Decent GPS watches with maps should have navigation features such as ABC sensors (altimeter, barometer, and compass), as well as an onscreen map that shows your current position and distance to your next stop.
The cost of watches with these sophisticated capabilities is usually more than cheap GPS watches. A cheap GPS watch can suffice if all you need is basic GPS features like pace and distance, and depends on how long you’ve been hiking. If you wish to focus on ABC watches – see this review.
However, the watches with maps that we like are a little more expensive. We believe that paying a little more for navigation functions, a more robust, tougher watch, and a longer-lasting battery is worthwhile.
GPS watch buying guide
There are plenty of GPS watches with maps for navigation.
Using GPS, you can view the time (both the current time and the time since you started walking), pace, and distance you have covered. An altimeter, barometer, and compass should all be included in decent watches with maps for navigation (called “ABC” on watch specs). These will assist you in navigating and will notify you of any possible weather changes.
Maps and breadcrumb trails will be available on more sophisticated GPS watches, allowing you to see where you’ve walked. Waypoints (landmarks along your trekking path) may also be programmed into these watches.
For situations such as overnight camping trips or getting lost, you need a long battery life. Waterproof garments should be able to withstand accidental immersion in water and rain. It is also possible to program alarm clocks to wake you or remind you to take medications.
Compass, barometer, and altimeter (ABC)
These are the three most important characteristics to look for in GPS watches with maps. They’ll assist you in navigating, as well as offer information on changing weather patterns and elevation.
This is helpful for two reasons while on adventures: first, it provides additional navigational tools. You may use a topographical map plus a landmark (a path, stream, or another place on a map) to locate your position if you know your elevation. Simply connect the stream or path on the map to the topographical ridge that corresponds to your height.
Furthermore, knowing your elevation lets you know how much you need to climb or drop. Knowing how far you have come and how far you still need to go will help determine how far you have come. The information enables you to determine whether you’re at a true peak or pass.
There are two methods for measuring elevation with GPS watches. The first is to rely only on GPS. The satellites just estimate the distance between you and the orbiting satellites’ centers. However, because of mathematical constraints, elevation measurements may vary by up to 75 feet at any one moment.
As a result, superior GPS watches use a barometer to determine altitude. A barometer is a device that detects atmospheric pressure and utilizes that data to determine elevation. You’ll notice that your readings are more consistent and accurate.
Changing weather can cause air pressure to fluctuate, which can create problems. You should recalibrate your barometer at well-known points along your routes, such as your starting point.
Many people confuse a barometer with an altimeter since they are both used to measure height. A barometer, on the other hand, has a distinct purpose while trekking or camping.
The barometer is useful for monitoring weather changes since it measures air pressure. If the air pressure decreases abruptly, it’s a definite indication that a storm is approaching. Knowing this, it is evident that you need to take cover somewhere close. And if the barometric pressure is constant or steadily rising while you’re trapped in the rain, it’s a sign that the downpour is about to stop.
The compass, the third component of ABC, is used to determine your direction and aid navigation. The finest GPS watches have an electronic compass that functions similarly to a magnetic compass.
Watches without an electronic compass may still give N-S-E-W direction when GPS is enabled; however, this only works if you’re moving. The issue is that for GPS to calculate the direction, it requires two GPS data points. It won’t function if you’re standing motionless. However, an electric compass, such as a magnetic compass, can also work.
It’s essential to have a compass with you. It may seem absurd to navigate using a compass if you have GPS. Isn’t that part of the point of GPS? As you know, the best GPS watches display your location on a map and enable you to design a path to follow – or illustrate the road you took to get there.
However, having GPS on all of the time isn’t always feasible. One disadvantage of GPS is that it consumes a lot of battery power. Having GPS enabled all the time may not be a good idea if you’re going on a multi-day trek or camping vacation. In these situations, an actual map and compass may be more useful.
Extensive battery life
GPS, as previously stated, consumes a significant amount of juice. While there may be instances when you wish to save battery life by turning off GPS, having a long battery life reduces the number of times you’ll need to do so.
For GPS watches, the average battery life is between 10-14 hours. This varies per watch and is affected by the watch’s settings. The best watches in GPS mode typically offer a battery life of up to 24 hours. In addition to costing more, these watches include an array of features.
A setting named Ultra-trac may be found on a handful of the GPS watches we tested (or something similar). These set a restriction on how many GPS readings the watch may take. This enables you to save battery life while keeping GPS functionality active. Because the watch GPS isn’t following an exact route on the trail, you won’t receive correct distance or pace measurements.
Breadcrumb routes, maps, and waypoints
Beyond a compass and elevation readings, the top watches with maps for navigation offer, you guessed it, navigational tools.
Your most frequent encounter will be with waypoints. You can mark certain areas on the device’s map or route that you wish to keep track of. Secondly, you can program these functions directly onto the watch or set them on a computer and have them transferred to the watch.
Also, you can check how far you are from different waypoints and which direction you need to walk to get there while outdoors. Distances and directions are typically estimated as if you would walk directly there. Thus, they are better used as suggestions only.
Additionally, some watches have a breadcrumb or route map. These will display a basic dotted line that marks the start of your journey. Some GPS watches let you upload a route so you can see not just where you’ve walked but also the path you need to go. In addition, the waypoints are displayed in these breadcrumb maps.
TracBack is a function on Garmin and Suunto devices that gives you instructions to retrace your steps in the direction you came from. A directional arrow will appear when the light is switched on, indicating the way along the path. You’ll also see how far it is back, as well as an estimated time of arrival at your starting location. If you miss a turn or take a detour, the watch will guide you back to the road in the quickest manner possible.
GPS watches with built-in color topo maps, such as the Fenix, are at the upper end of the range. On the map, you can readily see where you are. Important information such as distance and speed are superimposed on the map, eliminating the need to move between displays.
Waterproof is a must for a decent trekking GPS watch. If you’re trapped in a rainstorm, you don’t want to worry about your watch failing due to water damage. At the same time, you want the assurance that it will continue to function properly if it is inadvertently submerged in a stream or lake.
Camping with alarms is a good idea. They’ll keep you on track and make sure you don’t oversleep before your day starts.
The GLONASS satellites and the GPS satellites, placed into orbit by the U.S., are similar in many ways. With GPS and GLONASS compatibility, a decent navigational watch will ensure the most accurate location, speed, and distance measurements.
5 watches with maps for navigation
1. Garmin Fenix 6x Pro Solar
A favorite GPS watch is the Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar. It has a compass, altimeter, and barometer, which are all useful trekking tools (ABC sensors). It’s one of the few GPS watches that have genuine topographic maps. It also includes a slew of additional features that make it ideal for treks.
The Fenix 6X comes with topo maps already installed. The watch shows your precise location on the map while you’re trekking. Before you depart, you may load routes to the watch so you can view your route on the map. The trail allows you to see your location in real-time as you walk.
You can add waypoints, much like some of the other timepieces we’ll look at. Waypoints are particular places, such as popular tourist attractions. This may be a peak, a landmark, a camping site, a trailhead, or the location of your vehicle. Once you’ve selected a waypoint, the Fenix 6X will tell you where you are in respect to it, its distance from you, and an estimated time of arrival. Waypoints may be added in advance or in real-time.
The ABC sensors on the watch give elevation and directional data. The Fenix 6X utilizes the barometer to provide storm warnings when there are abrupt fluctuations in pressure, in addition to increasing elevation accuracy. It also monitors barometric patterns to aid in weather forecasting.
This version of the Fenix 6X has solar panels to prolong the battery life while in use. It has a battery life of up to 66 hours when in GPS mode. A long battery is essential when you’re out and about since GPS consumes a lot of power.
Battery life is one of the best among all GPS watches. There are also settings for extending battery life (at the expense of GPS accuracy) and energy-saving modes.
The Fenix 6X has alarms, sunrise/sunset timings and is waterproof to 100 meters, so it may be used in the rain or if it gets wet.
Finally, the Fenix 6X is a stylish timepiece. It’s appropriate for daily use as well as trekking. It may also be used for other sports.
If you’re seriously considering the Fenix, also check the release status of the Fenix 7 which is imminent.
2. Garmin Fenix 6/6S
If you prefer the Fenix 6X’s battery life and map, the 6 and 6S are less costly alternatives. These two models are almost identical. However, the 6S is somewhat smaller and therefore better suited to narrow wrists.
It offers topographical and street maps and an altimeter, barometer, compass, and waypoints, routes, and an alarm with waterproof construction. There is little difference between the Fenix 6 and 6S.
It is mainly the battery life that makes them different. Seeing as these watches don’t have solar power to prolong their batteries, it’s not surprising they don’t last as long. Considering the 6S’ small size (i.e., it has less space to hold a larger battery), it has the lowest-capable battery.
Having said that, the Fenix 6 and 6S both have excellent batteries. In GPS mode, the Fenix 6 can last up to 36 hours, while the 6S can last up to 25 hours. It is possible to switch modes to increase the battery life, much like the 6X.
Solar versions of the Fenix 6 and 6S are now available. So, longer battery, higher price – but still less than the 6X Solar Pro. Also, we recommend watching out for the release of the Fenix 7 which should be soon.
In comparison to the previous two Fenix models, the 6S is physically smaller. For individuals with narrow wrists, this is a better option.
These GPS watches, like the Fenix 6X, may be worn all day or for specific activities. They’re fashionable, and the bands are readily interchangeable.
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3. Suunto Traverse Alpha
Suunto’s Traverse Alpha has many of the same features as Garmin’s Fenix GPS watches. It aids navigation by providing breadcrumb maps and routes, as well as having ABC sensors. In addition, it’s a lot cheaper than the Fenix watches.
The Suunto Traverse, like the Garmin, can design routes and transfer them to your watch. Movescount is the app; you may use it to plan routes and waypoints, then upload them to the watch. However, Suunto also offers a heat map, which is a map of popular walking routes created by other Suunto users. The paths with brighter lines are more popular. It’s a great way to discover new trails or routes in areas you’ve never been before.
FusedAlti is another Suunto-only feature. Both GPS and barometric pressure are used to determine elevation, which is then combined to give the most precise elevation measurement possible. Even though the barometer is substantially more stable than the GPS elevation, it can change as air pressure changes (for example, during storms). FusedAlti relies on both to determine elevation consistently and accurately.
The Suunto Traverse ticks a few additional criteria that we look for in a trekking GPS watch. It has a feature called TrackBack that will assist you to go back to where you began. It features a storm alarm that sounds when the weather suddenly changes. The watch is waterproof up to 100 meters and has a solid battery life (around 15 hours when in GPS mode).
There are also alarms to wake you up. For precise location tracking and speed/distance measures, it also uses GLONASS and GPS. There’s also a setting that allows you to convert the backlight into a flashlight.
4. Suunto 9 Baro (and Peak)
A simple timepiece with a beautiful design, the Suunto 9 Baro and Peak are great choices. The Suunto 9 has 80 sports modes, but it also offers some unique attributes that make it a wonderful companion.
For improved elevation accuracy, the 9 Baro has a built-in barometer.
In particular, we need to pay attention to the battery life. You can maximize battery life by using an intelligent mode that switches settings to conserve power. On a single charge, it can last up to 120 hours in one of three performance modes (Performance, Endurance, and Ultra).
In addition to being accessible offline, Suunto FusedTrack GPS technology provides hikers with much more ease of use. A unique tracking experience is provided by integrating GPS tracking with motion sensors. Furthermore, the GPS is not constantly being used, so the battery does not drain continuously.
In addition to the weather tracker, hikers will appreciate the app’s features. If you’re not sure what to anticipate on a hike, the Suunto will put your mind at rest and let you have a wonderful day, or maybe prevent being trapped in a rainstorm on a mountaintop.
It uses a wrist pulse sensor to monitor your heart rate. Handily, it’s waterproof up to 100m, so you don’t have to take it off if you need to cool down in a mountain lake.
5. Suunto 3
Finally, the Suunto 3 is a stylish watch that may be worn anywhere. It is available in a range of hues to fit any preference.
Because this watch utilizes full GPS, the battery life is significantly lower than on more current versions with FusedTrack. In GPS mode, the battery lasts up to 30 hours, which is still remarkable and more than adequate for a full day of trekking. If you just use it in Active mode, a single charge may last up to 5 days.
You may also monitor the pace and distance of your treks if you link to the Suunto smartphone app. The watch also enables you to build customized training programs for various activities, allowing you to achieve your target fitness level.
It features a 5-button color display, is waterproof to 30 meters, and monitors activity 24 hours a day.
6. Coros Apex
Another watch to consider if you want great navigation features is the Coros Apex. This is a premium multisport watch with a minimalist design, perfect for anyone that wants an easy-to-use smartwatch.
A reason this watch is popular for navigation and maps is that the watch is designed to retain long battery life even when GPS is in use. The developers designed the Coros Apex to stay alive for longer while maps are in use, making sure wearers don’t have to worry about constantly charging it.
The watch comes with navigation and tracking features to keep you on the right path. Follow an accurate breadcrumb trail with real-time updates to make sure you stay on route. The navigation tool also updates with new elevation and time information as you run.
Coros Apex also features an Intelligent Stride System that learns your personal movements while you’re running. This allows the watch to build you your own stride model that will activate when you’re working out indoors or in areas with no GPS signal.
This smartwatch also features sunset and sunrise tracking, nutrition alerts, weather updates, and unique training features. If you’re a keen runner and love to work out outdoors, this watch is a great option for you.
7. Garmin Forerunner 945
A popular new smartwatch on the scene is the Forerunner 945 from Garmin. Garmin is known for its high-tech watches and the Forerunner 945 is no different. Not only does this watch contain a range of health and fitness features, but it also has great navigation maps too.
The Forerunner 945 allows users to track their activity time, pace, speed, and distance via built-in GPS signals. The watch can access a range of GPS systems, including GLONASS and Galileo to make sure you can use maps in more remote environments too.
The watch mapping system provides full-color mapping to ensure it’s always easy to navigate. Whether you’re on a trail or in the city, the Forerunner 945 always provides a clear map. You can also use the turn-by-turn mapping system while raveling to get accurate directions too. If you want suggested routes, the watch also contains round-trip routing to give you suggested routes in any area.
Garmin also designed the Forerunner 945 to include music syncing, contactless Garmin Pay payments, performance metrics, safety tracking, and more. Read our full review here.
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