Nothing quite beats your first glimpse at a totally Insta-worthy view when you reach the top of a solid trek—but looking down at your hiking watch post-schlep to check out how good of a workout you just got is a close second.
Whether you’re new to the trails or practically a pro mountaineer, there’s something pretty special about getting out there for a hike (or trail run!). From the fresh air to the steep inclines, it’s more than an adequate substitute for your favorite studio sweat. If you want to really take your outdoor workouts to new heights (sorry, had to), though—or are skeptical that the burn is really *that* impressive—then it sounds like you need a hiking watch.
I know what you’re thinking: “Sweet, I’ve got a fitness tracker hanging around somewhere…” But any ‘ole step tracker just isn’t going to cut it, because hiking is about SOO much more than putting one foot in front of the other. You want a device that can capture the elevation you gain, the type of terrain you traverse, the temperature fluctuations you endure, and more.
To get the clearest picture of your rocky accomplishments, you’re going to want a tracker with an altimeter, a compass, a heart rate monitor, and a GPS tracker.
That sounds like a lot to look for, I get it. Lucky for you, though, I did all of the leg work of sorting through online reviews, product descriptions, and expert recommendations in order to narrow down the best hiking watches you can slap on your wrist to the 10 on this list. After all, the real work should start once you get off the grid, right? Scroll on to meet your next hiking buddy.
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Best for Solo Hikers
Forerunner 645 Music
$283.82 (37% off)
If you want to pull a Cheryl Strayed (please tell me you’ve read Wild) and hit the trails solo? Consider making the Garmin ForeRunner 645 Music your trailmate.
In addition to logging your loop with the help of the downloadable GPS, this hiking watch has a safety feature that, when activated, automatically notifies your pre-loaded emergency contacts of your whereabouts.
It also has a training status measure that calculates whether your current activity level is enough for you to improve or maintain your fitness capacity—or whether it won’t do much for you at all.
Another major plus: You can also download over 600 songs directly to your watch. So, if you prefer to hit the trails with a podcast or favorite playlist humming in your ears, you can.
Best overall hiking watch
Fenix 6 Pro
Made of steel and titanium, this durable watch won’t break…even if you bang it up while carving through caves or shimmying through trees.
Plus, it’s equipped with an altimeter, 3-axis compass, barometer, thermometer, and weather app which ensures that you get literally every blip of data you could want while trudging or trekking.
Best part? Battery lasts up to nine days. So, go ahead and plan that week-long hike.
Best for short, occasional hikes
Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS + Cellular)
$359.99 (25% off)
The Apple Watch Series 4 might be best known for its one-of-a-kind heart rate sensor, but its workout tracker has a hiking option that outdoors enthusiasts will love. All you have to do is sling on your daypack, press “go,” and enjoy the views. Then, when you return to the trail head, end your workout.
While your hiking mate drives you back to civilization, you can dive into the data, which includes your active minutes, calories burned, average heart rate, distance traveled, and—the best part—elevation gained and lost.
The main drawback of the Apple Watch is its battery life. After six hours, the Series 4 tuckers out. While this is no biggie for casual day hikers, it’s not ideal for long-haulers.
Best for lovers of simplicity and the directionally-challenged
The trickiest thing about getting a new piece of fitness tech is learning what the heck all the buttons do (just me?). But with its intuitive touch-screen, that’s a non-issue for the Suunto 9 Baro.
Don’t worry, though, winter hikers: Buttons on the side also help you navigate, so you don’t have to ditch your mittens to check in on your stats while trekking in the cold.
In addition to being equipped with a GPS, altimeter, barometer, thermometer, compass, and heart rate monitor, the 9 Baro also allows you to download routes right onto your watch using the Suunto Movescount app. This way, you can leave your maps at home and let your wrist lead you to the views (and all the way back to your car).
The best fitness tracker for hiking
Versa 2 Smartwatch
If you’re a Fitbit fanatic, this one is for YOU. The Versa 2 Smartwatch gets the job done just as well on hikes as it does during your day-to-day.
Sleek, big-screened, and stylish, the Versa 2 allows you to track your steps, distance traveled, calories burned, floors climbed, and sleep.
Sure, the Versa 2 doesn’t have the built-in GPS that many other made-for-hiking watches offer. But, after your hike, you can sync your smartphone and watch to download an accurate map of your workout (NBD if you’re lugging your phone along with you anyway.)
Best for hilly hikes and trail running
The lightest-weight option on the list, the Polar Grit X-Rugged is the ideal option for minimalist hikers. Woot!
In addition to the standard altimeter, built-in GPS, and compass, this hiking watch gives you the ability to plan your route on the app Komoot for turn-by-turn guidance when you’re in the trail. (Pretty cool, huh?)
Another noteworthy functionality that trail runners and speed hikers will especially love: the Hill Splitter feature, which automatically logs the uphill and downhill sections of your routes so you learn more about how much faster (or slower) you move as the elevation changes.
Oh, and it’s also waterproof, which is clutch if there’s a swimming hole en route.
Best looking hiking watch
$189.99 (17% off)
If you love everything about the Polar Grit-X besides its rugged look (hey, no shade!), the Ignite—which, IMO, is the sexiest watch on this list—may be more your speed.
And with built-in heart-rate monitoring, sleep analysis, and a hiking workout mode, it’s got all of the things that make for a great day-hike watch.
Also worth noting: The Ignite is a lot cheaper than a lot of other watches that have a built-in GPSS. Plus, Polar’s Ignite-A GPS predicts where satellites are to ensure you never lose service. Translation: It’s accurate AF.
Best utilitarian hiking watch
Another great option by Suunto, the Ambit3 Peak offers many of the same perks as the 9 Baro (altimeter, barometer, thermometer, compass, and heart rate monitoring).
However, though the Ambit3 Peak is a little less slick, design-wise, and has a slightly shorter battery life, it’s also less expensive.
So, for folks looking for a watch to wear only in the woods or ocean (yes, it’s water resistant) this bulkier babe is a good pick.
Best budget hiking watch
If you dig a bit of a retro look and want to stretch your dollars, this Casio watch is by far the easiest on your bank account.
It stills performs, though, featuring altitude tracking, sunset predictions, and a built-in compass. Unlike other options on the list, it can’t exactly track a hike start-to-finish, but you can figure out your altitude gains pretty easily.
Since this one is waterproof at depths of up to 100 meters, you can cool down mid-hike at a waterfall or lake without worrying about your watch getting wet. Phew!
10 Best for All-Around Fitness Junkies: WHOOP
Its face-free design may make the WHOOP strap seem like an odd choice for hikers. But if you’re more interested in analyzing your data than using it as motivation mid-hike, the WHOOP is the perfect pick.
Outfitted with a battery that can last for up to five days, this tracker will log your miles, heart-rate, and energy output as you climb and clamber, and more. From there, it’ll let you know just how much rest you need to recover before your next adventure. (Trust me, you’ll need more than you think.)
The WHOOP strap is also waterproof, so it can handle whatever the elements (and the temptation of skinny dipping) throw at ya.
Gabrielle Kassel is a New York-based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer.
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