Investing in one of the best GPS sports watches is definitely worthwhile if you’re getting serious about outdoor activities like running, hiking and rock climbing. They can help you track your activities, steps, calories consumed and more, but also some will have helpful safety features. Extra features, such as altimeters, preloaded maps, advanced metrics, and music storage can come at a premium.
While many of the best fitness trackers and best smartwatches incorporate location-tracking on the device itself to accurately log outdoor workouts, dedicated sports, also known as GPS watches, have features that can provide you much more data about what you’re doing, and last much longer on a charge.
While the majority of the best GPS sports watches are aimed at runners, there are specialized models for triathletes, golfers, endurance athletes, and those who go hiking and skiing. To help you choose which device is best for you, we’ve selected the top GPS watches in various categories, judging them based on performance, ease of use and design.
What are the best GPS sports watches?
After testing dozens of models, the best sports watch is the Garmin Forerunner 255 Music. As the best Garmin watch aimed at runners — but able to track other outdoor activities — the Forerunner 255 offers advanced run-tracking metrics, solid battery life, and onboard music storage. The Forerunner 255 also supports Spotify, so if you subscribe to that music service, you can download playlists to the watch, too.
Fitbit has some great GPS watches to the arena, too. The Fitbit Sense and Fitbit Versa 3 both have onboard GPS, multi-sport tracking, and voice assistant integration. The Sense has a skin temperature reader, stress detection, and an ECG monitor for detecting atrial fibrillation.
For a budget option, the Amazfit T-Rex is an affordable sports watch with a bright display. It has a G-Shock look to it, and meets all the durability requirements to survive Jurassic Park.
The best GPS sports watches you can buy today
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Garmin hit a home run with the Forerunner 255 Music, which offers advanced run-tracking features, solid battery life and offline Spotify support in a stylish package. It’s a big upgrade to the popular Garmin Forerunner 245, which was previously our best sports watch, and if you’re looking for a bargain, now is a good time to buy the cheaper Garmin, which is on sale at a number of retailers.
During testing, we loved the fact that the Forerunner 255 now gives you the option to purchase two different sizes — 42mm or 46mm. Both have the same bright, full-color transflective display makes it easy to read, even in sunlight, and its sharp 260 x 260 pixels (on the larger Forerunner 255) makes it a perfect outdoor running companion.
While the Forerunner 255 Music costs nearly as much as a new Apple Watch, its in-depth tracking features and better battery life — up to six hours when using GPS — make it the choice for serious runners. And the onboard music storage can be a welcome companion on those long runs.
Read our full Garmin Forerunner 255 review.
With a large display, on-board GPS, built-in compass and enough durability certifications to survive Jurassic Park, the Amazfit T-Rex one of the best sports watches you can get without breaking the bank. At $140, it’s less than half the price of the Garmin Instinct and other popular GPS smartwatches, making it an affordable alternative.
The T-Rex offers an impressive battery life, variety of sports modes and sleep tracking – all wrapped in its impenetrable shell. With all the sensors you could want, the T-Rex is a beast to be reckoned with, plus who doesn’t want a device named after a dinosaur?
Read our full Amazfit T-Rex review.
The Garmin Forerunner 55 is the best sports watch for those on a budget. It’s an affordable, yet accurate, GPS watch that tracks distance, speed and pace, and it has some of the more technical features of Garmin’s more premium watches, for a fraction of the price.
According to Garmin, a fully charged Forerunner 55 can last up to two weeks in Smartwatch mode and 20 hours in GPS mode, which is a significant increase from its predecessor’s battery life expectations. The Forerunner 55 looks cool enough to be used as your everyday timepiece and like other Garmin watches on this list, it’ll also give you sleep-tracking data if you wear the watch at night, so you can keep an eye on how well you’re recovering.
You’ll want to look elsewhere if you demand a lot of features from your GPS watch, but this is the best choice for someone who just wants an easy-to-use device from a trusted brand.
If you’re looking for something more affordable, the Forerunner 55 replaced the Forerunner 45, which is also a brilliant fitness tracker with a number of handy features.
Read our full Garmin Forerunner 55 review.
The Fitbit Sense is the company’s top-shelf smartwatch that comes with more advanced health and wellness features that the Versa line. Not only does it have an FDA-approved ECG sensor and blood oxygen reading, but the Sense has the ability to measure electrodermal activity and skin temperature, too.
As one of the best Fitbits, the Sense works with both iOS and Android, and comes with a native app store, Alexa and more. Of course, it also has GPS for tracking your outdoor activities.
During our testing, we found that the Fitbit Sense lasts up to 12 hours when it’s keeping acute tabs on your location, and 6 days when it’s it standard smartwatch mode.
Read our full Fitbit Sense review. .
Garmin watches aren’t just for serious athletes. The Venu 2 Plus is a stylish smartwatch on par with the Apple Watch and Fitbit Versa 3 — and it’s rugged enough for bike rides, strength workouts, and playtime with the kids. It’s also a step up from the Garmin vivoactive 4 with an AMOLED display and a stainless steel bezel.
It’s got all you’d expect from Garmin when it comes to tracking your workouts, as well as smartwatch features such as mobile payments, notifications, a touchscreen, and storage for up to 650 songs.
This Garmin is also great for anyone who likes to leave their phone in their pocket when out on an adventure thanks to the on-wrist calls and voice assistants. While it maintains Garmin’s reputation for thorough fitness tracking and accurate GPS, the Venu 2 Plus is now a stronger sell for those who want their smartwatch to act as an extension of their smartphone.
Read our full Garmin Venu 2 Plus review.
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The Garmin Approach S62 offers a sharper appearance, larger screen and lengthier battery life than its Garmin Approach S60 predecessor. Plus it supports a Virtual Caddie feature, which offers club suggestions and other shot tips based on your past rounds. Though it’s not guaranteed to improve your golf game, the insight provided by Virtual Caddie doesn’t feel gimmicky and might benefit you if you tend to experiment with your club choices.
The Garmin Approach S62 lasts about 14 days without a charge, although you’ll get just 20 hours in continuous GPS mode. We made it through week with 3 rounds before needing to recharge the S62, so it’s safe to say you can leave Garmin’s proprietary charger at home for a weekend golf trip.
Read our full Garmin Approach S62 review.
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The ultimate in outdoor sports watches, the Garmin Fenix 7 is designed to track you anywhere you go and survive everything you do. The device supports everyday fitness activities such as running and swimming, and it comes with Garmin’s typical health-tracking features, but it’s really designed for anyone who gets an adrenaline rush from scuba diving, backcountry skiing, or a multi-day hike deep in the wilderness.
Make no mistake: With a weight that starts at 2 ounces for the standard Fenix 7S, and tops out at 3.1 ounces for the 51mm Fenix 7X Saphire Solar addition, this watch is a beast. But the trade-off is storage, battery life, and water resistance up to 100 meters (330 feet). It’s also easy to swap out bands — no small thing if you’ve just spent days in the woods without a shower.
During testing, we found the Fenix 7 has one major improvement on the Fenix 6 — a touch screen. The screen is super responsive, even when being used in the rain, and makes moving around and customizing the watch a lot easier. There’s also a new Stamina metric, and the watches come loaded with more maps, and sports tracking modes than ever before. It’s a brilliant watch, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a fitness tracker with a better battery life.
Read our full Garmin Fenix 7 review here. You can also check out our face-off between the Garmin Fenix 7 vs. Epix 2.
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Garmin’s sports watch for triathletes improves upon the older Forerunner 935, which we loved. In addition to all the usual sophisticated Garmin Forerunner 900-series features, including advanced metrics for running, cycling and swimming, the Forerunner 945 adds on-board music storage and mobile payments. The watch also now uses heat and altitude to gauge the difficulty of your run, and uses that information to calculate your training-load status.
Garmin improved the battery life of theForerunner 945 by 50% over its predecessor, so now you can squeeze out 36 hours of GPS usage on a charge. The 945 is worth splurging on if you’re a serious athlete. At $599, it’s expensive, but best in class.
Read our full Garmin Forerunner 945 review.
There’s a lot to like about the Garmin Forerunner 745. The watch is easy to use, the activity features are robust, and Garmin Connect provides a snapshot view of activity data as well as training recommendations. And while the Forerunner 745 doesn’t have the most advanced smartwatch capabilities, it does support mobile payments and music storage so athletes can leave their phones at home during a workout.
Overall, the Forerunner 745 is one of the best sports watches for multi-sport athletes. If there’s a downside to the watch, it’s that devices such as the Polar Vantage 2 and Garmin’s own Forerunner 945 promise a better battery life. But at 16 hours in GPS mode, the Forerunner 745’s battery shouldn’t be a dealbreaker for most users.
Read our full Garmin Forerunner 745 review.
The Garmin Approach S20 is one of the best sports watches on the market. Its modest design is balanced by seamless functionality and a neat Garmin Golf app. And priced below $200, it’s one of the most affordable golf wearables available.
It’s the golf watch to get if you don’t care about the bells and whistles of more modern-looking wearables. Someone who golfs often will appreciate the hardware’s long battery life and AutoShot data. Those who play less frequently aren’t overspending for a gadget they’ll be happy to have on the occasions they hit the links.
Read our full Garmin Approach S20 review.
The Garmin Epix smartwatch is epic in just about every way: its design, its display, its battery life are all superlative — as well as its price. What sets this sport watch apart from some of the other Garmin’s on this list is that the AMOLED display is beautiful enough to keep on your wrist when you’re not running, or in the gym. It’s also got a wonderfully long battery life, the ability to track almost every activity, on-board music storage, mobile payments, and much more.
During testing, we loved the look and feel of the Epix — the screen is easy to view, even in direct sunlight, and it somehow upgrades the watch from the likes of the Fenix 7, which definitely make a sporty statement on the wrist.
Health and fitness tracking-wise, the Epix 2 has all the same features as the Fenix 7, however, the payoff is a slightly shorter battery life — in Expedition mode, the Fenix can last up to 40 days (74 days with solar), whereas the Epix will wind down after just 14 days.
Read our full Garmin Epix 2 review here.
How to choose the best sports watch for you
Because sports watches span a wide range of outdoor activities, you want to pick a sports watch based on what it is you plan to do. Runners will want a sports watch that’s light and easy to read while your arms are pumping back and forth.
If you’re into other activities, such as cycling or triathlons, you’ll want a sports watch that can track swimming, and be paired with the ANT or Bluetooth sensors on your bike. It goes without saying that it should be waterproof.
Those who do more extreme sports, like endurance runs and alpine skiing will want to look for a sports watch that’s not only durable, but has extremely long battery life. Some of the best sports watches for outdoors, like Garmin’s fenix series, let you adjust the frequency at which their GPS pings a satellite, which can extend their battery life to days, and not just hours.
How we test sports watches
Similar to fitness trackers, the line that separates great sports watches from the best smartwatches is blurring with the arrival of devices that incorporate smartphone notifications with GPS, step, distance and calories counts, plus heart rate measurements.
For each sports watch, we evaluate its hardware design and comfort. The device needs to be comfortable enough to wear during even the most rigorous and lengthy runs. We test for GPS speed and accuracy by grabbing location signals in different areas — in between tall buildings and skyscrapers, as well as in open spaces. We use each watch for an extended period of time to test the manufacturer’s battery-life claims. Lastly, we evaluate the device’s companion app and the experience of using the watch and app together.
If the GPS watch also happens to be a smartwatch, we evaluate the included software, app ecosystem and special features like mobile wallet capabilities.