Best Outdoor Watches 2017 And How To Choose One
The best outdoor watches 2017 are a challenge to choose. There are so many great options in the market, and choosing one from the other is no easy task. Lovers of the great outdoors have not always had the best options when it comes to sports watches. But as fitness wearables get more popular, makers have started paying attention to that segment of the market. Instead of just releasing watches for jogging and biking, now you can get really good wearables for use in all kinds of outdoor activities from hiking to mountain climbing to open water swimming.
As hard as it is, we will try to pick the best from the many options available. We have made our choices based on the features of each watch and how well these features apply to outdoor use. But first, a look at the most important features of a good outdoor watch.
Features of an Outdoor Watch
A good outdoor watch is defined by several features.
1. Great display
A few years back, it was impossible to use your phone outside because of too much glare. But display technology on Smartphones has vastly improved to the point that this is no longer a problem. This is an advantage for outdoor watches since they can take advantage of the same technology to make it easy to use the watch outdoors.
A good display ensures that you can easily and quickly see what is on your watch, no matter the weather conditions. You should not squint, find a shade or use your hand to see the time, note your distance or find your current location.
This one is a no brainer. It is very easy to get lost in the outdoors, especially in remote terrain such as forests and mountains. A GPS-equipped watch is a must if you want to keep track of your location at all times. Considering that you might often be far from civilization, we would recommend a watch that has Assisted GPS (A-GPS) as well as GLONASS (Russian version of GPS). Having these two extra features significantly improves GPS performance, range and connection strength.
With a GPS-equipped watch, you can even plan your routes ahead of time, researching them and making sure they are safe to use.
This basic feature should be in any outdoor watch. While GPS is exceptionally good at helping you find your way around the wild outdoors, you might get to a point where there is no reception. Instead of moving about blindly, and dangerously, a compass is the second best way to avoid getting lost.
4. Water and dust proof
The outdoors is a rough place. You will encounter rain, water, ice, dust and so much more. A normal watch cannot survive the wildness of the outdoors. For outdoor watches, they must be designed to repel as many elements as possible. One rating to gauge how ideal a watch is for the outdoors is the International Protection (IP) rating. It denotes the level of dust and water protection for electrical devices.
For an outdoor watch, the minimum rating should be IP56. The first number represents dust protection while the second indicates the level of protection against the entry of water and other liquids. You can read more about this rating here.
A rating of IP56 will keep your watch working even when it is raining. If you are planning to go for a swim or just need maximum protection, look for a rating of IP68.
5. Long battery life
There is nothing as scary as being in a remote area and suddenly your GPS and compass containing watch is out with a dead battery. Chances are that your Smartphone’s battery will also be dead or dying. To avoid this, find a smartwatch that has a long battery life. The minimum battery life should be 48 hours. But you can find some outdoor watches lasting 4 days or even longer.
You can carry an external portable charger to give you a few more days worth of battery especially if you plan on being outdoors for several days.
You are going to encounter many rough situations when outdoors. You watch will unavoidably bump into things, get scratched and so much more. It needs to be strong enough to withstand all the knocks and bumps and durable enough to last long beyond your first or second outdoor adventure.
Top 5 Best Outdoor Watches 2017
1. Casio Pro Trek PRW3000
The Casio PRW3000 has been designed for location accuracy as well as maximum battery life. For $300, this watch packs a range of sensors in a sleek but hardy exterior and completes the look with a soft urethane band that is easy on your wrist.
One of the best features of the Casio PRW3000 is that it is solar powered. Once you charge up the watch, it can maintain its full charge for months since it relies on the sun for power when you are outdoors. If you are looking for an outdoor watch that will not die on you, this is it.
To keep you safe and aware of your surroundings, the watch as an easy-access compass, a barometric pressure sensor and a temperature sensor. This ensures that you are always aware of location, altitude and temperature.
Another technical feature outdoor enthusiasts will certainly appreciate is the atomic timekeeping. This is used to deliverer accurate time readings to the user all the time no matter where they are. The watch receives calibration instructions 5 to 6 times a day. Other specs include;
- Resistant to low temperatures of up to -10 degree Celsius or 14 Fahrenheit.
- Resistant to water of up to 100 meters in depth.
- Full LED backlight with an afterglow feature.
- Sunrise and sunset time information.
- Stopwatch and countdown timer.
- Power saving feature.
The watch does not come with GPS capabilities but the compass and other sensors are enough to keep you on track.
2. Garmin Fenix 3
Garmin is a leader when it comes to outdoor and sports GPS devices. Like most of its products, the Fenix 3 watch does not disappoint. First, it comes equipped with both GPS and GLONASS for faster, stronger and more accurate satellite connections. For help with location tracking, Fenix 3 contains a barometer for pressure, an altimeter for altitude measurements and a compass for directions.
For those outdoor adventures involving sports like biking or running, Fenix 3 has several fitness tracking and training features. They include speed, distance, pace, VO2 Max and recovery adviser. You can use these training features in a variety of sports including climbing, running, skiing and diving.
The display consists of a tough crystal dome that will survive the roughest of outdoor situations. Most of the exterior is reinforced with hard fiber glass while the buttons are stainless steel for maximum durability. For readability, the watch uses color Chroma display and LED backlighting for easy use in any light condition.
To stay connected with the world, the watch can connect you your Smartphone and receive smart notifications including texts, calls and emails. You can further customize your experience through compatible apps found on the Connect IQ platform.
The Fenix 3 watch is essentially for the outdoor enthusiast who also engages in plenty of sporting activities.
3. Gamin Epix
While Fenix 3 is made with sports in mind, Epix is a purely explorer-oriented watch. It is built with the adventurer in mind. To start off, there is a feature we have come to expect in most of Garmin’s gadgets; the GPS/GLONASS combination. This gives you a faster, stronger and more accurate satellite connection.
The watch comes preloaded with various topographical maps, a worldwide relief basemap and a one year subscription to high resolution satellite imagery. This should be enough for you to figure out your way around various locations and terrains. But the Garmin Epix does not stop there. With 8GB in internal memory, you can load even more maps to help in your navigation. Various third party maps such as City Navigator and BlueChart maps can be really helpful in your adventures.
An ABC – altimeter, barometer and compass – set of sensors provide real time information on altitude, pressure and location to keep you aware. Pressure reading can be helpful in predicting weather patterns.
To withstand the outdoors, the Epix watch features a rugged construction with a 50-meter water rating, mineral glass lens and a tough PVD (physical vapor deposition) coating. Connect it to your Smartphone via Bluetooth to stay connected through smart notifications.
4. Suunto Traverse Alpha
The Traverse Alpha is made to military standards, managing to combine functionality with a rugged design and all the while, keeping its stylish look. It comes with GPS/GLONASS connectivity, guaranteeing you a strong connection even when you are far off the beaten path.
Unlike most outdoor watches, Traverse Alpha comes with tools specifically for fishing and hunting. They include shot detection and tracking, moonrise and moonset times to help you determine the best times for fishing, barometer to predict short-term weather changes and trail marking.
If you are going hiking, you can use the barometric sensor to keep track of your ascent. You can save points of interest on the watch and use a digital breadcrumb trail to retrace your steps. Add to the mix, a compass and there is no chance of getting lost.
The design is of the quality you would expect from a military-standard watch. It comes with a tough stainless steel bezel, a water resistant strap and an anti-scratch sapphire crystal glass. To prove the toughness of the watch, the makers have put it under various tests including shock, vibration, freeze, immersion, sand, dust and humidity.
If you are looking for a GPS watch made for the serious outdoor enthusiast, this is one of our top recommendations. It combines top features with a rugged build that will not disappoint.
5. Omate Rise
As far as outdoor watches go, this is not exactly a 5-star recommendation. It does not even come close to Garmin’s Epix or Suunto’s Traverse Alpha in terms of features. The reason we have included it in our list is because it stands out.
All the outdoor watches we have included in this list, and most Smartwatches for that matter, have one thing in common; they rely on your Smartphone for things like calling, texts and emails. This creates a limiting dependence where you need to have your phone with you all the time if you want to stay connected to the world. But not the Omate Rise.
A Micro-SIM card slot gives the watch 3G capabilities. Once you insert a Micro-SIM, you can make/receive calls, send/receive texts and send/receive emails. All these without the need to connect to your Smartphone. This connectivity can come really handy when you are outdoors and your Smartphone dies, gets lost or stops working.
With its fancy call and text features, can it really withstand the outdoors? For one, it has been rated as water resistant up to 1 ATM. This corresponds to a maximum depth of 10 meters. It can withstand rain, a splash of juice and a wade through a swamp but it is not a swimming or diving watch. The display contains an anti-scratch sapphire coating to protect the screen from bumps and scratches.
It also comes with GPS support, weather updates, fitness tracking and music to keep you company.
The Omate Rise is not the toughest most feature-packed of outdoor watches. It is designed for amateur outdoor enthusiasts who hate the dependency on their bulky phones for communication. With Omate Rise, you can leave your phone at home and go hiking or running knowing that you are still connected to friends, family and colleagues.
It is really hard to pick the winner from the above outdoor watches. Each of the above picks is excellent in its own way. Overall however, we have to go with Garmin Epix. It was a close tie to Suunto Traverse Alpha but the maps feature in Epix wins the prize.
If you are planning to stay outdoors for days or even weeks, we recommend the Casio Pro Trek PRW3000. For amateur adventurers who want to stay connected, Omate Rise is perfect. For adventurists geared more towards sporting, the Fenix 3 from Garmin provides a variety of training features.
Which outdoor watches would you pick and why? Leave your comments below.