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Best Hiking Watches 2021

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This is a review about the Best Hiking Watches for backpacking in 2021.

Looking for the best GPS watch for hiking to take on your next trip. A watch that maybe has built in maps, GPS navigation, a barometer, altimeter and more. A watch that can not only tell you where you are, but track your movements, alert you to the changing weather, tell you your altitude and lastly tell you the time. The the watches below can do that.

But with so many great options it can be hard to pick one. Which is why I’ve put together the list of the best GPS Hiking watches on the market. I’ve added a brief buying guide for you and a handy checklist to ensure you’ve thought of everything before you buy.

Best Hiking Watches 2021

The Best Hiking Watches in 2021 are:


Best Hiking Watch for Backpacking 2021

Suunto 9 Baro

Pros:
> Awesome 25-120 hour battery life
> Features both GPS and a barometer
> You can buy it with a Wearable4U pack
> It has a very high level of water resistance
Cons:
> Some have said that the heart rate monitoring is inaccurate, which, to be honest, is a common complaint with all fitness trackers.
> Expensive

The Suunto 9 Baro is the best GPS watch on the market at the moment. All the other brands and watches are playing catch up to this watch. If you’re looking for the best hiking watch that you don’t have to charge up every night, this could be the watch for you.

Like some of the top of the range Suunto watches it features intelligent battery modes. When you start recording your hike, it will tell you how much battery you have left, and if it’s not long enough you can simply switch to another mode that uses less battery. And it can deliver between 25 and 120 hours of run time, even with GPS turned on.

The other great thing about this particular watch is that it comes with an integrated barometer. This will measure barometric pressure to give you your current altitude. This data gets merged with the GPS data for an even more accurate reading of your altitude. It can also be used to predict changes in the weather.

You don’t need to worry about the watch getting damaged in the rain. The water resistance of this watch is 100 m of water which is understandably more than you will need.

It looks great, has a large, 1.7 inch, easy to read display, and it will monitor your heart rate. You can log all your hiking and sporting activities, and connect with others via the Suunto app.

There is only one negative thing about this GPS hiking watch. It is expensive.

Overall, this is the best hiking watch for backpacking trips on the market in 2021.

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Best Smart Watch for Backpacking 2021

Suunto 7

Pros:
> Features GPS & full color maps
> Battery will last 12 hours in GPS mode
> It’s both a fitness tracker and smartwatch
> Will continue to work even in heavy rain
> It can play music and pay for goods
Cons:
> There’s no altimeter, barometer or compass, but with GPS you may not need it

I love the GPS functionality on this watch – you get a crystal clear map of your surroundings, all in full color.

And it’s also a fitness tracker, so in addition to tracking your distance via the GPS, it can also track your number of steps. And, thanks to the wrist heart rate sensor, you also get a more accurate reading of calories burned by your hike than you would get by estimating by distance walked. 

And that’s not all. It’s also a smartwatch, which means that you can pair it with your smartphone to receive incoming calls and messages right on your wrist.

You can also use it to play music, with or without internet connectivity. And when you’re back from your hike, you can use it to pay for items via Google Pay. 

It’s highly water resistant, and can even take being submerged in water.

The battery life is more than long enough – it will last 12 whole hours in GPS mode, so you can hike all day long before recharging. But in battery saver mode it will last up to 40 days.

Overall, this is the best GPS Hiking Smartwatch on the market at the moment.

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Best Garmin GPS Watch for Backpacking 2021

Garmin Fenix 6X Pro

Pros:
> GPS, Glonass & Galileo
> Altimeter, barometer & compass
> Rugged yet sophisticated design
> Impressive battery life in any mode
> Superior fitness tracker functionality
> Receive smart notifications & play music
> Enables contactless payment
Cons:
> Premium product at a premium price

The Garmin Fenix 6X Pro is the best Garmin GPS watch for hiking.

This is a watch that has everything. Not only does it have GPS but the maps can be displayed in color on a large 1.4 inch display.

And it also offers old school navigation tools, namely an altimeter, barometer, and compass.

It’s a superior fitness tracker, with enhanced estimated heart rate and even Pulse Ox.

It’s also a smartwatch, so you can pair it with a smartphone to receive notifications,

But that’s not all. It can also stream music as you hike, or be used for contactless payment.

It also has impressive battery life – it will last up to an impressive 15 hours in GPS mode, and 21 days in smartwatch mode.

But there’s yet another stand out feature with this watch, and that’s the fact that you can boost the battery life via solar charging if you get the solar version.

It has a rugged yet sophisticated design, meeting military standards for thermal, shock and water resistance.

Overall, this is the top of the range Garmin and the Best Garmin Hiking Watch on the market.

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Garmin Forerunner 945

Pros:
> GPS and full color maps
> Receive smart notifications
> Excellent 10 hour battery life
> High level of water resistance
> Download your favorite tunes
> Has Garmin Pay for payments
Cons:
> No barometer or compass

> You have to have a premium Spotify/Deezer/Amazon music for downloading music onto the watch

The Garmin Forerunner 945 is a solid preformer as a hiking watch. This watch is marketed as a premium running and triathlon sports watch, but the features which make it so well equipped for this are also the one that make for a good hiking watch.

First off, coming from Garmin, you know it’s going to be great for GPS. And it provides you with full color maps, so you can see exactly where you are as you hike.

Secondly it also has great fitness tracker functionality, including elusive Vo2 Max monitoring, enabling you to accurately track your training load, recovery time and aerobic and anaerobic status.

It’s also a smartwatch, so you can pair it with your phone for all your smart notifications. And it works with a range of different apps to play music, where you can not only stream your favorite tunes but also download them so you can listen to them offline as you hike.

It also features Garmin Pay, so if you need to pay for something and you don’t have your wallet, that’s not a problem.

The battery lasts for up to a whopping 10 hours in GPS mode, so you can go on a long day hike in the wilderness before you need to recharge it overnight. And the battery will last up to 2 weeks in smartwatch mode.

Designed for triathlons, it’s more than capable of standing up to a little rain.

Overall, the Garmin Forerunner 945 is one of the best hiking watches from Garmin but more suited to someone who wants a fitness watch first that they can also use for hiking and backpacking.

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Garmin Instinct

Pros:
> GPS, Glonass & Galileo
> Altimeter, barometer & compass
> Great fitness tracking & monitoring
> Built to military standards for durability
> Lengthy 16 hour battery life in GPS mode
Cons:
> The buttons extend beyond the edge of the housing, so you can accidentally press buttons as you move around your home

The Garmin Instinct is a watch designed for the great outdoors!

First off, it feature GPS so your location will be perfectly mapped out for you right on your wrist.

It also has old school navigation tools, including an altimeter, barometer and 3 axis compass.

It has great fitness tracking features, too, including heart rate monitoring, which is perfect for more accurate readings on the number of calories you burn as you hike. And it comes preloaded with a range of activity profiles.

The Garmin Instinct is also very tough and rugged – it has been built to military standards for thermal, shock and water resistance.

It’s also a smartwatch which means you can pair it with your smartphone over Bluetooth to receive smart notifications. 

The watch’s battery life will last a lengthy 16 hours in GPS mode, which is long enough for a day long hike. And it will last a whopping 14 days in smartwatch mode.

Overall, this is another solid Garmin GPS watch with Altimeter, Barometer and Compass.

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Best Budget Hiking Watch for Backpacking 2021

Suunto Core

Pros:
> Altimeter, barometer & compass
> High level of water resistance
> Remarkably long battery life
> Great value for money
Cons:
> No GPS functionality
> No smartwatch capability

Now, this is a great hiking watch for the more adventurous among you.

Rather than featuring GPS, instead it offers more traditional navigational tools, so you get to explore the great outdoors old school style. It’s got the full ABC, altimeter, barometer, and compass, and will display your data on an easy to read graphic.

So, you can easily find your way back to way points by knowing which way is North, tell how high up you are, and keep a beady eye to watch out for changes in the weather conditions.

And speaking of weather conditions, it can really hold up to the rain – it can even take being submerged in water (you can even wear it snorkelling).

And because there’s no integrated GPS or smartwatch functionality to drain the battery, the battery will last a remarkably long time, coming in at up to a staggering 12 months. The battery is replaceable and not rechargeable like the other watches in this review.

It’s also worth noting at this point that this is one of the more affordable watches that made our shortlist and the best budget hiking watch.

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Best Coros Hiking Watch 2021

Coros Apex Pro Premium

Pros:
> Designed for outdoor athletes
> GPS with route navigation maps
> Altimeter, barometer, & compass
> 40 hour long battery life
> Designed to withstand the rain
Cons:
> It’s not a smart watch, so you will not be able to pair it to your smartphone to receive any smart notifications

Now, the Coros brand may not be quite as well known as the likes of Suunto and Garmin, but let me assure you that its performance and build is right up there with them.

Designed for endurance athletes trekking through trails over mountains and the great outdoors, it offers both GPS and traditional navigation tools, including an altimeter, barometer, and compass. Plus a few extras, like a gyroscope and a thermometer.

And it has a range of different fitness tracker functions too. It can monitor your heart rate 24/7 thanks to the optical heart rate monitor, as well as calculating your number of steps and number of calories burned. It can also measure the likes of pace, distance, stride length, and cadence.

It has a good quality, sturdy construction, and is so highly water resistant, it can be used for water sports.

It has an incredibly long battery life when in GPS mode, and will last a whopping 40 hours before needing a recharge.

Overall, Coros is not as well known as Garmin and Suunto and the Coros Apex Pro is the best Coros watch on the market and certainly worth a look.

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GPS Hiking Watch Buyers Guide

As promised, here’s your buying guide. Here are a few things to consider before you buy.

Navigational Aids

Having GPS right on your wrist is the height of convenience when you’re hiking. Unlike handheld GPS units, a watch with GPS leaves you entirely hands free.

If I had to choose between GPS and traditional navigation tools, I would favor GPS. But if you want to go old school and use the older tools, we recommend going for the full ABC, which includes an altimeter, barometer and compass.

I would argue that color GPS maps are best, but you can often make do with black and white maps.

Level Of Water Resistance

Even if you plan to do your hike on a fine day, you never really know when you might get caught in a rain shower.

Hiking watches come in varying degrees of water resistance. I recommend going for a hiking watch with a water resistance rating of at least IP57 or higher. All the watches in the review above are rated at this or much higher.

Generally speaking, any watch designed with watersports in mind, as many sports watches are, can handle lots of rainfall.

Battery Life

As mentioned in the introduction, the last thing you’d want while hiking is to be totally lost and find that your watch battery is dead if you want to use it for navigating.

Sure you can avoid this by ensuring the watch is fully charged before you leave home. But some hiking watches will only last 6 hours or so in GPS mode. Using GPS mode can really drain the battery.

Thankfully however all the watches that made our shortlist all last longer than this in GPS mode. Some last significantly longer.

Fitness Tracking

Many sports watches these days offer all kinds of fitness tracking, including the likes of distance travelled, number of steps, and heart rate monitoring. Some even enable you to share your hike location and stats online.

Smartwatch Functionality

Many sports watches these days can be paired with a smartphone so that you can receive smart notifications right on your wrist. Most people find this very convenient, but some consider it a nuisance. If you’re out hiking you may want to feel like you’re completely off grid.

Value For Money

In our view, “cheaper” doesn’t always translate to “better value for money”. Higher end gear comes at a higher cost because they provide superior quality, and are more feature rich.

However, if you do have a budget to stick by, be sure to check the prices as you go along.

Conclusion

Overall, the Best GPS Hiking Watches in 2021 are the Suunto 9 Baro and Garmin Fenix 6X Pro with the Suunto Core being a solid budget option whihch lacks the GPS and Mapping function.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who makes the Best Hiking Watches?

The Best Hiking Watches are made by Suunto and Garmin. Coros also making high quality GPS hiking watches for backpacking , trekking and hiking. Apple watches are not so good for as hiking watches, stick with Suunto and Garmin.

Are GPS Watches good for Hiking?

All of the best GPS watches from Garmin and Suunto are great for hiking and backpacking. Watches that include a GPS, Altimeter, Barometer and Compass give you everything you need for navigation when hiking with a watch

Is a Hiking Watch better than a GPS?

Overall, a top quality stand alone GPS unit is generally better than a Hiking Watch. But the best quality GPS Hiking Watches from Suunto and Garmin are equal to a most stand alone GPS units.

What Watch do Thru Hikers Use?

Thru Hikers like to use either cheap watches that do nothing more than tell the time, or, they prefer top quality GPS navigation watches such as the Suunto 9 Baro and Garmin Fenix 6X Pro. But both these watches are very expensive.


Another one of the Best Hiking Gear Reviews from BikeHikeSafari.

Best Hiking Watch

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About the Author:
Brad is an Australian who has completed the hiking Triple Crown after he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. He has hiked on every continent (except Antarctica) and has cycled from Alaska to Ecuador. He is an expert on outdoor gear currently living in Sydney, Australia.

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