The smartwatch revolution is upon us, and there are few niche markets being affected quite so prolifically as the hiking watch market. With the huge amount of new capabilities that Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities that smartwatches bring to the table, the hiking watch is rapidly becoming an all-in-one toolkit even more valuable than the traditional swiss army knife.
But exactly how much watch do you need, and how do you know how to find the best hiking watch amongst such a large number of watches for outdoorsman use? However serious you want to get, you’ll find something worthwhile on our reviews of the 10 best hiking watches of 2020. We’ve even included a guide to address the most commonly asked questions.
- 10 Best Hiking Watches
- 1. SUUNTO Core All Black Military Watch
- 2. Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire
- 3. Casio Men’s W800H-1AV Classic Sport Watch
- 4. Timex Expedition Grid Shock Watch
- 5. Casio Men’s Pro Trek PRG-270-1 Tough Solar
- 6. Timex Men’s Expedition Classic
- 7. Suunto Core Wrist-Top Computer Watch
- 8. Garmin Fenix 2 GPS Watch
- 9. SUUNTO Ambit3 Peak HR
- 10. Lad Weather Altimeter Watch
- Hiking Watch Buying Guide
10 Best Hiking Watches
1. SUUNTO Core All Black Military Watch
Finnish company Suunto creates an expansive variety of different instruments, and that lends them a lot of experience they were able to invest in the production of this hiking watch. Its digital face may be simple on the surface, but it gives you access to a staggering amount of data points that include an altimeter, barometer, and compass. But coolest of all is the sophisticated weather tracking system that offers storm alarms, the height of the sun, and weather graphs that help you more accurately predict what you can look forward to further down the trail. It will even make predictions based off of sudden changes in conditions.
2. Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire
Garmin offers a staggering number of fitness watches, including many with preset moves specifically tailored to the needs of hikers, but the Fenix 5X Sapphire represents their most premium outdoorsman watch. Not only do you get the fantastic backing of Garmin's best in the business GPS tracking, but it's also supported by GLONASS to provide you with access to an even more sweeping number of satellite networks. But its most practical functions are some of its best. Its sturdy frame can handle just about any trail, and the face makes use of a transflective surface that only makes it more readable in bright sunlight.
3. Casio Men’s W800H-1AV Classic Sport Watch
The simple fact is that not every hiker needs a complex computer on their wrist. If you're looking for something a little more simple, the W800H-1AV by Casio is a classic standard with a price that's impossible to beat. Its solar power battery offers an average life of 10 years without any need of being replaced. The features here may be decades old, but they still hit the solid fundamentals. A dual time function is available in addition to all the standard stopwatch features that have been part of this model for years. But at that price, it's hard to argue the value.
4. Timex Expedition Grid Shock Watch
The Timex Expedition Grid Shock is another watch that avoids the sort of connected features you'd get out of a smartwatch but offers a more comprehensive selection of timekeeping and hike monitoring features than what you'd find in Casio's basic model. The traditional countdown timer and stopwatch are joined by hydration alerts and a vibration alarm for the specific needs of hikers and mountaineers. But the feature that will probably get the most usage is the digital chronograph that allows you to separately track your best time. Beyond that, it's pretty similar in terms of durability and design to the aforementioned Casio.
5. Casio Men’s Pro Trek PRG-270-1 Tough Solar
The Pro Trek couldn't be any different from the more basic W800H-1AV. Built on the back of the previous Casio Pathfinder, the Pro Trek serves as their premier mid-ranged hiking watch, but it also improves on the Casio Pathfinder in some smart ways. This is one of the more affordable altimeter watches around, and it also includes both a digital compass and a barometer for measuring air pressure. This hiking watch has all the tools for longer trips and fundamentally serves as a counterpart to the Suunto Core, but its also a watch with great value for its price, a hallmark of the Casio brand.
6. Timex Men’s Expedition Classic
Timex has created an even more budget priced model with their Expedition Classic. It's certainly got a more stylish design than either the Grid Shock or the Casio W800H-1AV, but this hiking watch falls comfortably between the two regarding features. The water resistance is strong enough to take with your swimming or snorkeling, and it comes with dual time tracking and all the standard stopwatch and advanced tracking options. But the built in electronic compass will be worth it to a lot of hikers who are willing to pay a little more for the luxury of not getting lost on their trips.
7. Suunto Core Wrist-Top Computer Watch
If you read our review for the earlier Suunto model, you'll recognize a lot of similarities to the Core. It manages to offer a variety of sophisticated tools without having to rely on complicated technologies and in doing so manages to deliver an incredibly versatile hiking watch for just barely over a hundred bucks. Track air pressure with the barometer or accurately note the current elevation with the altimeter. And it makes use of the same weather tracking system, perhaps the best option around for a non-Bluetooth or GPS watch. And its clean black and white face puts all the important metrics right in front of you.
8. Garmin Fenix 2 GPS Watch
The Garmin Fenix 5X might be the most serious power hiking watch available anywhere, but $500 is going to be a pretty steep buy-in point even for plenty of serious hikers. If you liked what you saw in that review but would like something a little more modestly priced, the Fenix 2 contains the same basics at a much more manageable price. It offers VO2 tracking with compatible heart rate monitors and some really smart social sharing options via Garmin Connect and BaseCamp. And just like any Garmin watch for hiking, it offers some of the most impressive GPS tracking in the world.
9. SUUNTO Ambit3 Peak HR
If you're looking for the peak model of hiking watch offered by Suunto, look no further than the aptly named Ambit3 Peak. Unlike the other Suunto watches we've highlighted, this one actually includes Bluetooth syncing via your phone so that you can get text and app notifications. But despite its crossover appeal, it still offers the sort of battery life that hikers demand. 200 hours is a lot for a watch with this much power, and it even includes a heart rate monitor to provide you with better internal health tracking. There's even a fun social feature in the form of Suunto Movie, which allows you to create virtual slideshows of your adventures in the outdoors and share them with your friends and family.
10. Lad Weather Altimeter Watch
Lad Weather takes a back to basics approach to the hiking watch, but this little black watch actually sports a slick aesthetic that makes it look like it should bear a price tag well over its $55 going rate. The fundamental altimeter, barometer, and compass are further bolstered with basic fitness tracking features like a stopwatch and timer, and there's even weather tracking like what you'd find in Suunto's models.
It manages all of this without even needing GPS or Bluetooth, and the basic design of its core functions means that they're less likely to fail on you than the more technologically sophisticated alternatives that smartwatches sport.
Hiking Watch Buying Guide
What exactly is a hiking watch? The line can be a bit blurred, and the varied types of models that fall into this territory can make it hard to distinguish what you need. While you can read review after review and build an understanding of what to look for in a hiking watch, the best route is probably to complement your review search with some more insightful general information. That’s what this best hiking watch guide is for.
Is The Apple Watch Good For Hiking?
When looking for a watch for hiking, the first question you need to ask yourself is whether or not you need a smartwatch. There are plenty of great options available in the smartwatch market, but how much you’ll make use of their features is really going to come down to a matter of personal preference. Start by asking yourself whether Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and/or GPS functionality are important to you, and that will tell you whether you should invest in a hiking wrist computer or a dedicated hiking watch.
The truth is, the Apple Watch is a good watch for hiking, but we didn’t include it in our gear reviews because we had so much ground to cover. The Apple Watch is flat out one of the best smartwatches on the market, and it will suit you well if you’re looking for something that will suit both your hiking trips and your everyday life, but it doesn’t offer the focused and dedicated hiking features that you’d find in a more dedicated hiking watch like the Garmin Fenix.
What is the Best Watch For Mountaineering?
In our gear reviews, we try to avoid designating a clear and concise “best” model in our subcategories. The best singular watch is predicated on a number of personal factors, but we can identify some important features that could qualify for the best mountaineering watches. We’ll talk about them below.
- GPS offers the most reliable means for identifying where you are in the wild, and as such, it’s one of the most critical features to search for if you tend on making a serious and long term trek out into the wild. Garmin in particular offers mountain watches with colored, topographic maps. If it offers alternative satellite tracking systems like GLONASS that’s even better, since trips in the wild may mean not having cell or Wi-Fi access.
- GPS is the best way to track your coordinates, but sometimes the worst happens, and that’s why it’s important to have backup tools that don’t rely on advanced technology. A barometer and altimeter that can track pressure and a compass that can help you find your way back to your camp is integral even if it’s simply a backup for your GPS systems. A watch that holds all three (altimeter, barometer, compass) is often referred to as an ABC watch, because those are seen as the fundamental tools for any mountaineer.
- While it’s not a feature in its own right, a rugged design is important for any hiker or mountain climber. A broken watch won’t do you much good at all, so look for models that support strong components in terms of the case, band, and face glass. A long battery life is also important, and that’s why traditional smart watches like the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy can actually sometimes be less preferable than a more primitive hiking watch. Some level of waterproofing is important for your hiking watch as well.
Which Garmin is Best For Hiking?
Garmin is arguably the best manufacturer around when you’re looking for a hiking watch. Unlike many other smartwatch manufacturers, they’ve created products that put the needs of practical outdoor use ahead of more general lifestyles, but there are a positively exhaustive amount of Garmin outdoor models available today. The best around in terms of sheer quality is easily the Fenix 5X. Its $500 price tag is no joke, but it combines together durability, top shelf satellite tracking, and reliable ABC watch functionality in any situation. That said, it’s a lot of watch, perhaps too much for all but the most serious hikers and mountain climbers.
Fortunately, regardless of what Garmin you choose, any watch in their catalog is worthy of your attention. Their GPS capabilities alone are worth the price of admission if you intend to go hiking for long periods, and they’ve learned better than just about anyone what outdoorsmen are looking for in a watch. Their Forerunner series is good if you’re looking for something dedicated to more general outdoor activities. You can find more information at our guide to the best Garmin watches of 2020.
Each review we’ve presented above was thoughtfully picked to cover the widest range of customer needs as possible. Our first and foremost goal was to make sure that we avoided redundancies whenever possible and provided options for any level of enthusiast working in any price range. We hope that means that you’ll find what you’re looking for, but please feel free to check out some of our other watch guides if you don’t find a watch that suits your needs in our guide.