Do you have an active lifestyle and are looking for a way to monitor your vitals after working out while still staying connected to your phone? Have you ever gone hiking, lost your phone signal, or had your phone battery die on you? If your answer to both questions is yes, then you need a smartwatch that is outfitted for sports monitoring and GPS tracking.
My favorite watch for hiking or activity monitoring is a Samsung Active-Two smartwatch. The sole reason being that I happen to own a Samsung phone. And getting a smartwatch that can seamlessly sync with my phone is super convenient for me.
But phone brand smartwatches tend to cost a lot more than a hundred dollars. Fortunately, it is still possible to get a high-quality activewear smartwatch you can use for hiking at a lower price. Here are some of the things we considered when choosing the best hiking watches under $100.
Mandatory Features on a Hiking Watch
For your smartwatch to be your best friend while you hike, you need to ensure that it has the essential features listed below. They will help you stay on track, find your way if you are lost, and monitor the weather as you hike.
This is an instrument used to measure the altitude meter relative to the sea level. It has to be carried out on a flat surface for you to get a correct reading. The measurement is based on the atmospheric pressure value. The values are preset on a digital altimeter. An analog altimeter watch may need recalibration from time to time.
This feature is essential when you are climbing hills or mountains as it can tell you how high up you are and so forth. This will come in handy when you need to find your location in case you get lost while hiking.
A barometer measures the air pressure in your surrounding to predict expected weather changes. It is scientifically attuned to measure pressure in the air based on specific variables. The barometer is mainly used by weather forecasted to predict weather changes and storm features.
You will find this feature helpful for figuring out when it is bound to rain as you hike. You need basic knowledge of barometer readings for this feature to be of use to you. In summary, higher pressure means good weather, while lower pressure means a storm is on its way.
The compass is easily the most essential feature when it comes to navigation and finding direction. It can help you transverse the earth without the need for a map, and not get lost. It essentially gives you your location based on cardinal geographical locations on the earth using a magnetometer.
While hiking, a compass will help you find trails or places along the way. It will also come in handy when you get lost in the woods, and you need to find your way to a trial or a major road. Make sure you know the geographical coordinates of your start point to use the compass to find your way back successfully.
Temperature measurement is done by either using a temperature sensor or a pyrometric sensor. A thermometer feature in a smartwatch is critical for telling you how hot or cold the weather is in your surroundings.
This is essential in determining whether to go hiking or call it a day in case it gets too cold or too hot. Thermometer readings on your watch do get affected by your body temperature. That said, sure you take your watch off before attempting to get the environment’s temperature.
Top 5 Best Hiking Watch Under $100
|Timex Expedition Grid Shock Watch||- Water resistant to 100M (330ft)|
- Chronograph, countdown timer and alarm
- Calendar, reminders, hydration timer
|Casio Men's W93H-1AV Multifunction Sport Watch||- Water resistant to 50M (165ft)|
- Stopwatch, countdown timer, dual time
|Casio Men's SGW-1000-1ACR Triple Sensor Digital Display Quartz Black Watch||- 100M (330ft) waterproof|
- Altimiter, barometer, digital compass and thermometer
- 31 time zones with daylight savings
- Alarm and countdown timer
|Lad Weather Altimeter Watch||- Altimiter, barometer, digital compass and thermometer|
- Altitude history
- Alarm and countdown timer
- 3 ATM water resistant
|Casio Men's SGW-450H-2BCF Twin Sensor Analog-Digital Black Watch||- Water resistant to 100M (330ft)|
- Altimiter, barometer, thermometer
- Alarm, stopwatch, countdown timer, auto calendar
- 31 time zones, daylight saving, auto calendar
Timex Expedition Grid Shock Watch
The Timex expedition watch has an adjustable black 16mm resin strap that can fit an 8-inch wrist circumference. 24-hour military time mode, three-time zones, occasion reminders, a hydration timer, and a date calendar.
The watch has a black 50mm resin case with an acrylic lens. It also features a gray digital display and a light-up watch dial.
The watch is also water-resistant up to 100m.
- Resin strap
- 100-hour chronograph
- 24-hour countdown timer
- Three daily alarms
- 24-hour military time mode
- Three-time zones
- Hydration timer
- Acrylic lens
- Gray digital display
- Shock resistant
- Water-resistant to 100m
- Difficult to program
Casio Men’s W93H-1AV Multifunction Sport Watch
This multifunction digital sport watch features a day/month/date display, light, and 36-mm resin case with a mineral dial window. It also has a Japanese quartz movement with a digital display and a logoed polyurethane band with buckle closure.
The watch emits an audible sound whenever the display is illuminated. It also features an EL light and vibrates slightly when lit. The watch is water-resistant to 50 m or 165 ft. Making it suitable for short periods of recreational swimming, but not diving or snorkeling.
- Resin case
- Mineral dial window
- Buckle closure
- Auto EL (Electro-luminescent) Backlight
- Dual Time
- Quartz movement-powered time display
- Water Resistant 50M/165 feet
- Not ideal for a large wrist
Casio Men’s SGW-1000-1ACR Triple Sensor Digital Display Quartz Black Watch
This watch comes with five daily alarms and one snooze alarm, a countdown timer, a 1/10 second stopwatch, a pre-programmed auto-calendar, 12/24-hour format, altimeter, barometer, digital compass, led backlight (super illuminator) with afterglow, 31 world time zones (consisting of 48 cities + coordinated universal time), daylight saving on/off and a thermometer.
It has a battery life of 3 years and is water-resistant to 330 feet or 100M. The watch has a low-temperature resistance of up to (-10C/14F).
- Digital Compass
- Low Temperature Resistant (-10C/14F)
- LED Backlight
- 31 World Time zones
- Daylight saving on/off
- Auto Calendar
- Water Resistant to 100m
- 12/24 Hour Format
- Battery life: 3 years
- Large LCD screen
- Easy-to-understand data
- The altimeter does not work properly
Lad Weather Altimeter Watch
The Lad watch is black, and it has a myriad of features that would be beneficial to any outdoor sporting pro. These include; altimeter, barometer, compass, thermometer, weather forecast, stopwatch, timer, and alarm.
The watch is water-resistant, and it has a plastic case and a stainless steel case back. Its straps are made of polyurethane, and the viewing glass is made of acrylic. Its data ranges are as follows; Altimeter: -706 – 9,164m (-2,316 – 30,067ft), Barometer: 300 – 1,100hPa/mbar (8.85 – 32.48inHg), and Thermometer: -10 – 60°C (14 – 140°F). Lastly, its weather forecast has four icons; sunny, partly cloudy, cloudy, and rainy.
- Case: Plastic
- Caseback: Stainless steel
- Strap: Polyurethane
- Altimeter: -706 – 9,164m
- It keeps the altitude history of the recent 34 hours
- It keeps the barometric history of the recent 34 hours
- Weather forecast
- Auto-resets without prompts
Casio Men’s SGW-450H-2BCF Twin Sensor Analog-Digital Black Watch
The Casio analog-digital watch features an altimeter, barometer, thermometer, EL backlight, five daily alarms, hourly signal, 31 world time zones, city code display, Daylight Saving on/off, 1/100-second stopwatch, countdown timer, full auto-calendar (pre-programmed until 2099), and 12/24-hour formats
It is low-temperature resistant, and it is housed in a stainless steel case with a mineral dial window. It also has an unbreakable and wear-proof resin band with buckle closure. The watch is also water-resistant to a depth of 100, making it suitable for swimming and snorkeling.
- EL backlight
- Five daily alarms
- Daylight saving on/off
- 1/100-second stopwatch
- Countdown timer
- Full auto-calendar
- 52-mm stainless steel case
- Mineral dial window
- Analog-digital display
- Resin band
- Buckle closure
- Low-temperature resistant
- Water-resistant to 100 m
- Difficult to set
Things to Consider When Buying a Budget Hiking Watch
Besides the essential features mentioned above, you also need to make sure that your hiking watch has some other vital functions and meets some critical factors despite its being a budget watch. The additional features discussed below will go a long way to ensure that is can serve you as needed.
Just because you are buying a cheap watch does not mean it has to have a short life span. It should still have value for money. First and foremost, look for a watch that is shock and scratch-resistant. This will give it a fighting chance when you wear it as you hike rough terrain or tumble down some trails.
A durable wrist band will also serve you well. If possible, look for one made of silicone or resin with vents for airflow. A pure leather strap will also be a great option, but that can make the watch costlier. For a scratchproof glass display, opt for a hiking watch with a glass made of gorilla glass or acrylic.
Next, you need to ensure that your hiking watch has a battery that can last a couple of days. This will be essential for multiple-day hikes or if you get lost. If possible, look for a watch with a battery saving feature to control battery charge draining when you are not in a position to charge the watch.
Alternatively, you can buy a watch that uses replaceable battery cells. And remember to pack extra when going hiking. The number of apps used also determines how long the battery lasts. For the most part, if you only use the GPS or one other key feature, you should be able to use the watch for at least five days.
Sweating is expected when hiking, making it essential for you to have a water-resistant watch. You are also bound to encounter some rain while hiking. And the last thing you want is for your watch to become waterlogged and quit working on you while you are stuck in the wild.
For guaranteed water resistance, look for one that can also be used for snorkeling or scuba diving. This will ensure the watch can survive being submerged underwater. Anything from 50-100 meters is ideal.
GPS stands for the global positioning system. It mostly helps you find your location using satellite-based navigation. Your watch’s GPS can either be powered by GLONASS, Galileo, or the US-based GPS system. Some of the systems can connect to more than one satellite, which makes them ideal if one of the spacecraft does not have a strong signal.
Opt for a watch that has a GPS with this capability. You also need to ensure that you are using your GPS feature in a clear, unobstructed sky view for a more natural connection. You can also look for one that keeps GPS history for a couple of days for data keeping purposes or to find your way.
Here are some good hiking watches with GPS.
Ease of Use
Look for a hiking watch that is easy to use. For a digital watch, make sure the display screen is easy to read and adjust. It should have a backlight and preferably a touch screen as well as some buttons lest the touch screen fails. For an analog watch, make sure the dials are easy to turn, and the display screen is easy to read.
Heart Rate Monitor
Nowadays, most smartwatches have a built-in heart rate monitor, so getting one will not be hard. However, you should make sure that your watch can monitor heart rate monitors and resting heart rate and sleep monitors. These extra monitoring features are not essential but are essential for fitness tracking.
Other essential functions include a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity for use when syncing to your phone. This will make receiving phone calls and messages more accessible. Wi-Fi connectivity, on the other hand, will make it easy for your watch to receive updates. Lastly, make sure it is lightweight for comfort. The ideal weight is 50 grams or less.
Can I use a hiking smartwatch without a smartphone?
Yes. But most of them have a backup support system, especially when it comes to storing data regarding your trials, heart rate, and so forth. The mobile phone also makes it easy to update the feature on most smartwatches.
However, most budget smartwatches cannot work with smartphones as the features needed to connect with a smartphone tends to cost extra.
Digital VS Analog hiking watch: which is better?
This is quite frankly a matter of personal preference. However, when it comes to features, a digital hiking watch is much better equipped. It is much easier to read the date on a digital hiking watch. It is also easier to program. It has more features than an analog hiking watch, and it allows you to have access to your messages, phone call notifications, and emails, and so forth.
Do I need a GPS watch for hiking?
No. the GPS feature is not mandatory in a hiking watch. However, it is necessary, especially if you are exploring new trails. This will help you find your way when you are lost. Going hiking without a GPS is like going sailing without a compass.
Are Apple watches suitable for hiking?
In a word, no. Apple watches lack most of the features needed in a hiking watch. You would be much better off using your hone for navigation as it is laden with all necessary features in a hiking watch. Plus, it has a larger screen that is easier to use and can keep the charge for longer. It is much better than wearing a watch without any benefit. And the watch costs too much for the few features it has.
The best hiking watches under $100 should give you directions, predict the weather, and track your fitness. These are the main things you need. Anything else is pretty much a convenient feature. As long as your budget watch can deliver on the three areas, has a long-lasting battery, a backlit display, scratchproof glass, and a durable strap, you will be good to go.