Battery life is one of the most significant distinguishing features between GPS watches. Budget models offer enough battery for a few days of activity tracking. High-end models have batteries that can last through week-long trekking adventures and more. But even those can run low after enough use, and the serious backcountry adventurer will have need for additional juice.
This is the wheelhouse of the solar watch. Drawing at least part of its power from available sunlight, a solar watch can be a useful and convenient bit of gear.
They come in two variations: GPS watches that track and record outdoor activities like running, hiking, and biking; and chronograph watches, which are like your classic digital watch – they tell time, can be used as a stopwatch, and may have a few features like a compass or altimeter.
Both types have their merits, depending on what you’re looking for. Typically, solar watches are slightly more expensive than regular ones. And the GPS watches use solar power to extend the battery although they still need to be recharged. Chrono watches are more often powered by the sun alone.
Our first choice for a GPS watch is the Garmin fenix 6 Pro Solar. It’s very comprehensive, featuring advanced training metrics for a variety of sports, full health tracking, music storage for up to 2000 songs, and the ability to customize the watch face.
Our number one chronograph is the Casio Pro Trek PAG240T-7. It features three sensors (altimeter, barometer/thermometer, and a digital compass), has a battery life of 6 months on a single charge, and is resistant to low temperatures.
For more options, read on! No matter what features are important to you in a solar watch, there’ll be one here that suits you.
Top 3 Best and Favourites
Garmin fenix 6 Pro Solar
Casio Pro Trek PAG240T-7
Casio G-Shock G2310R-1
1. Garmin fenix 6 Pro Solar
The Garmin fenix 6 is the current king of rugged GPS watches, and for good reason! If you’re looking for a mini-computer on your wrist, this is it.
The 1.3-inch screen displays everything in startling detail. It’s not just a great size. It also looks stylish while being packed with high-end features for just about any activity you may do.
Running metrics abound. You can track every aspect of your performance, including running dynamics like cadence, ground contact time, and pace. PacePro technology is a new innovation to help you stick to the pace you need as you run.
Cross-trainers will love the activity profiles for a wide variety of other exercises. Whether you swim, hike, bike, row, golf, surf, mountain climb, ski, or weight train, there’s a setting for you to track your performance.
Other useful functions include heart rate data and alerts, a body battery, sleep analysis, hydration reminders, recovery advisor, blood oxygen levels, and incident detection.
You can download music to your watch, use Garmin contactless pay, download apps and custom watch faces, and receive your emails and texts right on your wrist.
Of course, the big plus to this watch is that it’s solar-powered. On a full charge you can get up to 9 days of battery (if using indoors), or 11 days (when solar charging in the smartwatch mode).
If you use it in full GPS mode, your battery life will understandably be less – around 25 hours indoors or 28 hours when solar charging.
- Innovative PacePro feature
- Pulse ox and respiration data
- Advanced running and cross-training metrics
- It may be too comprehensive and confusing to some
Most Durable GPS Watch
2. Garmin Instinct Solar Tactical
Some of us are just harder on equipment than others. If this sounds like you, and you’re looking for a supremely durable solar watch, this one packs a punch.
The Garmin Instinct Solar Tactical is engineered to US Military Standards. It’s water-resistant to 100 meters, and also resistant to shock and extreme temperatures.
This watch just looks tough. If you’re in the military or in a field that requires you to use tactical gear, this watch has some unique features. Stealth mode, night vision mode, and jumpmaster mode are all geared toward this kind of use.
Even if you’re more of a camping person, the GPS features, rugged and durable construction, altimeter, barometer, and compass make your outdoor experience easier and more fun.
The watch offers a great range of sport settings, too. Heart rate monitoring, sleep and stress tracking, and an energy monitor keeps you in tune with your body.
Considering it’s built for being knocked around outdoors, it makes perfect sense that this hardcore watch would be solar-powered. You can check out the Power Manager to see where your battery is going and how you could save minutes or even hours.
- Military-standard toughness
- Water-resistant up to 100 meters
- Trackback Routing
- Built-in sports apps
- Some runners may develop an allergy to the silicon strap
Best for Water Sports
3. Garmin quatix 6 Solar
If water sports are your go-to thing when you’re not running, we recommend the Garmin quatix 6 solar.
It has a beautifully sleek design, looking more like an expensive wristwatch brand than a watch designed to be splashed and submerged!
It’s particularly good for sailing, with a variety of specific features that give sailors an advantage. You can do things like take full control of your boat from your watch, including steering and the entertainment system, view real-time data on useful things like water depth, wind, and engine RPM, view coastal charts and freshwater lake maps, and use Garmin’s SailAssist function.
When you aren’t on the water, you can make use of things like sports profiles for working out, satellite navigation, and ski resort maps.
When you use it in smartwatch mode, you can get up to 21 days of battery life. Solar charging can add 3 days to that. In full GPS mode, you’ll be able to get 60+ hours out of it.
- Built-in Fusion-Link Lite app
- Water-resistant up to 100 meters
- Lakevu G3 Maps
- Multisport GPS watch
- GPS navigation on the water is questionable, which some sailors may find to be a deal-breaker
Longest Battery Life
4. Garmin tactix Delta Solar
Battery life is underrated! Nobody wants to have to charge their watch constantly or run the risk of their battery dying while they’re out on a long run. It’s not just about losing out on performance metrics. If you’re in the backcountry and relying on our watch for navigation, losing power could leave you lost and stranded.
The Garmin tactix Delta Solar watch wins first place for having the longest battery life. You can wear it for up to 56 days in expedition GPS mode before having to check the battery. Even in standard GPS mode, you get up to 66 hours – more than two and half days.
Just looking at it, you can tell it’s been built for rugged use. It features a range of tactical functions, like stealth mode, night vision compatibility, dual-position format, and a handy killswitch that wipes the watch’s memory if important info is compromised.
For hiking, trail running, and the like, Expedition mode works on an unusually low-powered GPS to keep you going for longer without a charge. A full range of navigation and routing functions are also built-in.
A large collection of sport-specific features are useful for training purposes. No matter where in the world you are, you can find a use for it! Skiing, surfing, mountain biking, and animated workout and yoga sessions are just some of these features.
Runners will find advanced running metrics and the addition of PacePro technology to be useful, whatever surface they’re running on.
- Various tactical modes
- Great battery life in smartwatch and GPS
- Expedition mode GPS
- Advanced training metrics
- Runners may accidentally activate the killswitch and wipe all their data!
Best Chrono with GPS
5. Casio G-Shock Move GBD-H1000-8
Usually, watches are either GPS watches or they’re chronograph watches. This one, however, mixes elements of both, which is why it’s listed as our top Chrono watch with GPS.
This watch looks like it could survive a nuclear war. It’s rough, rugged, and sturdy-looking, but underneath that tough exterior (that comes in various colors) it has some useful and unexpected features.
You’ll find your basic Chrono features, which are great for runners to keep up with their own metrics. Time, distance, pace, calories burned, heart rate, cumulative ascent and descent, and lap times are just some of the data you can choose to display on the watch face.
You won’t be able to use the GPS for navigation. It’s built-in to assist with the compass, and calculating details like speed and distance.
This watch can be charged via solar power or USB.
- 200-meter water resistance
- GPS route mapping
- Running metrics
- Training function
- No additional sports or workout modes
Digital Chronograph Watches
Best ABC (Altimeter, Barometer, Compass) Watch
6. Casio Pro Trek PAG240T-7
Sometimes, you don’t need all the fancy exercise apps and other stuff.
This is the best ABC watch, which stands for altimeter, barometer, compass. These are the metrics necessary for things like hiking and mountain climbing, so if that’s something you’re into, this could be a good choice for you.
It’s the perfect watch for having mountainous outdoor adventures. Sunrise and sunset times are easy to see at a glance, and the compass displays your direction in 1-degree increments.
Your altimeter has an impressive range: from -700 to 10,000 meters. You can view an altitude graph, and it commits certain data to memory, like high altitude, low altitude, and total ascent and descent.
The barometer is also a useful tool for climbers, to indicate when air pressure is getting less.
The most impressive thing about this watch is its battery life. On a single charge, it can last up to 6 months.
- Battery life of approximately 6 months on a full charge
- Triple sensor
- Low-temperature resistant
- Waterproof up to 100 meters
- Less useful for runners who aren’t the climbing type
Best Chrono for Water Sports
7. Casio Classic G-Shock GW7900B
If you want something hardy enough to withstand being in and around the water, and that will still give you basic but important data, this could be the one.
The Classic G-Shock is a hardy watch. The recessed watch face is hard to break, and is constructed from durable materials. It’s also water-resistant up to 200 meters, which makes it perfect for a variety of water sports.
Useful features like the moon and tidal graphs give you an insight into water conditions, helping you prepare for your day ahead on the water.
It’s easy to see even under the water, with a large watch face and auto EL backlight. The buttons are large and textured, making it easy to push them, whether on land or below the surface.
It’s solar-powered and also has a power-saving mode, so your battery can last as long as possible.
- Water-resistant to 200 m (660 ft)
- Power-saving feature
- Moon and tide graphs
- Some may feel that the watch is too bulky
Best Value ABC (Altimeter, Barometer, Compass) Chrono
8. Casio Pro Trek PRG-270-1
If you’ve been searching for a watch that will offer basic information, withstand rigorous everyday activity, and not cost a fortune, this could be the watch for you!
It’s a triple sensor watch, providing you details using the altimeter, barometer, and compass. Apart from those, it offers basic running metrics, like speed, distance, and pace.
It is very durable, being water-resistant to 100 meters, as well able to operate undeterred in temperatures as low as 14℉.
On a full charge, the battery in this watch can last up to 9 months if it isn’t exposed to the sun! For the price, you get a good-quality watch that will offer up useful basic data, and probably outlast any other watch you have.
- Triple sensor, ABC
- Integrated Solar Panel
- 100m water-resistant
- LED backlight
- The alarm tone may be too quiet for some
Top Color Screen Chrono
9. Casio G-Shock GWB5600BL-1
This watch is pretty eye-catching, so if you’re looking for something that’s easy to see in the dark, this one won’t let you down.
The blue auto LED super-illuminator backlight shines like a beacon, so you’ll never struggle to see what’s on your screen. You can also select if you want the light to stay on for 2 or 4 seconds.
There’s nothing fancy about this watch. You’ll find local time, world time, a stopwatch, a countdown timer, 5 daily alarms, and date.
It’s shock-resistant and can handle submersion of up to 200 meters. If you use it indoors without exposing it to light after a charge, it can last up to 10 months before needing to be charged again.
- Full auto LED light (super illuminator)
- Wireless linking using Bluetooth
- Power-saving feature
- Water-resistant up to 200 meters
- Slightly pricey for its features
Best Budget Chrono
10. Casio G-Shock G2310R-1
If you’re on a budget and looking for an affordable watch that will do the job of telling you the time and date, this is a great choice.
It’s a G-Shock, which means it’s built to last – shock resistant and water-resistant to 220 meters.
You’ll be able to check the time (in 31 different time zones), the date, use a stopwatch or countdown timer, set 5 alarms, and run a battery-saving mode.
This watch’s battery will last 11 months on a full charge without more exposure to light.
- EL Backlight with Afterglow
- World Time 31 times zones
- Countdown timer
- Solar rechargeable battery
- Those with large wrists may find the band to be a tight squeeze
Here are some questions you may be asking about the best solar watches for running. Take the time to learn about them and decide exactly what you want before choosing!
How Do Solar-Powered Watches Work?
Solar-powered watches use a tiny “solar panel” using photovoltaic cells, to accumulate and store light energy. It then converts this stored energy into power to run the watch.
How Much Power Reserve Can a Solar-Powered Watch Store?
This really depends on the watch. But generally, on a chronograph watch, it can store between 6 months and a year’s worth of power reserve.
GPS watches are far more battery-intense. Solar power, in most cases, simply extends battery life for 5 to 6 hours.
How Long Does a Solar on a Casio G-shock Last?
If you’re eyeing a Casio G-Shock, you’ll be pleased to know that the solar tech on these watches can see you through a good decade to a decade and a half before needing to be replaced.
What is Tough Solar on Casio Watches?
Tough Solar is Casio’s proprietary solar battery-recharging system. It’s designed to facilitate the stable operation of functions that usually eat through power, like lighting, stopwatches, and measurement features that run constantly.
What are the Main Benefits of Solar Watches?
Solar watches may seem like a gimmick, but they have some benefits over others. They’re environmentally-friendly and require little to no charging, or less charging than usual thanks to an extended battery time (on a GPS watch).
They’re generally very robust and designed for hardcore outdoor use. If you want a durable watch, go for a solar-powered one!