The Best GPS Watches for Hiking and Camping

Hiking in the Himalayas is one of the most epic journeys you will take in your life. The 4000 km crescent that travels from Kyrgyzstan to Burma is a landscape of extremes. It features the highest mountain peaks, the deepest gorges, and the wildest tracts of forests. It’s easiest to navigate when you have one of the best GPS watches for hiking and camping, of course. A GPS watch helps you with your location, distance traveled, and remaining distance so you really can let go and follow the road less travelled. But the best hiking watches have so much more than GPS functionality. In this article we will review the features and functionality that make the best hiking watches a life-saving investment when you’re hiking the Himalayas- so you can focus more on the journey ahead.

A successful hike in the Himalayas comes down to preparation, and the latest GPS watches can take a load off your shoulders. These are the top features to look out for in the best hiking watch:

The ‘ABCs’ of GPS Watches:

  • An altimeter that lets you know what altitude you’re at
  • A barometer that gives you a heads up of impending weather changes
  • A compass, which makes sure you’re always headed in the right direction

Plus:

  • Long-lasting battery life is essential when you’re traveling in a place that “a hundred ages of Gods” wouldn’t give you enough time to traverse fully.
  • A thermometer gives you the temperature so you can boast about how cold or hot it was. Jokes aside, there’s a fluctuation between icy rivers, snow-capped mountain peaks, and the warmer temperatures of the Eastern Himalayas. It really helps to be prepared.
  • World time and date functionality, because it’s easier to flip instead of changing your time zones.

Whether you’re satisfying your wanderlust or going off the beaten track for an ultramarathon or sporting event, when you’re shopping for the best outdoor watch it helps to consider some added extras like:

  • Solar-rechargeable or powered batteries. Sure these GPS watches are more expensive but when you’re in remote places, they make a big difference.
  • Heart rate monitoring features in the premium GPS watches, either through the wrist or through a belt. It’s a wise investment to make.

Premium Choice: Garmin Fenix 6X Sapphire Multisport

Ideal for extreme sports enthusiasts and hikers who want to push themselves even further, the Garmin Fenix 6X Sapphire Multisport has a rugged design and features to enhance your outdoor performance. The inbuilt Pulse Ox enhances altitude acclimation and monitors sleep when you’re hiking at high altitudes. It monitors your heart rate through the wristband and gives you insights into your recovery time based on your daily activity level.

Additional features include PacePro, which guides you while you’re on the move, so you meet your daily goals, and a hydration monitor that helps you stay consistent with your water intake.

Its sports options include running, trail running, track running, swimming, cycling, hiking, rowing, climbing, skiing, golfing, and more. Push new limits and explore new challenges with preloaded TOPO maps and ski maps for more than 2000 ski resorts.

The battery life is pretty impressive, lasting 15 hours in GPS and music mode, and 21 days in smartwatch mode. When you use it in expedition GPS activity mode, you can expect a 46-day life span, which extends to up to 80 days in battery-saving mode.

Endurance Athletes’ Choice: Garmin Enduro

The Garmin Enduro is equipped with the essential altimeter, barometer, and compass and features sports modes for most fitness activities. Its sun-optimised display is easy to view, even when you’re moving at a fast pace, making it ideal for ultra marathoners, triathletes, and hikers.

It provides you with daily activity tracking data, including an optical heart monitor, floor climbing, step tracking, and sleep monitoring. It doesn’t have mapping or music functionality but it more than makes up for this in other areas. Trail Run VO2 Max established your cardiovascular fitness as it adjusts to the terrain you’re on. The Ascent planner gives you real-time data on your climbs, like distance, gradient, and elevation gain. Heat and altitude acclimation lets you know how your body’s coping in different environments.

In smartwatch mode, the battery life lasts up to 50 days or 65 with solar. In GPS mode you can expect up to 70 hours, or 80 hours with solar. When it’s in max battery GPS mode, you’re looking at up to 200 hours, or 300 hours with solar.

Garmin Instinct Solar GPS Watch

Tame the elements and make the most of the great outdoors with the solar-charged Garmin Instinct Solar GPS Watch. Engineered with a military standard design, this GPS watch is purpose-built for endurance. It complies with the US military standard 810 in terms of water resistance (up to 100-metres), shock, and thermal.

The heart rate monitor alerts you when your heart rate is too high or too low when you’re at rest, even if you’re underwater. Stress tracking capability gives you insight into how you’re handling the challenges of the Himalayas and heart rate variability lets you know how well you’re conserving your energy.

The power manager allows you to take control of settings and sensors so you can make battery-extending modifications as you climb.

When you use it in Smart Watch mode, the battery lasts up to 24 days or 54 days with solar charging, which assumes you’re wearing it all day, with at least three hours of sun exposure. If you wear it in Max GPS mode, this GPS watch lasts up to 70 hours or 145 hours with solar charging. Expedition GPS mode gives you 28 days of battery life or 68 days with solar.

Coros Apex Pro

The Coros Apex Pro is one of the best GPS watches on the market when you compare price with performance. It’s certainly not the cheapest on the market, but this GPS watch has everything you need to navigate the great outdoors.

Featuring high-tech touchscreen functionality, it’s also equipped with all the standard ABC (altimeter, barometer, and compass) functions that are indispensable when you’re out in the wilderness. In altitude mode, it offers you blood oxygen monitoring 24-hours a day. It also performs acclimatisation evaluations on the hour so you know if you should carry on climbing or drop to a lower altitude.

It recently got a software upgrade to include a new navigation feature and the battery life ensures this model contends with the premium-priced models.

The Coros Apex Pro lasts up to 40 hours on the GPS battery life standard and up to 100 hours when it’s set to UltraMax.

Casio WSD F20A Smart Outdoor Watch

Designed for the most ardent outdoor enthusiasts, the Casio WSD F20A has military-grade precision with touchscreen functionality. It also features offline maps and low-power GPS so you can navigate without cell service, and without draining the battery. This outdoor watch has all the essentials: air pressure and altitude sensors, an accelerometer (to calculate your speed), a gyrometer, and a magnetic sensor compass.

It’s powered by Google’s Wear operating system and integrates with several so you can manage the highs and lows of your mountain expeditions with ease. Along with goal setting capability and pace measurement, it also tracks your route, distance, and elevation. A cool add-on is an inbuilt mic that allows you to take notes and add them to your location.

When used in smart mode, the Casio WSD F20A’s battery lasts for two days. If you switch to GPS mode, you’re looking at a 25-hour battery life.

Casio Pro Trek PRW-2500 Multifunction Watch

The ultimate GPS watch for hiking and mountaineering, which was developed by a team of meteorologists, the Casio Pro Trek PRW-2500 is a high-performance outdoor watch that will see you through the toughest of environments.

Its atomic timekeeping and triple sensors make it easy to operate the altimeter, barometer, compass, and thermometer. The altimeter measures elevations of 700 metres to 10 000 metres (2300 to 32 800 feet). It also stores a maximum of 40 altitude records. It’s also waterproof to 200 metres, which is a rare find in this category of GPS watches, and it gives you a tide graph and moon data.

Drawing its power from the sun, the Casio Pro Trek PRW-2500 Multifunction Watch features a solar rechargeable battery that can last up to five months before you need to recharge, and up to 23 months on a full charge when used in power-saving mode.

In conclusion

Packing light is an absolute must, so investing in a GPS watch that bundles as many features as possible into one, extended-life device makes good sense. Our takeaway: buy the best GPS watch you can afford, and make sure the GPS is accurate before you leave (a word to the wise – some of the cheaper watches are not accurate). While solar-rechargeable watches may seem like a luxury, the extended battery life is a real-life-saver because GPS drains your batteries – and they’re environmentally friendly.