Adventure-proof watches for getting off the beaten track and navigating the great outdoors.
If your idea of a decent physical challenge involves scaling peaks, flying down mountains, riding rivers or even more extreme adventures, you need a serious sports watch that’s up to the task.
It needs to be hard-wearing enough to withstand all the knocks and scrapes, and packed full of reliable features like good battery life, maps, GPS, altimeter, barometer and other tech to help you thrive – and stay alive – in the wild.
MF BEST BUY:
Garmin Fenix 6
From £529.99, garmin.com
A fully featured multisports all-rounder with built-in heart rate, the big draw of the Fenix 6 is that it’s as much at home tracking urban runs, rides and swims as it is being fully tested in the wild.
It happily clocks all the fitness basics – like your heart rate surges, distance, pace – while you tackle almost any adventure, whether that’s hacking up mountains, flying down pistes or front crawling through the waves on an open-water swim. You’ll also get a full suite of insights like VO2 Max, recovery and sleep that’s now familiar on most Garmin watches.
There are 19 different versions of this flagship timepiece, each with slightly different builds, straps and colours, all built to US Military standards for thermal, shock and water resistance – but the most adventure-ready come with titanium or diamond-like-carbon tough coated bezels and scratch-resistant sapphire screens.
Under that knock-proof exterior are all the adventure tools you need. Multi-satellite navigation – GPS, Glonass and Galileo – provides excellent accuracy even in remote spots, an altimeter tracks elevation data and a barometer monitors weather. There’s also a three-axis electronic compass to power a variety of navigation tools, including round-trip routing, topoactive maps and turn-by-turn navigation.
You get 36 hours’ battery life in full GPS mode, but that can be extended to last weeks in expedition mode (by using an ultra-low power GPS reference to save juice).
Skiers will love the fact the Fenix is pre-loaded with ski maps for 2,000 resorts around the world and has a backcountry skiing mode for taking it off piste. Hikers, trail runners and anyone who likes getting high can also use a ClimbPro tool to plan ascents with info on elevation, altitude and even weather.
From £519.00, coros.com
Built for adventurers, the Vertix covers core sports modes like running, cycling and swimming, but it also bosses more testing challenges, with altitude and mountain climb modes designed to track your ascents and keep you safe on the way to the summit.
Its titanium frame and Sapphire glass screen offers solid protection against any rough and tumble. This is also the only watch that’s waterproof to 150 metres and has the ability to work in freezing conditions.
There’s no shortage of sensors on board, with a compass for navigation and mapping, and a pulse oximeter for added safety when you hit high altitude. There’s a heart rate monitor too, but accuracy is a bit spotty.
This is also a watch that will go the distance. It promises 45 days in regular use and a massive 60 hours when you’re using GPS. Leave it on your bedside table for a few days or even weeks, and there’s still more than enough power to get you through another big adventure.
Garmin Instinct Tactical
The Ant Middleton of GPS sports watches, this brilliant military-grade adventure tracking tool is built for serious battles with the outdoors. It features thermal, shock and 100m water resistance, plus a night screen mode that can be read by night vision goggles.
It’s stupidly easy to map, track, sync and share routes, and there’s 16 hours’ battery in GPS mode and up to 40 hours in low power. Projected waypoints let you mark location to aim at, and trackback routing provides a safety net should you need to bale out.
Suunto Traverse Amber
With 100-hour battery life that’ll outlast most expeditions, staying power is definitely the Traverse’s standout selling point. It’s best-suited for mountain-based hiking adventures, with sensors for tracking altitude, vertical speed and total ascent, along with dual-satellite GPS and Glonass.
Automatic breadcrumb trails help you retrace your steps should you get lost. It’s also water-resistant to 100m, so rain, sweat and snow are no trouble. And it’s more wallet friendly than many outdoor options.
As innovations go, this GPS tracking watch that never needs charging is up there. It uses the differential between your body heat and the ambient temperature plus a screen packing a solar cell to generate power. It’s also rugged, water resistant to 200m and built to last.
This should all make it ideal for long adventures in the wild, but there’s a glitch. It’s sadly lacking in features, riddled with bugs and, on the whole, not much more use than a basic Casio.
Words: Kieran Alger