A couple of decades back, it was unimaginable for an average Joe to go hiking in territories and landscapes unknown to him. The risks of getting lost or injured were just too grand to take on such an endeavour. However, the story is different nowadays. Why? Because of the revolution of mobile and wearable technologies that has equipped the gadgets with essential and applicable functions for the great outdoors.
While smartphones will do the job out in the wild, a true hiker can’t get by without a proper hiking watch. It just offers better convenience and won’t die out as quickly as a smartphone does.
Following, you’ll find top-notch watch technologies found from the best hiking watches that are sure to bring you back home safe and sound.
Probably the best feature of a hiking watch is the navigation system. A typical navigation system consists of three primary satellite systems – American GPS, Russian GLONASS, and European Galileo.
The satellite positioning in a hiking watch is solved in two ways – either it has built-in maps, or you have to preload them before the hike. While most outdoor watches, such as the ones from Suunto and Polar, have only the preloading option, Garmin watches are distinct from others for having the maps built into their system.
Besides satellite-guided navigation, there’s also simpler guidance available by means of a compass. Watches carrying only the compass function are meant for simpler treks and for seasoned hikers.
Altimeter & Barometer
Another watch technology that hikers can make use of is the altimeter-barometer function. These two different instruments are typically co-existing in a watch – while the first measures the altitude you’re located, the latter calculates air pressure based on the results of an altimeter.
On top of the precise heights and air pressure results, some watches can even predict weather phenomena and alert you of an approaching storm. Consequently, a hiker can better plan out the rest of the activity by taking into account the forces of nature.
When an outdoor watch already has the altimeter-barometer capability, there’s also the possibility to measure temperature. A standard range of measurement stays between -10C and 60C (14F and 140F) for a typical outdoor watch. However, for receiving an accurate result, the watch has to be removed from the wrist for a couple of minutes.
Otherwise, the sensor includes some part of the body heat emitting from the wrist, resulting in a much higher temperature than anticipated.
More advanced hiking watches also feature health-related functions. They are not essential but add a whole new dimension for those into detailed data about the way their bodies behave.
The most common health-related feature is a wrist-based heart rate monitor that counts your heartbeats and makes suggestions based on the results. Another frequent monitor is the one that calculates blood oxygen saturation levels. Also, some outdoor watches have a sleep monitor providing you with information about your sleep quality.
The health features are hence extra helpful in avoiding burnout and keeping you in balance physically.
A watch technology that can literally save you days out in the wild is solar power. With a solar panel behind the dial, the watch receives extra power from any sort of light, extending the battery’s lifetime significantly. Since not many watches feature this particular technology, it is a real treat to have on a watch.
Some solar-powered hiking watches run on lithium-ion batteries that can last for up to a couple of weeks, while some feature solar quartz movements with a lifetime of around six months when fully charged.
Watch Brands Perfect for Hiking
The range of watch manufacturers producing hiking watches is quite limited. However, the brands that manufacture them are highly acknowledged and appreciated.
Garmin is probably the first name on everybody’s lips when it comes to feature-rich hiking watches. It is also the onliest brand that equips most of its wristwear with built-in maps. However, due to the number of high-quality features and extras, the prices of Garmin watches are somewhat heftier than with other watches.
Suunto is another name worth mentioning. The Finnish brand provides stiff competition to Garmin and is the biggest rival in the outdoor watches industry. The timepieces are rugged-looking and ultra-durable, often featuring activity-specific functions on top of the ones for hiking, such as for fishing and hunting.
Finally, there’s the Japanese powerhouse Casio that provides two magnificent lines of shock-resistant watches – G-Shock and Pro-Trek. The timepieces are very masculine, with knobby and knurled exteriors that are spot-on for severe conditions. Further, they are filled to the brim with uncountable functions.
Although every durable watch can be used for outdoor activities, not all of them offer the functionality and applicability that hiking watches do. With the guidance of accurate positioning, altitude readings, and temperature, a hiker can rest assured that moving from point A to point B is as straightforward as it can get. Further, by topping these watch technologies with storm alerts, health features, and solar power, one can take the maximum out of the outdoor activity.