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The Best GPS Watches for Every Activity

Whether running, biking or hiking there's a GPS watch for that and more.

three gps enabled watches
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What do you need a GPS watch for? If you're reading this, you likely already have a specific purpose in mind. People don't buy GPS watches for navigating their daily lives: they buy them for their genuinely useful functionality in specialized activities like running, hiking, biking or knowing where their kid is at all times. So what are the best GPS watches you can get for those things? Let's get into it.

What is a GPS watch, and how does it work?

A GPS device receives signals from multiple satellites at once and uses multilateration to determine the receiver's position. It's then up to the device and software to make use of that info with map navigation, tracking speed and distance, and more. So, a GPS watch incorporates that into a wrist-worn, timepiece-like device. It's pretty damn cool that all that can happen right from your wrist, if you think about it.

One of the niftiest things about GPS: it can continue to offer you location and navigation information without a cell phone or internet connection, and can go where cell service often can't — especially helpful for the likes of hikers. Much of what makes a GPS watch good for a specific activity is how it combines GPS tracking with other functions and technologies: many GPS watches are also full-featured smartwatches.

What about privacy? Does a GPS watch log my location?

As noted above, GPS itself is mostly about one thing: where you are. What's done with that information depends on the software that makes it useable. Logging your location is the very point of GPS devices and the apps they interface with, so if that's a concern, you should look at closely at the privacy information and options associated with any app you choose to use — especially if you're in the military or similar. (Same deal with your smartphone.)

Buying Guide

Best Overall GPS Watch: Apple Watch

Apple
Best Overall GPS Watch
Apple Watch
apple.com
$799.00

The Apple Watch kind of wants to be everything to everyone — and it does a pretty good job. And while it might not make the top pick for some specific categories (see below), it'll probably be the best option for something that can transition between different activities — that's why we picked it as the best all-'rounder. Of course, GPS is only a small fraction of the functionality it offers, but it's overall solid and probably the most easy-wearing choice for whatever activity you might need GPS. (See our review of the Apple Watch Series 7 here.)

Diameter: 41mm, 45mm (lug-to-lug)
Battery Life
: 18 hours
Compatible With: Apple iOS
Notable Features
: Edge-to-edge screen, intuitive interface, closed software ecosystem, biometrics, full-featured smartwatch

Best Budget GPS Watch: Timex Ironman R300 GPS

Timex
Best Budget GPS Watch
Timex Ironman R300 GPS
amazon.com
$129.00
$92.95 (28% off)

Who'da thunk: for the same price as one of Timex's ultra cheap quartz watches, you can even get one with GPS functionality — plus, the likes of a touch screen and heart rate sensor, no less. For this price you shouldn't expect the type of functionality, refinement, supplemental features or even accuracy of higher-end GPS watches, but what you get for the money is pretty impressive. The basic-ness of its features are actually refreshing compared to smartwatches that can overwhelm you with fancy apps and whatnot. See our full review of the Timex Ironman R300 GPS here.

Diameter: 41mm
Battery Life
: 20 hours when using GPS, 25 days without GPS
Compatible With: Google Wear OS, Apple iOS
Notable Features
: Affordable price, touch screen, good battery life

Best Upgrade GPS Watch: Garmin Fenix

Garmin
Best Upgrade GPS Watch
Garmin Fēnix® 7S
garmin.com
$899.99

Before getting into wearables, Garmin made GPS devices for cars and even military. It's a leader in GPS watches (so don't be surprised if there are a couple Garmin watches on this list), and the Fenix is its top tier product. The current generation, Fēnix 7, has a lightweight titanium case and offers different sizes and and options, but we prefer it in the wearable 42mm, with solar charging and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal as found in luxury watches (those features adding $200 to its price).

Diameter: 42mm, 47mm, 51mm
Battery Life
: 11 days in smartwatch mode (14 days with solar charging)
Compatible With: Google Wear OS, Apple iOS, Garmin devices
Notable Features
: Solar charging, titanium construction, sapphire crystal, ABC sensors, biometrics, Garmin maps, wifi synching, full-featured smartwatch

Best Golf GPS Watch: TAG Heuer Connected Calibre E4 Golf Edition

Courtesy
Best Golf GPS Watch
TAG Heuer Connected Calibre E4 Golf Edition
tagheuer.com
$2,650.00

This is a full-featured smartwatch, and full-priced luxury watch, yes, but it's made specifically for golf. That's reflected in its design, but it also comes with a range of features specifically for golfers — and designed specifically for this watch. And you'll be pleasantly surprised how intuitive and pleasant they are to use. It makes use of GPS and combines it with other features that make it quite possibly the ultimate GPS watch for golfing.

Diameter: 45mm
Battery Life
: 24 hours
Compatible With: Google Wear OS, Apple iOS
Notable Features
: Luxury construction and design, sapphire crystal, golfing-specific design and features, biometrics, full-featured smartwatch

Best GPS Watch for Kids: Apple Watch SE

Courtesy
Best GPS Watch for Kids
Apple Watch SE
apple.com
$279.00

One of the handiest features of the Apple Watch for parents is its Family Setup, and Apple's location sharing is some of the smoothest out there. Of course, this'll be more useful for those who use Apple devices in general, and it's pricy for a kid's watch but still within a reasonable range considering all that it offers beyond GPS. It also offers a more sophisticated look that kids might want as they get older. If you're worried about durability, you can always get something like a protective case for it, too.

Diameter: 40mm, 44mm
Battery Life
: 18 hours
Compatible With: Google Wear OS, Apple iOS
Notable Features
: Most affordable Apple Watch, recycled aluminum construction, full-featured smartwatch

Best GPS Running Watch: Garmin Forerunner

Garmin
Best GPS Running Watch
Garmin Forerunner 255S Music
garmin.com
$399.99

While many Garmin watches are good for running, the Forerunner is made specifically for it with lightweight plastic construction and all the features you need for whatever type of running you're into or level you're at. The 255 is the a relatively affordable Forerunner model, but don't think that means that it skimps out on features. You can get all the bells and whistles with the Forerunner 955, while the $200 Forerunner 55 is the absolute basic that's best for beginners. We like the models with the Music option which stores up to 500 songs without your smartphone, and the smaller "S" versions for versatility and wearability.

Diameter: 41mm, 46mm
Battery Life
: 12 days in smartwatch mode, 26 days in GPS-only mode
Compatible With: Google Wear OS, Apple iOS, Garmin devices
Notable Features
: Plastic construction, touchscreen, Garmin maps, biometrics, run-specific apps and functions

Best GPS Watch for Hiking: Suunto 9

Suunto
Best GPS Watch for Hiking
Suunto 9 Peak
suunto.com
$569.00

Going hiking? If you're off the grid and beyond reach of a cellular connection, a GPS watch can potentially save you from getting lost — and the Sunnto 9 is especially intuitive to use. It's also notable for its "Intelligent Battery Modes" for saving power, and we especially like the thin Suunto 9 Peak that's only 10.6mm thick. Compared to the Suunto 9 Baro, it offers nearly all the same specs save for the Baro's whopping 50mm-wide x 16.8mm-thick case and bigger screen.

Diameter: 43mm, 50mm
Battery Life
: 25 hours, 7 days in Tour mode
Compatible With: Google Wear OS, Apple iOS
Notable Features
: Intelligent Battery Modes, sapphire crystal, stainless steel construction, made in Finland, biometrics

Best GPS Solar Watch: Seiko Astron

Seiko
Best GPS Solar Watch
SSH063
seikoluxe.com
$2,500.00

While a lot of the watches on this list are made for specific purposes and are GPS devices or mini computers first, the Seiko Astron is a watch first. It doesn't give you map data or track your steps, but it uses a GPS to determine your time zone and receive regular signals to automatically adjust your watch's time to keep it hyper-accurate and precise no matter where you are. Supremely practical, it's in lightweight titanium and solar-charging, to boot. If you're after a GPS smartwatch with solar charging, there are great options from Garmin, too.

Diameter: 42.7mm
Battery Life
: No charging or battery changes required
Compatible With: N/A
Notable Features
: Solar charging, dual time, 39 time zones, power saving function, perpetual day and date calendar correct to the year 2100

Best GPS Watch for Cycling: Wahoo Elemnt Rival

Wahoo
Best GPS Watch for Cycling
Wahoo Elemnt RIVAL Multisport GPS
wahoofitness.com
$329.99

Wahoo is a company with a focus on cycling, and it's no surprise that their GPS-equipped, fitness tracker watch is popular with the biking crowd. Not only is it relatively affordable within the world of GPS watches with a lot of the features you'd expect, but it's also made to accompany the brand's bike computers. Another appreciated feature is an ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts the screen between positive and negative displays for optimal legibility.

Diameter: 46.5mm
Battery Life
: 24 hours in GPS mode, 14 days in smartwatch mode
Compatible With: Google Wear OS, Apple iOS, Wahoo products
Notable Features
: Ceramic bezel, Gorilla Glass, biometrics, ambient light sensor

Best GPS Watch for Hunting: Garmin Instinct 2

Garmin
Best GPS Watch for Hunting
Garmin Instinct 2
garmin.com
$399.99

A hunting watch should have a lot of the same features something like a hiking watch does, but it'll probably have its durability tested even more. As hunters, by nature, literally go off the beaten trails, a particularly useful feature for them will be Garmin's Tracback Routing which helps you navigate the same rout back to a starting point. Probably a lot of Garmin watches would do the trick for this particular activity, but the Instinct 2 is relatively affordable — and it comes in a couple of appropriate camo-pattern versions.

Diameter: 40mm, 45mm
Battery Life
: 22 house, 54 hours with Max Battery GPS Mode
Compatible With: Google Wear OS, Apple iOS
Notable Features
: Max Battery GPS Mode, Tracback Routing, altimeter, barometer, compass

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