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Best GPS Watch: Pinpoint Your Activities

Best GPS watch
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

Have you ever been in a situation where you were in the outdoors, lost orientation, and there was no map and a compass to get you back on the right track? Have you ever wished that there was a way to keep count of the distance you traveled, and to somehow make a map of your routes as you go? Well, with the best GPS watch around your wrist, all these things don’t have to be science fiction anymore.

The GPS watches have long been associated with athletes, but they are now becoming more popular with hikers, kayakers, campers, and cyclists. With such watch you will be able to know the point where you are, as well as easily track your progress in a set activity, as they provide more than the basic information. But, picking the right one for you is not a simple process and demands plenty of research, and that’s where we jump in to help.

In this article, we have analyzed some of the best features to consider before buying a GPS watch, and reviewed some of the best models on the market. But first, check out the table below to get an idea of what we shall be discussing.

Our Top Picks

Product NameDimensionsWeightBattery LifePrice
Garmin Forerunner 6100.6 x 1.8 x 2.5 in2.5 oz.8 hCheck price on Amazon
SkyCaddie Golf2 x 0.6 x 2.8 in1.6 oz.6 hCheck price on Amazon
Polar RC35 x 3 x 4 in1.8 oz.12 hCheck price on Amazon
Garmin Forerunner 4051.9 x 0.6 x 2.8 in2.1 oz.8 hCheck price on Amazon
Garmin Forerunner 2101.9 x 0.6 x 2.7 in1.8 oz.10 hCheck price on Amazon
TomTom Multi-Sport10.6 x 1.5 x 0.5 in2.2 oz.10 hCheck price on Amazon
Suunto Ambit35 x 4 x 4 in2.8 oz.100 hCheck price on Amazon
Nike+ SportWatch2.3 x 0.6 x 1.4 in2.2 oz.8 hCheck price on Amazon
Garmin Forerunner 101.6 x 2 x 0.6 in1.3 oz.6 hCheck price on Amazon
Garmin Forerunner 110w0.6 x 2.7 x 1.8 in1.8 oz.20 hCheck price on Amazon

Features to Consider Before Buying

A GPS watch provides the user with critical information in respect to their biometric data, body system measurements like heart rate, stride length, and calories burned collected through sensors included with the GPS watch unit. Let’s look at what makes them that efficient.

Purpose

First you have to think about what you’ll be using your GPS watch the most. There are all kinds of GPS watches on the market with a lot of different properties, so you can choose specifically for yourself and your needs.

So, if you’re swimming, you should look for highly waterproof watch meant for swimming. If you’re cycling, you can find a watch that include bar-mounts for your bicycle so you can follow your progress. Running GPS watches can record your speed, route, etc.

Size

These watches come in different sizes and depending on how you want to use it; you might be required to put size into consideration. The size of the watch, as opposed to shape, affects its functionality.

Man wearing a gps watch

For example, a backcountry hiker, for example, will likely want a watch with navigational abilities and a screen large enough for a map display, while a runner may want a smaller, more lightweight GPS watch with a touch screen that makes accessing data while on the go easy.

Battery Life

Any gadget that runs on batteries requires to be efficient in how it uses power. This may depend on the features present in the watch. The more intensive the watch is, and the more you use those features, the faster it will consume the battery.

The best way to handle this is by having a backup battery or changing the battery once you note the watch starts to dim. Also, not using the features that exhaust the batteries the most, when you don’t need them, will significantly improve the battery life of your smart watch.

Design and Brand

The design is just an aesthetic feature, but we do recognize that every person has a taste and preference of what to buy. The major shapes available are the circular, rectangular, and square faces. It is worth noting that the shape of the watch does not affect its functionality.

GPS watch

Many brands offer GPS enabled watches and the choice of which one to choose depends on prior experience, recommendation, or a general liking. Some of the major brands in the market are Apple, Garmin, Suunto, TomTom, Polar, and SkyCaddie. These are considered as the best, but it doesn’t mean that some other brands are not worth considering.

Coaching Programs

Some of the software installed in GPS watches, are interactive and will tell you the distance you have covered as well as the speed at which you are doing. Be careful to put the right settings since you might be running and the watch records that you are riding a bike.

If you want the watch for training, you might have to look for the installed coaching software. However, if you need it for location and survival reasons, it might not be mandatory for your watch to have the training programs.

Water Resistance

The majority of the electronic devices, are not meant to be used in wet conditions. However, due to the advanced technology, there are GPS watches that are specifically designed for swimmers and divers. These are water resistant.

Waterproof gps watch

Image credit: dcrainmaker.com

If you are considering a GPS watch for outdoor activities that do not involve getting into the water, a waterproof one will serve you just fine, but you might also consider getting a water resistant one. They are usually cheaper, and can withstand rain or sweat.

Best Products on Today’s Market

After looking at the features to consider, it is time to put that into practice and choose the right watch for you. A majority of the factors you will consider in choosing the best watch will be determined by how you want to use the watch. The best options available in the market are:

Garmin Forerunner 610 GPS WatchGarmin Forerunner 610

Price: Approx. $350

Dimensions: 0.6 x 1.8 x 2.5 in

Weight: 2.54 oz.

Battery life: 8 h

Specific features: 1-inch display size, 128 x 128 display resolution, touch screen, weather resistant, customizable data screens, advanced training plans, Virtual Partner, Virtual Racer, Training Effect, a USB stick for uploading data via Garmin Connect

Best use: Sports training, particularly running

Description: The Garmin Forerunner 610 GPS Watch offers users a variety of functions, combined with its sensitive yet rugged touchscreen, and it puts customizing and accessing data at your fingertips at an affordable price. This watch is weather and sweat-proof, so you don’t have to worry about a rainy run, but sensitive enough that you can wear it in cold weather and use the touch screen while wearing running gloves.

Furthermore, not only that it tracks your biometric data, but also provides features to help you make the most of your training. Virtual Racer allows you to race your previous times in real-time conditions, while Virtual Partner lets you see how your current run stacks up against a static pace you’ve set.

The Training Effect feature measures the effect of your training on your overall fitness, allowing you to train smarter, not harder. Finally, all data are uploaded wirelessly via ANT+ technology and the USB stick provided. No manual uploads mean no hassle, so you can focus on your workout and nothing else!

PROS:

  • Can guide you back to where you started the run
  • Heart rate and calorie monitoring capability
  • Its battery lasts for long
  • Compatible with wireless devices for data transfer
  • Highly sensitive touch screen

CONS:

  • Its complexity can pose a challenge to new users

Related: If you are considering purchasing this product, we recommend buying the Garmin Replacement Watch Band. It is specifically made for the Forerunner 610, so if the band rips, you’ll have a ready replacement.

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SkyCaddie Golf GPS WatchSkyCaddie Golf GPS Watch

Price: Approx. $300

Dimensions: 2 x 0.6 x 2.8 in

Weight: 1.6 oz.

Battery life: 6 h

Specific features: 1.05-inch diameter screen, water resistant up to 30 meters, ergonomic fit, locking buckle, up to 30,000 preloaded and updatable course maps

Best use: Golfing

Description: For the avid golfer the SkyCaddie Golf GPS Watch is one of the best choices. This watch is preloaded with up to 30,000 golf course maps featuring courses from around the world. These maps are easy to read, thanks to the large, clear display, and easy to update. Best of all, there is no fee associated with the course maps: they are free to use and enjoy for the life of your device.

The watch displays front, center, and back of green distances that update in real time as you walk or ride to help you make the most of your day on the course. The SkyCaddie also measures shot distances, allowing you to take your game to the next level by tracking your progress over time.

While this watch is primarily useful for golfers, runners, walkers, and cyclists also benefit from its odometer, which tracks location, distance, time, laps, speed, pace, and calories. So, many outdoor enthusiasts will find this model quite handy and good to have around for many types of activities.

PROS:

  • Free to use maps
  • Multifunctional, almost all outdoor fans can benefit from its features
  • Easy to read large and clear display
  • It tracks your movement
  • Durable and water resistant
  • Flexible strap

CONS:

  • Its size might be a put off to some

Related: Majority of the electronic devices, including GPS watches, rely heavily on external sources of charging. Failure to do so will render the device unusable. The JINHEZO Premium External Power Supply keeps you charged.

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Polar RC3 GPS Sports WatchPolar RC3 GPS Sports Watch

Price: Approx. $250

Dimensions: 5 x 3 x 4 in

Weight: 1.8 oz.

Battery life: 12 h

Specific features: Rechargeable battery, polar smart coaching, GPS-based altitude

Best use: Running and cycling

Description: The Polar RC3 GPS Sports Watch is the ideal choice for runners and cyclists who want a basic GPS watch for an affordable price. This watch tracks speed, distance, and route, and provides heart rate and calorie data via its built-in heart rate monitor. Altitude information adds another layer to your workout data, polar smart coaching features like training benefit and running index help you maximize your training.

This watch is compatible with your existing running and cycling sensor and allows you to synchronize your workout data to your computer after you’re finished exercising. You can also access a free training diary and training programs at the Polar training website to liven up and refresh old workouts.

This watch isn’t waterproof, and only displays certain data, after you’ve uploaded them to your computer, so this watch isn’t for a user who wants a rugged watch that provides immediate access to complex data features.

PROS:

  • Heart rate monitor
  • Speed, distance, and route tracker
  • Slim and lightweight
  • Compatible with cycling and other running devices
  • Tells you changes in altitudes

CONS:

  • Not waterproof
  • It does not show real-time data like maps

Related: In order to use your GPS watch on a bike, you might be required to have an appropriate mounting device. The best one suited for the Polar RC3 is the Polar Universal Bike Mount.

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Garmin Forerunner 405 GPS WatchGarmin Forerunner 405

Price: Approx. $300

Weight: 2.11 oz.

Dimensions: 1.88 x 0.6 x 2.78 in

Battery life: 8 h

Specific features: 1-in screen size, touch bezel, heart rate monitor, wireless ANT+ sports technology, 8-hour continuous battery life

Best use: Multisport

Description: The Garmin Forerunner 405 GPS Watch is a multi-sport, multi-function GPS watch at a reasonable price. Designed to help you maximize your training efforts, this watch offers a number of features to improve your performance in a variety of sports.

From cycling to running to swimming, track your heart rate to make sure you’re training hard. The touch bezel makes it easy to switch between data screens, so you can go from viewing your calories burned to your GPS waypoint with the touch of a finger.

You can customize alarms to let you know when you’ve reached a pace, time, or distance goal; your watch will also alert you when you’ve deviated from your route or a set pace. Best of all, this watch comes with an ANT+ wireless USB that uploads all of your data wirelessly so you can review your progress and track your performance later.

Most of the data collected by the GPS watch can only be accessed after you connect it to a computer. The important thing to do in order to capture the right sequence of events, start it at the beginning and stop it when you are done with the activity. You can change from one view to the other by just a tap of the button. The face displays easy to read numbers. The watch also easily pairs with the heart rate monitor kit and the wireless Uploader.

PROS:

  • Touchscreen
  • It has training programs
  • Small in size
  • Comparison features present
  • Real-time tracking

CONS:

  • Requires pairing an external heart rate monitor
  • Not waterproof

Related: If you want to protect the screen of this watch, you can purchase the upscreen Bacteria Shield Clear Screen Protector, which is specifically designed for the forerunner 405.

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Garmin Forerunner 210 GPS Sport WatchGarmin Forerunner 210

Price: Approx. $150

Weight: 1.8 oz.

Dimensions: 1.8 x 0.6 x 2.7 in

Battery life: 10 h

Specific features: 1-in screen size, heart rate monitor, easy to use button operated, water-resistant up to 1 meter

Best use: Running, track & field, triathlon

Description: Garmin Forerunner 210 GPS Sports Watch is perfect for those who want to track their workout data without complicated displays or features accurately. Featuring HotFix satellite prediction technology, this watch locks onto satellites faster so that you can get on with your run and know that your distance, time, pace, and effort are all being recorded accurately and constantly.

Its highly sensitive GPS stays in touch with satellites even under tree cover or in between buildings, ensuring the accuracy of your data throughout your entire workout. It’s also compatible with the Garmin foot pod and Tanita BC-1000 body composition scale, allowing you to bridge your outdoor and indoor workouts without losing data.

Garmin Connect allows you to store and review your workouts and create customized fitness goals to keep your training on target. And, unlike a majority of the models in the market, this one has a gentle vibration that allows you to respond to alerts on time. The main challenge is with respect to charging the watch; you have to align the metals carefully and accurately.

PROS:

  • Allows creation of customized sessions
  • Easy to use and set up, one button press
  • Can set alarms and alerts for new mileage or critical heartbeat rates
  • Keeps and offers a comparison to historical data

CONS:

  • Not all the information is real time,
  • Limited customization
  • Not waterproof

Related: Anybody who commits some time to training requires or is pleased to know his/her performance. The Garmin Foot Pod will enable you to track your cadence or speed on either a treadmill or an exercise bike. The gadget is small and easy to install on a bike stroke. It can even be attached to the shoelaces and still serve the purpose.

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TomTom Multi-Sport GPS WatchTomTom Multi-Sport Cardio

Price: Approx. $140

Dimensions: 10.6 x 1.5 x 0.5 in

Weight: 2.24 oz.

Battery life: 10 h

Specific features: Graphical training partner, full-screen graphics, 3-training modes, heart rate monitor, one-button easy to use navigation

Best use: Multisport

Description: The TomTom Multisport GPS Watch provides detailed cycling, swimming, and running metrics in a durable, impact- and scratch-resistant, and an easy to use watch at an affordable price. Its extra-large, high resolution, one-button display screen makes it simple to view, change, and control your workout data even during the most intense session.

Easy access to key workout statistics helps you stay motivated and reach your goals; plus, the weatherproof and waterproof (up to 50 meters) design lets you chase your goals no matter where they take you. Furthermore, the Graphical Training Partner provides 3-training modes for racing, challenge, or pace yourself and make the most of your training time. You can also set alerts to let you know when you’ve reached a milestone, lap, or interval, or fallen off your set pace.

If due to any genuine reason your watch is not on your wrist, maybe you are using it on a bike, you will be able to measure all the variables except the heart rate, and you will require a heart rate chest strap monitor to do this.

PROS:

  • Built-in heart rate monitor
  • Real-time information
  • Widescreen display
  • Five different optimal training zones
  • Keeps historical data for comparisons
  • Waterproof, durable and scratch resistant

CONS:

  • Cannot measure heart rate while swimming

Related: Having real-time information while training is critical since it enables you to increase or decrease the pace. With the TomTom Cadence and Speed Sensor, you can measure your cycle rate through the wireless connection or use the GPS watch.

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Suunto Ambit3 Sport GPS WatchSuunto Ambit3

Price: Approx. $300

Dimensions: 5 x 4 x 4 in

Weight: 2.8 oz.

Battery life: 100 h

Specific features: Heart rate monitor, 100-hour battery life, smartphone sync, Suunto Apps

Best use: Multisport

Description: The Suunto Ambit3 Sports GPS Watch is worth the high price tag for multi-sport athletes who are serious about taking their training to the next level. Whether you’re on the pavement, on the trail, or in the water, the Ambit3 tracks your performance and even analyzes your sleep recovery to help you plan the next day’s workout.

The Movescount App not only plans your workouts but also provides voice guidance while you train to ensure you’re meeting or exceeding your goals. Smartphone sync lets you customize your activities while sharing phone calls and notifications from your phone to your watch. Plus, you can add photos and create a Suunto Movie that lets you share your adventure with friends and family.

The excellent interconnectivity capability, enables you to synchronize the Ambit3 with your smartphone so that you can receive messages and call notification alerts. It is a bit expensive, but considering the fast features, it is fairly priced. You can even use it for swimming.

PROS:

  • Reliable due to high battery life
  • Heart rate monitor, not built in
  • Easy to customize your desired training mode
  • Durable and scratch resistant

CONS:

  • No vibration mode
  • Takes longer to pair with a wireless device
  • Relatively expensive

Related: If you want to measure your heart rate with this watch, then you will need the Suunto AW16 Smart Sensor. It measures your heart rate with great comfort and accuracy. While swimming, the sensor stores your heart rate data and transfers it wirelessly to your Ambit3 watch or Suunto Movescount App. Pairing the sensor with the Suunto Movescount App, you can also analyze, relive and share your moves to make every move count

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Nike Nike+ SportWatchNike+ SportWatch

Price: Approx $250

Dimensions: 2.3 x 0.6 x 1.4 in

Weight: 2.22 oz.

Battery life: 8 h

Specific features: 8-hour continuous battery life, water resistant, TomTom GPS technology, NikeFuel, Nike+ sensor, Personal Coach

Best use: Running

Description: The Nike Nike+ SportWatch combines the GPS expertise of TomTom with Nike’s knowledge of the athlete to bring runners a GPS watch that rivals all others. You will never miss a run again with Personal Coach, a feature that not only reminds you to run, but also charts your progress on individual runs so that you can compare your performance across your workouts.

Nike+ technology ensures seamless, uninterrupted data tracking even when you don’t have a GPS signal, meaning that running in tunnels, canyons, or any other area where the signal may be obstructed no longer poses a problem to your training. Furthermore, you can also customize training programs and stay motivated with Nike+ challenges, and you can share your progress and success with friends and family via Facebook, Twitter, and other social media as a member of Nikeplus.com.

The watch loads and stores all the relevant data associated with your exercise as long as you do not reset it. The data is not shared or uploaded to the nikeplus.com site. To have a different view of your data, you can invert the screen to have a display on a white background.

PROS:

  • Water resistant
  • Can track data even when there is no signal
  • Historical data, comparative feature
  • A personal coach app that charts, offers coaching tips as well as a base to share

CONS:

  • The many features can be overwhelming to a beginner
  • No built-in heart rate monitor

Related: For efficient data transmission from your heart rate sensors to the nikeplus.com you require a transmitter. The Polar Wearlink Nike+ Transmitter is designed to connect with relevant devices and help in data transmission. They are water resistant and are made from a washable fabric. The battery is also replaceable.

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Garmin Forerunner 10 GPS WatchGarmin Forerunner 10

Price: Approx. $130

Weight: 1.3 oz.

Dimensions: 1.6 x 2 x 0.6 in

Battery life: 6 h

Specific features: Water resistant up to 50 meters, Virtual Pacer, Garmin connect, high-sensitivity GPS

Best use: Running

Description: The Garmin Forerunner 10 GPS Watch brings fast, accurate GPS technology to runners in an easy to use, comfortable, lightweight watch. Track your distance, calories, pace, and personal records; review your workouts, share them with friends, and plan future training using Garmin Connect.

Use Virtual Pacer to set a target pace and compare your current pace with the target to make sure you’re staying on goal. Alerts let you know when you complete a mile and at what speed, with additional feedback once the run is completed.

You’ll even receive an alert when you’ve reached a personal best, such as fastest mile time or longest distance. You can upload your data via cable to Garmin Connect to see your runs on a map and chart your improvements over time.

The GPS watch is fitted with excellent comparison features to track your performance. It even informs you when you hit your personal best. You are notified of every mile completed by a beep. To get started, just hit the button and the watch will start tracking.

PROS:

  • You can customize the settings, though only two at a time
  • Clear display that is easy to read font size
  • Gives message notifications and call alerts
  • The size is perfect that makes is blend in everyday activity easily

CONS:

  • Requires a chest strap heart rate monitor
  • No vibration alerts

Related: Together with this product we recommend buying the Garmin Forerunner 10 Charging Data Clip, which is great for charging and transferring data, and you can connect it to your computer’s USB port.

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Garmin Forerunner 110W GPS Sports WatchGarmin Forerunner 110

Price: Approx. $410

Weight: 1.8 oz.

Dimensions: 0.6 x 2.7 x 1.8 in

Battery life: 20 h

Specific features: 1-in LCD screen display, 8-hour continuous battery life, Garmin connect, heart rate monitor

Best use: Running, track & field, triathlon

Description: This Garmin Forerunner 110W GPS Sports Watch allows you to track how far and fast you’ve run, walked, or cycled along with your heart rate-based calorie expenditure thanks to its heart rate monitor technology. You can also track the time, distance, and pace of your workouts with HotFix GPS satellite technology that keeps you connected to satellites even in low-signal areas.

Furthermore, you can download and track your data with Garmin connect so that you can analyze your workouts later to create customized training plans and reach your goals. The data can only be compared once you have completed and saved the run or activity.

The GPS connectivity is remote independent and can pick remote signals even within the tallest building or the deepest of forests. The purchase comes with the chest strap to maximize on the variables to measure during a workout.

One of the major drawbacks associated with this GPS watch is the lack of auto pause feature. How will you measure your performance if you cannot pause the tracking when faced with an obstacle? Maybe saving it first would be a better option and then start again.

PROS:

  • Waterproof up to 1 meter
  • Easily picks the satellite signals
  • Historical data comparison features
  • Relatively small and lightweight

CONS:

  • Does not show real-time data on all the variables
  • Does not show zones and recovery rate

Related: If you want to measure your heart rate, we recommend the Garmin Premium Heart Rate Monitor, which has a soft elastic strap, providing a comfortable fit. It wirelessly transmits your heart rate to your compatible device for instant feedback and once it’s paired with it the first time, it will automatically recognize it each time.

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Wrap Up

We have reached the end of our article. After reading through all the content, we are sure that now you have the knowledge to make the well informed choice. Also, you have seen the best options of affordable GPS watches in the market, which offer tracking capabilities that make them almost an indispensable item for elite runners, hikers, and hunters.

Now it’s your turn to share some thoughts. Have you used any of the reviewed models? If yes, what are your experiences with it? Let us know by leaving a comment in the comments section below, where you can also ask questions if you have any. Thanks for reading, and if you think that your friends will also find this article useful, feel free to share it on social media.

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.