5 Best Garmin Watches for Hiking ? (Backpacking + Mountaineering)

When it comes to choosing a smartwatch for hiking, Garmin can offer you plenty of options. For years, the company has produced top quality wearables for athletes and outdoor enthusiasts. It’s top of the line watches have everything you need for your next backpacking trip: a solid GPS, long battery life, advanced maps and powerful ABC sensors. 

Here in this guide, we have reviewed the top 5 best Garmin watches for hiking that are available in the market.

What are the Essentials in a Garmin Hiking Watch ?

Before going into the nitty-gritty of Garmin watches, we need to be aware of certain features necessary to constitute an optimal smartwatch for hiking. 

Features like altimeter, barometer, compass create a major distinction between a hiking watch and an ordinary watch. Additionally, a hiking watch must be durable enough to withstand the harsh weather and rugged terrain of the countryside. 

Below is a brief description of some important features that you will find in a Garmin hiking watch.

Longer Battery Life

When you are out there in the woods or on the mountains, the most basic requirement is the long battery life. All the other functions like GPS, altimeter, barometer, compass etc depend on the battery timing of your smartwatch. 

As these sophisticated functions drain the battery quickly, you need a watch with longer battery life so that they can work for an extended period of time. Only then a hiking watch can be a true companion so that it does not deceive you in the middle of nowhere.

All of the Garmin hiking watch models come with the exceptional battery timings.

If you have scheduled a long hike that spans over days, then the prolonged battery timing is an absolute must. No one wants a hiking smartwatch that needs to be plugged in frequently. Garmin has solved this problem by introducing solar powered smartwatch editions.

You can consider carrying a portable charger but then hikers prefer to carry as little stuff as possible. If your watch battery does not last longer than a few hours, then you would have to compromise on some features. That again is not a worthy risk to take while hiking.

Durability

When we talk about durability, we need to consider two things. The first is the physical build up of your smartwatch. This includes the strong casing and durable straps. The second aspect is water, shock and thermal resistance. 

Your hiking smartwatch must be able to endure rainy weather. A quality hiking smartwatch should be strong enough to withstand hard topography and brute weather conditions for multiple hikes.

As far as durability is concerned, Garmin watches check all the boxes. The company uses quality material in the design of straps and display lenses to ensure greater forbearance in your hiking watch.

Altimeter

When it comes to hiking, an altimeter is the most important feature that you must accompany. It tells you the altitude (height) from a certain benchmark. If you calibrate your smartwatch at the start of the hike, you would be able to know your altitude with reference to your original point. That way, a watch tells you whether you are ascending or descending.

Garmin hiking smartwatches offer barometric altimeters, which means that your elevation is determined with reference to the atmospheric pressure at that particular point. In the top-notch Garmin wristwatches, you can also pinpoint your location on a map with the help of an altimeter.

Barometer

Barometer of your smartwatch serves two functions. It keeps a record of atmospheric pressure during hiking. A change in atmospheric pressure determines a change in weather conditions. For a hiker, this information comes in handy as you can predict the future weather conditions and plan your journey accordingly. 

A rise in atmospheric pressure typically shows a suitable weather pattern while an abrupt decrease represents a rainy or stormy atmosphere ahead. This feature is particularly necessary if you are out there for days.

The second function is to measure your ascended height from the readings of atmospheric pressure. Based on these readings, it can inform you about the change in elevation from your starting point. 

As mentioned above, Garmin hiking smartwatches are furnished with barometric-altimeters that serve this dual purpose of recording the atmospheric pressure as well as your elevation.

Compass

Compass is another basic tool that is necessary to tread unexplored places. It can be a 2-D or a 3-D depending on the enrichment of your smartwatch. Garmin furnishes their hiking watches with a 3-D compass to help you get a better idea of direction and to navigate properly.

GPS

GPS is the most sophisticated tool that a hiking, or for that matter, any smartwatch can possess. Along with the navigation, it can monitor and keep record of multiple outdoor activities. Information regarding distance covered, distance remaining to be covered, ascent and descent information , your current speed; all can be measured through GPS.

GPS is the most desirable accessory in watches with enhanced battery timings. It makes your wrist tool all the more qualified to track your general fitness. With its supreme navigational capabilities, it can help you trace back the starting point of your hike if there is a chance of getting lost. 

All of the Garmin hiking smartwatches are GPS empowered. They even allow you to import GPX routes. These routes can then navigate you with reference to your current location on a GPS map.

Other Smartwatch Features

Garmin also allows a welcoming addition of different smartwatch features like getting notifications for emails, texts, calls, a storage capacity for your background music, and sensors to monitor your heart rate, calories burned, sleep patterns etc.

Top 5 Garmin Watches For Hiking:

Picking up a quality Garmin watch is necessary to complete your hiking gear. Through detailed research, we have compiled a list of 5 best Garmin watches for hiking.

1- Garmin Fenix 6

2- Garmin Enduro

3- Garmin Instinct Solar

4- Garmin Forerunner 945

5- Garmin Tactix Charlie

Garmin Fenix 6: Best hiking GPS watch

Garmin Fenix 6

Specifications

GPS : Yes

Battery Life

  • 14 days ( Smartwatch mode)
  •  36 hours ( GPS mode)
  • 72 hours ( Max Battery GPS mode )
  •  28 days ( Expedition GPS Activity )
  • 48 days ( Battery Saver Watch Mode )

Display Size : 1.3 inches

Resolution : 260 x 260 pixels

Lens Material : Gorilla Glass

Weight : 2.82 ounces

Water Proof : Upto 100 meters 

Memory : 64 MB

Two Minute Review:

The Garmin Fenix 6 is an update on Garmin Fenix 5 and is currently one of the best gadgets available in the market for hiking. 

The base version does not possess mapping and music storage capacity. The rest of the variants ( Fenix 6S PRO, Fenix 6X, Fenix 6X PRO ) do include these features. Other basic features are identical in all the versions.

The Garmin Fenix 6 is designed keeping in mind the harsh outdoor conditions. To impart durability, the rotating bezel is made up of stainless steel while the scratch-resistant Gorilla glass is employed for the lens. The outlook is elegant enough to make your wear suitable enough for both indoor and outdoor activities.

Additionally, the watch is well equipped to take care of your navigational requirements. It has been furnished with a barometric- altimeter, a 3-D compass, and a thermometer. The altimeter and the compass are directly calibrated through GPS. An external temperature sensor ( Garmin Temp) can be connected to the thermometer for more precise readings.

The GPS empowers the Garmin Fenix 6 to perform various functions that are absolutely necessary for a pro-hiker. The option of importing GPX to your watch helps you in determining accurate locations and guiding you towards your destination. 

You will also get notified if you get off the track. If you are lost, this smartwatch ensures that you are safe by providing you with the ‘back to the start’ feature. This feature will guide you to your original starting point through the shortest possible route. (Out and Back Hiking)

Longer battery duration is another plus point of Garmin watches. It ensures that you can climb long and high without any fear and reluctance. 

Hiking a long and difficult track requires a watch that is loaded with multiple features. GPS empowered watches run out of charging quickly. Garmin Fenix 6 offers multiple modes that you can switch from time to time according to your requirement. That way, you can prolong the battery life of your watch. In terms of battery life, this watch will offer you 36 hours in GPS mode, 14 days in Smartwatch mode, 28 days in Expedition GPS Activity mode, and up to 48 days in Battery Saver mode.

With tons of modern navigational features, Garmin Fenix 6 also offers numerous other fitness features like VO2 estimator and Race Predictor, etc. These features help you determine your health status while you are on a long backpacking trip.

Pros

  • Highly durable smartwatch
  • Elegant design and outlook
  • Long battery life
  • Multiple navigational and fitness tracking features
  • Customized features for hiking and other outdoor activities
  • Smartphone synchronization possibility
  • Equally good for other sports

Cons

  • Does not support built-in maps
  • No music storage capacity (Base Version)

Garmin Enduro: Best For Peak Bagging

Garmin Enduro

Specifications

GPS : Yes

Battery Life :  

  • 50 days / 65 days with solar ( Smartwatch mode)
  • 70 hours / 80 hours with solar ( GPS mode )
  • Upto 200 hours / 300 hours with solar ( Max Battery GPS mode )
  • Upto 65 days / 95 days with solar ( Expedition GPS Activity mode )
  • Upto 130 days / 1 year with solar ( Battery Saver mode )

Display Size : 1.4 inches

Display Type : Color

Resolution : 260 x 260 pixels

Lens Material : Power Glass

Weight : 2.50 ounces

Memory : 64 MB

Two Minute Review:

If you are a fan of through-hiking, then Garmin Enduro must be on the top of your priority list. This watch is especially built for the lovers of long distance trailing. It has all the arsenals that you would require on a lengthy hiking track. 

Like Fenix 6, this watch also does not hold in-built mapping and music storage capacity. However, there is one notable difference between the two watches and that’s where Garmin Enduro takes the lead. It has superior battery life and that feature alone makes this watch more desirable for thru-hikers, marathoners and triathletes

While Fenix 6 has 14 days of battery life in its smartwatch mode, the Enduro offers 50 days of charging life in comparison. The other added benefit is that the Enduro is rechargeable with solar energy and that can further extend its battery life to 65 days in smartwatch mode. This makes it a perfect choice for long hiking trips where you do not find any electric port to recharge your watch.

Additionally, the watch features all the functions that we have previously found in the Garmin Fenix 6. It includes basic ABC functions ( Barometric-Altimeter and magnetic compass ) and also supports daily activity tracking like step tacking, floor climbing, heart rate monitoring etc.

As far as the design is concerned, there are a few minor differences between the Enduro and the Fenix 6. The former has a larger screen size. In terms of resolutions, its display quality is also better than the latter. Because of its exceptional battery timing and better design, this watch is on a higher price range as compared to the Fenix 6. 

Pros

  • Exceptional battery timing
  • Solar recharge availability
  • Best watch for long hiking journey
  • Fully equipped for outdoor activities
  • Strong outlook and design
  • GPS empowered navigational and tracking functions
  • Can be linked to your smartphone
  • Suitable for multiple fitness activities

Cons

  • Lacks built-in mapping facility
  • Does not have enough storage capacity

Garmin Instinct Solar: Best for Long-Distance Hiking & Mountaineering

Garmin Instinct Solar

Specifications

GPS : Yes

Battery Life : 

  • 24 days / 54 days with solar ( Smartwatch mode )
  • 30 hours / 38 hours with solar ( GPS mode ) 

Display Size : 1.2 inches

Display Type : Monochrome

Resolution : 128 x 128 pixels

Lens Material : Power Glass

Weight : 1.87 ounces

Water Proof : upto 100 meters 

Two Minute Review:

Famous for its ability to confront any outdoor adventure, Garmin Instinct Solar is a stylish and durable smartwatch that is jam-packed with brilliant features. The watch has been built in accordance with the US military standard 810G to make it highly resistant to harsh outdoor conditions. 

The casing of the watch is made strong with the fiber-reinforced polymer. Even if you are rough and tough on your gear, it is going to survive.

In terms of solar charging, Garmin Instinct Solar is the best watch to rely on. It has a decent battery life of 24 days in the smartwatch mode. The battery lasts even longer ( 54 days ) with its solar charging capability.

If you switch to GPS mode, the watch offers almost 30 hours of battery timing. The limit further extends to 38 hours with solar luminosity. This makes it a good candidate for your multi-day hiking trip with overnight stays. 

Another interesting feature in this watch is the Garmin Instinct Storm Alert. The barometric-altimeter of the watch can be calibrated in such a way that it triggers a storm alert when the air pressure drops quickly. The warning helps you pre-empt the stormy weather so that you can take shelter and plan your trip accordingly.

Gramin Instinct Solar, along with Gramin Enduro and Garmin Fenix 6, has a Sight n Go feature. You can pinpoint the watch compass towards a distant object like a mountain top or a hill station and the watch will guide you to that destination.The superb gadget also possesses a TracBack feature, which helps you to tread back to your starting point.

The watch also facilitates the Sunrise / Sunset feature. This basic feature comes in handy when you are on long distance thru-hiking trips. The watch will alert you about the sunset time. That way, you can find and locate a suitable place for camping before the darkness arrives. 

Pros

  • Superb battery life
  • High endurance for outdoor activities
  • Fully supplied with all the features necessary for hiking
  • A complete package for your fitness and sport activities

Con

  • No built-in maps
  • No custom apps
  • No music storage

Garmin Forerunner 945: Best for Hiking and Running

Garmin Forerunner 945

Specifications

GPS : Yes

Battery Life : 

  • 14 days ( Smartwatch mode )
  • 36 hours ( GPS mode )
  • 10 hours ( GPS mode + Music )

Display Size : 1.2 inches

Display Type : Colour

Resolution : 240 x 240 pixels

Lens Material : Gorilla Glass

Weight : 1.7 ounces

Water Proof : Upto 50 meters

Two Minute Review:

The forerunner might have been designed for running (and triathlon)but the watch is equally good and never disappoints when it comes to hiking.

The watch also bears some extra features which we have not found in the previous 3 watches. 

Unlike the previous hiking watches, the Forerunner 945 supports in-built topographical maps. This feature refines the navigational abilities of the watch. Besides, you also have a storage capacity of around 1000 songs, so your hike will not get dry and boring.

Forerunner 945 shares its battery life range with that of Garmin Fenix 6. However, with music on in GPS mode, its battery only lives for 10 hours.

With this watch, you can also enable turn-by-turn navigation and follow a GPX route.

Pros

  • Sophisticated navigational features
  • Installed topographical mapping
  • A reasonable charged life
  • Music storage availability

Cons

  • Not desirable for long hiking trips
  • Some users report inaccurate readings of different sensors

Garmin Tactix Charlie: Best Tactical Smartwatch

Garmin Tactix Charlie

Specifications

GPS : Yes

Battery Life : 

  • 12 days ( Smartwatch mode )
  • 20 hours ( GPS mode )
  • 35 hours ( Battery Saver mode )

Display Size : 1.2 inches

Display Type : Color

Resolution : 240 x 240 pixels

Lens Material : Domed Sapphire Crystal

Water Proof : 100 meters

Memory : 16 GB

Two Minute Review:

Tactix Charlie is a combination of specialized tactical functions and outdoor navigation and tracking features. The all-black watch is highly resistant to abrasion and corrosion due to the premium quality of materials employed in its design. That’s why it makes a fine choice for rugged terrain activity like hiking.

The pre-loaded topographical maps in the watch help you keep the orientation while you beat-on a tough hiking path. The watch also comes with the set of basic ABC ( altimeter, barometer, compass ) functions that are typical of a quality hiking smartwatch.

Within its tactical functions, the Garmin Tactix Charlie also furnishes night vision mode.

As compared to other 4 watches, this watch does not command a long battery life ( only 20 hours in GPS mode ) which is an essential prerequisite for the pro hiking community. However, for occasional outgoers, the watch is worthy enough to give it a try. 

Pros

  • A solid watch for an outdoor hustle
  • Comprehensive navigational and tracking features
  • Night vision mode 
  • High storage capacity

Cons

  • Not enough battery life for multi-days hiking trip
  • High on budget front

Conclusion 

A hiking smartwatch is a necessary tool to complete your outdoor gear and Garmin has a lot of choices to offer in this regard.  The range of features in these watches is good enough to cater your requirements whether you are a professional hiker or a casual outdoor fellow. 

We hope that our reviews of top-class Garmin Hiking watches will be a good aid for purchasing your next smartwatch for the upcoming fun hiking trips. Cheers