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Best Hiking Watches for Backpacking [2022] BikeHikeSafari


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This is a review about the Best GPS Hiking Watches for backpacking in 2022 by BikeHikeSafari.

Looking for the best GPS watches for hiking to take on your next trip. A watch that maybe has built-in maps, GPS navigation, a barometer, altimeter, and more. A watch that can not only tell you where you are but track your movements, alert you to the changing weather, tell you your altitude, and lastly tell you the time.

But with so many great options and things rapidly changing in the GPS watch market, it can be hard to pick one. This is why I’ve put together the list of the best GPS Hiking watches on the market. I’ve added a brief buying guide for you and a handy checklist to ensure you’ve thought of everything before you buy.


Best GPS Watches for Hiking 2022

The Best Hiking Watches in 2022 are:

Best Hiking Watch 2022 – Overall

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar Review

Weight: 1.87 oz / 53 grams
Pros:

> Very long battery life
> Perfect for Hiking, Backpacking, Thru Hiking, Trail Running, or any outdoor activity
> Reasonably priced considering the features
> Altitude, Barometer, Compass
> Google Pay
Cons:
> No music storage, but that is being picky, there is not much to not like about this GPS Watch.
> A little bit too much plastic

The Garmin Instinct 2 Solar is a recent upgrade from the Instinct Solar which now features exceptional battery life. In recent years Suunto had the battery life but now Garmin is back with a much better battery life for their hiking watches.

Not only does it have up to 28 days in smartwatch mode, but with the solar edition, it can have up to unlimited battery life when solar charging the watch. Add to that it can also be up to unlimited when using the GPS in expedition mode and you have some of the best battery life of any watch in this review.

It has all the standard ABC watch features and more such as Barometer, Altimeter, Compass, Thermometer, Weather, GPS, Tracking, Heart Rate Monitor, and more. It also has many smartphone features such as pairing with Apple and Android phones, sleep tracking and Google Pay. The only thing it doesn’t have is the ability to store and play music. There are almost too many functions and features to list on this multisport GPS watch. And it links with the Garmin Connect App.

Considering the number of features that come with this watch it is reasonably priced. You could buy two of these for the price of the Garmin 7 Solar Sapphire Crystal Edition.

Overall, the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar is a welcome upgrade from the Garmin Instinct Solar with better battery life and more features, and is well priced. It is the Best GPS Watch in 2022.

Best GPS Watch 2022

Garmin Fenix 7X Solar

Garmin Fenix 7X Solar review

Weight: 3.4 oz / 96 grams
Pros:

> Very long battery life
> Perfect for Hiking, Backpacking, Thru Hiking, Trail Running, or any outdoor activity
> Store and play music
> Altitude, Barometer, Compass
> Google Pay
Cons:
> Very expensive GPS Watch but it is the top of the line.

The Garmin Fenix 7 Solar is the top-of-the-range Garmin Watch that comes with everything and more, including the premium price tag. There is little to separate the Garmin Fenix 7 Solar from the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar or even the Garmin Enduro. The main difference is the ability to store and play music through the phone. All that for about $500 more than the Instinct 2 Solar.

Not only does it have up to 28 days in smartwatch mode, but with the solar edition, it can have up to unlimited battery life. Add to that it can also be up to unlimited when using the GPS in expedition mode.

The Garmin Fenix 7X Solar has all the standard ABC watch features and more such as Altitude, Barometer, Compass, Thermometer, Weather, GPS, Tracking, Heart Rate Monitor, and more. It also has many smartphone features such as sleep tracking, pairing with Apple and Android phones, and Google Pay. There are so many features and functions on this multisport GPS watch that it is difficult to list them all in this review. Oh, and did I mention that it comes with over 42000 golf courses preloaded!

Overall, the Garmin Fenix 7 Solar is the Best GPS Watch on the market in 2022. The only thing stopping it from being better than the Instinct 2 Solar is the high price. Still, it is the best, especially if you upgrade to the Saphire version!

Best Suunto GPS Watch 2022

Suunto 9 Baro

Suunto 9 Baro Review

Weight: 2.86 oz / 81 grams
Pros:

> Awesome 25-120 hour battery life
> Features both GPS and a barometer
> 100 meters water resistance
> Touch Screen
Cons:
> The wrist heart rate monitoring is not always inaccurate, which, to be honest, is a common complaint with all fitness trackers.
> Expensive

The Suunto 9 Baro is one of the best GPS watches on the market at the moment. Until recently, all the other brands and watches were playing catch up to this watch. If you’re looking for the best hiking watch that you don’t have to charge up every night, this could be the watch for you.

Like some of the top-of-the-range Suunto watches it features intelligent battery modes. When you start recording your hike or backpacking trip, it will tell you how much battery you have left, and if it’s not long enough you can simply switch to another mode that uses less battery. And it can deliver between 25 and 120 hours of run time, even with GPS turned on.

The other great thing about Suunto 9 Baro is that it comes with an integrated barometer. This will measure barometric pressure to give you your current altitude. The barometric altimeter data gets merged with the GPS data for an even more accurate reading of your altitude. It can also be used to predict changes in the weather.

You don’t need to worry about the watch getting damaged in the rain. The water-resistance of this watch is 100 m of water which is understandably more than you will need.

It looks great, has a large, 1.7 inch, easy to read display, and it will monitor your heart rate. You can log all your hiking and sporting activities, and connect with others via the Suunto app.

There is only one negative thing about this GPS backpacking watch, it is expensive.

Overall, this is the best hiking GPS watch for backpacking trips on the market in 2022.

Best Hiking Watch Battery Life

Coros Vertix 2 Review

Coros Vertex 2 Review

Weight: 3.14 oz / 89 grams
Pros:

> 60-day battery life for normal use and 140 hours with GPS
> Large watch face

> Heart Rate monitor and ECG
> 100 meter water resistance
> Awesome offline color maps
Cons:
> Expensive
> Not everyone will like the very large watch face

If you want to have an athletic watch that looks tough, is tough, and has exceptional battery life then the Coros Vertix 2 is for you.

The Coros Vertix 2 might have every feature that you could want but the offline color maps paired with the accurate GPS makes this the best navigation watch. Add to that the atmospheric altimeter, compass, barometer, heart rate monitor, ECG, and offline music on the watch make it up there with the best of the best in this review.

I like the very large watch face size which makes it possible for my failing eyes to see everything as clearly as possible. But not everyone will like this very masculine-looking watch. Despite the size, it is not the heaviest watch in this review and has the highest quality Sapphire Glass and Titanium Bezel.

Overall, the Coros Vertix 2 has exceptional battery life and is well suited to ultra-marathon endurance athletes, thru-hikers, or expedition-style travel. This is the watch that is the best alternative to Suunto and Garmin. In many ways, it is better.

Best Hiking Smartwatch for Backpacking 2022

Suunto 7

Suunto 7 Review

Weight: 1.83 oz / 51.9 grams
Pros:
>
Features GPS & full color maps
>
Battery will last 12 hours in GPS mode
> It’s both a fitness tracker and smartwatch
>
Water resistant to 50 meters
>
It can play music and pay for goods with Google Pay
Cons:
>
There’s no altimeter, barometer, or compass, but with GPS you may not need it
>
Expensive

I love the GPS functionality of the Suunto 7 – you get a crystal clear map of your surroundings, all in full color. And it’s also a fitness tracker, so in addition to tracking your distance via GPS, it can also track your number of steps. And, thanks to the wrist heart rate sensor, you also get a more accurate reading of calories burned during your hike than you would get by estimating by distance walked. 

It’s also a smartwatch, which means that you can pair it with your smartphone to receive incoming calls, and send messages right on your wrist.

You can also use it to play music, with or without internet connectivity. And when you’re back from your hike, you can use it to pay for items via Google Pay. 

It’s highly water-resistant to 50 meters.

The battery life is more than long enough – it will last 12 whole hours in GPS mode, so you can hike all day long before recharging. But in battery saver mode it will last up to 40 days.

Overall, this is the best GPS Smartwatch for backpacking on the market at the moment.

Best Budget Hiking Watch for Backpacking 2022

Suunto Core

Suunto Core

Weight:
Pros:

> Altimeter, barometer & compass
> High level of water resistance
> Remarkably long battery life
> Great value for money
Cons:
> No GPS functionality
> No smartwatch capability
> No rechargeable battery

The Suunto Core is a great hiking watch at a reasonable price.

Rather than featuring GPS, instead, the Suunto Core offers more traditional navigational tools, so you get to explore the great outdoors old-school style. It’s got the full ABC, altimeter, barometer, and compass, and will display your data on an easy-to-read graphic.

So, you can easily find your way back to waypoints by knowing which way is North, telling how high up you are, and keeping a beady eye to watch out for changes in the weather conditions.

And speaking of weather conditions, it can really hold up to the rain – it can even take being submerged in water (you can even wear it snorkeling).

And because there’s no integrated GPS or smartwatch functionality to drain the battery, the battery on the Suunto Core will last a remarkably long time, coming in at up to a staggering 12 months. The battery is replaceable and not rechargeable like the other watches in this review.

Overall, the Suunto Core is one of the more affordable watches that made our shortlist and the best budget hiking watch.

Best Trail Running Watch

Garmin Forerunner 945

Garmin Forerunner 945 review

Weight: 1.76 oz / 50 grams
Pros:

> GPS and full color maps
> Receive smart notifications
> Excellent 10 hour battery life
> High level of water resistance
> Download your favorite tunes
> Has Garmin Pay for payments
Cons:
> No barometer or compass
> You have to have a premium Spotify/Deezer/Amazon music for downloading music onto the watch

The Garmin Forerunner 945 is a solid performer as a hiking watch. This watch is marketed as a premium running and triathlon sports watch, but the features which make it so well equipped for this are also the ones that make for a good hiking watch.

First off, coming from Garmin, you know it’s going to be great for GPS. And it provides you with full-color maps, so you can see exactly where you are as you hike.

Secondly, it also has great fitness tracker functionality, including elusive Vo2 Max monitoring, enabling you to accurately track your training load, recovery time, and aerobic and anaerobic status. It also is able to use the garmin connect app.

It’s also a smartwatch, so you can pair it with your phone for all your smart notifications. And it works with a range of different apps to play music, where you can not only stream your favorite tunes but also download them so you can listen to them offline as you hike.

It also features Garmin Pay, so if you need to pay for something and you don’t have your wallet, that’s not a problem.

The battery lasts for up to 10 hours in GPS mode, so you can go on a long day hike in the wilderness before you need to recharge it overnight. And the battery will last up to 2 weeks in smartwatch mode.

Designed for triathlons, it’s more than capable of standing up to a little rain.

Overall, the Garmin Forerunner 945 is one of the best GPS watches from Garmin but more suited to someone who wants a fitness watch first that they can also use for hiking and backpacking.

Best Smartwatch for iPhone Users

Apple Watch 7

Apple Watch 7 Review

Weight:
Pros:

> Looks great
> Very High Quality
> Altimeter, barometer & compass
> Superior fitness tracker functionality
> Receive and make calls with the phone
> Enables contactless payment
Cons:
> Only works with iPhone
> Very limited battery, specially when using the GPS

The Apple Watch 7 is the Uber Cool watch from Apple. While it only pairs with iPhones and more geared towards fitness and smartwatch features it is still popular on the hiking trails.

Some of the great features include the pulse ox and ECG readings, and the ability to subscribe to the Apple Fitness App and make phone calls from the watch make it appealing. But with 18 hours of battery life and only 6 hours when using the GPS it is limited for anything other than short day hikes.

Overall, if Apple could improve the battery life to compete with Garmin, Suunto and Coros then they might have a winner. Until then it is best suited for iPhone users who want a smartwatch.

More Watches for Backpacking & Hiking

Garmin Fenix 6X Pro

Garmin Fenix 6X Pro

Weight:
Pros:

> GPS, Glonass & Galileo
> Great battery life
> Altimeter, barometer & compass
> Rugged yet sophisticated design
> Superior fitness tracker functionality
> Receive smart notifications & play music
> Enables contactless payment
Cons:
> Premium product which is still a bit expensive

The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro was one of the best Garmin GPS watches for hiking but recently some of the newer models have more features. But the price has been reduced so it is a very good option.

This is a watch that has everything. Not only does it have GPS but the maps can be displayed in color on a large 1.4 inch display and links up with the outdated Garmin Connect App.

And it also offers old-school navigation tools, namely an altimeter, barometer, and compass.

It’s a superior fitness tracker, with enhanced estimated heart rate and even Pulse Ox.

It’s also a smartwatch, so you can pair it with a smartphone to receive notifications,

But that’s not all. It can also stream music as you hike, or be used for contactless payment.

The Garmin Fenix 6 also has impressive battery life – it will last up to an impressive 15 hours in GPS mode, and 21 days in smartwatch mode.

But there’s yet another stand out feature with this watch, and that’s the fact that you can boost the battery life via solar charging if you get the solar version.

It has a rugged yet sophisticated design, meeting military standards for thermal, shock and water resistance.

Overall, the Garmin Fenix 6 was one of the top-of-the-range Garmin and the Best Garmin Watch for hiking on the market but has now been replaced by the Garmin Fenix 7. If you can find one you will get a great watch at a discounted price.

Garmin Instinct

Weight:
Pros:

> GPS, Glonass & Galileo
> Altimeter, barometer & compass
> Great fitness tracking & monitoring
> Built to military standards for durability
> Lengthy 16 hour battery life in GPS mode
Cons:
> The buttons extend beyond the edge of the housing, so you can accidentally press buttons as you move around your home

The Garmin Instinct has now been upgraded to the Instinct 2 but of you find this watch it is at a good price point.

First off, it features GPS so your location will be perfectly mapped out for you right on your wrist.

The Garmin Instinct also has old-school navigation tools, including an altimeter, barometer, and 3-axis compass.

It has great fitness tracking features, too, including heart rate monitoring, which is perfect for more accurate readings on the number of calories you burn as you hike. And it comes preloaded with a range of activity profiles.

The Garmin Instinct is also very tough and rugged – it has been built to military standards for thermal, shock, and water resistance.

It’s also a smartwatch which means you can pair it with your smartphone over Bluetooth to receive smart notifications. 

The watch’s battery life will last a lengthy 16 hours in GPS mode, which is long enough for a long day hike. And it will last 14 days in smartwatch mode but the Garmin Instinct Solar will last longer.

Overall, the older Garmin Instinct is another solid Garmin GPS watch for hiking with Altimeter, Barometer and Compass.

Coros Apex Pro Premium

Coros Apex Pro Watch Review

Weight:
Pros:

> Designed for outdoor athletes
> GPS with route navigation maps
> Altimeter, barometer, & compass
> 40-hour-long battery life
> Designed to withstand the rain
Cons:
> It’s not a smartwatch, so you will not be able to pair it to your smartphone to receive any smart notifications

Now, the Coros brand may not be quite as well known as the likes of Suunto and Garmin, but let me assure you that its performance and build is right up there with them.

Designed for endurance athletes trekking through trails over mountains and the great outdoors, it offers both GPS and traditional navigation tools, including an altimeter, barometer, and compass. Plus a few extras, like a gyroscope and a thermometer.

And it has a range of different fitness tracker functions too. It can monitor your heart rate 24/7 thanks to the optical heart rate monitor, as well as calculate your number of steps and number of calories burned. It can also measure the likes of pace, distance, stride length, and cadence.

It has a good quality, sturdy construction, and is so highly water-resistant, that can be used for water sports.

It has an incredibly long battery life when in GPS mode, and will last 40 hours before needing a recharge.

Overall, Coros is not as well known as Garmin and Suunto and the Coros Apex Pro is the best value Coros watch on the market and certainly worth a look.


More Hiking Watches for Backpacking

  • Garmin Enduro – The Garmin Enduro is another very high-quality watch with all the features at a high price tag.
  • Suunto Traverse – The Suunto Traverse is showing its age in comparison to some of the upgraded models from Suunto.

GPS Hiking Watch Buyers Guide

As promised, here’s your buying guide. Here are a few things to consider before you buy.

Navigational Aids

Having GPS right on your wrist is the height of convenience when you’re hiking. Unlike handheld GPS units, a watch with GPS leaves you entirely hands free.

If I had to choose between GPS and traditional navigation tools, I would favor GPS. But if you want to go old school and use the older tools, we recommend going for the full ABC, which includes an altimeter, barometer and compass.

I would argue that color GPS maps are best, but you can often make do with black and white maps.


Altimeter

The altimeter feature on all watches is a nice feature to know your altitude when hiking and backpacking. When the watches use the atmospheric pressure of the barometer to measure your altitude and add the data from the GPS you have a very accurate reading. The top-of-the-range watches can advise you on acclimatization schedules when heading up into high mountains and more.


Barometer

It is handy to know the air pressure when in the backcountry. If you do not have access to the weather forecast and do not know how to read the clouds and mountain weather patterns then a rapid drop in barometric pressure can advise you of a potential storm heading your way. Some phones have a storm alert which uses the barometer to let you know when a storm is coming.


Compass

A digital compass is a nice thing to have and I use it regularly when in the backcountry. Although the compass is a good addition it doesn’t make up for a proper hiking compass and paper maps, or even a proper Hiking GPS.


Size, Comfort, and Fit

Some of the watches in this review are quite a bit bigger and heavier than most other non-outdoor watches. Unless you have a very small wrist or a very large wrist there will be something to suit and they will all feel fine. Having said that the extra weight on the wrist for the heaviest models is not really that noticeable.


Level Of Water Resistance

Even if you plan to do your hike on a fine day, you never really know when you might get caught in a rain shower or go swimming with your watch.

Hiking watches come in varying degrees of water resistance. I recommend going for a hiking watch with a water resistance rating of around 50 meters. A couple of years ago I destroyed an older Suunto Watch when I went diving in a Cenote in Mexico, so just in case go for 50 meters or even 100 meters worth of water resistance.

Generally speaking, any watch designed with watersports in mind, as many sports watches are, can handle lots of rainfall.


Battery Life

The last thing you’d want while hiking is to be totally lost and find that your watch battery is dead if you want to use it for navigating. Of course, you will not be using the watch as your primary method of navigation. A map and good quality hiking compass will be better for this.

Sure you can avoid this by ensuring the watch is fully charged before you leave home. But some hiking watches will only last 6 hours or so in GPS mode. Using GPS mode can really drain the battery. The best GPS watches will last for several days and still have enough battery to use for navigation.

Thankfully however all the watches that made our shortlist all last longer than this in GPS mode. Some last significantly longer.


Fitness Tracking

Many sports watches these days offer all kinds of fitness tracking, including the likes of distance traveled, number of steps, and heart rate monitoring. Some even enable you to share your hike location and stats online. All the top of the line watches has almost unlimited amounts of fitness tracking.


Smartwatch Functionality

Many sports watches these days can be paired with a smartphone so that you can receive smart notifications right on your wrist. Most people find this very convenient, but some consider it a nuisance. Some of the features include the ability to pair with your phone, track your sleep, pay using Apple Pay or Google Pay, and many more.


Value For Money

The watches in this review could be considered a luxury. And for many people, they are not needed to enjoy the outdoors. Expect to pay over $450 for some of the best-featured watches in this review with some going as high as $1000 if you want the best of the best.

However, if you do have a budget to stick by, be sure to check the prices as you go along.


Conclusion

Overall, the Best GPS Hiking Watches in 2022 are:

Frequently Asked Questions

Who makes the Best GPS Watch?

The Best GPS Watches are made by Suunto, Garmin, and Coros also making high-quality GPS hiking watches for backpacking, trekking, and hiking. Apple watches are not so good for as hiking watches, stick with Suunto and Garmin.

Are GPS Watches good for Hiking?

All of the best GPS watches from Garmin and Suunto are great for hiking and backpacking. Watches that include a GPS, Altimeter, Barometer and Compass give you everything you need for navigation when hiking with a watch

Is a Hiking Watch better than a GPS?

Overall, a top quality stand alone GPS unit is generally better than a Hiking Watch. But the best quality GPS Hiking Watches from Suunto and Garmin are equal to most stand-alone GPS units.

What Watch do Thru Hikers Use?

Thru Hikers like to use either cheap watches that do nothing more than tell the time, or, they prefer top quality GPS navigation watches such as the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar
, Suunto 9 Baro and Garmin Fenix 6X Pro. But both these watches are very expensive.

Best Hiking Watch

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