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Published Apr. 28, 2021

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

If you want something equipped with all the bells and whistles that take hiking into the modern era, the Garmin Instinct Rugged Outdoor Watch is a good way to go. Built to meet U.S. military standards for heat and water resistance, it is able to withstand extreme conditions. The bright and clear screen connects to GPS and two other leading navigation systems (Galileo and Glonass). With a silicone strap, it stays firmly in place on your wrist. This facilitates heart rate and movement tracking. When you connect the program using the Garmin website, you can access more fitness-focused features. In terms of hiking utility, the accurate time, altimeter, and three-axis compass ensures that you are safe while in the wilderness. Durable and effective, it’s suitable for hikers of all experience levels.

Best Affordable Hiking Watch

The Timex Expedition Shock XL Watch is a worthy choice for all hiking styles, featuring a relatively innocuous design and high utility value. Using quartz technology, it provides accurate time on both the 12- and 24-hour clock. The digital LCD display highlights information prominently. With a resin face for added pressure and water resistance, you can safely submerge this watch up to 660 feet. It features a comfortable strap that’s easy to adjust and incorporates extra features for added value. Among these are the timer and alarm reminders, in addition to the three time zone settings. While it might not be the most advanced model out there (lacking a GPS system), it stands out as a balance between functionality and cost.

Best Hiking Watch for Men

Powered by solar energy, the Casio Men’s Pathfinder Sport Watch is ideally suited towards longer hikes. The battery is able to work for six months on a single charge without requiring more light. The rugged steel exterior adds durability, while the quartz time-measurement tech hums away precisely. It features a wide digital display that clearly displays the time and date. As far as outdoor utility goes, this watch has whatever you might need. Equipped with a compass, thermometer, and altimeter, this watch lets you know where you are at any given time. Resistant to extreme cold and able to connect to 31 different time zones, this hikers’ watch is a great option for men. Waterproof enough to take underwater and powerful enough to work consistently for long periods, this is an ideal watch for extreme outdoor situations.

Aiming to use hiking as a way to get in shape? The Fitbit Versa 2 Health and Fitness Smartwatch is designed to support those goals. While it might be a bit less rugged than other models on this list, it is designed for workouts (like hiking). Built to connect to Alexa, this watch has a bright SmartScreen that displays the time as well as monitoring your vitals. Unlike other watches that are only well-suited for outdoor use, you can keep this model on around the clock. It tracks your heart rate, steps, and even sleep stages. Charging relatively quickly, it takes a short time to juice it back up and it lasts for quite a while on a single charge. Since it’s made to track your steps, you can use the GPS feature connected to the app to navigate. Keep in mind that this watch is better for casual hikes when you are getting back into the activity.

Best Hiking Watch with an Altimeter

Though it comes with a fairly hefty price tag, the Polar Grit X Rugged Outdoor Watch is so advanced and durable that it is well worth the investment. Made to meet military standards, it is resilient against impact, moisture, and extreme heat and cold. With an built-in GPS system, it helps you navigate your surroundings more easily. Paired with the altimeter and the compass, you are always better equipped to assess your surroundings. By incorporating reminders to refuel, it helps you optimize energy consumption on your trips. Enabling you to plan out a route by combining the various metrics it analyzes, this outdoor watch makes hiking far more enjoyable. It even works when travelling to parts unknown, thanks to the wide range of offline maps in its programming. Easy to read and built to last, this is a powerful hiking watch.

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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