Best rugged smartwatch: Tough watches for hikers and outdoor adventurers

Those that love exploring the great outdoors need to have GPX guidance to get around, health monitoring, and weather alerts amongst other things. Many of this must-have support for the explorers can be provided by an outstanding GPS sports watch.

Outdoor activities include sports that take place out in nature and terrains that are not always to be considered safe. Sports like hiking, backpacking, camping, climbing, canoeing, fishing and more are vastly dependent on weather conditions and can turn from fun to fear if you’re not bearing the necessary gear.

What to look for in a smartwatch for outdoors?

Sensors and technology that cover personal safety alone are not sufficient to make a watch suitable for outdoors. Any watch that’s to be worn out in the wild mustn’t be brittle, not at all. A suitable timepiece should be designed to withstand and properly function when exposed to shock, extremes of temperatures, and water. It should as well have a prolonged battery life that’s not letting you down that easy.

Core sensors a rugged watch must have

Any modern tough watch that’s marketed for outdoor activities must have the trio of sensors popularly described by the acronym ABC. It stands for altimeter, barometer, and compass. However, for a watch to be practical for hiking and other adventures that take place outdoors must be capable of connecting to GPS satellite, offer in-map navigation and maintain a record of your paths, provide weather reports, and why not, monitor your heart rate.

Outdoor sports involve a variety of activities that not necessarily are related to one another, on this roundup, we’ll crack down to revealing the best smartwatch for every major branch of the overall outdoor activities.


When you’re up in the hills or the mountains, there’s a necessity for knowing your exact altitude. Amongst other reasons, even for having a relatively accurate measurement of how far you’ve gone. A smartwatch featuring altimeter can measure altitude in two ways, sometimes varying on whether there’s the presence of a built-in GPS sensor or not.

A modern watch may read atmospheric pressure from the barometer to calculate your altitude or height above sea level. Or, may use signaling from GPS satellites to find your location on a map and also measure elevation. However, the GPS signal is often dependent on terrain and may not always be functional. If you’re down in a canyon the GPS receive may not report accurately, and you’d be much safer from sudden weather changes and also receive more accurate activity documenting if your watch uses a barometric altimeter.


A barometer is the technology behind atmospheric pressure measurement. A barometer can keep an eye on the local weather and alert you of any abrupt weather changes. The barometric sensor is a must-have because its services may be used for recording altitude, what’s known as the barometric altimeter.

A high atmospheric pressure usually stands for clear skies while a low pressure is associated with overcasts and rains. Smartwatches have a live reading of barometric data and will often display them to the end user in charts that show changes over time.


There’s little to explain about this sensor. The compass is one of the earliest and yet effective means of navigation. If the modern satellite-based tech fails you, you can always rely on the compass and a map to navigate and find your way out.


A tactical smartwatch may or may not receive signaling from the GPS satellites. Those watches that don’t are usually associated with a low price and rely on the GPS data transmitted to your smartphone for live navigation. However, you don’t need a smartwatch that is not capable of helping with orientation without being connected via Bluetooth. Specifically, you don’t want to have that in the outdoors, as you’ll be ending up with a parasitic device that unnecessarily dries your phone’s power juice.

Heart rate monitor

A smartwatch uses LED lights to track heart rate at any given time. A heart rate sensor on a smartwatch will add to the overall activity monitoring features of a particular wristwatch, along with distance and speed you’ll also be given a correlation of your workouts and heartbeats on the pre-installed health app.

Advanced navigation software

A good smartwatch will provide on-map navigation to guide you go around, while a great watch will be sporting a variety of different maps. Full-color topographic mapping will help you read the relief of the terrain you’re stepping in better.

The watch should as well store your routes, plan routes for you by analyzing maps, allow you to download maps and use them offline, sync well with your phone or laptop computer, and let you share your progress with your friends in the social media.

Always remember that heart rate sensors on smartwatches are not genuine medical devices and the location tracking is not guaranteed to be always correct. Never get yourself out in the wild with reliance to a smart timepiece.

Best overall: Casio WSD F30

Casio Pro Trek WSD F30 smartwatch hands on review

The third generation of Casio’s Pro Trek military watches is the most highly equipped device with technology in the line of rugged wearable devices made to withstand rough weather conditions. Casio’s durable Wear OS watch houses almost every technical component you can encounter on most connected wearable devices meant to monitor activity. Excluding the heart rate sensor.

The prime member of Casio watches has one of the most accurate pinpointing systems ever embedded in a smart wearable. The mapping provided by the top Pro Trek watch also stands out. WSD F30 kinda disappoints for not having a heart rate sensor, it would make those fitness reports much more appealing with heartrate and calorie burn reports. However, Casio never intended to make a running watch out of the Pro Trek WSD F30 anyway.

Despite that. Casio folded its device within an ultra-rugged casing that is compliant to Military Standard MIL-STD-810G testing. The rugged Casio watch enables you to choose intervals for the device to track your location via GPS and it has 4GB of internal memory for you to download certain areas of the map for offline use. The WSD-F30 is made to last for three days of trekking, you can extend the battery life even further by using it as a monochrome-only watch. It will also turn into monochrome mode automatically when the power is low.

Best for hiking: Suunto 9

Suunto 9 Watch

Suunto 9 is a prime watch for tracking outdoor activities. It can maintain recording activity data for up to 120 hours with one single charge, a watch that’s built to last is what you need to keep your company on hiking endeavors. Suunto’s technology behind FusedTrack makes sure that the power juice on the timepiece is preserved for a long time when used to track ultra-long trips.

Hikers that choose to add the Suunto 9 watch to their gear receive constant heart rate monitoring, GPS navigation with topographic, satellite, and terrain modes, provides heatmaps for best hiking routes that are based on user experience and points of interests you might want to check out, and keeps you updated with weather conditions and alerts if there’s a storm coming soon.

Besides making a fabulous hiking watch, the Suunto 9 supports over than 80 different sports for tracking and training. Does well when exposed to the harsh environment as it is a completely waterproof wearable that is compatible with iOS and Android cellphones.

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Best for backpacking: Casio GPR-B1000 Rangeman

Casio G-Shock GPR P1000 Rangeman rugged smartwatch

Casio is well known for designing rugged wearable products that meet military requirements for durability. The toughest military smartwatch currently in the offer is without a doubt Casio’s GPR B1000. This watch is designed to withstand the harshest environmental conditions, it will remain operational when exposed to the freezing cold, scorching heat, and when taken underwater. Whilst it resists water pressure to a depth of 200 meters of water, it probably doesn’t make an excellent watch for diving. The latter due to the lack of features suitable for diving. But it certainly makes a great GPS watch for outdoors for its durability and function supports that will be explained below.

The G-Shock Rangeman is an outstanding watch for the outdoors. It is designed to function when exposed low temperatures of as low as -4°F and extreme water pressure. It has the triple ABC sensors, GPS, and a built-in thermometer, has 2D and 3D mapping, stores routes and helps lost hikers to get back to safety via the return to start point feature.

There’s another great addition that makes this watch suitable for the great outdoors, its charging capabilities. This rugged wristwatch supports solar charging and wireless charging. Solar charging is a great thing to have if you’re going out in the wild for some time and you just can’t really rely on anything you take from home to supply your gadgets with power. This watch also takes great care of its own power as well, even when used in GPS mode for navigation will be going for an entire day and night.

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Best for swimming: Garmin Quatix 5

Grmin Quatix 5 Sapphire smartwatch for swimming

Garmin has designed some of the best marine smartwatches. The best smartwatch for swimming anyone can put hands on is the Quatix 5. This watch is not only great for swimming but covers a large variety of marine sports, and it also connects to sailing equipment.

Garmin Quatix 5 is waterproof and is suitable for both swimming and diving. It uses a barometric altimeter to record ascent and descent on water as you dive. Doesn’t matter if you’re sailing on a boat, paddle boarding, or canoeing, the watch will track every stroke and distance of each stroke, overall distance, and it can even maintain a record of your activity if you’re water skiing by recording the speed of your boat. It just is the perfect watch for water sports.

The always-on heart rate monitor on your wrist will record heart rate regardless if you’re in the water or on dry land. Heart rate is also used to estimate burned calorie during each track and intensity of your activity. It can also be adjusted to differentiate between pool swimming and open water swimming for more accurate records.

Despite being marketed as a marine wearable device, this watch makes an outstanding multisport watch. It is a perfect watch for indoor activities as well. It even tracks your sleep. Besides, there are some advanced connectivity features such as compatibility with iOS and Android, the support for you to share your achievements via Garmin Community app and more.

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 Best for fishing and hunting: Suunto Traverse Alpha

Suunto Traverse Alpha smartwatch for fishing, hunting and outdoor activities

Suunto designed the Traverse Alpha smartwatch to meet military-grade standards for the outdoors. It’s the best watch you can take with you when fishing or hunting.

For hunting, Suunto Traverse Alpha watch is the first to feature automatic shot detection. The watch uses a built-in accelerometer to measure wrist motion and gun recoil and then uses company’s online map platform Movescount to record distance of your shot and elevation.

This rugged watch features sunrise and sunset alerts, has a moon phase calendar and it finds best places for hunting and fishing around your location. At the same time, it tracks your movement as you move from one point to another and stores your activity on its database. It also keeps you updated with latest weather forecasts and alerts you in case a storm is soon to come. It has GPS, barometer, altimeter, and compass and is waterproof.

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Best for diving: Garmin Descent MK1

Garmin Descent MK1 smartwatch for diving, swimmnig and other water sportsGarmin Descent MK1 is a no-competition dive watch. There’s no other like it and at the time is the best diving watch. There are some dive computers shrank to a smartwatch size, but no other wearable is a dive computer and a smartwatch at the same time. Simply said, there is no other like Descent MK1 smartwatch.

The diving technology is automatically activated in the watch once you hit the water. It shows water temperature, dive time, ascent and descent as you get deeper into the water, and it also monitors the safety levels on your oxygen tank. It can be adjusted to monitor up to six different gas mixes.

This premium smartwatch for water sports has GPS, heart rate monitor, connects to your smartphone and keeps you connected to the rest of the world by delivering notifications to your wrist and it has an excellent battery life. Up to 40 hours in dive mode, you’ll have to spend quite a lot of time in the water to make this watch faint. It has everything else found in the premium line of Garmin smartwatches. Thus, it makes an excellent multisport wearable.

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Best for snow: Garmin Fenix Chronos

Garmin Fenix Chronos smartwatch for extreme sports

When skiing, snowboarding, or simply winter hiking, you’ll have to trust your gear. A watch that you can trust for the winter sports is the Garmin Fenix Chronos. This multisport watch is made with premium materials for durability and packs outstanding activity tracking and safety warning systems implemented on wearable technologies.

The Fenix Chronos sports a highly-accurate barometric altimeter to precisely record elevation and monitors at all time weather conditions around your area. Accurate navigation is provided by the built-in GPS sensor that combines signal with the ABC sensors. Various types of maps, including topographic maps, are supported in this watch for simplified and accurate navigation through tough terrains. This watch is designed to support every kind of sport, and it is waterproof and resistant to the cold of winter. It has sports modes that include skiing, snowboarding, and more where speed, distance, and vertical drops are accurately recorded.

Also, there’s a heart rate monitor that doesn’t just show numbers of your heartbeats per minute but is also used by the watch to show VO2 Max score and other personalized athletic efficiency profiling. There’s a large variety of sports this watch can be adjusted to create tracking records, which include indoor and outdoor activities as well as land and water sports.

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