A GPS watch is also often referred to as a running watch. This is because they provide the user with precise tracking of the route, distance, and steps taken with the GPS technology. Many sports watches feature GPS and are state-of-the-art fitness trackers that do more than help you track where you are.
Other than pinpointing your position, the right GPS watch also helps you keep track of your health and fitness status so you can improve your workout plan accordingly. Sure, smartphones have step trackers and a GPS already built-in, but we’re willing to bet not many of us would prefer to go running with a bulky phone when we can just opt for GPS running watches.
Tech gadgets tend to come with some difficult to understand lingo and features you may not be clear about, which is why we are combating this issue by bringing you our nine best options, broken down for you to understand more easily.
View The Best GPS Watches Below
1. Fitbit Versa 2 Health & Fitness Smartwatch
As said, most GPS watches double as health and fitness smartwatches, so we had to include one from one of the most renowned brands – FitBit. The Fitbit Versa 2 runner watch comes with almost everything you need. It’s even compatible with Amazon Alexa that allows you to receive the lastest and quick notifications all hands-free.
The heart rate monitor and sleep tracking features will help you better understand your physical condition. You can also stream your favorite music from your wristwatch and browse through the songs more easily on the larger always-on screen.
+ Tracks day to day activities
+ Heart rate monitor
+ Sleep tracking
+ GPS tracking
+ Compatible with Alexa
Why We Like It – Having an invisible assistant such as Amazon Alexa on your wrist is a luxury not all running wristwatches possess. This gives users the flexibility to control their watch hands-free.
2. Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle Stainless Steel Touchscreen Smartwatch
A smart running watch can also come in a style that’s more appropriate for everyday use. If we didn’t know any better, we would say this GPS watch wouldn’t be capable of carrying out all the services a smart GPS sports watch would. This GPS watch works with most smartphone systems, including iOS and Android.
The battery life on this GPS watch is flexible, and the running watch even offers battery saving modes to extend battery life. You can charge the battery to near full (80%) within an hour, which saves users a lot of waiting time. It also has a heart rate monitor and activity tracker with built-in GPS for distance.
+ Sleek and stylish design
+ Has a speaker for audible alerts
+ GPS mode, activity tracking, and heart rate monitor
+ Long battery life
Why We Like It – One thing we love about this GPS watch is that it features Bluetooth connectivity and works with major smartphone systems to pair seamlessly together.
3. Garmin Instinct Tactical, Rugged GPS Watch
Garmin watches are also top of the line when it comes to a running watch or smartwatch. A GPS running watch should be robust and built for the great outdoors. Since the word “rugged” is included, you can be sure this Garmin watch is built to be tough.
Coming in many colors, it adds the perfect pop of color for that burst of energy you need when you go on your daily runs. Being shock and water-resistant, the Garmin Instinct Tactical features a barometric altimeter and a built-in GPS that operates on the GLONASS satellite system. Other than that, you also get your basic heart rate monitor and sleep tracker.
+ A GPS running watch built to be tough
+ Comes in different colors
+ Shockproof and water-resistant
+ Long battery life with up to 16 hours in GPS mode
+ Military-grade navigation
Why We Like It – We love a GPS watch that comes with military approved toughness that can handle most things thrown at it. It can last up to two weeks in terms of battery life.
4. ENACFIRE Smart Watch W2 GPS Fitness Tracker
Next up is a GPS running watch that tracks different exercise modes. When inputted into the device, it can better monitor your heart rate, knowing what type of exercise you are doing. The built-in GPS also runs on the GLONASS satellite system.
Not only is it a great companion when you are exercising, but it also makes for a great personal assistant that notifies you about phone calls, messages, and alerts from social media and emails. It is IP68 certified waterproof and can handle most water activities (except for deep diving). The large 1.3-inch touchscreen and stainless steel design of the watch case makes this GPS running watch one of the toughest.
+ GPS watch with GLONASS system
+ Different sports modes
+ IP68 waterproof certification
+ Large touchscreen
+ Robust build
Why We Like It – The lithium battery lasts for up to seven days in smartwatch mode and a little longer in GPS mode. It’s a multi-functional GPS watch that is best for those who want running watches that are also virtual assistants.
5. Garmin Approach S20, GPS Golf Watch
For those who think golf isn’t a real sport, think again. It requires precision, force, and a whole lot of walking. Track how long and how far you have walked or traveled in the cart with the built-in GPS.
With features tailored just for golfing, with the Garmin Approach, you will receive post-round analyses on your new best GPS watch. It’s stylish and made with a perforated and breathable band. It also comes with all the basic features other regular smartwatches offer, such as activity tracking, steps, calories burned, and it even monitors your sleep.
+ Tailored especially for golfers
+ Comfortable design
+ Equipped with all the basic features
+ Large screen display
+ Receive notifications
Why We Like It – For golfers, this is the perfect golfing buddy that displays stats such as the course view, yardage, and can pair with the Garmin TruSwing sensor.
6. Casio Men’s”Pro Trek” Outdoor GPS Resin Sports Watch
These GPS running watches are meant for the outdoors. No matter your running power, or how high you climb, this outdoor GPS watch not only features impressive battery life, but it also offers full-color mapping technology. Navigation has never been so easy than having this best GPS watch on your wrist.
You can even track your location offline and track your direction, altitude, and barometric pressure. It also features location memory along with activity apps all in full color for your convenience. It also comes with a music player to add more entertainment to your outdoor treks.
+ Resin GPS watch great for the outdoors
+ Tracking features such as direction and altitude
+ Location memory and location maps in color
+ Music player
+ Water-resistant up to 50 m
Why We Like It – We love a watch that zeroes in on the needs of people in a specific niche. Like the golf watch, this GPS resin sports watch is meant for people who travel great distances on different terrain.
7. Garmin Forerunner 35; Easy-to-Use GPS Running Watch
The Garmin Forerunner is an amazing sports watch in terms of GPS running watches. The simple and easy-to-use design of the Garmin Forerunner 35 can link up with satellites quickly to give you a precise and accurate picture of your location and routes.
It doesn’t matter how fast you are going; the Garmin Forerunner 35 can keep up. Even if your line of vision to the sky is obstructed, it can still pinpoint your location accurately. The Garmin Forerunner also provides a precise heart rate monitor that tracks your heart 24/7. The large display is HD and perfect for indoor and outdoor lighting.
+ Simple design
+ Best running watch for distance accuracy
+ Heart rate tracking
+ Great GPS watches with HD screen
+ Strengthened glass and silicone
Why We Like It – The Garmin Forerunner series are GPS watches that have long-lasting battery life and features amazing accuracy in terms of heart rate tracking and GPS location.
8. Polar M430 GPS Running Watch
The Polar M430 is an unassuming and rounded design running watch that tracks your optical heart rate. It does so with the optical heart rate sensor without a strap. The built-in GPS tracking features monitor your distance, speed, and location clearly. Turn down the sound and annoying notifications by adjusting the alerts to vibration only.
Receive notifications about calls, messages, and suspicious activity. The battery life can last up to 30 hours in GPS mode and is rechargeable. The Polar M430 also comes in three different colors for your choosing.
+ Heart rate tracking
+ GPS watches
+ Long battery life that can go up to 30 hours
+ Features vibration notifications
+ Different colors
Why We Like It – These GPS running watches are phenomenal when it comes to heart rate monitoring. They can track your optical heart rate without the need for a chest strap.
9. Garmin Forerunner 235, GPS Running WatchNo products found.
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The Garmin Forerunner 235 is a little heart rate tracker that sits right on your wrist. Garmin watches are top-rated GPS fitness watches that have all the features you could want to be packed into a little package. This Garmin watch tracks heart rate 24/7 (as long as the watch is sitting on your wrist) and has a 44% larger screen than other Garmin watches.
The battery life can last a whopping 12 weeks in watch mode, and you’re looking at 12 hours in GPS mode or training mode. Most GPS watches are made to be compatible with smart devices such as your phone and can be synced seamlessly to display notifications. One of the best features of this Garmin watch would be audio and visual prompts.
+ Accurate heart rate tracking 24/7 from your wrist
+ Long-lasting battery life
+ Larger Screen
+ Audio and visual prompts
+ Smart GPS running watch
Why We Like It – We love that the screen is 44% larger than other Garmin models and other brands. This makes the small details and notifications easy to read.
GPS Watches Buyer’s Guide
The best GPS watch, fitness watch, or running watch (depending on what you want to call it) needs to give you all the tools you need to challenge longer, push harder and run further. Depending on your personal goals, there are different things you may want in a running watch. Some know and love the Garmin brand or the Apple Watch Series as well as the FitBits, but brand aside, there’s more to your best GPS watch.
There are certain things that most, if not all, people would look for, such as battery life, durable construction, and perhaps a large screen. There are many other features that one would want, and to make it easier to narrow down your choices, we compiled a checklist of important features for you below.
What to Look for When Buying the Best GPS Watches
The Look and Style
First and foremost, when it comes to any accessory, we care about the aesthetics of the sportswatch. A lot of watches such as the Garmin watches, Apple watch series, and FitBits offer different colors, straps, case materials, and styles. It’s important to look for one that pleases the eye. Otherwise, you may not be as inclined to reach for it. For many avid runners and exercise lovers, the build is more important than the look.
Think about if you want a military-looking heavy-duty watch, just a regular sports watch with silicone straps that work best in all situations, or one that can almost pass as a dress watch?
Continuing with the first point, the materials are the keys to a tough and resistant build. The material of the watch you choose depends greatly on your activity of choice, as well as your preference. A great way for indecisive shoppers is to opt for a watch with replaceable straps. A lot of options from the Apple watch series offer interchangeable straps.
Let’s look at some of the common watch strap materials out there.
Leather – Although you may not see leather straps on a lot of GPS running watches, leather is by far one of the most comfortable and most common. It’s durable and also environmentally-friendly. There are three main types of leather straps: full-grain, genuine, and faux. We listed them in order from the toughest to the least durable.
Stainless Steel – Aluminum and stainless steel cases are often used on the best watches out there regardless if they are running watches or not. However, stainless steel is also an option for straps. Also, as one of the most popular materials, stainless steel is resistant to corrosion and oxidation, making it easy to clean and very strong. They also offer a lot of versatility in terms of design.
Nylon – Nylon straps are commonly found on running watches and other exercise watches. They are best for active wearers, and they are among the most breathable of materials. They are very tough and offer the most choices in terms of colors and patterns.
Silicone Rubber – One of our favorites and also a material found in the best running and exercise watches, the silicone rubber strap is very comfortable against the skin and soft. The material is elastic, but we advise wearers to look for ones that guarantee safety (non-toxic).
Titanium – Also very tough, titanium watches are actually stronger than stainless steel! If you lead an active and extreme lifestyle, titanium may be your best choice. However, it’s useful to note that titanium scratches easily.
Ceramic – Ceramic is a delicate material that wouldn’t be suited for running watches. They don’t scratch easily and are pretty hefty in weight. However, it does have a lower impact tolerance than the other materials.
Next up is the battery life. Some watches can operate with just light itself, while others offer rechargeable batteries (such as certain Garmin options). Whichever way your watch is powered, you want a watch that has a long battery life. Since the best watch is multifunctional, it’s only natural that it will possess a wide array of features that can drain your battery life. Standard GPS watches on the market can offer anywhere from 5-35 hours of battery life.
Some higher-end models, or ones set on battery saving mode, can go up to 120 hours! Certain watches can last from hours in GPS mode to days. One of the most important features in a GPS watch is battery life. You don’t want your watch running out of juice when you’re relying on it to track your location and other things. Generally, the battery life for a wristwatch on GPS mode will last an especially long time.
If you have the choice, we would suggest looking for smartwatches that are rechargeable via a charger or USB.
Since we are talking about GPS smartwatches, we need to include this in the features. Lots of GPS sportwatches, including the Garmin line, have built-in GPS that functions with the GLONASS satellite systems. This gives you more accurate locations.
With this feature, you may also get full-colored maps, distance, route, and pace, which are conducive to mapping out the proper exercise plan. GPS watches in GPS mode will take up your battery life differently than if it’s put on battery saving mode. If it’s draining, only enable this mode when it’s needed.
Heart Rate Tracking
One of the best features of a sportswatch (other than battery life) is the heart rate monitor. This data will give you a clear picture of how your body is holding up and how your body is responding to the exercise. Being able to measure your heart rate means you can better track your progress and understand if you should lower the intensity.
Along with the heart rate tracking, the sleep monitor also makes it onto our list of the most important features. When you have one, you more than likely have the other. Sleep tracking will monitor how your body is functioning while you are unconscious. It also assesses the quality of your sleep, how long you spend in REM sleep, and more. A lot of us are restless sleepers, and you can feel the effects of that after you wake up the next day.
If you have ever had a long night of sleep but still wake up feeling tired, the sleep tracker will give you a better picture as to why that is.
Now it brings us to the activity tracking. This is a feature most if not all smartwatches used for exercise have. From the Garmin line to the lesser-known brands, it’s all about the activity tracking. This feature is responsible for logging your steps taken, calories burned, and how far you have traveled (preferably on foot).
The best watch with GPS mode will even give you a little virtual nudge when it detects you have been sedentary for too long. It acts as a reminder when you should get up and start moving again.
You should also make sure that your best watch with GPS mode works well with your smartphone. If you can pair it with your mobile device, you will never miss a notification again. Your wristwatch will notify you about emails, messages, and calls in the form of audible alerts or vibrations.
It also allows you to access all the information stored on your phone via your smartwatch.
The screen is part of our list of important features. Not only does the size matter, but the strength and material matter as well. Sapphire crystal is by far the toughest, but it’s mainly found on higher-end and more expensive watch options. Mid-range to lower-end watches will feature mineral crystal screens or acrylic. Strengthened glass is also seen on some Garmin sportwatches and has enhanced durability. To make sure it can withstand impact, make sure you get a timepiece that has “tough skin.”
It’s also incredibly useful to have a larger screen. We have previously presented a Garmin option on our top list that has a 40% larger screen than other Garmin models and other brands. A large screen is best when it comes to reading details.
Also, a watch that features a glare-resistant screen to make sure you have an easier time reading the screen indoors and out. An always-on screen also keeps all the information displayed at the forefront giving you access at any time.
To help you train to your best ability, the training mode feature on the best GPS watch will help you tailor your workouts. It will almost be like having your own personal trainer sitting on your wrist, motivating you, and encouraging you with training schedules just for you.
Exercise modes differ slightly from training modes. The exercise modes track your heart rate during certain sports and allow the watch to set a standard for your heartbeat.
This is one of the more important features for individuals who love to spend time in the water. Water-resistance differs greatly by level.
30m/100ft gets you a watch that is only splashproof.
50m/165ft is a watch that can be worn in the shower and for light swimming.
100m/330ft means the watch is okay for swimming and snorkeling.
200m/660ft allows you to go deeper and engage in sports such as scuba diving.
300m/990ft pretty much means your timepiece can withstand any aquatic activities.
Depending on your lifestyle, you can refer to this chart to find the best option for you.
The best wristwatch needs to be met with a reasonable price tag. Before you go looking for your next GPS fitness buddy, you need to give yourself a price range. To help you out, you can also go through our list of proposed features to narrow down your choices and save you time.
Certain features such as battery life, build quality, functions, style, and durability cannot be overlooked (features the Garmin brand usually has). Once you have eliminated unwanted features, you can then pick from our top list for a wristwatch that matches your needs.
For a timepiece that is built to last, we don’t recommend sacrificing quality for the price.
How Can I Extend the Battery Life?
The battery life of a new device is something we all pay close attention to. After all, there doesn’t seem to be portable battery packs for wristwatches available on the market. A rugged GPS timepiece is supposed to go where you go, and hopefully even be able to bail you out in case of emergencies.
One thing that guarantees a bigger chance of survival out in the wilderness is the battery life. Garmin smartwatches offer impressive battery life, but there are a few things you can do on your part to extend the life of the battery further.
For example, by keeping your device cool. Leaving it out in the sun in a confined space isn’t a good idea. Some people also recommend removing the battery when you aren’t using your smartwatch, but unless you have the right tools, you could be damaging the device when all you wanted to do was extend the battery life.
If you do have the correct tools, then experts also suggest cleaning the battery area when you can. A lot of these measures can help with battery life for wristwatches you don’t wear often. It’s more like a maintenance action than anything else.
Since the battery life for smartwatches in GPS mode can last for quite some time, we also recommend putting them in GPS mode until you absolutely need the other features. Another measure you can take is to find a GPS smartwatch with impressive battery life, to begin with.
What is the Most Accurate GPS Smartwatch?
From all the statistics and reviews, we have found that the Garmin Forerunner 945 and other Garmin series devices are the most accurate. The Garmin Forerunner 945 features extensive capabilities and impressive battery life. There is definitely no harm in looking into a trusted brand for the best GPS smartwatch.
Which GPS Wristwatch Should I Buy?
This depends on your personal needs. Ask yourself why you would like to purchase a GPS wristwatch. What do you need it for? If you want one that helps you track your heart rate and your personal milestones in terms of fitness, then find a device that is geared towards that, complete with sports modes, training modes, and maybe even a compass and altitude meter.
If you are a swimmer, then definitely look for one that has superior water-resistance (maybe even one with an IP rating). If you love the outdoors and spend lots of time camping, one with GPS and long battery life is important. There are even wristwatches made for just a single sport (such as the Golf option). Which is the best GPS device for each person would be different and entirely dependent on your needs.
What are the Benefits of Having GPS?
You may not be entirely sure what benefits you can reap from a GPS wristwatch. For avid runners who like to know exactly how far they traveled to log their personal progress, a GPS device can give you the most accurate picture. Not only will it tell the user how far they have traveled, but it also gives him or her a look at their pace.
Your phone can also do this tracking as it has GPS built-in, but running or exercising with a bulky phone is less desirable than having a compact and lightweight wristwatch. The GPS capability can also help with navigation, especially if you get lost.
A GPS smartwatch is very useful for those who like to track their progress. It may even be able to triangulate your location and pinpoint where you are in times of emergencies. Finding the best GPS device can be tough, especially with all the other factors that come into play. To make things easier, it’s always a good idea to follow our list of features to consider and pick from tried and true options on our top list.
Aside from the features we have listed, GPS smartwatches are also capable of many other things. Depending on what you need, they are worth exploring as well. From calorie counters to cadence, having a GPS smartwatch will be like having an exercise buddy wherever you go.
Did You Know?
Certain GPS wristwatches have touchscreens, much like your phone. This adds another level of functionality to your device. They may be useful to some but be disastrous for others, especially for those smart wristwatches that are highly sensitive and activate by the brush of a hand or the touch of a bead of sweat.
With GPS devices such as these smartwatches, the price does matter. It’s a product where the quality and functions are directly reflected in the price. If you opt for budget smartwatches, they will probably only offer the bare bones in features. The pricier the product, the more it can do.