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.

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

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 good pick for fans of the wilderness.

Read this: Best altimeter watches

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 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, 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, tomtom.com | Amazon

Garmin Fenix 5

Best outdoor GPS watches: Top trackers for adventure seekers

The Garmin Fenix 5 is one of the densest smartwatch operations on the market and a leading contender when it comes to outdoor options.

In terms of features, there's little that's changed from the Fenix 3, but you're now able to pick up the smaller 42mm Fenix 5S, which is a lot more female-friendly than the standard 47mm design, and a behemoth Fenix 5X variant. You get running, swimming, rowing, skiing, golf and paddle sports once you strap on one of these bad boys.

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

Essential reading: Garmin Fenix 5 review | Garmin Fenix 5S review

Fenix 5 – $599.99, garmin.com

Fenix 5S – $599.99, garmin.com

Fenix 5X – $699.99, garmin.com

Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR

Best outdoor GPS watches: Top trackers for hikers and adventurers

The first of several Suunto options on this list, the Spartan Sport Wrist HR is pretty much the clone of the original Spartan Sport in every way, apart from packing in the company's first optical heart rate sensor.

If you're looking to track a wide range of sports, the Wrist HR is up there with the very best, offering you 80 options from the wrist. Standard activities include running, trail running, treadmill running, cycling and swimming (open and pool), but there's even a triathlon option and a mode for obstacle training.

It's not quite on the same level as the Spartan Ultra, the flagship of the Spartan line, but it's a more affordable option than, say, the Garmin Fenix 5.

Wareable verdict: Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR

$499, suunto.com | Amazon

Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20

Best outdoor GPS watches: Top trackers for hikers and adventurers

The Casio WSD-F20 represents the company's second roll at the Android Wear dice, and is finally available for you to take on trips after initially being unveiled back in January.

The fresher sibling of the Casio Smart Outdoor WSD-F10 falls under the company's Pro Trek Smart Series banner, while also delivering the one feature that users of the original sorely missed: built-in GPS.

Other than that, it's a pretty similar affair. This is still on the behemoth scale of smartwatches, even compared to others below, and you'll be able to take advantage of all the sensors for around a day of adventuring.

During our Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 review, we found the device to be a solid upgrade, but not necessarily the peak of the outdoor watch game.

$500, casio.com | 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 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 and less watch fumbling. Then, when you're done, there's every metric from distance travelled and speed to height climbed and more, which you can view on the companion 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.

$369, suunto.com | Amazon


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 fancy braving 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, suunto.com | Amazon


Garmin Quatix 5

Best outdoor GPS watches: Top trackers for hikers and adventurers

An aquaman'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 Android Wear smartwatch delivers real-time surf conditions to help you catch those killer waves.

$599.99, garmin.com | Amazon




6 Comments

  • 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.

  • teddyfinn says:

    Can you please inform me about the following -

    I want to be able to track my cumulative ascent when trekking. Do any of these watches record this info. daily/weekly etc.

    Thanks.

What do you think?

Connect with Facebook, Twitter, or just enter your email to sign in and comment.