There are many different watches out there that function in many different ways. You can check the minutes until lunchtime on an analog wristwatch, chat to your friends on a smartwatch, track your steps on a fitness watch, or make a major fashion statement with that snazzy luxury watch you customized yourself. But did you know that there are watches specifically made for hiking? Go figure!
If you’re a frequent hiker, or you want to finally achieve your New Year’s resolution of spending more time outdoors, a hiking watch can be a great addition to your excursions. And the great thing about these hiking watches is that there are the best hiking watches for every budget. So if you want a reliable hiking watch that won’t break the bank, you’re in luck! Or if you prefer a more expensive, high-tech hiking watch, you’re in luck, too!
Best Hiking Watches for Every Budget: Low Budget
1. Garmin Fenix 6x Pro Solar
This Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar was made for environmental conditions, and it provides a lot of helpful navigation with the outdoors. It’s solar-powered, which preserves battery life, and it has GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo support. This watch also allows you to upload topographic and ski maps.
- 2.01 x 2.01 x 0.59 in
- 2.88 ounces
Sample Customer Review… I find the features pretty amazing, especially all of the feedback data I receive. It’s really motivating to have that real time data on your runs. However, I primarily chose this device because I’m training toward running ultras and wanted to have the best battery life and the best tracking capabilities on trail runs. Also using it for cycling and kayaking. Haven’t quite figured out how to make the most of it in the gym for strength training but I’m still very happy with it.Read more reviews at Amazon.com.
2. Suunto 9 Baro
The Suunto 9 Baro watch is a sleek, touch-screen watch that can transition from hiking to everyday wear. The watch is big in size and with that, it features a large color touch-screen that is easy to use. Its battery life is also great at 120 hours of continuous usage and can let you know when it is time to turn on the battery-saving profile to prolong its use. The Suunto 9 Baro comes with an altimeter, compass, barometer, GPS, and thermometer. The watch also has an integrated app system, Movescount, that offers many of its own services like showing routes that other Movescounts users have been on.
- 1.69 x 1.69 x 0.42 in
- 9.28 ounces
Sample Customer Review… The 9 G1 Baro is Titanium is lite weight. I use the watch primarily for cycling and hiking. The battery life has been excellent lasting for over a week depending upon what I am doing. If you decide to buy this watch I would recommend only down loading the Suunto app to your phone and not downloading the Movescount app to your phone. I have issues with syncing the watch to Movescount on my iPhone particularly after i have synced with the Suunto App… If you link your watch via the USB connection to your computer, the Movescount page does come up and does summarize your activities. Suunto has made it known that the Movescount app will be retired by 2020… I have not tried planning a route on the Suunto app yet, but it does look easy to use….
i like the Suunto app on my iPhone and have had no issues with it. You get what you pay for… This is a high quality activity tracker…This is a great activity watch…Read more reviews at Amazon.com.
3. Polar Grit X
The Polar Grit X is a watch for those who are looking for durability. It has military-grade durability that allows you to use this watch in extreme temperatures or treacherous adventures. You can get a 2-day weather forecast from this watch, and it will show you current weather conditions. This watch will also provide you with great training data, as well as an altimeter and compass.
With the Polar Grit X, you are able to get real-time GPS guidance that will help you stay on track and get you where you want to go. One of the major aspects of this watch is the data you can get while training. It will detect downhill and uphill statistics and tell you how well you performed. Nevertheless, if you want a great durable sports watch, this is a perfect choice for you.
- 3.27 x 3.7 x 4.84 in
- 10.5 ounces
Sample Customer Review… The Grit X is the perfect combination of functionality, battery life, and weight. As a trail runner, mountain biker, and ski mountaineer, I have struggled to find a product that blends these three characteristics appropriately until now.
My priorities are:
1. Accurate GPS tracking and elevation
2. Battery Life (minimum 40 hours activity tracking)
3. Accurate Heart Rate
4. Lightweight & Durable
The Grit X excels in all of these categories. Its wrist based heart rate is the best I have experienced, and is tightly aligned with my chest strap measurements. The GPS tracking and elevation was flawless even when running in the Boulder foothills where many GPS units struggle due to the proximity to steep slabs and cliff faces. Battery life has proven to be excellent, and it is much lighter than all of its competitors with similar battery life. It is light enough that you do not experience any wrist bruising when riding technical mountain bike trails, yet durable enough to not be concerned about taking it on a fourth or fifth class scramble.
When you combine this with all of the standard Polar Heart Rate features, Hill Splitter, Fueling Reminders and Komoot Navigation support features, it is truly the product segment leader. You will be extremely pleased with your purchase of the Polar Grit X!Read more reviews at Amazon.com.
4. Casio SGW-450H-2BCF Watch
The Casio SGW-450H-2BCF hiking watch is an affordable watch with amazing features! It’s equipped with an altimeter, barometer, and thermometer. It’s also lightweight and water-resistant up to 100 m, so it will remain unscathed when doing outdoor water activities like swimming or even snorkeling!
- 52 mm stainless steel case
- 4.2 x 3.2 x 2.3 in
- 4.48 ounces
Sample Customer Review… I needed a watch with timer and stopwatch features and a good backlight. I don’t like digital-only so I looked through just about all of the ana-digis on Amazon. Several Casios appealed to me, such as this one and many of the G-Shocks; but the G-shocks do NOT have the same backlight. This is an illuminator (similar to the Timex Indiglo) and it definitely beats the LED on the G-Shocks (which are much higher-priced). I’ve had it a few months and I would DEFINITELY buy it again. At first it seemed big, but I think that’s just because I wasn’t in the habit of wearing a watch at all. Now I feel like the size is just about perfect.
I honestly don’t use the altimeter, barometer, or thermometer; I don’t really need them so I never even set them up. Initials set-up and time-keeping adjustments and stuff were not the easiest I’ve ever done, but they also weren’t as bad as many of the reviews indicate. Maybe 10 minutes for me to understand the manual and the buttons and processes it’s describing. Don’t be intimidated 😊. Water-resistance seems passable to me. Haven’t swam with it, but I have had it submerged in a bath a few times and have seen no ill-effects.
I’m not a big “watch guy” (I only have this and one other and I don’t usually notice or care about peoples’ watches), but I have gotten several compliments on this thing from people who do notice these things. I did get one pretty significant scratch on the face of this watch. I think it’s just plastic, but then again, it was a pretty good bang that probably would have scratched any watch (and maybe worse on a glass face!). I was able to buff out the bulk of the scratch with a buffer tip on a Dremel.Read more reviews at Amazon.com.
5. Timex Expedition Grid Shock Watch
The Timex Expedition Grid Shock Watch is a unique hiking watch with a large square-shaped face and shock-resistant screen. A feature that it possesses, which is not commonly found in watches in this price range, is a hydration timer. The hydration timer prevents dehydration by alerting you when it’s time to drink more water. This hiking watch also has vibrating alarms, and it’s water-resistant up to 100 m.
- 16 mm resin strap
- 50 mm resin case
- 4 x 3 x 3 in
- 2.72 ounces
Sample Customer Review… Considering that this watch was $60 (approx), you really have to appreciate how complete it is and just the overall quality of the product. It doesn’t feel cheap or fragile but actually quite sturdy and surprisingly comfortable. It has a lot of features including the ability to program three different time zones for those who travel constantly. Now, it isn’t a g-shock so don’t expect the durability of one and it isn’t a rolex so do not expect it to be as accurate as one either, but for the price I am very pleasantly surprised by how much I love the design and feel of it. I would however recommend that if you have an active lifestyle and/or job to get some screen protectors to avoid scratching the screen. Also it uses cr2032 batteries which you can find pretty much anywhere, not that I recommend doing you’re own battery replacements (you know, because of the seals and all of that). All in all I highly recomment it for anyone who is looking for a practical, comfortable and very affordable amazing watch.Read more reviews at Amazon.com.
6. Timex Expedition Classic Watch
The Timex Expedition Classic Watch, like the Timex Expedition Grid Shock, has a large face, which makes it perfect for visibility. What makes this visibility even more intriguing and desirable is the fact that the watch has a night light for nighttime use. This Expedition Classic is lightweight, so it’s not bulky and uncomfortable on your wrist. Although this watch is not equipped with an altimeter or barometer, it’s still the perfect watch if you want something that has great visibility and is water-resistant up to 100 m.
- 5.91 x 5.91 x 5.91 in
- 1.1 pounds
Sample Customer Review… This is my third Timex Expedition watch. They last at least ten years comfortably, even worn everyday. Yes, this is a replacement for one that was losing parts of the crystal decorations, but the watch itself still works. Their bands are another matter, which is one of the reasons I decided to try this band. It have the potential to last as long as the watch chassis, with only pins replaced occasionally. (On the plus side, Amazon sells lots of good replacement bands now, something that was had to find when I bought my first and second Expedition.) Make sure you measure your wrist because there is a maximum length to this band of 8 inches. It is good quality Velcro.
All of the functions work very well, including reasonably loud countdown timer and three alarms. It also keeps time well. It has a nice professional appearance despite the band being suitable for sports, swimming, etc. The Expeditions are also water resistant enough to shower with it on. I did swim in a local pool with its predecessor without any incident. This one has a very similar design, so it could be immersed for short periods.Read more reviews at Amazon.com.
7. Casio G-Shock Watch
The Casio G-Shock Watch is a great watch in consideration of this price range. First of all, it’s water-resistant to 200 m of water, which is mindblowing! It’s also shock-resistant and relatively easy to use due to a lack of complex features. If you’re the type of person who desires an affordable and simple hiking watch and who likes to frequently participate in water sports and activities, then this may be the watch for you!
- 48.5 mm resin case
- 1 x 1 x 1 in
- 4.8 ounces
Sample Customer Review… You won’t find a better sports watch for the money – hands down. G-Shocks can take a serious beating and keep on ticking; with that in mind, if you need something that’s both reliable and affordable, this is the watch for you!
All in all, I really enjoy this watch. The band is comfortable and the watch rests nicely. The waterproofing is great, you can swim with it without a problem. The back light is bright enough so that the face can be easily read at night. My only complaint is that it is a bit difficult to work with the buttons on the side – they’re a little ways into the case, so if you have big fingers it can be a bit uncomfortable changing the time and whatnot.
Comparing this G-Shock to the Rangeman, this is still a fairly beefy watch. I bought the GW9052 to take with me to BCT so I could leave the Rangeman at home, and I was expecting it to be a bit slimmer but in reality they don’t feel that much different. Not a bad thing, just thought I’d make note of it. This is a great watch!Read more reviews at Amazon.com.
8. Garmin Instinct Watch
The Garmin Instinct watch has all of the core features that hikers desire: altimeter, barometer, and GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo (all global national satellite systems) support. This watch is built to withstand tough environments, and it’s water-resistant up to 100 m. It also monitors heart rate, activity, and stress, making it a convenient hiking watch. Lastly, it can connect to compatible smartphones and perform data automatic uploads, and it can have up to 40 hours of battery life.
- 1.8 x 0.6 x 1.8 in
- 1.76 ounces
Sample Customer Review… This watch was the right combo of features for outdoor activities and activity tracking to get my attention and be a useful tool more than an expensive trinket. I did not wear any watch before buying the Instinct, and now I wear this most of the time for the last 2-3 weeks I’ve had it.
While it lacks some features of more dedicated fitness devices, I got it mostly for what it did not have rather than what it did. Most criticism of this watch I read prior to purchasing clearly was because this watch has a niche and those folks didn’t fit it. This is mostly for outdoor activities, it’s simple, rugged, and doesn’t do as much because it’s made to do it’s set of tasks well, and it’s trade off is the things it does not do allow it to be smaller and use the battery more efficiently.
You can read up on it’s features and functions elsewhere, but a few things I will point out as exceptional. Some may harp on the old school LCD type display, but it’s high contrast and the way the face catches ambient light extremely well makes it very easy to read. Actually I set the back light on 5%, it’s lowest setting, because if it’s so dark you need the back light, that is plenty to see it by.
I like it’s size, it’s not huge feeling, and it’s light. As I mentioned I did not wear a watch before this one, and I find it comfortable to wear despite a history of disliking things on my wrist. I had to get used to it yes, but it’s not like having a rock strapped to your arm.
Battery life has been great, using the GPS 2-3 times a week for an hour at a time pulls it down some but I still get over a week on a charge. I’ve yet to let it run down to the point it claims it needs charging, but so far I’ve yet to charge it in a period of less than 7 days.Read more reviews at Amazon.com.
9. Casio Pathfinder Watch
The Casio Pathfinder Watch is really unique, as the face of the watch is a solar cell that’s powered by light; this eliminates the concern about adequate battery life. This watch even has an approximate battery life of 6 months without exposure to light. Nevertheless, this watch is equipped with an altimeter, barometer, and thermometer. The buttons on the watch are easy to press, even with gloved hands. The Pathfinder Watch is water-resistant up to 100 m, making it an all-around good buy.
- 51 mm stainless steel case
- Resin band
- 57.3 x 50.9 x 15.3 mm
Sample Customer Review… Enter the Casio Pathfinder PAG240-1. This watch ticks all the checkboxes I wanted; easy to read, great illumination, multifunction (compass, barometer, attitude, etc), SOLAR and it looked utilitarian. Keep in mind that some of the features are to be used for non-professional use. I’ll start off with the compass. This works just like any other digital compass and is pretty accurate once calibrated. It will get you out of a sticky situation no doubt. The temperature gauge is pretty accurate but keep in mind your body heat will add 10 degrees or more so it’s best to have the watch off your body at least 20 minutes before getting an accurate temperature reading. The Barometer and Altimeter work but they require semi-regular calibration to work well. The altimeter on the watch is tied to the barometer and uses some complex algorithms to compute altitude but it can be calibrated separate of the barometer. The PAG240 is the lightest that I own between all my automatic and quartz watches and it’s pretty comfortable to wear. Allow a few days for the resin strap to break in
All in all, great digital multi-function watch.Read more reviews at Amazon.com.
10. Suunto Ambit 3
This Bluetooth-compatible watch is extremely durable and has a great GPS system. With a simpler display, the Suunto Ambit 3 is fairly easy to use and shows real-time GPS information. With a thermometer, altimeter, barometer, and compass, this watch provides a lot of useful technology for campers and hikers. It has a competitive battery life of about 200 hours, so you don’t need to worry about it dying constantly.
It is waterproof which means you can wear it in any weather condition or even under the water. You are able to connect this watch to your iPhone via Bluetooth, so you can always tell when someone is calling or messaging. It’s perfect for those who are wanting to get accurate information and stay connected while hiking or camping.
- 5 x 4 x 4 in
Sample Customer Review… I’ve enjoyed the watch for the past week and have been impressed with the watch’s utility. I’ve used it for running and cycling thus far. The fact that the watch links up to movescount.com and their app makes it easy to keep track of and plan workouts. It’s extremely comfortable and not nearly as bulky as I assumed it would be. I wear it daily whether or not I’m working out.
The watch displays your speed, altitude, location, and temperature among other stats. The only thing it doesn’t display is heart rate, unless you purchase the separate heart rate monitor.
What I like about the watch is that you can download trail maps and other routes (cycling, running, mountain biking, etc.) straight to your watch from movescount.com, so that you can navigate in remote areas when without cell service. I plan to use it for hiking and trekking.
UPDATE: Almost a year later, I’ve continued to use this watch on a daily basis. It functions flawlessly. Still would highly recommend.Read more reviews at Amazon.com.
11. Casio Pro Trek PRW-25000T
The name Casio is already a guarantee towards great quality products. The Casio Pro Trek PRW-25000T is a result of this, with its solar-powered capabilities and long battery life (up to 5 months without light exposure). The hiking watch provides a multitude of features: an altimeter, barometer, thermometer, digital compass, stopwatch, countdown, and a variety of alarms. While the watch lacks a GPS system, it makes up for it with all of its features within its durable design.
- 1 x 1 x 1 in
- 4 ounces
Sample Customer Review…I bought this to replace another brand ABC watch that died. I use most of the functions for kayaking, so it was crucial to get something with all these features. So far I am very happy with most aspects of this watch. The “home” display shows me the information I need all the time. The barometer shows trends as well as current readings, which is helpful in predicting changing weather conditions. The compass is easy to read. I need to do more work with the tide charts, to find out how to correctly calculate the offset for my local harbor. I also have not found a way to adjust contrast, or to adjust the brightness of the backlight. Both these things are minor. The one thing I need to get set up correctly is the local harbor tide prediction.
Overall I am very pleased and impressed with this watch. Since others had observed that the crystal can scratch easily, I invested in removable watch face protectors (inexpensive and came in a pack of 5 so I can replace the clear covers regularly).Read more reviews at Amazon.com.
12. Suunto Spartan Sports Wrist HR
This watch is GPS-supported and is water-resistant up to 100 m. This Suunto watch also has features that include route maps, times for sunrise and sunset, and Bluetooth. But what makes this watch amazing is the fact that it performs beyond hiking watch functionalities; this Suunto watch is a general sport and outdoor watch that has special trackers for cycling, swimming, and running. It also tracks heart rate, counts steps, counts calories, measures distance, and measures altitude. All of these features are visible on a scratch-resistant mineral crystal glass face, giving this watch a sleek and elegant look.
- 1.97 x 1.97 x 0.66 in
- 2.61 ounces
Sample Customer Review… Despite the size of this watch, it is extremely light weight and comfortable. I read some reviews that spoke about the watch band being stiff, I have not had that experience. The watch band is soft and flexible helping or form to my wrist very well. This watch does exactly what it says it will. Does an amazing job tracking steps, heart rate, and sleep data; however, I do wish you were able to see sleep details in the app, not just the watch itself. The app will currently only show how long you slept. Suunto is working on adding some updates to both the watch software and app, looking forward to seeing further improvements. GPS is excellent and fast, tracks my runs and hikes extremely well.Read more reviews at Amazon.com.
Now that you’ve mentally decided to purchase a hiking watch (why wouldn’t you want one?!), let’s explore the reasons to use a hiking watch.
It’s easy (and scary) to get lost while hiking, especially if you’re in unfamiliar territory. Hiking watches can keep you from getting lost. These watches have the primary function of navigation. Hiking watches can come equipped with GPS technology, an altimeter, and/or a digital compass. Every hiker should have some type of direction-finding device in their arsenal. Why not purchase a hiking watch that comes with these cool features?
Anticipating Weather Conditions
Experienced hikers know the importance of being aware of the weather before and during their hikes. Hiking watches provide convenience for such weather-tracking. Most hiking watches have a temperature sensor or a barometer, which measures air pressure. Why would you need to know the air pressure? Great question! Change in air pressure serves as a prediction for weather patterns. Increases in air pressure can indicate that the weather is improving. Decreases in air pressure indicate just the opposite: a storm may be coming your way. Bad weather can pose a danger and threat to, not only what is intended to be an enjoyable hike, but also your safety.
Some high-quality hiking watches can even connect to your phone, showing the full weather forecast. Hiking watches can even show the times for sunrise and sunset, which is also convenient for better preparing your hike or knowing when to get off the trail and head back home or to the campgrounds before it’s dark.
Tracking Health and Fitness
Say goodbye to those highly marketed fitness watches with limited features because some hiking watches can do it all! Hiking watches can count your steps, monitor your heart rate, calculate calories burned, and track your sleep. In other words, hiking watches can monitor your health and help you reach your fitness goals.
In addition to the uses of a hiking watch, let’s look at some of the common features of hiking watches.
GPS, or the global positioning system, is a global satellite-based navigation system that gives information about locations. You’re probably most familiar with GPS being used in cars, but hiking watches can be GPS-equipped, too. Inside a GPS-equipped hiking watch is a tiny receiver that can connect to the satellite systems. Of course, GPS signal strength is dependent upon your physical location while hiking. If you’re hiking in an area surrounded by trees and blanketed in thick shrubbery, getting a signal may be difficult. To utilize a hiking watch’s GPS feature, be sure to be in an area that is free from obscurities or things that may block a signal.
Nevertheless, hiking watches with GPS technology are great purchases. They can even enable you to record the position data for your hike! You can record the start of a hike and stop recording at the end of a hike and save the data to the watch. These recordings can be uploaded to your computer for analysis. How cool!
Altimeters in hiking watches are used to measure the altitude or height in relation to sea or ground level. Knowing your altitude can help you locate your location on a map. Hiking watches that do not have a separate altimeter function can analyze and give altitude measurements from GPS data. However, measurements from an altimeter sensor would be more accurate than GPS measurements of altitude.
Barometers measure atmospheric pressure. As it was previously mentioned, barometers are good contraptions for determining imminent weather conditions. More simple barometers take viewable air pressure readings, but higher-quality barometers are more pictorial, as they show graphs of air pressure changes. Some hiking watches even self-alert you of major changes in air pressure, as this may serve as a warning for severe weather.
Heart-rate monitors that track heart rate all day long are a common feature in hiking watches. Data from this feature can be used to monitor current health and determine exertion levels. Knowing your exertion levels can tell you how to best approach your hike. Hikers who want to maintain a steady heart rate may walk and hike at low exertion levels in order to avoid spikes in their heart rates. Being able to monitor your heart rate may also alert you that you’re getting sick and need to take a break and rest. A notice of a high heart rate can indicate to you that you need to slow down.
Hiking watches equipped with thermometers can measure the temperature of your surroundings. Knowing the temperature of your surroundings may be beneficial to you, as weather and outdoor conditions may limit your activities. For example, warm weather that is getting increasingly hot may indicate that you may need to rethink that strenuous hike up an uneven terrain and take a slow walk on the trail instead. Just be sure to take the watch off if you want the watch to measure the outdoor temperature. If you don’t do this, the watch may read your skin temperature. Oops!
Now that you’re familiar with the typical features of hiking watches, although the efficiency of these features depends on the quality and price of the watch, let’s consider exactly what you should look for in a hiking watch before you decide on purchasing one within your budget.
Battery life should be the first thing to consider when buying any type of watch. You don’t want a watch that will run out of juice too quickly. But the way you use your hiking watch determines how frequently it needs to be charged. If you often use the GPS feature on your hiking watch to track your hikes, your watch needs to be charged almost every day. Less frequent uses of battery-draining features like the GPS may cause the hiking watch to survive a little longer without having to be constantly recharged. If you’re super concerned or worried about not having enough lasting battery life, you may consider buying non-GPS hiking watches or hiking watches that are solar-powered.
Experienced hikers know that limiting the amount of weight that they carry is important and back-saving. This is why the weight of the hiking watch around your wrist should not be overlooked. Comfortable and manageable weight for a watch is commonly 50 grams or less. Carefully consider if any watches with all sorts of bells and whistles are worth the excess weight on your wrist.
When hiking, most of the time, encountering some type of moisture or water is inevitable. It’s comforting to know that most hiking watches are water-resistant, or sealed against the potential damages of getting wet or damp. However, keep in mind that hiking watches come with varying degrees of water resistance, meaning that not all hiking watches protect against water damage in equal degrees. As a rule of thumb, try to look for hiking watches that are water-resistant up to 100 meters (m) of water.
You want your hiking watch to consistently work the best way that it can. Wanting consistent performance means that you want a durable watch. Even if you want a watch that is under $100, it’s worthwhile to consider if cheaper watches can withstand the harsh conditions that you may encounter on your hike. Because of this, you should look for watches that are shock- and scratch-resistant. The displays of more expensive watches can be covered by sapphire glass, a tough glass that can handle harsh outdoor conditions and is highly scratch-resistant. Cheaper watch displays may be covered by Gorilla Glass, which is a cheap alternative to sapphire glass.
Easy to Use
Hiking watches can have touchscreen-based interfaces, which are innovative and reminiscent of other smart devices. However, touching the screen on a hiking watch may sometimes be non-functional if your hands are wet or if you’re wearing gloves. Hiking watches that have buttons and no touch screens may seem more useful for hiking, but the interface on those watches can be more complex than touch-screen watches, as you may have to press buttons in a certain order, and this can get frustrating. Nevertheless, you decide which type of interface best suits your hiking needs out of all the options for the best hiking watches for every budget.
After exploring the best hiking watches for every budget, choose one that best fits your needs, your wants, and, of course, your price range. Also, choose a hiking watch that will improve your hiking experiences and keep you motivated and moving on up the trail.
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Written by: Artesa Cox and Sonam Choedon