Best Watches for Hiking and Mountaineering

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Best Watches for Hiking and Mountaineering

Modern hiking watches are marvels of wearable technology. They can help you prepare for anything from intense athletic challenges to complex outdoor adventures.

With hiking and mountaineering watches, you can create tailored workout plans, monitor your heart rate, or venture deeper into the wilderness without getting lost.

In the guide, I’ll break down the 10 best hiking watches available today.

Our Review Process

After nearly three decades of hiking and mountaineering, I have developed a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of outdoor travel. I’m here to share my knowledge with you.

The ups and downs of outdoor adventure have made me realize how valuable hiking and mountaineering watches are. I've relied on them countless times to accomplish many complicated mountaineering, hiking, and fitness challenges.

These watches do so much more than tell time. With one on your wrist, you get critical health information, navigational confidence, fitness tracking, and, ultimately, peace of mind.

Key Acronyms and Terms

Most of the features discussed below are self-explanatory, but if this is your first time looking for hiking and mountaineering watches, there are two acronyms you should know about.

The first is GPS, which stands for Global Positioning System. GPS is included in some hiking watches and is a function that allows you to use satellites to track your location. It also enables accurate mapping features for activities like off-trail hiking.

The second acronym is ABC, which stands for altimeter, barometer, and compass. These are digital versions of key navigational tools.

An altimeter measures your elevation above the earth. This measurement is usually expressed in feet or meters above sea level.

A barometer measures barometric pressure. When the barometric pressure rises, good weather conditions are generally on the way. When the barometric pressure falls, storms may be coming in. The faster the barometric pressure falls, the quicker a storm may be arriving.

A compass gives you directional readings like North, South, East, and West. Many watches have a three-axis compass, which can take readings while you’re standing still or moving. A three-axis compass is also tilt-compensated, meaning it doesn't have to be level to get a reading.

You will need to recalibrate ABC functions occasionally.

Garmin Instinct Solar

Best Overall Hiking Watch

My winner
Best Watches for Hiking and Mountaineering - Garmin Instinct Solar
Pros

GPS, ABC, and Multisport Modes

Good battery life

Comfortable

Durable

Storm alarm feature

Cons

Small screen

Easy to inadvertently hit buttons

The Garmin Instinct Solar is a fantastic hiking watch for outdoor recreationists. I’ve used it many times and am always impressed with its capabilities.

This watch comes with GPS, ABC, multisport modes, and mapping features. The solar battery life is impressive and can last for months as long as it gets some sun exposure.

The Garmin Instinct Solar also has a ton of additional features. There’s contactless payment through Garmin Pay, accurate fitness tracking features, storm alerts you can customize, heart rate monitoring, and a battery saver mode.

There are a few minor negatives. The screen is a bit small, and it's also easy to inadvertently hit buttons and stop tracking activities. But overall, the Garmin Instinct Solar is the best hiking watch available.

Garmin Instinct Solar

Garmin Fenix 7

Best Overall Mountaineering Watch

My winner
Best Watches for Hiking and Mountaineering - Garmin Fenix 7
Pros

Reliable and durable

Intuitive interface

Great fitness trackers and mapping features

Impressive battery life

Easy to pair with a smartphone

Cons

Pricey

Garmin Connect App

The latest version of the Garmin Fenix series is a really impressive watch. It’s resilient, easy to use, and sports a great battery life.

The design of the Fenix is aesthetically pleasing, it’s comfortable to wear, and the screen is easy to see. I can easily check key metrics while engaging in strenuous mountaineering activities.

Like the Garmin Instinct, additional features are numerous. You can utilize contactless payment through Garmin Pay, get accurate step counts, and utilize numerous health-tracking features.

Other cool features include heart rate monitoring, storm alerts and multiple navigational, and mapping features.

Aside from the hefty price, the other notable drawback is the Garmin Connect app which is a bit clunky and outdated.

Garmin Fenix 7

Suunto Core

Best ABC Watch (Non-GPS)

My winner
Best Watches for Hiking and Mountaineering - Suunto Core
Pros

Waterproof buttons 

Very accurate readings

Easy modes to access

Comfortable to wear

Great price point

Cons

Buttons not labeled

Hard to read the screen in high glare

The Suunto Core is our pick for the best ABC watch (Altimeter, Barometer, and Compass). The digital compass has adjustable declination, and ABC readings are impressively accurate.

While the lack of GPS features is a negative, the easy-to-digest price point makes it hard to overlook. The Suunto Core is easy to calibrate, has a simple set of menus, waterproof buttons, and is comfortable to wear.

The screen can be hard to read when it's really bright, and the buttons do not have labels. The battery life also doesn't stack up to the Garmin Instinct and Fenix lines. However, I’ve used the Suunto Core often and found it to be highly practical, reliable, and resilient.

Suunto Core

Casio Pathfinder PAG240-1

Best Budget (Non-GPS)

My winner
Best Watches for Hiking and Mountaineering - Casio Pathfinder PAG240-1
Pros

Great value

Fully featured ABC watch

Buttons are labeled

Solar battery for indefinite life

Fantastic screen backlight

Cons

Bulky and ugly

No GPS

Casio watches are not known for their beauty, but their value is unmatched. The Casio Pathfinder has been a leading non-GPS watch for the last decade.

The interface is easy to use and the buttons are clearly labeled. Plus the fact that it’s solar powered gives it nearly limitless life as long as you can find some sun.

Aside from its appearance, the Pathfinder's other notable downside is its bulk. The watch can feel uncomfortable in gloves, when typing on a keyboard, and when taking off or putting on heavy outdoor gear.

If you want a great value watch and don’t need GPS, the Casio Pathfinder will last for years.

Casio Pathfinder PAG240-1

Garmin Enduro

Best Multi-day Hiking/Mountaineering Watch

My winner
Best Watches for Hiking and Mountaineering - Garmin Enduro
Pros

Comfy to wear

Excellent battery life

Fitness and endurance features

Big display

GPS and ABC

Cons

No stored mapping features

Expensive

The Garmin Enduro feels like a step forward in some ways and a step back in others.

It’s not as feature-rich as the Fenix, but has excellent battery life and fitness/heart monitoring features. The large and clear display is also one of the best Enduro features.

If you are a thru-hiker, backpacker, triathlete, or someone who needs a long-lasting, lighter GPS Garmin watch, the Enduro is a great pick.

The high price point is one of the main deterrents to getting this watch. The lack of onboard maps is disappointing as well.

Garmin Enduro

Coros Vertix 2

Best Rugged Outdoor Watch

My winner
Best Watches for Hiking and Mountaineering - Coros Vertix 2
Pros

Large screen

Durable

Great battery life

Newer app to pair with

GPS, ABC capable

Cons

Expensive

Heavier

I love taking this watch on outdoor adventures because of the big digital display and burly construction. The large screen makes it easy to read navigation metrics while hiking or mountaineering.

The Coros app it pairs with is also better and more responsive than the Garmin Connect app.

Additional features include breadcrumb navigation, an optical heart rate monitor, a simple touch screen, great battery life, and customizable watch faces.

The size can be a bit prohibitive for daily activities and the watch is more expensive than a Casio or Suunto. However, it comes with full GPS and ABC functionality.

Coros Vertix 2

Fitbit Charge 5

Best Fitness Tracker for Hiking

My winner
Best Watches for Hiking and Mountaineering - Fitbit Charge 5
Pros

Great price

Fitness tracking features

Comfortable to wear

Great brightness settings

Cons

Smaller screen

No GPS or ABC

Fitbit has been around for a few years and has created some great fitness tracking devices. The Charge 5 is the best all-around version.

The fitness functions and features are high, the watch is comfortable to wear on trails, and the digital display is easy to read.

This isn’t the best mountaineering watch due to a lack of navigation settings and a smaller screen, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a great hiking watch.

For a low price, you can track all your fitness goals while on a run, local trail, or on a walk. Just remember to bring navigational tools with you if venturing into new areas.

Fitbit Charge 5

Suunto 9 Baro

Best Looking Outdoor Watch

My winner
Best Watches for Hiking and Mountaineering - Suunto 9 Baro
Pros

Sleek design

Good battery life

Large, bright screen

Accurate readings

Cons

Expensive

Lacks features of other options

The Suunto 9 Baro is a great-looking watch. In fact, most Suunto watches look good. The company has really nailed the aesthetic behind most of its models.

The Suunto 9 Baro’s large screen, good battery life, accurate readings, and comfortable fit are also positives.

You could easily wear the Suunto 9 Baro in the woods or in a fancy restaurant. If style matters, this Suunto is a front-runner.

Unfortunately, the limited range of features is a bit disappointing given the watch’s price. The slower interface and menu also aren’t intuitive if you aren’t already familiar with Suunto products.

Suunto 9 Baro

Coros Apex Pro

Runner Up - Best Hiking Watch

My winner
Best Watches for Hiking and Mountaineering - Coros Apex Pro
Pros

Rugged design

Comfortable

Fantastic value

Easy to use app

Cons

The scroll wheel underperforms

Limited battery life

The Coros Apex Pro is a great adventure watch. The design is nice, the screen is large, and the price is manageable. The Apex Pro also has GPS, ABC, and fitness tracking features and is comfortable to wear.

I found that the scroll wheel occasionally clicks on options you didn’t want it to. But if you can live with this and a less than lengthy battery life, the overall value this watch provides is fantastic.

Coros Apex Pro

Casio ProTrek PRW-3500T-7

Runner Up - Mountaineering Watch

My winner
Best Watches for Hiking and Mountaineering - Casio ProTrek PRW-3500T-7
Pros

Good range of features

Durable build

Great value

Reliable readings

Cons

A bit bulky

Harder to find

The Casio ProTrek is a standout for several reasons. The ABC features are accurate and easy to get to. For the price, the value is awesome. Plus, the , construction is durable and the watch should last a long time.

This Casio is a bit bulky and the lack of GPS capabilities may be a turn-off. Additionally, the screen is a bit crowded and harder to read than some of the newer models in this guide.

If you want a no-frills ABC watch with great functions and features, the Casio ProTrek is for you.

Casio ProTrek PRW-3500T-7

Pros
Cons

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Buying Guide

 There are a few important things to consider when shopping for a hiking or mountaineering watch.

Cost

First, figure out your budget. Many full-featured watches run above $500. Think about what you need versus what additional features you can go without.

Check the brand as well. Some brands have been in this market longer than others and may have more options to choose from at different price points. For example, Garmin, Suunto, and Casio all offer multiple tiers of outdoor watches.

Model Variants

A lot of the watches I reviewed are part of a series rather than standalone products. New models appear every few years.

For example, you can get the Garmin Instinct watch with or without solar power. You can also find variants of top watches that add or subtract features like GPS.

Take a little extra time to make sure you get the model you want.

Style and Display

If you want your watch to look good, then style matters. A Casio ProTrek simply isn’t as good-looking as a Suunto or a Fitbit.

Some full-featured watches are also quite bulky, which limits their use in everyday life.

Think about how easy it will be to read the watch in high-glare or dark environments. Display brightness level, display contrast ratio, and enhanced display readability are all useful metrics.

Navigation and Fitness Tracking

A watch with GPS, ABC, and mapping features will likely cost more. But these features can be well worth it if you plan to head off-trail.

GPS is useful if you're planning complicated route looping or off-trail adventures. However, for lots of hikers, ABC navigational functions (altimeter, barometer, and compass) may be all you need.

In addition, consider the fitness features of each watch. If fitness is the most important component to you, make sure your top choices can calculate the metric you rely on most.

Some great fitness tracking functions include accurate heart rate readings, step counts, calorie counts, pulse OX, multisport modes, preloaded activity modes, stress levels, and customizable fitness goals.

Battery Life and Durability

Two of the most important elements for outdoor travel are battery life and durability. How much abuse can the watch take on a long trip, and does it have the ability to recharge during an outdoor activity?

Some burlier models like the Coros Vertix 2 or Garmin Fenix can handle the rough realities of hiking and mountaineering better than other watches.

For battery life, there should be a battery saver mode available. If there isn't, the watch should be able to recharge from the sun throughout the day. 

Remember that using one of these adventure watches in GPS mode will drain the battery faster.

Smartphone Compatibility

Many of the most popular outdoor watches have smart notifications, can accept calls, play music, and connect to various apps.

If you want your watch to act as a daily activity tracker, compatibility with phones and apps is key. Some device apps that connect with your watch are much better than others.

Comfort

Last but not least, think about comfort and compatibility.

Hiking and mountaineering watches are going to be worn for long periods of time. Make sure whatever you get is comfortable. 

Summary

If you want the most complete watch for the price, I recommend the Garmin Instinct or the Coros Apex. These watches include ABC, GPS, and loads of additional features for exploring outside.

Rugged mountaineers should consider the Garmin Fenix 7, Casio Pro Trek PRW-3500, or Coros Vertix 2.

If you don't need a GPS feature, try the Suunto Core. Or if fitness tracking and a heart rate monitor are the most important features for you, take the Fitbit Charge 5 out for a spin.

Whatever you’re looking for, there’s a hiking or mountaineering watch out there that will work for you.

Common questions

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I’m happiest on long backpacking trips into little-known pockets of wilderness, skiing down backcountry mountains, and on all-fours, scrambling the rocky spines of alpine ridges. When I'm not adventuring in the outdoors, I'm most likely writing about them.

*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.

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