Best Outdoor Watches 2021 | Durable GPS Options For Hiking, Running and Cycling - Outdoors Magic

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Best Outdoor Watches 2021 | Durable GPS Options For Hiking, Running and Cycling

We’ve spent time testing the best GPS watches for adventure enthusiasts, whether you’re hiking, running or cycling

GPS watches have become an essential adventure accessory these days. They are on-trend. Head out on any outdoorsy adventure and you’re sure to see numerous wrists proudly emblazoned with chunky, brightly-coloured timepieces. Hikers, runners and cyclists are all using them – it’s the tech-centric, gadget-loving way of things these days. But why have GPS smartwatches become so popular?

It’s partly about fashion – they looks stylish and contemporary. But ultimately it’s more about functionality. GPS watches are incredibly useful in a practical sense. They can help if you’re hopelessly lost, enabling you to navigate back to safety or pinpoint your exact location. They improve your physical performance by tracking your fitness goals and motivating you to push harder, faster and higher. And they can keep you connected, with social media notifications, Spotify integration and weather alerts.

Most GPS smartwatches enable you to keep a very close eye on your physical performance while out on an adventure, recording enough data to satisfy even the geekiest and most obsessive of fitness fanatics. You can track all the usual stuff: distance travelled, ascent, time and heart rate, choosing one of a myriad of workout modes such as running, cycling, hiking, skiing or whatever else you’re up to. High-end watches also include technical measurements such as blood oxygen levels, barometer pressure and altitude. And then there’s all of the more lifestyle-y, everyday fitness-related features, such daily step counts, calories burnt, stress levels, and even a sleep monitor, which tracks both the length and quality of your sleep.

Not all smartwatches are created equal, however, and it’s common sense to pick one designed with your favourite activities in mind. If you want to use your GPS watch for navigation while cycling and hiking, choose a timepiece with in-built mapping, or one that has integration with a mapping app such as komoot. These will give you turn-by-turn notifications and even allow you to view Ordnance Survey map tiles on-the-go. If you’ll be off-grid for long periods, opt for a smartwatch with good battery life and solar charging, or if fitness tracking is your thing then choose a running-specific smartwatch that’ll give you all the stats you need. But, whatever your priorities, there’s a smartwatch out there for you in our top 10 list of the best outdoor watches for 2021.

The Best Outdoor Watches 2021

We’ve scoured the market for the best GPS watches out there, with a wide variety in terms of price, features and styles. Here are our favourites:

  • Garmin Fenix 6 – Best GPS Watch
  • Casio G-Shock GBD-H1000-1 Heart Rate Monitor
  • Polar Grit X
  • Honor Magic Watch 2 – Best Value Outdoor Watch
  • Coros Vertix Icebreaker
  • Suunto 9 Baro
  • Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30
  • Honor Watch GS Pro
  • Elliot Brown Holton Automatic

 

BEST BUY: Garmin Fenix 6

Price: £599
Weight: 83g
Best for: Multi-sports, skiing
Key attributes: Excellent mapping, ski resort maps, premium design and features

The Garmin Fenix 6 might seem eye-wateringly pricey, but this watch really is a multi-sport champion with premium features and an impressive design. Heart rate, GPS, mapping (including 2,000 ski resort maps from around the world), compatibility with the InReach satellite device, music and contactless payments – this watch does the lot.

If you’re keen to just get a watch that is going to track heat rate and GPS for your ski touring days in the mountains and road running training around town, then the cheaper Forerunner may just be the watch for you. Only you’ll know if you require the extra navigation and map offerings provided by this watch. Offerings that, in our opinion, are well suited to people who like nothing more than spending their free time well away from civilisation – whether that’s through hiking, climbing, wild camping, mountaineering, ski touring or long-distance fell running. Not only will you get the additional map capabilities, but you can also make use of the music services, Garmin pay and VO2 max readings that this watch is able to offer.

Read our full Garmin Fenix 6 review

Get the latest price at:
garmin.com

 

Casio G-Shock GBD-H1000-1 Heart Rate Monitor

Price: £380
Weight: 106g
Best for: Multi-sports, watersports
Key attributes: Sturdy and rugged build, scuba diving compatibility

Able to survive a lifetime’s worth of abuse in the outdoors, this G-Shock model is not only tough as nails – it’s also packed with everything you’d expect from a modern day smartwatch: GPS, wrist heart rate measurements, training analysis, training data (up to 100 runs), digital compass, altimeter, barometer and a thermometer. You even get ISO 200 water resistance built in – that’s an equivalent of 20bar pressure, or 290.075 psi – more than enough to bring with you on your next scuba diving adventure.

All of these features are powered by a battery that’ll last around 14-hours with continuous smartwatch use (GPS & heart rate tracking), an astonishing 12 months in regular watch mode without battery saving functions enabled, or 34 months with battery saving enabled. These astonishing figures are further boosted by solar power charging when you’re in clear sunlight.

Read our full Casio G-Shock GBD-H1000-1 Heart Rate Monitor review

Get the latest price at:
g-shock.co.uk

Polar Grit X

Price: £379
Weight: 64g
Best for: Trail running, hiking
Key attributes: Lightweight, komoot integration, excellent for trail running

Well-suited to hikers and trail runners, the Polar Grit X is, in our opinion, a great looking GPS watch. The screen has lovely clarity and it’s actually brighter and clearer than previous Polar models. You navigate using the touch screen and buttons on the sides. At 64g it’s pretty lightweight and it’s passed a bunch of military-level grades so you can be sure the outdoor durability is there. Its waterproof to 100m too.

Related: Best Trail Running Shoes

With 130 different sports modes, including activities like open water swimming, road cycling and mountain biking, this watch has a bunch of very useful features that help you plan, perform and analyse your exercise. You get altitude measurements, barometric readings, weather forecasts and of course basic stats such as distance and pace. The hill splits feature is nifty too, automatically breaking down your performance going uphill and downhill. The watch also advises you on what you should be drinking and eating after each exercise, like your own personal nutritionist. Integration with navigation app komoot also enables you to follow a route via breadcrumb trails.

Read our full Polar Grit X review

Get the latest price at:
polar.com

 

HONOR MagicWatch 2

Price: £120
Weight: 41g (excluding strap)
Best for: General fitness, outdoor activities
Key attributes: Superb price, fitness tracking

This is one of those watches that will help you with your daily life; whether that’s keeping on top of your diary, listening to music or, well, being on time for things, but it also has the added bonus of being an aid for your outdoor adventures and training as well. Whether you’re into hiking, trail running, snow sports or even open water swimming, there are a bunch of features here that will aid, record and ultimately improve your performance.

Fully waterproof with a 1.39-inch screen with crystal clear clarity, this superbly-priced watch has 15 different fitness modes covering outdoor activities like running, walking, hiking, climbing, trail running, cycling, open water swimming and then indoor, gym training stuff as well. With each one you get a bunch of useful data feedback along with professional advice – even with optional real-time voiceover guidance. When hiking, for example, you get accurate readings of your heart rate, pace, footsteps, altitude and the distance covered, as well as barometric readings so you can prepare for any bad weather on the way. If you lose your bearings, just flip on the compass mode to get back on track. All of this for £120 is a remarkable bargain.

Read our full Honor Magic Watch 2 review

Get the latest price at:
hihonor.com

 

Coros Vertix Icebreaker

Price: £600
Weight: 76g
Best for: Multi-sports, skiing
Key attributes: Powerful battery, excellent skiing mode, rugged design

Coros’ high-grade hardware, loaded with innovative tech, is designed with outdoor enthusiasts, mountain lovers, and all-round active lifestyle folk in mind. This watch is all about “attitude” and “altitude”, as the marketing spin suggests, and it certainly hits the spot for mountaineers who like to climb up high bits of rock. You get a built-in barometer, altimeter, compass and GPS / GLONASS satellite connection feature, as well as 24/7 blood oxygen monitoring with altitude acclimatisation assistance, and a 150-meter waterproof rating. Battery life is impressive: 45 days of regular use without using all the bells and whistles, 60 hours in full GPS mode, and 150 hours in UltraMax GPS mode. To follow a route you’ll need to download it as a GPX file onto your smartphone off another app like Strava or komoot. You then need to open it with the Coros app on your phone and you can then view it on the watch as a breadcumb trail once you’ve paired your two devices together. In terms of design, there’s a titanium bezel and cover, with high-grade fibre watch body, and sapphire glass with diamond-like coating –  which all ensures the Vertix Icebreaker is more than tough enough to handle itself in the world’s most extreme places.

Read our full Coros Vertix Icebreaker review

Get the latest price at:
coros.com

 

Suunto 9 Baro

Price: £540
Weight: 81g
Best for: Multi-sports, skiing
Key attributes: Powerful battery, heart rate monitor, 80 pre-installed sports modes

The Suunto 9 Baro represents the new flagship model in their range of sports watches. This smartwatch is packed full of features that make tracking and logging your days out while hiking, running, climbing, or whatever else you like to get up to in the outdoors, not only extremely easy, but also enjoyable. The battery life is certainly Suunto’s main selling feature for the 9. A single charge can last up to 120 hours in the ‘Ultra’ mode which keeps up GPS tracking but deactivates wrist heart rate tracking. In ‘Endurance’ mode, battery life is 40 hours with full wrist heart rate and GPS tracking. With 80 pre-installed sport modes that are able to track over 50 different values such as heart-rate, GPS location and many others, there doesn’t seem to be an outdoor sport that this watch wouldn’t be able to track and give you essential feedback on. Running watches don’t always offer to carry GPS tracking, whilst traditional hillwalking watches don’t house heart rate sensors. The Suunto 9 offers both in a pretty sleek form factor.

Read our full Suunto 9 Baro review

Get the latest price at:
suunto.com

 

Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30

Price: £450
Weight: 83g
Best for: Hiking, trekking
Key attributes: Wear OS by Google integration, Viewranger maps and routes

Here’s a smartwatch that, as the name suggests, is designed for hikers. It helps trekkers to navigate through the countryside, understand the conditions they’re about to face and, well, to know the time (obviously). The key feature comes courtesy of Google’s Wear OS technology. With this watch you can download apps, and the Viewranger option enables you to view full Ordnance Survey map tiles – complete with contour lines and topographical features – on-the-go. Obviously it’s not as detailed as a navigation app on your phone, but the watch touchscreen does its job admirably. If Viewranger isn’t your thing, there’s also pre-loaded Google mapping as well as MapBox which presents OpenStreetMap in a way that is easy to interpret in terms of terrain variation. Aside from navigation, the watch is sturdy and robust with 50m waterproofing and three buttons that are glove-friendly. You also get a a compass, altimeter, air pressure reading, tide times and a screen that shows the sunrise and sunset times.

Read our full Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 review

Get the latest price at:
casio.com

 

Honor Watch GS Pro

Price: £200
Weight: 46g (excluding strap)
Best for: Multi-sports, skiing
Key attributes: Powerful battery, excellent skiing mode, rugged design

THE GS Pro is a rugged, chunky smartwatch designed specifically for the intrepid outdoor adventurer. It’s an adventure watch and nothing else and that clarity of purpose is refreshing. For £200 you get a sharp AMOLED display, enhanced GPS capabilities including a ‘route back’ function with breadcrumb navigation, over 100 workout modes such as mountain climbing, hiking and skiing, and weather alerts. A headline stat is the 25-day battery life (up to 48 hours with GPS enabled) and for high-altitude mountaineers there’s in-built blood oxygen level monitoring. The skiing mode is particularly impressive too. It tracks slope gradient, altitude, average speed, biggest slope, average pace, altitude and so much more, giving skiers (or snowboarders) more info at their fingertips than ever before.

Read our full Honor Watch GS Pro review

Get the latest price at:
hihonor.com

 

Garmin Instinct Solar

Price: £350
Weight: 53g
Best for: Off-grid adventures, multi-day adventures
Key attributes: Solar charging, GPS tracking

In a new watch design from Garmin, the Instinct Solar is the first watch to be able to offer unlimited battery life when used in battery saver mode (providing you’re able to capture enough sun to provide charge, of course). You’ll also get some phenomenal battery life while using the full functionality of the watch. For instance, when used as a regular smartwatch, you’ll get up to 24 days, or 54 days with solar. With GPS tracking on, you’ll get up to 30 hours, or 38 hours with solar, and finally, in Expedition GPS tracking, it’ll see you through up to 28 days, or 68 days with solar. These times are all assuming all-day wear with 3 hours per day outside in 50,000 lux (bright) conditions.

The watch is equipped with a GPS device that makes use of GPS, GLONASS and Galileo system of satellites (standard from Garmin), meaning you’ll be able to track all of your activities including trail running, hiking, ski touring, among many others. On top of this, the Instinct Solar is also carrying a wrist-top heart rate monitor (chest heart rate sensor can also be purchased separately for accurate readings) and smartphone pairing, all tied together in a military standard casing that’ll withstand pressures equivalent to a depth of 100 metres.

Read the full Garmin Instinct Solar review

Get the latest price at:
garmin.com

 

Elliot Brown: Holton Automatic

Price: £650
Weight: 130g
Best for: Off-grid adventures
Key attributes: Automatic charging, stylish design

Ok, so this is the only watch in this list that doesn’t have GPS – but we still think it’s sufficiently rugged and outdoorsy for inclusion. Elliot Brown watches – a Dorset-based firm run by friends Ian Elliot and Alex Brown – believe in a radically different approach to the smartwatch genre. Their watches have a timeless, classic look that wouldn’t look out of place in a formal environment, but then they also have incredible functionality and durability for the outdoors – be that on land or sea.

The Holton Automatic is a high-end timepiece – it’s an automatic watch (or self-winding watch), meaning the natural motion of the wearer provides energy to wind the mainspring. No manual winding is necessary and no batteries are required, so this watch is well-suited to long expeditions where unfaltering reliability is key. If you’ve ever used a smartwatch, you’ll know that they’re notoriously prone to dying on you (the battery can randomly plummet at any moment) – but there’s no such issue with the Holton Automatic. Style is top-notch too, with the Holton Automatic extremely easy on the eye – the matt bead-blasted grey steel case complements the grey-green luminosity and matt black dial perfectly. We particularly like the 120 click, uni-directional bezel too, while the sapphire crystal is 2mm thick and you also get excellent night-time performance too courtesy of the ultra-bright Superluminova dial and bezel.

Read the full Elliot Brown Holton Automatic review

Get the latest price at:
elliotbrownwatches.com

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