Apple Watch Ultra bands explained – find the right strap for you

Apple Watch Ultra
(Image credit: Future)

So, you've decided to invest in the new Apple Watch Ultra. Good choice, but now you've got another big decision to make – which band to pick. 

Most of the best GPS watches for outdoor adventures come with a strap made from silicone, which resists water and sweat, and is easy to rinse clean. Others (such as the Garmin Enduro) have a woven nylon band that's lighter and more breathable. These bands are typically available in different colors, and can usually be swapped for something different if you prefer, but you have to buy straps made from different materials separately.

The Apple Watch Ultra is different; when you buy the watch, you can pick between three distinct straps designed for different activities: Alpine Loop, Trail Loop, and Ocean Band. So what exactly are they all, and how can you decide which is best for you - particularly if you enjoy more than one sport regularly?

The bands all slide into place like those of any other Apple Watch so you can swap them over in a few seconds. However, they cost $99 when bought separately, so it's best to choose the right one to begin with.

Apple Watch Ultra with Alpine Loop

(Image credit: Apple)

Alpine Loop

The Alpine Loop is built with hikers and climbers in mind, and was the band we used when we reviewed the Apple Watch Ultra in September. It looks like two pieces of material stitched together, but the layers are in fact woven into one another, meaning you won't accidentally pull them apart.

It fastens with an unusual G-shaped hook that slides into loops in the fabric. During our tests we found it easy to close, even one-handed, but the way the fabric sits in the hook means it's not going to come undone accidentally. Interestingly, the design also means that you're unlikely to accidentally fasten the Alpine Loop too tightly; you need just a tiny bit of slack to slide the hook home.

The Alpine Loop comes in three sizes, and three colors: starlight (an off-white shade), green, and orange. The latter is particularly good for visibility in woodland terrain, and would be a sensible pick for hikers and hunters who want to make sure they have a good amount of blaze orange attire for safety.

Apple Watch Ultra with Trail Loop

(Image credit: Apple)

Trail Loop

The Trail Loop is the simplest of the three designs, and is made with runners in mind, though we can also see it working well for hikers and cyclists who want to pare down weight to a minimum. It's made from woven nylon, and fastens with a hook and loop closure (ie Velcro). 

It's not flashy, but the absence of a buckle means you can get a much more precise fit, and you can easily adjust it using the convenient little pull tab if your hands swell (it's a known phenomenon for hikers).

It comes in three subtle colorways (yellow/beige, blue/gray, and black/gray) and three sizes for different wrist circumferences.

Apple Watch Ultra with Ocean Band

(Image credit: Apple)

Ocean Band

The Ocean Band, as its name implies, is built with watersports in mind – particularly diving. The Apple Watch Ultra is officially rated as a dive computer, and its forthcoming Oceanic+ app will help you track and manage your dives safely.

It's made from a flexible elastomer material that's easy to wipe dry, and has a tubular design that echoes the look of the Alpine Loop. It fastens with a titanium buckle that holds it in place securely during high-speed water sports where you may not trust a hook and loop closure, and matches the watch's titanium case.

The Ocean Band is available in one size as standard, but you can pick up an extension that expands it by up to 50mm, making it suitable for wearing over a wetsuit. This could also prove handy if you're planning to explore cold climes where you don't want to pull back your sleeve all the way and expose your wrist, though of course the Watch Ultra's SpO2 and heart rate sensors can't work through clothing.

It comes in three colors: black, white, and yellow. The yellow should be particularly good for visibility underwater (though we suspect it doesn't float).

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.