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Best GPS watches for hiking this spring

It's officially spring. If that makes you want to get outdoors for a spot of hiking, we round up the best GPS and fitness watches to help you tackle tricky terrain

It’s officially spring – the weather is improving, the daffodils have started to poke through, and you might want to hit the trails for a hike or ramble. We take a look at wearables that aim to help.

Our tough fitness tracking tests have uncovered some great Best Buy fitness and GPS watches well suited to multiple sports and activities such as hiking. We’ve also seen recent fitness watch or smartwatch launches that look promising for those putting on their walking shoes and getting out and about.

Best Buy smartwatches – find out which ones we recommend

Which features should I look for?

Built-in GPS is a must for making a wearable useful while hiking, especially if you plan to go out without your phone or it has poor battery life. GLONASS satellite coverage is good too, as you’ll be able to get more complete location tracking.

An altimeter will track how high up you are, so will be a must for anyone looking to keep track of this. An electronic compass could help cut down the amount of kit you need to take with you. A hiking or trail-running setting is a good addition, as well as the ability to track multiple sports so that you can use your device at other times. Another feature to look for is SOS alerts for if you get in trouble.

Garmin Fenix fitness watches

Garmin Fenix fitness watches all have GPS and GLONASS so you can track your hike even without your smartphone, an altimeter for tracking the height you’re at and an electronic compass for finding your way.

Garmin Fenix 3 HR

The Fenix 3 HR is large, rugged and durable, and has lots of settings for tracking a range of sports. You can use it to monitor trail running and hiking, and it has a heart-rate monitor too. We’ve put this fitness watch through its paces, including testing how accurately it tracks activity and how durable it is. Find out how it performed by reading our Garmin Fenix 3 HR review.

Garmin Fenix 5

The Fenix 5 range of fitness watches, announced at CES 2017, start at £499 for the regular 47mm Fenix 5 or 42mm Fenix 5S. We haven’t had our hands on this device yet, but its rugged design and plethora of sensors suggest a good option for outdoor activities. We’ll try out the Garmin Fenix 5 soon – look out for our first look review this spring. Or take a look at our Best Buy fitness watches.

The latest Samsung

We haven’t put the Samsung Gear S3 through our tough wearables test yet – but both the classic and frontier versions have plenty of options for hikers and walkers. The frontier version has a silicone band rather than the leather band that comes with the classic, making it more suitable for outdoor types. It retains the rotating bezel from the Gear S2 to make it easy to flick through menus, but there are a lot of new tracking and fitness features.

Like the Garmin models, the Gear S3 has GPS, and an altimeter, barometer and heart-rate monitor. It alerts you to changes in atmospheric pressure so you can react to weather changes – important when you’re on the side of a mountain or just need to find shelter. And an SOS mode will alert family, friends and emergency services if you get into difficulty, and will send your location based on the GPS.

But what other features are on offer, and will the claimed battery life last you for longer hikes? To find out, read our Samsung Gear S3 first look.

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