The 9 Best GPS Watches to Buy in 2018

Wear these devices whether you're running, golfing, hiking and more

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In the ever-growing wearables market, smartwatches like Apple Watch are all the rage. They offer the ability to make calls, download and interact with apps, send text messages and more. And since they come with a variety of price points, it’s not hard to find one that fits just about any budget.

But where many smartwatches fall short is in GPS. If you’re a runner, an avid golfer or someone who likes to hike, a standard smartwatch might not do the trick. It could be too easily damaged on a hike and not nearly as useful as you might like on a run when you need to know where you are, where you’re going and how far you’ve gone.

Realizing that, companies as far ranging as Epson and Garmin make GPS watches. They don’t come with the same streamlined design you’d find in the Apple Watch and have hefty price tags in many cases, but they do offer outstanding tracking of where you are. And some even come with handy extras, like heart-rate monitoring, that give you a better sense of how you’re doing.

So if you’re in the market for a GPS watch, read on for our round-up of the best options.

Best Overall: Garmin Forerunner 35

The Garmin Forerunner 35’s combination of slick design, high-end features and a relatively affordable price tag makes it the best GPS watch on the market.

The device comes with a rectangular face that features a high-resolution screen, so you can easily view content day and night. And since the device connects to your Android device or iPhone, you can also interact with Garmin’s Connect Mobile app to share data back and forth.

The Forerunner 35’s built-in GPS will “quickly” track satellites, according to Garmin, and will work wherever you are, including under trees. Best of all, it comes out of the box with 24/7 heart rate monitoring that won’t require an additional strap to get the job done.

And just in case you’re a runner, the Forerunner 35 has an auto-pause and auto-lap function, as well as a step counter so you can keep track of your movement and see how far you’ve gone.

Best Budget: Amazfit Bip Smartwatch

If you want a smartwatch with GPS for under $100, you're going to wind up looking through some less well-known brands. We poked around and found the Bip from Amazfit that actually offers many of the same features as a Garmin but at a fraction of the price.

The Bip includes GPS location tracking right out of the box, and they’ve also thrown in the satellite-based GLONASS tech as well. The Bip also includes a heart-rate monitor and a real-time activity tracker for more specific fitness needs, plus it syncs up to your smartphone, which expands its tracking functionalities. The manufacturer promises the battery will last up to 45 days on a charge, and they’ve even marked it at the IP68 dust- and waterproof standard. The best part? With a stylistic nod to the Pebble Steel, the design looks surprisingly stylish for the budget price. Choose from a few different colors including Onyx Black, White Cloud, Kokoda Green, and Cinnabar Red.

Best for Runners: Garmin Forerunner 15

If you don’t want to spend as much money as you would on the Forerunner 35 but still want much of its functionality, the Garmin Forerunner 15 is a good place to start.

The Forerunner 15 has a bulky front face with buttons all around that let you choose your activity, find out how many steps you’ve taken and more. And if you want a heart rate monitor, you can buy it separately to track how your heart is functioning during exercise.

In addition to tracking your movement, the Forerunner 15 can tell you how many calories you’ve burned. You can also connect it to the Garmin Connect app to give you a full data set of how you’re performing on your iOS or Android device.

Best for Heart Monitoring: Epson Runsense SF-810

The Epson Runsense SF-810 is an affordable GPS watch that does an outstanding job of keeping track of your heart rate.

The device comes with a round design and four buttons all around that let you quickly record your laps, start and stop timers and display your heart rate. It also supports a variety of popular fitness apps, including Strava, MapMyRun and Runkeeper. Unlike many GPS watches, the Runsense has heart rate sensing built in, so you don’t need attachments to see how you’re doing.

According to Epson, its Runsense even offers up to 20 hours of battery life on a single charge. And that figure is even more impressive, considering it was calculated with GPS and heart monitoring turned on.

Best for Protection: Sunnto Traverse Alpha

The Sunnto Traverse Alpha is one of the most rugged and capable GPS watches you can buy. Battery lasts 14 days in time mode and 10 hours if you're heavily using the GPS feature.

The device comes with a round watch face that’s made with stainless steel and has scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass. It also comes with a durable water-repellent nylon strap. Collectively, the features make it the most durable and reliable option of any on the market.

The watch’s GPS functionality will quickly find you and track you as you move around and it even features a location-based moon phase calendar, so you can determine when to wake up and go to sleep (or determine optimal hunting and fishing times).

It also has a built-in barometric pressure gauge to properly monitor your ascent if you're hiking up a mountain and can alert you about impending foul weather.

The Sunnto Traverse Alpha is a feature-packed GPS watch that can be used at temperatures between -5 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Just be ready to spend some serious cash to get it.

Best for Multiple Functions: Casio Men’s Pathfinder

If you don’t mind buttons and really want more functions, consider picking up the Casio Men’s Pathfinder.

The watch comes with a slew of buttons that will allow you to access the compass, see your altitude and even find barometric pressure. And just in case you find yourself in cold temperatures, the watch, which supports 31 time zones and offers five daily alarms, can survive in up to 14-degree Fahrenheit temperatures.

But arguably its most impressive feature is its battery life, which can last a whopping 6 months on a single charge. That’s because it comes with solar features that will power up your battery when you’re in sunlight.

Casio’s Pathfinder is the epitome of ​a workhorse.

Best Design: Polar V800 GPS Sports Watch

Truth be told, most GPS watches don’t think about design first. But the Polar V800 is one that does.

The device comes with a more traditional smartwatch design and has a rectangular screen that sits flush against the wristband. It tracks your laps and other critical functions when you’re running and with help from its GPS integration, will easily keep track of where you are, how fast you’re going and more.

Indeed, Polar is pitching the watch as a training device. And it comes with a variety of training profiles you can use to guide you through your fitness regimen. Best of all, it comes with a heart monitor so you can see how all that effort is affecting your health.

The Polar V800 is a full-featured watch. But be ready to spend some extra cash to strap it on your wrist.

Best for Hiking: Suunto Traverse

The Suunto Traverse is an outstanding option if you’re a hiker.

The watch, which is somewhat costly, comes with the ability for you to upload a route to your watch and then explore them as the GPS keeps track of where you are and where you’re going. It has distance and altitude statistics built in and a breadcrumb feature means you can easily find your way back if you’re lost.

The Traverse has sunrise and sunset times built in and a barometric trend feature will shed some light on what kind of weather may or may not be coming your way. It’ll even connect to your phone, so you can take calls on your hike.

One other Traverse tidbit: It features up to 100 hours of battery life.

Best for Music: Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music

Garmin’s a brand known for providing GPS-centric devices — they’ve been doing it for years. So it’s no surprise to see this brand at least a few times on this list. The Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music, one of the brand’s latest offerings, rounds out some amazing core features with a great add-on for music lovers. First, the watch comes with built-in GPS, which powers the included fitness apps that’ll cover you from morning runs all the way to evening yoga. (Note that the battery will only last about 5 hours with GPS use, though.) If you want to add more customization, you can download thousands of free apps and watch faces from the Connect IQ store.

But what about those music features? Garmin has loaded up the watch with internal storage so you can transfer up to 500 songs onto it and listen directly from the watch, no smartphone required. You can also download some streaming apps to use on the watch. The glass face is made from chemically strengthened glass, and the display itself looks pretty sharp at 240 x 240 pixels. It’s a great smartwatch if you’re looking for a music player and a GPS tracker.