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 climbers, hikers, ocean goers and lovers of the great outdoors.

Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20

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Best outdoor GPS watches: Top trackers for hikers and adventurers

The Casio WSD-F20 represents the company's second stab at the Android Wear market, and is finally available after being announced 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.

We're currently testing out the device for a full review, but you can catch our first impressions of the Casio WSD-F20 from back at CES.

$500, casio.com | Amazon

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 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

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 below.

$499, suunto.com | Amazon

Garmin Fenix 5

Best outdoor GPS watches: Top trackers for adventure seekers

Announced at CES 2017, 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.

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 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 with 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 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.

$419, 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 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, and has also received a recent price snip thanks to the release of the Garmin Quatix 5.

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.

$449, garmin.com | Amazon


Shop for recommended smartwatches on Amazon

Samsung Gear S3
Samsung Gear S3
$299.99
Pebble 2
Pebble 2
$86.25
Apple Watch Series 2
Apple Watch Series 2
$308.88
Garmin Vivoactive HR
Garmin Vivoactive HR
$249.99

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5 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.

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