For those that love hiking, trail running, and spending time in the great outdoors, a reliable watch is an essential piece of equipment. From navigational features to simply telling time, these everyday wearable instruments have served avid outdoorsmen for decades without fail.
While watches may be popular among outdoor enthusiasts, deciding which watch is best-suited for the trail ahead can be a challenging task.
After all, many outdoor watches are designed for specific activities such as diving, running, surfing, and golfing to name only a few. Start searching for a hiking watch and quickly you’ll find that the options are not only limitless, but potentially expensive as well.
Not all outdoor watches are created equal, and not all of them are designed for hiking. A good hiking watch will primarily show the date and time, and some will also provide crucial information such as altitude, elevation, heart rate, and location. A hiking watch should be durable, lightweight, waterproof, and it shouldn’t burn a hole in your pocket either.
Best Hiking Watches Under $200
Whether you’re looking for a hiking watch with all the bells and whistles or a timeless field watch that keeps on ticking, we’ve put together this list of the best hiking watches under $200.
If you need something a little cheaper, I’d recommend heading over to our article on the best hiking watches under $100 for some great options.
The Suunto Core is a middle-of-the-road hiking watch that’s made out of a silicone band and a carbon fiber case, making it incredibly lightweight and extremely durable.
Though it may look like any other wristwatch, the Core has a few tricks up its sleeve that make it ideal for hiking. For instance, a built-in altimeter tracks vertical movement on the trail, and a barometer constantly measures changes in air pressure.
Though you’re sure to check the weather report before heading into the backcountry, the Core’s intelligent storm alarm will track weather patterns within a three-hour period, just in case. Should air pressure suddenly drop, a storm alarm will sound and flash to let you know that conditions are quickly changing.
The watch’s built-in compass will point you in the right direction every time, and preset sunrise/sunset times are available for over 400 locations around the world.
Hiking watches that make use of GPS technology will cost a pretty penny, but the Core does well to provide worthwhile information without breaking the bank. Though it doesn’t have GPS capabilities, you can easily make use of its many features on both short and long hikes.
Garmin Forerunner 235
The Garmin Forerunner series includes top-of-the-line models such as the Forerunner 945 that allows for music playback and contactless payments, but it also includes simpler watches such as the Forerunner 235 that are ideal for hiking.
The Forerunner 235 is a GPS-enabled smartwatch that tracks distance, pace, time, heart rate, and more. With a vibrant LCD display, you’ll never struggle to check the time or your fitness stats in poor lighting. Though many triathletes applaud the 235 because it tracks running, biking, and swimming metrics, hikers make use of the integrated step counter, heart rate monitor, and accelerometer when out on the trail.
Additionally, the 235’s “Back to Start” feature allows you to head out on a hike in any direction until you’re ready to turn back, at which point the watch will provide directions to guide you on the same trail home.
The biggest grievance amongst those that wear a smartwatch is poor battery performance. After all, nothing is more annoying than a watch that dies in the midst of a backcountry adventure. But the Forerunner 235’s battery will last for up to 9 days on a single charge in normal mode, and up to 11 hours when the GPS is enabled, thus ensuring you can track almost any outing.
Other features such as weather alerts, calendar updates, and text notifications are a bonus – making this the best $200 hiking watch.
Much like Casio sports the rugged G-SHOCK lineup for those that need a tough-as-nails timepiece, so too does Garmin feature a heavy-duty wristwatch of their own: the Instinct.
The Instinct is built to the U.S. military standard 810 for thermal, shock, and water resistance of up to 100 meters. It also makes use of multiple tracking systems that include GPS, Glonass, and Galileo so you can track your movements in more challenging environments when GPS isn’t available.
Monitor your estimated heart rate with the built-in optical heart rate sensor, and track your stress levels over time by utilizing the heart rate variability monitor that calculates your stress level score so you can see if you’re having a calm, balanced, or stressful day.
Battery life on the Instinct is impressive too. The watch can last up to 14 days on a single charge in normal mode, up to 16 hours in GPS mode, and up to 40 hours in Ultratrac battery save mode.
Much like the Forerunner 235, the Instinct is capable of alerting you to incoming texts, calls, calendar updates, and more should you choose to sync it with your phone. Those with an Android phone can send text replies directly from the watch’s interface. Of the best hiking watches under $200, the Instinct just might top the list.
Timex Expedition Grid Shock Watch
Think of the Timex Expedition Grid Shock as the older, far more mature sibling of the Expedition Scout. It features the same Timex reliability as the Scout, but it makes use of an all-over resin construction and an all-over resin strap to increase durability where you need it most. It even features a water resistance rating of up to 100 meters.
But there’s more to this inexpensive option than meets the eye. The Expedition Grid Shock also features a chronograph that can record up to 100 hours, a timer that can count down from 24 hours, and three separate vibrating/audible alarms for daily, weekly, and weekend reminders.
It can display three different time zones using the 24-hour military time format, and you can even set hydration alerts.
You may not get the same ABC technology found on watches that are similar to the Expedition Grid Shock, but this watch makes for the perfect wearable if you need a simple timepiece for those casual backcountry treks.
The SGW1000-1A from Casio makes use of a triple sensor array (ABC) that provides temperature readings and cardinal directions in a 100-meter water-resistant case.
Directional readings and the time are indicated by large, easy-to-read figures, making this the perfect option for low-key hikers that may be on the older side. A large LCD display is divided into three segments for a clear, easy-to-understand presentation of data.
When setting up the watch, make note that it will need to be calibrated for altitude, barometric pressure, and cardinal direction before use if you want accurate readings. These should be calibrated on a general cycle to ensure accuracy. The polished metal on the back of the watch can also be used as a signal mirror in the event of an emergency.
Fitbit Versa 2
You may not think of a Fitbit wearable as your typical hiking watch, but many have come to enjoy this affordable smartwatch thanks in-part to the many features packed within its minimal frame. After Google bought the Fitbit brand in 2019, many have also taken a closer look at the reliability of Fitbit devices now that the well-known tech giant is at the helm.
The Fitbit Versa 2 comes pre-built with Amazon’s smart assistant Alexa so you can check the weather, set timers, and control smart devices around your home. Other features include a built-in heart rate monitor, a sleep tracker, and even Spotify compatibility.
Though the Versa 2 is geared towards active users looking to promote a healthy lifestyle, hikers can make use of the GPS system that pairs with your phone, as well as the calorie counter and six days of battery life.
Sensors packed within the Versa 2 include a 3-axis accelerometer, an optical heart rate monitor, an altimeter, a vibration motor for alerts and notifications, and a relative SpO2 sensor that will measure the oxygen saturation of your blood. The watch’s 50-meter water resistance rating should stand up to rainy days on the trail.
Samsung Galaxy Active
Similar in nature to the Fitbit Versa 2, the Samsung Galaxy Active is a smartwatch that blurs the lines between a tech-infused watch and an active lifestyle timepiece. Though the Galaxy Active has since been followed by its successor, the Galaxy Active 2, there are many features thrown into this watch that make it a worthwhile hiking option.
Featuring a comfortable and lightweight design, the Galaxy Active makes use of fitness-centric features such as built-in GPS, a swim-proof case, sleep tracking, and breathing exercises for those that want to focus on their overall health.
Bluetooth and NFC technology allow you to pair the watch seamlessly with devices around the home, and if you’re sitting for extended periods of time, the Galaxy Active will nudge you to get up and move.
Though the Galaxy Active isn’t what many would consider to be a hiking watch at its core, those looking for the advanced capabilities of a smartwatch combined with the durability of an active wearable may find that the Galaxy Active meets both of these needs rather well.
The Coros PACE sports a look and feel much like Garmin’s Forerunner 235, but don’t let the resemblance deter you. This smartwatch from an up-and-coming brand is packed with an array of sensors and features that make it a capable hiking companion.
Much like the Forerunner 235, the PACE features an optical heart rate monitor, customizable training modes, built-in GPS, elevation readings, and post-activity stats such as calories burned. Unlike the Forerunner 235, however, the PACE features GPS, Glonass, and BeiDou for added tracking capabilities in spotty terrain.
The battery life is widely considered to be best-in-class with an astonishing 30 days of use in normal mode, 25 hours in full GPS mode, and 50 hours in UltraMax GPS mode.
Though Coros is a new brand in the smartwatch space, it’s watches are nevertheless capable of syncing with third-party training applications like Strava, TrainingPeaks, Relive, Runalyze, and Final Surge. The PACE is available in three colors that include black, red, and blue.
Garmin Forerunner 35
If you’re only looking for the simplest GPS watch you can find, look no further than Garmin’s Forerunner 35. As an inexpensive smartwatch from a reputable brand, there may be no simpler option that features much of the same technology found in high-end watches for a fraction of the price.
The Forerunner 35 measures heart rate via an optical scanner at the wrist, while built-in GPS tracks how far and how long you’ve run. Though the Forerunner 35 is designed to track running activities, it can still keep track of valuable data on short and long hikes.
Once your hike is complete, the data will automatically sync with your phone if you’ve downloaded Garmin Connect, a free online fitness community that features challenges, insights, and progress tracking.
Citizen Military Field Watch
If you’re looking to incorporate sustainability into your hiking wearable, look no further than the Military Field Watch from Citizen that runs on eco-drive technology.
This means any source of light, natural or artificial, is capable of recharging the power cell in the watch so it never requires a battery. That’s right, this watch never needs a new battery — ever.
Beyond the watch’s impressive battery, this military-inspired timepiece features a black ion-plated stainless steel case, a green Cordura strap that’s ultra-durable, and a black dial for a sleek look on or off the trail.
Other features include an analog day and date design, as well as twelve or twenty-four-hour time hands.
Though the Citizen watch may appear to be a hiking watch that’s designed solely with style in mind, it can still withstand dirt, dust, grime, and up to 100 meters of water.
The G-SHOCK series from Casio is darn tough; so tough, in fact, that members of the U.S. military often prefer to wear watches from the G-SHOCK lineup over other timepieces that are smarter or more complex.
So how tough is the G-SHOCK, exactly? Well, the watch is water-resistant up to 200 meters for starters, and it features a Super Illuminator LED Light with Afterglow that makes it easy to read in the middle of the night.
Multi-dimensional hour and minute hands give the watch an impressive appearance, and 31 different time zones allow you to keep track of time no matter where you are in the world.
Most importantly, the “G” in G-SHOCK stands for “Gravitational Shock,” which means the watch is designed to resist mechanical shock and vibrations. Guided by a “Triple 10” development design, the G-SHOCK is capable of withstanding 10-meter free-falls, 10-bar water pressure, and its battery is built to last for 10 years.
Even hikers that sport an inexpensive G-SHOCK model can spend time in the backcountry without wondering if their watch is up for the task at hand, because the G-SHOCK is always up for any task big or small.
Timex Expedition Scout
Maybe you’re not looking for a watch that has all the bells and whistles. If GPS, text alerts, and built-in accelerometers sound confusing, get back to the basics with the Timex Expedition Scout wristwatch; it displays the time, the date, and nothing else.
Featuring over 20 different styles, the Expedition Scout is a durable timepiece that won’t cost you an arm and a leg to own.
An Indiglo backlight allows you to check the time at night, and the watch’s battery will last for up to five years before it requires a simple replacement. It’s water-resistant up to 100 meters, and Timex’s legendary durability will ensure the Expedition Scout keeps on ticking no matter where your hiking adventures may take you.
How to Choose a Hiking Watch
Hiking watches play host to a number of features that should be taken into consideration before deciding which watch is right for you. This can get a little confusing as you consider all the possibilities, so here’s what you should keep in mind to find the best hiking watch for less than $200.
ABC: Altimeter, Barometer, Compass
Most hiking watches that are worth their salt can provide you with three primary readings: altitude, pressure, and cardinal directions. Let’s take a brief look at each of these measurements.
The altimeter is designed to provide you with an accurate reading of your current altitude. Many hikers consider this to be the most important feature on a hiking watch because altitude can tell you more about current weather conditions, your bodily health, and your current location.
For instance, a hiker suffering from the effects of altitude sickness needs to know their current altitude as they move further down in elevation.
A barometer is designed to measure atmospheric pressure, and your understanding of the current atmospheric pressure on a hike will allow you to make predictions about the weather. A barometer is more helpful if you take longer hikes, or if you don’t have access to weather updates in the backcountry.
A compass will display the four cardinal directions: North, South, East, and West. This feature is most helpful when you’re hiking into uncharted territory.
There are two different types of compasses to take into consideration: 2D and 3D. A 2D compass will only work when the watch is held at a perfectly horizontal angle, while a 3D compass will work at any angle.
GPS stands for global positioning system, and it’s a great feature to have on a watch when you’re hiking off the grid. You’ll often need a GPS if you don’t want to rely on a map and compass for the entirety of your trek unless – of course – you have cell coverage.
Many hiking watches feature built-in GPS technology. But keep in mind that it may not always be accurate. The accuracy of the GPS is directly related to the quality of the watch; a higher-quality watch will sport a more accurate GPS.
Heart Rate Monitor
A heart rate monitor isn’t usually considered a necessity amongst hikers, but it’s a nifty tool to have at your disposal nevertheless. It can help you maintain a steady pace on the trail, or alert you if you have a condition that needs to be monitored in the woods.
Watches that utilize GPS, heart rate sensors, and other advanced equipment can often sync to your phone via a third-party application. This may not be a requirement when you consider how long we’ve hiked without smartphones, but many hiking watches pull vast quantities of data that you may have an interest in, from elevation changes to activity duration, and beyond.
Durability and Water Resistance
Hiking is rugged, and your watch should be too. Therefore, make sure you keep your eyes open for tough case and strap materials. Steel and carbon fiber are hiking favorites, along with silicone or leather straps for longevity.
Additionally, it is always possible to get caught in a sudden downpour while out hiking. So do yourself a favor and make sure your watch is at least water-resistant, and ideally waterproof up to several feet underwater.
A hiking watch doesn’t have to be expensive, but keep in mind that the more features a watch has, the more it will cost at the end of the day. For instance, watches that have built-in GPS tend to cost more than watches that don’t. A simple field watch that only displays the date and time will be your most affordable option, but it won’t come with ABC technology, bluetooth, or GPS.
When considering which hiking watch to buy, a great rule of thumb is to start by establishing a reasonable budget. From there you can determine which watches fall within your budget, and what features they offer that you’ll use on the trail.
Adding a hiking watch to your arsenal of outdoor equipment is one of the best things you can do to ensure your time on the trail is well spent. This is especially true if you hike into higher elevations, or if your treks are longer and the need for data is more important.
With so many watches to choose from, you would be hard-pressed not to find something that meets your needs regardless of your budget. After you’ve determined how much you’re willing to spend, you can begin to narrow down your options based on features and fit. While finding the best hiking watches under $200 may seem like a daunting task, the outcome is worth every moment of your time.