Last updated: July 1, 2020

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Exercising has never been more in style than it is now. Escaping work, daily worries, and commitments to practice outdoor sports for a few hours provides an unparalleled sense of happiness. But before you start your work out, you need to know how to make the most of it.

A GPS watch will allow you to know the routes you want to take in greater depth, as well as useful variables such as your heart rate, the altitude, or incline. Whether you are running in the mountains, playing golf, or doing water sports, these little gadgets are convenient. In our guide, we will tell you how to get the most out of your GPS watch.

Key Facts

  • A GPS watch will help you get the most out of your favorite physical activities.
  • In order to pick the model that best fits your needs, think about the sport(s) you want to use it for.
  • These devices gather a wide range of data on variables such as altitude, incline, or heart rate.

Our Selection: The Best GPS Watches on the U.S. Market

Before you purchase your very own GPS watch, you have to evaluate several different criteria that will help you determine which model best suits your needs. Before we delve into these key aspects, let’s have a look at our selection of the best GPS watches currently available on the market. All of these products stand out for their overall quality, versatility, features, and value for money.

Best-Selling GPS Watch

Texas-based company Garmin is the undisputed champ when it comes to GPS watches, with few other brands matching it in quality. The Forerunner 35 has become an Amazon Best Seller thanks to its value for money and overall quality. With 5 ATM of water resistance, a wrist-based heart rate monitor, and phone notifications, this GPS watch has it all to track your training and progress – whether you’re running, biking, or rowing.

Best High-End GPS Watch

The Fenix 5X Sapphire is quite simply one of the most advanced GPS watches available on the market. Its prohibitive price means it is more tailored to very serious or professional athletes, who will certainly not regret the investment. Integrating high-accuracy TOPO U.S. mapping to navigate on any terrain, this watch also includes the GLONASS system. It is extremely resistant, full of the most advanced features out there, and elegant, too.

Best GPS Watch for Everyday Use

The Vívoactive 3 is the ultimate GPS watch for anyone who has a very active life. It combines the best sports functionalities with features that are useful on a daily basis. These include a contactless payment solution and notifications from your smartphone. When it comes to physical activity, this GPS watch comes with 15 preloaded sports programs and various fitness indicators to help you keep track of your health and goals.

Best GPS Watch for Golf Players

If you’re a golf player and like to monitor your shots and progress, the Garmin Approach S20 is exactly what you need. Compatible with the TruSwing sensor, this GPS watch will provide you with every key metric to help you improve your game. You can then easily review them on the Garmin Connect app. For a more holistic approach, this model also analyzes your hours of sleep, calories burned, and the number of steps you take.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About GPS Watches

Now that you have decided to get a GPS watch, the first thing you have to do is how you want to use your new gadget. Do you exercise every day or occasionally? What kind of variables are you interested in measuring? In the following section, we answer the most frequently asked questions about GPS watches to help you make the right purchase.

Nowadays, GPS is very common in navigation tools found in vehicles.
(Source: maridav: 20836492/

What activities can I do with my GPS watch?

As we have discussed, knowing what you will do with your watch is the first step in making the right choice. If you practice multisports such as triathlon, you may want to opt for a watch that allows you to switch from one sport to another as you race. That way, you can measure the altitude, read maps, and swim in open waters with it.

Remember that GPS watches are designed to monitor activity variables such as heart rate or incline, giving you a more professional approach to your sport. If you simply want information on the sport you practice, such as running, climbing, or golf, a fitness tracker would do the trick.

Why should I buy a GPS watch?

If you are still unsure about when it is most appropriate to wear your watch, simply bear in mind that its functionalities allow you to better your physical preparation. You can create your own training programs on the watch to guide you to follow specific paces.

Learning to train by heart rate zones allows you to achieve a healthier physical preparation, hence influencing your motivation, progress, and goal achievement. In other words, you have the opportunity to understand various parameters of your fitness and the environment around you in greater detail.

GPS watches allow you to monitor variables such as heart rate or incline.
(Source: Maksim Kostenko: 90449299/

What is GLONASS exactly?

The Global Positioning System (GPS) has very high accuracy outside. However, the presence of trees or tall buildings can hinder and affect the positioning and precision of your location. In these cases, certain manufacturers integrate other tools such as pedometers or cadence sensors.

In more extreme locations, such as dense forests or high mountains, your GPS may no longer work. This is when having GLONASS will come in handy. Created by the USSR, this geolocation system uses 31 satellites in orbit to help you find your location.

What is the difference between a fitness tracker and a GPS watch?

At times, we get stuck on one shopping option without knowing that there may a simpler, more suitable product available. A fitness tracker will detect your movement and transform this into steps to estimate your activity throughout the day. It then uses this data to calculate the distance traveled, and the calories burned.

If these are the values that you are looking for, a fitness tracker will easily satisfy your needs. That being said, certain types of exercises like outdoor running require a GPS watch to achieve greater precision. This is why you need to carefully analyze their features before making your purchase.

GPS watches are often used by elite athletes.
(Source: Tomas Anderson: 92367088/

How does navigation work?

GPS is a tracking system with which each person can transmit their current location and speed anywhere, anytime. The GPS device sends signals to one of the many free satellites that are constantly rotating around the Earth.

Nowadays, GPS is frequently used in navigation tools found in vehicles or smartphones. In watches, this system is handy for distance running sports where you need to navigate in unfamiliar territory and analyze your speed, distance, and pace. You could say that a GPS watch is ultimately a training computer.


Did you know that the GPS was originally designed by the United States for military and intelligence applications during the Cold War? It was inspired by the 1957 launch of the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 1.

What are the advanced functions of GPS watches?

So far, we have introduced you to the basic functions that most standard GPS watches come with. In the next section, we will look at the most advanced features in high-end watches designed for professional athletes. While these models are naturally more expensive, they are fantastic devices if you know you will make the most of them.

Advanced features Description
Cadence Number of steps taken per minute. It helps to determine if you are running properly.
Vertical oscillation This represents how much you move vertically when you run.
Aerobic capacity Maximum amount of oxygen the body can provide to the muscles. Greater aerobic capacity means that you can train at higher rates.
Contact time with the ground This tells you the milliseconds that your feet touch the ground while running.
Lactate threshold The level of effort at which fatigue accelerates. It measures your endurance.
Recovery time The time your body needs to recover from training. After each workout, the watch tells you how many hours you need to return to your maximum capacity.
Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption Related to your muscle recovery time. After working out, your body consumes more oxygen than at rest.

Shopping Criteria

In the following section, we have detailed some of the most important factors to keep in mind when you decide to purchase your own GPS watch. You may feel overwhelmed by the terminology of the feature descriptions when looking at each specific watch. Below, we will try to make it easier for you to pick the right model.


You can find this sensor in virtually any GPS watch on the market. These instruments can calculate distances or running paces for 24 hours with a minimum margin of error, although their precision may vary depending on the type of terrain on which you are exercising (climbs or descents).

In short, this feature calculates your stride using sensors called accelerometers placed inside the watch. These mechanisms measure the movement of your foot, even if you do not maintain the same stride pace throughout your workout or race. Note that you need to calibrate them so that they can function correctly.

Water Resistance

While most GPS watches are water-resistant, this is, unfortunately, a halfhearted reality. The majority of models allow you to swim in a pool, but you will need to pay very close attention to the watch you are buying if you want to dive at greater depths or in open waters.

Certain manufacturers specify how deep you can go with their watch, while others use atmospheres (ATM) like traditional watch brands. The most commonly found values are 5 ATM for low-speed water sports, 50 ATM for high-speed water sports, or the EN13319 standard – ideal for scuba diving.


Various GPS watches offer the option of displaying maps to see where you are, your itinerary and possible routes, the incline, geographical features, or nearby roads. This function is often found in mid- or high-end models, and you can even find specialized maps for specific sports.

You may find this mapping functionality to be very interesting if you practice an outdoor activity, especially in high mountains. In that regard, you should opt for a model on which you can mark the routes that you want to take during your activity. This will prevent you from getting lost, and you can train just the way you had planned.

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Altitude Measurement

Some GPS watches can measure the altitude at which you are and the difference in height over the course of your training. This feature is generally found in top-of-the-line models. While they are naturally more expensive, they are also an excellent investment if you really want to make the most of your activity.

This functionality is more specifically designed for mountain lovers. While the most basic gauges only use GPS, the more advanced ones combine it with a built-in barometric altimeter that provides a more accurate altitude measurement thanks to the atmospheric pressure.

Heart Rate Monitor

This is one of the most useful functions for those that train regularly. When doing high-intensity sport, you naturally want to know your heart rate to see the intensity you can withstand and monitor your progress. Your overall fitness, age, or genetics all play a role in these variables.

GPS watches incorporate a heart rate monitor for the wrist or the option of connecting a chest band via Bluetooth to measure your heart rate more accurately. Also, some models can also obtain other data related to the heart, such as your maximum heart rate. This allows you to adjust your daily training for greater efficiency.


Throughout our guide, we have delved into the usefulness of GPS watches for all your outdoor activities, be it mountain climbing, hiking, or water sports. If you have one of these devices for your training, you will make the most of them and improve your physical condition faster.

As you noticed in our selection of products, many models are available, and each suits a specific type of athlete. You won’t need the latest GPS watch on the market if you only plan on running once a month. If you want to be a professional athlete, on the other hand, you will undoubtedly reap greater benefits from having the most advanced product.

If you liked our guide on GPS watches, feel free to share it on your social media. You can also leave us a comment in the section below!

(Source of featured image: Blasbike: 20439058/

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Brett Holmes Technology Geek
Brett is a keen observer of the latest technology trends and knows his way around the industry because he runs an electronics store. He writes about it in his spare time and wants to help others learn more about the technology industry.