Hiking isn’t just a hobby. It’s a lifestyle choice which takes us to new and beautiful places. There are plenty of reasons you may enjoy a hike. For clarity of mind, for health, a love of the outdoors, a need to see new and wonderful things, or maybe a combination of those. No matter what your reason if you ever plan on spending some serious time hiking or using lesser known trails it is imperative, for your own safety, that you have GPS with you. What’s great about the best GPS watches is that you won’t have to carry two separate devices. They will be able to give you all the crucial information you need such as location, altitude, weather patterns, and sunrise and sunset times. Furthermore many will sync with your phone so you can quickly see who is phoning you without having to reach into your pocket. You will also get awesome navigational tools which will not only guarantee you arrive to the place your looking for, but also track your movements. This is especially great when trying to keep track of calories burned and distance traveled.

For me, backpacking is all about the serene calm and clarity of mind I feel as I move away from civilization. Nature begins to surround me and all the noise and stress of my life melts away. When I finally reach my destination an immense feeling of satisfaction washes over me. Another goal accomplished and another hill or mountain or trail conquered. And of course all those calories burned means I can gorge on my favorite hamburgers when I get home.

1. Garmin Fenix 3

Important Features

These are the features, functions, and important factors that need to be considered before making a purchase. If you go in blind without doing the proper research you will likely end up burned. I’ve done most of the proverbially ‘heavy lifting’ for you. I implore you to please read on to learn all you can and be informed. Good GPS watches can be used for much more than just hiking. A few of the other activities that it will work great for are: running, cycling, climbing, trekking, and mountaineering. They are very versatile and reliable.

Compass

A compass is a great utility tool to have. Allowing you to quickly and accurately ensure you’re moving in the right direction. Checking your GPS constantly could not only become a chore but also is not practical. It’s a must have for anyone hiking into unknown territory, no exceptions.

Barometer

I’d like to take a moment to note that a barometer and a pressure altimeter are pretty much the exact same scientific instrument. They can be used to pinpoint your location on a map or in conjunction with a GPS to give you a very specific location. Furthermore GPS occasionally becomes unreliable in certain areas or when satellites are near the horizon. You will have re-calibrate occasionally especially when moving up or down large distances. Since pressure changes depending on your altitude, if you’re not feeding it somewhat accurate information it will also become unreliable. The greater the altitude the lower the pressure. It can also help you estimate weather patterns or an incoming storm by measure the atmospheric pressure.

Heart Rate Monitor

A heart rate monitor is a handy tool to have. It’s a must have when monitoring your fitness and exertion levels. Day by day you will be able to visibly see an improvement in your heart rate. You can even transfer this date to a computer and create a spreadsheet or graph for easy viewing or sharing. Furthermore it can also assist with your own safety. Hiking is often a solo adventure so safety becomes a major concern. By being able to closely and accurately monitor your heart rate you can see if anything feels or looks off. Young or old heart problems are very scary and can potentially be serious. More than once I have caught my heart rate sitting a little high for my liking. I know to take a rest and allow my body to acclimate and adjust. This is doubly important when dealing with high altitudes. You’re body likely won’t be prepared for the lower oxygen levels. While you may feel absolutely normal and fine, your body might be begging you to slow down.

Durability

Hiking is especially hard on our clothes and accessories. A watch is no exception. You need something built to last by a quality company that backs their products. No weak straps or poorly screwed in crowns. You need high quality, strong, and replaceable materials. Why? Because when you’re off the beaten path you can’t afford to have a vital piece of equipment give out, break down, or malfunction. In fact, receiving in accurate information is worse than no information at all.

Sapphire Glass

Very important for hiking watches. Sapphire is the most scratch resistant surface outside of diamond. It’s a must have if you don’t want your watch to be unreadable and ugly due to all scratches across the glass. This adds quite a bit to the price tag but is well worth the added cost.

Price

The price of your hiking watch is always going to be something that should be carefully considered. Most of them are relatively expensive ranging from $300-$700. The question you need to ask yourself is how much are you comfortable spending. Furthermore how many extra bells and whistles do you need.

Customer Service

Customer service is a feature just like any other. You’re going to be wearing your watch in conditions that will test its limits. If it breaks, fails, or malfunctions . These are expensive and crucial tools which you don’t want to have to buy twice. That’s why I suggest always sticking with well known brands who stand behind their products. If they don’t, why should you?