GPS watches have become an indispensable tool for runners and outdoor adventurers alike. Your watch can be so much more useful than telling you the time and how fast you ran your last lap.
If you’re a serious runner or a hiker, the best outdoor watches are practically a necessity. Some of them are also aimed at swimmers, cyclists, or other sports players.
Not only will adding one to your gear help track your stats, but they’re super helpful for making sure you have a safe run or hike. Hikers especially can gain huge safety benefits from wearing one of these and being informed of conditions before setting out. From incident detection to live tracking to navigational aid, today’s watches are powerhouse tools for the active lifestyle.
These watches not only offer a host of features that inform you about everything to do with outdoor conditions, but they’re also usually very durable and solar-chargeable.
Our first choice for best outdoor watch is the Garmin fenix 6X Pro Solar. It not only features full-color GPS, but it also has maps and settings specific to skiing, golfing, and mountaineering. It’s solar-charged and has multiple power modes for a long-lasting battery.
Here’s the full list of our top products.
Top 3 Best and Favorites
Garmin fenix 6X Pro Solar
Suunto 9 Baro
1. Garmin fenix 6X Pro Solar
If you’re an outdoor adventurer who’s always up for a challenge, the Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar is the watch for you.
The 1.4” watch face is large enough to glance at while you’re on the go, and it charges the battery when in the sun, which is super helpful. Some may find it a touch too large to be comfortable, especially ladies.
You’ll find some helpful functions for improving your running, like pace guidance, split pacing, VO2 max, and a recovery advisor. While many of these functions are also available on Garmin’s less-expensive Forerunner models, the fenix line really excels at long battery life, making them the go-to choice for ultrarunning and multi-day trekking, especially.
The features aren’t limited to runners, though. The fenix 6x offers unique features for those who do more than just run, so we’d recommend it for those who enjoy running off the beaten track, skiing, golfing, and rock climbing.
Topographical ski maps, CourseView maps and PlaysLike Distance feature, and ClimbPro ascent planner are all things that you may never use if you only wear this watch while running.
Something we like is the customizable power manager modes, which allows you to have a certain amount of control over your battery power.
A multitude of preloaded activity profiles means you can get great metrics from this watch no matter what activity you’re busy with.
As an added bonus, you can download music onto the watch so you can listen while you’re out and about.
- Includes GPS and a variety of maps
- Customizable power manager modes
- Specific info on ski slopes, golf courses, and rock climbs
- Advanced training metrics
- Preloaded activity profiles
- 1.4 inch display may feel too large for some, especially women
- Navigation may be confusing for new users
Top Battery Life
2. COROS VERTIX
If your running default is the long run (and here we’re talking the really long run), you need a watch that has great battery power. The COROS VERTIX wins first place for battery life in this list of best outdoor watches.
In terms of style and comfort, it’s pretty much on-par with the Garmin fenix. It’s also super for guys and girls who love trail running, hiking, and hardcore adventuring.
The watch is designed to withstand temperatures of -22°F and dives of up to 150 meters (490 feet) comfortably, and still keep its amazing battery life. If you use this watch every day and don’t make use of the fancy features, you’ll get more than a month out of its battery! And if you’re someone who regularly finds themselves above the snow line, or deep underwater, this is also your watch.
In full GPS mode, you’ll get 60 hours out of a single charge. No matter where you’re running, how far, or for how long, the COROS is a super companion.
Apart from the battery, this watch offers useful features like altitude acclimatization assistance, accurate heart rate tracking, and a comprehensive app that features metrics like cadence, stride length, and elevation, as well as full integration with Strava.
- 60-hour battery on full GPS
- Waterproof up to 150 meters (490 feet)
- Enhanced digital knob for easy use even with gloves
- Anti-scratch Sapphire glass screen
- Missing some everyday activity profiles like walking or weight training
- The calculated metrics (calories burned, pace, etc) can be a little inaccurate
Best Outdoor Running Watch
3. Suunto 9 Baro
The Suunto is a comprehensive watch that offers plenty of features to help you supercharge your running.
You can switch between three different battery modes, allowing for between 25 and 120 hours of use on one charge. A nice feature is the Smart Reminders, which pop up when your battery is low to suggest switching to another mode to save power.
One of the reasons Suunto’s battery lasts so long is that they don’t use constant GPS tracking. Suunto’s FusedTrack algorithm uses a combination of GPS and motion sensor tracking. You’ll still get accurate data, just without draining your battery too much.
With more than 80 built-in sports modes, weather-tracking features, a “Loop” lap function, 100-meter (330 feet) waterproofing, and a comprehensive app, this would be a good buy if you don’t mind a bit of a chunky piece on your wrist.
- FusedTrack algorithm for battery-saving
- Suunto app for tracking activity and sleep
- Over 80 sports modes
- Weather features
- Wrist-based heart rate monitor seems to be inaccurate
- Can’t export data from app
Top Skiing Outdoor Watch
4. Garmin Instinct
Just as there are soe watches geared toward running, there are others geared toward other outdoor pursuits, skiing tops among them. If you’re happier knee-deep in powder or eating up moguls, then this watch is the one for you! There are a bunch of different models, but they all pack a punch in terms of features and usefulness.
This rugged watch has been constructed in accordance with U.S. military standards, so you know it’s a tough piece of equipment!
You can run with this watch, for sure. Monitor heart rate, stress levels, activity, and a range of activity profiles. But it’s really made for more rugged activity, which is why we recommend it for skiing.
It’s thermal, shock and water-resistant, has GPS and built-in navigation sensors, a variety of tactical functions, and even “night vision mode”, so you can wear night-vision goggles and still read it!
This watch is meant for serious, rough and tumble activity. Up to 16 hours of run-time in full GPS mode means you don’t have to cut adventures short to charge your watch!
- Built-in compass
- Up to 16 hours battery in GPS mode
- Thermal, shock, and water-resistant
- Variety of colors available
- No ability to store music
- Some users report an allergic reaction to the watch strap
Best Cycling Outdoor Watch
5. Polar Vantage V
With over 130 different sport profiles, you’ll be covered no matter what form of training you decide to do.
Polar’s Training Load Pro function is helpful for monitoring your cardio load, muscle load, and your perceived load separately, giving you new insights into your training.
Recovery Pro is another interesting and useful feature, but the downside is that you’ll need to purchase a separate Polar H10 heart rate sensor. Using this feature can help prevent overtraining and injuries, though, so it could be worth it. Wrist-based heart rate monitors are notoriously inaccurate, so the H10 is definitely worth the investment if you are serious about tracking biometrics and basing your workouts on them.
The integrated GPS gives you all the necessary info for running or cycling, such as speed, distance, route tracking, incline, ascent, descent, and altitude.
As an added plus for running, this Polar is supposedly the first watch that can accurately determine running power from the wrist, without the need for extra gear like power meters.
- Up to 40 hours battery in GPS mode
- Recovery Pro feature
- Training Load Pro feature
- 130+ different activity profiles
- No customization options
- Mediocre sleep tracking
- If you wish to use the Recovery Pro feature, you need to purchase a separate Polar HR monitor
Top Diving Watch
6. Cressi Giotto
It should seem obvious when we say that diving is an activity quite unlike other activities. Maybe now is not the time to try to multi-task with your running watch, no matter what its marketing materials said. And divers, this mini-computer on your wrist could be your next favorite gadget.
The large, bright display makes it easy to see the necessary info at a quick glance when you’re underwater.
Choose from three modes depending on your dive: Air, Nitrox, or Gauge. This little machine is smart enough to constantly calculate nitrogen absorption and release, and it also allows you to customize your PO2 and FO2 parameters.
You’ll also be able to go back and check your dive data after each dive, including decompression. A 60-dive or 70-hour logbook keeps all your data safe, and you can export it to your laptop if you download the right software.
Other features that get the thumbs-up include an automatic safety stop indicator, both auditory and visual alarm settings, the ability to choose between metric or imperial, and the fact that the battery lasts up to 3 years, or 150 dives (!).
- “Dive program” with 70-hr or 60-dive logbook
- Air, Nitrox, and Gauge modes
- Customization of O2 percentage and partial pressure
- Variety of colors to choose from
- You’ll need to download extra software if you wish to export your dive data
Best Outdoor Watch with Music
7. Garmin Forerunner 245
Although some runners enjoy being out in the world, listening to the traffic, the birds, and their own feet on the pavement, others (like myself) are highly motivated by the right playlist!
For the running music-lover, or the musicking run-lover, Garmin’s Forerunner 245 is hard to beat. You can sync your watch with multiple music streaming services and download songs directly onto the watch. This is super – no more having to carry a phone around with you just to listen to your tunes!
Some other things that make this watch great are the fact that the screen is a nice size and doesn’t feel chunky but you can still see it nicely at a glance, and it’s made from scratch-resistant Gorilla glass.
In terms of activity, you can customize your training programs or try out one of Garmin Coach’s free training plans.
Whichever you choose, your watch will evaluate your training and suggest whether you’re undertraining or overtraining, so you can maximize your performance.
If you buy a separate Garmin heart rate monitor or Running Dynamics Pod, you’ll be able to track more in-depth metrics like cadence, stride length, ground contact time and vertical oscillation.
- Syncs with music streaming services
- Can save music directly to the device
- Training evaluation
- Create custom workouts or use a free Garmin training plan
- Navigation can be confusing for newbies, and the instructions are convoluted
Best for Weather Monitoring
8. Suunto Core
The weather can make or break your training, and nobody wants to have a run cut short because they got caught in a thunderstorm!
If you’re looking for a watch that has superior weather monitoring properties, the Suunto Core could be the one for you.
A built-in barometer helps you stay ahead of the weather and avoid potential drenching, or at least prepare for bad weather in advance.
If you are out in some wild weather, the onboard compass and altimeter should go a long way towards helping you stay on track and arrive home safely.
Other great functions are the sunrise/sunset timer, temperature tracking, storm alert, depth meter (for snorkeling), and the ability to replace both the battery and the strap.
- Storm alert feature
- Sunrise/sunset times
- Altimeter & barometer
- Replaceable battery and strap
- If you’re doing exercise that requires bending your hand, you may accidentally hit the side buttons
Top Marine Sport Watch
9. Garmin quatix 6
Runners who love the water, this marine watch may be the best gadget for you. It’s particularly useful for those who enjoy boating, packing a bunch of high-end marine features into a stylish interface.
If your boat already has Garmin tech onboard (in case you don’t know, Garmin makes many devices for aviation and marine navigation, in addition to their sports wearables), you’ll find it easy to connect this watch right up. Stream the data directly to your watch to keep an eye on it wherever you are, and you can even set your boat to autopilot using your watch!
With features like waypoint marking, Sail Assist, coastal charts, and freshwater maps, your Garmin quatix is like a helpful co-pilot.
You can use it on dry land too, with a variety of workout presets, contactless payment functions, and a stylish design.
You won’t be able to track your usual running metrics with it, though!
- Autopilot boat feature
- Preloaded with a range of watersports apps
- Water-resistant up to 100 meters (330 feet)
- Up to 24 hours of battery in GPS mode
- It’s pricey
- No ability to track usual running metrics like speed, distance, etc
Best Chrono Outdoor Watch
10. Casio Pro Trek PRW-3510
Runners know that a stopwatch function can always come in handy for training. But given than, many high-priced watches either do not have full-feature stopwatches, or the function is finicky to find and use. Sometimes, a simple stopwatch is all you want. For those times, the Casio Pro Trek PRW-3510 is our pick for the best chrono outdoor watch.
A fairly comprehensive stopwatch will aid your training regime. Measure elapsed time, split time, and first and second place times. There’s also a countdown timer.
With unique features like World Time (31 time zones), atomic time-keeping, and a 5-alarm function, you’ll be able to keep up with international family, friends, or business easily.
When you want to leave things like heart rate, steps, speed, or distance, alone, and simply look at time, this watch offers that in a durable package.
It’s also water-resistant to 200-meters, so you can easily take a swim without having to worry.
- Works well in temperatures as low as 14°F
- Water-resistant up to 200 meters (660 feet)
- Altimeter & barometer
- 1/10 second stopwatch
- It can be hard to see the time unless the display is tilted
Unsure of why you should choose an outdoor watch over a normal watch? Here’s a quick rundown of what features outdoor watches have and why they’re such a super addition to your kit.
What Features Should Outdoor Watches Have?
The best outdoor watches should be packed with features that give a runner or hiker an advantage over the outdoors!
- Built-in GPS
- An altimeter (measures your distance above sea level)
- Solar-powered battery unit
- Step counter
- Calorie counter
- Heart rate monitor
These are the features that will be most important on an outdoor watch. Other things that are nice to have but not essential include sleep monitoring, training guides, and music.
Why Are These Features Important?
If you’re a hiker or an adventurous runner who likes getting off the beaten track, then these tools are necessities. You may not care about hiking in a light drizzle, but if you were forewarned that a blizzard was coming, would you head out?
Probably not. That’s one of the things that an outdoor watch does – it gives you insights into weather and conditions before you head out.
It also provides valuable information on the road, such as your altitude, the direction you’re going, and what weather could be ahead.
These things can be major safety concerns when you’re in the middle of nowhere. If you can get a head start on them, it increases your chances of avoiding them completely and staying safe.