Best Garmin Watch for Hiking [Quick Buyer’s Guide]

(Last Updated On: October 28, 2019)

When it comes to fitness watches, there’s no denying that Garmin is one of the top players in the industry. As a world-leading GPS manufacturer, Garmin has made some of the best GPS watches available. Therefore, many outdoor enthusiasts and hikers consider Garmin as one of their top options.

If you are considering a Garmin watch for hiking, I say that it’s a step in the right direction. However, there are loads of options to choose from. Garmin has some of the widest portfolios of watches so it can be a little overwhelming. If you are looking for the best Garmin watch for hiking, you’ve come to the right place.

Today, we handpicked some of the best Garmin watches that you can use for hiking and other outdoor pursuits. Let’s get to it.

Best Garmin Watch for Hiking

Key Features

Our Rating

Garmin Fenix 5X Full color TOPO U.S. mapping, Silicone band, Built in navigation sensors include GPS and GLONASS, Preloaded run profiles, 3 axis compass, gyroscope and barometric altimeter 5/5
Garmin Tactix Charlie 1.2” high-resolution, sunlight-readable display, TOPO mapping plus routable map navigation, Rugged design, Tactical-specific features, Built-in navigation sensors include GPS and GLONASS 4.5/5
Garmin Instinct Constructed to U. S. Military standard, Built in 3 axis compass and barometric altimeter, Smart notifications, TrackBack feature 4.5/5
Garmin Fenix 3 HR Precision satellite navigation, Activity and sleep tracking, Heart rate monitoring, 1.2 inch Chroma colour display, LED backlight 4.5/5
Garmin Fenix 6S Pro 1.2” sunlight-readable display, Enhanced estimated wrist heart rate, Advanced training features include PacePro, Preloaded TOPO maps, Support for Garmin Pay 4/5
Garmin Epix 1.4 inch high resolution, sunlight visible color Chroma touchscreen display, 8GB internal memory, Customizable, Multi activity tracking 3.5/5

Best Garmin Watch for Hiking

1. Garmin Fenix 5X

The ever-reliable Garmin Fenix 5X is our top pick for the Garmin watch for hiking. There’s already a newer version with the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus but I will still recommend the Fenix 5X over the 5X Plus.

Loaded With Great Hiking Features

The Garmin Fenix 5X is loaded with great hiking features such as altimeter, barometer, and compass (ABC sensors). It’s also a watch that comes pre-loaded with real topo maps.

The topo maps are very useful for hiking since they display your exact location while hiking. You can also load the routes into the watch before you set out. While you’re out hiking, you can simply follow the route in real-time. It’s a real godsend particularly for tough hiking spots.

Like many GPS hiking watches, you can add waypoints using the Fenix 5X. Waypoints are basically points of interests such as trails, landmarks, camping spots, or your parking area. Once you have set a waypoint, the watch tells your exact location in relation to your set waypoint and estimated time to get there. The ABC sensors are working great and the watch even comes with storm alerts and barometric trends.

The Fenix 5X offers an impressive battery life and can last up to 24 hours in GPS mode. There’s also a feature called UltraTrac mode that extends the battery life even more.

The Fenix 5X is a powerful GPS that’s suitable for everyday wear, hiking, and other activities.

2. Garmin Tactix Charlie

The Garmin Tactix Charlie GPS watch is a successful follow-up to the popular Tactix Bravo. The Tactix Charlie is a rugged tactical watch that makes it an ideal tool for hikers.

Great Tactical Watch for Outdoor Adventurers

For starters, the Tactix Charlie is one tough GPS tool with its black DLC coated titanium bezel, black titanium rear cover, and stainless steel buttons. It’s suitably rugged and I can’t see things letting you down even under the toughest outdoor conditions.

For hiking purposes, the Tactix Charlie comes preloaded with topo and routable map navigation. With the Garmin Basecamp app, you can create waypoints on the device and later explore it to the Tactix. You can name the waypoint and even assign an icon for easy identification. The Basecamp app is the main software solution for route and waypoint planning – it’s highly recommended.

Of course, the watch also comes with other sweet hiking features such as GPS and GLONASS plus a three-axis compass, barometer, altimeter and gyroscope. The built-in altimeter is quite impressive and does a great job of monitoring ascent and descent while hiking.

As for the battery life, you got 12 days in smartwatch mode, 20 hours in GPS mode, and up to 35 hours in UltraTrac battery saver mode.

With loads of hiking-related features and excellent battery life, the Garmin Tactix Charlie is an easy recommendation for outdoor junkies.

3. Garmin Instinct

The Garmin Fenix series is the Ferrari of outdoor and sports watches but not everyone can blow $600 on a smartwatch. The Garmin Instinct is an affordable outdoor-focused timepiece for the budget-conscious hikers.

Affordable Heavy-Duty Outdoor Watch

While the Garmin Instinct offers a wide variety of activity tracking features, it excels at navigation. With that said, the Instinct supports GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo. Based on our tests, the Instinct connects to these satellite systems fairly quick.

Unlike the previous watches, the Instinct doesn’t come with built-in topo maps which is a bit of a downer. This is because the Instinct has a low-resolution, non-color display, and isn’t compatible with top maps. However, you do get other navigation features. You can upload the routes to your watch or go back to basics by using the Instinct’s compass.

Another good feature that’s worth the mention is the Backtracking feature. If you have decided to turn around on a hike, the backtracking feature allows you to navigate back to your starting point. Garmin’s navigation features are rather basic but they will save you in a pinch while you’re out in the wild.

Overall, the Garmin Instinct is less of a smartwatch but it’s a very reliable GPS watch. At this price point, it’s a great buy for any hiker.

4. Garmin Fenix 3 HR

The Garmin Fenix 3 HR might be an earlier version from the Fenix series but it has enough bells and whistles for an amazing hiking watch.

Spot-On GPS Functions

If you’re going to get the Fenix HR 3, get it for the highly-accurate GPS. The watch comes with an omnidirectional stainless steel EXO antenna that easily connects to GPS and GLONASS satellites. You get accurate and reliable tracking whenever you’re outdoors.

Like all of the watches in this list, the Fenix HR 3 features a rugged design that will serve you well in the wild. The watch also features a crisp 1.2 inch Chroma display that offers excellent visibility in daylight and dim environments. When things get darker outside, you can use the LED backlight for reading the watch.

For navigation, you can simply download the route or track into the watch, and then use it to get on course. Following the track through your watch is about as easy as it gets since the screen shows your position relative to the track.

In terms of battery performance, the Fenix HR can work up to 14 days in smartwatch mode, 16 hours in GPS mode, and 40 hours in UltraTrac mode. It’s a heavy-duty hiking watch with excellent GPS features and battery life.

5. Garmin Fenix 6S Pro

For my premium pick, the Garmin Fenix 6S Pro is an excellent multi-sport watch that offers many features for adventure junkies.

Premium Navigation on Your Wrist

As you can see, we have another entry from Garmin’s Fenix series which is not a surprise since it’s some of the best multi-sport watches out there. The Garmin Fenix 6S Pro is no different.

For hikers, the main draw here is the preloaded topo maps. There are over 2,000 topo maps here which include trails and even skip maps. The Fenix 6S Pro also supports GPS, GLONASS and Galileo satellite systems and based on my tests, the GPS performance is on-point. As expected, the watch also comes with built-in sensors for 3-axis compass, gyroscope and barometric altimeter.

Aside from navigation features, this watch offers a wide range of activity tracking options. Plus, it also has an HR monitor and the Pulse Ox feature to monitor your sleep and altitude acclimation at high elevations.

For the battery life, the Garmin Fenix 6S Pro offers up to 9 days in smartwatch mode, 6 hours in GPS and music mode, up to 20 days expedition GPS activity mode, and 34 days in battery saver watch mode. Pretty impressive.

6. Garmin Epix

The Garmin Epix is not the most fashionable watch (it’s not that bad, though) on this list but nevertheless, it’s a reliable GPS watch for hikers and campers.

Oldie But a Goodie

The Garmin Epix is not the latest and greatest GPS watch from Garmin but even today, it still holds up.

For navigation, the Epix offers colored maps which is a nice touch. These maps are mostly accurate but there were some issues when you’re hiking in locations with poor connection. The GPS function shows the exact location of your destination, how far you’ve hiked, and how many steps you’ve taken so far. Of course, it has a compass as well for basic navigation.

In terms of connectivity, the Epix is a bit outdated. You can connect your watch to a computer via USB cord but you need to make a Garmin Connect account first. Bluetooth is also another way to download information to your watch.

For battery life, it can go up to 50 hours which is not much when compared to similar GPS watches. You can find many watches that are more advanced than the Epix but it can hold on its own.

Found the Best Garmin Watch for Hiking Yet?

Best Garmin Watch for Hiking Featured

That wraps up our buyer’s guide of the best Garmin watch for hiking. When it comes to GPS and navigation features, it’s hard to go wrong with Garmin. We hope that this guide has helped you choose the right unit for your hiking needs.

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