Smartwatches, even though they had a bit of a rocky start, are a wrist mainstay and one of the most well-liked tech accessories of recent years. It’s easy to see why – they not only help you track your training and get to know your body better, but the best smartwatches also offer a slew of important features that can help you both in your everyday life and if you get lost in the great outdoors.
These smartwatches analyze the quality of your sleep so you can make habitual changes, according to our testing.
Undoubtedly, one of the most versatile features of modern smartwatches is a built-in GPS module. It allows you to accurately track your training sessions and helps you navigate even without a phone in your pocket. It can also help you get out of a difficult situation, or maybe keep track of your kids when they’re at school or on a trip. The possibilities that a GPS module on your wrist offers are vast, so getting a smartwatch with one built-in is a no-brainer.
Best GPS tracking smartwatches: Our top picks
Garmin Forerunner 965
1. Best GPS smartwatch overall
Fitness tracker, bright display, and accurate mapping
$550 $600 Save $50
The Garmin Forerunner 965 is the best smartwatch to get if you need an accurate GPS on your wrist, with all the creature comforts that Garmin devices provide. Additionally, you get a great design, build quality and amazing fitness features – what more could you ask?
- Great design with a titanium bezel
- Impressive battery life
- Superb AMOLED screen
- Multiband GPS and preloaded topographical maps
- Noticable price hike from the previous generation
- Battery drops in some scenarios
Garmin at the first spot in a smartwatch ranking? Well, that was something that probably everyone expected – and for good reason. The newest Garmin Forerunner 965 is another awesome sports smartwatch in Garmin’s portfolio, with a few new features that make it a no-brainer if you’re looking for the best combination of features, looks and functionality – along with a hard-to-beat GPS system.
Garmin brings an AMOLED display to its excellent Forerunner line, so it looks better than ever – but how does it perform?
Forerunner 965 continues in the footsteps of the excellent Forerunner 955, but now with a few interesting upgrades. There is a new titanium bezel, which makes the watch lighter, more durable and also just feels much more premium. There’s also a new AMOLED display, which finally brings the fight to competitors such as the Apple Watch Ultra or Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic.
But the biggest strengths of Garmin Forerunner 965 lie in its sensors and software. It’s an excellent watch if you need detailed (and I mean extremely detailed) stats about your health and training, with plenty of sports profiles ready to go. The GPS performance of this watch is just a cherry on top of the overall excellent experience.
You get a multiband GPS mode which is extremely precise (albeit quite hard on battery life), and it’s great news for all your outdoor adventures. What’s more, Forerunner 965 comes with preloaded topographical maps, making navigation even in difficult terrain a breeze. With a watch like this, getting lost becomes quite a challenge.
Apple Watch Ultra 2
2. Best GPS smartwatch for Apple users
Stay in the Apple ecosystem, and on the trail
$774 $799 Save $25
Apple Watch Ultra 2 is the best choice if you need a performance smartwatch but do not want to give up on your Apple ecosystem integration. It combines stellar smartwatch functionality with great fitness tracking, and adds to it interesting outdoorsy features, making it an excellent choice for any Apple fan.
- The display is best in class
- On-device Siri is nice to have
- Gesture control is awesome and works great
- Battery life isn’t better than the predecessor
- Looks are a bit divisive
- Limited topographical maps
With its Apple Watch, Apple is responsible for bringing the idea of a smartwatch to the mainstream. However, with their Apple Watch Ultra 2, this idea is once again going away from the mainstream and focusing on being a more specialized tool for those who need the best performance. The design of the watch is distinctly Apple, with great build quality, a crisp, best-in-class display and a nice titanium body. It is a bit bulky, but it also packs a lot of features, so you probably can live with that bulk.
Apple adds some neat touches to the second generation Watch Ultra, but is it enough to stamp its authority in the outdoor smartwatch world?
The strength of the Apple Watch Ultra 2 lies in its combination of sporty features with smartwatch functionality. When it comes to being a smartwatch, it’s absolutely the best – the S9 SoC is blazing fast, all the apps work great, and the Apple ecosystem is hard to beat. When it comes to the outdoorsy features, it still lags behind the likes of Garmin, but when dressed up in the Apple logo, everything tastes just a little bit better.
However, that’s not to say that things are bad – on the contrary. Apple Watch Ultra 2 offers great multiband GPS connectivity with a few interesting additional features, such as track detention. Moreover, there are also topographical maps available, although they are still quite limited when it comes to the available regions. Plus, you need to download them first, so no offline maps for you if you don’t get ready beforehand. However, the pathfinding feature is a game-changer and may save your skin when you get lost in the woods – Apple Watch Ultra 2 can guide you back to your camp straight from your wrist.
Google Pixel Watch 2
3. Best GPS smartwatch for Android users
Great for the casual outdoor appreciators
$337 $350 Save $13
The Google Pixel Watch 2 is an awesome casual smartwatch that punches high above its weight thanks to the impressive Fitbit integration and excellent design and build quality. It might be more casual than performance smartwatches, but it provides a great GPS experience nonetheless.
- Beautiful design and build quality
- Google’s Fitbit technology packed into a stylish smartwatch
- Great performance
- Only one size option
- No iPhone support
- Battery life is a bit weak
Android has a ton of great, performance-focused watches from the likes of Garmin, Coros, or Suunto. However, having a watch with great GPS functionality does not always mean using a performance smartwatch – you can just get something much more casual. If you’re not a hardcore sportsperson, your best bet will definitely be the Google Pixel Watch 2.
Fitbit isn’t the only good thing about the Pixel Watch 2, but it is the best thing about it.
The new Pixel Watch builds on the strengths of its predecessor and once again brings a gorgeous design to the table. Unfortunately, there is only one size option, so all lovers of big watches might miss out on all the goodies that the Pixel Watch 2 offers. The round, bezel-less display is crisp and gorgeous, and the rest of the device feels premium and really well-made, with a nice, minimal design language.
The software isn’t behind at all and Google’s twist on WearOS 3 is extremely smooth and easy to use, making the watch ideal for casual users. However, that’s not all, as Google’s smartwatch also whips with Fitbit onboard, making its fitness capabilities as good as its smart functions. The tracking is excellent, and the fitness UI that Fitbit offers has completely no competition when it comes to ease of use and accessibility, without compromising even more advanced features.
Finally, the GPS functionality is also here, with the addition of all the goodies that WearOS 3 brings to the table. There are offline maps, turn-by-turn navigation and various downloadable apps that help guide you in difficult terrain. It does lack multiband GPS, but despite that, its measurements are extremely close to more advanced systems in much more expensive watches.
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar
4. Best outdoor GPS smartwatch
Solar battery adds days of usability
$300 $400 Save $100
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar is an interesting smartwatch unbeaten in the great outdoors. Thanks to its solar-powered battery, it can go on for weeks without a charge, and its fitness tracking capabilities are second to none in its price range.
- Jaw-dropping battery life
- Durable build
- Excellent fitness tracking capabilities
- The display is quite small
- No touchscreen
- Lacks some standard smartwatch features
However, for many of the most committed athletes, casual smartwatches such as Google Pixel Watch 2 or Apple Watch 9 are simply not enough. If you’re looking for something tailor-made for the great outdoors, Garmin Instinct 2 Solar is your best bet.
Garmin’s latest basic watch can do a lot more than you might think, with a battery life that can last forever – literally. Here’s our full verdict.
One of the biggest concerns when it comes to smartwatches is their battery life. In general, the more they can do and the more features they have, the worse the battery life. However, that’s not the case with the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar and its almost infinite battery life, thanks to the built-in solar panel.
There are many more reasons to pick this one up for your outdoor adventure, aside from never having to charge it. It has a well-built, rugged body that won’t get scratched when hiking off-trail, and a durable band to boot. The screen is monochromatic and uses barely any battery, but it also makes it extremely readable even in the brightest, direct sunlight. To top it off, it’s much more affordable than Garmin’s more advanced watches, but still offers plenty of fitness features with all the detailed measurements that Garmin accessories are known for.
GPS also works well on the Instinct 2 Solar, offering Galileo, Glonass and GPS support. Of course, when GPS tracking comes into play, the battery life is not unlimited anymore, but the watch still offers much longer tracking than most competition, while being extremely accurate and quick with your location. Of course, you cannot count on maps or turn-by-turn navigation here due to the screen limitations, but this kind of battery life has its price.
Garmin Fenix 7 Pro
5. Best premium GPS smartwatch
One of our absolute favorites – with a premium price tag
Garmin Fenix 7 Pro gets you as much as you can can in a performance smartwatch. Great screen, impressive navigational capabilities with preloaded topographical maps and a pinpoint accuracy of a multiband GPS – everything’s there. Plus, you get some nice creature comforts for your escapades, such as a handy built-in flashlight.
- Buil-in flashlight comes in handy
- New mapping features
- Great battery and second-to-none sports tracking
- Fenix 7 will get some of the upgrades in a software update
- Screen improvements are there, but are not huge
- Heart rate sensor can act up
There is no denying that Garmin stands as king when it comes to specialized, performance smartwatches, and the same is true for high-end devices. Garmin Fenix 7 Pro is the smartwatch to choose when you’re shopping for a premium watch and need something that is absolutely the best.
The Fenix 7 Pro serves up some minor but welcome upgrades for those that want the very best of Garmin’s Fenix range.
It is a bit bulky but in a rugged, high-quality kind of way. It improves on the already excellent Fenix 7 by making the screen a bit brighter and bigger, and by adding an LED flashlight to the device, which could be a great help in an outdoorsy situation.
There is no denying that Fenix 7 Pro’s strengths lie in its multisports features. It tracks plenty of activities and allows you to track both the simplest stats, such as your steps or distance traveled, as well as much more detailed and advanced metrics tailored to each sport. Plus, it has a great battery life (although no solar charging), so you’re able to exercise for days without having to juice your watch up.
When you get lost or just want to roam around, Fenix 7 Pro also brings an awesome multiband GPS that ensures you always know where you are and how to get back home. Plus, Fenix 7 Pro also gets some new mapping features, such as viewing topographical maps in a split-screen mode or even weather maps straight on your wrist.
Huawei Watch Fit 2
6. Best budget GPS smartwatch
The basics at an excellent price point
Huawei Watch Fit 2 packs quite a punch for the price. In an unassuming smartband form-factor, you get an excellent screen, smartwatch-like functionality and a GPS with turn-by-turn navigation to boot.
- GPS built-in with route import and navigation
- Great screen for the price
- Nice-to-have smartwatch features
- Weak iOS support
- Huawei AppGallery lacks some important apps
- Battery drops in more demanding scenarios
Sometimes you don’t need your smartwatch to be absolutely the best, and you’d rather have something priced sensibly, with all the features that you really need. Huawei Watch Fit 2 does just that – it offers a great feature set for a great price, with a nice design to boot.
The Watch Fit 2 looks like a fitness tracker and behaves like a smartwatch – but does it do enough to hold its Fitbit rivals at bay?
Huawei Watch Fit 2 is a member of the strange, in-between category of devices – more than a smartband, but a bit less than a smartwatch. It looks like a smartband, but offers a lot of what smartwatches can do – it can store music, install apps and has a really great AMOLED display for the price.
Huawei also didn’t skimp on fitness features. Loads of workout modes, SpO2 monitoring, and even animated workouts – everything’s here. Of course, the app is not as good as Fitbit or Garmin’s propositions, but it is good enough to start your fitness journey and offers a lot of metrics to track and check out.
Finally, the built-in GPS is just a cherry on top of the overall great device. You not only get accurate navigation and fitness tracking but also the ability to import and store your maps, together with a turn-by-turn navigation and offline view. For the price, there are few competitors that offer the same functionality.
7. Best GPS smartwatch for kids
Kids love the trails too
$160 $200 Save $40
The TickTalk 4 is our choice for the best smartwatch for kids. It represents the best combination of features both kids and parents will love – and it’s perfect for most age groups, with access to texting, calling, and a 5MP camera for pictures or even video calls.
- GPS location tracking
- Parental control app
- Messaging and calling
GPS smartwatches are useful not only for fitness-focused adults but are also a great accessory to give to your children. They get a nice tech gadget they can play around with, and you get peace of mind when they are not around, knowing that they’re safe and sound.
Tick Talk 4 is a great choice when looking for a GPS-enabled smartwatch for your child, as it balances the needs of both parents and children. It has a nice parental control app and allows you to message and call the device, as well as supports SOS contacts. What’s more, you can track it using its GPS, and even make a video call thanks to the built-in 5MP cameras.
It’s also quite kid-proof, with an IP67 water resistance and a hardy shell, as well as a huge battery. Your kid in return gets free music streaming and other interesting apps straight on their wrist.
The bottom line: What is the best GPS tracking watch?
The Garmin Forerunner 965 is without a doubt the best GPS watch you can get. It packs an accurate multiband GPS and pairs it with on-device topographical maps and breadcrumb navigation. Pair it with various fitness features and detailed measurements accessible through the Garmin Connect app, and you get a recipe for the best GPS watch there is.
Garmin Forerunner 965
$550 $600 Save $50
How did we select the best GPS watch?
When picking the best GPS watch, we considered a few different characteristics. Of course, the GPS technology and accuracy were the biggest consideration. Nowadays, a multiband GPS is a must for a high-tier smartwatch, as it provides the best accuracy both in the field, and running between all the downtown skyscrapers.
It’s also important to pair your high-end GPS with a good navigation system, so we wanted our top pick to have instant access to great, accurate maps. When outdoors, topographical maps are necessary, so our top choice had to have them.
Finally, we also took into consideration the fitness capabilities, price and other distinguishing features, such as design, build quality or ruggedness. These are not essential to have in a purely GPS-focused smartwatch, but they are always nice to have.
How to pick a GPS watch for you?
When looking around for a GPS watch, you have to consider three things – your budget, what you want to do with the device, and the features that you absolutely need. The budget is the most straightforward – you can find really decent devices with a built-in GPS starting from around $100, but the more you spend, the more (generally) you’re getting.
The other thing is what you want to do with your device. If you just want a casual smartwatch and want to occasionally go on a hike, your needs will be different from those of a professional climber who is taking outdoor action shots, so you’ll probably want something more casual and focus on all the smart functions. However, if you want to use the watch to go on trails, you should consider something a bit more specialized, with a more robust GPS implementation and enthusiast-level maps.
Finally, think about the features that you absolutely need and try to look around based on that. If you can live without your music and want to have it available on your watch, there are options for you. If, on the other hand, you absolutely need a watch that can go on for months without charging, you can also find solar models that will fit your needs just fine.