Spending time in nature and traveling to unknown destinations are two of the things in life that no money can compare with. The experience of being out there on your own, finding your way from point A to point B, while letting your thoughts run wild and your troubles stay behind, compares to a few other things.
But to fully enjoy the experience, you need proper gear. A backpack, hiking boots, and more are musts, but have you ever thought about how much you could potentially benefit from a high-quality backpacker’s watch?
We have set out to find the best products for hiking and outdoor adventures; watches that will provide you with crucial information, tracking features, sunrise, sunset times and much more, so that you can make the most of your time the next time you strap on those boots and pack your daypack.
View The Best Backpacking Watch Below
1. Casio Pathfinder Triple-Sensor Watch
A 51mm stainless steel case with a durable resin band has this watch sitting right where it’s supposed to on your wrist. It stays there when you choose to engage in physically demanding activities, like climbing and moving through difficult terrain. The solar-powered battery can last for up to 6 months on a single charge.
This watch has a quartz movement, a generously sized digital display, stopwatch, countdown timer, alarms and world time with a total of 31 time zones. Its user interface is easy to use and to and manage, also for the inexperienced. It is one of the best watches you can get for tracking progress and physical efforts, and it has all the new technology (such as trend graph) needed for an excellent experience out in nature.
+ Solar-powered construction
+ World time with 31 time zones
+ Atmospheric pressure tracking
+ Stopwatch, countdown timer and alarms
Why We Like It – Once you charge it up and set the time, this solar-powered watch will continue to function on a single charge for up to six months, and this watch allows you to focus on your upcoming experience instead of on your gear.
2. Garmin Foretrex Waterproof Hiking GPS
When you first lay eyes on this Fenix 5x GPS hiking watch, you quickly realize that it doesn’t even look like a watch, and the simple explanation is that it isn’t. Not really. Other brand models like the Garmin Fenix 3 and the Garmin Fenix 5 are aimed at telling time and providing all kinds of regular features, while this Garmin watch has its focus on great GPS, altimeter, barometer and more.
You can purchase a heart rate monitor separately if this is something you want to bring with you on your next outing. Otherwise, settle with all the clever functions this Garmin Foretrex offers, such as incredibly detailed route suggestions, data for where you have been, how fast you are moving, and much more. See the altitude you are at as these watches also show elevation and get the exact coordinates for your location.
+ Fully developed GPS feature
+ Information for hunting and fishing
+ Compass and tracklog
+ HotFlix for improved tracking performance
Why We Like It – This watch is great for someone who wants tools to navigate the surroundings better when out and about, and its superior GPS function makes it one of the best watches you can get for backpacking or hiking.
3. SNE Digital Water Resistant Sports Watch
Say hello to this stainless steel and resin watch. It can be momentarily submerged in water, in case you accidentally get it wet. Enjoy unique features with this watch, like a highly accurate trend graph, GPS (would a hiking watch without GPS really be a hiking watch at all?), sunrise, sunset times, the ability to track numerous procedures, and an overall polished and exclusive look.
The durable mineral glass screen protects a large and round digital dial. It has a stainless steel case back with a stainless-steel clasp, and the band itself is made of a waterproof resin material that can be wiped off and kept clean. Get this watch that won’t let you down when you need it the most, and don’t settle for anything but the best.
+ Night-light and stopwatch
+ Safe for exposure to light
+ Reliable barometer mode
+ Sunrise, sunset times
Why We Like It – Great nightlight feature for those nights when you need to be able to see the screen properly. It’s made of durable and heavy-duty materials.
4. SKMEI Digital Waterproof Sports Watch
When you purchase this product, you get a watch that won’t cost you your whole monthly income, yet that has the quality and functions needed to enjoy your trip out in the woods! The first thing that stands out is that you have multiple color options to choose from, well-developed alarm functions, all the new technology for accurate time-telling, and more, and this watch is a great option for a backpacker on a budget.
It’s also equipped with dual timezones (time x 2), a stopwatch, countdown timer, calendar, sedentary reminder, distance tracking, and data for how many calories you burn. It’s waterproof to make sure your product is safe even if you decide to take a dip in a lake, forget to remove it when showering, or if it starts to rain.
+ Digital color screen
+ Imported soft PU band
+ Compass and pedometer
+ Affordable, high-quality watch
Why We Like It – The x 2 time zones are great for a traveler, and you get a beautiful digital timepiece at a price you will be reluctant to believe at first.
5. Casio FT500WVB-5BV Watch
[amazon fields=”B004AOLA1A” value=”thumb” image_size=”large” image_alt=”Casio FT500WVB-5BV Watch” image_align=”center”]
[amazon fields=”B004AOLA1A” value=”button”]
Are you looking for something a little more rustic and with a charming vintage feel? These watches are brand new, but they still have that look that makes you feel like you are being transported straight into an old Indiana Jones movie! This watch has 24-hour time with Arabic numerals displayed on a large round dial, surrounded by a durable case, and with a date window displayed at 3 o’clock.
The watch also has some impressive looking leather details that stand out instantly in a crowd, and the thick nylon wristband is comfortable to wear no matter the temperature and length of your trip — track time with this well developed classic watch. Here, new meets old, new features (like improved time accuracy and precise quartz movement) make it a product worth having.
+ Analog display and quartz movement
+ Water-resistant to 100 meters
+ Exclusive leather details
+ Rustic design and hook-and-loop closure
Why We Like It – This beautiful and rustic timepiece is easy to put on and take off. It shows a highly accurate time, and it is waterproof to an impressive 100 meters.
6. Garmin Forerunner 35 Running Watch
Just like the Garmin Fenix 3 and the Garmin Fenix 5, the Garmin Forerunner is designed to keep you updated on everything you need to know about your health and your physical challenges. It has a modern and lightweight design that will go perfectly on the wrist of any backpacker.
This is a GPS watch for running, which means it can receive important social media notifications directly on the screen, and it can also pass on text messages and phone calls to these watches without you needing to take your phone out of your pocket to answer.
Check your email address account for anything important while out on a hike, or use the GPS for simplified navigation. These watches are available in multiple colors, and it has Garmin Connect (Garmin Connect banking) as an incorporated payment option.
+ Various fun color options
+ Compatible with iOS and Android devices
+ Transflective memory in pixel
+ Smartwatch that pairs with a smartphone
Why We Like It – If you want it all, then these watches have it, and you can easily pair it with any iOS or Android smartphone to get direct access to calls, texts, and notifications. It is similar to the Garmin Fenix 3 and Garmin Fenix 5, but even better suited for outdoor activities.
7. Timex Expedition Classic Digital Watch
You might as well aim high and get this chronograph timepiece with a large digital dial and Indiglo light-up! The design itself is very simple and basic – your typical sports watch – but it has all the features you need to stay safe in the woods! Use the 4-button design to your advantage by easily being able to change settings, time events, and more, as this handy gadget has both stopwatch, alarms, timer, and more.
It tells the time accurately, thanks to the automatic movement. It has scratch-resistant mineral glass, a durable resin strap, track features, and an overall simple but fully functional design – perfect for the avid hiker!
+ Durable and water-resistant resin strap
+ Scratch-resistant mineral window
+ Convenient four-button design
+ Fits well on most wrists
Why We Like It – Sometimes, a simple product is all you need to enhance your outdoor experiences, and this digital timepiece may look basic, but it has every function you need when out and about.
8. Timex Expedition Acadia Watch
Are you not convinced by one of the more basic watches? How about this classy timepiece? Timex is a highly respected watch brand known for its quality products, and this Expedition piece is no different! It has Indoglo Light-up so that you can see the dial also when it is dark (because let’s face it, it’s often dark when you are out hiking).
It has luminous hands and a large round dial surrounded by a durable 44mm resin case. You get the 24-hour military time and Arabic numerals. This is a timepiece for someone who wants quality and class without having to waste all their savings.
+ 24-hour military time
+ Comparable to the Garmin Fenix 3
+ Durable nylon band and resin case
+ Large and easy-to-see Arabic numerals
Why We Like It – Go classy with these timeless watches! The design is also perfect for use in more formal settings, such as for a work interview or a meeting.
9. SUUNTO Core Military Outdoor Sports Watch
This is another great timepiece, perfect for someone who spends time outdoors and who wants a watch that can keep up! With this, you get a reliable weather indicator, altimeter, barometer, and a compass. This means you don’t have to carry any of that with you on your next trip.
It has Suunto core and can handle both high and low temperatures (thank you, Suunto core), Suunto Movescount, shows sunrise and sunset times, elevation, descent and many other useful functions, so strap it on and watch Suunto do the rest for you, while you get to focus on enjoying your backpacking experience. If you have never had a Suunto Core or a Suunto Movescount watch before, you might be in for a very positive surprise!
+ Suunto Core and Suunto Movescount
+ Shows a trend in air pressure
+ Registers points of interest
+ Sunset and sunrise times
Why We Like It – These watches will stand out just by the look of them, but the Suunto Core also has numerous high-class features that are beneficial both for hikes and in everyday situations. A Suunto Core watch is more than just its name – Suunto Core – and it’s a quality stamp you can trust.
10. PALADA Digital Sports Watch
If you’ve looked into the Suunto watches, then you will quickly realize that these are quite similar in appearance, and they have great large digital numbers which can be easily seen also in the dark. The Palada is water-resistant and has a thick rubber band that will dry quickly and which you can wipe off after using it.
There are multiple functions, like alarms and calendars. These watches are shock-resistant to prevent accidents from harming them. You will barely feel that you are wearing it, thanks to how lightweight it is. If you happen to get lost, it will be able to point you in the right direction with the compass function.
+ Compass and directional guidance
+ Resistant rubber wrist-band
+ Water-resistant even when swimming
+ Great for indoor and outdoor sports
Why We Like It – You can’t go wrong with one of these watches, and just from the look of it, you can tell how resistant it is, which makes it perfect for all kinds of sports and activities.
Backpacking Watch Buyers Guide
You can be the best hiker or backpacker in the world when you set out for an adventure, but the truth is that anyone can get lost, or need a little help from technology. Whether you are hiking, mountaineering, getting on the next train to who-knows-where, or if you are just out exploring the nearby area, then you are likely to eventually find yourself standing there, wishing you had invested in a product where the battery lasts longer than a couple of hours.
You’ll also want something with useful tracking features to help you find your way. When such a situation occurs, you will want to be ready, and the best way to do this is by already having the perfect GPS watch strapped to your wrist.
Any watch won’t do, as it usually isn’t just time you’re interested in, when the air pressure starts to drop or when your current location is frightfully unknown. What you need is the best possible watch for backpacking, running, swimming, hiking, or whatever other activity you hope to engage in. This buyer’s guide will offer many tips and suggestions for how to find, not only a great watch for backpacking, but the best backpacking- and GPS watches for you and your adventurous plans.
What is a Backpacking Watch?
A watch for hiking and backpacking is exactly what it sounds like – a watch you can take with you when you head out for a planned outing or a spontaneous adventure. These will often be GPS watches or watches that, in one way or the other, help you get from point A and to point B.
This is by either tracking your progress, providing useful data such as informing you of an approaching storm, by having a digital compass, something a little more sophisticated like barometric pressure, advanced navigation, or other hiking features and functions.
All of this will make your journey easier, and it will also help make sure you stay safe, even when you happen to be an outdoor enthusiast. Picture a regular amazing watch with an attractive design and great features like compass, altimeter, barometer, and more that can do more for you than tell time.
Watches for backpackers come in all sizes and shapes, and you can easily find a model you like with features beyond your wildest imagination. Some prefer a sportier digital watch while others would instead opt for a classic timepiece with fewer features, and one that provides that elegant design when you want to wear it for work, appointments, and more. Only you know which kind of a backpacker’s watch you want, and what matters is the tracking features, barometric altimeter, and such.
How to Know if You Need a Hiking Watch
If you only go hiking once or twice a year, then perhaps you don’t necessarily need a GPS watch and all it has to offer, but just because you don’t need it doesn’t mean you couldn’t benefit from having one, or at least have a great deal of fun with it.
Being able to see where you’ve been and where you’re going is likely to make your backpacker experience more enjoyable. For many, it works as motivation as a GPS watch. It’s also likely to have fitness features that can help you improve your overall health and training results.
For those who are active on a more frequent basis, having the best hiking watches is simply a must. Without GPS, you will be putting yourself and others at risk, and as you probably know by now, it’s always best to be prepared for anything when facing the elements. A watch for hiking can store crucial information for a successful outing, and you may also like to keep track of the time to avoid being home late for dinner.
A hiking watch is equipped with accurate functions that you might have never realized you needed until they sit there at your disposal on your wrist. Still, it is something any backpacker – regardless of level – could benefit greatly from wearing.
When buying any watch, this is a saying that applies. Perhaps you have seen those cool large watches that stand out instantly, but the truth is that they won’t look good or fit well on everyone. When you’re planning to get a new GPS watch or when you’re looking for the best hiking watches, pay special attention to the size of the case and dial, as well as the thickness of the strap.
A very large watch case won’t fit a super slim wrist, and it will only end up being a distraction and possibly even an obstacle when out hiking or doing sports. A watch that is too big is also likely to be too heavy for you, which will cause discomfort and add unnecessary weight when you are possibly already carrying plenty of equipment with you. Instead, save yourself the trouble by opting for a stylish watch that fits, and that is easy to use also for multiday trips and long-lasting outings.
Now, let’s talk about the features you can expect to find in some of the best-hiking watches out there. You don’t necessarily need all the features listed below, and you can do some research beforehand to see which ones you believe you would benefit the most from. The more functions a watch has, the more expensive it might be (but not always). It’s fine to get a watch with only a couple of helpful settings rather than one that has it all if you think it meets your needs properly.
+ GPS. This is perhaps the first feature you think of when shopping for a watch that will suit the needs of a backpacker, and it is because it can successfully help you navigate through tricky terrain and in places where you are unsure of which direction to go. For a backpacker, GPS watches are on the top of the priority list because without GPS, you will have to work twice as hard to get to your destination.
You might even put your own safety at risk if you are not experienced enough or familiar enough with the environment you are in. When a watch is equipped with GPS, there’s always a backup if you need an extra hand to establish your current location and where to go.
+ Speed, Distance and Pace. Another interesting watch feature is how fast you are moving, how far you have walked, and whether you’ve been keeping a consistent pace throughout the hike. Watches for hiking can provide you with all this information with their speed, distance, and pace sensors.
You can make use of it while out and about, or compare it with previous outings later to see whether you have improved or possibly even beat your records. If you want to know how you are doing and how far you have come, these tracking features are ones you cannot be without, and they can be useful for navigation as well.
+ Altimeter, Barometer, and Thermometer. Altimeter and barometer are two very similar features often found in hiking watches, and they do almost the same things while being used for different things. Both measure the atmospheric pressure in the spot where we are currently located, and it can be used to tell how far away we are from a specific starting points (such as sea level).
This is very useful when backpacking in areas with hills and mountains, and is therefore often found as a feature in watches for hiking. An altimeter is just like a barometer but basically with additional features, as these are used in airplanes to determine how high above the sea it is flying. A thermometer is useful when simply wanting to know how hot or cold it is where you are.
+ Compass. Bringing a compass with you when you are out in the woods is something people have done for centuries. Still, a great benefit of a quality GPS watch is that the watch is also equipped with a compass. In many cases, and this means you will have everything you need present on the same device, instead of having to carry multiple items with you.
+ Dual Time. When you travel, you could easily find yourself in a situation where you want to keep track of the time in your home state or country, while also knowing what time it is where you are currently located, and this becomes possible with a watch that shows dual time. Dual time watches have two hands showing the hour instead of one so that you can set it up to show two time zones simultaneously.
+ Time Alarm. A great watch for a backpacker will have both silent and sounding alarms so that you can keep track of important points in time, such as when it’s time to turn back or as reminders to drink water, etc. It is unusual for GPS watches not to have alarms, which means this is something you can almost count on.
+ Storm Alarm. A drastic drop in atmospheric pressure can tell your watch that a storm is approaching. With GPS watches that have storm alarms, an alarm will ring (provided you don’t have an altimeter profile currently activated) until you press one of the watch buttons. A reminder will go off if you fail to switch off the alarm. This will continue until the atmospheric pressure stops dropping or until it stabilizes, and it is a great feature for weather prediction.
Battery Powered vs. Solar
A solar watch technically has a battery too, which is what charges with sunlight. Still, these don’t generally need to be replaced or manually recharged, as a battery like this can last for over ten years without a decline in function. The greatest benefit of a solar watch is how long a charge lasts and how much money you will save by not having to change the battery the way you would in a regular battery-powered watch.
It is also an environmentally friendly option for those who want to lend a hand to mother earth. You will notice if a solar-powered watch is getting closer to the end of its battery life, as it could start showing time with less accuracy or skip strangely, but in most cases, this will take many years, and doesn’t tend to be something you have to worry about.
For a battery-powered watch, time accuracy isn’t usually an issue at all, and both automatic quartz watches and mechanical watches for hiking (both with and without GPS) are also great options. Changing a battery isn’t necessarily expensive, but it does build up, meaning a solar-powered watch is in some ways more economical long-term. There aren’t as many solar-powered watches as there are battery-powered watches, though, so if you want solar, then the selection will be smaller.
What would you like your GPS watch to look like? There are so many designs and styles available that you will easily find one that goes with your taste, whether you prefer an elegant design with a stainless steel bracelet or a sportier version with a resin strap. You may also like to make decisions in regards to what shape you want your watch to be, (with round and square being the most common shapes), and whether you want it to offer many other design features.
For example, Roman or Arabic numerals, a digital display, and more. The design might not do much for the actual function when using the watch for backpacking adventures, but a few things like 4-way buttons and similar could be welcome features. Choose a design you like and feel comfortable with, and especially if you plan to wear your tracking watch for more than just outings.
A key feature to look for when a watch is used outdoors is whether it is water-resistant. It’s important to know that a water-resistant watch is not the same as a waterproof watch, and not all water-resistant watches can be used for activities such as swimming. This is perhaps not something you will be engaging in during your backpacking adventure, either.
So, maybe now you are thinking to yourself that it doesn’t matter if your watch is water-resistant since you don’t plan to swim with it, but what happens it the rain suddenly starts pouring down, or if you slip and accidentally stick your arm in a creek or tumble into a lake? Hopefully, this won’t happen, but if it does, it’s best to be prepared! A water-resistant GPS watch is ideal for any outdoor activity.
Heart Rate Monitor
A heart rate monitor uses the pulse in your wrist to register how your heart is beating, and the data collected will be able to show you any highs or lows, which will, in turn, serve as useful information regarding your health. You will be able to see where you struggled more physically, or where a change in air pressure had an effect on you.
This can be used to set up fitness plans for those feeling like they need to improve, and to simply gain a better understanding of their own body and its capacity when out in the wild. If a watch is equipped with a heart rate monitor, then you know you have found GPS watches that are made for those who love to be active. This is one of the best tracking features to get, and one you might not have known you needed until now.
Smartwatch – Pros & Cons
When looking for the best watch, you are likely to come across quite a few smartwatches. Then you will want to know what makes these different, how they work, and whether it is a good idea to choose one. A smartwatch will often be more expensive than a watch that isn’t smart, and this is very logical, as it is a much more complex electronic device, with many revolutionary functions.
A smartwatch can do what most other “regular” watches can do, such as a report on air pressure and provide you with the benefits of a heart rate monitor. They often have an altimeter, barometer, and thermometer, tracking features for running, swimming, and more. They can also do additional things like receive your social media notifications and pass on incoming phone calls and texts.
These are all pretty cool features, and it is no wonder these watches have gained such popularity in recent years! Suddenly you can do things directly from a device on your wrist that you once needed a computer for. But when it comes to hiking and such, the question becomes as follows: Do you need it? The short answer is that it depends.
If you want a watch that can do it all and that you can also benefit from in other contexts, then yes, a smartwatch might be right for you, but if you are strictly looking for features associated with outdoor activities and sports then you might be better off with a regular watch, and especially in terms of price.
Analog vs. Digital
There’s no real difference between the two when it comes to which is better suited for hiking. While many are digital or feature at least a partially digital display, you can confidently pick the one that you like best, provided it also features everything you want it to have when it comes to useful functions and tracking abilities.
Taking Care of Watches for Hiking
Once you have your new watch with you, you should always try to make sure to care for it properly, as this will prolong its lifespan and prevent it from malfunctioning. Make it a habit to always clean your watch thoroughly after every outing, and do so with proper gear such as gentle and soft cloths, etc.
Wipe off the sapphire glass, mineral glass, or the dial window, and remove any dirt that might have lodged itself somewhere in or on the watch. Think of your device as a relevant part of your hiking gear, and treat it with the same love and care you would treat anything else.
After all, it is your atmospheric pressure watch that could end up saving you from an approaching storm or help you find your way when you get lost, so do your best to keep it in top condition at all times.
Hopefully, this will have given you a better idea of what a watch for backpackers is and what it can do for you if you enjoy spending time outdoors. We have also tried to cover what atmospheric pressure is used for and how it can provide a barometer, altimeter and compass with relevant data, and what other features you might want to look for when buying a watch. GPS accuracy is important, but it isn’t everything, and it also matters whether you like the design and look of your watch, and how it fits you once placed on your wrist. Go over the above guide, look through the recommended products, and see if perhaps the perfect watch for hiking and backpacking is out there waiting for you.
Always tell someone where you are going when you head out backpacking or for a hike, as anyone can get lost, and even the best hiking watches are no guarantee when it comes to reliable navigation.
Did You Know
While a Smartphone can often do what a GPS watch does, they tend to have shorter battery life and be trickier to use since you have to hold them in your hand instead of having it strapped to your wrist.