8 Best GPS Watches for Hiking and Running

Last updated: June 22, 2021

Choosing a new GPS watch for your hiking or running adventures is not an easy task with so many watches available on the market. Not to mention the many different features they do, or do not, offer.

With hiking slowly becoming an increasingly popular pastime, the demand for watches with hiking specific features is also growing.

We’ve done the research and have created a shortlist of 8 of the best GPS watches for hiking and running, based on features, durability, ease of use, price and more.

Top Pick:
Garmin Fenix 6
Best Affordable:
Huawei Watch GT 2e
Garmin Fenix 6 GPS hiking watchHuawei Watch GT 2e
Check PriceCheck Price
Top 8 GPS Watches:
WatchPrice
1Garmin Fenix 6Price
2Huawei Watch GT 2ePrice
3Suunto TraversePrice
4Garmin Instinct SolarPrice
5Suunto 5Price
6Garmin Forerunner 35Price
7Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HRPrice
8Garmin Forerunner 935Price
Top rated GPS watch on Amazon:
 
Sale
Garmin Instinct Solar Watch
  • Vastly extended battery life through solar charging
  • Rugged GPS Watch is water-rated to 100 meters and...
  • Built-in 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter plus...
The GPS watches recommended in this article are sold by Amazon, Onsport and Snowys. Please note that we may earn a small commission if you purchase via our site at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

Top 8 GPS Watches for Hiking and Running

Here are our 8 favorite GPS watches suitable for hiking and running, ranging in price from around 400 to 1,200 Australian dollars.

1. Garmin Fenix 6

Garmin Fenix 6 series

 
Where to buy?
> Amazon> Onsport

This top-of-the-line multi-sports outdoor smartwatch from Garmin delivers an exceptional set of features with outstanding quality. The Fenix 6 Series is huge in performance and has unbeatable advanced features such as accurate mapping and tracking for your outdoor adventures.

The Germin Fenix 6 has a compact and intuitive design that can track multiple activities, as well as a solid GPS system that has set the bar high for all other multisport watches. Its GPS on full expedition mode is activated for 56 days. The long battery life spans to 120 days, which is a crucial feature for long distance runners and multi-day hikers.

Compared to the previous Fenix 5 model, the Fenix 6 series has a slimmer and lightweight body but has a chassis that is built for wear and tear. As it’s engineered for outdoor use, it is designed with a tough and robust exterior that can tolerate the rough elements and heavy usage.

To make your choice rather complicated, the Garmin Fenix 6 Series is available in different sizes and versions:

  • Fenix 6S:
    The compact version with the smallest screen and is only 42 mm in diameter. It also has the shortest battery life.
  • Fenix 6:
    Not too big or small, this version is just right at 47 mm in diameter. This version has the average or median battery life and screen size. It also has better resolution at 260×260 pixels.
  • Fenix 6X:
    This is the biggest of the Fenix 6 series at 51 mm in diameter. It has the biggest screen and also the longest battery life among the series, and has an astounding resolution at 280×280 pixels.

All the same features are now integrated into all models of Garmin Fenix 6 series. The only difference then would be in terms of weight, battery life, and screen size. These models are Base, Pro, Sapphire, Sapphire Titanium and Pro Solar.

If you have the budget and you are very serious about your hiking and other sports adventures, the Garmin 6 is by far the best GPS watch currently available.

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro
Size:47 x 47 x 14.7 mm
Lens material:Sapphire crystal
Display resolution:260 x 260 pixels
Battery life:Up to 36 hours in GPS mode

2. Huawei Watch GT 2e

Huawei Watch GT 2e

 
Where to buy?
> Amazon

The Huawei Watch GT 2e is a modern sports watch with both GPS and GLONASS capabilities. It’s not only a fantastic GPS watch for hiking, but also for other professional sports such as running, climbing, cycling and swimming, supported by precise and real-time tracking data.

The tagline for the Huawei Watch GT 2e is “Play for 2 weeks”, which refers to the claim that the battery will last for two weeks when worn 24 hours per day. A big claim, but the battery life is indeed one of the big pros of this model.

The watch contains the Kirin A1, a wearable chip developed by Huawei that ensures high operation performance and low power consumption at the same time. The power consumption is always automatically optimised for a longer lasting battery.

If you’re looking for an affordable GPS hiking watch with a great set of features that you can also use for other sports, the Huawei Watch GT 2e is definitely worth looking into. It’s a watch designed for fitness fanatics with a ton of excellent features designed to enhance your performance.

Huawei Watch GT 2e
Size:53 x 46.8 x 10.8 mm
Display resolution:454 x 454 pixels
Battery life:Approximately 5-6 days in GPS mode

3. Suunto Traverse

Suunto Traverse

 
Where to buy?
> Amazon> Snowys

With an attractive design and great set of features, the Finland-made Suunto Traverse is the perfect GPS watch for hikers and mountaineers. The Traverse has a classy look and is not so much aimed towards athletes such as long-distance runners and triathletes.

The set of features in the Suuno Travers is very similar to what the Fenix 5 and 6 models offer but the Traverse is noticeably cheaper. The Traverse has ABC (altimeter, barometer, compass) sensors + thermometer and allows for route planning with topographic maps and automatic breadcrumbs, just to name a few core features.

One drawback of the Suunto Traverse compared to the more expensive Fenix 6 is that the battery life is not as good. In GPS mode, the watch will run for 8-10 hours making this model suitable for one-day hikes, but perhaps not for multi-day hikes.

Suunto Traverse
Size:50 x 50 x 16.5 mm
Lens material:Mineral crystal
Display resolution:128 x 128 pixels
Battery life:Up to 10 hours in GPS mode

4. Garmin Instinct Solar

Garmin Instinct Solar GPS outdoor watch

 
Where to buy?
> Amazon> Onsport

As with most Garmin GPS watches, the Instinct comes in different versions. First, you choose between Solar or no Solar. Second, you choose the edition, with Standard as the most affordable. There is even a surf edition specifically designed for surfers.

The Instinct GPS watch we’re recommending here is the Solar Standard edition. Solar means that the lenses can harvest solar energy and thereby extend battery life. This feature obviously drives up the price but it does make a big difference. Whether you choose with or without the solar feature ultimately depends on your budget.

The Garmin Instinct provides access to multiple global navigation satellite systems – GPS, GLONASS and Galileo – so you can track in more challenging environments. The watch also offers the typical ABC sensors, with a three-axis electronic compass. Another cool feature is trackback routing, which allows you to navigate the same route back to your starting point, taking the guesswork out of return journeys.

Garmin Instinct Solar
Size:45 x 45 x 15.3 mm
Lens material:Power glass
Display resolution:128 x 128 pixels
Battery life:Up to 38 hours in GPS mode

5. Suunto 5

Suunto 5 GPS sports watch for hiking

 
Where to buy?
> Amazon> Snowys

Whatever sport you want to perform, the Suunto 5 is built to take any beating of your activities. It’s packed with features that will help you achieve your fitness goals.

To start things off, it brings over 80 sports modes right at your fingertips. An adaptive training guide monitors your progress and generates a 7-day training plan based on your goals. After each session, the Suunto app provides a comprehensive summary of your post-workout stats. The Suunto 5 also tracks your VO2 max that will measure your fitness level, and give you insights on how you can make the most out of your workouts.

But this multisport hiking watch doesn’t only work when doing your sport; you can also rely on it to track your daily activities, stress level, and sleep quality. You love training, but rest days are also essential to keep a healthy life. Right on your home screen, you will see a percentage score of your resources; a feature that will help you learn if your body is in the best condition to perform workouts, or if you need more rest to recharge. It also provides a sleep score to get insights on your sleep quality.

The Suunto 5 boasts a long battery life that will not die on you at any moment. Intelligent battery modes are placed into the watch so you can tweak the setting and make sure that it will last throughout your activities. When the juice is running low, an alert will also remind you ahead of time. It also packs a fast-performing GPS navigation, so you’re aware of what routes to take when you’re on the go.

The stainless steel bezel and mineral glass display are a great touch to promote functionality and style. With the powerful features that come with it, the Suunto 5 helps you to focus on your fitness and makes a great companion for your daily hiking activities.

Suunto 5
Size:46 x 46 x 14.6 mm
Lens material:Mineral crystal
Display resolution:218 x 218 pixels
Battery life:Up to 20 hours in full GPS mode

6. Garmin Forerunner 35

Garmin Forerunner 35 GPS watch

 
Where to buy?
> Amazon

If you’re looking for a basic yet good quality GPS sports watch without a ton of bells and whistles, the Garmin Forerunner 35 is probably the best affordable option in this list.

The Forerunner 35 is designed to be easy to use and is suitable for running, ultr-running, and hiking. The watch monitors heart rate at the wrist, it offers all-day activitiy tracking (steps, calories, intensity minutes), and can automatically upload data to Garmin Connect (available on Apple App Store and Google Play).

The battery life is quite respectable too, with up to 13 hours in GPS mode and up to 9 days in normal watch mode. Overall, a great and proven GPS watch that deserves your consideration.

Garmin Forerunner 35
Size:35.5 x 40 x 13.3 mm
Lens material:Chemically strengthened glass
Display resolution:128 x 128 pixels
Battery life:Up to 13 hours in GPS mode

7. Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR

Suunto Spartan Sport GPS watch

 
Where to buy?
> Amazon> Snowys

Equipped with a color touch screen and a stainless-steel bezel, the Suunto Spartan Sport is a multisport GPS watch designed for outdoor athletes.

Just like the above mentioned GPS watches, the Spartan Sport comes with the standard hiking features such as altimeter, barometer, compass and also thermometer. It is also equipped with a wrist heart rate monitor providing reasonably accurate results.

Routes and waypoints can easily be imported with the Suunto Movescount app so you can plan ahead. It also allows you to import routes shared by other users. Battery life is similar to the Traverse, lasting up to 10 hours in GPS mode and 40 hours with normal use.

Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
Size:50 x 50 x 17 mm
Lens material:Mineral crystal
Display resolution:360 x 360 pixels
Battery life:Up to 10 hours in full GPS mode

8. Garmin Forerunner 935

Garmin Forerunner 935 GPS watch

 
Where to buy?
> Amazon> Catch

With a weight of only 49 grams, the compact yet feature rich Garmin Forerunner 935 is a very comfortable GPS watch. The Forerunner 935 is a great multi-sport watch that you can essentially wear all day even when you’re not moving around in the great outdoors.

What makes the Forerunner 935 a popular GPS watch is its ability to monitor your performance, training and recovery so that you’re able to continuously improve yourself or better prepare yourself for an upcoming race event. It does this by evaluating recent exercise history, performance indicators and exercise volume.

As with most Garmin GPS watches, the Forerunner 935 has a built-in altimeter, barometer and electronic compass to help you with your navigation. The battery life is respectable too, ranging from up to 2 weeks in watch mode to 24 hours in GPS mode. The wrist HR monitor on this GPS watch is able to provide very accurate results.

Because the 935 is compatible with Garmin’s QuickFit bands, it’s worth noting that the band can be easily replaced with a different one. This is great as it makes the 935 suitable for any type of occasion by simply changing the band to a silicone, leather or a metal one.

The Garmin Forerunner 935 is a highly sophisticated GPS watch suitable for most outdoor sports such as cycling, running, swimming and triathlon. While it’s not a watch specifically designed for hiking, the Forerunner 935 is still a great companion to bring along on your hiking adventures.

Garmin Forerunner 935
Size:47 x 47 x 13.9 mm
Lens material:Chemically strengthened glass
Display resolution:240 x 240 pixels
Battery life:Up to 24 hours in full GPS mode

GPS Hiking Watch Buying Guide

How good a GPS watch is depends on the essential features it includes and how well these features are implemented.

The following is a list of some of these essential features plus other factors to consider when looking for a new GPS watch for hiking and running.

1. GPS

While some hikers prefer a watch without GPS for various reasons, this article is specifically about watches that do offer GPS functionality. A hiking watch without GPS typically has a better battery life and doesn’t cost as much.

But let’s get technical. GPS stands for Global Positioning System and is a satellite-based radio-navigation system that provides users with positioning, navigation and timing services.

A watch with GPS functionality lets you get the coordinates of your current location. It can also show useful data such as current speed, distance, ascent and more.

A good GPS watch is also able to track and export data related to your activities, such as distance covered, average speed, duration, total ascent/descent, etc.

Some watches also include maps, breadcrumb routes and waypoints. If you’re serious about hiking (or running), this type of data is very interesting.

2. Altimeter

An altimeter tells you at any given point how high above sea level you are. In other words, it measures elevation. This is useful when climbing as it gives you a good indication of how much further you need to climb to reach the summit or milestone.

Some watches have a GPS based altimeter while other models have a barometric altimeter. A GPS altimeter generally provides more accurate results. Also, because of pressure changes, a barometric altimeter often needs to be calibrated.

3. Barometer

A barometer measures atmospheric pressure which is one of the most effective ways to forecast short term weather changes. If pressure is on the rise, the weather will typically improve. If pressure is decreasing, you can expect more clouds and rain.

If you’re going for a long all-day hike and the weather is a bit unpredictable, a barometer is an excellent tool to inform you of any upcoming weather changes. Knowing what the weather will do is crucial as it allows you to find shelter on time or perhaps abort the hike.

4. Compass

One of the most basic features in a GPS watch is the compass, an instrument used for navigation and orientation purposes. It shows the direction relative to the geographic cardinal directions, north, east, south and west.

Some GPS watches have an electric compass which doesn’t require you to move around in order for it to function.

If during your hike you don’t need the GPS, you can turn it off and use the compass for navigation purposes. It will help save the battery.

Note:
Altimeter, barometer and compass are also known as the ABC sensors. They are standard features every decent GPS hiking watch should have.

5. Heart Rate Monitor

Some GPS watches also include a heart rate monitor that measures heart rate, either via wrist or chest. This is an interesting feature if you treat hiking as a sport.

6. Durability

Often overlooked, it’s important to consider the materials used for a GPS watch, in particular for the cases, straps and lenses.

Some types of lenses for example are more prone to scratches. Especially when hiking or running, watches can easily get damaged.

7. Battery Life

A GPS watch typically has a shorter battery life than a normal hiking watch does. This makes sense because GPS by definition requires a lot of resources.

Batteries in GPS watches are rechargeable though so it shouldn’t be a major issue, unless you’re out and about for a long all-day or overnight hike.

The descriptions of GPS watches you can find online should mention battery life so be sure to take note of that. The battery in a good quality watch with GPS turned on should last at least 10 hours at the very least.

8. Waterproof

This is a bit of a no-brainer, but a GPS watch should be waterproof. If you’re a passionate hiker or bushwalker, there are times when you need to deal with rain or creek crossings.

The last thing you want to worry about in these scenarios is your expensive hiking watch to get damaged.

9. Price

A higher price doesn’t always correspond to better quality. You should go for a watch that has the features you really need. The more features, the higher the price.

Also, big brand watches are typically more expensive than smaller brands, but they aren’t necessarily better. Read the reviews carefully and choose a GPS watch that meets your criteria and quality standards.

A good GPS watch is one that has the perfect balance between design and technology. We also recommend to go for a brand that specializes in creating watches over a brand that creates all kinds of different sports related products.

The below GPS watches are offered by Garmin and Suunto, two very reputable manufacturers of sports and GPS watches.

 

Best GPS watches for hiking

 
 
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