A GPS watch, such as the Suunto 9 Fitness Watch, has the same navigational features as any GPS, as well as options for ascent/descent rates, a mileage logbook, a stopwatch, and a countdown timer. This sports GPS watch is also water-resistant and weighs in at just 81 grams (2.86 ounces). Whether you are using a sports GPS watch or another GPS device, it is important to remember some of the pros and cons of any GPS system.

Pros

A GPS watch is a fun way to plan and follow a route for hiking, skiing, kayaking, or any other outdoor adventure. It helps you find your way in the dark or when you have no obvious trail to follow. Any GPS device, including a sports GPS watch, taps into satellite technology to pinpoint your location. There is also the convenience of being able to go on a run off-trail or in an unfamiliar area without having to hold your bulky phone. This is especially important if your workout attire doesn’t have pockets. GPS watches work in the woods and over varied terrain. Unlike your phone, which has multiple uses, a GPS watch is solely for its GPS capabilities. Also, when traveling through a dense forest, you should expect less accuracy compared to an open field on your phone. Because GPS watches rely on satellites, the internet isn’t needed for your watch to work. If you are especially worried about location accuracy, you can also download maps onto your watch.

Cons

Just like any electronic device, a sports GPS watch requires batteries. With that in mind, be sure to carry extra batteries for a watch GPS if you won’t have access to a power source. Also keep in mind that nighttime use of a backlighting feature will drain your sports GPS watch more quickly. Overall, the main battery drain is the GPS function. Other features such as weather readings, heart rate sensors, or the display use relatively little battery life. You also need a constant source of power in order to keep your watch charged up. It may not be sustainable to rely on a GPS watch during a long multi-day backpacking trip. However, some models can last as least a week if left in a power-saving mode.

Best GPS Watch Models

For hiking, the& Garmin Fenix 6 is one of the best watches on the market. It lasts 48 days in battery saver mode, which can be handy during long backpacking trips if you use the map system conservatively. It comes with GLONASS (GLObal NAvigation Satellite System), which in combination with GPS can provide access to more satellites and thus improve the accuracy of the satellite readings, especially in cities with a lot of tall buildings and on high altitudes.

For a sports watch, the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is a frontrunner on the market. It has the latest generation heart rate sensor, lasts up to 7 days without GPS and music running (up to 6 hours with both GPS and music running), can store up to 500 songs, and it only weighs 38.5 g (1.36 ounces). It also measures important metrics such as cadence, stride length, ground contact time and balance, vertical oscillation, and vertical ratio.

Now that you have some of the pros and cons for GPS watches, you can choose the best model for your adventures. Have more questions? Come see us in-store or online at your local Sun & Ski Sports.