The best GPS watches 2024: tested by experts

Collage of the best GPS watches
(Image credit: Future)

We've tested the best GPS watches from Garmin, Apple, Coros, Polar and more through to help you find the right training tool, whatever your sport. If you're turning over a new leaf, working towards an event, or simply aiming for consistency, this guide will help you pick the perfect wearable for running, hiking, cycling, skiing, and more.

For runners, our pick for the best GPS watch is the Garmin Forerunner 955 thanks to its advanced training tools and super accurate dual-band GPS (though if you're on a budget the Forerunner 255 is also excellent). The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is our favorite GPS watch for hiking, particularly with AllTrails and Komoot installed.

We've recently updated this guide to include the new Polar Vantage V3 and Coros Vertix 2S, both of which are superb GPS watches that are worthy of your consideration.

Recent updates

We'll be rounding up all of the best Amazon Prime Day Garmin deals in this year's sale, which is expected to take place in July. We're hand-picking the very best offers to save you time and effort, and help you avoid any deals that aren't quite as good as they first appear.

The quick list

This list lets you quickly compare our top-rated GPS watches with one another, and lets you easily jump down the page to our full reviews

The best GPS watches we recommend in 2024

You can trust Advnture Our expert reviewers spend days testing and comparing gear so you know how it will perform out in the real world. Find out more about how we test and compare products.

The best GPS watch overall

Garmin Forerunner 955 watch on woman's wrist

The Garmin Forerunner 955 packs Garmin's best training tools into a lightweight case that's comfortable on long runs (Image credit: Future)
The best GPS watch all-round, with a well-rounded suite of training tools and a lightweight design

Specifications

Display size: 1.3in/3.3cm
Display type: color memory-in-pixel
Weight: 1.8oz/52g (standard); 1.9oz/53g (solar)
Water rating: 164ft/50m
Battery life (smartwatch mode): 15 days (20 days with solar)
Battery life (GPS): 42 hours (49 hours with solar)

Reasons to buy

+
Super accurate GPS
+
Extremely tough design
+
Excellent recovery tools

Reasons to avoid

-
Shorter battery life than expected
-
More expensive than most

The Garmin Forerunner 955 doesn't look flashy, but it's the best GPS running watch you can buy right now. For us, the biggest selling point is the incredibly accurate multi-band GPS, which can be set to switch to single-band mode in areas with good reception to conserve battery life. During a pre-measured 10km run, it was accurate to within a couple of meters despite the route taking me through two long tunnels.

The Forerunner 955 includes all of Garmin's latest tools as standard, including heart rate variability, training readiness, real time stamina, and much more. It gives you a truly comprehensive picture of your current fitness level, the impact of your workouts, and how you can adapt your training plan to achieve your goals.

Unlike its predecessor, the Forerunner 955 features both a touchscreen and buttons, but it's still extremely tough and so light that you'll easily forget you're wearing it (which is particularly important at night when it's tracking your post-workout recovery).

Read our full Garmin Forerunner 955 review

The best value GPS watch

Amazfit T-Rex 2 GPS watch on woman's wrist

The Amazfit T-Rex 2 has a vivid OLED display and remarkably long battery life (Image credit: Future)
The best GPS watch for budget adventures

Specifications

Display size: 1.85in/47.1mm
Display type: OLED
Weight: 2.3oz/65.8g
Water rating: 328ft/100m
Battery life (smartwatch mode): 45 days
Battery life (GPS): 26 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Up to 45 day battery life
+
Bright, sharp OLED display
+
On-wrist navigation
+
Super tough build

Reasons to avoid

-
Shaky auto workout detection

With a list price of $229.99 / £219, the Amazfit T-Rex 2 is less than half the price of some of its main rivals, but doesn't skimp on features, build quality, or accuracy.

In terms of design, it doesn't look that different to 2021's T-Rex Pro, but there are some smart changes like a new metal bumper to protect the 'start' and 'back' buttons. The real differences are on the inside, where there's a new higher-capacity battery that delivers up to 10 days of performance in regular heavy usage, or up to 45 days in power-saver mode (far more than most of its rivals).

It boasts a great-looking OLED display as well, and its multi-band GPS with support for all the major satellite systems locks on quickly to track your outdoor activities. Biometric monitoring is excellent too (and even tracks naps).

Our only real complaint was that the automatic workout detection didn't always detect when we'd started a run, meaning our training session wasn't logged. Provided you can remember to start tracking manually and you're willing to try something different to Polar, Garmin, and Coros GPS watches, we think you'll be very satisfied with the Amazfit T-Rex 2.

Read our full Amazfit T-Rex 2 review

The best GPS watch for new runners

Garmin Forerunner 265 watch

(Image credit: Future)
Perfect for new and intermediate level runners and triathletes, with a great new screen and touch controls

Specifications

Display size: 1.1in/2.8cm; 1.3in/3.3cm
Display type: AMOLED
Weight: 1.38oz/39g; 1.66oz/47g
Water rating: 50m
Battery life (smartwatch mode): 15 days; 13 days
Battery life (GPS): 24 hours; 20 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Super light and comfortable
+
Great looking AMOLED display
+
Very accurate GPS
+
New touch controls

Reasons to avoid

-
No full maps

The Forerunner 265 is a great choice for beginner and intermediate level runners and triathletes thanks to its super accurate GPS, great looking screen, and accessible design that makes even the more advanced training tools easy to understand and use. It's very similar to the Forerunner 255 that launched in 2022, but with a new AMOLED touchscreen that makes it brighter, bolder, and easier to use.

Despite its modest price, the Forerunner 265 has an impressive set of sensors under the hood, and its GPS outshone most other sports watches our tester has trialled this year. On their pre-measured 5km course, it plotted the route to within five meters, which is remarkable considering it's on roads rather than a track. It also gives you wrist-based running metrics, such as ground contact time, vertical oscillation, and cadence so you can see how your form changes as you fatigue, plus heart rate, speed, and elevation. Everything is presented neatly and clearly, with the upgraded screen making graphs easy to interpret at a glance.

The only real downside is that the Forerunner 265 doesn't support full maps, which seems like a shame. There are basic navigation tools, but for really exploring new areas you'll be better off upgrading to the Forerunner 955 or 965.

Read our full Garmin Forerunner 265 review

The best GPS watch for advanced runners

Garmin Fenix 7 Pro GPS watch

Excellent GPS, an upgraded heart rate monitor and new tools to help you train smarter make the Fenix 7 Pro the best GPS watch for runners wanting to improve their race times (Image credit: Future)
A powerful multi-sports watch for taking your training to the next level and smashing personal records

Specifications

Display size: 1.2in/3.1cm; 1.3in/3.3cm; 1.4in/3.6cm
Display type: color memory-in-pixel
Weight: 2.2oz/63g; 2.8oz/79g; 3.4oz/96g
Water rating: 328ft/100m
Battery life (smartwatch mode): 11 days (14 days with solar); 18 days (22 days with solar); 28 days (37 days with solar)
Battery life (GPS): 37 hours (46 hours with solar); 57 hours (73 hours with solar); 89 hours (122 hours with solar)

Reasons to buy

+
Extremely accurate GPS
+
Useful training tools
+
Choice of case sizes
+
Extra tough design

Reasons to avoid

-
Colors sometimes look muddy
-
One of the most expensive GPS watches in this list

If you're interested in taking your running, cycling, swimming or hiking to the next level, the Fenix 7 Pro is the best GPS watch for you. It's very similar to the original Garmin Fenix 7, but with an upgraded heart rate sensor, an incredibly handy flashlight, and a handful of extra tools to help you train more effectively.

There are all the training tools a runner could wish for, including the ability to easily import workout plans from services like TrainingPeaks, wrist-based running dynamics, and a variety of tools that put your biometric data into a context that's easier to understand. For example, the new Endurance Score features uses various sources of long and short-term data to assess your ability to sustain long efforts, and see your progress over time

GPS proved particularly accurate, and during an intense indoor cycling interval session, we found that changes in heart rate were detected by the Fenix 7 Pro's updated sensor almost as swiftly as a chest strap heart rate monitor.

During our tests we found that the watch's blue backlight tended to make colors look a little muddy, particularly when navigating using the watch's on-board maps and GPS, but that's a fairly minor complaint. if you'd prefer to have a watch with an OLED display, take a look at the Garmin Epix Pro, which is otherwise nearly identical.

Read our full Garmin Fenix 7 Pro review

The best GPS watch for hiking

Woman's wrist wearing Apple Watch Ultra 2

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 looks identical to its predecessor at first glance, but there are some big upgrades on the inside (Image credit: Future)
Apple's extra tough sports watch is now faster and brighter

Specifications

Display size: 1.92in/48.8mm
Display type: OLED
Weight: 1.8oz/61.3g (without strap)
Water rating: 328ft/100m
Battery life (typical use): 36 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Very fast GPS lock
+
Excellent display for maps
+
Heaps of third-party apps
+
Robust premium build

Reasons to avoid

-
Relatively short battery life
-
More expensive than most

When it comes to sheer versatility, it's hard to beat the Apple Watch Ultra 2. It's impressive out of the box, with a great suite of fitness tracking tools and super accurate GPS, but our reviewer found it really came into its own when kitted out with third-party apps like AllTrails and Komoot for finding and following routes.

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 looks identical to its predecessor at first glance, but its screen is significantly brighter, offering improved visibility in bright sunshine on the trail. Its multiple microphones are designed to compensate for wind noise when you're making a call (possible without a phone if you have a data plan), and there's an excellent digital compass installed by default.

There's also a new processor, which not only makes the overall experience of using the watch faster and smoother, but also facilitates Apple's new double-tap gesture. Hold the watch up and tap your index finger and thumb together twice to perform whatever action is currently displayed on the screen. Our reviewer found it extremely helpful, particularly if you're carrying something in one hand and want to accept a call or dismiss a notification.

The limiting factor for the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is battery life. Apple itself says the watch should last around 36 hours in typical use, and you can eke it out further through careful use of power-saving options and limiting use of certain functions, but for extended camping trips, you might prefer something less flashy and power-hungry.

Read our full Apple Watch Ultra 2 review

The best GPS watch for camping

Garmin Instinct 2X Solar watch

The Garmin Instinct 2X Solar has incredible battery life, particularly with a regular dose of sunlight, and is built like a tank (Image credit: Michael Sawh)
A king-sized version of Garmin's super tough GPS watch, now with dual-band GPS and a handy flashlight

Specifications

Display size: 1.1in/2.8cm (two-window design)
Display type: grayscale memory-in-pixel
Weight: 2.36oz/67g
Water rating: 328ft/100m
Battery life (smartwatch mode): 40 days (unlimited with solar)
Battery life (GPS): 60 hours (145 hours with solar)

Reasons to buy

+
At 67g, the bigger case isn't super heavy
+
Flashlight is surprisingly bright
+
Battery life is solid

Reasons to avoid

-
Some slow loading times
-
Would like more screen real estate
-
Still no full mapping support

The Instinct 2X takes one of the most likeable GPS watches in Garmin’s range and brings it up to date with a bigger screen, a bright flashlight, multi-band GPS powers and a battery life that goes for weeks. If you like the idea of having a bigger, more rugged Instinct 2 then you’ll have a lot of time for what the Instinct 2X is packing.

In our tests, the newly added multi-frequency GPS really did deliver the improved accuracy you need in places like tall, wooded areas. We used the Instinct 2X alongside the Forerunner 965 and found data by large was very consistent, and the metrics attached to that improved positioning data. It uses more power, but is worth it when you're out exploring, and battery life is still excellent with it enabled.

The new flashlight, accessed via the top left button, is more than just a gimmick, offering a surprisingly bright light to work by. We only wish the Instinct 2X had a higher screen resolution for more detail and proper support for mapping to help us navigate in the wild.

Read our full Garmin Instinct 2X Solar review

Best GPS watches for climbing

Coros Vertix 2S watch on woman's wrist showing home screen with moon graphic

Coros offers free map downloads for the Vertix 2S, and the watch's large screen is easily readable (Image credit: Future)
The best GPS watch for climbers

Specifications

Display size: 1.4in/35.6mm
Display type: color memory-in-pixel
Weight: 2.74oz/70g (with nylon strap)
Water rating: 328ft/100m
Battery life (smartwatch mode): 56 days
Battery life (GPS): 118 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Superb GPS accuracy
+
Extra tough design
+
Supplied with two bands
+
Excellent biometric tracking

Reasons to avoid

-
High list price of $699

The Coros Vertix 2S is the best GPS watch for climbing, particularly if you're headed outdoors to do so. Not only does it offer multiple climbing modes, it features an updated location tracking algorithm to help pinpoint your location on the rock face where other watches may fail. It's a boon for runners too, and during our testing it proved accurate

The Vertix 2S (a successor to the excellent Vertix 2) also has an upgraded heart rate monitor with additional LEDs and light sensors to more accurately track biometric data, providing improved fitness and recovery metrics in the Coros app.

This is a chunky GPS watch, but not excessively heavy, and it's seriously tough. With a resin case, titanium bezel, and sapphire crystal glass over the lens, it won't be easily scuffed or scraped when you're on the crag. For full peace of mind, you can even clip it into the Coros Vertix 2 Carabiner (sold separately) and hang it from your harness instead.

Read our full Coros Vertix 2S review

The best GPS watch for ultra marathons

Garmin Enduro 2 watch on woman's wrist

The Enduro 2 has incredible battery life, and the flashlight built into the top is extremely useful (Image credit: Future)
The best GPS watch for ultras

Specifications

Display size: 1.4in/3.6cm
Display type: color memory-in-pixel
Weight: 2.47oz/70g
Water rating: 328ft/100m
Battery life (smartwatch mode): 34 days (46 days with solar)
Battery life (GPS): 110 hours (150 hours with solar)

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptional battery life
+
Great GPS accuracy
+
Super bright flashlight

Reasons to avoid

-
Only one size
-
No cheaper steel version

The Garmin Enduro 2 was built with ultra-runners in mind, which means it's also a superb GPS watch for hikers. If you're embarking on a multi-day event, this watch's huge solar cell means there's no need to worry about charging it regularly, even when you're using GPS tracking for hours at a time.

You're also getting all the advanced training tools you'd expect from a top-tier Garmin watch, including real-time stamina monitoring, race time predictions, detailed recovery metrics, heart rate variability, training readiness, and a remarkably detailed breakdown of your performance after each training session and event.

The built quality is extremely solid as well, and the chunky titanium bezel gives it a real premium feel. This is a GPS watch that gets you noticed, in a good way (it even has a built-in flashlight).

The biggest downside is the price. This is one of Garmin's most expensive watches, and although it's easy to see why, it's worth taking a good look at the Polar Grit X Pro and Amazfit T-Rex 2 before dropping more than $1,000 on it. The original Garmin Enduro came in a slightly cheaper steel edition, but this time it's titanium all the way.

Read our full Garmin Enduro 2 review

The best GPS watch for the gym

Polar Vantage V3 watch on woman's wrist

(Image credit: Future)
More sport profiles than you can shake a skipping rope at, plus top-notch biometric tracking

Specifications

Display size: 1.39in/3.5cm
Display type: AMOLED
Weight: 2oz/57g
Water rating: 328ft/100m
Battery life (smartwatch mode): 12 days
Battery life (GPS): 61 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent GPS accuracy
+
Huge choice of indoor and outdoor sport profiles
+
Lightweight body and breathable band for comfort

Reasons to avoid

-
Premium price
-
Screen doesn't always wake when watch is raised

The Vantage V3, launched in spring 2024, is a lightweight a comfortable watch that's particularly well suited to gym workouts thanks to its huge array of indoor exercise profiles, and extra sweat-resistant design. During testing our tester said they were "pleasantly surprised" at how many indoor options were available, including dedicated modes for Les Mills workout classes. When things heat up, the fully perforated band allows sweat to evaporate easily, preventing stickiness and skin irritation.

The Polar Vantage V3 excels outdoors too, with some of the most accurate GPS tracking of any watch I've tested. Our tester wore it on a half marathon, which was logged with impressive accuracy, despite a route that wound between tall buildings and passed through a steep-sided gorge.

All your workout and recovery data is synced with the Polar Flow app, which is a data nerd's dream come true. The home screen presents you with an easily digestible overview of your daily fitness stats, but tap on any of the figures and you'll be presented with incredibly granular detail about your sleep, activity, and overall health. 

The only real downside (and it's a minor one) is that the screen doesn't always seem to wake automatically when you raise your wrist, so we had to press a button to illuminate it manually. Other than that, it's a very likeable GPS watch that's easy to recommend.

Read our full Polar Vantage V3 review

How we test GPS watches

We test each GPS watch for at least two weeks so the watch and its companion app have time to build up a full picture of our health and fitness. We wear each watch day and night so we can assess its sleep and recovery tools, and compare its results against those from a Withings Sleep Analyzer sleep tracker.

To test each watch's GPS, we take it for several runs and walks in a variety of locations, including built-up areas, open fields, and wooded areas that present a challenge of satellite navigation. We also take each watch on a pre-measured route to see how accurately it records distance.

To test the accuracy of each GPS watch's heart rate monitor, we put it to the test in a series of intense interval training sessions and compare its results to those from a chest strap heart rate monitor, which serves as a benchmark.

For more details see how Advnture tests products.

Meet the expert

Written by
Cat Ellis
Written by
Cat Ellis

Cat has been testing GPS watches for years, having previously worked as fitness editor for Advnture's sister site TechRadar, and can usually be found running or hiking with one on each wrist (though she hasn't resorted to ankles yet).

How to choose a GPS watch

All of the best GPS watches share some common, basic features, including time, pace, distance and workout tracking. But that’s where the similarities end. Every GPS watch is slightly different based on its feature package, battery life and intended end-use, so it’s important to understand the features you want and need in order to maximize a watch and get the most out of it.

The first thing to consider when buying a GPS watch for trail running, hiking or general outdoor adventures is the price range of watches and your budget. There are generally three price ranges that watches fall into: basic ($150 and below), mid-range ($200-$350) and high-end ($350 and higher). Many mid-range and high-end watches have accessories that are sold separately, but for the purposes of understanding your own budget and what you’re willing to spend, those three categories are good guidelines. How much should you spend? Only you can decide that, but without trying to sound cliché, you get what you pay for. In other words, a basic-level watch will offer limited overall functionality, while a high-end watch will offer a lot more sports-specific features.

While almost any GPS watch will provide you with real-time pace, distance and elapsed time data, mid-range and high-end watches will also offer features like heart rate monitors, built-in workouts, touch-screen interfaces, waterproof construction (instead of just water-resistant), mapping features, elevation data, auto-pause function, temperature, barometric pressure, calorie burning and a variety of training functions. Some watches have very good music-playing capabilities, but most have no music functions at all. Battery life is another one of the key factors to consider as it can vary greatly among watches. Other key features to be aware of include the ability to upload data and cross-analyze it with previous workouts or adventures, download and interface with other apps, and sport-specific workouts.

Do you want a GPS watch for one sport or one activity? Some watches offer functionality for one main end-use, but have limited features for other sports. For example, a GPS watch built for road and track running might not have as many specific features for trail running. Some watches that excel as hiking or adventure watches will suffice for trail running but not as well for runners who are primarily focused on marathon training. Some watches are touted as “multisport” watches with triathlon-oriented features for swimming, biking and running, including workouts and special bike-mounting accessories. While some basic functions can overlap to other activities, the more specific your needs are, the more you have to look for those features when you’re shopping for a watch.