Best outdoor GPS watches: Top trackers for hikers and adventurers

Helping you tackle the toughest terrain on land or in the water
Best outdoor watches for adventurers

Those who love the great outdoors need a GPS watch in their life. Whether you love hiking, skiing, trail running or wild swimming, the latest multisport 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.

Read this: The best GPS running watches

If that perfectly describes the kind of watch companion you're looking for, we've rounded up our pick of the best smartwatches for the climbers, hikers, ocean goers and lovers of the great outdoors.

Garmin Fenix 5

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Best outdoor GPS watches: Top trackers for adventure seekers

Announced at CES 2017, we're still waiting for the Garmin Fenix 5 to officially hit the shelves, but it's set to be a leader in the outdoor watch field. In terms of features, there's little that's changed from the Fenix 3, but we'll also be treated to the smaller 42mm Fenix 5S, which is a lot more female-friendly than the older 47mm design. You get running, swimming, rowing, skiing, golf and paddle sports.

A new Training Load metric gives users glance at a 7-day picture of EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption) data that will enable users to examine, monitor, and evaluate training programs.

Essential reading: Garmin Fenix 5 review

Fenix 5 – $599.99,

Fenix 5S – $599.99,

Fenix 5X – $699.99,

TomTom Adventurer

Best outdoor GPS watches: Top trackers for adventure seekers

Building on its TomTom Spark running range, the Adventurer packs in many of the same features but throws in some killer outdoor extras which make it a canny 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.

If you're off skiing, a new lift detection mode can recognise when you're going up a lift if you're skiing or snowboarding and give you a summary of the previous session. In terms of battery life, you should be able to get 24 hours continuous use in hiking mode.

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.

In-depth look: TomTom Adventurer review

$349.99, | Amazon

Suunto Ambit3 Vertical Multisport

With its range of rugged watches, Suunto is synonymous with sports of the outdoor variety and the Ambit GPS watch range has always pushed the boundaries so the wearer can too. The latest in the line up, the Ambit3 Vertical Multisport is no different but it does come with some everyday tricks too. To kick things off, there's an impressive 100 hour battery life, a lightweight construction that's water resistant up to 100 metres and it can also handle notifications from your phone.

The Vertical is backed up by the increasingly sophisticated Suunto Movescount app, which is smart enough to allow for navigation using variations in watch vibrations. Crucially, this should mean more time focused on the experience with less watch fumbling. Then when you're done, there's every metric from distance travelled and speed to height climbed and more viewable on the companion phone app.

The Movescount platform even lets you turn your adventure into a mini movie, punctuated with photos, route map and all your vital stats. That's instant social media fodder for the connected adventurer.

$519, | Amazon

Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire HR

Garmin went all out with the Fenix 3 Sapphire HR and created what might be the best Garmin watch yet, taking the already impressive Fenix 3 and adding scratch-resistant glass and a wrist-based heart rate monitor. That data can then be collated with plenty of other metrics like speed, distance, altitude, barometric pressure, route and more.

Read this: Garmin Fenix 3 HR tips and tricks

While out, the watch will handle water submersion to 100 metres, dish out 16 hours in GPS mode, 40 in UltraTrac and two weeks in watch mode. Plus there are notifications from a connected smartphone, allowing that to stay in a waterproof pocket while you get on with tackling more extreme situations.

Of course, the arrival of the Fenix 5 means there are chances to bag a tasty bargain on Fenix 3 models.

Wareable verdict: Read our full Garmin Fenix 3 HR review


Suunto Traverse

The Suunto Traverse, as the name suggests, is made for hikers. Thanks to built-in topographic maps the watch can offer at a glance location in relation to trails anywhere. But it'll also look after you along the way, thanks to alerts for storms based on barometric trends.

Even the amount of light left before sunset is taken into account so you can set up camp, or head home, before the darkness sets in. If you're feeling more adventurous and braving out the night, the watch has a flashlight mode that allows the backlight to be used as a torch. Very handy for those late night toilet calls.

On top of all that the tough build is good for 100 metre water resistance, offers GPS and GLONASS (for added accuracy) plus smart notifications and a 100 hour battery life.

$469, | Amazon

Garmin Quatix 3

Aquaman's delight, the Garmin Quatix 3 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 watch can feed in data from a boat's NMEA 2000 system for speed, temperature, depth, wind data and more. It'll even tell sailors how deep to roll out their anchor when stopping at sea.

The battery is good for 20 hours of GPS, 50 in UltraTrac mode and six weeks in watch mode. It's essentially the more attractive Fenix 3, with upgraded smarts for the seas. Hence the $599 price tag.

For the surfers, you may well want to cast your eye over Nixon The Mission. The rugged Android Wear smartwatch delivers real time surf conditions to help you catch those killer waves.

$599, | Amazon

Shop for recommended smartwatches on Amazon

Samsung Gear S3
Samsung Gear S3
Pebble 2
Pebble 2
Apple Watch Series 2
Apple Watch Series 2
Garmin Vivoactive HR
Garmin Vivoactive HR

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  • Ajaywayfarer says:

    Great article. Well written and informative. Thank you.

  • Ajaywayfarer says:

    Great article. Well written and informative. Thank you!

  • Snaps says:

    Suunto watch bands are only good for 10-11months. Price for something so disposable is deplorable is over the top. Suunto customer support is lacking.

  • AlexDwight says:

    This is a great article and I'll definitely look into some of these to add to my current collection. I currently own a Momentum Watch VS-3 Altimeter Trek Watch with a barometer and compass and I absolutely love it. Would recommend it to anyone as well. 

  • DonGo says:

    You comment  "Thanks to built-in topographic maps the watch can offer at a glance location in relation to trails anywhere".   Can you please tell me how you access these in the watch as you said.

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