10 Best Outdoor Hiking Watches of 2018

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Outdoor watch manufacturers are constantly competing to pack the most powerful features into their latest models. Garmin, Suunto and Casio are currently in the lead with their GPS outdoor watches that track your position as well as combining a multitude of sensors like an Altimeter, Barometer, Compass and Thermometer to create a complete overview of your environment.

But lately it seems like every brand claims to have the very best GPS, Sensors, Depth Rating and more… Unfortunately, many of these claims will leave you EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED with Poor Functionality and even Worse Battery Life!

We’re JUST AS FRUSTRATED AS YOU, trying to decipher  “Who has the Fastest GPS” or “Which is More Waterproof ?!#@%”

That’s why our team has decided to conclusively answer this question ONCE AND FOR ALL!… What is the Best Hiking Watch?

Quick Answer – Best Hiking Watch – October 2018

  1. Garmin Fenix 5x Sapphire
  2. Casio Pro Trek Smart Watch
  3. Suunto Traversebest value
  4. Suunto Traverse Alpha
  5. Garmin Fenix 3
  6. Casio Tough Solar
  7. Suunto Core
  8. Casio Pathfinder
  9. LAD Weather
  10. G-Shock Compass

Top Rated Hiking Watches (GPS and ABC)

Garmin Fenix 5x Sapphire

garmin-fenix-5x-sapphire

Best for Hi-Tech Enthusiasts Who Love Tons of Environmental & GPS Data. Quite Pricey. Read more | Check Price

  • Brilliant Sensors
  • Highly Customizable
  • Topographic Maps
  • Wrist Based Heart Rate
  • High Price
  • Heavy and Bulky

Casio Protrek WSD-F20

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Best GPS Smartwatch with Touch Screen and Google’s Android Wear 2.0 Software. Read more | Check Price

  • Brilliant Color Display
  • Smartwatch w Touch Screen
  • Detailed Offline Maps
  • Android Wear / Google Play
  • Battery Saving Dual Display
  • A Bit Pricey
  • High Battery Drain

Suunto Traversebest value

suunto-traverse

Best for Overall Value! The Accurate GPS and Great Price Make it an Excellent Choice. Read more | Check Price

  • Fast, Accurate GPS
  • Excellent Suunto Support
  • Tough Casing
  • Flashlight Mode
  • Very Well Priced
  • Limited Customization
  • No Maps, Routes Only
  • No Color Display

Suunto Traverse Alpha

suunto-traverse-alpha

Best GPS Choice for Hunting and Fishing Enthusiasts with an Upgraded Alpha Bezel. Read more | Check Price

  • Super Solid Build
  • Audio Shot Marking
  • Great Value
  • Limited Customization
  • No Maps, Routes Only
  • No Color Display

Garmin Fenix 3

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Once the Leader of the Pack, this Older Smart GPS Hiking Watch Still Has It’s Benefits. Read more | Check Price

  • Color Display
  • Hi-Tech (for its Price)
  • GPS Inconsistent
  • High Battery Drain

Casio Tough Solar

casio-tough-solar

Accurate and Reliable Altimeter, Barometer, Compass Watch with Great Thermometer.  Read more | Check Price

  • Super Durable
  • Solar Powered
  • A Bit Overpriced in Today’s Terms
  • Increasingly Dated Design

Suunto Core

suunto-core

Simple and Large Clear Display on a Good Value ABC Sensor Watch from Suunto. Read more | Check Price

  • Clean Dial Face
  • Large Digits
  • Smooth Casing
  • Poor Water Resistance

Casio Pathfinder

casio-pathfinder

Affordable ABC Watch for Hikers Who Don’t Want to Stress About Scratches. Read more | Check Price

  • Solar Powered
  • Obvious Buttons
  • Good Price
  • “Noisy” Look

LAD Weather

lad-weather-bigthumb

Super Affordable with All the Sensors of the Bigger ABC Watches, Without the Style. Read more | Check Price

  • Very Affordable
  • Accurate ABC Sensors
  • Large Clean Display
  • Average Quality
  • Mediocre Styling

G-Shock Compass Watch

g-shock-compass

A Responsive Analog Compass Dial inside Casio G-Shock’s  Tough-as-nails Casing. Read more | Check Price

  • Analog Compass Needle
  • Bearing Memory
  • Temperature Sensor
  • Auto Light when Tilt
  • Impact Resistant
  • Compass Only! (No Alti/Baro)

In-Depth Reviews

Casio Protrek WSD-F20 Smart Outdoor Watch

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The 12 Gigabyte Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire is the flagship of the Fenix 5 range. The GPS/GLONASS is highly accurate and the 5X software even includes color topographic maps. You can effortlessly mark points of interest, save multiple hiking routes and track your progress with an incredible amount of complementary data. You can even track the location of friends in your party.

Garmin Fenix 5s vs 5 vs 5x

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There are 3 models in the Fenix 5 range.

  • 5s = 42mm diameter casing = 218 x 218 pixels (For ladies and smaller wrists)
  • 5 = 47mm diameter casing = 240 x 240 pixels
  • 5x = 51mm diameter casing = 240 x 240 pixels (Only available in Sapphire option)

5x Sapphire Model

A very important factor is that ONLY the 5X comes with a preloaded set of maps. (More can be added) You can even display preloaded points of interest on your route like food, entertainment, accommodation, etc.

garmin-topographic-maps-

All the Sapphire versions include a scratch resistant Sapphire glass lens but more importantly, only the Sapphire models include wifi for easy transfer of data to your computer.

With these additional Wifi capabilities, Sapphire Scratch Resistant Glass and Built in Maps, the Fenix 5X Sapphire outshines its counterparts.

Unfortunately this comes at a very high price… The Fenix 5X price tag has nearly doubled over the more recent Fenix 3 (reviewed below). This is the mothership of features and functionality and may only be for you if you are really the type to explore the endless tools that come packed into this hi-tech device.

fenix-3-wrist

Due to its weight (5.29 oz) and size, it can also be considered a little too bulky for hiking by some folks. That being said, it’s still one of the greatest hiking watches for men with larger wrists or guys who don’t mind the weight.

Display & Functionality

The large 1.2 inch display is not entirely full color. It’s actually only a 64 Color Chroma display which can seem less “vibrant” at times, than the full color Casio ProTrek (below).

Garmin uses its own platform called Connect IQ whereas the Casio ProTrek can download apps from the Google Play store.

There are tons more apps on Google Play compared to Garmin’s Connect IQ… But on the other hand, a multitude of these extraneous functions also drains the battery faster, and you might get stuck wishing you had the powerful Garmin Fenix 5x with only the essentials running.

garmin-fenix-5x-sapphire-faces

There are still loads of apps and copious amounts of custom watch faces. They range from clean “analog” designs that display minimal info to complex digital faces with tons of fitness tracking, navigation and weather information. You’ll even find some outright absurd faces and, if that’s not personalized enough, you can also add your own image.

Battery

  • 12 Days in “smart” mode (depending on the settings)
  • 18 Hours in full GPS mode (extended to 50 hours in UltraTrac™ mode)

UltraTrac™ mode connects to the satellite intermittently saving a tons of power.

Optical Heart Rate Sensor

One more thing… the Garmin Fenix 5 range includes an Optical Heart Rate Monitor on the back of the casing. Unfortunately, we’ve found that since these “read” the top of your wrist, they’re never really that accurate (especially when moving around a lot during high activity).

Our Conclusion

This is undoubtedly a beast of a men’s Garmin Military Watch for trekking into the wild.

The built-in altimeter, barometer, 3-axis compass are superb and the gyro & accelerometer are smooth and precise. The casing is tough as nails and can take a huge hit without showing damage. (We did find the paint on the bezel scuffs quite easily though.)

But could it be the very Best GPS Watch for Hiking?

The price is steep and the Casio ProTrek and The Suunto Traverse are frothing at the bit to overtake. The Casio has a full color Touch Screen and Suunto’s GPS is faster and more accurate, which makes them VERY competitive at much lower prices.

Specifications

  • Weight: 92 grams
  • Display Size: 1,2″ – 240 x 240 pixels
  • GPS & Breadcrumb Trails: Yes
  • Maps: Yes
  • Color: Full Color LCD
  • Vibration Alerts: Yes
  • Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
  • Water Resistance: 100M
  • Battery (Normal Mode): 12 Days
  • Battery (GPS Mode): 18 Hours
  • Battery (UltraTrac Mode): 48 Hours
  • Wifi & Bluetooth
  • Accelerometer & Gyro
  • Sensors: ABC & Thermometer

Casio Protrek WSD-F20 Smart Outdoor Watch

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The only Android Wear watch on the list, the Casio Protrek WSD-F20 is Casio’s answer to outdoors men (and women) who want all the features of a Full Color, Touch Screen Smartwatch, packed into a rugged casing brimming with sensors like GPS/GLONASS, Altimeter, Barometer, Compass, Accelerometer, Gyro and even a Microphone.

The Casio Smart Outdoor Watch is Available in three models: Orange, Black, Green (and soon to be released) white/Chrome

casio-pro-trek-wsd-f20-models

“Smart” Functionality & Navigation

This is the only true outdoor smartwatch on the list. This means it’s the only full color LCD display with a touch screen (similar to Samsung Gear 3 and Apple’s iWatch, etc)

Likewise, it also means there are many functions which will only really be usegful if you’re planning to occasionally connect to a mobile device with a internet connection. These include data driven Apps like facebook, twitter, Outlook, etc.

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If you do want these “Bells & Whistles” on the go, you’ll need to tether to a smartphone with mobile data or go to a Wifi hotspot.

Thankfully, you can navigate high quality, full color maps without the need for a phone connection. (Make sure to download the map of the area you want to visit before heading out.) You can set the view to Topographic, Satellite or Street View.

casio-wsd-f20-maps

Unfortunately the smart display is still a little hard to read in sunlight, but in shade (or with your other hand blocking the sun) the colors are vivid and the info is crisp and clear.

This Casio GPS watch is damn near spot on. As with any standard GPS enabled outdoor watch, you can save your routes and points of interest and record breadcrumb trails.  With the built in microphone you can even leave yourself voice memos at highlight points along your journey.

Android Wear Apps & Faces

Firstly, the Casio doesn’t fully support iOS so you should be leaning towards to the Garmin if you own an iphone. On the other hand, the Casio is a fully functional Android Wear Smart watch that that downloads Apps from Google Play. The amount of 3rd Party Apps that can be downloaded is nearly unlimited from unique digital watch faces to Apps that make use of the multitude of features and sensors.

casio-wsd-f20-android-faces

The “App” button gives you instant access to the software you’ve downloaded from the Google Play store. When connected to wifi or tethered to your (online) smartphone, you can even browse the Play store directly from your watch itself.

Battery Life

Let’s be honest, it’s pretty average. Even with GPS deactivated, the watch will still need to be charged on a daily basis. This can be annoying.

The battery lasts just over a day in the Android Wear “smart” mode and drops to around 22 hours in GPS mode. This is pretty typical for a smart watch with full color display but it does mean that you need to take a backup charger along when planning to hike for longer than a day.

battery-charging-port

Since the charging port is located on the side, you can charge the watch while wearing it at the same time.

Also, to try and combat poor battery life, Casio added a second “low power use” display… Yup, there are two separate display layers, with the bottom one being used for the smart watch functions and the overlay for a simpler monochrome “time and date” display only.

You can (if you want to) set the smart watch display to “sleep”. This will activate the top layer and saves tons of power.

casio-protrek-battery-saving-display

With the primary display (and the smartwatch functionality) completely turned off, the battery can last around 4 weeks on a single charge… Not exactly helpful when hiking but handy nevertheless.

On a side note, this Secondary “dumbwatch” Display is by far the most readable in bright sunlight of any of its competitors!

Water Resistance

waterproof-microphone

Because this is a fully functional Android Smart device, it has a built-in microphone which you can speak into (when tethered to your nearby phone). This might only be very useful when you’re rock climbing and want to chat to the crew at the same time. Unfortunately, it’s the mic that also drops the depth water resistance to 50m… (The lowest depth rating on this list.)

Conclusion

The intuitive function buttons are well labeled and make operation a lot easier than on some other watches. Sometimes, you wish you didn’t have to connect the internet to access all that the watch has to offer, but that’s the nature of a smartwatch without its own wireless broadband connection.

That being said, even without being connected to a mobile device, the watch has built in wi-fi so you can pop into a coffee shop and quickly download new maps or local weather info if you need to.

Casio Pro Trek WSD-F20 Smart Specifications

  • Wifi & Bluetooth
  • Accelerometer & Gyro
  • Sensors: ABC & Thermometer
  • GPS & GLONASS
  • Water Rating: 50 Meters, Swimming only
  • Vibration
  • Microphone
  • 320 x 300, 1.32 inch Full Color LCD Display with Touch

Suunto Traverse GPS Watch for Hiking

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The Suunto Traverse is our absolute winner for value, weight, comfort and gps functionality!

With the best GPS for hiking (speed and accuracy), as well as a price tag far below what you’d expect, the Suunto GPS watch strikes the perfect balance between performance and budget.

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 Garmins.)

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

suunto watch modes

Color options include Black, Graphite White and Amber.

gps suunto model

The rechargeable lithium ion battery keeps the watch running for around 2 days while in GPS tracking mode but it can also last around 11 days in normal mode. UltraTrac mode (which doesn’t refresh GPS as frequently) extends the battery life to about 80 hours!

It can be used as a hiking watch and a fitness tracker. It even tracks your steps and the amount of calories you burn. It doesn’t have a built-in heart rate monitor though.

Honestly we could not find anything really wrong with this watch… If you are on a slightly tighter budget, this is a perfect choice and will make the greatest GPS watch for hiking. Long battery life, no fuss navigation and all at a spectacular price!

  • Sensors: ABC & Thermometer
  • GPS: YES with Breadcrumb Trail
  • Water Rating: 100 Meters (330 Feet) Swimming only
  • And many more features
  • Vibration

Suunto Traverse Alpha Men’s GPS Hunting Watch

suunto traverse alpha fishing hunting

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We like the Traverse model so much we added it’s big brother, the Alpha, to the list.

Take everything you know about the Traverse and give it a more “tactical watch” exterior with added shot marking (which uses audio cues from your weapon) for hunting and and moon phase/tide tracking for fishing. This makes is the perfect GS hunting watch.

The Nylon textile strap is water repellent and the bezel has a cool “knurled” effect which makes it look tough AF.

suunto-traverse-alpha-display

These Suunto men’s watches are available in a few models… first the Foliage and the Stealth. And now the new Woodland, Concrete and Black/Red have also been made available.

suunto-traverse-alpha-models

Just like with the Traverse, the Altimeter, Barometer, Compass and Thermometer are highly accurate. Alarms can be set to vibrate and they are rated to 100 Meters water resistant. Bear in mind this is not a diving watch.

All-in-all, we wouldn’t upgrade to the Traverse for the Shot marking and tide info. The only reason we’d personally go for the one of the slightly more expensive Suunto military watches, (the Alpha) is the seriously awesome bezel… Doesn’t it just say: ” this is a true Outdoorsman Watch!”

Main Features of the Suunto Traverse Alpha

  • Sensors: ABC & Thermometer
  • GPS: YES with Breadcrumb Trail
  • Water Rating: 100 Meters (330 Feet) Swimming only
  • Vibration Alerts
  • And many more features

Garmin Fenix 3

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Could it be that the Fenix 3 is comparatively a better option than the Fenix 5x? You’ll have to forsake some major upgrades and much longer battery life, but… at around half the price, the Fenix 3 just might be the better choice for your budget.

Garmin remains a great player in the GPS navigation field and the Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire does not disappoint. It’s essentially a powerful smart backpacking 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 accurately records a bread-crumb trail of your movement and allows you to mark your course with up to 1000 points of interest!

The watch also connects with your Bluetooth smartphone with email and text alerts straight to your wrist. 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.

One negative of the garmin is that it can often be wildly inaccurate at determining distance / pace when your run includes hills, wind, or different running paces. Consider it more as a navigator than a fitness tracker.

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.

  • Sensors: ABC & Thermometer
  • GPS: YES with Breadcrumb Trail
  • Face Customization
  • Water Rating: 100 Meters (330 Feet) Swimming only
  • And many more features

Casio Tough Solar Altimeter Watch

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

It’s solar powered. The large stainless steel bezel insinuates indestructibility while still looking sharp indoors. It’s solid and tough, but at 3.13 oz, is still light enough to enjoy outdoors.

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.

Here’s what we didn’t love

The altimeter is accurate and simple. Don’t expect too much. It shows an altitude “tendency” graph.  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 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 Casio Pathfinder (lower down), the PRW-3500-ICR makes it a little harder to see which button does what.

Make no mistake, this is a great backpacking 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.

  • Solar Powered
  • Sensors: ABC & Thermometer
  • Water Resistant: 200 Meters (660 feet) Diving

Suunto Core – Top Rated ABC Under 200

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The top rated Suunto Core altimeter watch (Pictured here in Military Black) is another clever “Altimeter, Barometer, Compass” option that could very well 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.)

suunto-core-display

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 entire body 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 Suunto 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.

  • Sensors: ABC & Thermometer
  • Water Resistance 30 Meters

Casio Pathfinder – Affordable Outdoor Men’s Watch

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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 buttons can seem a bit bulky but they’re very ergonomic and 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 concerned about small bumps and scratches.

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

These 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. Since it’s smaller and lighter than it’s big brother, it’s a really good Casio for running.

A great budget timepiece for the outdoor adventurer.

  • Solar Power
  • Sensors: ABC & Thermometer
  • 100 Meter Water Resistance
  • Sunrise and Sunset Data
  • World Time with 48 Cities

LAD Weather – Best Under 100

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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 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 blew us away. If you’re looking for an cheaper option that can keep up with the big boys, this is the one.


G-Shock Watch with Compass

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This new addition to the list was added as a budget option that still included some navigation functionality, be it a simple chronological compass that works by turning the second hand into a compass needle. You can also see the actual bearing, in degrees, on a dedicated pane.

You won’t be able to track temperature, elevation, distance or weather, but it has the trusted G-Shock durability while helping you find your bearing on a hike. Let’s just say you can orientate yourself on a hike but you won’t be able to track complex navigational routes with the compass alone.

What we Love

There’s a handy Auto Light feature which can turn the backlight on automatically when your wrist tilts vertically. (in other words, into “viewing” position.) This is really great for one handed operation.

Why we Didn’t Choose the G-Shock Mudmaster Instead

If you know your way around the G-Shock brand, you may be wondering why we didn’t include the Mudmaster compass watch instead of the GA1000 which is part of the “Aviator” series… Basically, the GA1000 does the same for cheaper. The Mudmaster is really just a tougher “looking” model but we didn’t feel it makes a better hiking or travel watch.

The GA1000 falls well within most people’s budget for a tough compass watch and that’s its main selling point. It has an impressive water resistance of 200 meters and the durable double resin casing can handle some really major impact.


 

Best Hiking Watch Buyer’s Guide – How to Choose!

 

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By now you know what each watch is capable of, but how do they compare? Before we begin, let’s make sure we’re comparing apples with apples.

This graph shows estimated relative performance of features. For example, a larger Price bar shows better comparative value for money.

outdoor-watch-comparison

Best Watch for Money

value-for-money

If you’re anything like us, you want to squeeze the most value out of your hard earned Dollars.

We believe the Suunto Traverse (incl. the Alpha) offers a great deal of value for a lower price. 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 damn stylish.

The Garmin Fenix 3 is also much cheaper than the Fenix 5x. If you want tons of Apps and gadgetry on a budget, the Fenix 3 will be the better choice. Just don’t expect great battery life.

You can also cut costs further by selecting one of the ABC watches (without GPS). They 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. In that case the best budget outdoor watch would have to be the LAD Weather.

The Casio Pathfinder, Suunto Core and LAD Weather are all lower budget ABC options and work great!

Display

screen display

The Casio ProTrek Smartwatch has a Full Color Touch Screen LCD that basically looks like a smartphone display. It’s extremely vivid but can be a little harder to read in direct sunlight. It also eats through the battery power. To compensate a little, they’ve added a second “dumb watch” monochrome display which shows only the date and time.

Garmin’s 64 Color Chroma display is more visible outdoors while still being quite colorful.

Suunto has a Monochrome display which can look a little pixelated at times.

  • Casio ProTrek – 320 x 300 – 1,32 inch – Full Color
  • Garmin Fenix 5x – 240 x 240 – 1,2 inch – 64 Color Chroma
  • Suunto Traverse – 320 x 320 – Monochrome

GPS Navigation

bread-crumb-navigation

Only the Garmin Fenix, Casio ProTrek and Suunto Traverse models  have GPS. All have breadcrumb recording and points of interest marking.

The Suuntos have the Fastest and most accurate GPS but unfortunately with no Topographic map data.

The Casio ProTrek has the clearest topographic Maps which can display satellite and street view (even while offline). You can even show data like nearby food, gas and entertainment.

The Garmin’s GPS accuracy can be a little off at times but this is negligible over time.

Battery Life

battery-life

Smart watches drain extremely fast in GPS mode. Even smart mode only lasts a few days. This can be a problem outdoors where chargin is difficult.

The Suunto Traverse models have the longest GPS battery life and the Garmin Fenix 5 has the longest non-GPS power usage.

  • Suunto Traverse – 7 Days – 20 hours GPS – 80 hours UltraTrac™
  • Suunto Traverse Alpha – 7 Days – 20 hours GPS – 80 hours UltraTrac™
  • Garmin Fenix 5x – 12 Days – 18 hours GPS – 48 hours UltraTrac™
  • Garmin Fenix 3 – 4 Days – 12 hours GPS – 24 hours UltraTrac™
  • Casio ProTrek Smart – 2 Days – 7 hours GPS

The Casio, being the “smartest”, drain the quickest, followed by the Garmins and then the Suuntos. You could always opt for no GPS and choose a solar powered ABC Casio watch with altimeter, Barometer and Compass.

  • Casio Tough Solar – Solar Powered (6 Years+)
  • Casio Pathfinder – Solar Powered (6 Years+)
  • G-Shock – 4 years+
  • Suunto Core – 1 year
  • Lad Weather – Unknown

Water Resistance

water-resistance

Some of the “Smart” watches struggle to keep up with the water resistance of the ABC watches. This is because of the multitude of sensors, charging ports, etc. In particular the new Casio ProTrek has a built-in microphone which makes it the least water resistant GPS option at 50 meters.  The Garmin Fenixes and Suunto Traverses are all water resistant to a depth of 100 meters.

  • G-Shock – 200 meters
  • Casio Tough Solar – 200 meters
  • Garmin Fenix 5x – 100 meters
  • Suunto Traverse – 100 meters
  • Suunto Traverse Alpha – 100 meters
  • Garmin Fenix 3 – 100 meters
  • Casio Pathfinder – 100 meters
  • Casio ProTrek Smart – 50 meters
  • Suunto Core – 30 meters
  • Lad Weather – 30 meters

If real depth is what you’re looking for, the closest thing you’ll find to a waterproof sports watch are the Altimeter, Barometer, Compass watches.

Can You Scuba Dive with these Watches?

Even though the ratings indicate water resistance to 50 or 100 meters, none of the other watches are meant for scuba diving. Those are lab tested limits and for very short submersion intervals.

We do however know people who happily scuba dive the Casio ABC watches and have never had an issue with leaking.


Tips for Using a GPS Hiking Watch

gps-tips

Ensure Your Device 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.

Install the Latest Firmware

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

The best hikers always know to carry a backup, for every eventuality. Also grab a lightweight compass for the hike.

Check your GPS or GLONASS Satellite Signal

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

Pay Attention as You Hike

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.

Two GPS Watches are Better than One

If you hike with a buddy, check out their GPS too. It’s often loads of fun to see how the minute differences in your hike affect your endurance.


How We Test

how we test

We not only review each product personally, but we also speak to people face-to-face who have been using the products in their day-to-day lives.

We can be sure that we’re not only finding each product’s strength and weakness, but also how these affect everyday use.

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Furthermore, we try our damndest to keep up with the frequent firmware updates as well as newer competitive models.

Some of the watches we reviewed (but that didn’t make it onto our list) are:

  • Nixon Mission – Annoying mic latch and not great for navigation. More of a surf watch.
  • Samsung Gear S3 Frontier – Not enough info on the LTE model. Great rotating bezel.

We also try our best to listen carefully to our readers… (It’s for this very reason that we know the Suunto Traverse is the most popular option by far.) If you find any information that doesn’t agree with your personal experience, please let us know.

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. Please leave a comment below!

2 Comments on "10 Best Outdoor Hiking Watches of 2018"

  1. Actual Garmin Fenix 3 User | May 28, 2017 at 11:18 am | Reply

    I own a Garmin Fenix 3 HR. It is not a good running / hiking watch. It is wildly inaccurate at determining distance / pace when your run includes hills, wind, or different running paces. When I say inaccurate, I mean some times more than 50% off. Yes it has all kinds of features, most of which I don’t use. However, this type of watch should be assessed based first on it’s ability to do the core things very well… and not on having support for golf, which is not a sport that people run out and run a specialized watch for.

    • Thank you for your comment. We will relook at the Garmin Fenix 3 vs the Suunto in second place. I think the Suunto Traverse is a really great option too. Even though it has less functionality, it is more accurate.

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