Top 7 Best Hiking Watches: With GPS or For Small Wrists (2021 Reviews)

best hiking watches

A hiking watch not only displays the time and date but also provides crucial information. The best hiking watches can offer navigation, planning, and weather forecasting.

Watches with specific features for trekking and hiking are popular. The companies that manufacture them are making great strides in combining design with advanced technology. Our selection of the best hiking watches includes seven choices with outstanding benefits. Let’s have a look!

Top 7 Best Hiking Watches 2021 Reviews

#1 Best Hiking Watch Overall: Garmin Fenix 5

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The Garmin Fenix 5 watch immediately becomes popular with hikers, climbers, and other outdoor enthusiasts thanks to its attractive design and advanced features. The watch is ideal for recreational outdoor enthusiasts and has a less sporty but more elegant design.

The watch comes with robust materials. The bezel is stainless steel, while the lens comes with sapphire crystal. Therefore, the watch offers great abrasion resistance and durability. However, the design of the watch makes it elegant enough to be worn for business meetings.

The Garmin Fenix​​5 watch also offers a three-axis compass, altimeter, barometer, and thermometer. For more accurate temperatures, you can connect them to an external temperature sensor (Garmin Tempe). The compass and altimeter are automatically calibrated via GPS.


  • Robust materials
  • Abrasion resistance and durability
  • Sporty design
  • Navigation and tracking


  • No night feature included

Garmin Fenix ​​5 watch replaced the hugely popular Garmin Fenix ​​3 in 2017. It is a smartwatch with a high-resolution color display designed for harsh outdoor conditions.

#2 Best Hiking Watch with GPS: Garmin Fenix 5 Plus

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The unique feature made by GPS is that the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus can automatically set the time based on your location and offer navigation and tracking. You can import routes and points of interest. Then the watch will give you directions.

You can save your activities and access detailed information through the Garmin Connect application (desktop or mobile version). The Garmin Fenix ​​5 Plus has many fitness features such as the V02 estimator, recovery advisor, and race predictor. It is also suitable for other sports such as running, swimming, and skiing.


  • Advanced GPS
  • Navigation and tracking
  • High compatibility
  • Fitness features


  • No night feature included

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus offers the best GPS with innovative technology compared with the normal version.

#3 Best Hiking Watch under 200: Suunto Core

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The Suunto Core is another choice for hikers and climbers, as it offers functionality and durability. Compared to the above watches, the Suunto Core has a less sophisticated display (matrix) and does not support GLONASS. It is less expensive and slightly easier to use with a user-friendly interface.

The Suunto Core watch comes with GPS, altimeter, barometer, thermometer, and compass. It has excellent GPS reception since it uses a high-performance GPS antenna and supports navigation and location. We can synchronize the watch with Movescount for analysis and planning and show real-time GPS data such as speed, distance, and elevation gain.


  • Excellent GPS
  • Movescount synchronization
  • Variable dataset


  • Non-sophisticated display
  • No GLONASS support

Suunto Core is the most affordable Suunto model, with a price below $200.

#4 Best Durable Hiking Watch: Suunto 9 Baro

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The Suunto 9 Baro watch can easily compete with the Garmin Fenix ​​5. Suunto 9 Baro watch features a stainless-steel bezel and color touch screen. However, the watch also comes with buttons that allow you to use it easily if you are wearing gloves.

The watch comes with GPS, altimeter, barometer, thermometer, and compass. Navigating trails with the watch is simple as waypoints asGPX routes can be imported from Suunto Movescount. It also allows you to plan routes before hiking.

You can find existing routes from other Movescount users and import them into your watch by using the HTML feature. It shows the most popular routes within a certain area.


  • Stainless-steel bezel
  • Touch screen
  • GPS features
  • Suunto Movescount compatibility


  • Expensive

Compared with Garmin Fenix ​​5, Suunto 9 Baro is more durable but comes with the highest price.

#5 Best Advanced Hiking Watch: Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire

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The Garmin Fenix ​​5 watch is available in three different sizes: Fenix ​​5S (42mm), Fenix ​​5 (47mm), and Fenix ​​5X (51mm). The 5X model, besides the above features, supports maps. It can show a topographic map that is very useful for navigation.

We can synchronize the Fenix 5X watch with a smartphone. Denote that the Garmin Connect mobile application is available for both iOS and Android devices. It can show texts, alerts, emails, and other notifications. Another useful feature is that we can pair the watch with the Garmin Virb action camera. So, you can control the camera directly from the watch.

Connect IQ connectivity allows you to customize your watch with applications and widgets. For example, you can install a weather widget on your watch, so you can access the weather forecast directly on the watch.


  • High compatibility
  • Camera control
  • Weather widget
  • Connect IQ connectivity


  • Low durability

Garmin Fenix ​​5 watch is the ultimate model that offers the most advanced functions in the series.

#6 Best Automatic Hiking Watch: Suunto 9 Multisport

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Besides planning, the Movescount app from all Suunto 9 series offers a complete overview of your workouts. The calendar shows workouts based on parameters such as duration, distance, and calories burned.

It cannot connect to external Bluetooth PODs and does not support Multisport mode, swimming mode, and advanced training analysis. However, the Suunto 9 Multisport comes with some useful features such as vibration alerts, a pedometer, flashlight back-light, and GLONASS navigation.

Suunto 9 Multisport watch can also track distance traveled, find a route back to your starting point, and show your current speed. It also comes with a wrist heart rate monitor that eliminates the need to wear a heart rate belt.

Strong Bluetooth connectivity allows you to connect the watch to your Smartphone and receive notifications from the phone on the watch. The Multisport version also comes with a sapphire crystal for good abrasion resistance.


  • Excellent GPS and navigation
  • Workout calendar
  • Distance tracking
  • Heart rate monitor


  • No Bluetooth connection

Suunto 9 Multisport watch is available without a barometer. But for hiking and backpacking, it is the best Suunto 9 version.

#7 Best Hiking Watch for Small Wrists: Suunto Ambit 3

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Ambit 3 is the first Bluetooth-compatible Suunto watch. Therefore, it can easily be connected to a Smartphone and show incoming and missed calls, messages, and other notifications from the phone when you install the Suunto Movescount application (available for Android and iOS devices).

You can also find other watch applications on the Suunto Movescount web platform and create your watch applications. Like many Suunto watches, the Ambit 3watch can be easily linked to the Movescount application which shows your training summary and allows you to import points of interest, GPX routes, and apply changes to the watch.

Since the watch comes with Bluetooth, it is also possible to synchronize it with a Smartphone (both iOS and Android) and manage the watch settings and data directly from there. It can receive notifications from the phone on the watch.

Suunto Ambit 3 is a great watch for people with thin arms as it offers small wristbands. It is available in four different versions: Suunto Ambit3 Peak, Ambit 3 Vertical, Ambit 3 Sport, and Ambit3 Run. However, the features described here only apply to Suunto Ambit 3 watches.


  • Affordable price
  • Stable connection
  • Suunto Movescount application
  • Small wristband


  • Non-advanced functions

Suunto Ambit 3 watches are specially designed for hiking and mountaineering. Some Suunto Ambit 3 watches also come with sapphire glass lenses.

Features to Consider When Choosing a Hiking Watch

Navigation System

Many advanced hiking watches support GPS (some even support GLONASS). It is the best solution for navigation and location.

Besides, it can also show the speed, distance, ascent, descent, and other GPS-based information. You can import routes in GPX format or similar to most GPS watches.

Ease of Use: Touch Screen vs Buttons

Another point that has to do with the screen is the back-light. It is useful if we are in the dark or when the lighting conditions are not optimal. Finally, another aspect to consider is the size of the buttons. If we do trail running or often wear gloves to protect our hands, we should look to watch with larger, easy-to-press buttons.

Battery Life

The GPS watches track (a record) your activities and allow you to export details to the web or mobile applications such as Suunto Movescount or Garmin Connect for analysis. However, GPS watches have a much shorter battery life than watches without GPS. So, they come with rechargeable batteries. On long backpack trips, a solar charger allows you to recharge your GPS watch away from civilization.


Almost all watches for mountain sports are plastic (such as polyamide), steel, or even titanium. Those watches made of steel or titanium are the strongest and most durable, but they can weigh more.

The plastic watches have the advantage of lightness and have a lower cost than those made of better materials. But sometimes, they can have that plastic effect, and be less aesthetically pleasing.

The straps are usually made of silicone, but can also be found in leather, fabric, or metal. The most comfortable are those in silicone because they are excellent in contact with sweat, easy to wash, and do not cause any discomfort.

Water Resistance

Of course, all hiking watches are water-resistant. The only difference is the depth. Most watches can withstand up to 100 meters.

Heart Rate Monitor

Many hiking watches also show and record heart rates. More sophisticated hiking watches have wrist heart rate monitors (optical heart rate monitors), while others require a chest strap transmitter (sometimes to be purchased separately). The heart rate monitor function is useful during hikes as it allows you to maintain a constant pace throughout the hike.

Weather Prediction

Another feature not to be forgotten is being able to access an app to download maps of the affected area, and the routes taken by other people. In these cases, devices that have a thunderstorm/storm alarm can warn us when the weather gets worse.


Which Garmin is best for hiking?

Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire comes with a thermometer which is useful on multi-day hikes. For example, it is possible to measure the temperature outside the tent so that you can layer your clothes before getting back on your journey.

Are Apple watches good for hiking?

In recent years, consumer electronics manufacturers such as Apple, Fitbit (acquired by Google at the end of 2019), Huawei, and Samsung have joined Garmin, Polar, and Suunto. At the moment, they are more focused on fitness and wellness, but the hiking sector is not excellent, especially with the Apple watches.

Which watch has the most accurate GPS?

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus has excellent GPS reception with a high-performance GPS antenna. It supports navigation and location.

Is Fitbit good for hiking?

The Apple Watch is a wonderful choice for the casual sports competitor who has an iPhone. People who have an Android must turn to something else, such as the FitBit Ionic. But the FitBit models are only ideal for fitness and workouts, but hiking or trekking.

Final Words

All watches in this selection have a compass, altimeter, and barometer. They are features we consider essential for activities such as hiking, trekking, mountaineering, or walking.

The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus features sturdy cases and durable straps. Many Garmin watches also have sapphire glass lenses for greater scratch resistance, compared to more common mineral glass lenses. However, watches with sapphire glass lenses are also much more expensive.

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