Best Garmin Watch for Hiking (2024): Features, Pros, and Cons

By Naila Syifa
Updated March 2024

Best Garmin Watch for Hiking

Garmin offers a wide range of smartwatches designed specifically for outdoor enthusiasts, including hikers and adventurers. However, with many options to choose from, it can be challenging to determine which Garmin watch is the best fit for your hiking needs and preferences.

In this article, we'll explore the top Garmin watches for hiking, highlighting their key features, pros, and cons to help you make an informed decision.

Best Garmin Watch for Hiking

What Features to Look for in a Hiking Watch

First of all, ABC sensors, which include an altimeter, barometer, and compass, are essential features you need to look for when choosing a hiking watch. An altimeter provides accurate elevation data to monitor your ascent and descent, a barometer helps predict weather changes, while a compass assists with navigation and direction finding. The three work together to provide environmental information vital for safe and enjoyable hiking adventures.

GPS navigation is another crucial element. Garmin offers multi-band GPS technology in some of its models, combining multiple satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo) for enhanced precision and reliability in challenging environments. This is particularly helpful for navigating through dense forests, deep canyons, or remote backcountry trails.

Watches with built-in maps also offer a significant advantage, allowing you to view your location, plan routes, and navigate directly on the watch face. Garmin offers a variety of preloaded maps, but TopoActive Maps is the most suitable for hiking, providing detailed topographic data and trail information. It even includes thousands of points of interest that may be helpful during your hiking, such as restaurants, shops, accommodations, and others.

When hiking at a high altitude, a pulse oximeter becomes another invaluable tool for monitoring blood oxygen saturation levels and detecting signs of altitude sickness. This feature is called Pulse Ox in Garmin watches and is available in most Garmin models.

#1 Best Premium: Garmin Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar

Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar Image 2.webp__PID:ff2bafef-c2a0-47d1-ba01-c7735a1618bc

Garmin Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar

ProsCons
- Preloaded maps
- Advanced navigation features
- Solar charging
- Extensive battery life
- Built-in flashlight
- High price point
- Bulky and heavy design

Priced at 899.99 USD, the Garmin Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar is the ultimate multisport GPS watch for serious outdoor enthusiasts and hikers who demand the best features and performance.

Featuring a Power Sapphire lens, the Garmin Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar is not only scratch-resistant but can also convert sunlight into battery power, extending its already impressive battery life. In the GPS mode, you can expect a battery life of up to 89 hours or up to 122 hours with solar charging.

This watch is preloaded not only with multi-continent TopoActive Maps for outdoor navigation but also SkiView Maps maps for over 2,000 ski resorts worldwide and Golf Course Maps for over 42,000 golf courses around the globe.

Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar Image 21 ClimbPro + Grade Adjusted Pace.png__PID:2ac19e3a-0c50-43da-9777-8335b0f35c45

ClimbPro & Grade Adjusted Pace in Garmin Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar

It also offers many features that provide insights into what to expect during your hike. For example, the NextFork Navigation feature shows the distance to the next trail intersection, as well as the name of the upcoming trail. ClimbPro provides real-time information on your current and upcoming climbs, including gradient, distance, and elevation gain. Then, the Up Ahead feature provides a quick glance at key points coming up on your route, such as aid stations, viewpoints, climbs, or river crossings.

Garmin Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar is also impressive in terms of its health and fitness tracking capabilities, offering advanced features like heart rate monitoring, pulse oximetry, sleep tracking, stress monitoring, and more. Some metrics, like VO2 Max and pace guidance, even adjust for trail conditions, heat, and altitude to provide more accurate insights tailored to your hiking environment.

What gives Garmin Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar another advantage over the other models is its built-in LED flashlight, which can be incredibly handy during low-light conditions or nighttime hiking. You may be carrying a headlamp or flashlight, but having one integrated into your watch may be useful during an emergency.

Garmin Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar

Garmin Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar

Best Premium Garmin Watch for Hiking

✓ Grade-Adjusted Performance Metrics
✓ Multi-band GNSS with SatIQ
✓ Built-in TopoActive Maps & NextFork Navigation
✓ Built-in LED Flashlight

#2 Best Mid-Range: Garmin Forerunner 965

Garmin Forerunner 965

Garmin Forerunner 965

ProsCons
- Preloaded maps
- Advanced navigation features
- AMOLED screen
- Reasonable price point
- No solar charging
- No LED flashlight

Garmin Forerunner 965 is typically branded as a running watch, but it is actually also loaded with many hiking-specific features that make it a great hiking companion.

Similar to the high-end Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar, the Forerunner 965 features advanced navigation tools like NextFork, ClimbPro, and Up Ahead, all of which can help you stay informed about the trail ahead, including upcoming elevation changes, intersections, and points of interest. It is also preloaded with multi-continent TopoActive Maps and Golf Course Maps, though lacking the SkiView maps found in the Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar.

Garmin Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar is also impressive in terms of its health and fitness tracking capabilities, offering advanced features like heart rate monitoring, pulse oximetry, sleep tracking, stress monitoring, and more. Some metrics, like VO2 Max and pace guidance, even adjust for trail conditions, heat, and altitude to provide more accurate insights tailored to your hiking environment.

Garmin Forerunner 965

Garmin Forerunner 965

One aspect that gives the Forerunner 965 an advantage over the Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar is its lightweight and less bulky build, making it more comfortable to wear during long hiking trips. Its Corning Gorilla Glass 3 DX lens also provides excellent scratch resistance suitable for outdoor adventures and its AMOLED display offers clear visibility even in bright sunlight or low-light conditions. As a comparison, the transflective display in Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar can look dimmer and duller in some lighting situations, especially indoors.

Forerunner 965 boasts a battery life of 31 hours in GPS mode and up to 23 days in smartwatch mode. You can also enable the SatIQ feature, which will determine the best GPS mode for your environment to optimize battery life without compromising accuracy. Forerunner 965 doesn't support solar charging but at 599 USD, it offers a more affordable alternative to the Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar while still providing a robust set of features for hiking enthusiasts.

Garmin Forerunner 965

Garmin Forerunner 965

Best Mid-Range Garmin Watch for Hiking

✓ Grade-Adjusted Performance Metrics
✓ Multi-band GNSS with SatIQ
✓ Built-in TopoActive Maps & NextFork Navigation
✓ AMOLED Touchscreen

#3 Best Budget: Garmin Instinct 2

Garmin Instinct 2

Garmin Instinct 2

ProsCons
- Comprehensive health and fitness metrics
- Sufficient battery life for a day or two of hiking
- Affordable price point
- No built-in maps
- No advanced navigation features

If you're looking for a reliable and affordable hiking watch, the Garmin Instinct 2 is an excellent choice. At 299.99 USD, it offers a solid set of features for outdoor adventures without breaking the bank.

It allows you to track a range of health and fitness metrics during your hiking trip, including heart rate, sleep, stress, blood oxygen saturation levels, VO2 Max, and more. The heat and altitude acclimation feature also adjusts your performance metrics based on the environmental conditions, so you can get a more accurate picture of your fitness and progress on the trail.

Garmin Instinct 2 doesn't have built-in maps or advanced navigation features like NextFork, ClimbPro, or Up Ahead. However, the less advanced navigation features like TracBack Routing and Reference Point still prove to be useful for retracing your steps or marking important locations along the trail, so you can find your way back easily.

Garmin Instinct 2

TracBack Routing & Reference Point in Garmin Instinct 2

Garmin Instinct 2 is also not missing out on the multi-band GPS technology that ensures accurate positioning even in challenging environments. ABC sensors important for hiking are also present in this model. You can also use the watch for many other sports including cycling, skiing, swimming, running, and more.

Despite its budget-friendly price, Garmin Instinct 2 boasts impressive battery life, with up to 28 days in smartwatch mode and up to 30 hours in GPS mode. Battery saver mode can also be enabled to further preserve the battery, extending the watch's life up to 65 days though with limited functionality.

Garmin Instinct 2

Garmin Instinct 2

Best Budget Garmin Watch for Hiking

✓ Built-in Sports Apps
✓ ABC Sensors
✓ Multi-band GNSS
✓ Up to 30 hours in GPS Mode

#4 Best for Thru-Hiking: Garmin Enduro 2

Garmin Enduro 2

Garmin Enduro 2

ProsCons
- Preloaded maps
- Advanced navigation features
- Solar charging
- Very extensive battery life
- Super-bright LED flashlight
- Very expensive
- Bulky and heavy design

If you're going on a long thru-hike or multi-day hiking adventure, then battery life is a top priority. This is where the Garmin Enduro 2 truly shines, offering an unparalleled battery life.

It can last up to 110 hours in GPS mode and you can extend it up to 150 hours with solar charging. In smartwatch mode, the Enduro 2 can last up to 34 days or 46 days with solar. To further maximize battery life, you can also enable the battery saver mode, allowing it to last for up to 111 days or 550 days with solar charging. It is a truly impressive feat of battery longevity.

Garmin Enduro 2 is also not missing out on any advanced features useful for hiking adventures. It comes preloaded with multi-continent TopoActive Maps, SkiView Maps, and Golf Course Maps. Advanced navigation features like NextFork, ClimbPro, and Up Ahead are also supported, allowing you to stay informed about the trail conditions and upcoming challenges.

Garmin Enduro 2

Garmin Enduro 2

Multi-band GPS with SatIQ is also supported for accurate positioning and optimized battery performance in any environment. Extensive health and fitness tracking features are also available, including heart rate monitoring, pulse oximetry, sleep tracking, stress monitoring, and more, all tailored to your hiking environment.

Garmin Enduro 2 is basically a complete copy of the Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar, but with an even more impressive battery life, making it the perfect choice for long-distance hikers and multi-day adventures. It also features a Super Bright LED Flashlight, which Garmin claims to be twice as bright as the flashlight in Fenix 7X. However, these extra advantages also result in a higher price point of 999.99 USD, making Garmin Enduro 2 the most expensive option on this list.

Garmin Enduro 2

Garmin Enduro 2

Best Garmin Watch for Thru-Hiking

✓ Grade-Adjusted Performance Metrics
✓ Multi-band GNSS with SatIQ
✓ Built-in TopoActive Maps & NextFork Navigation
✓ Up to 150 hours in GPS Mode with Solar Charging

Best Garmin Watch for Hiking

Garmin Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar

Garmin Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar

Best Premium Garmin Watch for Hiking

✓ Grade-Adjusted Performance Metrics
✓ Multi-band GNSS with SatIQ
✓ Built-in TopoActive Maps & NextFork Navigation
✓ Built-in LED Flashlight

Buy on AmazonBuy on Synced
Garmin Forerunner 965

Garmin Forerunner 965

Best Mid-Range Garmin Watch for Hiking

✓ Grade-Adjusted Performance Metrics
✓ Multi-band GNSS with SatIQ
✓ Built-in TopoActive Maps & NextFork Navigation
✓ AMOLED Touchscreen

Buy on AmazonBuy on Synced
Garmin Instinct 2

Garmin Instinct 2

Best Budget Garmin Watch for Hiking

✓ Built-in Sports Apps
✓ ABC Sensors
✓ Multi-band GNSS
✓ Up to 30 hours in GPS Mode

Buy on AmazonBuy on Synced
Garmin Enduro 2

Garmin Enduro 2

Best Garmin Watch for Thru-Hiking

✓ Grade-Adjusted Performance Metrics
✓ Multi-band GNSS with SatIQ
✓ Built-in TopoActive Maps & NextFork Navigation
✓ Up to 150 hours in GPS Mode with Solar Charging

Buy on AmazonBuy on Synced

Final Thoughts

Best Garmin Watch for Hiking

Best Garmin Watch for Hiking

When choosing the best Garmin watch for hiking, consider the features that matter most to you, such as battery life, navigation capabilities, and durability.

The Garmin Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar, Forerunner 965, Instinct 2, and Enduro 2 all offer unique advantages tailored to different hiking needs and preferences. Whether you prioritize long battery life, advanced navigation features, or a more affordable price point, there is a Garmin watch that can suit your hiking needs and budget.

If you like to read more on Garmin smartwatches, check out our other relevant guides here:

Best Smartwatches

Best Garmin Watches

Best Garmin Watch for Mountain Biking

Best Garmin Watch for Cycling & Biking

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