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Which smartwatch is best for climbers?

Best smartwatch for climbers

Whether you’re getting ready to tackle that next crag or ascend that next peak, smartwatches have revolutionized the climbing world. They’re far less intrusive than smartphones, and modern smartwatches come loaded with features that not only keep you safe, but might even push you to become a better climber. 

More people climb now than ever before, and while paper maps are still great, GPS offers additional security and information. Smartwatches allow climbers to gather crucial data like their altitude, the weather and they can even take over in emergency situations when the climber might be in grave danger. 

What to look for in a modern climbing smartwatch 

Smartwatches come with different features. Depending on whether you’re just climbing for the day or hiking for a week, some features will either be essential or overkill. Here are some of the main features to look for in a climbing smartwatch. 

  • GPS is top of the list for a lot of climbers. Climbing smartwatches come with better batteries and bigger screens, so using GPS is far less burdensome than it used to be. Many older smartwatches didn’t allow you to import your own maps, but this is an essential feature for a modern climbing smartwatch. 
  • Mapping allows you to look at topographic maps and mark out your own routes. People doing longer hikes will find this feature useful since they can set up multiple waypoints. 
  • Altimeters, barometers and compasses have become pretty commonplace in modern smartwatches. These give you crucial statistics like your altitude, orientation and the weather. 
  • Solar-powered batteries have become really popular. Since you’ll be outside, as long as the weather is fair, you can charge your watch without effort. Watches that don’t offer solar-powered charging require you to use a power source such as a power bank to charge. This is extra weight, and chances are, the power bank will already be needed for a smartphone and/or other devices. 
  • Water resistance is incredibly important for climbing watches since it’s impossible to avoid inclement weather while climbing. You need a smartwatch that can handle getting wet. 

Best luxury climbing smartwatches 

Best overall smartwatch 

Garmin Fenix 6 Series 

This is Garmin’s premium line of smartwatches. It can track different outdoor activities like skiing, trail running and climbing. You can upload GPX routes, topographic maps and use third-party apps. Battery life can last up to 10 hours in GPS mode and up to 48 days in power saver mode. This watch is sturdy and can handle a ton of abuse, but if anything happens, it comes with a 2-year warranty. The biggest con is that it’s one of the most expensive smartwatches on the market. 

Sold by Backcountry and Amazon 

Best battery life 

Coros Vertix 2

This smartwatch lays waste to the competition by offering an astounding 140 hours of battery life in GPS mode with 60 days of maximum battery life. The 32GB of internal storage allows users to add color topographic maps and mp3 files to listen to music. It comes with metrics like a barometer, compass and EKG. The downside is that this watch is very expensive and large.

Sold by Amazon

Best lightweight climbing smartwatch 

Suunto 9 Peak

This smartwatch weighs just 62 grams without compromising quality materials. It has a color display with 240 x 240 pixels. Unlike some past models, it comes with a barometer. It lasts about a week on a single charge and runs for around 25 hours in GPS mode. This model can now be updated without being plugged into a computer, and it comes with heart tracking features. The only downside is that the display took a hit compared to the previous Suunto 9 Baro, which had a 300 x 300 resolution. 

Sold by Amazon

Best midrange smartwatches 

Most practical smartwatch 

Garmin Instinct Solar 

This watch uses Power Glass to harvest solar energy without compromising its appearance. It has a backlit screen as well as GPS. There are great biometric features like heart rate, stride length and it tracks different types of exercise. It also offers incredible battery life at 16 hours in GPS mode and up to 14 days in tracking mode. There is no color screen, but the interface is tidy. 

Sold by Backcountry and Amazon 

Best training smartwatch 

Polar Grit X

This military-grade watch comes loaded with great training options like hill splitter to attack hills and Nightly Recharge to ensure you have effective recoveries. It runs for up to 40 hours in GPS mode, and it tracks stats for multiple outdoor activities. It weighs just 64 grams, making it one of the most lightweight options on the market. However, the arm band is more uncomfortable for long-term use than some other smartwatches on the market. 

Sold by Amazon

Best entry-level smartwatches 

Best cheap smartwatch with GPS 

Amazfit T-Rex 

This affordable smartwatch is packed with features and weighs just 58 grams with a comfortable silicone arm strap. It features a color screen with a resolution of 360 x 360. It tracks 14 different outdoor activities and comes with a compass, GPS and a heart monitor. You get 20 days of battery life for daily use and up to 20 hours with GPS. Mapping is limited, and the heart monitor was not as accurate as some other smartwatches. 

Sold by Amazon 

Most affordable smartwatch 

Casio Pro Trek PRG-270 

This watch comes with an easy-to-use barometer, compass and altimeter. It has an LED backlit screen. You can take it underwater down to 100 meters, and it has solar-charging capabilities. The battery lasts 9 months on a full charge. The one drawback is that this watch doesn’t have GPS capabilities. 

Sold by Amazon

Best user-friendly smartwatch 

Suunto Core 

This watch is crammed with features like a compass, barometer, altimeter and storm alarm. It weighs 64 grams, and it can be taken under water down to 30 meters. The battery lasts up to 1 year. It can track different sports and recovery. However, this watch doesn’t have GPS and lacks many quality of life features that more expensive smartwatches have. 

Sold by Amazon


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Stephen Morin writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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