Blue Hole in Belize or brokering a huge tech deal.

You can cut costs by selecting one of the ABC watches. The Casio Pro Trek, the Suunto Core or the Casio Pathfinder are all good with the Pro Trek being the best option. It won’t track your position but will calculate many of the essential metrics related to your hike, like compass bearing, elevation and barometric weather warnings.

The Casio Forester is a ridiculously cheap hiking timepiece. The quality is fair and the design stands out as its own separate brand inside the Casio range.

Let Us Know What You Think

We’d love to know your experience with any of these watches or perhaps you think we’ve missed one. We’d love to know. Also check out this great watches article by Mike from Travelsauro.

 

Here Are Some Additional Videos

Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire

Suunto Traverse

LAD Sensor Master

Here’s a slightly out of date video comparing older versions of the best hiking watches

Some Additional Reading

How to Use Your GPS Smart Watch

gps hiking watch

Ensure your hiking watch is fully charged. You should be able to hike to your location and back at least twice before the battery dies. Remember that the watch will run out of power much faster when in GPS mode.

Check that the latest firmware is installed on your GPS watch. Manufacturers are continually updating their features making them stronger and more user friendly. Also make sure you’re familiar with the new interface if a lot has changed since the latest update.

Take a spare map if you can. The best hikers always know to carry a backup, for every eventuality. Also grab a lightweight compass for the hike.

Check your satellite signal before you rely solely on your hiking watch. You may have found yourself in a “dead-zone” due to interference or topographical obstructions.

Take an extra mental note of your route. Your GPS watch is a backup but you can always rely on memory too. Check out landmarks and take note of the position of the sun for extra measure.

Make sure you’re tracking correctly while you hike. You can do a quick overview when you have breaks to see if it all makes sense.

Two hiking watches are better than one. If you hike with a buddy, check out their hiking watch. It’s often loads of fun to see how the minute differences in your hike affect your endurance.

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