10 Best Outdoor Watches in 2023: Hiking & Backpacking
Let’s break down the best outdoor watches that don’t break down in extreme conditions.
Outdoor watches are a vast category. Not every watch will fit every aspect of an outdoor watch as outdoor activities may vary from various sports to hiking and outdoor adventures. This article will focus on outdoor watches that are built for hiking, camping, or diving.
Many of us often make the mistake of buying sports watches while choosing an outdoor watch. But does an ideal sports watch qualify to be a good outdoor watch? Well, there is a blurred line between these two. To understand the distinction between a sports watch and a rugged outdoor watch we would need to know the features of both of them.
Do you need an Outdoor watch?
These days we spend most of our days on our smartphones. They can do almost everything. But what else does an outdoor watch do extra? Not really it does anything extra that your 1000$ smartphone can’t do but it does things more conveniently.
Think of a scenario when you are hiking through a trekking trail and constantly following GPS paths on your phone, inconvenient right? Neither is your smartwatch great to use while you are swimming or going for a dive.
Here are your tough, rugged outdoor watches to save your day. They are good with GPS, run for days, measure key metrics, and add as a cool accessory.
Looking for the best sleeping bags for camping? Then check this out.
What makes a great outdoor watch?
One which is rugged, tough for rocky terrains, shock-absorbant, reliable in any conditions, and has long-lasting battery life. There is an excellent metric to measure the features of an outdoor watch and it’s simply called ‘ABC’, which means a watch with Altimeter, Barometer, and Compass.
Do all the watches need to be an ABC hiking watch? Not really, but certain attributes must make your purchase justified. After hours of a thorough study of these watches, we have listed down a few of the best ones out there in the market.
I know this will be a long article and in case if you do not want to explore till the end then you might check out our recommendation Garmin Fenix 7 Solar for the best outdoor watch.
What we check before making a recommendation:
- Durability: For outdoor activities like hiking, running, cycling or diving durability is the important thing to look at. Watches should be made of titanium, steel, or hardened plastic to absorb shocks and drops.
- Waterproof: An outdoor watch should be waterproof. And it should be a minimum of 50m water-resistant. We should be looking at water-resistant ratings carefully.
- GPS and ABC features: A perfect watch for hiking, and climbing should have inbuilt GPS along with Compass, Barometer, and Altimeter to guide you on your journey. Having other activity monitors on your watch is an added bonus.
- Battery life: I prefer outdoor watches that have long-lasting batteries as you would not find options to charge them outdoors frequently. Solar-powered ones are an even better choice.
- Readability: I always look for a watch with a big watch face that helps me while using navigation or checking the watch under dark surroundings. Also, if the watch has smartwatch features you should look for high peak brightness in your watch before buying.
- Connectivity: Bluetooth or wifi connectivity is good to have. Having an SOS feature can be very useful for survival if you get lost.
- Lightweight: We don’t look at this aspect quite often but a lightweight outdoor watch really helps on the go. Also looks for strap materials that are lightweight and breathable.
These watches though might not look that fashionable but rest assured they are worth every penny for a true adventurer. Looks are an added advantage though.
- Best Hiking Watch: Garmin Fenix 7 Solar
- Good Alternative: SUUNTO Vertical
- Best in budget: Casio Men’s Pro Trek PRG-270-1 Tough Solar
- Best for high performance: Garmin Enduro
- Best diving watch: Luminox Navy Seal XS.3581.EY
- Surprise entry: Apple Watch Ultra
- Feature-packed in budget: Garmin Instinct Tactical
- Best Outdoor Smartwatch: Amazfit T-Rex Ultra Smart Watch
- Best Solar-powered watch: Casio Men’s ‘PRO TREK’
- Cheapest in Smartwatches: Amazfit T-Rex Pro Smart Watch
Best Hiking Watch
After trying and exploring hundreds of watches and comparing them for many hours we have finally made our decision. Let’s check that out.
- Multi-GNSS support has access to multiple global navigation satellites alongside GPS.
- 1.3” large screen for better readability outdoors. Options for control by both buttons and UI.
- Thermal, shock, and water resistant athletic design built as per U.S military standards.
- Long battery life with solar charging can go up to 22 days nonstop. Active GPS tracking mode can last up to 73 hours.
- Altimeter for elevation, a barometer to get weather updates, and a 3-axis electronic compass
- Downloaded maps with 40,000 golf courses and 2000 ski resorts marked on them.
- Built-in sports apps to measure your metrics for active sports and 24/7 fitness and wellness monitoring.
- Real-time stamina monitoring to give updates to hikers, swimmers, or cyclists.
- Smart notifications, Bluetooth, and wifi connectivity keep you connected.
- It’s a chunky watch with a weight of 238 grams. If you are switching from lightweight smartwatches this can be difficult for you in the beginning.
- Being strictly made for outdoor activities it lacks the best of watch screens. So, you will feel its peak brightness is little tow.
- Not as user-friendly as our regular smartwatches like Apple watches. It also has understandably low options for customization.
If you are looking for an outdoor watch that looks more like a smartwatch and is lightweight but still equally tough and rugged then this watch from Suunto is a good alternative to the Garmin Fenix 7 Solar.
- It weighs only 74gm though extremely tough and its lightweight design is useful for active outdoor sports.
- It has a long battery life of up to 60 days. With solar charging, it can last even longer. In tracking mode, it can last 60 hours.
- Dualband GPS communicates with major satellites to provide exceptional accuracy in difficult conditions.
- Global maps can be used in offline mode after connecting with Suunto app from your mobile device.
- 1.4” Watch face provides better readability. Helps in GPS tracking on trails.
- Bluetooth compatible.
- The watch case is a bit thicker. It can stick out from the wrist quite a bit.
- Lacks the finesse of a smartwatch in design and also it is low on brightness.
- Only possible to set one alarm at a time.
Best Budget Watch
I was looking for the best outdoor watch on a budget as it’s good to start off with a budget one to explore what are you missing in this one. Then gradually move towards the better ones. And while exploring I just found the best one.
And Taking about the best rugged and tough watches no wonder Casio G-Shock makes it to the list.
- ABC sensor watch within budget.
- Tough, stainless steel watch case for good performance.
- Long battery life with the capability of solar power recharging
- Auto LED backlight for visibility in low light or dark environments.
- Options for multiple alarms and stopwatch
- No modern health and wellness monitoring system.
- No GPS.
- A little heavy watch with weights over 300gm.
- Inconsistent at times with all the ABC features
Best for high performance
While looking for a watch that will be lightweight and be the best for athletes who constantly feature in high-performance sports, I found this watch from Garmin.
- Great battery life. With exposure to sunlight, you can extend the battery life with solar charging.
- The water-resistant watch is great for swimming, running, and other sports.
- Monitors sleep cycle and rest timings to recommend workouts and rest required.
- Useful for people who like very lightweight watches.
- Altimeter, barometer, and digital compass in-built.
- Trail Run V02 Max estimates the cardiovascular fitness level of trail runners by adjusting based on the varying trails.
- No option for touchscreen inputs, you can only control using buttons.
- No option for maps, GPS can only track routes.
- It has a nylon strap to make it lightweight. But that can be uncomfortable for some people as those can get sweaty.
Best diving watch
I thought a lot before putting this watch on the list as compared to the ones that can perform some crazy stuff. This watch is completely analog and neither has ABC sensors to go with.
So, why is it there? I am putting this for the diving enthusiasts out there who love tough and rugged watches. Let’s check that out from the world-renowned Swiss watchmaker Luminox
- One of the best watch out there for diving. Specifically built for deep-sea diving.
- Built for harsh and rough conditions. Tough carbonate materials and hardened glass last very long.
- The watch weighs only 7oz which is pretty good and is extremely useful for swimming and diving.
- Always-on illumination helps in checking the watch under any condition and in dark surroundings.
- One of the best-looking elegant watches on the list. If you are a sucker for Swiss watches this one’s for you.
- No GPS and ABC sensors.
- This one is for diving enthusiasts or people who want a tough and minimalistic tough watch.
- No option for connectivity with smartphones.
- Don’t go for this one if you are looking for feature-packed watches.
I never thought I would be considering this watch on this list. But, times have changed and the all-new Apple watch ultra has come a long way that can make a place in the list of outdoor hiking watches. I had a deep consideration before including the $799 watch. Let’s find out why.
- With the big & brightest display on a smartwatch navigation & user interface becomes very easy.
- The depth gauge provides accurate readings up to 40M underwater with real-time water temperature measurement. Comes with a full dive monitor that stores full dive data.
- Dual-band GPS provides navigation in difficult situations with accuracy and precision.
- Digital compass provides extremely accurate views and functions.
- Digital crown and buttons help in using the watch wearing gloves as well.
- It also has an 86-decibel siren that can be heard from a distance of 600 ft which can be really helpful in case you need help.
- Safety features like crash detection, fall detection & Emergency SOS automatically call for an emergency.
- Important health monitoring features like the Blood Oxygen app, ECG app, Heart rate monitor, and cycle tracker are extremely useful features to have in health and wellness.
- It gives 36 hours of battery life in normal use. And that can be a big concern for hikers and backpackers who go camping. In GPS mode that comes down to even less. With all those features this one is a major drawback.
- No option for solar charging.
- This watch can feel a little chunky or big if were using previous versions of Apple watches or has smaller wrist.
Best Outdoor Smartwatch
There would be many fitness enthusiasts who can not let go of their smartwatches. I have already mentioned the best smartwatch on the market. But If you are looking for a smartwatch that is rugged and in your budget then check this out.
- Dual-band GPS works precisely along with offline maps which can be imported from smartphones.
- The build on this watch is quite strong and is rated for mud resistance. So, it’s ideal for outdoor fun activities like hiking, off-roading, etc.
- Comes with multiple features like a compass, altimeter, SPO2 Monitor, Sunrise-Sunset timers, and storm warning alerts made for the adventurer in you.
- Bluetooth connectivity enables seamless connectivity with various devices like heart rate belts and cycling power meters.
- Comes with EN13319 & ISO 6245 certifications for devices rated for freediving.
- Extremely long-lasting battery life compared to a smartwatch like the Apple watch ultra.
- The heart rate monitor is found to be inconsistent among many users.
- Issues noticed in other health and wellness monitoring features.
- It’s a heavy and big watch which may be troublesome if you want to use it for sleep monitoring.
- Extremely rugged built in this price range. Good enough to withstand shock and heat in harsh conditions.
- GPS and built-in three-axis compass help in navigation. Also, you can track back on the route you have come from.
- Stealth mode option to hide GPS location and stop any wireless connectivity.
- Long battery life gives you the advantage to be outdoors without thinking of charging frequently.
- Button-controlled. It does not have an OLED screen, no NFC, and no touch facilities.
- No clear manual is available which makes it difficult to use.
- Steps counter and other tracking activities don’t work most accurately.
- 200M water-resistance rating makes it good for water sports activities. But not suited for diving.
- Integrated solar power panel enables solar charging capabilities to extend battery life.
- Includes ABC sensors to help you in hiking and trekking
- Stainless steel built makes it rugged for high-intensity outdoor activities.
- No GPS facility for navigation
- No option for connectivity with external applications
- Backlight feature is not very bright.
- Rough and rugged design yet very lightweight. Weighs only 60gm.
- 10 ATM water-resistant build makes it compatible for swimming.
- Bluetooth compatibility to connect with fitness apps.
- Heat and shock resistant.
- GPS in a smartwatch at a low price point
- Options for multiple alarms at a time.
- No offline map support. No option for route import.
- Cannot connect to external devices other than smartphones.
- Chinese product. It’s up to you to decide.
If you have made it this far in this article then I hope I could help you with your journey. You must be ready with your cart to shop and start your next adventure. If you liked my content then drop a comment and visit again for new travel stories and product reviews. Thank you.