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Best GPS Fitness Tracker: An Almost Invisible Fitness Coach

gps fitness tracker featured
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

Any devoted sports enthusiast wants to get as many information on their progress during workout sessions as possible. Don’t you think every one of us could use a 24/7 fitness assistant telling us exactly what happens to our calories burnt, heart rate and distance traveled? This is why the goal of so many people is to find the best GPS fitness tracker there is.

A fitness tracking device in the form of a watch on your wrist is barely noticeable but collects data which is exceptionally important for you and your health. There are so many great smart fitness trackers on the market to choose from. With this guide, we aim to help you decide which one is best for your workout needs.

In order to save you a lot of time which you can put into working out, we did research especially for your convenience. In the article below you will read reviews on some of the finest and most popular GPS fitness trackers. We focus on a variety of characteristics and features and have even compiled a table for you.

Product NameBest WorkoutWeightMaterialsPrice
Polar M200 GPSAll-around5.1Plastic, rubberCheck price on Amazon
Garmin vívosmart HR+ Regular FitAll-around1.6PlasticCheck price on Amazon
Lintelek Heart Rate MonitorCardio1Plastic, rubberCheck price on Amazon
Garmin Forerunner 935Triathlon1.8PlasticCheck price on Amazon
TomTom AdventurerCardio, hiking1.9Plastic, rubberCheck price on Amazon
Polar V800All-around13Aluminum, steelCheck price on Amazon
Garmin vívoactiveCardio1.3PlasticCheck price on Amazon
Fitbit Blaze SmartCardio, strength12AluminumCheck price on Amazon

Features to Consider Before Buying

Before we get to the actual reviews, it is only logical that we mention some of the more essential characteristics of a GPS fitness tracker.

Folks have different goals and this is why we will highlight some of the features making it easier for everyone to decide what is best for them. Most fitness watches share the same elements and functions but in each model, they are pronounced to a different extent.

Design and Durability

They say that the first impression never lies. Well, in your case the moment you see a GPS fitness watch you already know whether you like the way it looks or not.

Since these devices are made to stay on your wrist throughout the day and even during the night, you want yours to be stylish and very good looking. Unfortunately, there are some models which simply cannot be worn to a business meeting.

fitbit on hand

No matter how fancy your fitness tracker looks, if it breaks due to heavy use then it is no good. After all, the functionality of your watch is why you will spend good money on it. Some athletes really push it to the limits by climbing rocks, deep diving or cycling for hours. The best watches are able to sustain not only a lot of beating but hard hits as well.

A combination of both is perhaps the best thing you can ask the designers of smart fitness trackers. However, this typically comes at a price but it might be well worth it.

Heart Rate Monitoring

As these devices started taking the market by storm, their initial versions didn’t include much but at least they were able to monitor your heart rate. This goes to show you how important the function is. Knowing your heart rate at any time will allow you to plan your routines properly and with greater care.

Additional benefits of heart rate monitoring derive from the fact that a decent fitness watch will do it even as you sleep. Many gadgets with advanced software will even come up with suggestions on how to lower or increase it. They will also let you know if anything isn’t looking normal.

heart rate monitor watch

The best part of this function is that you get compiled reports and archived data. You can eventually export it and examine it. A 24/7 heart rate monitor is an excellent attribute to any device as you get to see exactly how intense your intense workouts are.

Variety of Workout Programs

It is obvious that people fall in love with different activities and what is good for some isn’t very suitable for others. Your watch is here to help you no matter what type of an athlete you are.

A fine fitness tracker will be there for you during cardio sessions or strength workouts. The more intelligent your device, the better data you will collect for your performance.

Some trackers support regimes such as swimming, triathlon and golfing. They are really great for professionals as they will definitely provide you with comprehensive information about reps, distance and will even make projections for you.

Heart rate monitor for swimming

The variety of workout programs is crucial also for people looking to lose weight and stay in shape. Many fitness trackers can basically become your trainer with all the personalized workout plans they offer. It is as if a real person creates your profile and in accordance with it, they recommend the best way to train.

GPS Tracking

For those looking to spend a lot of time outdoors, GPS tracking is simply a must-have feature. Runners, hikers, and swimmers would love to see a map of their routes as well as thorough analysis of their activities. Seeing a graphic or map of the distance you have covered really affects your motivation and keeps you going.

As far as adventurers and trail runners go, it is useful to them as thanks to GPS or GLONASS you get to know your location. There are people who take outdoor activities to the extremes by venturing deep into forests or high in mountains. Your smart assistant on your wrist will always let you know of your whereabouts in case of an emergency.

Extra Features

Most fitness trackers nowadays have smart notifications once you sync them with your phone. Additionally, mobile apps are something no fitness watch goes without.

military watch and a phone

Look for models that come with an alarm function or prompts telling you that you’ve been sitting around for too long. Some devices have barometers, compasses and 3D images making you completely aware of the surrounding environment.

Colored screens and interchangeable bands might be considered a bonus but they can be pretty important to some. However, the more possibilities you have with your fitness tracker, the more money you should be prepared to pay.

Best Products to Consider

Now that we saw some of the more common features of the GPS fitness trackers it is time to review separately some of the finest devices you can purchase. We tried to compile a list of items with various functions, styles and of course – price ranges.

Polar M200 GPS Running WatchPolar M200 GPS

Price: Approx. $150

Weight: 5.1 oz

Dimensions: 4 x 3 x 3 in

Specific features: Average price, rubber wristbands, watch-shaped, sleep duration monitor, web service, built-in GPS

Best use: A variety of workouts and CrossFit routines

Description: If you are looking for an informative device on your cardio and strength practices, then the Polar M200 GPS Running Watch is the way to go. This fitness tracker is a great choice for people who not only jog regularly but are keen on doing all sorts of workouts. On top of that, it comes as an excellent budget-friendly option.

Additionally, it is also suitable if you want to record your results during swimming. The band is made out of rubber and the gadget is completely waterproof. Another regime allows you to track your sleep so that you know whether you rest enough.

As you connect it to your smartphone through the built-in Bluetooth, a whole lot of new possibilities arise. The app is multifunctional and you can upload your data straight to your Polar Flow account. You will get recommended training programs and you get to set your goals.

Since the watch is connected to your mobile phone, you will also receive notifications. Alarms can also be set up. Unfortunately, the notifications are not displayed in a very convenient fashion but you can use it as an alert rather.

The backlight turns on automatically as you raise your wrist. In case you are a night runner, you will likely find this very advantageous and it also conserves battery life.

PROS:

  • Fully waterproof
  • Well-designed app
  • Many workout profiles
  • Easily replaceable rubber band
  • Reasonable price

CONS:

  • Not fancy enough to be your day to day watch
  • Few characters fit on screen
  • The USB connector bends easily

Related: Fitness trackers can be really useful but understanding how and when to practice isn’t something they will help you with. In addition to your watch, you might want to also consider getting a really helpful book called Exercise Physiology in order to perfect your routines. Get useful info on how to perfect your workouts by becoming more familiar with physical education.

Check the price on Amazon

Garmin vívosmart HR+ Regular Fit GPS Activity TrackerGarmin vívosmart HR+ Regular Fit

Price: Approx. $175

Weight: 1.6 oz

Dimensions: 2.5 x 0.5 x 0.8 in

Specific features: All day tracking, monochrome touchscreen, vertical screen, soft wristbands, optical heart rate sensor, waterproof, smart notifications.

Best use: Users with keen interest in detailed fitness statistics and records

Description: The Garmin vivosmart HR+ Regular Fit GPS Activity Tracker comes with the Move IQ technology which detects whether you walk or jog.

Garmin brings you an interesting fitness tracker full of proprietary technology and software. It has the original Garmin vertical screen although the orientation can be changed from vertical to horizontal.

This compelling device might be a good choice for those that want to stay on top of their fitness records and data. Thanks to Garmin, you can have all of the information about your workouts directly on your phone. Smart notifications are also part of the picture and they are not only for text messages but phone calls as well.

We suggest you test the optical heart rate sensor during a strength work out in order to see that the response time has been improved. The watch takes about 15 seconds to detect your heart rate opposing to the usual 20-25. In general, with this fitness tracker, people should get a good device suitable for various workouts.

One thing to keep in mind before buying it is the absence of chest strap compatibility. You cannot connect it to an external heart sensor. Additionally, there are no custom watch faces for this device – the watch really tracks a lot of your vitals but you will need to recharge it two-three times a week.

PROS:

  • An abundance of settings and stats
  • Water rated to 160 feet
  • Quick screen response time
  • 24/7 tracking of heart rate
  • Monochrome touchscreen

CONS:

  • Cannot be used with a chest strap
  • Fragile glass
  • Non-changeable bands
  • Short battery life

Related: The Garmin Vivoactive HR Screen Protector may be an excellent way to take care of your watch. It is produced by the same company as the fitness tracker and will provide extra protection for your screen. The LiQuidSkin technology makes it easier for you to slide on the screen even during the most intense workout periods. The set contains 6 pieces.

Check the price on Amazon

Lintelek Heart Rate Monitor Activity Tracker with Connected GPS TrackerLintelek Heart Rate Monitor

Price: Approx. $32

Weight: 1 oz

Dimensions: 2 x 0.9 x 0.4 in

Specific features: Great price, automatic display, constant firmware updates, calendar events, find your phone function, sleep monitor, heart rate sensor, alarm function, waterproof

Best use: A variety of workouts

Description: The Lintelek Heart Rate Monitor Activity Tracker is the cheapest item you will find on our list but it is definitely not the worst and shouldn’t be overlooked – it’s a great device for the price. It is definitely not perfect as there are things to improve but essentially it gets better with firmware updates.

This fitness tracker is completely waterproof and can be plugged directly into a USB. No cables or plugs are needed. Of course, it comes with a built-in heart rate monitor and you can also get information on the time and date and weather. Most people find this gadget to have plenty of functionality in comparison to some name brands.

Some of the cooler features include turning the display on with just a flick of the wrist, scheduling calendar events as well as “find your phone” function.

However, most of the nicer characteristics can only be downloaded through the app. The mobile application is also used for firmware updates and they are vital when we talk about a budget GPS fitness tracker.

Another great thing is that you can track your sleeping patterns, do comparisons and see how many hours you sleep on an average. Unfortunately, the data for your previous night will not show up for about three to five hours after you have woken up. Another minus is that the alarm vibrates only once when it goes off and not until you turn it off.

As far as notifications go, they are a convenience but can also be quite pesky with the Lintelek tracker. They do not go away even if you check them on your phone.

You also cannot disable the notifications feature which might turn out to be quite disturbing during the night. The data you have accumulated also cannot be exported through the app and is only archived there.

PROS:

  • Completely waterproof
  • Exceptionally cheap
  • Bright display
  • Direct USB plug
  • Monitors sleep patterns

CONS

  • Cannot turn notifications off
  • Has only basic workout programs
  • Alarm is not reliable
  • Most functions need to be downloaded
  • Cannot export work out data

Related: Since the Lintelek Heart Rate Monitor provides you with an excellent budget option, here is one more for you. The TZY In-ear Headphones will make your jogging or strength workouts even more fun. If you are looking for a comfortable in-ear design so that your phones do not fall off during practice, then this is a fine choice. The hands-free option allows you to talk on your phone without detaching anything. On top of it, you can also change your tracks with the same button.

Check the price on Amazon

Garmin Forerunner 935 Running GPS UnitGarmin Forerunner 935

Price: Approx. $480

Weight: 1.8 oz

Dimensions: 0.5 x 1.8 x 2.1 in

Specific features: Advanced metrics, thorough application, a variety of activity tracking, luxury item, a battery life of about 24 hours, Wi-Fi, tools for direction.

Best use: Hiking, swimming and running – pretty much all cardio exercises.

Description: Now, this is where we will review one of the “big boys” when it comes to GPS and fitness tracking – the Garmin Forerunner 935 GPS Unit is a luxury item which is very popular among athletes keen on heavy running, cycling and swimming.

This is why it has a reputation of a triathlon watch. You will pay a good price for it but the device is packed with functions and profiles.

You can get in-depth data on pretty much any activity you can think of. You will see advanced metrics and even a golf application in this impressive multisport watch.

Needless to say, you get smart notifications with it, can control your music and even access your e-mail. In comparison to other Garmin trackers, this one has an improved battery life especially for those looking to use it extensively.

It is somewhat less durable because the profile of the watch is thinner and mainly made out of plastic. You also have to pay extra for detachable bands.

Its heart rate monitoring function is also not very accurate during strength training. We recommend you pair your device with an external HR monitor during such sessions. This will, however, set you back some more money.

Even though you can use it as your everyday watch because it is very stylish, the watch really shines in the wilderness. It comes with a barometer for elevation, altimeter and of course a compass to help you with your heading direction.

You get all the necessary info about your location and activity through a color screen as well. Unlike other Garmin watches, this one has the Wi-Fi function by default – no need to pay extra for it.

PROS:

  • A plethora of profiles and programs
  • Long battery life
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Various outdoor tools
  • Color screen

CONS:

  • Less durable
  • Does not come with disconnect bands
  • Expensive
  • Unreliable HR sensor during power workouts

Related: A great product that also carries the reputation of Garmin is their Garmin HRM-Swim. This chest strap is a great addition to your Forerunner 935 as it will improve the information on your heart rate. It is universal as it can be also used during your swimming sessions. It is very durable and the battery life lasts for more than a year if you use it about 3 hours per week.

Check the price on Amazon

TomTom Adventurer GPS Hiking & Trail Running WatchTomTom Adventurer

Price: Approx. $290

Weight: 1.9 oz

Dimensions: 10.6 x 1.5 x 0.6 in

Specific features: Multisport activity and sleep tracker, heart rate monitor, music player, 3 GB of storage, stopwatch, barometer, 3D distance

Best use: Hiking and trail running endeavors

Description: The TomTom Adventurer GPS Hiking & Trail Running Watch accommodates few more outdoor features in comparison to some other fitness trackers of the same brand.

Despite that, it is debatable whether the price of this unit is really worth it having in mind what you get with it. The design is updated, it looks more rugged and durable. The bands are definitely better and easily adjustable.

Since it is designed for nature lovers, it does pack together a barometer which automatically turns on when skiing, hiking or when running mode is selected. You cannot track your progress during open water swimming or triathlons.

If you are into hiking, then you will love the built-in music player and the 3GB space. Additionally, you can upload pre-set trails which makes hiking really fun. Bear in mind that the GPS mode really drains the battery.

While the heart rate monitor performs nicely, the same cannot be said about the activity and sleep tracking functions which are sort of lackluster. As far as the mobile app goes, it is simply OK but it does have some way to go. You do not get notifications when you pair it with your phone and the screen is only black and white.

The TomTom Bandit cam cannot be controlled through the Adventurer. Some criticism also goes to the color options as they are pretty poor when it comes to using the device anywhere but the gym or the forest. Some other options might be better for this price range in case you are about a more detailed info on your activity and progress.

PROS:

  • Durable design
  • Relatively large and clear screen
  • Music player
  • Supports uploading trails
  • 3D distance when skiing

CONS:

  • Poor sleep tracking
  • Not the best value for money
  • Display is black and white
  • No smart notifications
  • The app needs improving

Related: If you go with the TomTom Adventurer then hiking is probably your thing. You must always be prepared and also feel comfortable during your outdoor ventures and this is what you get from the MudGear Trail Running Socks. They are made out of 95% Polyester and have a strong construction making them very durable. However, the vented mesh top allows your feet to breathe.

Check the price on Amazon

Polar V800 GPS Sports WatchPolar V800

Price: Approx. $380

Weight: 13 oz

Dimensions: 5 x 4 x 3 in

Specific features: Aluminum body, stainless steel frame, gorilla glass, large screen, recovery advisor, numerous sports profiles, long battery life, multisport tracking

Best use: Heavy workouts

Description: The Polar V800 GPS Sports Watch is the top tier device for Polar and therefore the most expensive fitness tracker of that brand. It shouldn’t be perceived as a luxury item mainly because of the effect which it has along with its main purpose – being durable.

The design is the first thing that grabs our attention especially with that aluminum and stainless steel body. It also has a Gorilla glass display allowing the watch to really be able to sustain a lot of beating. In spite of the rugged design and large dimensions, the on-device software along with the companion app’s functions is pretty sophisticated.

This watch should give you detailed info on steps, calories burnt, distance traveled throughout your whole day and not only when working out. In fact, it will also prompt you if you have been sitting around for too long. Tracks your heart rate even when swimming.

The analysis of your sleep patterns is not very extensive, though, and it needs improvement. There are also no running dynamics such as vertical oscillation or ground contact time.

You cannot do live tracking as well. For this to happen an external stride sensor will need to be attached. This way you will monitor your speed, distance, and cadence.

The web app allows you to select from a wide array of sports profiles thus helping you come up with a customized workout plan. The watch may be perfect for multisport and triathlon tracking. It also includes a recovery advisor making your tough and long power sessions easier to recover from.

PROS:

  • Exceptionally durable
  • Great triathlon helper
  • Monitors heart rate underwater
  • All day tracking
  • Comprehensive app

CONS:

  • Large and heavy
  • Poor sleep tracking
  • No live tracking
  • Older versions do not have notifications
  • Pricy

Related: Polar’s goal is to take an all-around care of your body and fitness. This thesis is supported by the presence of their top class scale called Polar Balance. Of course, for the money, the device includes way more functions than just a scale. It has fitness tools as it also has the Polar flow app. The gadget will also give you personalized daily goals.

Check the price on Amazon

Garmin vívoactive GPS Smart WatchGarmin vívoactive

Price: Approx. $135

Weight: 1.3 oz

Dimensions: 0.3 x 1.6 x 10.1 in

Specific features: Ultra-thin display, colored touchscreen, battery life of 3 weeks, Connect IQ, smart notifications, cardiovascular workout tracking

Best use: Light to moderate workouts

Description: The Garmin vivoactive is definitely not one of the latest fitness trackers the company has released. In fact, its price has dropped significantly over the years and is now in the mid to low pricing categories. Through Connect IQ, however, the gadget receives software updates and improved functions.

The watch itself is lightweight, thin and pretty comfy to wear. This, on the other hand, leads to easily visible signs of wear as it cannot withstand a lot of use. Some users find it rather ugly looking and a bit boxy initially. With time, you might grow to like the design and really use it as an everyday watch.

The screen is very bright and performs well even in direct sunlight. Characters are easy to read and the touchscreen responds well even when swiped with sweaty or wet fingers. You can sync your watch with a phone using Bluetooth or USB.

Cardiovascular tracking is really where the watch shines. It can track your calories burnt, steps and distance throughout the day. There are no power workout apps as well as no long distance activity modes such as triathlon or open water swimming. The watch also has auto goals which is a fine feature given the fact that these goals update depending on how much you move.

The golf mode has about 38 000 courses ready to be downloaded. The device supports both GPS and GLONASS tracking systems allowing you to always know your location. Keep in mind that the battery is heavily drained in GPS mode and will survive for about 10 hours.

PROS:

  • Bright display
  • Lightweight and convenient
  • Has auto goals
  • Easy to sync with phone

CONS:

  • Design could be better
  • Easy to damage
  • No strength training app
  • No triathlon regime

Related: What you put in your body is just as important as how you train, so you can pair your watch with the Brita Hard Sided Bottle. The filter makes sure the water you drink is always fresh and clean. It also reduces the chlorine taste. With its 6.2 oz. capacity, the bottle is lightweight and you will barely feel its presence. However, thanks to the hard sides it is pretty durable and hard to damage.

Check the price on Amazon

Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness WatchFitbit Blaze Smart

Price: Approx. $200

Weight: 12 oz

Dimensions: 10 x 1.7 x 0.4 in

Specific features: Designed as a day to day watch, bright screen, huge specter of activity tracking, accurate heart rate sensor, built-in accelerometer

Best Use: All sorts of workouts, weight loss tracking and control

Description: The Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch really takes the design to a whole new level. Not only that its outlook is very sharp but bands are also detachable.

This means you can purchase ones of your liking in order to dress it up in a more formal context. Furthermore, the device lies nicely on the wrist which shows that some thought and care have been put into designing it.

One drawback which is design related is the fact that you have to remove the body from the frame in order to charge it. On top of all, the charging cradle looks flimsy. When it comes to customization, there are only four skins to choose from. Another design flaw is the huge bevels as they take up a lot of space on the screen.

The functions of this watch may as well be off the charts and the fact that you can track activities such as martial arts and Pilates is quite impressive.

The heart monitor does 25 readings per second giving you very accurate information. Heart rate response time isn’t bad at all. Similar to most devices it registers your heart rate after a given set during a strength work out.

Watersports tracking is completely missing because it is water resistant and not waterproof. The built-in accelerometer will determine the distance you have ran but some discrepancies are to be expected.

PROS:

  • Sharp design
  • Feels good
  • Many activities to track
  • Top notch screen

CONS:

  • Charging is not practical
  • Huge bevels
  • No watersports tracking
  • Few skin options

Related: People getting the Fitbit Blaze are often design lovers and Nike Men’s Legend Short Sleeve Tee is what you want to wear during your workouts. Not only that you are getting a name brand item cheaply, but you also receive a top class shirt with excellent absorption. It is made of 100% Polyester and incorporates the Dri-FIT fabrication keeping you fresh at all times.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrapping Up

Hopefully, our guide has helped you decide what sort of GPS fitness tracker is suitable for you. It has perhaps become clear that none of the reviewed products can be labeled as “the best”. This is maybe because the perfect fitness tracker does not exist (yet).

A budget option to some might look like a cheap piece of junk to others and that’s fully understandable. However, the other way around is also completely logical. Our advice is to look for a fine combination of convenience and functionality.

Have you decided yet what’s your next purchase? Or maybe you have another product in mind to take place in our list? Let us know what you think in the comment section below!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dennis Owens
Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.

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