Even when you have a gps enabled watch made for land navigation, being in the backcountry can be an intimidating experience. The fear of getting lost keeps a lot of people from the joys of being in wild and remote places. With this article, we hope to guide you in choosing a quality watch that will keep you on the right path.
The best watches for land navigation should be equipped with reliable navigation features such as GPS, a compass, a long-lasting battery, activity tracking, and all-weather endurance. Companies like Garmin, Suunto, and Casio have a long line of great navigation watches for the modern warrior.
Backcountry hiking, trail running, and backpacking can take you really far into the wild and getting lost is a real possibility without the proper navigation equipment. This article will introduce you to the best watches for land navigation. Most people get lured into purchasing unnecessary features, but we will cover what you should be looking for.
9 best watches for land navigation:
1. Garmin Instinct Solar
Garmin’s Fenix series hosts tons of useful features for adventure, but not everyone’s willing to part with $600. The Garmin Instinct Solar offers equally as much for a lower price. For instance, some navigation watches have terrible battery life that can’t last two days on a single charge. That means if you’re on a week’s road trip to the woods, the watch will be useless for most of the week.
Garmin Instinct offers a better solution – a solar charge boost. Though it looks a lot like the Fenix 6 series, the Instinct Solar does a better job in power management and prolonging the battery life. Thanks to its solar panel setup, the Instinct solar collects more power than most watches in the Fenix 6 series.
Garmin Instinct watches are designed to be more of adventure watches than smartwatches. It lacks other features such as Garmin Pay and access to your music library on Spotify. However, there are other outstanding features to look out for:
Solar charging – Garmin Instinct has two solar panels, one on top collects most of the energy while the one under collects some extra energy to maximize the power input to your device.
Besides, the Garmin Instinct Solar has fitness and activity monitors.
For instance, the heart rate monitor and oximeter measure the oxygen levels in your body for every activity. You’ll also have access to activity data such as running and biking. And in case you get lost, there’s a TrackBack feature to follow your way back home.
What We Like
- Long-life battery: The watch can last up to 14 days in regular settings and 16 hours in the GPS mode
- Monochrome screen display that’s easy to read
- Highly durable
- Comfortable to wear at all times
2. Garmin Fenix 6X
If you can’t choose between design, quality, and performance, the Garmin Fenix 6X is a blend that meets the criteria. It’s a solid piece of technology with an endless list of features for those willing to pay the price. Since its release in 2019, people can’t stop talking about it.
It comes with great design and a user-friendly interface. The watch has a large display for easy data reading. The characters on the screen appear sharper than ever, thanks to the high resolution 280 × 280 pixel display.
If you’re concerned about your oxygen and sleep patterns, the Garmin Pulse OX feature will tell you all you need to know. You will also have access to a training performance monitor for your training. This feature pinpoints the critical areas of improvement.
Multiple sensors such as altimeter and thermometer keep you on the right track. The watch also offers an inbuilt music player supported by a generous 32GB storage for music files. It allows you to source music from Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Deezer, and Spotify to make your adventure more exciting. You need a premium account to access Garmin Music Services.
It has a wireless payment system. Your watch is equipped with an NFC chip to link your credit card with shortlisted banks.
Another incredibly exciting feature is its multiple sports profiles. Land navigation involves tons of activity, including running, climbing, hiking, biking, and much more. You can set your watch for the current profile.
Last but not least, you’ll benefit from safety and accident reporting. Though it’s our wish to stay safe at all times, we can’t avoid some accidents. Your watch will capture your location and send the details to your contacts if you’re involved in an accident. They’ll have an easier time sending search and rescue teams to your precise location.
The Garmin Fenix 6 series hosts lots of features. The company believes in the best quality of its watches. The only problem is the price tag which comes higher than most of the watches covered in this article. However, if you’re looking for a durable, high-quality watch that fits any situation, the Garmin Fenix 6X will not disappoint you.
What We Like
- Long-life battery capacity
- Waterproof up to 100m (328 feet)
- It has multiple features for multisport and adventure
3. Suunto Traverse
Suunto Traverse was the first watch designed for outdoor activities by the company. It’s a solid piece of engineering designed for heavy-duty outdoor activities, sports, and adventure. The Suunto Traverse combines the capabilities of a traditional watch with modern GPS technology to deliver a great user experience.
Whether you’re going hiking, rock climbing, or if your route bears unexpected rivers, creeks, or swamps, you deserve to travel with a reliable companion. The Suunto Traverse is one piece of equipment you should pack with your belongings as a navigation assistant and a survival tool with only a few features from military-grade standards.
It has navigation features that include GPS, Compass, and Barometer. These features are not unique to their Suunto Traverse alone. However, the watch comes with an interesting setup. The three user settings; barometer, altimeter, and automatic help determine your elevation and altitude in any given terrain.
You’ll never have to worry about an unforeseen storm. The Suunto Traverse weather trend indicator is equipped with a storm alarm function to warn you about incoming storms. On the other hand, the fitness tracker requires users to buy a wrist monitor to track the heart rate and performance in the field.
Although Suunto Traverse watches have unique functionalities, they can’t match a GPS unit’s full capability. Instead, they offer convenience. It’s easier to carry and operate your Suunto Traverse watch than a GPS unit.
What We Like
- High-quality engineering
- Friendly user interface
- The waterproof feature supports up to 100 meters (328 feet)
- GPS Tracking
- Scratch-resistant screen
4. Casio PRW 2500T
Casio watches have been around for a long time. Today, the company continues to uphold its culture in manufacturing durable watches for multiple outdoor activities. One of their best so far is the Casio PRW, a budget-friendly watch that could easily replace other brands.
It features a multicolor display, solar charging, multiple sensors, e.g., altimeter, thermometer, barometer, and compass, among other useful features for the outgoers.
Casio’s triple sensor setup was designed to calculate precise directions, altitude, and temperature. It’s made of an altimeter, thermometer, and barometer. In case of unexpected changes in the natural phenomena, your watch will detect it miles away.
Solar power and battery specifications are quite impressive. You can expect your battery to last up to 5 months on a full charge and 23 months in the power-saving mode. Casio watches rarely disappoint when it comes to power consumption and management. So if you’re going for a tour to an area far from civilization, the Casio PRW 2500T is a nice option to consider.
Some watches can’t be read when it’s dark, while others don’t show clearly in dim light. The Casio PRW 2500t-7c watch has an LCD 2-layer display to see easily during daylight. Its water resistance property keeps it functioning correctly up to 200 meters (656 feet).
What We Like
- Easy to use and setup. The manufacturer’s guide is simple and straightforward. You can easily follow it to set up your watch in minutes.
- It has a sturdy and durable design. The case is made of stainless steel, while the band material is mostly titanium.
- Light and portable- A larger part is made of resin with a few parts made of metal. It’s light and portable for all your adventures. Just make sure you measure your wrists before purchasing because smaller wrists make it feel bulky.
5. Polar Grit X
The Polar Grit X can be considered a crossbreed between strength, durability, and lightweight design. If you value training so much, the Polar Grit X is the ideal watch for you. It’s equipped with top-notch training features that promise the ultimate training to users. Through the Polar Flow and Smart Coaching, any athlete can access the most critical data, progress, and reports.
The watch is also equipped with GPS, an altimeter for training mode, and a compass, but these are not the only available features.
With Polar Grit X smart features, you’ll have reliable app support for the Polar Flow System. This app contains very important data like sleep patterns, performance charts, and training plans.
The battery is also reliable for long trips and lengthy power outages. It lasts a week on a single charge and 40 hours on GPS mode. The developers added another feature to make owners more responsible for power consumption. By enabling or disabling some apps and functions like GPS updates, you can prolong or shorten the battery life.
The watch has a Hill Splitter, a special feature that tracks ascent and descent when hiking, climbing, and running. Although this feature works well, some users feel that it needs more work to reach its full potential. You’re also entitled to weather prediction for the next 10 hours.
What We Like
- Strong and durable
- Multiple profiles that can be tracked and stored on the watch
- Training data collection and processing. Never let your efforts go untracked. The watch offers personalized feedback from tools like FitSpark, Training Load Pro
- Quick GPS reception
6. Suunto Spartan
Are you an athlete who’s tired of dead batteries while in the middle of your morning jog? Well, look no further. The Suunto Spartan could be the missing component to make your training and adventure complete. It’s designed for the longest battery life and sleek design for all wrist watches.
Running with a bulky watch doesn’t bring an appealing feeling. Another interesting fact about the Suunto Spartan is that it’s handmade in Finland. The quality is just incredible since the watch can endure almost all conditions.
It comes with multiple athlete features, including Training Load, Interval training, and several preinstalled sports modes. The watch will give you relevant metric data from the moment you begin running, cycling, swimming, hiking, climbing, or any other activity.
Suunto Spartan has a long-life battery. It supports seven days of usage when mobile notifications have been activated. You’ll also enjoy Suunto’s support for your favorite apps, such as Strava. Strava is a social media app for athletes. You can share data with people of similar interests, view data, activities, and trends.
The Suunto app can be downloaded from Google Play and the App Store. Verified and tested materials ensure that each component works the way it was meant to. The Suunto testing team demonstrates that every watch works perfectly for athletes.
What We Like
- Lightweight materials for extraneous activities
- Strong and durable
- Accurate GPS & metric tracking and reporting
- High-quality display
7. Amazfit T-Rex
This is a military standard piece of technology with 12 certificates. From its rugged design and appearance, anyone can tell that the Amazfit T-Rex is the ultimate survival tool that can get you through all situations. No matter the temperature or humidity, developers ensured that it could take them all.
Multicolor 1.3 inch AMOLED screens that support five colors, making it easy to see the essential details during the day or night. The watch supports 14 sport modes and water resistance up to 5 ATM/ up to 50 meters (164 feet).
With an inbuilt Sony chip, the device uses a highly accurate dual-satellite precision system to calculate your position. It’s body design and shape have been perfected to reduce interferences with the GPS signal and keep you on the right track all the time.
Amazfit’s circuitry is designed to operate on low power. It also has an in-depth power optimization feature for further power utilization. On regular occasions, you can use it for 20 days. On GPS mode, it can be used for up to 20 hours.
The Heart Rate monitor powered by Huami’s Biotracker, Bio-Tracking Optical Sensor, monitors your heart rate throughout the day. You can also monitor your health habits by setting event reminders for routine workouts.
What We Like
- It has 12 certifications prove that the watch can survive tough conditions
- Quality military-standard features
- Strong and durable
- It has a strong, reliable GPS signal
8. Garmin Tactix Charlie
The Garmin Tactix Charlie is dedicated to all adventure lovers. It bears the usual Garmin features and extra tactical features for outdoor activities. The watch delivers map-based navigation to its users, so whether you’re on a hike, jog, or running, the ABC setup (Altimeter, Barometer, and Compass) will always guide you in the right path.
Garmin’s tactical features include dual-position GPS tracking, Jumpmaster, and waypoint positioning. They’re powered by a long-lasting battery that works on a single charge for 12 days (manufacturer’s specifications). It also comes with a 35-hour UltraTrac battery saver mode and 20 hours while on GPS mode.
The Garmin Tactix Charlie watch also features a 1.2-inch (3-cm) display secured under a domed sapphire lens. The display can easily be read in the sunlight, and there’s also night vision goggle compatibility.
Users have access to extra features such as the three-axis compass, barometer, WIFI software, GPS, altimeter, rechargeable battery, and much more. Garmin is currently working closely with other companies to enable users to customize their watches as they like. For instance, getting Apps from external stores, e.g., the Connect IQ store. Other apps include Strava, AccuWeather, Uber, and many more.
The training status is a unique feature that helps users determine their KPI’s, and track their productivity. It lets you know your progress and the areas that need improvement. This keeps you on the run towards your goals.
Garmin’s Tactical Charlie enables you to pair compatible devices, receive notifications, emails, and text messages.
What We Like
- Easily readable display
- Longlife battery
- Easy to use
9. Coros Vertix
Some vacations call for distraction-free environments and nothing but a few navigation tools to survive the day. Coros Vertix is one of the best watches you could carry thanks to its long-life battery.
The long-life battery falls nothing short of 45 days of normal use, 60 hours of uninterrupted GPS mode, and 150 hours in the UltraMax mode. If you’re going to spend a lot of time outdoors, having a watch with the ultimate power-saving feature is crucial for survival.
1.2-inch (3-cm) 240 x 240-pixel screen is a bit smaller than what you’d expect, but you can easily read the data in direct sunlight. The watch is heavier than many other navigation watches in its category.
Fitness tracking includes a heart rate monitor and a pulse oximeter to monitor your oxygen levels.
What We Like
- Great battery life
- Quality design
- User-friendly interface
Looking for the best watches for land navigation need not be hard. It’s easy to forget what you were looking for once you set eyes on these products. Land navigation is fun, but only if you’re safe and if you know where you’re going. Whenever you visit the stores, always remember that you’re looking for a survival tool with GPS, fitness tracking, and, most importantly, a long-life battery.
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David is an accomplished mountain endurance athlete who has completed over 25 ultra marathon races (follow on Strava). He is most proud of his finish at The Drift 100 – a high elevation, 100 mile winter foot race that zigzags along the Continental Divide in Wyoming. In the future he hopes to compete in the ITI 350 and ultimately the full 1,000 mile Iditarod Trail Invitational that follows the same path as the historic dog sled race.