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 2
Price when reviewed: Instinct 2: $349/¬£299 | Instinct 2 Solar: $449/¬£329
The Garmin Instinct 2 packs in a lot of the same hiking features found on Garmin's Fenix series watches, but for substantially less money. If you opt for the solar edition as well, and you spend enough time outdoors with it, you're going to enjoy seriously big battery life for your adventures too.
The Instinct 2 is an excellent outdoors watch and cheaper at $349/¬£299. Adding in solar pushes the price up to $449/¬£329, but outside of Garmin's PowerGlass lens, offers the same features as the regular Instinct 2.
The Instinct's biggest miss over the likes of the Fenix 7 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, Garmin's Pulse Ox sensor to to aid trekking and training and altitude and now offers all of the training analysis available on Garmin's Forerunner watches.
Garmin has now added full Connect IQ Store access and Garmin Pay to make it a better smartwatch, but does still lack a built-in music player
When it comes to battery life, the Instinct 2 offers a significant jump in performance compared to the original Insinct and Instinct Solar. You're now getting 28 days in smartwatch mode and 30 hours of GPS battery. That's boosted when you factor in that solar support, which can technically help the watch enjoy unlimited battery.
Garmin also offers Surf, Tactical and Camo versions of the Instinct 2 for some added tracking support. Though for most, the Instinct 2 should offer enough to make it a good outdoor watch companion.
Garmin Fenix 7
Price when reviewed: From $699/¬£599
If you want one of the best new outdoor watches that delivers the best mapping experience out there, then the Fenix 7 series is what you need on your wrist.
It's pricier than our top pick the Instinct 2, but whether you go for the Fenix 7 (pictured), 7S or the 7X, you're getting a more typical Garmin transflective display now with touchscreen capabilities along with a rich array of sports and activity modes including hiking, climbing and skiing.
Like the Fenix 6, you're getting a similar rugged look, with the option to pay more for a tougher Power Sapphire lens, which still gives you a more substantial solar battery boost than the 6. The Fenix 7X we tested is capable of delivering up to 28 days in smartwatch mode (or 37 days with solar), 89 hours of GPS battery life (122 hours with solar) and 62 days (139 days with solar) in Expedition GPS mode.
You're still getting full color Topo maps, with multi-continent maps either preloaded or downloaded. Beyond the standard 7 series models, you'll have access to multi band GNSS support to increase outdoor tracking accuracy in more typically problematic satellite coverage areas. There's the ability to upload maps and use turn-by-turn navigation and back to the start features, while new features like real-time stamina aim to give you a better sense of how far you can train or run for.
The 7X also exclusively includes an LED flashlight, to give you a visibility boost with the choice of white and red light options to pick from.
If you want an outdoor watch that's great to look at maps on, help you navigate your way and give you heaps of battery life, this is one you want. The Fenix 7 or 7S will likely serve most people best, but if you want the best and the biggest, it's the 7X you want.
Garmin Epix (Gen 2)
Price when reviewed: From $699/¬£599
If you like the idea of having a Fenix-style watch but would rather have a color touchscreen instead of Garmin's usual transflective one, then the new Epix will give you that.
It only comes in the one size, but matches the 47mm case frame of the Fenix 7 and plants an AMOLED display in the middle, which is bright, colorful and helps to bring outdoor features like mapping to life.
Like the Fenix 7 series, you're getting all of the same outdoor tracking modes and those key ABC (altimeter, barometer and compass) sensors and features like turn-by-turn navigation, multi-continent Topo map and the multi band GNSS support to offer superior outdoor tracking accuracy.
You're getting an array of smartwatch features here too, including Garmin Pay and a music player to pile on tunes for offline use. You can also connect additional sensors like an external heart rate monitor, if you yearn for more accurate heart rate data during more intense treks.
It won't give you the same level of battery life as the Fenix or the Enduro (below), but you can still get an impressive 16 days in smartwatch mode, or 6 days when the screen is in always-on mode. It's up to 42 hours in GPS mode and 21 days in battery saver mode.
You'll get a great outdoor watch with the best of Garmin's tracking features plus a vibrant color display, which offers strong visibility outdoors and doesn't drain the battery in a really undesirable way.
Read our full Garmin Epix review
Coros Vertix 2
Price when reviewed: $699.99/¬£599.99
With an incredible 140-hour full GPS battery life, the Coros Vertix 2 offers serious levels of stamina to take on what you'll get from Garmin's top end Fenix 7 series watch.
With such colossal battery life it's aimed at multi-day trekkers, but also ultrarunners and those with a keen interest in performance levels.
The Vertix 2 includes 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 heart rate variability readings. You won‚Äôt find that ECG tech on Garmin equivalents, though Coros‚Äô tech is not approved or designed for medical use.
At $699/¬£599, it‚Äôs a chunk cheaper than the Garmin Enduro and around the same price as the cheapest Fenix 7 series option.
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 and claimed general smartwatch usage is 60 days, with an expedition mode stretching that 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.
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 outdoor watches.
Read our full Coros Vertix 2 review.
Price when reviewed: From $799/¬£699
Before the Fenix 7 series was on the scene, it was the Enduro where you'd find the biggest battery life. While it no longer holds that title, it's still a great watch option for ultra runners and trail runners to consider.
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 and 7X watches, including the same sized 51mm case and 280 x 280 transflective display.
You getting most of the same features as the biggest Fenix 6 series 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 to other 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: From $549.99/¬£529 (Fenix 6 Pro)
While the Fenix 7 series might be on the scene, we don't think you should rule it out as an option to grab. Especially if you can find it at a good price.
In true Fenix fashion, 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 the best maps around though navigating your surroundings using the watches five buttons can take some getting used to.
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 Fenix 6 and 6S Solar versions, which adds three days smartwatch use to the already generous longevity. However, only extreme adventurers will benefit from the upgrade.
The key things you're missing out from the Fenix 7 series are longer battery life with or without solar, touchscreen functionality across the range, more accurate outdoor tracking and some software features that feel like they could end up rolling out to the 6.
Polar Grit X Pro
Price when reviewed: $449/¬£439
The Grit X Pro is an upgraded version of the Grit X watch Polar rolled out in 2020, adding features that probably should've appeared on the original to make it an affordable outdoor option to Garmin's top end outdoor watches.
Polar puts a big focus on endurance and recovery, so major features are things like FuelWise, which 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
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's Fenix series. 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.
In terms of what you're getting over the original Grit X, there's an added trackback feature for navigation and the ability to view route and elevation profiles. Those features seem unlikely to come to the original either.
Polar is also adding the three recovery-centric tests from its Vantage V2 watch. That's the leg recovery test along with running and cycling performance tests.
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.
The Grit X doesn't quite match the Fenix 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 Pro comes highly recommended.
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.
Read our full Amazfit T-Rex review
Suunto 9 Baro Black
Price when reviewed: $599/¬£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 intelligent battery mode on board to make sure you have enough power for your next expedition.
Wareable verdict: Suunto 9 review
Garmin Quatix 6X Solar
Price: $114.99/¬£999.99 $1149.99
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.