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GPS Watches

These watches feature GPS tracking technology, and most have a slew of other advanced features as well. Many also function as heart rate monitors and altimeters.

Top Picks

How we choose: The best gps watches highlighted here were selected based on 270 reviews of 23 products. Our top picks are those that are readily-available in the United States and have received the highest overall ratings from reviewers.

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Garmin Forerunner 645

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

A modest looking GPS, heart rate monitor, and smart watch that delivers reams of training information. Pairs with a mobile phone to deliver loads of other features and is fully customizable. A good choice for athletes engaged in systematic training, it also works well for more casual users that can put the smart watch features to use.

Reasons to Buy

  • Compact and modest design
  • GPS and HR monitor combine to record detailed info on training activities
  • Scrollable screens give real-time training info when on the trail, road, or mountain
  • Customizable with thousands of watch faces, apps, and screens available on line
  • Phone syncing and smart watch features and apps extend utility into the rest of life

Reasons to Avoid

  • HR monitor not always accurate
  • Battery life shorter than spec
  • Strap broke within two months, possibly defective, replaced under warranty

I (almost) never would have bought this watch for myself. I’m not that serious or systematic about training. I just go out and run by feel, and these days that usually means keeping a moderate pace, enough to be breathing easy on flats and downhills and work up a bit more steam on the uphills, which there are plenty of in my backyard. SO what’s a guy like me doing with a fancy training watch? Well, back in 2013, my ultrarunning daughter gave me a Forerunner 245 as a timely birthday present, a few weeks before we started together in the Oslo Skogsmaraton, wherein she dropped me after about 20 km.

Read more: Garmin Forerunner 645 review (1)

Garmin Instinct

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

The Garmin Instinct is meeting my needs and lifestyle.

Reasons to Buy

  • Very lightweight
  • Comfortable and not bulky
  • Handles cold weather
  • Easy to use when you get the hang of it
  • The Garmin Connect app is simple.
  • Lots of features for an active lifestyle
  • Battery life is pretty decent.
  • Garmin Livetrack provides another layer of security for those of us who play alone.
  • Can be paired with newer InReach devices
  • Quite a few colours to choose from. I went with graphite.

Reasons to Avoid

  • There is a bit of a learning curve to use the Instinct. There are some excellent videos on YouTube that walk you through it.
  • The charging cable that’s included is very short. I ended up buying a two pack of bases for home/car use. The short cable is in my pack with a portable charger.
  • Doesn’t pair with older InReach devices. I was planning on upgrading anyhow but for someone with an older device it might be an issue.

I’m quite happy with this purchase...happy enough that I‘m contemplating getting a second one when they’re on sale again. I‘ve only had this watch for about six weeks but in that time I’ve come to appreciate it. All the features that come with it seem pretty accurate when I compare them to other devices/known points of reference. This is one of the most comfortable watches I’ve ever worn...I really don’t notice it’s on my wrist. The silicone straps are supple, easy to adjust, and have two loops to secure the band.

Read more: Garmin Instinct review (1)

Garmin fenix 6 Pro

user rating: 4 of 5 (1 review)

The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is a fantastic data tracker for the person who needs immediate information at the click of a button. Great for hiking and backpacking if you have the time to figure out how to work it.

Reasons to Buy

  • Large face
  • Easy to read
  • Minimal buttons
  • Relatively accurate
  • Lots of data tracking
  • Battery Life

Reasons to Avoid

  • Less useful if you aren't "techy"
  • Altimeter has never been accurate

I received my Garmin Fenix 6 Pro as a gift from my wife the week it was released (what's it been, 2 years?) to replace my 1st Gen Apple Watch. As a person who likes to spend a great deal of time outdoors, the purchase just made sense. Maps, Altimeter reading, Barometric Pressure, steps, etc...all things I wanted in a compact package, which also allowed me to leave my handheld Garmin E-trek at home. I spent the first two days trying to get it all set up and calibrated, while learning where to find certain pages on the fly.

Read more: Garmin fenix 6 Pro review (1)

Garmin Forerunner 235

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

GPS watch that can track a variety of activities and generate a load of helpful data about your activities. Stand-alone GPS means you can leave your smart phone at home. Waterproof with outstanding battery life, so fit for bad conditions, swims, stream crossings, and trips. Can download apps that add functionality.

Reasons to Buy

  • Stand-alone GPS
  • Waterproof
  • Serious ability to collect data about activities
  • Can add apps
  • Great battery life
  • Reasonable price

Reasons to Avoid

  • Not as many functions as more expensive models.

The Garmin Forerunner 235 falls in the middle of its wrist-worn GPS units. Garmin sells a few less-expensive fitness trackers and running watches; the 235 is a step up from those in terms of advanced function for runners. Garmin also sells a range of more expensive GPS watches that can port music to wireless headphones and offer functions like an altimeter and mapping. DEVICE DETAILS: The 235 has a 45-mm face, color screen, and rubber wristband. It will run 8-9 days on a charge if you don't use the GPS function; regular GPS-tracked running or hiking, you'll need to charge it every couple of days.

Read more: Garmin Forerunner 235 review (1)

Apple Watch Series 5

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

The Apple Watch Series 5 is the best of the three high dollar “adventure watches” that I have used. I have tested it on all terrain, across multiple sports, and my initial skepticism was proven completely wrong.

Reasons to Buy

  • Altimeter
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Weather
  • Compass
  • Sun/Moon
  • Workout tracker
  • Voice recorder

Reasons to Avoid

  • What are the cons with every electronic? Battery!!

Connecticut River The My Sun/Moon app is crucial for planning sunset pictures It’s been almost a full year of wearing the Apple Watch Series 5 44mm Aluminum every day, all day. This year included (beyond Corona Virus and Social Unrest) 50 days of alpine skiing, 50 days of Nordic skiing, +/- 100 miles of road cycling, +/- 100 miles of hiking, 120 days of paddling so far, including four trips (four days each) of solo canoeing. Three night solo basecamp I have to assume that if a person is interested in gear, they are interested in using that gear, vis a vis they are interested in fitness.

Read more: Apple Watch Series 5 review (1)

Suunto Ambit3 Peak

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

A terrific durable all purpose watch for whatever activity you happen to be into. I used a AMBIT 3 PEAK SAPPHIRE HR for this review.

Reasons to Buy

  • Comfortable
  • Intuitive controls
  • Fashionable
  • Versatile

Reasons to Avoid

  • has a few bugs
  • Auto-move feature doesn't work well

So I used a Ambit 3 Peak Saphhire HR for this review. The non-saphhire Peak model is a little tiny bit less durable, and fashionable but otherwise the same. The sport model is the same operating system but is less accurate for altitude. The run is just a timepiece with the run function pre-programed into the watch with no adjustments.  Overall I love this watch. Flipping through settings is easy. The silicone strap is comfortable, and weight is on the heavier side, but very reasonable. Less then most deluxe watches on the market.

Read more: Suunto Ambit3 Peak review (1)

Garmin Fenix 5X

user rating: 5 of 5 (2 reviews)

A complex, high functionality watch that blew me away with all of its features! For three weeks now I've enjoyed getting more out of my trail runs, hikes, treadmill runs and gym sessions and all the other daily tracking capabilities! I find the GPS excellent and HR monitor superior to some I have tried before. For me, definitely worth the price so far!

Reasons to Buy

  • Seemingly endless functionality!
  • GPS and map function
  • Accuracy of HR monitor
  • Aesthetically pleasing and rugged
  • Battery life

Reasons to Avoid

  • Learning how to use it takes time
  • Lack of App options in Garmin Connect

As a first time Garmin user I am impressed, but I suppose that is to be expected with the Garmin Fenix 5X! The GPS accuracy has been on point for my trail and road runs as well as the HR monitor. Of course there are some moments where the HR has an oddball reading, but that can be expected when very sweaty and mobile... I've seen some negative reviews on the HR wrist function but it seems people want perfection (nearly impossible).  The MAP function is pretty sweet once you get the hang of it (which goes for just about everything else on the watch).

Read more: Garmin Fenix 5X reviews (2)

Garmin fenix 3

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

More accurate measure of your distance traveled than distances shown on hiking maps! It lets you see and know via a slight vibration when you are off trail.

Reasons to Buy

  • Comfortable to wear even on small wrists
  • Logical menu tree
  • Easy to upload data to activity tracking websites

Reasons to Avoid

  • Must spend extra money to buy maps from Garmin
  • Illumination of screens is weak, but perhaps can be changed, am not sure

I have only used this on a 3-day hike through the White Mountains, but am pleased enough to write a first impressions review. I did recharge the Fenix each night using an external battery so cannot comment on whether one charge holds ups over a three-day period. I downloaded my routes to the Fenix and did not buy the Garmin maps. I may buy maps for future hikes but wanted to see how the Fenix worked before spending more money. It is possible to download routes, and not buy the maps, but takes some maneuvering between websites.

Read more: Garmin fenix 3 review (1)

More Reviews of GPS Watches

Trailspace reviewers have shared 270 reviews of 23 different gps watches.

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Other Types of Watches

Find more watches reviewed in these related categories:

Heart Rate Monitors

Compass Watches

Altimeter Watches

+5 more types

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