Best outdoor watches header

If you love the outdoors and enjoy hiking, biking, and camping then you are well aware of how important your gear can be.  One of the main staples of outdoor equipment is your watch.

Watches are no longer just a means of knowing the time.  They are technical tools to maximize your outdoor experiences.  In some situation out in the wild, it can even keep you safe.

With today’s modern technology and advancements, it can be a daunting task to choose the right watch for your outdoor activities. What do you really need? What to pay attention to when choosing your outdoor watch?

In this article, we will review the 8 best outdoor watches you can get today in 2020, and explore options and features that can help you make the correct choice for your outdoor watch needs.

The 8 Best Outdoor Watches of 2020

Garmin Instinct

Garmin Instinct, Rugged Outdoor Watch with GPS, Features Glonass and Galileo, Heart Rate Monitoring and 3-Axis Compass, Graphite

$299.99
$239.98  in stock
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The Garmin Instinct outdoor watch is an incredible watch that is not only good looking but packs unique features. While hiking, backpacking, or trail running, this watch offers you what you need under those circumstances.

It closely resembles the Casio’s hard-core sports watches – looks and performance. At 52 grams and 45mm diameter, which is smaller than Garmin Fenix, the watch rests comfortably on your wrist.

The strap is 22 mm and is removable. And, the watch is exceptionally comfortable to wear, courtesy of the smaller size and soft silicone band. The casing is made of polymer and reinforced by fiber; thus, scratch-resistant.

The backlit 128 x 128-pixel monochromatic display is large enough and, therefore, easy to read. Unique to this model is the double window design, i.e., a small circular window at the top, which displays the date, and a lower one that shows other stats.

It has five buttons with clear labels. However, those on the right are not prominent and a bit difficult to press. The Instinct is a fitness tracker, sleep tracker, GPS tracker, etc. Above all, you can customize the parameters.

 Quick Specifications

  • Diameter: 1.8 in / 4.6 cm
  • Weight: 1.76 oz / 50 g
  • Satellite navigation systems: GPS, Glonass, Galileo
  • Water resistance: 100 m / 10 ATM
  • Battery life: 2 weeks in Smartwatch mode, 16 hours in GPS mode, 40 hours in UltraTrac battery saving mode

Pros

  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Exceptional screen visibility
  • Excellent battery life
  • Buttons are recessed to avoid accidental presses
  • The app and the key is responsive

Cons

  • Accompanying explore apps are missing

Garmin Fenix 5X SapphireOur Top Pick

Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire - Slate Gray with Black Band

$599.99
$394.99  in stock
29 new from $371.39
7 used from $249.99
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as of April 4, 2020 10:49 pm

For anyone who loves the outdoors, the Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire is a convenient watch. Apart from a topo and trail map, you have other powerful features on your wrist. Notably, it allows mapping and route planning. This is a unique feature only to 5X Sapphire.

The Fenix 5X Sapphire differs from the Garmin Instinct in some features notably, size and weight. This watch is larger and weighty. Typically, it weighs 33g more and 2mm shorter.

Nonetheless, the design is impressive both in looks and strength. The display is larger, making it easier for you to read your stats. Moreover, it features a better resolution (240 x 240px) than the majority of other Garmin watches

What you appreciate more is massive internal storage – 64MB. Instinct has only 16MB. Again, when it comes to GPS, it is faster at picking the coordinates.

Like other Garmin watches, it has in-built navigation sensors, i.e., GPS, Glonass, three-axis compass, gyroscope, and barometric altimeter. In the Fenix series, it is the only watch featuring a preloaded topographic and cycling map.

 Quick Specifications

  • Diameter: 2 in / 5.1 cm
  • Weight: 3.1 oz / 88 g with silicone band, 6.9 oz / 196 g with metal band
  • Satellite navigation systems: GPS, Glonass
  • Water resistance: 100 m / 10 ATM
  • Battery life: up to 2 weeks as smartwatch mode; 24 hours in GPS/HR mode and up to 60 hours without wrist heart rate in UltraTrac mode

Pros

  • The watch provides extensive information about your workout
  • The HR sensor gives entirely consistent insights of your daily activities
  • The sapphire glass is scratch resistant as well as more durable than other types of glasses
  • Has a decent screen resolution

Cons

  • The watches are specific to regions; if you get a watch from a different region it might make it difficult for you to operate

Suunto Ambit3 Peak

SUUNTO Ambit3 Peak HR Monitor Running GPS Unit, Black

$499.00
$243.31  in stock
5 new from $243.31
6 used from $181.01
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The Suunto Ambit3 Peak outdoor watch looks simple but packs impressive features. It offers stable and accurate information regarding numerous aspects it measures.

You can create up to 12 sports mode. What’s more, you can give each sport a unique mode, display fields, and recording settings. Additionally, you can record events at an interval of choice, but the most advisable range is usually one second.

On display, you get 8 customizable screens. Each screen supports up to 3 fields. You can rotate between the screens using the next button – located at the center of the right side. The top and middle display are fixed. But the display can rotate up to 5 items. You can change the dippy by using the vie button.

The watch can display essential data on more than one screen. Thus, reducing the tendency to scroll through your watch for crucial data.

The watch is compatible with a smartphone. Hence, you can sync your activities, like calls, messages, and customize on the go.

 Quick Specifications

  • Diameter: 1.96 in / 5 cm
  • Weight: 4.6 oz / 130 g
  • Satellite navigation systems: GPS
  • Water resistance: 100 m / 10 ATM
  • Battery life: 30 hours with 5 sec-GPS accuracy, 200 hours with a 1 min-accuracy

Pros

  • Accurate GPS tracking especially for running and cycling
  • The compass works well and is a reliable option
  • The watch works perfectly for those who run ultras, long distances, and mountain hikes
  • HR sensor is accurate even in water
  • The battery lasts longer

Cons

  • The watch cant display trail map pre-set and track your stats simultaneously
  • The black metallic finish is scratch-prone

Suunto Core All Black

SUUNTO Core All Black Military Men's Outdoor Sports Watch - SS014279010

$117.20  in stock
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Suunto Core All Black packs both beauty and functional reliability. Considering the rough nature of the outdoors, this watch can withstand the abuses of adventures.

The digital display has various divisions, but what is impressive is the round aluminum bezel and the scratch-resistant mineral crystal window. The resin wristband is removable and matches the core all-black casing.

The lightweight nature the watch makes it sit comfortably on your wrist. At only 64g, you won’t feel it on your wrist.

You can summarize the functions of the Suunto core sports watch in 3 modes – compass, time, and altimeter & barometer. For each of the functions, you get a dedicated display with an intuitive menu.

For instance, the time mode displays actual time on the upper side, while on the lower half displays the sunrise/sunset moments for over 400 locations.

If you want to know your elevation and pressure, the altimeter and barometer are features to use. Again, you’ll be impressed with the accuracy of the digital compass. Sadly, the watch lacks GPS.

 Quick Specifications

  • Diameter: 1.9 in / 4.8 cm
  • Weight: 2.26 oz / 64 g
  • Satellite navigation systems: No satellite navigation
  • Water resistance: 30 m / 100 ft
  • Battery life: 12 months in time mode

Pros

  • The watch casing has a strong built
  • The battery life is impressive provided you do not leave on unnecessary features all the time
  • The watch has a high level of accuracy for aspects it measures – altitude, pressure, compass, and weather

Cons

  • The band material may be a bit fragile

Casio G-Shock Rangeman GW-9400

Casio Men's GW-9400-1CR Master of G Stainless Steel Solar Watch

$194.96  in stock
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The G-Shock Rangeman GW-9400 from Casio merely is tough, reliable, and long-lasting. It doesn’t look stylish, but it is tough to stand up against the most gruesome conditions: the rugged exterior houses, powerful components.

The watch is made of strong plastic material. There is a plastic around the face of the display to protect the display in the even it falls. Moreover, the watch is sealed against dirt, dust, mud, and water. In fact, it is water-resistant up to 200 meters.

The Shock Resistant Triple Sensor in GW-9400 gives the watch the ability to deliver accurate information on altitude, pressure, temperature, and direction whenever you need it.

The buttons are cylindrical and have improved resistance to impact. The button you’ll most use is the sensor button. The button has a metal cover to protect it against lateral impact while keeping the foreign matter out.

There are different sensor modes, and each has a specific tone. When you note the tones, you can enter a mode without looking to confirm. Unique to the G-Shock Rangeman GW-9400 is its solar capabilities. It means your watch is powered all the time.

The tie calibration radio signal keeps time accurate.

 Quick Specifications

  • Diameter: 2.1 in / 5.3 cm
  • Weight: 3.2 oz / 91 g
  • Satellite navigation systems: No satellite navigation
  • Water resistance: 200 m /660 ft
  • Battery life: solar powered

Pros

  • The solar functions charge the battery continuously which means power all the time
  • Watch casing is made of sturdy material; thus, durable
  • The time is accurate, and barometer works well
  • The buttons have a nice feel while pushing

Cons

  • Altimeter seem to be a little off

Suunto Traverse Alpha

SUUNTO Traverse Alpha

$287.80  in stock
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Typical to Suunto, the Traverse Alpha is built for any outdoor activity. The rugged design, water repellent nylon strap, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass, and the knurled stainless steel bezel indicates the creation of a sturdy wrist piece.

This watch performs better than its Suunto Ambit Peak in many aspects. It offers a vibrating alert and the ability to upload your maps. Though they have a similar diameter, the Traverse Alpha weighs less than the Ambit Peak by 14g. Also, it is 3mm thinner.

While cruising the lands or oceans, you won’t miss your direction. The watch’s GPS maps the coordinates, helping you track your way back. It is easier because you use an automatic breadcrumb trail, which is compatible with the Suunto Movescount App. Additionally, the GLONASS navigation system allows you to master your territory.

Sadly, it lacks a 3D compass and has only one sensor – a gyroscope.

An essential feature in this watch not found in other Suunto watches is the replaceable watchband. You can replace it with any standard watch band provided is of the correct size. This allows you to customize your hiking experience.

Another unique feature is the special functions for fishing, hunting, and hiking.

 Quick Specifications

  • Diameter: 1.97 in / 5 cm
  • Weight: 2.72 oz / 77 g
  • Navigation systems: GPS, GLONASS
  • Water resistance: 100 m / 330 ft
  • Battery life: 14 days in Time Mode, 10/15/100 hours in Best/Good/OK GPS Modes

Pros

  • The auto shoot technology is a handy feature for accuracy
  • Easy navigation with the digital compass, GPS and GLONASS
  • The strap is comfortable
  • Pedometer feature is accurate
  • The looks are amazing

Cons

  • The watch does not change the time zone automatically

Garmin Forerunner 35

Garmin Forerunner 35; Easy-to-Use GPS Running Watch, Black

$169.99
$118.90  in stock
24 new from $118.90
1 used from $142.99
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as of April 4, 2020 10:49 pm

The Garmin Forerunner 35 is one of the newest GPS watches with a heart rate monitor and smartphone notifications, in the Garmin line of watches. It makes a perfect companion for a cyclist, runners, and people who like the outdoors.

When you compare with other Garmin watches, it falls midway both in price and performance. But most users say the price is too high for its features because it doesn’t shine at what it does.

Unlike its counterparts, the Garmin Forerunner 35 isn’t circular. It looks like an apple watch – flat face with a somewhat square design. How you rate this design depends on your taste. But it won’t look out of place in numerous situations.

The design is simple. It has two buttons on the right and one on the left. The display (128 x 128-pixel) is crisper, and therefore easy to read than most other watches. What you’ll find annoying is how difficult it is to navigate through the menu because you only use one button.

The GPS is accurate, though it takes a little longer to acquire a signal. Sadly, the heart rate monitor is slow and may result in inconsistent results.

 Quick Specifications

  • Dimensions: 1.4 x 1.6  in / 3.5 x 4.1 cm
  • Weight: 1.6 oz / 45 g
  • Satellite navigation systems: GPS
  • Water resistance: 40 m / 130 ft / 5 ATM
  • Battery life: up to 9 days in Smartwatch Mode , up to 13 hours in GPS mode

Pros

  • The screen is always on
  • The screen has clear contrasts, and the numbers are large making it easier to view
  • The battery life is decent
  • For buttons make it easy to check your stats while running
  • The ability to pair with an external sensor makes it a good watch

Cons

  • GPS can be slow
  • Virtual pacer does not work

Coros Pace GPS Watch

Coros Pace GPS Multisport Watch with Wrist-Based Heart Rate Sensor, Triathlon Features, Barometric Altimeter and Strava & TrainingPeaks Compatible, Red/Black

$199.99  in stock
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as of April 4, 2020 10:49 pm

The Coros Pace GPS Watch is best known for its ability to show your athletic performance with accuracy. So, if you intend to take your fitness goal to a new level, you should invest in the Coros Pace GPS Watch.

It gives your accurate location, thanks to the GPS, GLONASS, and BDS. These elements work quickly and accurately, despite the numerous outdoor interruptions.

Whether you are a swimmer, a runner, or you engage in multiple sports, you can get your stats right on your wrist. The inbuilt optical heart rate monitor monitors the various aspects of your heart. In turn, this helps you achieve your fitness goals. The watch has the COROS App which you can use to customize your training.

The COROS Ultra Sync Technology makes it easier and quicker to use your mobile app.

What you’ll find remarkable the long battery life. Fry regular use, it can last up a month. This is unique to this watch only. Such performance is due to an innovative CPU system that is built to optimize power use.

 Quick Specifications

  • Dimensions: 1.8  in / 4.6 cm
  • Weight: 1.7 oz / 48 g
  • Satellite navigation systems: GPS, GLONASS, BDS
  • Water resistance: 50 m / 165 ft / 5 ATM
  • Battery life: up to 30 days in Standard Mode, up to 25 hours in GPS Mode

Pros

  • Impressive battery life
  • Lightweight
  • GPS/GLONASS/BDS capability
  • Swift satellite connection
  • Run metrics and training info

Cons

  • It can’t download routes to follow

Other Buying Options:

Frequently Asked Questions

About The 3 Satellite Navigation Systems

One important feature in today’s outdoor watches is GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems).  Currently, there are three main types used in most outdoor watches.

GPS: One of the most common types is GPS which was originally known as NAVSTAR GPS.  It is a satellite-based radionavigation system owned and operated by the US government.

GPS provides geolocation as well as time information anywhere on earth where you have an unobstructed signal from numerous satellites.  GPS is well known and is freely accessible to anyone with a device that contains a GPS receiver.

GLONASS:  GLONASS stands for GLObal NAvigational Satellite System, and it is sometimes available in some outdoor watches.  This system originated in the Soviet Union and is operated by Russia.

This system is also a satellite-based radionavigation system. It just provides an alternative to GPS that also has global coverage with comparable accuracy.

Galileo:  Galileo is also a global navigation satellite system created by the European Union.  It is named after the astronomer Galileo Galilei.  It was developed to provide European nations an alternative to the US and Russian systems.

The basic low precision service is free and accessible to anyone.  It also contains a more precise service for commercial users that requires a fee.  The payable service advertises it has capabilities for more precise measurements horizontally, vertically, and at higher latitudes.

How to Choose an Outdoor Watch

This can seem like an overwhelming task when you consider all the brands, styles, and options. You should consider all the activities and situations you will encounter when choosing your watch.

Durability, functionality, capability, practicality, and style all should play a part in choosing the watch for you. Listed below is a quick overview of considerations.

The ABC’s of Outdoor Watches: When choosing an outdoor watch you need to consider what activities you enjoy and what abilities you want your watch to possess.  When we think about abilities we think of features. Features of a quality outdoor watch usually consist of ABC options.  Altimeter, Barometer, and Compass.

An Altimeter is a function that measures altitude.  The feature measures atmospheric pressure that it translates into altitude measurement above a fixed point ie. sea level.  This information can be displayed in feet and/or meters.

Next up is the barometer.  This function measures air pressure and calculates altitude and altitude changes.  Changes in air pressure can indicate changes in weather.

Lastly on the ABC list is the Compass.  A compass is a feature that is used for navigation and orientation devices to directions such as north, east, south, and west.

These are the most basic features of an outdoor watch and depending on your use, it can be enough! That said, models with GPS often offer a better accuracy, at the cost of a shorter battery life.

Battery Life: Talking about battery life, it is of course another important feature to consider.  The last thing you want to happen is your outdoor watch dying in the middle of your activity.

This is why it is important to take into consideration what activities you plan to do with your outdoor watch before choosing it . Too much technology is not only overkill but will also drain your battery much, much faster. Don’t really need GPS? Go for a simple “ABC” watch.

Also, consider how long your activity will last before you are able to recharge the watch. You can also choose a solar-powered option which will recharge itself as long as it is exposed to light.

Shock Resistance: When considering a watch another feature to consider is its durability.  One factor of durability is shock resistance.  Shock resistance refers to how well a watch holds up to a mechanical shock.

A mechanical shock can be thought of as an impact such a drop on a hard surface or continuous vibrations such as running, jumping, or movement.  Consider your activities and match your watch to accommodate the actions.

Not all outdoor watches are created equal, and if you are practising activities that are a little “riskier” such as bouldering, you will want to double check that the watch you fancy resists well to shocks and won’t be horribly scratched as soon as it touches a rock.

Water-Resistant Versus Water Proof : If your adventures consist of water then you need to consider water resistance.  Swimming, diving, and activities in heavy rain will damage watches that are not resistant to water.

The amount of water and the depth of the water involved also play a factor.  Water-resistant and waterproof are different degrees to how well a watch will survive being exposed to water.

Waterproof means it is impervious to water or able to resist the penetration of water.  A waterproof watch would be needed for activities such as diving and swimming.

Water-resistant means able to resist the penetration of water to some degree.  This feature would be beneficial for watches worn while doing activities in the rain.

Watches used while diving needs extra thought.  Even if the watch is waterproof does not mean it can be worn at any depth.  Water entering the watch isn’t the only consideration.  The deeper you go under the water the more pressure is exerted on the watch.  Most people only recreationally dive.  Recreational divers don’t typically dive deeper than 40 meters.

Beyond that depth, the diving would fall into technical diving.  Most outdoor watches that are suitable for diving have a water resistance rating from 100 meters to 300 meters.  Consider how deep you typically dive and select a watch to match your diving distance.

Additional Features: In today’s advanced watch market there is an abundant amount of additional features that help you with your watch decision making.  Health-related functions such as heart rate monitors and advanced performance metrics.

Connected features that allow you to pair with smartphones, apps, and social media.  There are multiple variations of display types from digital to high-resolution screens.

There are scratch-resistant faces made from fiber-reinforced polymer to sapphire crystal lenses.  Battery saving modes, storm alerts, Bluetooth compatibility, and recovery estimators are only a few examples of the capabilities that are available.

A Word About Watchbands

In today’s market there is a wide range of watchbands available. Watchbands are available in many styles, colors, materials and functions. Once again, take into consideration the activities you plan to do while wearing your watch.

Pick the material that will withstand the wear and tear your favorite activities will exert on your watch. Leather, metal, rubber, plastic, and cordage are a few popular options.

Choose a style that is functional and does not hinder your movement. Choose a style that is comfortable and can be worn for extended periods. Watchband options can be interchangeable and can also contain its own functions.

Some bands aid the heart monitor feature to provide accurate readings while others can double as cordage in a survival situation. The color does not have technical importance unless you need concealment, such as hunting or tactical situations.

Pick a color that reflects your personality. Most of all have fun with your watch.

Final Thoughts

These watches really enhance your outdoor experiences. I think that once you’ve had one, it is hard to get back in the wild without your watch! There are so many models on the market today that making this selection was not an easy job, but I believe that you have here 8 outdoor watches that can totally satisfy even the most demanding users.

In any case, I hope this guide was valuable to you! It should help you choose the best outdoor watch that is adapted to your needs.

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