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Heart Rate Monitors

These watches include features that allow you to monitor your heart rate. They do not have GPS functionality, and tend to be more affordable than GPS watches.

Top Picks

How we choose: The best heart rate monitors highlighted here were selected based on 45 reviews of 11 products. Our top picks are those that are readily-available in the United States and have received the highest overall ratings from reviewers.

How we test: Trailspace is powered entirely by our community of readers. The reviews posted here reflect the real-world experiences of outdoor enthusiasts just like you.

If you've used a heart rate monitor that you think should be listed here, please share your experience.

Disclosure: Trailspace never accepts payment for gear reviews, product placement, or editorial coverage. When you buy through affiliate links on our site, Trailspace may earn a small commission, which helps cover the costs of running the site.

Polar AXN500

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (3 reviews)

5 batteries and 3 straps ago, from Asia to the North America and it's still serving me like it did when I first got it - not to mention the original transmitter - whew! I've used this in the tropics backpacking from beaches to 9K+ ft peaks, running, swimming, work, parties ... and the great thing is it helped me monitor, record and improve my fitness. I wish Polar will come up with a second/third generation of AXNs and also replacements for the wrist strap "plates" (those 2 black plastic plates under the strap each secured by 2 screws).

Read more: Polar AXN500 reviews (3)

Top Heart Rate Monitor / Watch

Garmin vivosmart HR

user rating: 4 of 5 (1 review)

A multi-functional health tracker combining wrist-based heart rate monitor (HRM) with ANT+ broadcasting capability and simple smart/sports watch abilities. Nice device for those who are tired of chest-based HRMs. Unfortunately the feature set is very limited in comparison to true smart/sports watches.

Reasons to Buy

  • Heart rate broadcasting feature via ANT+
  • Some sort of smart watch features (receives notifications, calls and weather forecast, controls music)
  • Fitness tracking features with 24x7 pulse monitoring, sleep graph, steps, stairs etc.
  • Automatic recognition of sports activities
  • Good web- and app-based health statistics
  • Very comfortable to wear (and lightweight)
  • Decent battery life in its class
  • Affordable

Reasons to Avoid

  • Doesn’t show current time and notifications during HR broadcasting
  • Wrist-based HRMs are less accurate and have much less battery life than chest-based ones
  • Only single alarm clock with limited features and insanely awkward setup via phone app
  • Has limited use as a sports watch due to limited list of activities and lack of GPS
  • Annoying vibrating motor
  • Cannot be set as a “trusted device” for unlocking the phone automatically

Background I’d been using the chest-based HRM with my old Garmin GPSMap 62s in 2011-2013. I liked the possibility to examine my pulse during the rides, especially the reaction of my body to various difficulties during the trip. For example, during the ford crossing in Iceland (I described the situation in this article), when my bike and gear were almost washed away, the heart rate jumped very noticeably. Also knowing the heart rate may prevent extreme exhaustion and possible damage to the heart.

Read more: Garmin vivosmart HR review (1)

Polar Equine Wrist Band

user rating: 4 of 5 (1 review)

The Polar wrist band accessory for the Polar CS 400 and CS 600 heart rate monitor is great way to use you monitor when you are training on a stationary bike at the gym. The monitor clips into the wrist band the same way it clips onto the holder attached to your bike. You can take it with you to the gym or on a hike it makes your monitor more useful.

Reasons to Buy

  • Wide wrist band
  • Easy to buckle
  • Secure

Reasons to Avoid

  • A little hard to attach monitor

The Polar wrist band accessory makes your Polar CS400 or CS 600 more useful by allowing you to use it when doing any other activity other than bicycling. The strap is fully adjustable and has a large, easy to use buckle. It's a  little difficult to get the monitor to snap in, but once it's in you know it's not going to pop out easily. You may want to wear a wrist band under the strap to help absorb sweat. The accessory is reasonably priced, well built, and easy to use. I have had it for a couple of weeks and use it at the gym when working out on the stationary bike or treadmill.

Read more: Polar Equine Wrist Band review (1)

Polar AXN700

user rating: 4 of 5 (2 reviews)

This is an extremely useful bit of gear. I bought the AXN 700 several years ago as I was doing lots of hiking at altitude, and I liked the fact that it would give me both a way to measure my exertion (through heart rate) as well as my progress (through the altimeter). As you would expect from a Polar heart rate monitor, the heart rate and training functions work solidly. The altimeter works reasonably well, about as well as my old Suunto Vector. The compass is iffy at best but these things often are.

Read more: Polar AXN700 reviews (2)

Suunto X6M

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Suunto X6M Black Collection review.For the purpose of this review I will be using the Suunto Core as a reference since most are familiar with it. Let me say, I love my "All Black Core" and I am not trying to belittle it. It is what it is. The Suunto X6M Black Collection has the superior build quality of the Observer with the features of the Core. It uses a dot matrix display that is THE clearest I have ever seen. The font is more rounded than the block type of the Core. It also has sub screens or "shortcuts" on the bottom of each display that can be used to display other information much like the Core.

Read more: Suunto X6M review (1)

More Reviews of Heart Rate Monitors

Trailspace reviewers have shared 45 reviews of 11 different heart rate monitors.

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Other Types of Watches

Find more watches reviewed in these related categories:

GPS Watches

Compass Watches

Altimeter Watches

+5 more types

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