The Best Watches for Hiking in 2017


Garmin Fenix 3 Hiking Watch

Garmin Fenix 3 Hiking Watch

A good hiking watch does not only show time and date, but also provides you with crucial information (such as altitude, location, air pressure, sunrise/sunset times etc.) which can help you with navigation, planning and weather prediction. Watches with hiking-specific features are very popular these days and the companies behind them are making great progress when it comes to combining design with useful technology. This selection of the best hiking watches includes three watches which are equipped with GPS and two without. GPS indeed has its advantages but since some hikers prefer watches without GPS (due to longer battery life, less complicated user interface etc.), we wanted to include some options for them too. All watches in this selection have compass, altimeter and barometer – features which we consider essential for activities such as hiking, trekking, mountaineering and backpacking. This review will help you find a watch which will meet your requirements. As new models of watches with hiking features are being released regularly, we continuously update this selection in order to always recommend you the best products available.

This selection was updated on the 13th of January 2017.

1. Buying a Watch for Hiking – What is important?

Hiking Features:

A hiking watch should have features beyond those of an ordinary watch. The most important features that every hiking watch should have are barometer, altimeter and compass.

The barometer is able to detect changes in the atmospheric pressure and thus it allows you to easily predict the weather; if the atmospheric pressure is increasing, the weather will improve – reversely if the atmospheric pressure is falling, the weather will worsen (clouds, rain etc.). A rapid drop in the atmospheric pressure normally indicates a storm rising. All watches listed in this review show the atmospheric pressure and its tendency graph (how has the atmospheric pressure changed in the last hours). Furthermore, they also all have a storm alarm feature which warns you if the atmospheric pressure drops significantly.

An altimeter shows you how high above the sea level you are and is based on the barometric pressure or GPS data. A GPS altimeter is much more precise and it doesn’t require any calibration unlike a barometric altimeter. The altimeter feature comes in handy for navigation – it is easier to find your location on the map if you know how high above the sea level you are.

A compass shows you the four cardinal directions (North, East, South and West) as well as bearing and is thus crucial for navigation. With the compass feature and a proper map you can easily do triangulation in order to determine your current location.

Some hiking watches are also equipped with a thermometer which comes in handy on multiday trips; you can, for example, easily measure the temperature outside the tent in order to appropriately layer your clothes. However, it is important to note that the thermometer will normally measure temperature most accurately when the watch is not on your wrist as your body heat otherwise affects the measurements.

Durability:

Watches for hiking ordinarily feature robust cases and highly durable straps. Some watches are also equipped with Sapphire glass lenses for increased resistance against scratches – compared to the more common mineral crystal lenses, but they are also significantly more expensive.

GPS:

Many advanced hiking watches support GPS (some support GLONASS as well) which is currently the best solution for navigation and tracking. A GPS watch allows you to instantly get the coordinates of your current location. Furthermore, it can also show current speed, distance, ascent, descent and other GPS-based information. You can import routes in GPX or similar formats to most GPS watches. These routes can then be used for navigation as the watch shows your current location in relation to the GPX route.  GPS watches also track (record) your activities and allow you to export the details (duration, distance, average speed, total ascent, total descent and other parameters) to web or mobile apps such as Suunto Movescount or Garmin Connect for analysis. However, GPS watches have much a shorter battery life than watches without GPS. Nevertheless, they are normally equipped with rechargeable batteries.

Heart Rate Monitor:

Many hiking watches also show and record the heart rate (sometimes a chest strap transmitter has to be purchased separately). The heart rate monitor feature comes in handy on hiking trips as it allows you to maintain a steady pace throughout the hike.

2. The Best Watches for Hiking in 2017

Best Hiking Watches in 2017

Best Hiking Watches in 2017

  1. Garmin Fenix 3
  2. Suunto Ambit 3
  3. Suunto Traverse 
  4. Suunto Core Crush
  5. Casio Pro Trek PRW 3000 1A

Comparison

Feature/Product Garmin Fenix 3 SapphireSuunto Ambit 3 PeakSuunto Traverse Suunto Core CrushCasio Pro Trek PRW 3000 1A
Weight86 g (Rubber Band)89 g80 g 83 g62 g
Case Size 5.2 x 5.2 x 1.6 cm5.0 x 5.0 x 1.8 cm5.0 x 5.0 x 1.7 cm4.9 x 4.9 x 1.5 cm5.6 x 4.7 x 1.2 cm
GPSYes + GLONASSYes Yes + GLONASSNoNo
Display TypeTransflective MIP ColorMatrixMatrixMatrixMatrix
Glass Material Sapphire Glass Mineral Crystal (also available with Sapphire glass) Mineral Crystal (also available with Sapphire glass)Mineral CrystalMineral Crystal
Strap Material Titanium/Silicone/
Leather/Nylon/Rubber
ElastomerSilicone/ Textile SiliconeResin
Water Resistance100 m100 m 100 m30 m100 m
BatteryRechargeable lithium-ionRechargeable lithium-ionRechargeable lithium-ionUser ReplaceableSolar Rechargeable Battery
Battery Life6 weeks in time mode4 weeks in time mode2 weeks in time mode12 months7 months without exposure to light
AltimeterYes (GPS and Barometric)Yes (GPS and Barometric)Yes (GPS and Barometric)Yes (Barometric)Yes (Barometric)
BarometerYesYesYesYesYes
ThermometerYesYesYesYesYes
CompassYes Yes YesYesYes
Sunrise and Sunset TimesYes Yes YesYesYes
Storm AlarmYes Yes YesYesNo
BluetoothYesYesYesNoNo
Smartphone Notifications YesYesYesNoNo
Vibration AlertsYesNoYesNoNo
Heart Rate Belt SupportYes Yes YesNoNo
GPS NavigationYes Yes YesNoNo
GPS TrackingYes Yes YesNoNo
Track Back Yes Yes YesNoNo
Planning SoftwareGarmin Connect Suunto Movescount Suunto MovescountNoneNone
Mobile AppYes (Garmin Connect) Yes (Suunto Movescount) Yes (Suunto Movescount) NoneNone
Garmin Fenix 3 Hiking Watch

Garmin Fenix 3 Hiking Watch

1. Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Climbing
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Running
  • Backpacking
  • Everyday use

The Garmin Fenix 3 watch is basically a Smartwatch with a high resolution color display that is designed for harsh outdoor conditions. The watch is made of very robust materials – the bezel is made of stainless steel while the lens is made of Sapphire glass. Therefore, the watch offers great abrasion resistance and durability. The design of the watch, however, makes it elegant enough to wear to business meetings without thinking twice. The Garmin Fenix 3 watch is equipped with 3-axis compass, altimeter, barometer and thermometer. For more accurate temperature readings, you can connect it to an external temperature sensor (Garmin Tempe). The compass and altimeter are calibrated automatically via GPS.  Other features made possible by GPS include that the watch can automatically set the time based on your location and of course offers navigation and tracking. You can import routes and points of interest and the watch will provide you with the directions. Activities can be saved and detailed information about each activity can be accessed through the Garmin Connect app (desktop or mobile version). The Garmin Fenix 3 has numerous fitness features like V02 estimator, recovery advisor, race predictor etc. and is also suitable for other sports like running, swimming and skiing. The Connect IQ connectivity allows you to personalize the watch with apps, widgets and unique watch faces (for example a weather widget can be installed on the watch so that you can access the weather forecast directly on the watch). The watch can be synchronized with a Smartphone (Garmin Connect mobile app is available for both iOS and Android devices) to show texts, alerts, emails and other notifications. The watch settings can also be changed directly from the Garmin Connect mobile app. Another useful feature is that the watch can be paired with the Garmin Virb action camera and thus you can control the camera directly from the watch. The Garmin Fenix 3 watch is available with different straps – if you decide for a version with one of the elegant straps (leather or metal), a second strap (made of rubber) as well as strap removal tools will be included in the package as well. The Garmin Fenix 3 watch is definitely an incredible timepiece. We highly recommend it to all hikers and other sport enthusiasts who want a highly versatile watch.

 

Pros:

  • Display
  • Features
  • Supports apps
  • Offers customization
  • Smartphone synchronization
  • GLONASS support
  • Design
  • Vibration alerts

Cons:

  • Size

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Suunto Ambit 3

Suunto Ambit 3

2. Suunto Ambit 3

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Cycling
  • Climbing
  • Swimming
  • Running
  • Backpacking
  • Everyday use

The Suunto Ambit 3 watch is another great choice for hikers and mountaineers as it offers great functionality and durability. In comparison to the Garmin Fenix 3 watch, the Suunto Ambit 3 watch has a less sophisticated display (matrix) but on the other hand it is also slightly easier to use (the watch has a very user-friendly interface). The watch features GPS, altimeter, barometer, thermometer and compass. Navigation with the watch is very easy as the waypoints and GPX routes can be simply imported to the watch from the Suunto Movescount app, where you can easily plan routes before your hike. Furthermore, you can find existing routes from other Movescount users and import them to your own watch – not least by using the Heatmap feature which shows popular routes within a certain area. In addition to planning, the Movescount app also offers a complete overview of your workouts (a calendar shows workouts with parameters such as duration, distance, burned calories etc.). The Suunto Ambit 3 can also track the distance walked, find a route back to your starting point, show current speed and much more. It is also compatible with a heart-rate belt and so, based on your heart rate and other data, it can calculate the amount of calories burned. The Ambit 3 is Suunto’s first Bluetooth-compatible watch. Therefore, it can be easily connected to a Smartphone and show you incoming and missed calls, messages and other notifications from the phone when you install the Suunto Movescount app (available for Android and iOS deviceces). You can also find other apps for the watch on the Suunto Movescount web app and you can even create your own apps for the watch. Suunto Ambit 3 is a great watch for hiking and mountaineering as it offers numerous hiking features. It comes in four different versions – Suunto Ambit 3 Peak, Suunto Ambit 3 Vertical, Suunto Ambit 3 Sport and Suunto Ambit 3 Run. However, the features described above apply only to the Suunto Ambit 3 Peak watches which are designed particularly for hiking and mountaineering. Some Suunto Ambit 3 Peak watches are equipped with Sapphire glass lenses.

 

Pros:

  • Bluetooth
  • Supports apps
  • Movescount
  • Smartphone synchronization
  • GPS accuracy
  • Multisport mode

Cons:

  • External antenna

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Suunto Traverse

Suunto Traverse

3. Suunto Traverse

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Climbing
  • Running
  • Everyday use
  • Backpacking

The Suunto Traverse watch instantly became extremely popular among hikers, mountaineers and other outdoorsmen due to the attractive design and advanced features. The watch is aimed towards recreational outdoorsmen (not athletes as the Suunto Ambit 3) and thus features a less sporty but more elegant design. In comparison to the Suunto Ambit 3, it lacks the ability to connect to external Bluetooth PODs and does not support the multisport mode, swimming mode and advanced training analysis. However, the Suunto Traverse is equipped with some handy features such as vibration alerts, step counter, flashlight backlight and GLONASS navigation – all of which the Suunto Ambit 3 lacks. Otherwise the watch has quite similar features to the Suunto Ambit 3 – it is equipped with altimeter, barometer, thermometer and digital compass. The watch can also be easily connected to the Movescount app which shows the summary of your workouts and allows you to import points of interest, GPX routes as well as to apply tweaks to the watch. As the watch is equipped with Bluetooth you can also synchronize it with a Smartphone (both iOS and Android) and manage the watch settings and data directly from there. Additionally the watch shows notifications from the phone when paired via Bluetooth.  The Suunto Traverse is an amazing watch which does not only offer many useful features but also looks very cool and stylish. The watch is available with a silicone or textile strap as well as with a Sapphire glass lens.

 

Pros:

  • Stylish
  • Smartphone synchronization
  • GLONASS support
  • Features
  • Material
  • Vibration alerts

Cons:

  • PODs are not supported
  • Multisport mode is not supported

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Suunto Core Crush

Suunto Core Crush

4. Suunto Core Crush

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Everyday use

The Suunto Core Crush watch is a great option for those who want a watch with numerous hiking features but not necessarily GPS. It is also much less expensive than the GPS watches reviewed above. The Suunto Core is equipped with compass, altimeter, barometer and thermometer. It switches between altimeter and barometer mode automatically (it detects if you are changing altitude) and provides you with weather information from the atmospheric pressure trend graph and trend indicator while in the barometer mode. If a storm is rising, the watch detects this and the storm alarm goes on. The basic features of the watch are time, alarm, dual time and sunset/sunrise times. The battery is replaceable and has a battery life of approximately 1 year. Unfortunately, the Suunto Core watch is not compatible with a heart rate belt which would indeed come in handy on hiking trips. The Suunto Core watch is due to its simplicity and durability a great choice for those who want a simple hiking timepiece with great features. It comes in three different versions which all offer the same functionality but differ by materials; Premium (Sapphire glass lens, stainless steel case, silicone strap), Cassic (mineral glass lens, composite case, elastomer strap) and Crush (mineral glass lens, composite case, silicone strap).

 

Pros:

  • Automatic Alti-Baro Switch
  • Design
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Without GPS
  • Can’t be paired with a heart rate belt

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Casio Pro Trek PRW 3000 1A Hiking Watch

Casio Pro Trek PRW 3000 1A Hiking Watch

5. Casio Pro Trek PRW 3000 1A

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Everyday use

The Casio Pro Trek PRW 3000 1A can easily compete with Suunto Core in all aspects. The watch is equipped with digital compass, barometer, altimeter and thermometer. The watch uses a solar-rechargeable battery which has a life of 7 months without any exposure to light. Thus, there is almost no chance that you will be surprised by an empty battery. Accurate time is kept by calibration radio signals which are received up to 6 times per day. The compass supports magnetic declination correction and has a bearing memory. The barometer shows a trend graph and helps you predict the weather. The watch is also equipped with a pressure change indicator which warns you about significant changes. The basic features of the watch are stopwatch, countdown, calendar, alarms and sunrise/sunset data. The Casio Pro Trek PRW 3000 1A is definitely a great watch which will satisfy every hiker who doesn’t want to wear a GPS watch.

 

Pros:

  • Size
  • Weight
  • Price

Cons:

  • Without GPS
  • Can’t be paired with a heart rate belt

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3. The most attractive product in the review

Which product is the most attractive?
Cast your vote to see the results of this poll!

4. Honorable Mentions

The below listed products were once included in our best five selection but as newer and better products were released we moved them into this section.

Garmin Tactix Hiking Watch

Garmin Tactix Hiking Watch

Garmin Tactix

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Running
  • Everyday use
  • Backpacking
  • Military use

The Garmin Tactix is primarily designed for military use but has all the features a hiking watch should have. This GPS watch is made of non-reflective materials and its scratch resistant lens is curved to additionally prevent reflection. The backlight is green, compatible with night vision devices and perfect for concealed use. These are the military features of the watch – what about hiking features? The Garmin Tactix has altimeter, barometer (trend graph) and compass which are all calibrated through GPS. The watch provides you with navigation as waypoints and routes can be imported to the watch . The watch also has the track back feature which guides you back to the starting point. The Garmin Tactix will track your moves and detailed analytics will be offered to you through the app; the watch also supports heart rate monitor feature. When paired with a Smartphone through Bluetooth, the watch can show your phone notifications. In general this watch offers more than enough features for every recreational hiker.

 

Pros:

  • Design
  • Smartphone synchronization
  • Features
  • Rugged design
  • Vibration alerts

Cons:

  • Slightly outdated
  • Weight

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Best Buy!

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