Nowadays, there's a wide range of gadgets that will help you move safely and purposefully through wild places. These include navigation devices with detailed maps, compasses, sports watches, binoculars and altimeters. Experience will often teach you which navigation tools suit you best – but if you're not sure, we recommend a GPS navigation device with a large and colourful display. These are real all-rounders, as they combine pretty much all the functions you could possibly need when you're out and about in nature.
Smartwatches have made incredible advances in recent years. These days, they have even divided into different categories, like outdoor watches, for example. The best outdoor watches are generally also classed as GPS watches for obvious reasons. Many of the best of them these days have pinpoint accuracy, often being accurate to 2 metres or less.
Nowadays, smartwatches come in various different models. These can be indoor or outdoor versions of the same watch. Also, they can be the same watch, but at one of many varying sizes (watch size does matter — see below why).
It's important to ascertain all options available for a particular watch. For example, Garmin is famous for making watches interchangeable with various types of bands. This can lead to quite amazing combinations, as you can select a wristband that you like the most without having to worry about the watch attached to it.
Let's help you, the customer, narrow down what you may be specifically looking for in your dream outdoor smartwatch.
An often glossed-over factor is battery life. This is one area where you as the customer should have high expectations because, these days, smartwatches sometimes have battery lives measured not in days or weeks, but in months! You should expect no less than three full months' battery from a good watch and at least two full months, if you have the full “expedition mode” equivalent switched on.
Another factor is the size of the watch itself. It should not be too big or too small for the wrist it has to go on. It sounds obvious when you are reading this, but often people get so caught up in buyer's fantasy, they can tend to forget the obvious.
Corollary to the above, if you have a small slim wrist, you are probably not going to be comfortable if you have a heavy watch on it. This is one of the reasons that watches should be bought in person, and not on the internet.
Here is a short list also of features that you may find useful in a smartwatch:
Optionally, some watches even monitor your sleep patterns and even have sensors that track your stress levels. Also, some of them offer sophisticated performance analysis tools, which may be much to the liking of some avid hikers and trekkers.
You should look for neat hiking-related options such as breadcrumb routes, waypoints and, sometimes, full maps.
What to avoid
First off, make sure that you don't buy a model that cuts any corners in the areas mentioned above.
Also, a proper outdoor watch needs to be rugged. Don't buy anything that has any part of it that doesn't feel like it can last for a decade or two, or like it won't be able to deal with harsh weather conditions or extreme situations.
In addition to that, it's probably a good idea to prioritize a long battery life when choosing a watch. At the very least, you want to make sure the battery lasts as long as your treks do, with some headroom just in case.
So, if you like to go into the wilderness for days on end, it's much more convenient to not have to worry about re-charging your watch when you do so. Also, keep in mind that the battery drains faster if the GPS feature is on; this is an inevitable fact of GPS. This can, however, be mitigated if the watch has an offline mode where it works on stored data.