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While Garmin may be best known for devices like the Garmin inReach Mini and other GPS units, they’re also behind some of the most reliable smartwatches. Although other brands like Apple and Suunto also offer excellent features, I’ve found Garmin to be the best for folks who spend a lot of time outdoors.

Choosing a Garmin watch is challenging because each design offers something slightly different to cater to your specific outdoor recreation and exercise needs. For this article, I’ve selected a handful of Garmin’s most popular and top-performing watches and fit them into the category that best fits that activity’s demands. Most of the best Garmin watches have features suitable for a range of activities, so remember that any of the watches mentioned below could be a good fit for you.

How We Picked the Best Garmin Watches

To select from the wide array of available Garmin watches, I worked directly with the Garmin team to learn about and understand each watch’s features. I had the opportunity to test a couple of their most popular models. I wore each watch daily for several weeks during an array of outdoor activities to evaluate how the claims and specs lined up with the watch’s performance in real life.

Regardless of a watch’s style or its best use, all Garmin watches are a high-quality investment. Since I feel that all Garmin equipment and devices have a high level of durability, it was most important to me to understand the user interface and how intuitive the designs are, no matter your skill level with technology.

Note: Garmin continuously improves its watch and GPS technology, so check back as we update our product selections and descriptions.

Best Garmin Watches: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: Garmin Epix Pro Gen 2

Best Overall


  • Screen Materials: Corning Gorilla Glass
  • Physical Size: 47 x 47 x 14.6 mm
  • Battery Life on Stand By: Up to 16 days
  • Battery Life Using GPS: 30-42 hours
  • Water Rating: 10 ATM


  • Excellent battery life
  • Updated heart rate sensor
  • Dual frequency GPS
  • Built-in hands-free flashlight
  • Easy-to-navigate features
  • Availabe in multiple sizes and design options


  • Incremental updates
  • Price

If you can get past the price tag, the Garmin Epix Pro is a durable, intuitive watch with a lifespan long enough to use while backpacking. I wore it on a recent overnight trip and the battery lasted two whole days of hiking (about four hours of tracking per day), even after weeks of use on day hikes and trail runs. This is likely because the new Garmin Epix Pro is equipped with solar charging capabilities. The daily sun exposure while I was on the trail was probably boosting the battery even while it was running.

While the old version of this watch only came in one size, the Gen 2 comes in 42mm, 47 mm, and 51 mm, which is makes it suitable for wrists of any size. I really like the look of this watch. It’s available in several color schemes and different design options, but the all-black version is my favorite. It’s sleek enough to wear to the office yet durable enough to take on the trail.

Garmin Epix Pro Gen 2
The ease of use and long battery life are two highlights of the Garmin Epix Pro. Meg Carney

In my experience, getting the watch set up, connected to the app, and calibrated to the correct timezone was quite intuitive. I didn’t even have to look at the instructional manual. The buttons are labeled well and the menu is easy to navigate. My biggest qualm with this watch is that you can’t see the time when you’re tracking. It would be nice to have the option to toggle between them without having to turn the tracking off.

Best for Hiking: Garmin Fenix 7 Pro

Best for Hiking


  • Screen Materials: Corning Gorilla Glass
  • Physical Size: 47 x 47 x 14.5 mm
  • Battery Life on Stand By: Up to 57 days
  • Battery Life Using GPS: Up to 57 hours
  • Water Rating: 10 ATM


  • Built-in flashlight
  • Available in several sizes
  • Easy-to-navigate features
  • Long battery life
  • Solar charging option


  • Price
  • Screen display is not my favorite

The Garmin Fenix 7 Pro is not only a great GPS watch for hiking but an excellent go-to for everyday life. For outdoor enthusiasts, the solar version is very much worth it. Although the watch already has an incredible battery life, the solar charging means you don’t have to charge it as often—which comes in handy when hiking or backpacking.

Overall, the Garmin interface within the watch is excellent, and easy to navigate between the features. However, while some people may like this particular Garmin display, I am not a huge fan of the layout. I find it bulky and crowded. The vertical time display could be more appealing and the app could be easier to use, but you’ll enjoy the health metrics and smartwatch features if you can get past that. I recommend the Solar Pro version, even though it’s more expensive. If you’re on a budget, though, the standard or basic solar design can save you some money without sacrificing the user experience.

Best Value: Garmin Instinct 2 Solar

Best Value


  • Screen Materials: Power Glass
  • Physical Size: 45 x 45 x 14.5 mm
  • Battery Life on Stand By: Up to 65 days
  • Battery Life Using GPS: Up to 30 hours (48 with solar)
  • Water Rating: 10 ATM


  • Durable
  • Long-lasting battery life
  • Solar charging
  • More affordable than other GPS watches
  • Simple design


  • Not very inuitive to navigate features
  • No backlight
  • Hinge band sold separately

As a paddler, I need a durable waterproof watch. And the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar is just that. After testing it on a few day hikes, trail runs, and even a five-day paddle trip, I have to say that it was my favorite on the water. The simple design and solar charging make the already long battery life exceptional. It has some basic mapping capabilities—including the option to follow preplanned routes—but it doesn’t have topographical or color map features.

Garmin Instinct Solar 2 Smartwatch
The rugged waterproof exterior makes the Garmin Instinct Solar 2 great for water sports. Meg Carney

Out of all the watches I tried, I had the hardest time navigating the features on this one. The menu is a bit clumsy and the plastic watch materials along with the protruding buttons aren’t the most comfortable. If you have small wrists, it may not fit as well.

Despite all of that, for the price, the watch performance and stellar battery life are hard to beat.

Best for Running: Garmin Forerunner 965

Best for Running


  • Screen Materials: Corning Gorilla Glass 3 DX
  • Physical Size: 47.2 x 47.2 x 13.2 (mm)
  • Battery Life on Stand By: Up to 23 days
  • Battery Life Using GPS: Up to 31 hours
  • Water Rating: 5 ATM


  • Multisport tracking
  • Multi-band GPS support
  • Color mapping
  • Customizable watch face
  • Available with or without music


  • No touch screen
  • Frequent updates can become confusing

What was once known almost exclusively as a running watch, the Garmin Forerunner 965 is a multi-sport watch, making it even more versatile. Luckily for all the runners out there, this watch is still highly attuned to all your running and training needs. The screen is easy to read and navigate with the buttons, but to get the most out of this watch, you’ll have to learn to use the Garmin app. Reading all of your training and running data on the watch is possible, but I find it easier to see on a phone screen.

Tailored for both road and trail runners, the color mapping makes it easy to follow and plan routes. It’s also a great option for triathlons because you have optimal health and training data at your fingertips and you can toggle between sports with ease. Not everyone will love this, but it can provide some variation to your usual workout routine with suggested workouts and training routines for different running events.

Overall, this watch has such a wide range of training and health features, it might be impossible to use them all. What’s good about that is no matter the type of runner you are, there are features on this watch that will work for you and your training routine.

Best Budget: Garmin Vivoactive 4S

Best Budget


  • Screen Materials: Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Physical Size: 45.1 x 45.1 x 12.8 mm
  • Battery Life on Stand By: Up to 8 days
  • Battery Life Using GPS: Up to 18 hours
  • Water Rating: 5 ATM


  • More affordable than other Garmin smartwatches
  • Durable materials and construction
  • Useful features and tracking information
  • Easy to use and sync
  • Great for active users who enjoy a variety of activities


  • Limited features compared to other watch models
  • Garmin app isn’t the best

If you are interested in the features of a Garmin smartwatch but don’t want to pay such a high price, consider the Garmin Vivoactive 4S. It is a multi-sport smartwatch that’s simple and easy to use at the gym, on the trail, or while running errands. The additional features like on-screen workouts, running data, and smartphone/wallet syncing add a high level of convenience no matter the activity.

The watch is easy to use and well-designed, so even less tech-savvy folks (like me) can easily find and change things. The display is easy to read, and the only real complaint I have with this is the same for all the other watches: You can’t see the time when using a tracking mode whether you’re on a run or a hike. It would be nice to have the option to view both.

What to Consider When Choosing a Garmin Watch

When investing in a new Garmin watch, the best place to start is to consider your intended use (i.e., do you want to use it for trail running and hiking, hunting, or swimming and paddling?). Next, figure out your budget. As mentioned, Garmin offers a range of watches to fit most people’s budgets, but the value varies. After that, consider the following:

Where and how you use your watch will help determine which one is best for your needs.
Where and how you use your watch will help determine which one is best for your needs. Meg Carney Meg Carney

Battery Life

Garmin watches are well known for their long battery life, and while in smartwatch mode, Garmin watch models can vary in battery life from seven days to up to a year. The features used on the watch and whether it has solar charging capabilities can impact this, but when simply using it in watch mode, you can expect it to work for at least one week before it needs charging, regardless of the model. The shortest battery life listed is five days for any of their watches. Most are closer to 14-30 days.

Check out the Garmin battery life chart, which lists all of their current watch styles and battery life when in smartwatch mode. If the watch has solar capabilities, it will also list the battery life when solar charging is an option.


Style is highly subjective. Maybe you like a sporty fitness watch or maybe you prefer something discrete enough to wear to work or even formal events. The Epix or Venu both offer sleek designs while operating with enough functions to suit any sport. While most of the Garmin watches featured in this article would be classified as adventure or fitness watches, the brand has several other lines of watches, such as luxury or fashion, more suitable for working professionals.


The durability of the Garmin watches is unbeatable. Their outdoor-specific watches are designed to be used among the elements. The swimming, diving, and paddling watches have excellent waterproofing, and most others offer at least some level of water resistance. Garmin uses different water ratings for different watches.

Garmin only offers a limited two-year warranty, and what they cover is very limited. On average, you can expect a Garmin watch (even when used daily) to last five to seven years. You may notice the battery life go down some after about 500 charges.


Garmin watches are not cheap. To help you find the best for your budget (whether that be $100 or $1,000), Garmin has an excellent tool on their website. This short questionnaire takes under two minutes to complete and does a decent job of selecting a good watch option for you.

Training Metrics and Features

After using two of their watches for a few months, I can confidently say sometimes less is more. While advanced training features are helpful for some athletes, knowing the training metrics and features is necessary to get the most out of the watch.

Features can be as basic or as specific as you want. Garmin even has an option to design your own smartwatch, allowing you to select the features and designs that suit your lifestyle best. Add-ons like coaching programs and stamina graphs may be ideal for more advanced athletes. As a woman, choosing a watch with built-in menstrual or pregnancy tracking features may be a priority.

At the most basic, most of the Garmin sport or outdoor watches track steps, mileage, and pace. Their watches targeted to the outdoor recreation crowd will be more advanced and may have GPS capabilities that can sync with the Garmin app and other devices.


Q: Are Garmin watches worth it?

I think Garmin watches are worth it if you use them often. No matter the one you choose, all of the brand’s devices are well-designed and will rank well against other watches with similar capabilities.

Q: Is it safe to wear a Garmin watch all the time?

Garmin watches are known to emit low radiation levels (comparable to that of a cell phone), so it may be wise to limit exposure when utilizing tracking and GPS features. Many users prefer to switch wrists or take it off to shower and sleep. Keeping the watch clean and giving your skin time to breathe is always good.

Q: Do Garmin watches have GPS?

According to the Garmin website, “Garmin wearable devices use only the GPS satellites to receive location information. The design of the GPS satellites do not allow Garmin devices to communicate current location in any way directly.”

Q: How long should a Garmin watch last?

Most Garmin watches should last the average user around 7+ years. After 500 charges, you may see a slight decline in battery life.

Best Garmin Watches: Final Thoughts

It feels like there is a Garmin watch for everyone, thanks to their versatility. I appreciate the individual watch features and the fact that each design has a distinct focus. It’s no secret that Garmin watches are pricier, and with such an investment, only the highest quality is expected. Garmin regularly runs sales, and you can always buy used if you’re on a budget but want to buy one of the best Garmin watches currently available. If you didn’t find the perfect watch for your outdoor adventure needs on this list, check out the Garmin website for more options.

Why Trust Us

For more than 125 years, Field & Stream has been providing readers with honest and authentic coverage of outdoor gear. Our writers and editors eat, sleep, and breathe the outdoors, and that passion comes through in our product reviews. You can count on F&S to keep you up to date on the best new gear. And when we write about a product—whether it’s a bass lure or a backpack—we cover the good and the bad, so you know exactly what to expect before you decide to make a purchase.