When it comes to producing a hiking smartwatch, brands like Garmin, Suunto, and Casio take the lead. Despite being the global leader in the smartwatch market, Apple has a long way to go.
However, if you are an iPhone user, your first option would always be the company’s own Apple Watch. But there is a caveat. Not even a single watch in the iconic Apple Watch Series is tailor-made for Hiking. Rather, they are a decent blend of lifestyle, health, and sports features.
Brands like Garmin and Suunto, on the other hand, have many of their smartwatches specially built to dominate a particular domain: running, swimming, hiking, etc. Garmin, of all other vendors, has some of the best GPS sports watches on the market.
We are writing this post with the assumption that you have shortlisted Apple and Garmin as the only two brands for your next hiking smartwatch.
If you are a novice and uncertain, you may find it difficult to decide whether to pick up Garmin or go for the Apple Watch. Luckily, we are here to help you select the most suitable product for your next backpacking trip.
Keep in mind, both their smartwatches are well equipped with all the essential Hiking features. They mainly differ in battery performance, durability, and advanced Hiking metrics. Before you get to your final choice, we need to compare their utility in a more detailed manner.
Apple Vs Garmin Watches : Comparison in Features
Garmin smartwatches completely dominate this department with their exceptional battery timings. The latest watches in the Garmin Fenix 6 series like Fenix 6X Pro, have a battery life of up to 21 days in smartwatch mode. Even with the GPS tracker on, the battery lasts up to 60 hours or roughly 2.5 days. Surprised? Well here is some more interesting detail.
Garmin also produces solar-powered smartwatches that are custom-built for your challenging hikes under the Sun. With Garmin Instinct Solar on your wrist, you can tread long paths without getting your watch dead. Extra battery saver functions coupled with the ability of solar recharging makes these watches highly suitable for hiking.
Apple watches do not last longer than 18 hours on a single charge. That too if you avoid exhausting all of its features at the same time. In GPS mode, even the latest Series 7 watch only lives for 6-7 hours.
Although this time span is enough for a short distance hike, it can not compete with a Garmin watch that simply outruns not only Apple watches but all the other multi-sport watches in the market.
Garmin smartwatches absolve you from the burden of refueling your gadget too frequently. Their long battery duration furnishes enough fuel for all the features to function properly for hours and even days. In every case, they are better equipped to accompany you on a multi-day hiking journey.
You may venture with an Apple watch for a limited hours hike, but in the long run, Garmin is the only hope.
As far as durability is concerned, Garmin designs purpose-built watches by taking into account rough outdoor environments. Many of its watches are designed in accordance with the US military standard 810G to impart strength and endurance. The rugged build-up of the watch ensures toughness and resistance.
The casing is made up of fiber-reinforced polymer while the lens employs highly resistant Gorilla or Sapphire glass. The straps are also designed with high-quality material.
Along with the touchscreen option, Garmin watches come with a stainless steel bezel. The raised bezel protects the screen from accidental scratches and scuffs.
On the other hand, Apple watches are good enough for 6-7 hours hikes in suitable weather conditions. But if it rains or the weather is snowy, it becomes difficult to use the touch screen particularly when you are wearing gloves as there is no bezel furnished here.
Unlike the Garmin, your Apple watch is not going to survive an accidental rub against the rock. This makes it highly prone to scratches if you are tough on your gear.
If you are a casual hiker, it’s okay to try the Apple Watch. But if you are a more frequent hiking enthusiast, then you should strap a Garmin watch and avoid taking any risk of wear and tear. These watches are more durable and water-resistant and thus make an ideal case to be your hiking partner.
GPS accuracy is probably the most important aspect of any hiking smartwatch.
Garmin has a reputation for building quality outdoor tracking gadgets and so is true for its hiking smartwatches. High-end models like Fenix 6 series have top-notch navigational features. It also furnishes inbuilt navigation maps and you can directly locate your position without invoking any third-party app.
With Garmin watches, you can have access to multiple global navigation satellite systems like GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo. The variety aids you to track and tread difficult paths and challenging environments. You can also import GPX routes to your Garmin smartwatch. The GPS then guides you in accordance with your imported route.
Apple watches also contain GPS and other associated tracking functions. However, most users report the problem of inaccurate distance measurements with these watches. This certainly brings into question its accuracy for long hiking trails.
Up to date and accurate GPS and navigational capabilities make Garmin smartwatches more superior and desirable for a hiking trip.
Altimeter, barometer, and compass are necessary features for any suitable hiking smartwatch. Both Garmin and Apple watches are furnished with these features. Again, the competition here is about the range of accuracy that both these brands can offer.
Many Apple Watch users have complained about the faulty readings of its altimeter. Reportedly there have been some issues with the software dealing with the barometric-altimeter and compass apps on the watch. While the problem might get corrected with the next update, it surely becomes a cause of concern for the users.
Garmin watches retain their top position in this realm by displaying accurate altitude and pressure measurements. Additionally, they also alert you when there is a sudden drop in pressure. That can help you to immediately get to the shelter before the storm racks up your trip.
Knowing your true altitude and air pressure of the surrounding is too important if you are traversing long and high in the mountains. Since Gramin products have more sophisticated ABC functions, we would certainly give them priority over Apple watches.
Connectivity and Safety Features
GPS+Cellular empowered Apple watches to include LTE connectivity which enables them to make or receive calls, messages, emails, or any other similar function that you perform on your iPhone. This feature is in demand by hikers who need to be connected to faraway places while hiking and to alleviate the safety concerns of their families.
The fall detection sensor in Apple watches adds more safety prospects to your outdoor journey. If you fall, the watch issues an alert notification. If you do not respond to the alert within a minute or so, your watch will automatically make contact with the emergency services. It will also share your current location with your predefined emergency contact numbers.
LTE connectivity is also embedded in some of the Garmin watches but its functioning is purely sports and safety focussed here. The primary model in this regard is Garmin Forerunner 945 LTE.
LTE with Garmin doesn’t allow you to make or receive calls, texts, or stream music. However, you can contact an emergency response coordination center in case of any serious trouble on the trail. Your friends and family members can also keep track of your progress by knowing your current location coordinates. With your headphones connected, you can also pick up important audio messages.
Apple watches do have an edge here insofar you can make or receive important calls and text messages. As far as the safety and emergency report system is concerned, we can fairly call it a tie between two iconic brands. Both offer appropriate features to help you tackle tough times on rugged terrain.
Other Navigation Tools
TracBack or back-to-start feature is specific to Garmin and does not come with any of the Apple series watches.
This feature helps you navigate and return back to your traveled path with the help of GPS. In case you have lost track, you can guide yourself by activating this feature. The GPS will store tracklog points to convert them into the shortest possible route that you can take to get back to the starting point.
Sight n Go feature
This is another advanced navigational tool that is included in top-of-the-line Garmin watches.
You can navigate to any object ( a hilltop, a tree etc ) that is within sight but not accessible due to any hindrance along the path. All you need to do is to pinpoint the top of your watch towards the desired object after activating this specification. Once the direction is locked in, an arrow on the device will guide you towards your destination.
Apple watches do not supply this premium feature and here again, Garmin wins the race.
Featuring TracBack and Sight n Go attributes make Garmin watches more helpful while overcoming the intricate routes of your hike. With the lack of these specifications, the suitability of the Apple watches further shrinks for a lengthy and complicated journey.
Garmin has been putting out quality outdoor stuff for years now. The diversity of features that this brand offers is unmatchable with any of the Apple Series smartwatches.
Although Apple is trying to catch up in the race, they still have to come up with a product that is well versed with the harsh countryside terrain. Their watches are more accustomed to indoor activities and are suitable only for tracking your basic fitness activities.
Hiking with an Apple smartwatch may not allow you to push the limit and go for that extra mile with a shorter battery duration and questionable accuracy of its ABC functions.
On the other hand, extra features like Storm Alert, TracBack, Sight n Go, accelerate Garmin watches to the peak. From outlooks, aesthetics, durability to GPS, ABC, and long battery life, they offer a complete package to cater to your outdoor needs.
With all the required specs intact in one place, Garmin watches definitely deserve the ultimate vote of confidence for your upcoming mountain voyage.
- Garmin Fenix 6
- Garmin Enduro
- Garmin Instinct Solar
- Garmin Forerunner 945
- Garmin Tactix Charlie
Top Hiking Watches Watches By Apple:
- Apple Watch Series 7
- Apple Watch Series SE