Best outdoor GPS watches: Top trackers for hikers and adventurers

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Best outdoor watches for adventurers
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People who love the great outdoors need a GPS sports watch in their life. Whether you're all about hiking, skiing, trail running or wild swimming, the latest multi-sport 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.

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.

Read this: Best running watches to buy now

Got any questions about our selections below? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Garmin Fenix 5 Plus

Best outdoor GPS watches: Top trackers for hikers and adventurers

The Garmin Fenix 5 range is one of the best quality outdoor watches on the market, and the Fenix 5 Plus is essential for outdoorsy types.

In terms of the standard watches, the feature set of the Fenix 5 Plus range doesn't deviate too much from the older Garmin Fenix 5. You get an absurd amount of sports tracked (running, cycling etc), but outdoors-types will find hiking, trailing running, swimming and even paddle boarding.

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. Well, can upload GPX routes using Garmin Basecamp – but you get so much more data than any other outdoor watch option. What's more, the newer Fenix 5 Plus uses topographic maps, which adds a whole dimension to wrist-based navigation, and you can even find places of interest straight from the watch.

And battery life is another huge plus. UltraTrac mode offers 42 hours of GPS (60 hours on the older Fenix 5). That's a weekend of hiking without charging, which is a big plus for multi-day runners or walkers.

There's loads of Fenix 5 Plus variants – and the older Fenix 5 is still worth a punt. There's the Fenix 5 Plus (47mm), and a smaller Fenix 5S Plus (42mm) that sacrifices battery life. The larger Fenix 5X Plusis 52mm, but features blood oxygen readings, for even more biometric data.

The Fenix 5 original range comes in the same sizes – but you miss out on Garmin Pay, the topographic maps and the blood ox. But if you can grab a bargain on the older models, you don't be disappointed.

Wareable verdicts: Garmin Fenix 5 Plus review | Garmin Fenix 5S Plus review | Garmin Fenix 5X Plus review

Fenix 5 Plus: £599.99 Amazon | garmin.com

Fenix 5S Plus: £599.99, Amazon | garmin.com

Fenix 5X Plus: £749.99, Amazon | garmin.com

Fenix 5 – £499.99, Amazon | garmin.com

Fenix 5S – £499.99, Amazon | garmin.com

Fenix 5X – £769.99, Amazon | garmin.com

Suunto 9 Baro black

Best outdoor GPS watches: Top trackers for hikers and adventurers

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

£499, Amazon | suunto.com

Garmin Instinct

Best outdoor GPS watches: Top trackers for hikers and adventurers

If the price of the Fenix 5 Plus is too rich for your blood, the Garmin Instinct packs in a lot of the same features for less than Garmin's top end outdoor watch.

While you don't get to read maps on it or get features like Connect IQ support or Garmin Pay, you do get the likes of course navigation, 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 while it lacks contactless payments and a built-in music player, it does let you view your smartphone notifications.

On the battery life front, you can expect up to 14 days of battery life in smartwatch mode, 16 hours in GPS mode and up to 40 hours in UltraTrac battery saver mode.

Wareable verdict: Garmin Instinct review

£269.99, Amazon | garmin.com


Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F30

Best outdoor GPS watches: Top trackers for hikers and adventurers

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 – 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.

Wareable verdict: Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F30 review

£450, Amazon | casio.com



Suunto Traverse Alpha

Best outdoor GPS watches: Top trackers for hikers and adventurers

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.

£399, Amazon | suunto.com


Garmin Quatix 5

Best outdoor GPS watches: Top trackers for hikers and adventurers

An aqua-lover's delight, the Garmin Quatix 5 is built for the water. Firstly because it's water resistant to 100 metres, and secondly because it's connected to some nautical data.

The device lets you download up-to-date tide data via your smartphone, while also providing an anchor alarm that'll warn you about boat drift. If you need help dropping anchor, a dedicated calculator will also let you know what the proper length of line you should use.

If you happen to be fishing, there's a fish log and competition timer, and if you're sail racing, there's tack assist, race countdown timer, distance to start line and more.

It's essentially a more attractive Fenix 5 with upgraded smarts for the seas, though surfers may want to cast their eyes to Nixon's The Mission. The rugged Wear OS smartwatch delivers real-time surf conditions to help you catch those killer waves.

£499.99, Amazon | garmin.com


Amazfit Stratos

Best outdoor GPS watches: Top trackers for hikers and adventurers

As you'll have already noticed, the amount of truly budget watches for the outdoors is pretty slim. However, the Amazfit Stratos looks to plug that gap by providing an ample impression of high-tier devices from the likes of Garmin. However, don't forget that an Amazfit Stratos 3 is on the horizon.

Like the other hitters on this list, the crux here is in its built-in tracking modes, which is also backed up by GPS/GLONASS support and a heart rate monitor. Thanks to a partnership with Firstbeat, more advanced metrics, such as VO2 Max and Training Load, are also on board.

The rugged, 46mm design is outdoor friendly, and you'll get around 20 hours of battery life GPS mode and five days in smartwatch mode. Naturally, that'll vary if you also decide to take advantage of the 4GB of built-in music storage.

Given the price, this has to be a consideration if you don't have the capital to launch a bid for the more expensive outdoor watches on this list.

Wareable verdict: Amazfit Stratos review

$199.99, Amazon | amazfit.com


TomTom Adventurer

Best outdoor GPS watches: Top trackers for hikers and adventurers

Building on its TomTom Spark running range, the Adventurer is still a GPS watch at heart, but throws in some killer outdoor extras, which make it a good pick for fans of the wilderness.

New sport modes mean you can now track hiking, trail running, skiing and snowboarding, and you can quickly upload GPX routes to follow them from the watch. With extra pressure sensors on-board, the Adventurer can track altitude and elevation gain, as well as distance and pace.

If you're off skiing or snowboarding, a new lift detection mode can recognise when you're going up a lift and give you a summary of the previous session. In terms of battery life, our testing has found about 20 hours of GPS tracking if you turn the heart rate monitor off.

But the best feature for our money is the route exploration. Use a third-party tool like Strava to build a GPX route – or download one from the web – and you can have it displayed on the watch for you to follow – great for when you actually get off the beaten track.

It's a top list of outdoor features with genuine USPs – and the Adventurer is also the cheapest watch in our list by some margin.

We should mention, though, that TomTom has made the decision to back away from building wearables. As the Adventurer plays nice with third-party apps, there should be support for some time yet, but it's certainly worth keeping in mind when exploring this watch.

Wareable verdict: TomTom Adventurer review

£269.99, Amazon | tomtom.com




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