The best hiking watches to keep you on time and on target

Track your progress and location with these resilient hiking watches.

Best Overall

Best Hiking Watches

Garmin Instinct Rugged Outdoor Watch

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Best Value

Best Hiking Watches

Timex Expedition Shock XL Watch

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Honorable Mention

Best Hiking Watches

Cassio Pathfinder Sport Watch

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Punctuality is always important — even if you’re hiking in the wilderness. While time-tracking tech has come a long way since the revolutionary pocket watches of the 17th century, keeping time has retained its importance. Nowadays, we can monitor more than ever before with watches able to help you navigate, track barometric pressure and altitude, and even assess your vitals. The tactical value of watches is beyond reproach. Heading into parts unknown to hike highlights this all the more. It might not be the same as setting your watch for a critical op, but when sunset sneaks up on you, it can feel pretty vital.

Hiking watches are rugged, durable, and long-lasting, letting you rough it outdoors without taking on unnecessary risk. To help you track down the best hiking watches for your next excursion, we’ve sussed out the highest-tech, toughest models around. Let’s take a look.

Best Hiking Watch Overall

Garmin Instinct Rugged Outdoor Watch

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Best Affordable Hiking Watch

Timex Expedition Shock XL Watch

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Best Hiking Watch for Men

Casio Pathfinder Sport Watch

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Best Features Hiking Watch

Fitbit Versa 2 Health and Fitness Smartwatch

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Best Hiking Watch with an Altimeter

Polar Grit X Rugged Outdoor Watch

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Related: One of these 6 GPS watches belongs on your wrist

Why you should trust us

With more than five years of product review experience under my belt, I am well versed in tactical items, survival gear, and outdoors supplies. Drawing from my academic background in the sciences and three years as a news correspondent, I provide objective, accurate product assessments. As a hiking enthusiast, I can integrate personal experience to be truly candid about hiking watches. Much of my work is featured on The Drive, Narcity Media, and Car Bibles. Among my most recent articles for Task and Purpose include reviews of tactical backpacks, hydration packs, and 1,000-lumen flashlights

How we chose our top picks

In order to track down the best hiking watches, we started at the beginning. The evolution of watch technology is a tale of human innovation. By understanding what to expect out of the watch in terms of materials, features, and design, we were able to make a shortlist of candidates. Ultimately, you want a watch that offers the most benefits while requiring the least possible upkeep. Using these standards, we whittled down the contenders. We finalized the list based on user-feedback, firsthand knowledge, and company reputation. The result is a series of dependable hiking watches for every budget. Equipped with one of these watches, your next hike can be that much more enjoyable.

Different kinds of hiking watches

Every hike is unique, but there is a big difference between long-hauling it up K2 and going on your local trails. In order to get the most benefits out of your hike, it’s important to pair the experience with the right type of watch. The key is to figure out how you plan to use it and find a watch with corresponding utility. 

GPS watches 

This is a common type of hiking watch and is very useful to those traveling in unfamiliar areas. As with most modern watches, these are usually digital and use quartz technology to run the clock. The LCD display should work in both 12- and 24-hour settings and usually the watch will be waterproof. 

These models set themselves apart because of the built-in navigation systems. Usually, the GPS system will connect to software like Galileo and Globnass. Check that the GPS features don’t drain the battery when making your pick. Also, keep in mind that many do feature altimeters and other monitoring tech, but not all GPS watches have these components. 

Fitness watches

If you are using hiking as a way to exercise, then fitness watches can make a good addition to your hike. Unlike other types that can be a bit bulky and somewhat heavier, you can leave these watches on all the time. Digital and high-tech, this type of watch is made to monitor your vitals while you hike. 

Connecting to GPS in order to track your steps, these watches help you find your way. During your hike, they read your heart rate, and some monitor oxygen saturation and blood pressure. To see how hiking is working for you in all aspects of life, the sleep monitoring software adds value. It’s especially handy if you hunt and camp during the same trips and want to streamline your camping accessories

Military-inspired watches

Per U.S. military specification MIL-STD-910G, these watches meet all the necessary durability requirements to handle the most extreme situations. Useful when you plan to hike in challenging conditions, these watches are built to withstand extreme cold and heat. Water-resistant and submergible to depths up to 100 meters, these watches are excellent when roughing it outdoors. 

Among their many features, these digital watches often incorporate a compass, GPS, and altimeter technology. Many also include thermometers and can forecast the weather. Though these come at a higher price point, they last the longest and usually perform the best. 

Features to look for in hiking watches

When looking into a good hiking watch, there are some essential features to look out for. The first is the actual structure of the watch itself. Consider the material used in the strap, whether it can adjust easily, and if it will be reasonably comfortable on your wrist. Also, look at the material used on the face of the watch. An acrylic resin is a good way to go as it usually means the watch is waterproof and resistant to scratches. 

Next, look out for high-tech features, including navigation abilities. These include a compass, where a three-axis model is the best option. A good watch will have GPS and come with software that assists in the tracking process. This is essential to helping you keep track of where you are, especially when used in conjunction with an altimeter. 

Finally, look at the survival features including a heart rate monitor and thermometer. Extra metrics add a lot of value, but not if they cause a drain on the battery. Consider the power source. Is the battery replaceable or rechargeable? Think about how long it can last and if it will hold up for your entire hike. So long as you look at these specific features, you can be sure that your watch will meet your needs. 

Why do you need a hiking watch?

There’s no shortage of reasons to get a hiking watch. Whether you’re planning on hitting the trails at a local park or prepping for a mountainous excursion, these watches can help. Not only do they incentivize you to stay active with heart rate monitoring, but they can also make exploring a lot safer. 

GPS tracking and navigation software lets you travel to parts unknown without facing extra risk. Paired with an altimeter, you can map out mountain ascents and track your progress during the hike. Quality watches can usually monitor the weather, work as a thermometer,  and track pressure. The more you know about your surroundings, the better you can handle them. 

Plus, when you factor in the durability and fact that these watches can be submerged, they make a great long-term investment. Hiking watches are meant to last for a long time, providing impact and scratch resistance. As long as you pick a quality option like the models on this list, you can count on your hiking watch to last. 

  • Helps you monitor your surroundings by displaying temperature, time, altitude, and pressure. 
  • Able to work underwater and in extreme temperatures so you can use them almost anywhere.
  • Enables you to track your progress through GPS and navigation software. 
  • Monitor vital signs including heart rate, with some tracking oxygen saturation and blood pressure. 
  • Built to last over long periods of time, making them a good investment. 
  • Options are available for all hiking styles ranging from simple to extreme. 

Pricing ranges for hiking watches

  • Under $100: Quite a few watches fall in this category, though they are usually really basic. Most lack advanced features like GPS and focus mostly on time tracking. While affordable, it’s usually better to source a hiking watch from a higher bracket. 
  • Between $100 and $300: Most hiking watches are in this price range, offering all the necessary features. Most fitness and many military-inspired hiking watches are priced in this category. 
  • Over $300: While some military watches are in this price range, you can usually find all the features offered for less of an investment. The only difference is in design and overall durability, but it’s typically not worth the extra cost. 

How we chose our top picks

By learning the history of timepieces, we gained a deeper appreciation for modern watches. After investigating all the essential features by consulting reputable online sources, we were able to assess the merit of individual hiking watches. From there, we aimed to provide a thorough cross-section of all the different types of these watches. We then compiled a shortlist and ensured that they are all made by high-quality manufacturers with a record of success. Finally, we selected top-tier hiking watches so that there is a worthy candidate for every budget. The result is a list of durable, powerful, and technologically advanced hiking watches.  

Related: Be safe and suave with these 5 dive watches

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Corrina Murdoch is a contributor to Task & Purpose and a dedicated freelance writer and editor. Her work has been featured on platforms such as Narcity Media, Loans Canada, and The Drive, and she uses her passion for the written word to inform readers on a wide range of topics