Regardless of whether you’re hiking the Appalachian Trail or a small local trail, owning the proper gear is vital. One of the most important pieces of gear in any hiker’s arsenal is a quality watch. Not just any watch, though – a hiking watch.
Hiking watches are much more than just timekeeping devices – they provide a ton of features that keep hikers safe on the trails. Specialized functions such as altimeters and barometers help hikers stay informed about their surroundings. If you don’t know exactly what these features are, don’t worry – we cover everything in this guide!
With all of these fancy features, you might expect hiking watches to fetch a high price (and they definitely can). That being said, there are tons of affordable hiking watches out there that provide the same functionality and features as expensive models. In this guide, out team tests and reviews a few of the best hiking watches under $100 so you make the best buying decision possible.
Best Hiking Watch Under $100: Top Pick
Here are a few cheap hiking watches that our team recommends:
Best Overall: Casio SGW1000 Triple Sensor
- 100M Water Resistant, Altimeter, Barometer, Digital Compass, Thermometer, Low Temperature Resistant (-10C/14F), LED...
- 5 Daily Alarms and 1 Snooze Alarm, Countdown Timer, 1/10 second stopwatch, Auto Calendar (pre-programmed until the year...
- Quartz Movement
There’s no doubt about it – the Casio SGW1000 Triple Sensor takes the #1 spot on our list as the best hiking watch under $100. Of all the options we analyzed, this model offers the best combination of functionality and features – something other brands simply can’t compete with, especially for the price point.
What We Loved
- Built-in Altimeter, Barometer, and Compass: The Casio Triple Sensor comes with all the bells and whistles typical of high-end hiking watches. With an altimeter, barometer, and a digital compass, this watch provides a lot more functionality than the other choices on our list.
- Build Quality: This probably goes without say, but Casio’s build quality is always top of the line. Whether you’re hiking in the snow or the desert, the Triple Sensor remains stunningly accurate (the manual claims that the watch can function in temperatures as low as 14°F, but we noticed that it worked well in conditions even colder!)
- Durability: Between rain, snow, and the heat, hikers tend to wear out watches pretty quickly; luckily, this watch can take all types of beatings. For us, the biggest selling point in terms of durability is the fact that it’s waterproof up to 330 feet. Though most hikers (hopefully) don’t need to submerge their watch 330 feet, knowing that it can survive even the wildest rainstorms offers great peace of mind.
- Easy-to-Read Screen: Screen quality is a feature that a lot of hikers overlook when choosing a watch. Because conditions can sometimes be rough (dark, rainy, snowing), having a watch with an easy-to-read face can be extremely useful.
What We Didn’t Love
- Temperature Feature: I must say, I was a little disappointed with the thermometer on this watch. In order to get an accurate reading, you have to take the watch off of your wrist (or else you will just get a reading of your skim temperature). In addition, I’ve noticed that reading can fluctuate ±5°F or so. Not a dealbreaker, but definitely something you should be aware of.
Other Great Options Under $100
Just in case the Casio SGW1000 Triple Sensor isn’t for you, here are a few more budget hiking watches in the $100 or less range:
- Bold black watch featuring altimeter, barometer, thermometer, low-temperature resistance (-10 C/14 F), EL backlight,...
- 52-mm stainless steel case with mineral dial window
- Quartz movement with analog-digital display
As its name suggests, the Casio SGW450H is basically a little sibling to the SGW1000. It has some (but not all) of the same amazing features, but also fetches a much lower price, making it a perfect choice for those on a budget.
The Casio SGW450H is a dual sensor watch, meaning it features both an altimeter and barometer. For those who already own a compass, this watch offers a significant cost saving by eliminating that single feature.
Another great thing about the Casio SGW450H is its weightlessness. At just 4.6 ounces, you won’t even notice this watch on your wrist.
Overall, the Casio SGW450H is a quality choice for hikers looking for a few key features, but are fine operating without a compass.
Timex Expedition Grid Shock
- Adjustable black 16mm resin strap fits up to 8 inch wrist circumference
- 100 hour chronograph; 24 hour countdown timer; 3 vibrating and audible daily, weekday or weekend alarms; Shock resistant...
- 24 hour military time mode; 3 time zones; Occasion reminders; Hydration timer; month, day and date calendar
With a square body and large screen, the Timex Expedition Grid Shock is definitely the most unique piece on our list. In addition, it also offers some of the most unique features imaginable for hiking watches in the $100 or under price range.
My favorite of the bunch is the hydration alarm, which alerts the user if too much time has passed since their last drink. For those who get caught up in nature and forget to hydrate, this feature is especially useful.
The vibration alarm also works surprisingly well. I have to say – I was a bit skeptical at first that the vibration would be strong enough to get my attention, but it definitely does its job.
My main complaint about the Expedition Grid Shock is the screen. Though it is shock resistant and handles impacts well (it wont crack), the screen tend to scratch very easily. If you decide to go with this watch, I would really recommend buying a screen protector and cutting it to size.
- Casual solar-powered watch with multiple functions including multi-band atomic timekeeping, shock resistance, EL...
- Turn on or off the auto light function by holding down the light button and turn wrist at a 40 degree angle towards the...
- Approximate battery life: 10 months on full charge (without further exposure to light). Receives time calibration radio...
If you’re looking for a watch that shines in durability, you might as well stop here. The Casio G-Shock is virtually unbreakable. Though it is large, rugged and tough, it doesn’t feel excessively heavy on the wrist, which is really nice for long hikes.
That being said, the Casio G-Shock doesn’t come with all of the fancy features typical of most hiking watches (such as a altimeter, barometer, or compass). If these features aren’t a big concern to you or you’re just looking for a durable, affordable watch to take on easy hikes, the G-Shock is a no-brainer.
Timex Expedition Classic
- Indiglo night-light with Night-Mode
- 100-hour chronograph with 99-lap counter and split times
- Three Daily, Weekday, Weekend or Weekly Alarms with Five-Minute Backup
One feature typical of most hiking watches is a large face. Understandably, not everyone loves large watches – there seems to be a lack of low profile, small hiking watches on the market. This is where the Timex Expedition Classic shines.
At just 27 grams (0.96 ounces), the Expedition Classic is the smallest hiking watch under $100 on our list. Because of its small size, the Expedition Classic can function well as an everyday watch without being overly cumbersome and bulky.
Keep in mind, the Timex Expedition Classic doesn’t feature any of the ABC features (altimeter, barometer, or compass). If you’re more concerned with size rather than features, this piece is a perfect choice.
No Budget? Check out these picks!
If you’re looking for something a little more on the high-end side, we have you covered. Here are a few of the best over hiking watches on the market, regardless of price:
Casio Pro Trek
- Accuracy: ±15 seconds per month
For those fine with spending closer to the $200 range, the Casio Pro Trek is definitely the best option out there – especially if you love gadgets. This watch really has virtually everything feature a hiker could need.
One of the best things about the Casio Pro Trek is that it’s solar powered, meaning you’ll never have to replace batteries again. A few hours in the sunlight per month should be enough to keep the piece going strong.
Now that that’s out of the way, lets get to the cool features:
- All of the ABC features (altimeter, barometer, and compass)
- Tide chart that is deadly accurate once calibrated
- Timers, alarms, stopwatch – all the bells and whistles you would expect
- Atomic timekeeping which automatically updates every night, giving it pinpoint accuracy
- Waterproof up to 600 feet
- Ultimate multisport GPS watch with full color Topo U.S. mapping, routable cycling maps and other outdoor navigation...
- Fit for adventure with rugged design that features stainless steel bezel, buttons and rear case: Physical size 5.1 x 5.1...
- Built in navigation sensors include GPS and Glonass capability to track in more challenging environments than GPS alone...
Even for those without a limited budget, it doesn’t get much better than the Garmin Fenix. This watch is truly a piece of art. Along with the basic ABC features and top of the line performance (obviously), the Fenix comes with tons of ground-breaking features.
- Elevate Wrist heart rate tracking technology
- Advanced running/fitness measurements, such as vertical oscillation, stride length, stress score, recovery advisor, and more
- Sleep tracking technology
- Accurate oxygen level measurements
- Specialized modes for swimming, rowing, golfing, skiing, and more
If money is no option, you definitely can’t co wrong with the Garmin Fenix. The craftsmanship and features of this watch are bar-none.
Important Features – The ABCs
We threw around a lot of technical terms in this article – altimeter, barometer, etc. But what do they all mean? Here is a short explanation of the features we discussed in the reviews above:
Altimeters are used to measure altitude, or height above sea level. An altimeter watch generally requires calibration at home (dial in the exact known height above sea level), which it then uses as a reference as your altitude changes.
Now that we know exactly how altimeter watches work, let discuss why they are useful:
- It’s safer: Knowing your altitude can help you precisely locate your location on a map or GPS (which could potential save your life in the case of an emergency)
- It’s fun: I find myself checking my altitude more than I would care to admit. There is something really interesting about being able to check a metric that you would never otherwise think about!
Barometers are used to measure air pressure. Why, though, should the average hiker care about changes in air pressure?
Amazingly, air pressure changes can actually be used to predict weather patters. An increase in air pressure generally signifies that the weather is improving, whereas a decrease in air pressure can mean that a storm is brewing. In a hobby where bad storms are potentially deadly, being able to accurately judge weather patterns on the fly is extremely valuable.
Compasses are pretty self explanatory. That being said, they are still a vital part of any hiker’s arsenal – and trust me, once you’re lost is NOT the time to realize you don’t own a compass.
As the very least, a compass can help you navigate the trails for a more enjoyable hike. They give you the ability to venture out further without the fear of not being able to find your way back. On the flip side, a compass can act as a life saving tool. As long as you know the direction of your home base, a compass will get you there without fail.
Extra Features to Look For
The core ABC features aren’t the only considerations you should take into account when choosing a hiking watch. Here are a few more things you should look for before opening up your wallet:
Personally, durability is one of the most important factors for me when choosing a hiking watch. Even though the watches on our list are under $100, you still don’t want something thats going to break the first time you bang it against a rock.
As I’m sure you all know, hiking gear of any types usually tend to take quite the beating. It’s hard to be gentle on your gear in such a physically demanding hobby.
As a result, you definitely want to look for something shock and scratch resistant.
No matter where you hike, moisture is unavoidable – and the last thing you want to do while hiking is worry about keeping your watch dry. As a result, picking out water resistant hiking watch is extremely important.
Luckily, even the most basic hiking watches are waterproof – typically up to 100 meters (330 feet). You probably won’t ever come close to this max depth (hopefully), but it’s nice to have the peace of mind knowing your watch will remain functional in any weather conditions.
Being able to measure the exact temperature of your surroundings is vital not only in hiking, but in any outdoor sport. Whether you’re in the desert or the arctic, knowing your limits based on the conditions around you can be a lifesaver.
Most modern hiking watches have some sort of thermometer – even budget options. That being said, make sure to remove the watch from your wrist before you attempt to read the temperature. Otherwise, you will most likely just get the reading of your skim temperature.
You don’t have to spend several hundred dollars on your search to find the perfect hiking watch. In reality, there are quite a few quality hiking watches under $100 on the market – some of which contain key features typical of high-end, $300+ watches.
Through the detailed reviews above, you should be able to select a good hiking watch under $100 to fit all of your unique needs. Good luck and happy hiking!
Last update on 2021-10-24 at 18:35 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API