The Best Navigation Watch For Backpacking And Camping. You Will Never Get Lost!

best navigation watch

A navigation watch out on the hiking trail is one of the most useful technology items you can own. It can do so much more than just tell time, and after you get one, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.

Navigation watches combine useful tools like altimeters, barometers, and compasses with fitness tracking capabilities and the GPS capabilities of a maps device.

Plus, they are very rugged, can be waterproof, and can automatically connect with external software to successfully upload your data so you don’t lose them.

These best navigation watches are made by Garmin, a company whose name is synonymous with GPS devices. Let these excellent watches help you during your next trip to the outdoors.

Navigation Watch Reviews:

1. Editor's Choice - Garmin Fenix 3, Sapphire


The Garmin Fenix 3, Sapphire is definitely our Editor’s Choice pick for the best navigation watch you can have as a backpacker or camper out in the field.

This exceptional gadget is like having a heart rate monitor, a GPS system, a trail run tracker, an elevation tracker, a personal fitness trainer, a timepiece, a stopwatch, a three-axis compass, an altimeter, and a barometer all in one.

It also has Connect IQ compatibility that automatically connects it to Garmin software and updates everything that’s happened to you out on the trail.

The antenna moves in different directions to pick up the Wi-Fi signal in a hotspot location. You can customize the apps, widgets, watch faces, and data fields on this watch.

It is not just technologically advanced. It’s also rugged for the field, with your choice of the regular rubber band or a metal band. The watch face is a large 1.2” in diameter, with multiple Chroma lit displays.

The dome over the watch face is resistant to scratches, too. The included and rechargeable battery is good for up to 20 hours in the highest training / GPS mode, 50 hours in the UltraTrac training mode, and six weeks if you just keep it in timepiece watch mode.

2. Best Under $200 - Garmin Vivoactive

With a handsome square face and multiple app modes for running, biking, swimming, golfing, and walking, the Garmin Vivoactive is the best navigation watch for under $200.

It comes in either black or white, and it looks similar to an Apple watch in its general size and shape. It comes in two styles – with or without a heart rate monitor.

The display size is 28.6 mm wide by 20.7 mm high. The display is ultra-thin, with a high resolution and a color touchscreen that’s easy to navigate.

You simply tap on the icon that fits your needs. It includes plenty of sports apps, each of which is GPS enabled. You can sync it as long as your smartphone is within 30 feet, and you can also view your stats even when you’re away from your smartphone.

You can also access the Connect IQ store to customize it further with free watch face designs, widgets, and more apps.

When using the GPS, you can get about 10 hours of battery life. With that feature turned off, you can get about three weeks of use between charges.

In the box, you get the navigation watch, the charging / data clip, and a User Manual.

3. Best Under $100 – Garmin Forerunner 10 GPS Watch

For a budget navigation watch that costs less than $100, the Garmin Forerunner 10 GPS Watch is for you. You get the choice of two screen sizes, either the 2.1 cm or the 2.5 cm. It also comes in six color options – black / silver, green / white, pink / white, violet / white, black / orange, or black / red. It comes with a built-in, high-sensitivity GPS receiver that picks up your movements.

It also records your position, your speed / pace while you’re hiking or backpacking, your distance, and your calories burned. The Virtual Pacer compares your current pace to the target pace, and it has an auto lap and pause feature included. It’s a simple out-of-the-box watch to use and button operated. This watch is also water resistant up to 50 meters. The display size is 0.81” wide and 0.77” high, with a display resolution of 55 by 32 pixels.

Like the other two navigation watches, this Garmin Forerunner is also Garmin Connect compatible. Its battery life is five hours in training mode and up to five weeks in power save mode. In the box, you get the Forerunner 10 watch, a charge / data cable, and a user manual to help you get started using it right away.

gps watch with maps

GPS Watch For Hiking, Backing And Camping Buyer's Guide 101:

Hiking Features

These navigation watches are the best because they include multiple tools in one versatile timepiece machine. Of particular importance are the hiking features, which include an altimeter, barometer, a compass, the GPS, and a way to track how much distance you’ve covered.

A barometer is a scientific instrument that measures atmospheric pressure, so if you’re hiking in mountainous or hilly areas, it’s useful to have that instrument.

The altimeter found on the Garmin Fenix 3 measures altitude above a fixed level. So, you’ll know where you are in relation to the sea level.

A compass ensures that you won’t get lost, no matter how foggy or terrible the weather becomes. Both the Garmin Fenix 3 and the Garmin Vivoactive come with heart rate monitor options, which can track your heart rate.


The more durable your Garmin navigation watch, the longer you’ll have it, with it working perfectly while you’re out on the trail. The watch itself is built to last, with plenty of protection around the watch face display. With the Garmin Fenix 3 and the Garmin Vivoactive, you can actually replace the wrist bands, which will probably fall apart before the watch itself does. The Garmin Forerunner is also durable and waterproof.

GPS Technology

Garmin is a brand synonymous with GPS (global positioning system) navigation, so these navigation watches have that highly effective technology included. The Garmin Fenix 3 also have an exo antenna, which works in every direction to pick up different signals, no matter how weak.

GPS watches with maps can pinpoints your exact location, increasing safety and ensuring a successful navigating experience.

Modern navigation watches have a built-in wireless antenna to take advantage of Wi-Fi hot spots. This means all of your data is automatically synced and backed up with your Garmin Connect.

Most of the newer hiking watches update the watch’s software. You can use them out on the trail for backpacking, camping, hiking, or just spending the outdoors in nature.


Whether you accidentally drop your watch in a puddle or forget to take it off while you’re stopped for an afternoon of fishing, it’s important to have a timepiece that’s waterproof.

For any serious outdoors enthusiast its a must have feature. 

Other Features

There are plenty of other features that set these navigation watches apart. A navigation watch lens has to be incredibly durable to withstand outdoor conditions of all types.

It also must be resistant to scratches and domed for both protection and magnification.

These best outdoor watches have large, clear displays that are easy to read and highly visible even in low-light conditions.

You want to look for a watch face that is at least 1.2” in diameter, with a high-resolution screen so that you can easily decipher data readings.

When you spend days, weeks, or even months out in the field, you need a navigation watch with a healthy, long-lasting battery. Rechargeable batteries mean that you need to carry fewer batteries with you when hiking and camping. More features don’t necessarily mean a better watch, since those features in different modes sap battery power.

Final Thoughts 

You’ve just come back from an outdoor nature trip. Your navigation watch has synced with the Connect IQ feature, so all of your data has already been uploaded and backed up.

Now, you can review your trip for years to come. Let’s say that on the trip you also decided to go for a quick run. Your navigation watch helped you locate where you wanted to go and tracked how far you went, how many calories you burned, how long it took you to run, your average running speed, and even your heart rate.

These are just a few of the amazing features present in the best navigation watches. They do so much more than tell time, and they take the place of many other tools that you’d use not only on an outdoor trip but also in your everyday life. Enjoy using one of these incredible watches.

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