Thanks to the amount of multisport GPS watches on the market these days, we have access to an incredible amount of data about our daily health and activity. Some might argue that obsessively tracking and analyzing our amateur jogs and bike rides is a bit overkill, but this spring I’ve found that tracking my activities has motivated way to stay moving during a time where it’s easy to let good habits fall by the wayside. Plus how else will my four Strava followers keep up with my PRs?
For better or worse, competing with a miniature wearable computer on my wrist has turned out to be surprisingly addictive. Plus, these four watches have capabilities that make them suitable for big adventures in the mountains once ski season rolls back around.
I tested these watches on spring ski tours, mountain bike rides, and hikes, all ranging from one to eight hours. I will say I’m not the most tech-savvy human out there, which speaks well for the user interface and intuitive nature of each of these watches.
In terms of out of the box user interface (something that’s a top priority for me), the fēnix 6S is the most intuitive watch I’ve ever used. While the other watches on this list required a fair bit of time with the manual, I never had to pick up the manual for the fēnix 6S. Although it’s packed with features, you can look through your stats and numbers on the Garmin Connect app, leaving the watch itself relatively simple. I actually really like the lack of a touch screen since the raised buttons are prominent and easy to reach while running or biking.
The fēnix is packed with tons of features like pace guidance, weather forecasts, music apps, navigation, and Garmin Pay, along with performance metrics and in-depth training analysis that pretty much judges how fit it thinks you are (these numbers are private). It’s more data than most people could reasonably digest, so you can pick and choose which widgets you want on your screen and forget the rest. I personally don’t like to hook my phone notifications and calendar up to it, but if you’re into that, the technology is there and pretty seamless.
Preloaded trails on the map face are probably my favorite feature and have been super helpful while mountain biking so I don’t have to take my phone out to navigate at every intersection. There are also preloaded maps for ski resorts across the country which will be a pretty neat feature to have come winter.
The fēnix 6 comes in a 6, 6S, and 6X, ascending in case size. I have really small wrists and prefer the 6S which has a 42mm case that I don’t even notice on my wrist. It slides easily under multiple layers which I feel is the biggest problem with large watches. The only sacrifice you really make with the S is a small decrease in battery life, but the fēnix 6 series has a far superior battery life than the 5. I’ve tested the 5S before and the 6S lasts much longer without a charge. On the 5S, if I tracked runs or bike rides, I couldn’t get more than three days out of a charge. With daily activity tracking, I can get almost a week out of the 6S before re-upping.
The Suunto 7 is Suunto’s first watch to use the Google WearOS, which makes it feel like way more of a wearable computer than Suunto’s other more rugged outdoor watches like the 9 Baro. With WearOS you get Google Assistant (so you can ask your watch questions out loud), Google Pay, Google Play, and Google Fit, and through the app, you can change most of the settings and watches from your phone instead of fussing with the buttons. It definitely feels like more of a step towards the lifestyle category because of how well it integrates with your phone, music, and calendar.
You can still use the Suunto app to track your activities, accessed through the top right button which lets you choose between over 70 preloaded sports. Aside from the obvious activities like ski touring, running, and cycling, there are also options to record for kayaking, ice skating, obstacle racing, sailing, paragliding, and dancing…I could go on for a while.
Personally, the 50mm case feels a little large on my wrist, but if you have medium to large wrists, I doubt it would feel problematic. Despite the size, the case does lie pretty flat against my wrist compared to the 9 Baro, which allowed me to still take jackets on and off with ease.
I got two and a half days of battery through each charge, including recording two bike rides that lasted for about an hour and a half. I realized on my way to the trailhead one day that it was almost out of juice and discovered that it charges impressively fast—in my 15-minute drive it picked up 45 percent extra battery life. I also really like that the lower right button takes you immediately to a stopwatch which has become super useful for all the home workout circuits I’ve been experimenting with. Honestly, my only real complaint about the Suunto 7 is that the watch face powers out when you’re not using it (probably to conserve battery life), something that was kind of frustrating because I like to be able to glance down at my wrist and note the time.
As the name suggests, Polar’s new Grit X watch is a rugged and durable adventure watch, the most outdoor-oriented in Polar’s lineup. The watch itself is surprisingly light for what it is, with a 47mm case that’s substantial but not overbearing.
I really like the usability and function of the Polar Flow app. If you like to geek out on training analytics (which I’m embarrassed to admit I now sometimes do), the Polar Flow app will satisfy that itch. The FuelWise feature stands out the most compared to other GPS watches I’ve tested. When enabled, it reminds you to eat and drink during long periods of exercise. I tried the feature on a few long bike rides and while it’s a really cool idea, as someone who’s pretty much always hungry and thirsty, I almost always felt the urge to snack or drink before the watch told me to. I think this feature would be really useful if you’re a marathoner or ultrarunner where it’s easier to forget to eat and drink, but for all other activities, it seems a bit contrived. Enabling Strava Live Segments is another fun feature that lets you download named segments while you’re out there with a basic map and PRs.
I didn’t have great luck with the touch screen, which varied in responsiveness. The backlight is also slightly too dim and I’ve found myself squinting to read the screen when it’s really bright. But after a few days of use, the Grit X felt natural and easy to use. I was impressed with the battery life, which felt comparable to the Garmin fēnix series. I got a full week without tracking anything and a solid 4 days while tracking a one or two-hour bike ride each day.
For someone who’s looking for a lot of analytics regarding fitness, sleep tracking, and fueling, the Grit X in conjunction with the Polar Flow app is about as good as you can get. However, don’t rely on it if you’re trying to navigate while out on the trail since there aren’t pre-loaded maps you can follow. Still, if you’re mostly looking for analytics and training support, the Grit X is super solid (and $200 cheaper than Garmin’s fēnix watches).
If you’re looking for a watch that tracks the very basics—and tells time—this is your best option. With a step counter, exercise tracker, and heart rate monitor, the Fitbit Versa 2 gives you enough information to keep you moving and staying in your targeted activity zone without overwhelming with too much data.
For an added layer of safety, Fitbit recently partnered with RECCO to create a woven band (sold separately for $60) featuring RECCO’s reflector technology, making you searchable by professional rescuers equipped detectors.
To maximize the Versa 2, you can sync it with phone apps like Strava and Spotify which are then controllable from your wrists. My favorite feature is being able to quickly look down at my Fitbit while on a run or bike ride and see an easy-to-read display of my heart rate, distance, and time. The Versa 2 is customizable for the stats you want to prioritize and easy to navigate even while you’re moving. My watch stays charged for about 6 days, so I usually charge it Sunday nights when I myself am recharging for the week ahead.