People who love hiking, trail running and the great outdoors need a reliable GPS watch, which can offer top navigation features and a long battery life set up for multi-day adventures.
Outdoor watches only can it help you enjoy your off-piste adventures, but they can also be great safety tools. And thanks to likes of Garmin, Suunto and Polar and newcomers like Coros, there's a wealth of great devices to choose from.
Whether you're all about endurance sports, such as hiking, ultrarunning, skiing, trail running or wild swimming, outdoor watches can measure the altitude and speed of your downhills, offer GPX guidance on walks and runs and track multi-day jaunts with long battery life.
Buying the right outdoor watch is mostly about not getting sucked into buying features you don't need. The loudest noise will be from ultrarunners involved in multi-stage races, tackling insane elevation ‚Äď and those will require every iota of battery life and detail.
If that perfectly describes the kind of watch companion you're looking for, we've rounded up our pick of the watches for climbers, hikers, ocean-goers and outdoor dwellers.
Got any questions about our selections below? Let us know in the comments section below.
Garmin Instinct Solar
Price when reviewed: Instinct: ¬£269.99 Solar: ¬£349.99
The Garmin Instinct packs in a lot of the same hiking features found on the Fenix 6, but for substantially less money. And now the Solar version offers a battery life a boost for longer adventures.
The standard Instinct is an excellent outdoors watch and cheaper at ¬£269.99, but the Solar adds significant battery life and an SpO2 sensor.
The Instinct's biggest miss over the likes of the Fenix 6 and Vertix 2 is mapping features, but you do get course navigation of uploaded GPX routes, elevation data, storm alerts and TrackBack (for following waypoints back to your starting location).
There's a heart rate monitor on board that should be good enough for your big treks, and the Solar version offers a pulse oximeter to aid trekking and training at altitude.
While it lacks contactless payments and a built-in music player, the Instinct does let you view your smartphone notifications.
When it comes to battery life, the Instinct Solar offers some big numbers. You can expect 24 days in smartwatch mode when indoors, and up to 50 days with regular exposure to sunlight.
Garmin has also added power saving modes to give you "unlimited" use of the basic watch mode.
In GPS mode, you can expect 30 hours as standard, and up to 70 hours in UltraTrac battery saver mode. Regular solar charging will also give those numbers a decent boost.
Garmin also offers Surf, Tactical and Camo versions of the Instinct for some added tracking support. Though for most, the Instinct Solar should offer enough to make it a good outdoor watch companion.
Price when reviewed: From ¬£699.99
If you're looking for the Garmin watch or sports watch with the biggest battery life, the Enduro means business.
Built with ultra runners and trail runners in mind, the Enduro comes in a stainless steel or a pricier and lighter titanium case look with the option of a UltraFit nylon strap to help keep the watch weight down.
It shares a lot of similarities with Garmin's Fenix 6X including the same sized 51mm case and 280 x 280 transflective display.
You getting most of the same features as the biggest Fenix apart from a music player and topographic mapping.
It does introduce new Trail VO2 Max and rest timers for its ultrarunning mode, which has since rolled out on Fenix and Forerunner 945 watches.
And you can also add rest stops and time in aid stations when running endurance events ‚Äď which shows that this Garmin sports watch has a certain target market in mind.
What you do get is big battery life. Garmin promises up to 70 hours of GPS, which jumps to 80 hours when you make use of its solar charging powers. It promises up to 65 days in power saving mode.
Based on our testing, it holds up to those numbers too. So if you opt for the titanium option, you'll get a light watch, with a big screen that can really go the distance.
Read our full Garmin Enduro review.
Garmin Fenix 6 series
Price when reviewed: ¬£599 (Fenix 6 Pro)
The Garmin Fenix 6 range is one of the best quality outdoor watches on the market ‚Äď and unlike the Enduro and Instinct offers mapping and GPX waypoint functionality, with long battery life and a tough build.
The Fenix is essentially the greatest hits of all Garmin's top features. It tracks everything from trail running to XC skiing, and includes a hiking mode.
For those that are really into fitness there's heart rate, which feeds into VO2 Max stats for high intensity sports, with Training Effect and recovery data.
But let's stick to why this watch is the best option for outdoors types. You can upload GPX routes from the Connect app or third party apps like Strava. You also get so much more data than any other outdoor watch option.
The Fenix 6 Pro uses topographic maps, which adds a whole dimension to wrist-based navigation, and you can even find places of interest straight from the watch. They're not the best maps around and navigating your surroundings using the watches five buttons (there's no touchscreen here) is frustrating at best.
And battery life is another huge plus. UltraTrac mode offers 42 hours of GPS tracking. That's a weekend of hiking without charging, which is a big plus for multi-day runners or walkers. Switch to Expedition mode and get weeks without charging. A new solar edition will also get you a couple of extra days in smartwatch mode too.
Whether you go for the Fenix 6S, 6 or 6X, go Pro to get those all important mapping features and you'll get one of the best outdoor watches in the business.
There's also a new Fenix 6 and 6S Solar version, which adds three days smartwatch use to the already generous longevity. However, only extreme adventurers will benefit from the upgrade.
Polar Grit X
Price when reviewed: ¬£379.99
The Grit X is the first outdoor watch from Polar, but it's brought some seriously neat features and is available at a competitive price. Outdoors watches need good battery life, and that's ticked off here with 40 hours of full GPS tracking that can be extended to 100 hours using power saving.
Polar has put a big focus on endurance and recovery, so major features are the FuelWise feature that enables you to plan your adventure, and have Polar work out when you should eat, how much, and remind you on the go. We found it worked really well, but the reminders were a little easy to miss.
- How it compares: Polar Grit X vs Fenix 6
There's sleep tracking with a focus on recovery, which we found outstripped Garmin in terms of accuracy ‚Äď and running stats and VO2 Max are a big part of the feature set, thanks to the 10-LED array heart rate monitor.
A big part of Polar Grit X is navigation, but this is something that falls down compared to the Garmin Fenix 6 bseries. It's done with a tie-in with navigation app Komoot, but you need a paid-for account to really get useful navigation and it's a pretty simplistic point-to-point interface. While Garmin's TOPO mapping is hardly detailed, it adds a lot of useful detail.
There's a Hillsplitter feature that tracks your ascents and descents, and tries to tell you whether you're losing time on the slopes.
The Grit X doesn't quite match the Fenix 6 for depth of data and features ‚Äď especially when you add in that Garmin packs on-wrist music playback from Spotify and Connect IQ apps. However, it resoundingly beats Garmin on price, so unless you're really testing the limits of endurance and sports science, the Polar Grit X comes highly recommended.
Read our full Polar Grit X review.
Amazfit T-Rex Pro
Successor to the T-Rex, the T-Rex Pro builds on the sports watch that's built for rugged use and for spending time out n the great outdoors.
Like the original, it features a 47mm case that's now got a whole raft of new military toughness certificates and has jumped from a 5ATM water resistance to one a 10ATM one to make it safe for swimming up to 100 metres.There's built-in GPS with wider support for more satellite systems, 100 sports modes, Zepp Health's latest BioTracker optical sensor to offer heart rate and blood oxygen measurements and there's now a barometer on board too to measure elevation. That heart rate will also power recovery time, training load and training effect insights powered by algorithms created by Garmin-owned outfit Firstbeat.
When it comes to battery life, you can expect up to 18 days, which is short of the 20 days on the first T-Rex. Heavy usage is 9 days and you can expect up to 40 hours of GPS battery life.
What it misses out on here really is some form of navigation support. So there's no breadcrumb navigation or the richer mapping features you get on Garmin's Fenix range. That may well be why it can promise such good battery numbers.
If you like the sound of a rugged watch that offers strong battery numbers and dedicated modes for range of outdoor sports, it's certainly one to consider. Especially when it costs the fraction of the price of most watches on this list.
We're still finishing up our T-Rex Pro testing, but you can have a read of our in-depth review of the original to get a flavour of what to expect.
Wareable verdict: Amazfit T-Rex review
Coros Vertix 2
Price when reviewed: ¬£599.99
With an incredible 140-hour full GPS battery life ‚Äď close to double the tracking time of its nearest rival ‚Äď the Coros Vertix 2 has upped the staying power stakes among top-end, endurance adventure watches. With such colossal battery life it's aimed at multi-day trekkers, but also ultrarunners and those with a keen interest in performance levels.
Coros‚Äô rival to the Garmin Fenix 6 also adds a dual-system GPS, mapping, music and EvoLab ‚Äď a powerful new suite of training insights to potentially rival Garmin and Polar.
Like the Apple Watch and the new Fitbits, there‚Äôs also an Electrocardiogram (ECG) Sensor in the outer bezel for taking ECG and Heart Rate Variability readings. You won‚Äôt find that ECG tech on Garmin equivalents, though Coros‚Äô tech is not yet fully approved for medical use.
At ¬£599.99, it‚Äôs a chunk cheaper than the Garmin Enduro ‚Äď the only other watch with a battery life near the new Vertix 2. But it's still a huge investment, that only a select few will actually need.
On paper the Vertix 2 claims up to 140 hours GPS battery life and up to 240 hours in UltraMax lower power mode.
Even when you turn on the All Systems GPS with Dual Frequency to squeeze out extra accuracy, you still get 50 hours. However, we didn't see any evidence that the mode added meaningful extra accuracy in our in-depth testing.
Standard GPS usage with music cuts your adventure time to 30 hours, though that‚Äôs still double what you get from a Fenix 6X Pro. Claimed general smartwatch usage is 60 days, and there‚Äôs also an expedition mode that stretches to 65 days.
In our tests, the Vertix 2 largely lived up to billing. On rest days, smartwatch usage barely drained 2-3% battery. It took 15 days to burn 50% with training, including more than 10 hours of GPS tracked workouts, covering a mix of indoor and outdoor sessions. That translates to at least 30 days on a single charge while training an hour a day.
But that comes at a price. It's beast of a watch that‚Äôll be too hefty for many. At 89g it‚Äôs heavier than all but the biggest Garmin Fenix 6X Pro (93g). Beyond the weight, the Vertix 2 is fatter and rises higher off the wrist, making it far less comfortable than something like the Garmin Enduro. In fact, we struggled to wear it overnight.
The 26mm silicone strap doesn‚Äôt help. It‚Äôs wider, thicker and more cumbersome than the Fenix 6, and far less comfortable than the Enduro‚Äôs nylon alternative. The quick-fit bands are interchangeable, and we‚Äôd definitely recommend one to improve wearability.
Fitness data includes real time training load, VO2 Max, pace and intensity guidance in the form of threshold pace and HR estimates, base fitness tracking, ongoing fatigue level, load impact and recovery time recommendations. It‚Äôll also assess your running performance level and give you a marathon level for benchmarking.
It‚Äôs more watch than most need but if you‚Äôve got big wrists, deep pockets and a serious dedication to more serious adventures, this is an indisputably capable multisport tool with a feature set ‚Äď and a price tag ‚Äď to rival the leading top-end watches.
Read our full Coros Vertix 2 review.
Suunto 9 Baro Black
Price when reviewed: ¬£499
With its range of rugged watches, Suunto is synonymous with sports of the outdoor variety. And with its Ambit GPS range and Spartan Sport collection, the company is all about offering that device that's primed for the outdoors.
To add to that collection is the Suunto 9. The multisport GPS watch built for the outdoors is waterproof up to 100 metres and comes with GPS/GLONASS and an optical heart rate monitor on board. Suunto is also introducing its new FusedAlti technology that combines GPS and barometric data to improve the accuracy of altitude data.
Other outdoor-friendly features include the ability to see sunrise/sunset times on the watch display and receive storm alarms when there's a sudden drop in air pressure. There's also route navigation improvements to help you get to destination safely and with the best route.
Like other Suunto Spartan Sport watches, it'll track over 80 sports with running, cycling and swimming being the core modes. Battery life is anywhere from 25 hours to 120 hours with Suunto's new intelligent battery mode on board to make sure you have enough power for your next expedition.
Wareable verdict: Suunto 9 review
Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F30
Price when reviewed: ¬£450
The Casio WSD-F30 represents the company's third roll at the Wear OS dice, to prove that a good outdoor smartwatch can exist.
The fresher sibling of the Casio Smart Outdoor WSD-F20 falls under the company's Pro Trek Smart Series banner, and most notably slims down the design and adds new outdoor-centric features in its third iteration.
Other than that, it's a pretty similar affair. This is still on the behemoth scale of smartwatches, and you'll be able to take advantage of all the sensors for around a day of adventuring.
The dual display mode also unlocks the ability to use more of its outdoor watch features without hammering the battery life in the process.
Casio has built a host of sensors and baked-in apps, measuring everything from air pressure to altitude ‚Äď and it also boasts tie-ins with Viewranger and other third party outdoor apps.
However, we've found the performance of these apps to be pretty flakey, and it's not without issues. What's more, battery life can't complete with dedicated GPS watches if you're planning to be out trekking for more than a day or two.
It makes our list for its mapping smarts.
The watch comes with two map options built into the software: Google Maps and Mapbox, and pops up instantly by pressing the top button on the watch.
You can also download maps of up to 50km via your phone connection. This is obviously a major plus point as the majority of places hikers go to inevitably have very a minimal data signal. Also, Mapbox, as far as we‚Äôre concerned, has much nicer topographical detail.
If you can live without the massive staying power and prefer something that offers more in smartwatch terms, Casio's Pro Trek may just have some appeal.
Wareable verdict: Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F30 review
Suunto Traverse Alpha
The Traverse may feel a little old next to the the Spartan Sport collection and the Suunto 9, but it's still a great outdoor watch for hikers.
In the Alpha, you're getting a rugged wearable that's suitable for hiking, fishing and even hunting with GPS/GLONASS navigation on board to track distance, speed and altitude.
Thanks to topographic maps support via Suunto's Movescount app, you can plan out routes and preview them right on the watch. There's even weather trends and a storm alarm to make sure you're not caught outside in terrible conditions.
If you're feeling more adventurous and fancy braving the night, the watch has a flashlight mode that allows the backlight to be used as a torch and is compatible with night vision goggles. Very handy for those late night toilet calls.
Garmin Quatix 6X Solar
An aqua-lover's delight, the Garmin Quatix 6X Solar is built for the water. That's because it's connected to some seriously nautical data.
The device lets you download up-to-date tide data via your smartphone, and can be paired to Garmin Chartplotters bringing boat data such as speed, depth, temperature, wind data to the watch. Other features include autopilot control, waypoint marking and the ability to control onboard entertainment systems.
If you're big into fishing, there's a fish log and competition timer, and if you love your sail racing , there's tack assist and a race countdown timer to make it worthy of a space on your wrist.
It's essentially a more attractive Fenix 6, which means you get all of the same sports and smartwatch features including payments and notification support.
With the addition of Garmin's Power Glass display tech, it also has solar charging powers to boost battery life while out at sea. That should give you up to 24 days in smartwatch mode with regular exposure to the sun.
It comes with either a titanium or polymer band and is waterproof up to 100 metres, making sure it's also definitely fit for a swim.