Last updated: February 1, 2024
Reviews of seven of the best GPS watches for hiking and running, based on features, durability, ease of use, price, manufacturer, and more.
Choosing a new GPS watch specifically for your hiking or running adventures is not an easy task, with so many products available on the market. Not to mention the many different features they do or don’t offer.
We’ve invested days of research and testing to create the below shortlist of seven of the best GPS watches available today, catering to different budgets.
Our number one recommended GPS watch for hikers and runners right now is the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar which offers the perfect balance between durability, features, and price.
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar
Huawei Watch GT 3
|45 x 45 x 14.5 mm
|46 x 46 x 11 mm
|176 x 176 pixels
|454 x 454 pixels
Top 7 GPS Watches:
Top rated GPS watch on Amazon:
- Go longer than ever with solar charging that gives you...
- Battery life: in smartwatch mode, unlimited with solar...
- Built-in sports apps to take on running, biking, swimming,...
Top 7 GPS Watches
Here are our seven favourite GPS watches suitable for hiking and running, ranging in price from around 400 to 1,200 Australian dollars.
1. Garmin Instinct 2 Solar Watch
The Garmin Instinct 2 Solar Watch is a robust, versatile, high-tech timepiece designed with the adventurous in mind. Its standout feature is its solar charging capability, which potentially provides unlimited battery life in smartwatch mode, ensuring you’re always connected, even in the great outdoors.
The watch is engineered for endurance, boasting a 100-meter water rating along with thermal and shock resistance. The robust case and scratch-resistant lens make this watch ready to withstand the toughest outdoor conditions.
The Instinct 2 Solar is designed to reflect your individual style with its bold colour choices, high-contrast displays, and size options. But it’s not just about style; it’s packed with features to assist you in your outdoor activities. It supports multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo), giving you superior tracking abilities in different environments.
The watch comes with ABC sensors (an altimeter, barometer, and a 3-axis electronic compass) to help you navigate any terrain. There’s also TracBack routing, a handy feature that guides you along the same route back to your starting point, and the ability to mark a reference point for easy return to known locations.
For sports enthusiasts, the Instinct 2 Solar offers built-in apps for many activities, including running, swimming, cycling, strength training, indoor climbing, yoga, and more. You can also customise your watch through the Connect IQ Store app, where you can download unique watch faces, additional data fields, apps, and widgets.
Additionally, the Garmin Connect app integration allows you to view all your health and fitness information in one place, connect with others, and even compete and share your progress. In summary, the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar is a durable, customisable, and feature-rich companion for outdoor adventures.
|Garmin Instinct 2 Solar Watch
|45 x 45 x 14.5 mm
|176 x 176 pixels
|Up to 48 hours in GPS mode
2. Huawei Watch GT 3
The Huawei Watch GT 3 is a sophisticated smartwatch that perfectly blends high-quality materials with advanced technology, designed to cater to both your fitness and lifestyle needs, with both GPS and GLONASS capabilities.
Featuring a 3D curved glass lens, an elegant watch dial, and a titanium frame, this watch offers a lightweight yet durable design. The ceramic back, which is both glossy and skin-friendly, ensures comfortable wear throughout the day.
The smartwatch truly shines in its fitness capabilities, offering precise data tracking for over 100 workout modes, including climbing, running, hiking, surfing, tennis, and more. This feature helps you monitor your progress across a wide variety of activities.
The GT 3 is designed for efficient and accurate monitoring with lower power consumption. It employs upgraded LEDs and four photodiodes that work with intelligent AI algorithms. This setup reduces power consumption and provides precise measurements of your heart rate and SpO2 levels, offering comprehensive performance tracking.
One of the standout features of the GT 3 is its impressive 2-week battery life under typical usage conditions, as per Huawei’s lab tests. In summary, the Huawei Watch GT 3 is a stylish, durable, and feature-rich GPS smartwatch designed to support your active lifestyle.
|Huawei Watch GT 3
|46 x 46 x 11 mm
|3D curved glass
|454 x 454 pixels
|Up to 2 weeks in standard mode
3. Garmin Fenix 7S Multisport GPS Watch
The Fenix 7S Multisport GPS Watch is Garmin’s flagship sports watch that combines the best features of Garmin’s range, offering a rich blend of high-performance capabilities. It’s a powerful, versatile device suitable for fitness and outdoor enthusiasts.
The Fenix 7S features an internal, rechargeable lithium battery that will keep the watch going up to 11 days of use in smartwatch mode, 38 days in battery-saver mode, and 37 hours in GPS mode.
Designed for performance and durability, the Fenix 7S features a robust design with a bright 1.2″ (3.05cm) display and a 42mm fibre-reinforced polymer case. It’s built to withstand extreme conditions, making it the ideal companion for any adventure.
Overall, the Garmin Fenix 7S Multisport GPS Watch is a compact, durable, and feature-rich device that certainly isn’t cheap but will tick all the boxes.
|Garmin Fenix 7S Multisport GPS Watch
|42 x 42 x 14.1 mm
|Corning® Gorilla® Glass
|240 x 240 pixels
|Up to 37 hours in GPS mode
4. Fitbit Versa 4 Fitness Smartwatch
The Fitbit Versa 4 Fitness Smartwatch is your new best buddy on your fitness journey. This little gadget is like your own personal trainer, packed with tons of features to help you get the most out of your workouts.
No matter what kind of exercise gets your heart pumping – whether that’s strength training, kayaking, or trying out something new – the Versa 4 is right there with you. It’s got over 40 exercise modes to choose from, and it’ll show your stats on the spot. If you’re hitting the great outdoors, the built-in GPS will give you real-time updates on your pace and distance.
One of the best things about the Versa 4 is its battery life. This thing can keep up with you for six days on a single charge, and if you’re always on the go, it can get a full day’s charge in just 12 minutes.
Another cool feature of the Versa 4 is the sleep tracking features that give you a monthly breakdown of 10 key sleep metrics, plus a sleep profile to help you understand how you sleep and where you can improve.
|Fitbit Versa 4 Fitness Smartwatch
|46 x 46 x 14.6 mm
|218 x 218 pixels
|Up to 6 days in standard mode
5. Garmin Forerunner 745
The Garmin Forerunner 745 is a GPS running watch designed with runners and triathletes in mind. This advanced gadget offers detailed training statistics, on-device workouts, and smartwatch functions, helping you to train smarter and perform better.
The battery life of the Forerunner 745 is more than respectable. It can last up to a week in smartwatch mode and up to 6 hours when using GPS mode with music. If you’re preparing for a long race or just love extended workouts, the UltraTrac mode ensures the watch can keep up with your longest sessions.
It’s also designed for comfort, making it suitable for training, racing, and everyday life. The Forerunner 745 is Garmin’s smallest and lightest full-featured running and triathlon smartwatch, offering a comfortable fit without compromising on features.
While the Garmin Forerunner 745 has been around for a few years, it’s still a high-quality, high-performance GPS watch that deserves your consideration.
|Garmin Forerunner 745
|43.8 x 43.8 x 13.3 mm
|Corning® Gorilla® Glass DX
|240 x 240 pixels
|Up to 6 hours in full GPS mode
6. Suunto 9 Peak GPS Sports Watch
The Suunto 9 Peak GPS Sports Watch is a top-tier wearable device designed by Suunto, a company renowned for over 80 years of producing high-quality and innovative watches, compasses, and other tech products.
With its Scandinavian design and use of durable materials, the Suunto 9 Peak is built to last and look good while doing it. This watch is designed to track your sports activities, daily routines, and sleep patterns, offering a comprehensive overview of your lifestyle, training, and recovery balance.
The Suunto 9 Peak is engineered for peak experiences in sports, embodying the thinnest, smallest, and toughest design Suunto has ever produced. More importantly, this multisport GPS watch also boasts a rapid charging capability, reaching full battery in just an hour.
It offers an impressive 25 hours of battery life in its optimal GPS mode, making it a reliable partner for those longer expeditions. For water sports enthusiasts, you’ll be pleased to know that this watch is waterproof up to 100 meters, making it suitable for swimming and diving.
With a remarkable 80 sports modes, the Suunto 9 Peak is ready to support a vast range of activities, from running and cycling to swimming and hiking.
|Suunto 9 Peak GPS Sports Watch
|43 x 43 x 10.6 mm
|240 x 240 pixels
|Up to 25 hours in GPS mode
7. Polar Pacer Pro GPS Watch
The Polar Pacer Pro GPS Watch features a high-performance core processor that results in a smooth, powerful user interface experience. Faster processing and increased memory mean that you can track and analyse your performance with greater precision and speed.
What makes the Pacer Pro stand out is its accurate GPS tracking and superb battery life. The new antenna design offers improved tracking accuracy, allowing you to record every move with precision, and the battery offers up to 100 hours of training time on a single charge.
Also worth mentioning is the bright memory-in-pixel reflective colour display and super thin screen. This ensures your stats are always visible, whether you’re training under bright sunlight or in dimly lit conditions.
The Pacer Pro provides powerful training tools for more than 150 sports, from indoor gym workouts and fitness classes to outdoor cycling, hiking, and swimming.
|Polar Pacer Pro GPS Watch
|45 x 45 x 11.5 mm
|240 × 240 pixels
|Up to 100 hours in standard mode
GPS Watch Buying Guide
How good a GPS hiking watch is will depend on its essential features 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, running, and other outdoor sports.
- Heart Rate Monitor
- Battery Life
While some hikers prefer a watch without GPS, 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, etc.
A good GPS watch can also 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.
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 indicates 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 one. A GPS altimeter generally provides more accurate results. Also, because of pressure changes, a barometric altimeter often needs to be calibrated.
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 abort the hike.
One of the most basic features of 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.
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.
It’s often overlooked, but it’s important to consider the materials used for a GPS watch, particularly for 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 regular hiking watch does. This makes sense because GPS, by definition, requires a lot more resources.
But batteries in GPS watches are rechargeable, so it shouldn’t be a significant 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 10 hours at the very least.
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 getting damaged.
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 going for a brand that specialises in watches over a brand that sells all kinds of different sports-related products.