Best Backpacking Watch For Outdoor Adventure

Does the dawn of a new year see you yearning to get back in touch with nature? If you decided to go outdoors and hike more in 2020, it’s a good idea to get up to speed with the latest technology that can enhance your hiking experience. There are lots of add-ons in the market which can help you to enjoy your experience – and from the best shoes for hiking to comfortable outdoor jackets, you can build up your equipment slowly. 

One of the most vital pieces to invest in is your hiking watch. When I first began getting into outdoor activities, something which really helped me was making sure I was up to date on the latest technology. Hiking watches come in a lot of different models, and each one has separate functionality. So finding the right one for you is simply a matter of doing your research, and this round-up is a great place to start.

Why Do I Need A Specialist Backpacking/Hiking Watch?

You may be thinking that you already have a perfectly good watch for telling the time. But a great hiking watch can do so much more than this! You’ll find features on these timepieces such as barometers – these help to determine altitude and give you an idea of what the weather will do. This can be absolutely vital to the success of your hiking trip. You’ll also usually find an altimeter, which can show you the altitude that you’ve climbed to. A compass is a useful navigational aid as well. Higher specification models often feature GPS technology, so that you can easily find your way around the wilderness and pinpoint your location with accuracy on the chance that you run into difficulties and need to request help or raise an alarm.

Finding The Hiking Watch That Is Best For You

There are so many different models of hiking watch available on the market these days – how do you know which one will be the best fit for you? It’s important to remember that, just like with different types of cars, or models of camera, although most hiking watches share the same basic function, different ones have different strengths – so it depends on the experience you are looking to have, and the features which are most important for you. 

If you’re a novice hiker, you may be looking for a robust device at a mid price range with a decent amount of features. More experienced hikers may want to look at more technical specifications which help them to achieve particular goals they have with their hiking, such as progressing to mountaineering or finding a model with great battery life. Thinking about the type of outdoor activities you like doing and the routes you like to follow should be a top consideration when making your own choice.

Considering What You Need From Your Watch

One extremely important factor to look at is durability. Your hiking watch is likely to be tested under some pretty challenging conditions. It may be exposed to extreme weather, or subject to rough scrapes and knocks. You need a device that you can rely on in these circumstances. Of course, as with any purchase, there are some inferior models available which could ruin a good trip and leave you out of pocket, so it’s a good idea to do some in-depth research before committing to a particular model. Customer reviews can be especially helpful in helping you to be reasonably sure of the quality of the hiking watch that you want to select.

How Much Should You Pay For A Good Hiking Watch?

Be prepared to pay a little more for a backpacking/hiking watch that delivers on all your needs. A basic model tends to start at the $100 mark, and they go upwards from there with added features. Think of your purchase as an investment in your safety and the enjoyment of your wilderness adventures. You may want to start with a cheaper model and then sell it on when you upgrade to one with better features. Or you might want to invest in a pricier model to avoid having to upgrade in a shorter time frame. 

Whatever route you choose, remember that it can be a false economy to choose a cheaper model if it doesn’t have all the features that you need or score very highly on quality, especially if you aren’t an experienced hiker and you could benefit from the guidance and insights that a good hiking watch can provide.

The Best Backpacking And Hiking Watches Available

There are lots of brands and models out there, from companies better known for their GPS tracking technology such as Garmin to brands with a heritage in outdoors sports and those known for their digital timepieces, like Casio. Choosing to purchase your hiking watch from a brand with a good name means you are more likely to get a great quality device that will help you to take your hiking to the next level.

Garmin Fenix 5

One of the most highly respected brands of watches at the cutting edge of GPS technology, the Garmin Fenix series has always been a reliable choice for those into outdoor pursuits. Made for challenging wilderness conditions, this watch has durability in spades thanks to it’s robust construction from stainless steel and Sapphire glass. This means it’s highly resistant to knocks, scratches and scapes. Despite all this, the Fenix 5 has a refined appearance which makes it as at home in the boardroom as it is in the hills. There are a great range of features packed into this elegant design, including an altimeter, barometer, thermometer and a 3-axis compass, time zone adjustments, navigation and route tracking with these features being calibrated automatically using GPS. Using the handy Garmin Connect app, you can import routes for your hikes or nominate points of interest and receive directions. The app also allows you to customise the watch with screen graphics and widgets, and enables you to show text messages, emails and web alerts. If you enjoy outdoor photography, the model also connects with the Garmin Virb camera, which you can remotely control using the watch.  If you enjoy other outdoor sports such as swimming, running or skiing, this versatile model also includes advanced sports features such as a recovery advisor, race predictor and Vo2 estimator – so if you ever wanted to get into triathlons, now might be the time!

Suunto Core

Looking for reliability above all else in your hiking watch? The Suunto Core could be your best option thanks to it’s all-inclusive features and very low incident rate. All the essential meters that you need are seamlessly presented in a sleek, sporty design with it’s all-black chassis. The design focuses on comfort and wearability, making this model a good option for longer treks. Users especially rate the countdown feature, which you can use to time your excursions. This is especially useful for beginners looking to do the same trail and few times, improving their speed and fitness with each visit. The waterproof rating is also excellent and you can even take the Suunto Core underwater, so if you like watersports is a great all-rounder to purchase.

Casio Pro-Trek PRW-2500T-7

If you don’t need a watch with GPS capabilities, then the Casio Pro-Trek PRW-2500T-7 could be the best option for you. It still has plenty of useful features including a barometer, altimeter, digital compass and a temperature gauge. Reliability is the watchword, as this model features a solar-rechargable battery which lasts an incredible five months without any exposure to the light –  so there’s little chance of running out of charge at a crucial moment. With other features including a pressure change indicator, and magnetic declination correction and a bearing memory on the compass, this is a great entry level model which can be counted on to deliver if you don’t need a GPS watch.

TomTom Adventurer

What about if you’re into general fitness, such as jogging and going to the gym, and you’re after a watch suitable for these activities which can also handle your hiking route? The TomTom Adventurer may be the hiking watch most suitable for your needs. As a hybrid model, the Adventurer offers the best of both worlds. The most important feature is a heart rate monitor with a very high accuracy rating, even in hiking conditions, so you can clearly assess your fitness performance and calorie burn. Another amazing feature? The TomTom watch can also play music so motivate you on your hike and enhance your performance. With settings that you can optimize to suit conditions – whether you’re sweating it out on the gym, biking or tackling tough trails, this is a great all-rounder with good accuracy. The one drawback is that the battery life is not quite as good as some competitors, so this may not suit those who are fans of multiple-day hiking adventures.

Timex Expedition Grid Shock

If durability is your main concern on your adventures, then you might want to check out the Timex Expedition Grid Shock. This rugged model has been engineered to withstand harsh outdoors conditions and to be shock resistant. The design is larger with easy to press buttons and large, clear digital numbers that are a bonus in cold conditions. This watch also operates at up to three hundred feet underwater, so it won’t let you down. It’s top is composed of a stainless steel plate which offers extremely durability and is also crush resistant should it get trapped somewhere. There is also a very handy night-light feature which gives you visibility when travelling in the dark. Boasting great features and an impressive battery life, this non-GPS watch could be the ideal entry model for you.

Suunto Traverse

If you like the Suunto brand, but are looking for a hiking watch with slightly more advanced features than the Core, then check out it’s Traverse model. This watch was a great hit among mountaineers and hikers due to it’s great marriage of design and functionality. In contrast to other models from the brand, such as the Ambit 3, the Traverse is aimed more at recreational hikers than athletes, so the design is a little more refined. While this model can’t connect to external Bluetooth PODs, if you don’t need advanced training analysis then it’s a great workhorse watch. It does feature a number of extremely useful features, such as vibrating alerts, a pedometer, a backlight with flashlight feature and the GLONASS navigational system. All of this sits alongside the more usual barometer, altimeter, thermometer and digital compass facilities. Most Suunto watches, including this one, easily connect to the Movescount app. This app will keep a summary of your workouts,and you can also import points of interest and GPS routes. Sync the Traverse with your smartphone – both Apple and Android phones are supported – and you can manage the settings and data in your phone or direct notifications from your device to the watch. The Traverse comes with the choice of either a textile or a silicone strap, and either a sapphire glass or a mineral crystal lens, so you can further customer it to suit your needs and preferences.

Coros Vertix

Finally, at the very top end of the price spectrum, if you’re looking to make an investment, the Coros Vertix could be the hiking watch for you. If you’re hoping to progress to be a serious mountain athlete then for the long, high verticals you’re going to be glad of the exceptional battery life and specialist features which measure altitude and help you track your acclimatization and fitness.There is a huge amount of data with this model including the ability to import routes, track your blood oxygen content, heart rate and even your sleep. The GPS accuracy is also superb to support you on your journeys.

In Summary

So, whatever your interest in backpacking and hiking – whether it’s purely recreational, something you’re doing to increase your fitness levels or an endurance trek – there is a hiking watch which can enhance your experience and match your needs out there. Compare features, pricing and design for the best fit for you, and you’ll soon be launching out into the wilderness.

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