Best Hiking Watches: On a hiking trail, the humble wristwatch does a lot more than tell the time. The best hiking watches have the ability to read the altitude, act as a compass, calculate the atmospheric pressure, and be an all-in-one guide and friend, especially if you are alone on the trip. These watches vary widely in features as well as prices, among other considerations. This is why we have decided to list and rank the top hiking watches for men and women on this page.
Generally, the mark of a good hiker is his or her ability to read the environment, think quickly, and take sensible decisions on the spot. The standard hiker’s watch has what is called the ABC features, where the first three letters of the alphabet form an acronym for Altimeter, Barometer, and Compass. All good watches must have this feature. Most modern watches also have GPS mapping and navigation technologies, which is an added bonus. Whenever we have been out trekking and on camping, we found that, besides the best 8-person tents we stayed in, such watches were an indispensable part of our backpacks. So, without any further ado, let us take a look at which watches make up our list.
|Best Teepe Tents||Unique Special Point||Editor's Rating||Buy Now|
|Best for Fitness Enthusiasts||Buy Now|
|Ideal for the more challenging treks||Buy Now|
|lightweight and easy to carry||Buy Now|
|Excellent barometer functionality||Buy Now|
|Professional/military level GPS service||Buy Now|
|Superbly designed and best suited for the tougher tracks||Buy Now|
|Value for money||Buy Now|
|Most accurate in-built Heart rate monitor||Buy Now|
|Long Battery life||Buy Now|
|Solar powered watch||Buy Now|
10 Best Hiking Watches 2018 (A-List that You Shouldn't Miss)
Before we proceed, please note that we have personally bought at least one sample each of all the hiking watches on this list over the last two years and the reviews are based entirely on our experiences. This list of best hiking watches is not arranged in any particular order of preference either.
Garmin Fenix 3 HR
No list of watches is complete without the mention of Garmin and this list s no exception. This American Multinational manufactures excellent watches for a variety of occasions and is clearly one of the best hiking watches. The Garmin Fenix 3 HR is essentially an updated variant of the F2 which was our previous favorite and now has extra bells and whistles which include a constant optical Heart Rate (professionally called oHR and hence the HR in the name) among other features. This is our pick for the best premium hiking watch.
The dark color scheme and the domed sapphire glass lend an extremely classy look to the watch. This is one watch which truly integrates modern technology along with the age-old aphorisms in hiking and trekking. When paired with a compatible smartphone, the watch’s Garmin Connect app can download themes and software updates using the Wi-Fi connectivity. When we were in the Appalachian Mountains last summer, we found that we could also easily change the watch faces theme easily. This adds to the style quotient too.
This watch has what it takes to be taken on distant trekking trips with its GPS functionality working superbly well even in the most distant places. The heart rate available on the watch is one of the best. What we especially liked is the 1.2” dial which is visible even in direct sunlight thanks to the high-resolution color Chroma optically bonded display, something that also provides sharper-than-average resolution. The watch is also water resistant to up to 100 meters or 10 ATM (pro-talk for water resistance of up to 10 atmospheres or 10 times the atmospheric pressure at sea level.) This makes it ideal for a swim.
Overall, it also makes a distinct style statement with its stainless steel bezel and serves as an excellent sports-cum-fitness watch. Should you be able to dish out the steep price which Garmin charges for the Fenix 3 HR, this is your best bet.
- Tough and sturdy design with a clean interface
- Plenty of fitness features included
- Better than average heart rate monitoring
- Improved battery backup (up to 2 weeks, uses a single CR2 battery)
- The Garmin Connect app is pretty much useless without an accompanying smartphone
- Lack Bluetooth connectivity. Uses Garmin-proprietary ANT+ wireless protocol
- WRIST-BASED HEART RATE - Garmin Elevate wrist heart rate technology measures heart rate at the wrist, giving you the option to track your heart rate data without wearing a chest strap - Activity Tracking Accuracy
Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR Running GPS Unit
Suunto manufactures great hiking watches which are capable of giving any competitor a run for its money. Like the Fenix 3 HR, this is a true ABC (Altimeter, Barometer, and Compass) watch but without the steep price tag that comes with the Garmin model. The GPS feature of the watch is also something that we found spectacularly accurate and reliable. This is the best budget hiking watch on our list.
The Ambit3 has been made further special by the inclusion of the apps and different technical functionalities available via its website, Movescout.com. This is a site which has been designed specifically keeping in mind the professional fitness enthusiast who may wish to keep track of their activities all under one roof. In this sense, it is as important for the backcountry hiker as it is for the cross-country runner.
Movescout.com also allows you to upload all your trekking and hiking data and use apps for free. These apps can be created by you as well as by other people and are customizable. Where the watch really shines, however, is when it is being used for hiking and trekking: it possibly has one of the best ABC data in business. Every 15 minutes, the altimeter (which we found deadly accurate) shows off the reading. With a single tap of a button, the profile graph of the altitude gained in the last 24 hours is displayed. Pretty cool stuff.
The barometric data is also very accurate and the measurements can be stored on Movescout.com, which has become a must-see in recent times. The onboard compass works from all angles and is one step ahead of the standard magnetic compass: your hands do not need to be level when taking a reading. The compass heading is easy to read with the arrow always pointing north. You do need, however, to set the declination manually.
The Ambit3 is also water resistant to up to 100 meters and has a fine GPS feature. If you wish, you can use Movescout.com to mark points of interest on your journey and then use the proprietary FindBack feature, something which takes you back to where you started. We used it all the time and it never failed us. The Ambit3 can also display a digital map of your trip and boasts one of the finest batteries in this business: 20 hours backup with the GPS function turned on while nearly a month with the GPS off. This performance is phenomenal!
- Rugged and sturdy design, ideal for the more challenging treks
- Excellent battery life and GPS features
- Supports Bluetooth 4.0+ devices (we hooked up our Scosche hear monitor without any fuss)
- Stylish and full of apps with dedicated website
- Needs a smartphone to pair with at all times, so not truly independent
- Can be a bit bulky for some users
- Setting up the watch needs some practice
- Onboard buttons difficult to operate with gloves on
- Suunto Ambit3 peak delivers Stable and accurate altitude and weather information with full navigation in a robust casting
- Includes built in altimeter, barometer, compass and GPS with 100 meter water resistance
Casio Men’s PRW-3000-1ACR Protrek Black Sports Watch
Ah yes, Casio. How can a list of watches be complete without mentioning Casio? This model is like a jet on afterburners; it is filled with features and is capable of providing accurate readings in seconds. On our list, this is the best value-for-money hiking watch and hardly fails to disappoint. Casio has added one feature that few other companies have thought of yet: the watch can be charged by solar power and is a stellar addition to the already expanding market of sporty hiking watches.
We bought this watch to replace our beloved Pathfinder, which finally retired after years of dedicated and faithful service. Casio did not disappoint us, however; this watch has five different alarms, the standard ABC features (which are pretty accurate from what we saw) and even has sunrise and sunset features, all in one. The battery life is excellent and this watch has better water resistance than most comparable watches. We went snorkeling with this model and found that its claim of offering 100 m (330 ft) of water resistance to be absolutely genuine. We do not recommend this watch for scuba diving, however.
Casio has also ensured that the watch appeals to even the sports enthusiasts thanks to certain features like the 1/10-second stopwatch and the countdown timer, the last of which is also used by one of our friends who is in the EMS sector. The watch has pre-programmed dates till 2099 and has been adjudged as having one of the best batteries in the business. To put things in perspective, the watch can provide a total of 7 months with only a single charge. It also has a handy battery level indicator as well as a singular power-saving function, both of which we found to be extremely useful.
The barometer readings are extremely accurate and also has a storm alarm feature, something that definitely comes handy whenever one is mountaineering. Casio has kept the navigability factor easy thanks to the handy one-touch menu system. Overall, this is the most improved hiking watch and is definitely up there with the best of the best.
Lastly, the time readings are made further accurate with the addition of the Atomic timekeeping feature. This new model consumes about 90 percent less power when compared to the previous model thanks to the improved hardware. A great buy, this one.
NOTE: This below video represents the 3500 with the only difference from the 3000 being that the latter is solar-chargeable.
- Handy and lightweight
- Sturdy build with great features
- Water resistance is superb
- Superior battery life
- While the watch face is black, subdued, and cool, it is difficult to see in low-light conditions
- The polyurethane watch band seems sub-par
- Please refer the user manual to set the time and date.
- Sporty solar-power watch with multiple functions including multi-band atomic timekeeping, low temperature resistance (-10 C/14 F), altimeter, digital compass, barometer, thermometer LED backlight with after-glow, world time, sunrise/sunset data, five daily alarms, 1/10-second stopwatch, countdown timer
Another great hiking watch from the house of Suunto is the Core, which is often advertised as the Wrist Computer watch, this model lacks the GPS (sigh) but more than makes up for the price asked with having the best barometer on this list. The presence of the barometer means that the next time you are on your hiking trip, you will be alerted to any approaching storms well in advance.
With the Suunto Core, you will be able to track both the weather as well as the sunset and sunrise time for more than 200 countries around the world. This built-in feature is most useful when one is left stranded in a foreign place, unsure of which direction to head towards. The Core also has all the usual ABC features that such watches have and it is ideal for both men and women as the wristband is adjustable.
The one great thing that we liked about the Suunto Core is that the company is not hesitant in taking bold decisions: it has, for instance, left the traditional black design behind and has instead chosen brighter colors, which are not too in-your-face too. Most users have stated that the wristband is extremely comfortable to use and we do tend to agree to that.
One of the other features that we found interesting while we were trekking in Bhutan last month is how accurate the wrist-mounted thermometer is. This thermometer is temperature compensated and delivers pretty accurate readings which are made possible by the complicated machinery inside. However, given the fact that the watch packs in so many great features, we believe that there could have been more than one alarm onboard so as to be a complete trekking watch.
While the Core has been much-loved and admired for years, Suunto has evidently not sat upon its laurels, which is one great advantage the company has. The newest model packs quite a punch and is one that should find its place in any list of the top hiking watches for men and women. Add to that the decent battery life and you have a winner.
- Durable and comfortable design
- Excellent barometer functionality
- Greatly efficient wrist-mounted thermometer
- Intuitive user interface
- The display could have been brighter
- The battery life will do better with a boost
- No GPS functionality
- An altimeter tracks your vertical movement, a barometer tells the trend in air pressure, and a compass points the way
- Suunto core tracks both the weather and the Sun for you
- A weather trend Graph and Storm alarm along with preset Sunrise/sunset times for over 400 locations help you stay safe and plan your activities
Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS
Technically, this is hardly a watch as it is too big to be a wristwatch. It is, however, a device that can be worn on the wrist as a watch, which is why it finds its place on this list. This is the best mountaineering watch on this list and it is a must-have for any camping or hiking trip simply because of the excellent features that it offers. This is also the best GPS hiking watch on the list.
The last time we used it, we were easily able to download the Alaska State Park maps and then converted it into a usable route. Unlike most of the watches that are on this list, this one can be mounted not only on the wrist but also on a bike or your favorite kayak. Either way, this device has withstood nearly every challenge that we threw at it and came out unscathed.
The watch also has the now-famous Garmin’s “TracBack” feature which means that it will easily navigate you back to where you started your trip. This way, it is not only a better companion but also a handy travel guide. The device has also been used for purposes much different than trekking and hiking: we used to know this one person who was in the Army and was posted in Afghanistan. He said that this device was invaluable and also had, unlike many other devices, a great backlight mechanism that can be programmed to last for between 30 seconds and several minutes.
The Garmin Foretrex also has an inbuilt barometric altimeter which will warn the user of an impending storm besides having a pretty good compass which never fails to disappoint. It runs on the run of the mill replaceable AAA batteries and boasts 17 hours of battery life. Lastly, it can easily be hooked up to standard devices like a heart rate monitor or even a cadence sensor. Overall, a great buy.
- Professional/military level GPS service
- Excellently balanced even when worn on the wrist
- The barometric altimeter works exactly as it should
- Backlighting system is better than most watches
- A bit too cumbersome for many users, certainly for those who want to travel light
- MGRS support is patchy at times
- Features high-sensitivity GPS receiver with HotFix for improved performance and reception in heavy tree cover or deep canyons
- Keeps track of routes, tracks and waypoints, and heart rate with add on heart rate monitor (sold separate). Uses standard AAA batteries. 2 required.
Garmin Fēnix 3, Sapphire
This is another device of the Fenix range manufactured by Garmin, which now has the maximum number of devices on the list. As evidenced by the name itself, this device is extra tough thanks to the enormously strong and scratch resistant domed sapphire lens which is the most distinguishing feature of the watch. Besides, it is useful for every sort of outdoor pursuit and will be of enormous help the next time you intend to go trekking.
This is one of the most accurate trekking and hiking watches as it has an EXO GPS antenna which allows it to be even more accurate than the more normal GPS at times thanks to the positional support offered by the combination of GLONASS and EPO. When both these two directional navigation systems are activated, the device will have better and more accurate directions.
Incidentally, this model does not suffer from the low sunlight visibility when compared to many other similar watches. For example, this device can also be used in direct sunlight thanks to the high-resolution color Chroma display that also has an LED backlight. The LED backlight is of particular use when the watch is being used in low light conditions.
To ensure that the watch is able to withstand the stress and strain of the long-distance hikes, the device has stainless steel bezel and buttons, both of which are useful in reinforcing the strength of the Fenix 3. This is also the best hiking watch for swimming and skiing as it also has something called the Garmin Swim feature which accurately measures the number of calories you are burning by putting in the details of the size of the pool.
Among other features, the new Garmin watch has numerous personalizable widgets and apps all of which are standard on comparable Garmin watches too. The thermometer and the altimeter work perfectly and overall, the watch looks great even as an accompaniment to an evening party. Like most other watches, this model also has a water resistance of up to 100 meters. This makes it ideal for swimming and snorkeling but not diving.
- Superbly designed and rugged; ideal for the tougher tracks
- Bluetooth connectivity available
- Customizable widgets
- Garmin Connect website offers additional features
- Can be rather expensive for some buyers
- Stainless steel band of the model we used started to lose its sheen after a few months.
- CHROMA DISPLAY - 1.2" sunlight-visible high-resolution color Chroma optically-bonded display
- SAPPHIRE LENS - High-strength scratch resistant domed sapphire lens (Sapphire version only)
- EXO ANTENNA - Omni-directional steel EXO antenna, when paired with GLONASS and EPO, provides an even faster fix and accurate position than GPS alone
Casio Men’s Pathfinder Triple Sensor Multi-Function
The Casio Pathfinder has been one of our favorite devices since we began trekking and camping professionally. Unfortunately, the last one I used to wear was lost on the way to a remote North-East Indian village. This model is ideal for a day-long hike across longer-than-usual distances and is definitely on this list based on its looks as well as the many features that the device offers.
This digital watch hides plenty of features under its remarkably utilitarian exterior. We used the black solar-powered sports watch model, one which can be recharged time and time again under any sort of light. Note that the Casio Pathfinder lacks a GPS service, which may not be acceptable for some users and we decided to be straightforward about it.
Once fully charged, the Casio Men’s Pathfinder will be able to provide a battery life of up to 6 months without needing to be exposed to light once again. It also has a digital compass, as well as the standard ABC features. Onboard is a very sensitive thermometer while the watch itself boasts low-temperature resistance (up to -10 C/14 F).
The watch has clearly been designed keeping the globetrotter in mind: it shows 31 time zones and a total of 48 cities) and also a very handy city code display, something that very few other watches have. When we need to go swimming (yes, this watch is waterproof to up to 100 meters which means that it is ideal for swimming and snorkeling but not diving), we were greatly benefitted by the 1/100-second stopwatch. The onboard calendar is pre-programmed until 2099 while the usual bells and whistles, including the battery power indicator and the power-saving function, make this watch an ideal companion for that perfect trek. Besides, these watches are also beautifully crafted and can be used as evening-wear too. Overall, Casio continues to impress. And, by the way, we are also great fans of the backlight with afterglow feature. This has 200 meters of water-resistance, which is the best we have seen so far.
- Amazing value for money and more affordable than most hiking watches
- A solar-powered battery provides 6-month backup
- Low-temperature resistance
- 200 meters of water-resistance
- Lacks GPS
- Battery replacement is pretty difficult
- Black solar-powered sport watch with multiple features including digital compass, altimeter, barometer, thermometer, low temperature resistance (-10 C/14 F), EL backlight, world time (31 time zones, 48 cities), city code display, five daily alarms, 1/100-second stopwatch, full auto calendar (pre-programmed until 2099), countdown timer, 12/24-hour formats, battery power indicator, and power-saving function
The Epix is another one of the hiking watches manufactured and designed by Garmin. On this list, this is the best touchscreen hiking watch. So much so that we have often found that the watch’s touchscreen is better than many comparable smartphones. The Garmin Epix is usable in almost any environment you can think of and will pass with flying colors whether you are cycling or mountaineering.
The Garmin Epix looks futuristic enough to be worth the price tag. We used it last month for three weeks on end, even while we were bathing. It was cold outside and the maps we had were not too reliable. That said, the Garmin Epix was able to load a variety of maps including the TOPO U.S. 24K and City Navigator NT. The latter proved to be immensely helpful for us. Not to mention that the watch has a splendid 8GB of internal memory, which can be of enormous help.
The most striking aspect of the watch is that it has a 1.4” high- resolution color Chroma display with a touchscreen interface and a sunlight-visible screen. With the aid of a positively precise GPS service and Mapping GPS/GLONASS, that work thanks to the stainless steel EXO antenna, we believe that you can easily take this device anywhere you would like to.
Like most of the watches on this list, the Garmin Epix also has auto-calibrating ABC features. The altimeter and the barometer are the best in this class. The device does lack a thermometer, however, which is a big letdown for us. There is a 3-axis compass which works even when you are not in motion which is pretty good.
The device is also compatible with Garmin Maps and is thus one step ahead of the Fenix 3 range of hiking watches. The Epix also gives you the option to be connected automatically to all your online accounts thanks to the presence of Garmin Connect and the LiveTrack app, to which data can be uploaded wirelessly to. Finally, the watch itself can be customized with a number of widgets and the themes can be changed at will.
The watch only has a water resistance of 50 meters which is considerably less than the other watches. Swimming with this device on is not something that we recommend. The battery life is also impressively long: up to 16 weeks on a single charge. The Garmin Epix also has MGRS and is probably the best military-grade device on this list of best hiking watches 2018.
- Amazingly good mapping ability
- GPS, GLONASS, and other features available
- Heart rate monitor is sensitive and to-the-point
- Impressive touchscreen display
- Maybe a bit pricey for many customers
- Lacks a thermometer unlike may comparable watches
- TOUCHSCREEN - 1.4" high resolution, sunlight-visible color Chroma touchscreen display
- EXPANDED MEMORY - 8 GB internal memory lets you load a variety of maps, including TOPO U.S. 24K and City Navigator NT
Suunto Traverse GPS
The Suunto Traverse GPS is one of the better watches on this list. The watch, besides being an excellent hiking watch, is also one of the best in the business as far as indoor and outdoor sports are concerned. This is also useful for fitness enthusiasts and is one watch which has a seriously great GPS service.
Besides, the watch also provides great features in many other aspects. Some of the features that we liked the best were the barometer and the digital compass, both of which are top-notch. The barometric trend is capable of detecting weather trends by constantly monitoring the atmospheric pressure and then linking it to known local weather conditions so as to provide an accurate storm warning.
This is a watch which you can even take on treks which are not too explored; for example, thanks to the GPS and GLONASS satellite navigation systems, the chances of your getting lost are minimal. The Suunto device also has a breadcrumb trail feature (remember Hansel and Gretel) which allows you to retrace your steps in the case you are lost on the route. The same feature also helps you calculate how much distance you have traveled and how much altitude you have gained or lost. All in all, it is an indispensable feature as far as a hiking trip to your dream destination is concerned.
The Suunto Traverse also has sunset and sunrise data in case you were wondering. These data keep you aware of exactly how much time you have before the sun sets and the darkness sets in. Thanks to the GPS timekeeping feature, this is one watch which gives you the correct time taking into account the global time zones and DST among other factors.
The new Suunto Traverse GPS also has a superb backlight in flashlight mode which many other watches lack; this is a great addition, in our opinion. This is also ideal for fitness enthusiasts as they can use the Activity Feed on Suunto’s Movescount as well as on the Movescount App. The altimeter works well and the inclusion of five different sports modes make it ideal for any user who wishes to invest in a good watch.
Besides, this model can, with its understated and yet sexy appeal, be a replacement for all your fancy evening-wear watches. Overall, if you can afford it, this is a great device to own as far as the best hiking watches are concerned.
- Rugged yet classy construction
- Ideal for indoor and outdoor sports besides hiking and trekking
- Bluetooth connectivity available
- Battery life is superb
- Can be expensive for many users
- Many users have complained that the strap is made of a poor quality material
- Upload routes to your watch, and you're ready to explore new terrains with the help of GPS and glonass Satellite navigation systems
- Follow your Progress with distance and altitude statistics, save points of interest and re-trace your steps using the breadcrumb trail
Casio Pro Trek Tough Solar
Yet again, this Japanese giant continues to impress with its great Pro Trek Tough Solar. As the name itself reveals, this watch can be charged by exposing it to the sun’s rays or any other source of light. The watch is an extremely handy and rugged device that also makes an impressive style statement. It is made out of stainless steel that adds to its durability.
Like we said, there is a stainless steel rotating bezel which features a digital dial that displays both the day and the date. This watch has a better-than-average backlight which helps us in ensuring that it can be used even in the most poorly-lit areas.
Casio has made sure that this watch survives most accidental falls and other unwanted incidents by not only giving it a steel body but also providing it with a titanium band. This titanium band will remain unblemished for longer than a simple steel watch. It was of great help to us courtesy the atomic timekeeping feature as well as low-temperature resistance even when we were in the most remote areas. This Casio watch can also serve as a great style statement thanks to its understated construction and excellent aesthetics. It also has the standard ABC features which are the hallmarks of all of these modern hiking watches.
The Pro Trek Tough Solar is also something that can be used by sports and fitness enthusiasts thanks to the 1/10-second stopwatch feature as well as the countdown timer. These features are especially useful when going swimming, for example. Extra toughness is also provided thanks to the 56 mm resin case that also has a mineral dial window. When taken in combination, Casio seems to have a winner on its hands.
Overall, the watch has Quartz movement with a digital display which is a feature that several comparable watches have as well. Armed with sunrise and sunset data, this is a watch that is ideal for high-altitude trekking and has been universally acclaimed by many famous mountaineers. Whenever you think of buying one great trekking watch, make sure that you also consider the Casio Pro Trek Solar before you arrive at a buying decision.
- Solar powered watch
- Strong and sturdy design
- Titanium band with a built-in security feature
- Fairly easy to use with water resistance up to 200 meters
- Can be a bit heavy for many users
- Lacks GPS
- Casio Customer service is dismal, unfortunately
- 200M Water Resistance
- Chronograph Display
- Tough Solar Power
- Multi-Band 6 Atomic Timekeeping
- Duplex LC Display
Best Hiking Watches 2018 Buying Guides
A buying guide is a set of rules and criteria that you must take into account before you invest in buying a hiking watch. While some basic criteria stay the same, there are also some other factors that need to be kept in mind. Below, we have listed the most important criteria that must be met. While some boast of native or onboard heart-rate monitors, others have a barometric pressure-based storm alert system to show. Click on each entry below to know more about each of the factors associated.
Features (Click to Enlarge)
As we have mentioned earlier, the three most important and fundamental features of any good hiking watch are the altimeter, barometer, and compass, the trio coming together to form the initials ABC and this is why the hiking watches are also known as ABC watches. Some basic models also have lap timers and temperature sensors. If you invest a bit more money, you will also get more information in the guise of altitude changes and things like that. We will now talk about the most basic features which cannot be given a miss.
Altimeter (Click to Enlarge)
The ‘A’ of ABC is the altimeter. The task of the altimeter is simple enough: it measures the air pressure around you and then informs you about the altitude you are at. At times, the humble altimeter can be even more reliable and accurate than a GPS simply because the GPS may not receive a good signal when the person is inside a cave or other regions. In the bush too, GPS systems do not work very reliably.
In fact, some of the best watches can easily track the altitudes, arrange them in a pattern of your choice, and then upload the entire sequence in a database where they can be used to trace down routes and other important data. This data provides a great and informative overview of your trek.
Barometer (Click to Enlarge)
As the reader knows, a barometer is an instrument which measures the atmospheric pressure. Such measurements have varied implications: while it can determine if a storm is coming (when the reading falls too low too quickly), the device can also display when a heavy rain is on the way. In this way, a barometer is of an enormous importance in case you are going hiking to a fairly remote location where you are not too sure of the weather patterns.
Compass (Click to Enlarge)
As almost every hiker and trekking enthusiast knows, a compass is perhaps the most important tool that is used. Having said that, most modern hiking watches do come with a compass built-in. What differs from one model to the other is the type of the compass that is being used. There are two main types of a compass: 2D and 3D. While the 2D compasses will work only if the wristwatch is held perfectly horizontal, it is also true that a 3D compass works in every direction. In this respect, always remember that a 3D compass is more accurate than its 2D compass.
Most watches have built-in compasses nowadays. These may only serve as points of reference, however. For more accurate and reliable ratings, a standard compass needs to be carried and is indeed carried by the more seasoned campaigners.
Thermometer (Click to Enlarge)
Not all of the watches on the list have a thermometer; however, some of the best hiking watches do have a thermometer. Note that while a thermometer is indeed an important consideration, not all the thermometers provide you with the correct information. The very fact that the watches are always in contact with your skin implies that your body temperature may interfere with the workings of the thermometer. As an added feature, however, this is something that can be taken into consideration.
GPS Technology (Click to Enlarge)
GPS or Global Positioning System is a must-have in today’s times. While it is true that there are custom-built GPS devices meant for usage by trekking enthusiasts, most users tend to hit two birds with one stone by buying a watch which has GPS built-in. Some top hiking watches even have an external EXO antenna to capture GLONASS and other navigational positional systems. In this way, the users will be benefitted. Having said that, an extra, specialized GPS device is a must-have on every trip.
Having an onboard GPS service will also let you accurately pinpoint your distance, speed, and current location.
Wi-Fi Technology (Click to Enlarge)
Most modern devices are interconnected and many hikers also tend to stay connected on the go. Hence, if a watch has Wi-Fi connectivity, it will be a great new addition. Wi-Fi connectivity also ensures that you are able to hook up your hiking watch with your computer. This feature will also allow you to exchange data to and from your computer and the watch that you are wearing.
Besides the data, you can also use the bigger screen of the computer to map out your journey a lot better by uploading trail data from the watch. You can then calculate the distance, altitude, and route which can then act as markers to your trip.
Water Resistance (Click to Enlarge)
Water resistance is something which is shared by a lot of hiking watches. Perhaps the only difference between most such watches is how water resistant the device is. For example, the Suunto Ambit3 is a watch designed for triathletes, and can resist up to 10 ATM of pressure, not all watches are bestowed with these features. After all, there are some watches on the list which are water resistant only up to 50 meters while some boast 200 meters of water resistance. Ideally, the watch you choose must have 100 meters of water resistance at least.
Design/Style (Click to Enlarge)
While most of these watches are also useful as evening-wear, there are, as there always is, a first among equals and each user must decide his or her model independently. Most of these watches blend in well with your dressy affairs; however, if the watch-face is too big, it will not look too subtle, that is for sure. Decide which one you must buy based on your needs and the size of your wrist. This is especially true for women.
If design and style mean a lot to you, choose a watch which has less plastic in it. A lower profile design is also mandatory. If we were to recommend one watch that you can wear from the trail to your office party, buy any of the models manufactured by Suunto. Ladies, for your consideration, we recommend that you look at the Garmin Fenix range. Some survival-style hiking watches do not always look stylish because they are meant for durability and ruggedness as compared to aesthetics.
Budget (Click to Enlarge)
This is perhaps the most important factor of consideration for many modern customers. Typically, the price range tends to be between $150 and $600. Before paying up, you must keep in mind the features which the watch has. Remember that when a watch is equipped with GPS, the price does go up substantially.
Ideally, before you hit the camping trail, you must make yourself comfortable with physical maps and a compass so you need not spend too much money on a hiking watch. The GPS service can also be worth every penny you spend depending on the technological accuracy.
We will provide you with a brief reference point of what to expect in each price band.
$70-$200: Watches which fall within these price bands are your basic, no-frills hiker’s watches. They are all standard ABC hiking watch – Altimeter, barometer, and the compass, plus some timers and alarms. In this range, the Casio Pathfinder is an ideal buy.
$200-$500: These are just below the premium segment and have atomic timekeeping among other features. Some of the watches in this price band also have GPS capabilities. They tend to be more stylish and rugged than most of the ones in the previous price bands. This is why these watches can be worn on almost any occasion: from trails to boardrooms. On this list, you can consider the Suunto Core or perhaps the Suunto Traverse. Both are extremely good examples of this genre.
$500 and above: At this level, most hiking watches are GPS wrist computers essentially. You will get access to downloadable routes and customizable GPS tracking among other features. Bike sensors and heart-rate monitoring capabilities are also included in most examples of this range. Among the premium hiking watches of 2018, our choice is the Garmin Fenix 3 HR. This is the ideal range for marathon runners, triathletes, and serious adventure sports junkies.
Finally, we must remind you that as no two hiking trails are alike, no two hiking watches are the same. Even the ones manufactured by the same company. So, before you pick up one of the best hiking watches of 2018, make sure that you actually need the features that are being offered. Talk to some more seasoned hikers if you can so that the glitzy marketing materials do not fool you. Watch this space for more updates.
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