Best Hiking Watch – Expert Review

Updated: February 12, 2024

The Garmin Instinct 2 is one of the best hiking watches out there for good reason. Aside from being able to access multiple global navigation satellite systems, it's thermal, shock and water resistant. It can also track your heart rate, activity and stress levels, making it ready for any weather and environment that comes your way.  

If you're shopping on a budget, then look no further than the Timex Ironman R300 GPS. It's great for hiking as well as most outdoor activities with a 24/7 step tracking system and easy-to-use heartrate and GPS features. 

Be sure to also check out our reviews on separate handheld GPS devices.

Best Hiking Watches (Top Picks)

Best Overall

Garmin 010-02626-10 Instinct 2, Rugged Outdoor Watch with GPS, Built for All Elements, Multi-GNSS Support, Tracback Routing and More, graphite

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Editor's Choice

Suunto Traverse

Suunto Core, Dusk Gray

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TIMEX IRONMAN R300 GPS Smartwatch with Heart Rate 41mm – Light Gray with Silicone Strap

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Watches for Hiking (Detailed Reviews)

We reviewed over 13 hiking watches for this article. Below are the best hiking watches that made our short list.

  1. Garmin Instinct 2 - Best Overall
  2. Suunto Traverse - Editor's Choice
  3. Garmin Tactix Bravo
  4. Suunto Core
  5. Timex Expedition Grid Shock - Best Value

Read our complete buyers guide for hiking watches.

Best Watch for Hiking

1. Garmin Instinct 2

Garmin 010-02626-10 Instinct 2, Rugged Outdoor Watch with GPS, Built for All Elements, Multi-GNSS Support, Tracback Routing and More, graphite

5/5 Overall Rating
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The Garmin Instinct 2 is a tough and rugged hiking watch that is also perfectly suitable for everyday wear. It includes a multitude of useful features, such as a wrist-based heart rate monitor, barometer, compass, GPS, altimeter, thermometer, and TracBack feature.

It has a sturdy and durable build and is water resistant to up to 100 meters. With a Chroma display, you will be able to easily see your data at any time of the day and in any level of sunlight.

The GPS feature is quick so you don't have to wait around for a few minutes before you get on your way.

You'll also never get lost with its TracBack and bread crumbs feature that is helpful when you're in faraway remote places with little to no signal.

The Garmin Instinct tracks your steps, calories, heart rate, and even the quality of your sleep!

When paired with a compatible smartphone or other type of device, you will be able to receive Smart Notifications from the Instinct 2 and track your personal data through the Connect IQ app.

There is also a Move Alert feature, which will vibrate and alert you when you've been sitting down for too long.

This is a very useful feature for when you have long hours at the office, as it will give your brain a break as you get up and move for a little while and help increase your productivity.

The Garmin Instinct 2 is the ideal hiking watch with plenty of amazing, useful features to use.

Main Features
  • Wrist-based heart rate
  • Chroma Display
  • Outdoor navigation features
What we like
  • Smart Notifications: You can set many vibrating alarms
  • Quick GPS
What we dislike
  • Heart-rate monitor isn't as accurate with more rigorous activity
Key Takeaway

The Garmin Instinct is an excellent choice for a hiking watch. It has a rugged, yet sophisticated, design and includes all the features you will ever need in a watch.

2. Suunto Traverse

Suunto Core, Dusk Gray

4.5/5 Overall Rating
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The Suunto Traverse is a daily watch, designed for outdoor use but with a sleek look so that it can be worn on your everyday travels as well. It has a modern, lightweight design with great display.

Its features include GPS, an altimeter, barometer, compass, speed and distance tracking and a flashlight mode.

It's a great watch for fitness training and hiking but has limited battery life so if you need a watch that's going to last more than 2 weeks without a charge then this probably isn't the best choice for you.

The Suunto Traverse has a linked altimeter and barometer that has 3 profiles to choose from: automatic, altimeter, and barometer.

In automatic mode, the watch will switch back and forth between altimeter and barometer depending on whether you're moving or standing still.

The Traverse logs all your trip data so that you can see your total ascent/descent details as well as your speed.

It has all the typical timekeeping functions, which include stopwatch, timer, an alarm and GPS time.

Sunrise and sunset times help you to set your alarm for when you need to wake up as well as help you determine how many hours of sunlight you have to keep travelling.

It also tracks weather trends and gives storm alerts so that you can find shelter in time. The Suunto Traverse has a very useful flashlight function, which puts the backlight on full brightness so that you can find your essentials in the dark.

With GPS capability and Glonass networks, the Suunto Traverse helps you keep track of where you're going and can be used to plan your routes. It has features to help you find your way back to the start of your route, log Points of Interest, check coordinates, and more.

You can sync your Traverse watch with the Suunto Movescount app on your phone in order to create and plan routes, push notifications and incoming calls to your watch, and transfer your data wirelessly once you've completed a trip.

The Movescount app allows you to see all the details of your hike, as well as summaries, fitness patterns, calories burned etc.  

Main Features
  • Altimeter, Barometer and Compass
  • GPS
  • Sync with Movescount app
  • Water resistant up to 100m
What we like
  • Easy to use, plus it has a flashlight
What we dislike
  • Battery only lasts 8 hours in GPS mode
Key Takeaway

The Suunto Traverse is an excellent watch for hiking and fitness tracking as it can sync up nicely with your smartphone and give you summaries of your daily movement details. Its durable, lightweight design is perfect for both everyday use and outdoor adventures.  

#1 Pick for High Altitude Mountaineering

Favre-Leuba Raider Bivouac 9000

favre-leuba Bivouac

If you're planning to hike or climb at high altitude then we highly recommend the Favre-Leuba Bivouac 9000. This watch demonstrates Swiss engineering at it's best!

The hand-wound watch has been designed with an altimeter that is accurate up to 9000m, making it a perfect choice for the 8000ers (including Mount Everest). 

The titanium casing means the watch is almost indestructible, and if that wasn't enough, the watch is also water-resistant to 3 bar / 30m. 

3. Garmin Tactix Bravo

Garmin Fenix 3 HR, Gray

4.5/5 Overall Rating
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The Garmin Tactix Bravo is designed specifically for fitness training, navigation, and tactical functionality. It has a rugged, durable design that incorporates stainless steel bezels, sapphire glass, and an interchangeable nylon strap.

The altimeter function accurately measures your elevation as you ascend or descend and the barometer tracks changes in weather so that you can be prepared for any conditions.

The Tactix Bravo also includes GPS and Glonass positioning so that you can always navigate your way, check your coordinates and plan your route.

The TracBack features allows you to find your way back to the start of your route so you'll never have to worry about getting lost. You can even sync the Tactix Bravo with your smartphone and receive notifications while you're exploring the great outdoors.

You can install Garmin's Connect app on your phone and see all of your data collected by the Tactix Bravo. The Garmin Chroma Display ensures that you can read the data displayed on the Tactix Bravo in any type of light. It also has a 100m water rating so you can leave the watch on while you swim or go snorkelling.

The Garmin Tactix Bravo has a good battery that can last up to 3 weeks depending in the mode it's set on.

Main Features
  • Altimeter, Barometer and Compass
  • GPS/Glonass
  • Water resistant up to 100m
What we like
  • Wireless connectivity
  • Good battery
  • Stylish design
What we dislike
  • Quite big
Key Takeaway

The Garmin Tactix Bravo is everything you need in a hiking watch and more! It includes so many useful functions to help navigate your way, keep up with the time and stay connected with smart notifications.

4. Suunto Core

SUUNTO Core, Outdoor Sports Watch, Multiple Styles/Colors, One Size

4/5 Overall Rating

The Suunto Core is an excellent outdoor watch with many useful functions. It comes in a number of different colour variations so you can choose the style that will suit you the best.

It has an altimeter, which tracks your ascent or descent and tells you what your current elevation is. It measures your elevation every 3 feet or 1 meter, and can track your overall height climbed in the altitude log even if your trail has many ups and downs.

This function is linked together with the barometer, which calculates the pressure as you ascend or descend instead of just the weather pressure. This allows for more accurate readings as long-term trends are determined.

While there is no GPS, the Suunto Core has a compass function that allows you to navigate your way safely through the great outdoors. It also features sunrise and sunset times with 400 locations to choose from.

All you need to do is select the location closest to you and set your alarms accordingly so that you can wake up as the sun comes up.

The Core also has a thermometer, which works best when you've taken the watch off of your wrist for a little while to avoid interference from your body heat. It has storm alarms that warn you when a storm is approaching so that you can find shelter.

The Suunto Core has a relatively easy user-interface which you get used to as you use it more.

There are multiple menu pages that you have to go through to find certain functions or logs but the more you do it, the quicker you find what you're looking for.

You can set a daily alarm with the Suunto Core, however it isn't very loud. It has a water resistance up to 30 meters and can accurately tell you your depth up to 10 meters.

Main Features
  • Altimeter, Barometer, Compass
  • User replaceable battery
  • Multilingual Menu
What we like
  • Can track weather changes
  • Altitude Log
What we dislike
  • No GPS
Key Takeaway

While it lacks GPS capability, the Suunto Core is still a great choice for altitude hiking. It has ,any useful features that can help you stay safe on your travels and its robust design will ensure long-lasting use.

5. Timex Ironman R300 GPS Watch

TIMEX IRONMAN R300 GPS Smartwatch with Heart Rate 41mm – Light Gray with Silicone Strap

4/5 Overall Rating

The Timex Ironman R300 watch is a more basic watch for hiking that focuses less on navigation, but more on the smaller features. It a great introductory watch for people new to hiking and is great value for money.

It's shock- and water-resistant up to 100m. It features a stopwatch, timer, alarm and hydration alerts. The alarms can be set to vibrate, make a sound, or both, so you can choose which is more likely to wake you up.

The hydration alert is an excellent feature if your main use for this watch is hiking. It'll alert you to when you should have a drink of water so that you stay hydrated on your hike.

While it doesn't have many features, if you're looking for something simple to track the time and wake you up in the mornings then the Timex Ironman watch will suit you just fine.

Main Features
  • Stopwatch and timer
  • Customizable alarms
  • Hydration alerts
What we like
  • Indiglo light-up watch dial
  • Simple to use
What we dislike
  • Slightly bulky
Key Takeaway

The Timex Ironman R300 GPS watch is a very simple and basic hiking watch. It has a couple useful features and is very affordable so would make a great entry-level hiking watch.  

Hiking Watch Buyer's Guide

ABC Features

Any hiking watch should include an altimeter, barometer and compass. These are the basic features that are extremely useful to keep an eye on while you're on your trek.

An altimeter will let you know your elevation as you ascend or descend on a trail. Some watches will also track the total height you ascended on your whole trail, which can be useful in tracking your progress.

A barometer is useful to track the changes in air pressure, which then helps to predict weather changes so you can prepare yourself in time.

Some watches will include a storm alert feature to ensure you find shelter in time. This is an extremely helpful feature to have on your hiking watch as weather can be so unpredictable, especially if you're hiking up steep mountains and where the air pressure changes as you ascend.

A compass is also a helpful feature to have so that you can check your bearing and see where the cardinal directions are. This can help you navigate you way on a map if you do not have a GPS device.


Hiking watches need to be made from the most durable materials so that they can last beyond the duration of your trip.

Some hiking watches will have a sapphire glass face, which is more resistant to scratches. The straps also need to be durable and comfortable so that the watch doesn't bother you as you hike.


The comfort and weight of a hiking watch is also important to consider. Watches that are more robust and durable with lots of features are often quite large and bulky which can be a bit uncomfortable on smaller wrists.

The strap material can also effect the comfort of a watch. Silicone bands can be quite comfortable, however, if they don't feature breathing holes they can get quite sticky and itchy if you perspire.


More expensive hiking watches usually feature GPS functions. GPS is the best feature to have for navigational and tracking purposes.

It'll allow you to access your coordinates as well as show your speed and distance. Some watches are capable of importing your routes or can sync with a smartphone app to help you plan your trails.

Unfortunately, GPS watches tend to have a much shorter battery life if the setting is used frequently or kept on.

So if you want a GPS hiking watch, see if you can find one with interchangeable or chargeable batteries, or even one that comes with a solar charger.

Heart-Rate Monitor

Some hiking watches will also feature a heart rate monitor, which tracks your heart rate through a wrist-based mechanism. Other watches require a separate chest strap that transmits data to the watch.

This feature can help you keep track of your heart rate on a long hike so that you can keep a steady, healthy pace.

About the author 

Kayla Gallocher

Kayla lives in sunny Cape Town, South Africa. She loves wildlife and being in the mountains! Anything to get away from the city and relax in the peace and quiet of nature.

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