Five GPS watches to track your adventures

Whether you want a GPS watch to track your turns, monitor your heart rate, or alert you when the barometric pressure drops too quickly, you have plenty of options these days. We’ve come a long way since the digital Casio has been your touring companion, and our editors have compiled a list of their favorites to help you find the watch that’s right for you.

Editor’s Pick: Garmin fēnix 6 Pro Solar

$800, garmin.com

During the summer months, the Garmin fēnix 6 Pro Solar has amazing battery life, admittedly at a price. Under your jacket there is no sun, however, the advantage of solar powered battery: 14-16 days in smartwatch mode; 48-80 days in battery saver mode; up to 40 hours in GPS mode – is cut for ski touring. Still, it’s quite a unit, packed with standard GPS and smartwatch functionality and a user-friendly app that includes recovery analysis, sleep score, up to 10 hours of music and more. In backcountry mode, we found the fēnix 6 Pro Solar to be excellent, with one exception: to track the ascent and descent you have to press the descent button, which isn’t optimal with a gloved hand. We found it easier to just let it roll and do the math the old-fashioned way.

Polar Grit X

$430, polar.com

With its shiny, polished bezel, the Grit X is as stylish as it is functional, using a touchscreen in addition to five buttons to perform nearly every feature a smartwatch should have and more. The Grit X can do almost everything a fitness tracker can (like monitor sleep or cumulative training load), plus it offers more outdoor-specific tools, including dedicated sports modes for backcountry, downhill, telemark, classic XC, skate XC and even skiing. orienteering. Speaking of orienteering, the ski sport modes automatically mark laps between uphill and downhill, which is especially useful for keeping track of the last run or green of the uphill.

Wahoo ELEMNT RIVAL

$380, wahoofitness.com

Wahoo is known among cyclists and triathletes for its indoor bike trainers and bike computers, and its ELEMNT RIVAL pursues that goal with a watch primarily geared toward fitness versus general outdoor activities. While that means the RIVAL doesn’t have a dedicated sport mode for skiing, it’s just as capable as the other watches on this page, especially given the Wahoo app’s reputation among cyclists for being smooth in loading routes, logging activities and customizing screens. And given the ability to easily update software, perhaps a ski-focused feature lies in the future, making it an ideal watch for on- and off-snow activities. It is also, by far, the most affordable presented here.

Suunto 9 Peak

$569, suunto.com

As part of the 9 series, the 9 Peak comes with a host of features that integrate with Suunto’s app like GPS tracking, fitness monitoring, weather information and 80 sport modes, including the ski, which tracks individual turns at the push of a button. With an eye on high altitude activities, the 9 Peak can monitor blood oxygen levels, and the altimeter, thermometer and storm alarm help track conditions. It has a slimmer profile than its cousin, the 9 Baro ($475), being 37% thinner and 36% lighter so it won’t cling to a jacket or backpack, and the reduced weight helps you forget you’re wearing it till you need it.

Coros Vertix 2

$600, coros.com

The Vertix 2’s 1.4-inch touchscreen, scroll button, and two buttons make it easy to navigate workout stats on the go. Few watches top the list of features included in the Vertix 2, many of which, like the customizable training plan, 27 sport modes and precise navigation, can be easily programmed via the Coros app. Additional benefits include a barometer and storm tracker and 60-day battery life (140 hours when using GPS tracking). As well as pairing with smartphones to share texts and emails, the Vertix 2 can connect to Bluetooth headphones and has storage for music.


This article originally appeared in issue 144. For more, pick up your copy at BackcountryMagazine.com/144 or subscribe.

About Robert L. Thomas

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