submitted by Adam Molina
When you’re out on a long run, hike, or climb, a lot of thought goes into the gear you bring. You need something that will give you plenty of functionality without weighing you down, which is why so many turn to a tough GPS or outdoor watch. They aren’t cumbersome to carry and offer genuinely helpful features that can come in handy in a pinch, especially while you’re away from the familiar comforts of the city. Whether you’re looking for the toughest watch that can survive the worst of the elements or something to help you find your way on your next outdoor adventure, this list has something for everyone.
Our Top Picks
1 – The Best Overall GPS Watch: Apple Watch Ultra2 – The Best GPS Watch on a Budget: COROS PACE 23 – The Most Rugged GPS Watch: Casio PRO TREK PRT-B504 – The Most Feature-Packed GPS Watch: Garmin fēnix 75 – The GPS Watch with the Longest Runtime: Garmin Instinct Crossover6 – COROS VERTIX 2 GPS Watch7 – Suunto 9 Peak Pro GPS Watch8 – Polar Grit X Pro GPS Watch
The Best Overall GPS Watch: Apple Watch Ultra
The Best GPS Watch on a Budget: COROS PACE 2
The Most Rugged GPS Watch: Casio PRO TREK PRT-B50
The Most Feature-Packed GPS Watch: Garmin fēnix 7
The GPS Watch with the Longest Runtime: Garmin Instinct Crossover
COROS VERTIX 2 GPS Watch
Suunto 9 Peak Pro GPS Watch
Polar Grit X Pro GPS Watch
What to Look For in an Outdoor Watch
Battery life: Whether it’s in your phone or in a watch, GPS is a power-hungry ordeal. The last thing you want is to be two days into your hike and have your watch die on you. A battery that will last until you’re back in the safety of your own home is arguably the most important thing to pay attention to.
Safety features: If you’re looking into tough, rugged, outdoor GPS watches, chances are you don’t plan on using them while sitting at a desk. Running tough routes, summiting a new peak, and backpacking your way through a trail are all worthy goals, but that’s not an excuse for being ill-equipped. A watch that will alert another person and automatically send out your location when things go south can be the difference between a good experience and a terrible one.
Activity tracking: If you have a goal and are taking your training seriously, you should track your progress and figure out how to optimize your efforts. These watches all double as excellent fitness trackers. Make sure the watch you choose can give you the information you need to hit your targets and achieve results.
Durability: No matter the activity, you want a watch that can take a beating. Make sure that the watch you pick has the toughness to keep up with you, whether waterproof or shockproof. All of the watches on this list have great water resistance, so you won’t have to worry about that the next time you go for a swim.
Price: Watches are one of those things that you could spend as much money as you have on just one. So, pick a budget that makes sense for you before deciding on one. The more expensive watches will have more satellite system compatibility for better accuracy and tougher build quality. Still, if you’re only looking to track your workouts and get important notifications, you don’t need to spend too much.
Comfort: Even though these are tiny computers you strap to your wrist, they’re still watches. That means you want one that’s going to be comfortable to wear all day or even all week. The most expensive watch doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the most comfortable. Look for watches with straps made of comfortable materials or straps that are easy to replace.
Style: Unless you have a box full of watches, chances are that if you spend a few hundred dollars on one of these watches, you will be wearing it fairly often. While style isn’t the most important factor when considering a GPS watch, you shouldn’t ignore it. Look for a watch that will mesh with your everyday lifestyle.
User-Friendly: Keep in mind that while all of these GPS watches are more sophisticated than the computers that first sent humans to the moon, they’re not user-friendly. Regardless of your watch, there will be a learning curve. They all have menus and submenus that you’ll have to learn to navigate, along with apps and services that you’ll need to connect to. Not to mention the plethora of available metrics once you dive into any accompanying apps.
Other GPS Watches to Consider
Garmin Forerunner 955: If you want one of the best running smartwatches out there, the Garmin Forerunner 955 is a new offering from the company that checks all the boxes for a fitness tracker.
Apple Watch SE (2nd Generation): You don’t need to pay almost a thousand dollars to access Apple’s health features. The Apple Watch SE (2nd Gen) is also great for real-time fitness tracking thanks to its bright and intuitive display.
Garmin Forerunner 255 Music: The Forerunner 255 Music is perfect for runners who leave their phones at home and zone out with some music. Thanks to the Garmin Connect app, you still get access to plenty of metrics.
COROS APEX 2 Pro: The COROS APEX 2 Pro makes for a great adventure watch thanks to sapphire-resistant glass and large buttons that you can press easily with gloves.
GPS Watches FAQ
Which GPS watch is most accurate?
The COROS VERTIX 2 is the most accurate GPS watch, thanks to compatibility with five different satellite systems. It can connect to GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, and Beidou, so you’ll likely never be out of range.
What is the best GPS watch for walking?
The Apple Watch Ultra is the best GPS watch for walking simply because Apple has the best method for competing against friends. You can ignore the adventure features entirely, leave your phone at home, and use the watch to take calls and listen to music while trying to close your rings.
Which watches have built-in maps?
The Apple Watch Ultra, Garmin fēnix 7, COROS VERTIX 2, Suunto 9 Peak Peak Pro, and Polar Grit X Pro have built-in maps and real-time navigation making them great options for trail running.
Which sport watch is most accurate?
The most accurate sports watch is the COROS VERTIX 2, thanks to its ability to sync up with five satellite systems.
What is a GPS watch good for?
A GPS watch is great for tracking your routes, whether you’re a runner, cyclist, swimmer, or just going on a hike. With a good GPS watch, you’ll know details like how long the route was, elevation changes, and much more.
Are GPS watches worth it?
GPS watches are worth it for a particular kind of person. If you’re going to be sitting at your desk and using it mainly for smartwatch features, then there are better options available, but if you’re going to be trail running long distances, then you’ll find many use cases for one of these.
What does a GPS watch do?
Depending on the watch, a GPS watch can track everything from your position anywhere on the globe and your heart rate. If you’re training for endurance sports or trekking through woods on the weekend, features like offline maps and navigation can help you trace your way back to your starting point should you get lost.
How we picked
Decades of experience and deep connections in the everyday carry industry give us a unique viewpoint on the market to inform our product recommendations. We have the depth of information for thousands of products that have come before and an extensive eye on the market to see what’s new and trending for each piece of gear. The result is a buying guide that we feel is informative and useful for EDCers of every trade, industry, and budget.
What is Everyday Carry?
Everyday Carry is both the concept of what people carry in their pockets and the process of picking out gear that thoughtfully considers what one wants or needs in their daily lives. It encompasses everything from style to preparedness to utility, meaning an entire industry full of valuable tools and essentials to choose from.
Why you should trust us
Our team has decades of combined experience in all aspects of everyday men’s essentials, from wallets to pens to bags and everything in between, and we know where to find great gear ideas that you may not come across at your local stores or when shopping online. Our expertise with the industry and familiarity in design, materials, and usability help you make more informed choices when it comes to picking up your next piece of gear.