Best Outdoor Watches
No matter where you are or what adventure you find yourself experiencing, an outdoor watch is one of the best tools you can have with you. Outdoor watches are much more than a timepiece, they are a whole new tool for the twenty-first-century adventurer. Besides featuring high tech features such as GPS, activity tracking, and being a smart device, an outdoor watch can help you get out of the wilderness before sunset and keep an eye on your heart rate. Another feature we love is the ability to share your location with friends and family. These tools will give you the extra edge when on your next adventure.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 15 hrs of research
Can be synced with your smartphone for up-to-date calls and texts
Features a real-time breadcrumb view of your route
Implements GPS and GLONASS technology
- Suunto Traverse
- Casio 2500T Digital
- Suunto Sport
- Garmin Epix
- Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music
- Garmin Fenix 5
- Seiko Automatic Stainless Steel
- Victorinox Airboss
- Fitbit Charge 2
- Apple Smart Watch Series 3
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top Ten Outdoor Watches
1. Suunto Traverse
Can be synced with your smartphone for up-to-date calls and texts
Features a real-time breadcrumb view of your route
Implements GPS and GLONASS technology
Disappointing in terms of battery life; in GPS mode
A slightly better user interface and battery life may have propelled the Suunto Traverse even further on this list. Still, this remains highly competent because of its integrated technology that ranges from its smart technology to its GPS functionality.Read more
All Traverse watches are hand-tested and designed in Finland and are composed of a stainless steel bezel. And, with a water-rating of 100 meters, it is designed for the outdoors.
Suunto advertises their Traverse to have up to 100 hours of battery life. But, as several reviewers have claimed, in GPS mode, this is laughably wrong and tends to fluctuate a lot.
You can achieve everything you can think of with the Traverse. Use the GPS functionality for navigation, sync it to your smartphone and use it as a smartwatch, and track altitude statistics. Plus, you will be notified of weather changes and upcoming storms.
The manner in which the interface is executed makes it difficult to navigate through as it is hard to know which functions are currently enabled. But, there is a backlight when you need it.
Despite the lukewarm appeal of the watch, it is convenient that there are differing color options such as graphite, black, white, and amber.
Not without its shortcomings, the Traverse is a high-quality outdoor watch that is suitable for almost everyone. It also helps that it is manufactured by Suunto, who has an impressive track record.
2. Casio 2500T Digital
Has a water-resistance rating of 200 meters
The durability is impressive
Features tide levels for specific times and dates
Not the easiest or most efficient compass in the world
For those who simply do not need activity tracking or GPS functionality, look no further than the 2500T Digital Watch from Casio. Think of this is a throwback watch with a built-in barometer, altimeter and compass all-in-one.Read more
This can handle depths of water that you may never feasibly go to, up to 200 meters. In addition, the band is made of titanium; however, some users have commented that the band is engineered cheaply.
Instead of a traditional power system, this runs off of solar light. On a full charge, it can last up to five months. However, if you use power saving functions this can increase to 23 months. But, when exposed to sunlight, it will be charging as you wear it.
All the bells and whistles of a traditional watch are present here, such as a full auto-calendar and 12/24 hour formats, but it adds a digital compass, altimeter, barometer, and thermometer.
A duplex LC display is construed on the face of this watch and when in darkness, it features an auto backlight with an afterglow. It is not the fanciest interface you will ever see, but it suffices.
Some may feel this is not discreet enough for them. In other words, this watch will stand out very easily due to the complexity and ruggedness of the display and band.
Past the cheaply made, according to some users, titanium band this is designed to withstand the elements that await you. All in the meanwhile, providing you with design functions such as an altimeter and full-fledged compass.
3. Suunto Sport
Features a high-quality watch band
GPS and activity tracking are top-notch
Displays the times for the sunrise and the sunset
Somewhat inaccurate heart-rate monitor without the belt (sold separately)
Garmin may be the “king” of this kind of technology but get one thing straight, Suunto is no slouch. Their various appearances on this list will prove that. But, their Sport Wristwatch offers efficient core functions such as activity tracking and GPS technology with a water-resistant design.Read more
This also features a stainless steel bezel but the case is crafted from a glass fiber reinforced polyamide. In addition, the Sport Wristwatch is water-resistant to up to 100 meters.
While not the best battery life when you utilize it in training mode, up to 10 hours, you can enhance this to 40 hours with power saving options.
The GPS and GLONASS tracking technology, heart-rate tracking, sports and activity tracking, and breadcrumb trail to display your current route make this ideal for outdoor explorers. As a bonus, the watch also displays sunrise and sunset times; while also informing you of upcoming storms in your area.
For a watch, the display is utterly fantastic. With a color touchscreen and three action buttons on the side, it is difficult to gripe about anything here.
If you do not like the standard stealth color option, which is mostly consistent with black, you could opt for the amber color option. Either way, both look visually appealing.
It may sport more features than you will ever care to use, but you have to applaud the in-depth nature of this watch. Plus, thanks to its tough construction that can hold up in the rain, it is suitable for any outdoor activity.
4. Garmin Epix
Designed with a stainless steel EXO antenna for GPS and GLONASS reception
Built-in altimeter, compass and barometer
It can display smart notifications from your smartphone
Not the best resolution or user interface out there
The epix is a great example of a watch that excels in performance but one that may not be a fashion statement. As its Garmin, it has built-in GPS technology and also features mapping.Read more
With its combination of rugged PVD-coated surfaces and a mineral glass lens, the epix is ready for your adventures. In the instance of inclement weather, it is also water-resistant for up to 50 meters.
If you were to use the GPS functionality without stopping, you could get up to 20 hours of battery life. Used sparingly, you could extend this to up to three weeks.
There are eight GB of internal memory installed and this allows you to load a variety of maps. Also, this can work as an activity tracker and also sports GPS and GLONASS reception for navigation.
With the Connect IQ application, you can actually customize your watch with different fields and widgets. As a whole, it features a 1.4-inch high-resolution, Chroma touchscreen display.
No doubt, this is the least impressive aspect of the epix. It is not necessarily appalling to the eyes but the design is very basic and probably not one you would want to wear to a party.
For pure performance, this could easily be at the top of the list. Any outdoor enthusiast would be proud and thrilled to put this on before their adventure. This is thanks to its excellent GPS technology, mapping capabilities, and use as a sports tracker.
5. Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music
Garmin Pay compatible
Download up to 500 songs
Untrustworthy heart rate monitor
After a long hike with your Vivoactive, there's nothing better than relaxing at a beautiful waterfall and listening to your favorite song. Comparable with other outdoor Garmin watches, this watch packs all the best features and more with a slim and attractive interface.Read more
A mixture of stainless steel, chemically strengthened glass, and silicon, this is a very sturdy watch that can accompany you on any adventure. It can withstand water pressure up to 50 meters and has a beautiful display that can easily be seen in the sun.
If you are having a week in and only using the Vivoactive as a watch, the battery can last you for an entire week. In GPS or music mode, the battery lasts up to 13 hours.
Equipped with Garmin Pay, you won't need to worry about bringing your wallet with you. Compatible with most banks, you can pay for that bottle of water or bug repellant that you forgot without ever pulling out your debit card. Tracking your V02 Max, heart rate and GPS location, this watch will never leave you feeling stranded.
Customizable with over 50 digital faces, you can personalize this Garmin watch to your liking. Many reviewers praise the large font on the interface making it easy to read and swipe from screen to screen.
We love this watch because it could easily pass as a regular, fashionable watch. It isn't bulky or bright. You can easily change out the band with any 20mm quick release band.
6. Garmin Fenix 5
Features transflective technology to allow easier viewing in sunlight
You can replace the band with several QuickFit bands
It comes equipped with in-depth training features
Some users have claimed that the watch has randomly frozen on them from time to time
The Garmin Fenix 5 sports all the gizmos and gadgets that you come to expect from a high-quality Garmin device. But, what makes it so amazing for outdoor users is its rugged construction and GPS functionality.Read more
The bezel, buttons and rear case are all crafted from high-quality stainless steel. In addition, you can swap out the band with a wide selection of QuickFit bands (options include leather, metal or silicone).
Utilizing the GPS technology non-stop would provide you with up to 24 hours. Otherwise, in smartwatch mode, you could feasibly get up to two weeks.
Not only does this feature both GPS and GLONASS satellite reception, it also sports a triple-axis compass and a barometric altimeter. Also, you can sync this watch with your smartphone to receive smart notifications and uploads to Garmin Connect.
A beautiful interface is highlighted by the high-resolution and full-color Garmin Chroma LED Display. Plus, with the performance widget, all your key stats are at your fingertips.
While there are various color designs that you can select from, the jet-black design is downright gorgeous for any wrist.
If it is a watch or any sort of GPS device and it has Garmin’s name plastered on it, you know it is worth the money. Then, when you take into consideration that the watch is the best outdoor version the company has crafted, all the guesswork should be done.
7. Seiko Automatic Stainless Steel
Is water-resistant up to 200 meters
The craftsmanship of the crystal manages to repel scratches
Absolutely gorgeous dial with the blend of the gold makers
Very, very low-quality band that looks like it does not belong on this watch
For what the Seiko Men’s Watch is, it is highly-impressive and designed for an extensive lifespan. It does not implement some of the features of the previous watches on this list, but that does not signify it is unsuitable for outdoor use.Read more
A mix of brushed and polished stainless steel makes up the watch itself and a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal case protects the dial. For rainfall, it has a water-resistant rating of 200 meters.
Again, unlike GPS watches, battery life will not be much of a concern here. Plus, with a 50-hour power reserve, you should be set.
There is a compass that is integrated into the watch and besides this, the 23-jewel automatic movement features both automatic and manual winding capabilities. Additionally, it beats at a frequency of 21,600 vibrations per hour.
The display is crystal-clear and the green dial blends with the gold hands perfectly. Furthermore, there is a date display directly next to the 3 o’clock position.
All in all, the dial is downright gorgeous and visually appealing to the eyes. The blend of gold and green may not seem stylish, but it works like a godsend here.
Sometimes, you want an outdoor watch that is rugged enough to withstand the elements without the unnecessary features and technology. That is the Seiko Men’s Watch. But, it is worth noting, the band leaves a lot to be desired.
8. Victorinox Airboss
Very elegant design that is extremely visually appealing
Designed to withstand rugged abuse
Has functionality for 12-hours, 30-minute and 60-second
Users have griped about the excess weight due to the intense construction
Simply put, this watch is visually stunning. It may be the finest watch ever crafted but do not be fooled, this can perform admirably as well. This is not only your standard watch but also a chronograph with amazing workmanship.Read more
This is fitted with a stainless steel bezel, case and bracelet. To top it off, there is a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal casing. Plus, if exposed to water, it can handle it as it has a water-rating of up to 100 meters.
Instead of being designed like GPS watches and activity trackers with limited battery lives, this does not really have that. But, it does have a power reserve of 44 hours.
The Airboss Mach 9 watch has the functions for date, hour, minute, second, and a chronograph. For the chronograph, it functions for 12 hours, 30 minutes, and 60 seconds.
While there is a lot of information clustered on the interface, it is easy to see. There are 24-hour markers, minute markers located around the outer rim, a date display at the 6 o’clock position, and chronograph subdials that display this function.
You can opt for either a leather, steel, or nylon band. But, the red and black blend of the nylon band with the watch interface is as beautiful as you will ever see on a watch.
Some may feel the immense price tag should warrant more from this watch. But, you really would be hard-pressed to find a watch that is physically designed better than this.
9. Fitbit Charge 2
5-day battery life
Ideal for the less devout outdoor person, the Fitbit still tracks your steps, pace, and elevation while staying true to it's incognito, sleek design. One feature that would excel this watch to the top of this list is a compass.Read more
The Fitbit Charge 2 is made from elastomer, similar to many other outdoor watches, and has a stainless steel, surgical grade, band. The screen is made from hardened plastic, which can scratch, but screen protectors are easily found and applied.
Depending on your settings, this battery can last up to 5 days, making this watch ideal for trekking around the mountains or through your favorite national park. To extend the life of the battery, you can turn off the heart rate monitor, quick view and all day sync.
With the new Cardio Fitness Score feature, your Fitbit really gets to know you. From the moment you put it on your wrist, it begins tracking your resting heart rate to provide better feedback on your exercise statistics. Ideal for the days that you are ready to conquer the day before your partner, this watch is equipped with a silent alarm. We also like this feature for camping. The watch vibrates on your wrist and wakes you up peacefully and quietly.
The OLED display is tap sensitive and user-friendly. The watch has a large screen that is easy to read and automatically syncs with your nearby devices.
The Charge 2 is available in three different sizes, six different colors, and all feature an adjustable band. The thin design allows you to wear the watch with confidence, without weighing down your wrist or being bulky.
10. Apple Smart Watch Series 3
Constant updates and improvements
8gb of storage
Limited watch faces
I'm sure that Apple isn't the first brand to come to mind for an outdoor watch. However, the series 3 watch has an emphasis on fitness and is breaking into the outdoor world. The GPS is equally as accurate as the Garmin watches and with the new addition of a barometric altimeter, you can also track your elevation.Read more
The Apple Smart Watch features an aluminum structure and ion x-glass. Ion x-glass is scratch resistant and similar to the ever-popular gorilla glass, that has made iPhones so popular. The 1.3-inch display is water resistant up to 50 meters.
With normal use, the battery of this watch can last you up to 18 hours. If you have a lot of apps running in the background or are constantly receiving messages, it may die a bit faster.
Like all of Apple's products, you can easily sync your watch to your iPhone or MacBook. The watch records your daily exercise and movements including intensity, route, and speed. Hundreds of apps are available for the watch, including an Activity App to encourage you to get moving every day.
The Apple watch is very user-friendly, even more so for those who already own an Apple product. One complaint we have heard is that there is a limited amount of watch faces. However, with new updates readily available, we don't foresee this being a long-term issue.
Just as sexy as an iPhone without a case, Apple watch is sleek and intriguing. With two band sizes available, 38mm or 42mm, you'll be able to find your perfect fit.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Watches, to begin with, should be designed with durability in mind but when you factor in the unknown nature of the outdoor world, it enhances the importance. When it comes down to it, for use outdoors, you should look two factors. One is the actual workmanship of the watch itself (and even the band). Two is the water-resistance rating (if it is water-resistant). For starters, let’s address the workmanship.
First off, the watch should be crafted from durable alloys, for example, titanium and stainless steel. Take stainless steel, for example, as it is a naturally hard alloy that can handle rugged handling. If you accidentally smack your watch on something or drop it while trying to get it on, it should be able to withstand it. Then, there should also be a scratch-resistant casing designed over the watch to protect it. Now, for the water-resistance rating. As opposed to waterproofness, water-resistance does not cover complete submerging. However, if the watch is rated for up to 100 or 200 meters (or beyond) then it is suitable for it. Still, most manufacturers will advise against diving with this type of watch.
The watches that were presented to you on this list varied a little. Some are equipped with GPS functionality, activity tracking and work as a smartwatch. When it comes to these types of smartwatches, you will need to focus on the battery life. Considering that you are going to utilize these watches outdoors, you want to ensure they will last as long as you need them. However, it is really not that simple with smartwatches (especially if they have GPS technology).
Anyone who knows anything about GPS should know that it takes a ton of power to use and will bog down your battery significantly. Thus, you typically will see differing battery life ratings. Such as 20 hours in GPS mode and three weeks otherwise. The manner in which you use your watch will determine the battery life of one charge. So, the more you use the GPS inside the watch, the quicker the battery will deplete. In other words, use it sparingly.
This is where personal preference starts to come into play. Among the watches on this list, this is the section where they will differ the most from one another. The only thing you need to ensure is what you truly want your watch to be capable of. If you simply want to know the time and maybe have a few extra features, you can opt against versions that are loaded with technology. Some of the main design implementations that you want to consider are a GPS, compass, barometer, altimeter, activity tracking and Bluetooth.
GPS and activity tracking do go hand-in-hand with a watch and if it sports GPS technology, it should allow for sports and activity tracking. But, technology such as a barometer (which assists in forecasting the weather and determining the altitude), an altimeter (which allows you to determine the altitude attained) and a compass can provide you with necessary information when you are wandering in the wilderness. Then, there is Bluetooth. With this, your watch morphs into a smartwatch and then has the capability of syncing with your smartphone. This can then allow you to receive call and text notifications straight from your phone and also access to additional applications.
No matter if it is a smartphone, laptop, tablet, gaming console, or a watch, you will spend most of the time staring at the screen and navigating through the interface. With watches, it can be a bit tricky because, due to their design, their screens will not be as large and immense as smartphones or tablets. As such, the actual interface is not going to be able to show all the features present and you want to ensure it is easy to navigate through. Of course, this is more referencing smartwatches and touchscreen watches.
But, you can also pay attention to the screen and display as a whole? What is the resolution of the screen? Does it have a backlight for dark environments? Also, can it easily be seen from a distance (from your eyes to your wrist)? Do you really want to squint your eyes every time you look down at your wrist because the fonts and resolution are unbearably low and small?
Expert Interviews & Opinions
When looking to invest in an outdoor watch, try and see if the watch you are interested in offers a touchscreen display as when you are hiking, cycling, or doing any outdoor activity it is more convenient to use a touchscreen display. This way you are not fooling around with your watch and stopping what you are doing, and will be able to stay on the move and use your watch.
Other Factors to Consider
his is one design criteria where it is completely irrelevant what the designed purpose of the watch is. You may believe that prioritizing the overall aesthetic of a watch is rather shallow. After all, what is so great about a device that looks amazing but does not function well at all? Well, there is not a point. Indeed, you should only focus on the physical design of the watch if you know it performs to your standards and is constructed with quality in mind.
Once you have established this, you can narrow down your selection based on the overall appeal of the watch. It is going to be strapped to your wrist and nine times out of ten, exposed to the outside of the world. Thus, making it a possible fashion statement and you can’t look yourself in the eyes and say this does not matter at least a little.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What Exactly is a Chronograph Watch?
Once or twice throughout this list, you saw a reference to the term chronograph. But, that does not mean that you fully understood what it meant. To keep it as simple and brief as possible, as the explanation of how a chronograph works could be a full guide in and of itself, a chronograph is a timepiece that can be used as a standard display watch and a stopwatch. For example, this type of a watch will typically have dials for seconds, minutes, and hours.
So, you could feasibly use this to conduct certain tests that you would like done. Such as, how long it takes you to get your grocery shopping done or how long it took you to drive from point A to point B. For a standard chronograph watch, you would press the corresponding button when you are ready to begin and push it again when you conclude. It really is as simple as that, at its core.
q: Which Wrist Does the Watch Go On?
It is actually quite amazing how frequently this question gets brought up and how many times you see it circulating around the internet. Most people will not walk around with two watches on their hand unless they have too much money for their own good, so the question begs: what wrist should it go on? There is no written code that states one way or the other but in general, if you are right-handed you will wear it on your left wrist and vice versa.
When you think about it, it makes sense for your non-dominant hand to hold the wristwatch. You do everything with your dominant hand and it is natural to leave the watch on your other hand. Do not overcomplicate this, however. Simply strap the watch on both wrists to determine which wrist is more suitable for you.
q: Will a GPS Watch Work Outside the United States?
Many of the best outdoor watches are equipped with GPS technology. GPSs were not designed to be used indoors and as such, are a perfect match for outdoor watches. You already know the benefits of this technology and once you fully understand how it works, you will easily be able to answer this question. The reason GPS will not function properly inside is that it uses various satellites in the sky to triangulate its position. In other words, if it does not have access to the sky it can’t get a signal anywhere.
Walls, doors and various other building components will block this attempted signal and render the GPS useless. So, it is irrelevant where you use your GPS watch as long as you have direct access to the sky, it will pick up data from the constantly circulating satellites and function without problem.
q: How Can You Clean the Face of the Watch
Over time, your watch is going to succumb to the dirt, dust, and bacteria that is prominent in the outside world. This will not become hazardous to your health but depending on the material, could corrode the metal. Among the watch, the face (or screen) is most prone to this debris as it is not protected or covered by anything. When the time comes, and if you are ever unsure if it needs to be cleaned you can do it anyway, the process of cleaning the face is very simple.
All you will need is either a soft cloth or a soft-bristled toothbrush, a dish filled with warm water, and a touch of mild detergent. Combine a touch of the soap into the dish to create the solution. Then, merely dip your toothbrush or cloth lightly into the solution and begin to gently brush the top of the watch face. Do not exert too much force as all you are trying to do is rid the dirt and dust.
q: What About the Watch Band, Can You Clean That?
Just like the watch face, you can clean the band of the watch. However, this time, it is utterly dependent on the type of material that the band is. For example, steel bands, leather bands, and nylon bands will all require different maintenance. Let’s start with leather, which is the simplest one when it comes to cleaning. All you should do with leather is to wipe the band down with a damp cloth. Now, with a steel band (or any other type of metal that it is constructed from) you should clean them in the same manner that you did the watch face. Take a soft-bristled brush and dip it in warm, soapy water and scrub the band. After which, allow the band to air dry completely. Lastly, you have a nylon band and in actuality, you could throw this into the laundry machine (if it is detachable). If not, simply wash in the same manner as a metal band.
q: Can Water Still Damage a Water-Resistant Watch?
It has already been documented that water-resistance does not mean waterproof. And also, that the depth of the water rating (in terms of meters) will signify if you can submerge it for any period of time. Past being knowledgeable and understanding of the water-rating, there are certain bodies of water that you should avoid altogether. One that obviously comes to mind is salt water. Indeed, salt water will corrode metal five times faster than regular water would. But, still, a metal such as stainless steel can still hold up fairly well in salt water.
But, one body of water you may not think of is a pool. It all has to do with the chlorine that is injected into the pool. This, much like salt in the ocean, can cause corrosion to the metal.
q: What are the Advantages of an Outdoor Watch Over an Application I Download on my Phone?
Personally, I prefer to leave my phone at home when hiking or exercising. A phone is a big investment and honestly isn’t built for extreme outdoor use (just think of the rain!). Aside from distractions and short battery life, the size and weight of a cell phone is inconvenient while hiking through the wilderness or jogging around the neighborhood.
Having an outdoor watch on your wrist provides you with better analytics for improving your exercise. It is two times more accurate at tracking distance and speed than a phone application. By tracking your heart rate, cadence, vertical oscillation and V02 Max, an outdoor watch can determine how long each foot is spending on the ground between strides.