Sticking to your schedule during a hike is essential, and a good hiking watch is just what you need to keep time. We spent time comparing the best watches for hiking in physical and online stores and found some great watches that cost below $200. Check them out in the sections below.
Read more: Best Handheld GPS for Backpacking and Hiking
- Covered under a 2-year warranty
- The large display interface is easy to read
- Has inbuilt Altimeter, barometer, and compass
- Allows you to preset sunrise and sunset times for many locations
- Allows straps customization to your liking
- Styling straps are sold separately
- Does not have GPS tracking
This Suunto Core outdoor watch is more than just a device for timekeeping. It also comes with an inbuilt barometer, Altimeter, and compass. A large interface displays the time at the center, while the three buttons on the right side of the watch allow you to switch between different time display settings. You can swap from the 12-hour time display to the military-style 24 hour time display settings.
The inbuilt barometer tracks air pressure changes as you move, thus allowing you to predict possible storms and weather changes. You can also determine the intensity of elevation during an ascent or descent while also monitoring your current elevation with the Altimeter’s help. Additionally, the compass kit that comes with this watch tracks direction efficiently and reduces your chances of being stranded in the wild.
This watch also allows you to preset sunrise and sunset hours according to over 400 different locations to ensure you never miss a sunrise or sunset in whichever location you choose to hike.
Customizing this watch is also easy thanks to the separately sold compatible straps available in different colors and styles.
Buy this fantastic watch from stores affiliated with the manufacturer to benefit from their 2-year warranty cover.
- Covered under a 1-year warranty
- Scratch-resistant display
- Compatible with smart devices
- Comes with an inbuilt compass, barometer, and Altimeter
- Uses a global positioning system to track the location
- The many configurations can be challenging to understand
Combating the tough outdoors with the Garmin Instinct outdoor watch is easy thanks to its many useful features and inbuilt accessories that it comes with. A military-grade GPS allows you to find your coordinates anywhere in the world. Simultaneously, the chemically-treated scratch-resistant display withstands any harsh environment you put the watch through. The display has a large font size configured with enough contrast for easy readability even during the day.
Vigorous testing is carried out on this line of watches before release to the market, which guarantees that each watch is shockproof, thermal, and water-resistant.
A 3-axis compass complements the GPS in tracking location and pinpointing direction, while the inbuilt barometer allows you to keep track of changes in air pressure. The inbuilt Altimeter also helps you track the altitude through which your hiking track takes you.
Smart device compatibility sets this watch apart from other brands and helps you enjoy the most out of both the watch and your smartphone. You can connect the watch to your phone and keep track of your heart rate, hiking stats, and more information by accessing the Garmin Instinct cloud storage.
- The LED display is backlit and easy to read even in the dark
- Includes inbuilt barometer, Altimeter, and digital compass
- Allows users to set up to four alarms
- Water-resistant exterior
- The many possible configurations take some time to master
- Not available in smaller sizes
Casio is a renowned producer of top quality watches, and this hiking watch does not disappoint. The solar-powered watch has extended uptime of up to nine months on a full charge. It allows the configuration of up to four different alarms. Coming with a preprogrammed calendar, this watch ensures that you always have accurate time wherever you are on the globe.
The LED display is backlit for uninterrupted viewing even in the dark, while the surface is scratch-resistant to allow you to carry the watch even when going through the toughest of environments.
The watch has an inbuilt digital compass with a graphic directional pointer for improved accuracy in pinpointing directions.
This watch also comes with an inbuilt barometer for sensing air pressure changes and an altimeter for altitude measurement. The Altimeter operates between -700 meters and 10,000 meters above sea level, thus making the watch viable for use during hiking, mountain climbing, snow skiing, and a bunch of other outdoor activities.
- The simple interface is easy to use
- Straps are easy to adjust
- The display is backlit and can be viewed in darkness
- The battery holds power for a long time
- Lacks a barometer, Altimeter, and compass
- Loses synchronization and requires resetting after some time
The simplistic design of this watch can have you fooled into thinking that it is just an ordinary watch, but that is not the case. It comes with remarkable features that make hiking easier. To begin with, the strap is slim, lightweight, and easily adjustable.
The watch allows you to configure up to three alarms with both vibrating and sound alerts when they are due. It is shockproof, and the display is scratch-resistant, which makes this the go-to watch if you hike in bad weather or tough terrain. Water resistivity has been tested and the watch cleared for use in deep waters not exceeding a depth of 30m. The digital LED display lights up during the night with a backlighting system that is easy on the eyes.
The watch is powered by a long-life battery that holds a charge for up to 10 years of uninterrupted operating time. It is also easy to operate and has a simplistic top surface with just a few well-labeled dials and buttons.
- Large display that is visible even at night
- Multiple modes enable efficient power usage
- Inbuilt barometer and Altimeter
- Supports wireless connectivity with smart devices
- Has a free ballistic software
- Provides accurate position reading using GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo satellites
- Takes a while to get accustomed to the many settings
- Sold without any additional accessories
Garmin Foretrex allows you to employ military-grade techniques to navigate any hiking environment. The navigation system combines GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo satellite systems to deliver accurate location positioning at any point on the globe.
The watch has a large display with a graphical user interface that switches display between time display, navigation mode, and UltraTrac mode. You can view the display during the day and the night with the night vision goggle compatible screen.
A barometer and Altimeter are inbuilt into the watch, thus delivering more than just accurate time readings. Moreover, this watch connects to your smart devices wirelessly and allows you to receive notifications from emails, texts, and other alerts.
As a bonus, the Garmin Foretrex comes pre-installed with military-grade ballistics software, which improves shooting accuracy over long ranges. This makes it the perfect watch for hikers who like to combine their outdoor hiking in the woods with a hunt.
Features to Look For in a Hiking Watch
A hiking watch is different from the typical watch and has many extra capabilities to make your hiking easier. Here are some features you should look out for in a hiking watch.
Ease of use
When buying a hiking watch, consider buying one that has a user-friendly interface and easy-to-understand configurations. Hiking watches come with many extra features, such as navigation, directional capability, air pressure sensors, altitude sensors, and wireless connectivity.
Therefore, maneuvering through all the different configurations can be difficult, especially when the watch is new. You need to pick a watch with a steep learning curve to know how to use all the settings properly within a short time. A user manual to guide you through some of the settings could also help.
How long the battery powering your hiking watch lasts is also important. You want a battery that lasts you the entire period you will be on the hiking trail without a need to keep recharging it. Some hiking watches replace typical Li-ion batteries with solar-powered ones to ensure they keep recharging while still using the watch.
Note, however, that the type of processes you run simultaneously on the watch will affect your watch’s battery life. For instance, when using GPS tracking, the battery drains quicker as compared to when using the watch to display time only. As a result, experts advise that you only run the applications you require at a particular time.
Note that some applications, especially those on smart hiking watches, might keep running in the background, leading to your battery draining out of juice faster. Some watches automate battery power optimization by having different operational modes with different power requirements to conserve the battery juice.
Watches designed for use outdoors are lightweight, which means that having them on your wrist for a long time will not be tiring. However, for the best experience, select a watch that comes with a slim strap for easy adjustments when it feels too tight. Moreover, look for straps with a vented design or holes to reduce the chances of sweat accumulating around the space where the strap surrounds your wrist.
Replaceable straps also come in handy when you want to style the watch with a custom strap. You can easily swap out the original strap with a fresh one that has a different look. Replaceable straps are supported on high-end hiking watches, while only a few lower-priced watches have removable or replaceable straps.
The weather is likely to change during your hike. Having a water-resistant watch ensures you keep using it even when it is raining. Most of the hiking watches can be used for several outdoor and sporting activities.
A hiking watch does not need to have a high water resistance level because you mostly need to protect it from dripping water. If you want your hiking watch to double up as a swimming watch, however, you need to go for higher water resistance. Picking a suitable watch is easy because manufacturers test their watches for water resistance and indicate the depth at which the watch can survive when submerged in water without being damaged.
Hiking might lead you to unfamiliar locations with thick vegetation. To find your way back, you need a watch with a reliable navigation system. Many hiking watches have inbuilt navigation systems that use the widely used global positioning system (GPS) in the United States. Some watches also support other navigation systems, such as GLONASS, which is used in Russia, or Europe’s Galileo system.
Navigation systems are not only useful for finding your direction but also allow real-time tracking of your position on a map. The systems also offer an efficient way of keeping track of your hiking statistics, such as helping you estimate the time you took from point A to point B.
A compass is an essential tool for finding the direction that explorers have been using since ancient times. Some watches combine the GPS with a digital compass, which gives you a general sense of direction and improves accuracy. Low-end hiking watches have a 2-dimensional compass that only guides your direction when used in the horizontal position. However, more advanced high-end hiking watches come with 3-dimensional compasses that show you direction accurately when placed in any position.
An inbuilt barometer in a hiking watch monitors air pressure and gives you the screen readings, which helps you anticipate storms and weather changes. Some watches will give you digital readings while some continually record the air pressure and display the changes in form of a graph. Some watches also combine air pressure monitoring with notifications that alert you of drastic changes that could indicate an approaching storm.
Hiking watches also have inbuilt altimeters that estimate the elevation you hike in at a particular time. Knowing the elevation of your position can help you pinpoint your location on a map and figure out directions. Some altimeters screen the GPS for data while others work independently. The altimeters that work independently tend to be more accurate, while the accuracy of those that rely on the data from the navigation system depends on signal strength.
Hiking watches also come with various extra features to make the hike when wearing the watches more fun. Features like an inbuilt thermometer allow you to know the exterior temperature. Use the device carefully, however, because its sensors could read and report your body temperature instead.
Wireless connectivity is another feature that modern hiking watches use to help you monitor your hiking statistics. Such watches are compatible with your smartphone, while some will even upload the stats to a cloud storage for you.
Smartwatch vs. Budget Hiking Watch
After considering all the hiking watches from competing brands, hikers eventually have to decide between buying a low budget watch and a high-end smartwatch. Here are a few benefits and drawbacks of hiking with each kind of watch.
- Has many useful features and configurations
- Records statistics of the hike and stores them in the cloud
- Easy to read displays
- Connects to your smart devices
- Running too many applications simultaneously drains out the battery
- The many configurations take a long to master
- Sold at high prices
Old-School Hiking Watch
- Sold at pocket-friendly prices
- Are more durable
- They are small in size
- Easy to use
- The battery lasts for a long time
- Have limited features
- Do not connect to smart devices
- Don’t have a way of tracking hiking statistics