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10 best adventure-ready smart watches for outdoor sports, from hiking to cycling

Whether you’re running, swimming, exploring or surfing, take one of these gadgets with you, from Fitbits to Apple watches 

Sian Lewis
Thursday 10 September 2020 10:48 BST
Choose from GPS trackers, waterproof and solar powered models
Choose from GPS trackers, waterproof and solar powered models

However you like to go exploring outdoors, the easiest way to keep track of your journeys is with an adventure-ready smartwatch.

Whether you’re hiking in the mountains, training on your bike, catching waves on a surfboard or clocking up the miles open-water swimming, the latest outward-bound wearable tech is built to keep up – offering everything from stats to navigation.

Not all smart watches are created equal, so pick a model that is designed with your favourite adventures or activities in mind. Hikers and cyclists should look for a GPS watch with built-in mapping apps, or a model that allows you to download navigation apps such as Komoot and Strava – while you should never rely solely on technology to navigate, turn-by-turn directions straight from your watch are a useful partner to a paper map.

If you’re an avid wild swimmer, pick a fully waterproof watch that can track your distance and speed, making it easy to train for outdoor swimming challenges or triathlons. There’s a watch to suit all sports – Rip Curl, for example, makes a surfer-specific watch that gives the forecast and tracks how many waves you catch, and others come pre-loaded with maps of thousands of ski resorts around the world.

And anyone exploring far from the beaten track (or from the nearest plug socket) should choose a watch with long-lasting battery life, or even a solar-powered battery that can be charged up while you’re out on the trail.

Outdoorsy all-rounder? Some of the smart watches on our list are packed with over 70 different sport modes, ranging from trail running to fishing.

Most smartwatch models are unisex, but if you have a slimmer wrist it’s worth looking for a female-specific watch or a model with a smaller face. Check the weight before you buy, too – we found any watch that weighed under 70g tended to feel comfortable to wear straight out of the box. We recommend choosing breathable fabric or leather straps over rubber for trekking, and faster-drying rubber for aquatic adventures such as swimming and surfing.

Some smartwatches aren’t the prettiest objects to look at, even if they work well for adventure. The good news is that there are plenty of handsome, classic-looking smartwatches available – if you want to wear your watch all day, every day, rather than just when you’re getting active, pick something you’re happy wearing to work as well as to sweat.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

The verdict: Smart watches

Garmin’s tough, solar-powered behemoth of a watch, the fenix 6 solar, is ideal for adventure lovers. The Polar grit is a more affordable GPS watch, and the Withings hybrid is a nice balance of classic watch and smartwatch.

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