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The 8 Best GPS Hiking Watches for Exploring

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As we as a society become more and more plugged into technology, we may find it easy to view a trip outdoors as a vacation away from our gadgets as well. However, some of the best technology can be the most important tools for your next excursion. From health monitoring to navigation, there are myriad smart devices that can be a great way to ensure your safety when traversing unfamiliar territory, but they can also be a lot of fun to use as well.

Even the most experienced adventurers can find utility in a GPS hiking watch. Without the need for a cell signal, many of these devices can be used off the grid and in remote areas. Likewise, as you make your way back to town, a global positioning system strapped to your wrist can give you peace of mind if you’re the type of person who loses their phone a lot. With all the options out there, both affordable and expensive, it can be overwhelming trying to decide which GPS watch is right for you. That’s why we’ve compiled a guide to showcase the best hiking watches to bring with you on your next wilderness outing.

Best GPS Hiking Watches

How To Pick A GPS Watch For Hiking

Durability/Water-Resistance: This goes without saying but a hiking watch should be both durable and water-resistant because you never know what you’ll face out in the wild. Look for models that are around 50m to 100m of water-resistance, as well as materials such as stainless steel, carbon fiber, or titanium.

Positioning: As the primary option in the United States, GPS has become the generic name for all GNSS satellite positioning systems. However, there are watches that accomodate some, if not all five global GNSS systems, while the majority only track GPS. If you’ll be traveling the globe, maybe you’ll want an option that extends beyond GPS.

Battery Life: Before venturing out off the grid, make sure you note both the max battery life AND the battery life when GPS is turned on. These will be vastly different numbers and will make or break how long you’ll be out and how much you’ll be using your maps.

Map Features: This one comes down to personal preference, but if you’re a frequent or extreme hiker, you may want a watch with more bells and whistles. Most models can accurately track and log your routes, but some will give you different map “textures” and even a breadcrumb feature so you don’t get lost. Also, you’ll want to make sure that the way the maps are depicted work to your own liking.

Suunto 9 Baro

  • Large screen
  • Lightweight
  • Monitors stress and heart rate
  • Dropped a lot in price lately
  • Battery life not great

Best Budget Pick: For those who want all the bells and whistles that an amazing brand like Suunto has to offer, they should opt for the Baro model. While recently dropping in price, this wearable is perfect for the more experienced outdoorsman. Equipped with a grade 5 titanium case and bezel and an abrasion-resistant strap, the Baro is super lightweight and extremely durable. Able to monitor your stress and heart rates, the touchscreen smartwatch helps you fuse your health with your hiking for a more effective routine. To help you be prepared for your day’s journey, there are also several weather functions such as a barometer and a forecaster.

Water Resistance: 100m
Case Material: Grade 5 titanium
Battery Life (GPS): 25 hours

Casio G-Shock Carbon Mudmaster GGB100

  • Great bare-bones option
  • Looks great on your wrist
  • 200m of water-resistance is highest on this list
  • Non-smartwatch not for everyone

Best Analog Option: While most other smartwatches don’t function as an actual, well, watch, Casio’s G-Shock Carbon Mudmaster does just that. Clandestinely doubling as a GPS tracker, this analog timepiece can also serve as one of the most rugged wearables on the market thanks to the high-rigidity carbon case and metal button pipes that help it achieve 200m of water resistance. On the tech side, the Mudmaster features a compass, altimeter, thermometer, and accelerometer, and you can also pair the watch to the accompanying smartphone app to track your route and check on your altitude.

Water Resistance: 200m
Case Material: Carbon
Battery Life (GPS): Depends on smartphone battery

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar

  • Lots of sports apps
  • Solar-charge option
  • Top glass super durable
  • Has incident-detection feature for emergencies
  • Case/screen could be bigger

Best Overall: Garmin has become known for its fantastic range of smartwatches, aiding everyone from athletes to the health-conscious to the everyman. Its Instinct 2 Solar is designed for the most enthusiastic outdoor adventurers among us. The solar-powered wearable is built with a fiber-reinforced polymer case and a scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass for ultimate ruggedness so you don’t need to worry about protecting one extra thing. Speaking of peace of mind, the incident-detection feature lets you opt to send your location to your contacts in case of an emergency. Aside from the GPS functions, the Instinct is also built with many of Garmin’s handy fitness and sports apps as well.

Water Resistance: 100m
Case Material: Fiber-reinforced polymer
Battery Life (GPS): 48 hours

Polar Grit X Pro

  • Military-tested materials
  • Has four satellite options
  • Great route visualization
  • Breadcrumb feature
  • A bit pricey for what you get

Best Rugged Option: With up to 7 days of battery life per charge, Polar’s Grit X Pro can be at your side (and on your wrist) even if your portable charger runs out of juice on longer trips or you can’t get near a charging station. To take your adventure even farther, the watch taps into GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and QZSS satellites for ultimate globetrotting. The Grit X Pro also has a breadcrumb feature so you can find your route back. The case itself, sporting a compass around the bezel, is made from military-tested materials so it can withstand extreme heat and cold, as well as water depths of 100m.

Water Resistance: 100m
Case Material: Plastic with stainless steel bezel
Battery Life (GPS): 40 hours

Suunto Vertical Adventure Watch

Suunto Vertical Adventure Watch
  • Maps available offline
  • Over 95 sports modes & third-party app integration
  • Solid battery life
  • All 5 GLONASS satellites
  • Looks great even when not outdoors
  • Hiking software could be better; Garmin’s ClimbPro is much better

Best for Trail Running: Suunto is one of the biggest names in the GPS watch industry, and for good reason. Its new top-tier Vertical line is the real deal, made for adventurers who want to focus on navigating and trekking places they’ve never been before. The watch utilizes all five GLONASS positioning sytems for super-accurate navigation and the breadcrumb feature is perfect for trailblazing to ensure that you can venture off the grid worry-free. Aside from the other built-in bells and whistles for measuring speed, distance, and altitude, the Vertical also pairs with a smartphone app for more in-depth information and discovering new locations. New features also include offline maps access and over 95 sports modes.

Water Resistance: 100m
Case Material: Stainless steel or grade 5 titanium
Battery Life (GPS): 85 hours

Coros Vertix 2

  • Incredible GPS battery life (60 days non-GPS)
  • Lightweight
  • Great screen clarity
  • Some sports modes don’t have integrated map view

Best for Backpacking: Coros is an excellent smartwatch company out of the eastern U.S. and the Vertix 2 is the most up-to-date version of its most rugged option. Adventurers have taken Coros wearables to the ends of the Earth and back, traversing up to the highest peaks in the world. This GPS watch has an easy-to-read 1.4” touchscreen dial with maximum visibility for its data readouts and landscape, topo, and hybrid map options, which are also available offline. Communicating with GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, and Beidou satellites and capable of up to 140 hours of use, the Coros has the longest battery life on the market as well.

Water Resistance: 100m
Case Material: Titanium
Battery Life (GPS): 140 hours

Apple Watch Ultra

Apple Watch Ultra
  • Very durable
  • Specialized band options depending on activity
  • Low-light visibility one of the best
  • Built-in speaker
  • Very user-friendly
  • Not great battery life on GPS
  • Could improve on recovery metrics for fitness apps

Best for Everyday Wear: It may seem like the obvious choice, but Apple’s latest Ultra smartwatch model actually makes for a great hiking companion, now with a larger 49mm frame and larger screen size. Housed in a titanium case with your choice of strap, this isn’t your ordinary Apple Watch. While still doing all the basic fitness tracking and navigation of your previous wearable, the Ultra is inspired by extreme activities and has three strap options depending which activity you choose. Meeting MIL-STD 810H standards, it also boasts water-resistance to 100m, an IP6X dust-resistance rating, and the best visibility of any wearable on this guide.

Water Resistance: 100m
Case Material: Titanium
Battery Life (GPS): 36 hours

Garmin tactix 7

  • Simply the best option if money isn’t an issue
  • So many of Garmin’s impeccable outdoor/sports apps
  • Stealth mode disables wireless activity
  • Built-in flashlight
  • Might be overkill for some

Best High-End: Garmin has slowly made its way to the top of the wearables food chain, but the ultra-tactical tactix 7 is also notable for its practical utility as well. Built with an LED flashlight and night-vision capabilities, this smartwatch utilizes both touchscreen and exterior button functionality. Stealth mode allows the device to stop storing and sharing GPS locations and disables wireless activity. Jumpmaster mode is perfect for skydivers who want some help navigating to an objective point. Other features include hunt tracking, airport locators, weather reports, and a memory-wipe kill switch, along with many of Garmin’s famed sports and outdoor apps.

Water Resistance: 100m
Case Material: Fiber-reinforced polymer with titanium rear cover
Battery Life (GPS): 89 hours

The Best Hiking Boots For Men

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Photo: Aether Dolomite

As the saying goes, man cannot hike on watches alone (or something like that). To accompany your GPS watch, you’ll need a whole wardrobe of hiking apparel, and there’s nowhere more essential to start than figuring out what to put on your feet. Find what you need in our guide to the best men’s hiking boots.