Best Outdoor Watches 2020
In this Guide
First, you need to know what features you are going to need on your watch. That will depend, of course, on the activities you participate in. On this list, you’ll see that I recommend different watches for different sports. Ask yourself: Why do you need an outdoor watch? What sports do you participate in? Do you need a GPS? Do you need a shock-resistant watch? Do you plan to dive into it? Most of the following models are meant for various adventure sports. However, some are recommended more for a particular activity.
Another thing to keep in mind is your budget. The more features the watch has, the more expensive it will be. Fortunately, you can find many great models for a very reasonable price.
The following recommendations are based on users’ reviews. That’s why I recommend only quality watches in the list below.
Garmin and Suunto are one of the top brands. They are modern, resistant, and good looking. They are great for multi-sports, especially running and hiking.
Casio watches tend to have a more classic style, and they have a great performance.
Things to look for when buying an Outdoor Watch
GPS tracking is fairly vital for anyone who likes to get off the beaten path. A GPS (Global Positioning System) uses satellites to provide real-time positioning data. Understandably, there are people who would prefer not to have a satellite tracking them when they’re on a hike.
Compass, Altimeter, Barometer
These three features almost always come as a package deal, largely because they function together. A compass provides direction, an altimeter measures altitude (distance above sea level), and the barometer measures atmospheric pressure. Together, these tools help a hiker know where they are precisely and what kind of conditions they can expect. Even more than GPS, these tools are absolute necessities for a hiker, and they don’t require satellite connectivity. ABC features have become standard issue on high-end watches for skiing, snowboarding and other adventurous mountain sports where altitude, direction, and weather are a major safety concern.
Less of a necessity than a perk, a thermometer allows a hiker to keep track of temperature changes. This is especially helpful if you will be making a climb during your hike or if you plan on staying out overnight when knowing the temperature can help you make sufficient arrangements. Not every hiking watch will have a thermometer, but it’s nice when one is included.
Health and activity trackers
Here is where we get into the truly optional features. Smartwatches have helped make health and activity trackers popular. Even non-active people have turned to watches to track their daily steps and calorie consumption. If you’re a long-distance hiker or in the midst of training, trackers of these sorts (heart rate, steps, speed, sleep) can be great for helping you progress. For casual hikers, though, they’re probably superfluous. Still, they can be nice to have.
The problem with a lot of the feature-heavy sports watches is that GPS and health trackers tend to use up battery power very quickly. That’s not a concern if you’re only out for a few hours, but if you plan on spending considerable time in the great outdoors, solar-powered watches offer a handy solution. Additionally, it’s just better for the environment to utilize solar energy, and if there’s something a hiker should appreciate, it’s anything that pleases Mother Nature.
Their G-series watches are almost indestructible!
Best Outdoor Watches
There are few activities more rewarding and rejuvenating than a hike. Getting far away from busy cities and crowded neighborhoods for a little peace within nature can offer some peace and quiet becoming a great escape. This experience can be made even more relaxing if you’re completely disconnected, with no phone, no technology to interrupt you.
All technology except of course a watch. When hiking, an outdoor watch can become an invaluable tool, offering you information on your location and then shifting meteorological moods. The great thing about a hiking watch is, while they include advanced features, many don’t require internet connectivity. This means you can peacefully enjoy your hikes all the while being safe and protected.
1) Suunto 9 Baro
|Fiddly to get the best from||Endless features for every occasion|
|The short battery on GPS|
When you want fitness tracking whenever, wherever, then the Suunto 9 Baro has a lot to say for itself. It comes equipped with a GPS, 100-meter water resistance, 120-hour battery, heart rate monitor, weather information. The ‘baro’ in the name refers to an additional barometer sensor over the stock model, which not only provides weather information but also makes the GPS tracking much more accurate on long ascents.
Wrist heart rate monitoring is built-in, as are a myriad of fitness stats, and there’s even sleep tracking too. This watch has all the bells and whistles you could want for and even has a decent battery life with them all switched on.
2) GARMIN Fenix 6X Pro Solar
|Available in solar-powered model||Might be too heavy for some|
|Super rugged||A bewildering range of options|
|Tech for all situations|
The Garmin Fenix 6X Sapphire is ready for any training activity and competition. It’s equipped with a modern GPS system, topo maps, wrist heart rate technology, and the option to personalize it with different apps. It features a GPS, topographic maps, great autonomy, heart rate monitor, Garmin Connect App. Particularly strong for outdoor folk is the solar charging function, which will string out battery life to a maximum of 24 days, as is the extensive navigation package that will get you out of trouble with ease – if you have worked out how to set them up.
3) Casio British Army X G-SHOCK Mudmaster
|MoD approved||Not beginner-friendly|
|Long battery life||No GPS|
The toughest watches just got tougher with this partnership between the Ministry of Defence and G-SHOCK, designed specifically for missions in the harshest land environments on the planet. Enormously robust and durable with massive battery life, the Mudmaster also features a stealth-black dial for operational reasons.
There’s tech under the hood too, with Bluetooth Low Energy adding special app functions including a location indicator, mission log memory, location memory, sunrise, and sunset data, and calories burned. Onboard the watch you’ll find sensors including a compass, thermometer, altimeter/barometer, and step tracker.
4) Suunto Spartan HR Baro
|Has GPS||Not suitable for intense environments|
|Long Battery Life|
|Great for beginners|
The Suunto Spartan HR Baro is designed for hiking, running, and outdoor activities. It comes with many helpful features like GPS, wrist heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, altitude graph, thermometer, storm alarm, and 80 pre-set sport modes. It has a convenient wrist hr. measurement and battery life up to 40H with GPS. Made of steel bezel, mineral crystal glass, it’s operating temperature range is -20° C to +60° C / -5° F to +140° F.
5) Suunto 7
|Beautiful OLED screen||Hard on batteries|
The Suunto 7 GPS Watch is the smartwatch that features a wrist-based heart rate monitor, over 70 different sports modes, offline maps, and everyday features from Wear OS by Goggle. The tricky bit here is to keep a decent battery life, which the Suunto 7 does, at 12 hours in GPS mode and 48 hours in smartwatch mode.
The benefits are pretty hefty: you get smartwatch apps aplenty, Google Fit, Google Assistant, and notifications as well as offline outdoor maps and more than 70 sports modes. The result is a watch that’ll keep pace with your working week, track your daily training routine, and then be ready for big weekend expeditions – all while looking pretty stylish. A compelling mix.
6) Tissot T-Touch Solar Expert
|Swiss quartz movement||No GPS or smart features|
|Solid feature set|
|Almost unlimited battery life|
Robustly built from titanium, the touchscreen face also conceals a solar panel, so there’s no danger of a dead battery in the Karakoram. The feature set is strong too, with 25 features including weather forecasting, altimeter, second time zone, and a compass built-in. Although the latter is probably best saved for real emergencies, the barometer/altimeter function could come in very handy for acclimatizing hikes.
7) Garmin Fenix 3
|Good battery life||Fiddly to get the best from it|
|Solid feature set|
|Powerful, smart technology|
The Garmin Fenix 3 comes with a full-fat GPS/GLONASS satellite navigation system here, backed up by a 3-axis compass, altimeter, and barometer for high-quality tracking and triangulation. Then you’ve got the wrist heart rate monitoring, combined with strong fitness training features including running dynamics stride length, vertical ratio, and VO2 max, and this is really an all-rounder for outdoor folk of all stripes.
8) Casio PRG-300 Pro Trek
|Great functionality||Generic features|
|Durable and Reliable||No GPS|
This solar-powered, digital watch possesses several outdoor features (altimeter, barometer, thermometer, and digital compass) and other general accouterments (stopwatch and countdown timer). It’s also water-resistant up to 100 meters and has an incredibly long-lasting battery.
9) ShearWater TERIC
|Compact||Low, smartwatch-style battery life|
The Shearwater Teric is a little bit special in the world of dive watches and has already forced bigger brands to follow suit. Essentially, it’s a diving smartwatch, which might sound obvious, but when you’re 50m deep on trimix a crash and reboot to factory settings could be somewhat harrowing.
Above water, you’ve got a sizable AMOLED screen, chunky stainless bezel, and sapphire lens, with a variety of different watch faces and strap colors to choose from. Underwater you have wireless tank pressure integration, configurable display, as well as full trimix, nitrox, air, and gauge settings.
10) Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30
|Wear OS Smartwatch||Large for a watch, small for a GPS|
|Decent battery life|
The Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 is a standard digital wristwatch with (admittedly barely) hidden GPS and smartwatch trickery designed for the tech-savvy outdoorsman. Casio has integrated a Wear OS smartwatch with a ‘standard’ digital watch. The core of this trick is the dual-layer screen, which enormously extends battery life by displaying normal time/date/etc information on the power saving monochrome, then firing up the thirsty OLED and Wear OS for more complex tasks.
There’s a host of sensors and transmitters here, GPS, GLONASS & Michibiki, Wifi, Bluetooth, Compass, Altimeter, and Barometer as well as the power of Google Play apps such as Viewranger, Runtastic, Spotify, and Strava, so most outdoor requirements can be taken care of with the right app – something that less open platforms can struggle with. The charger can be fiddly, however, and it is a chunky watch for everyday wear, so it’s worth checking out in person first.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
What happens if my Outdoor Watch runs out of power?
If your automatic watch is unworn for 24 to 48 hours, it will likely stop running. An idle automatic can be wound with 30 rotations to restore its energy. Even just a couple of turns of the crown or a brief shake will usually get it started again. Simply wind the watch and set the time and your watch is ready to go again.
How long is the battery life?
The battery life is up to 36 months. When your battery dies, they can be easily changed at any watch shop — the size is No. 364, which is commonly carried around the world.
How to ensure your Outdoor Watch’s long and on-time life?
- Always change the time by removing the watch from your wrist. Lateral stresses acting on the delicate winding stem when it’s on the wrist can cause it to yield or snap.
- Do not overtight the crown
- There are two proven ways of cleaning a watch – dry and wet. For a non-water resistant timepiece, avoid moisture at all costs and use a soft dry cloth instead. Water-resistant watches have a bit more tolerance to water so use a damp cloth to clean the watch case and strap. Watches with metal cases or straps can be cleaned with a mildly soaped cloth and fine toothbrush
- Always keep the leather strap dry
- Do not swim or shower with your watch on
The best outdoor watches, like the 10 we’ve looked at above, will combine most if not all of these features into a timepiece that is so much more than an accessory; it’s more like a companion.