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The 10 Best Hiking Watches for Hitting the Trails [2024]

Amar Hussain's image
Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

Senior Content Contributor

776 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 63U.S. States Visited: 9

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
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Keri Stooksbury

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With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now Editor-in-Chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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A quality hiking watch isn’t just about providing the date and time. You can easily overlook the significance of this addition to your equipment, but hiking watches can prove invaluable when you’re on the trail.

These versatile watches provide all sorts of valuable information about your location, temperature, and altitude. You can use the compass for orientation, and the altimeter can prove especially handy if you enjoy hiking at higher altitudes. This article will help you find the right hiking watch for your hiking habits.

Things To Look for in a Hiking Watch

Hiking watch
A quality hiking watch isn’t just about providing the date and time. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

Features to look for in a hiking watch include an altimeter, a barometer, a compass, and a long battery life, among other features.

Watches that combine an altimeter, barometer, and compass are often referred to as ABC watches, and these are perfect for most hikers. Still, you might want to settle on a quality GPS watch, depending on your needs while hiking. Overall, you will find the main things to look for in a hiking watch below.

ABC Settings

Some of the most useful hiking watches will provide you with information on your surroundings. These ABC watches have all the relevant statistics at your disposal, which couldn’t hurt.

A compass will help you navigate, while the altitude details and barometric information on your display will help you to locate your hiking route. For the most versatile and helpful hiking watch, an ABC watch makes a solid option.

Battery Life

Waterproof watch battery
Your watch should clearly display its current battery life. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

Lithium-ion batteries are commonly used in hiking watches (or any digital watch, for that matter). However, depending on the length of your hike, you might want to opt for solar batteries in your hiking watch.

These are useful as they allow your watch to charge throughout the hike and sometimes provide more durability. It’s also important that the watch always displays the current battery life, so you don’t get an unpleasant surprise when your battery runs out during your hike.

GPS

Waterproof watch GPS
GPS can track your hike distance, among other beneficial navigation features. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

If you are not in a forest area where the signal might be intercepted, you can use the GPS feature of your hiking watch for navigation. You can also track your hike distance, among other beneficial navigation features.

Bottom Line: Not all hiking watches come with GPS navigation, so you’ll need to figure out whether you really need this feature.

Heart Rate Tracker

Waterproof watch heartrate monitor
A heart rate monitor can be a useful asset in a hiking watch. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

We all know how physically challenging hiking can be, especially if you set yourself a goal or want to be back before the sunsets. The heart rate monitor can be a useful asset in these situations, as you can keep track of your heart rate and take note of when it’s time to take a break.

It can also provide details about the shape you’re in, as you can track how frequent hikes affect your heart rate and how fatigued you get while on certain hiking routes.

The 3 Best GPS Hiking Watches

Along with the above features, hiking watches come in a variety of forms and shapes. You can find additional features, including music settings, weather information, physical buttons, and even touch-screen navigation.

Whatever you’re looking for, here are the best GPS hiking watches for those looking to get more navigation options in their watch.

1. Military-grade Weather-Resistant GPS Watch

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Garmin 010-02064-00 Instinct

If you are looking primarily for a GPS watch, having a hiking watch like the Garmin Instinct will keep you on track while providing additional features. This watch has full 1.3-inch screen navigation, but it also includes other useful features like a time display and elevation tracker.

It has smartphone compatibility with a Bluetooth connection, and one of its best features is that it measures your heart rate. The main screen includes all the essential info like the time, date, altitude, weather, and battery life.

It’s easy to switch to GPS mode with physical buttons on the side. It comes with a track-back feature that helps you find the route back to the starting point based on your hiking route.

What We Like:

  • Full GPS navigation settings

What We Don’t Like:

  • Some details like altitude and weather might be hard to read

Hot Tip: If you’re a serious hiker, consider our guides to the best hiking boots and shoes, best trekking and hiking poles, and best hiking and backpacking backpacks.

2. Solar Battery Advanced Colored GPS Watch

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar Multisport GPS

A great solution for an all-in-1 hiking watch with impressive GPS navigation features is the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro. This watch has integrated GPS location in color, with topography and maps of some of the most popular ski resorts.

While using the GPS, you can see rivers, forest areas, and altitude ratings. Another advantage is that this watch uses solar batteries, so you can charge it while on a long run or hike. The screen is 1.3 inches and has side buttons for switching the functions of the watch.

You can track the solar intensity for the battery level, see the current elevation, track your pace, and use a compass, among other features. With a gyroscope and complete ABC functions, this watch is the ultimate solution for hiking.

What We Like:

  • Colored GPS panel with topographic map

What We Don’t Like:

  • It might be too complex for hikers that only want main navigation features

3. Hiking GPS Watch With Built-in Apps

Garmin Vivoactive 3 GPS Smartwatch

Although this Garmin watch comes with a slightly smaller display size than others with a 1.2-inch screen, it serves its purpose as a hiking navigation tool splendidly. It resembles a regular smartwatch with built-in apps for various sports activities.

You might use the running app for hiking routes when you are looking to increase your speed and simultaneously track your heart rate. You can also use the app that provides you with all the details about your hiking day, including a lap timer and steps made in a route.

With a simple tap on the screen, the GPS function serves its purpose without any issues. The only downside could be the lithium-ion battery that can’t charge on its own like the solar batteries in other Garmin watches.

What We Like:

  • It can support all sorts of smart apps along with its built-in ones

What We Don’t Like:

  • The screen can activate on its own in water

The 7 Best Non-GPS Hiking Watches

If you don’t need a GPS function in a hiking watch, you have even more options available to you. You can still navigate a hiking route with compass and altitude settings in non-GPS watches.

In addition, these watches have all sorts of other useful functions, such as a countdown timer, an altimeter, pressure measurement, and sometimes even a digital compass.

1. Digital Chrono Hiking Watch With Timer

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Timex Expedition Digital Chrono 39mm Watch

This resin-made watch has more than enough going for it to support your regular hiking needs if you don’t require a GPS and additional smartwatch functions. It might seem plain, but that’s where its advantage lies — it’s a watch suitable for all weather conditions.

It’s water-resistant up to 100 meters, and a digital display comes with a variety of options, including a calendar, timer, and lap times. The leather strap makes it comfortable for your wrist even on longer hikes.

There are also 4 buttons on the sides for mode selection, set, start lap, and stop or reset.

What We Like:

  • Comfortable digital watch with lap timer and calendar

What We Don’t Like:

  • Doesn’t have any ABC functions

2. Versatile ABC Watch With Additional Functions

CakCity Digital Sports Watches

CakCity is known for making high-quality and even military-grade outdoor watches, and their tactical survival watch is perhaps the best one yet. It includes all the features you could need on top of the already useful hiking ABC functions.

The resin-made watch comes with a stainless-steel back, 15-millimeter case thickness, and 10 distinctive functions. It includes a regular time and weather display, an altimeter, air pressure measurement, and a compass.

However, a vast selection of additional options are available, including pedometer, record, alarm, metronome, and chronograph. You can even set up 2 time zones and use the countdown option.

What We Like:

  • Vast choice of functions besides regular ABC ones

What We Don’t Like:

  • Takes some time to figure out all the function buttons

3. Unisex Hiking Watch With Essential Functions

Timex T47852 Expedition Mid-Size Digital CAT Wrap Strap Watch

One of the best options for a regular digital hiking watch is the Timex T47852 Expedition, and its neutral design is suitable for men and women. Some of the options that it comes with include a chronograph, alarm, and timer.

Moreover, it’s water-resistant, which is great for all sorts of weather conditions and any terrain you might encounter while hiking. It doesn’t have any ABC functions, but it comes with other interesting features. For instance, you can switch the display to night view and Indiglo low-light visibility depending on the time of the day.

Of course, you can use the lap timer, date, and calendar, and 24-hour countdown mode for measuring hike laps.

What We Like:

  • Simple yet useful design with digital functions

What We Don’t Like:

  • Lacks altimeter options

4. Professional Outdoor Watch With Digital ABC Display

SUUNTO Core All-Black Outdoors Watch

Coming from a brand with a wide range of GPS watches, Suunto Core All-Black only lacks a navigational function. In all other areas, it excels, featuring usability and comfort combined with all the hiking options you could need.

It has a digital display for the time, temperature, compass, and altimeter or barometer settings.

You can switch between the options with outside buttons on the rim of the watch. It’s water-resistant for up to 30 meters and even has a storm alarm, weather indicator, and sunrise/sunset details. The battery can last for up to 12 months before it needs to be replaced.

What We Like:

  • Digital display with ABC features and more

What We Don’t Like:

  • The only Suunto watch without GPS settings

5. Multi-functional Triple Sensor Digital Watch

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Casio Men’s Pro Trek PRG-270 Tough Solar Watch

This all-in-1 hiking watch has ABC functions and a digital display with various features. The Casio Men’s Pro Trek Tough Solar Watch comes with triple-sensor technology that provides altitude, temperature, and compass readings.

Besides these features, the watch is equipped with a backlight feature for nighttime and low-light situations and 3 physical switches for altitude, compass, and barometer. The solar battery keeps this watch going during the day, making it a good option for a longer hike.

The resin material and highly-durable construction make this watch a dependable, worry-free option for hitting the trail.

What We Like:

  • Low-temperature-resistant with a long battery life

What We Don’t Like:

  • The compact display might be tough to read

6. Analog Hiking Watch With Water Resistance

Timex Men’s T45181 Expedition Resin Combo Watch

This high-quality hiking watch with an analog display is super rugged. The Timex Expedition T45181 watch has a small digital board at 6:00 with additional features like a daily alarm, calendar, and countdown timer.

The clock is analog, and the case thickness of 12 millimeters is perfect for hiking. It’s a lightweight option that you can easily bring on a hiking trip, but it lacks any additional features.

So, while you won’t be able to use altimeter functions with this watch, it’s still a rugged timepiece for the great outdoors.

What We Like:

  • Classic analog watch with a countdown timer for hiking laps

What We Don’t Like:

  • Doesn’t have any altimeter functions

7. Lightweight Digital Watch With Lap Functions

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Timex Ironman Classic 30 Full-Size 38mm Watch

If you need a watch that only weighs 28 grams and has lap memory for your hiking tracks, Timex Ironman Classic could be your best bet. It doesn’t have ABC or GPS functions, but it makes up for it with other usability features.

For instance, this watch features a digital screen with Indiglo backlighting, a start/split button with lap memory, and mode setup. You can use the timer or countdown options to measure hiking laps or make use of the 3 time-zone settings and 100-meter water resistance.

What We Like:

  • Classic lap-tracking watch suitable for hiking

What We Don’t Like:

  • Lacks the compass function

Final Thoughts

Whether you decide to go with GPS watches or hiking watches without navigational functions, you can find what you’re looking for on this list. We made sure to include lightweight and comfortable watches suitable for all types of hikers.

It’s important to keep in mind that you can use the ABC features and measure your time and laps while following your routine. As for the best choice, it all depends on your needs, as the choices vary from all-in-1 options like the Garmin Fenix 6 to classic-looking watches with simple functions like the Timex Ironman Classic.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are hiking watches worth it?

Hiking watches are worth it if you plan on going for longer hikes and need altimeter features, a compass, or GPS navigation. They’re also helpful for measuring lap times and following your starting track to find your way back.

Do you need a GPS watch for hiking?

While digital GPS watches could be your best option, you don’t necessarily have to go with one of these. A watch with ABC functions can serve a similar purpose in helping you navigate. Compass and altitude information are especially helpful for this purpose.

Is a smartwatch necessary for hiking?

No, you can also use regular digital watches that don’t support smart apps or even some analog watches with a temperature gauge and lap timers. It all depends on what features you are looking for in a well-equipped hiking watch.

Are hiking watches comfortable?

If you pick wisely, you can find lightweight hiking watches made of materials that prevent the sweating that, for example, a rubber watch could cause. These options are perfect for hiking as you won’t even notice the watch being on your wrist until you need to use one of its functions.

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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