Are you looking for the best watch for trail running? A functional trail running watch isn’t too dissimilar from a watch for running on the road. Figures like speed, duration, and proximity are just as significant as running on the road.
It can be hard to choose the right GPS trail running watch because there are many to choose from. As well as tracking speed, distance, and speed, trail runners need a bunch of other stuff like navigation and spare batteries.
Even if you’re just running on the trail and don’t spend much time in the backcountry, if you’re an ultra-runner who runs 100-mile races, or if you’re looking for a watch that can last for days without service or a charger, there’s a watch for you.
To choose the best trail running watches, we started looking at watches that could help you locate your trails, were durable enough to withstand a fall and had a lot of battery capacity.
3 Best Watches for Trail Running
1. Garmin Fenix 7 Series
Even though it’s the best out there, our top pick isn’t inexpensive. That said, we think it would be worth it. It has a range of characteristics for trail running, a great battery capacity, and appears good enough to wear to any kind of event.
Fenix 7 is not just one watch. It comes in a wide range of sizes, styles, prices, and functionalities, and you can pick what you desire. All of them are good for trail running, but they aren’t very different from each other.
The Fenix 7 also tracks running statistics like speed, distance, duration, and cadence. It also shows color topo maps to help you navigate and work your way. It is possible to add routes to the map before the trip starts. To help trail runners, the watch connects to Garmin Connect to find runs that other Garmin users like to go on.
To help you find your way around, you can add waypoints. Waypoints are places you can put in almost any location. These can be trailheads, camping sites, summits, or other places where you can go to see what’s around you.
For the most precise altitude reading, the Fenix uses a barometer to keep track of how high the ground is. It can also tell you how rapidly you are going up and down. And with auto-climb, when the Fenix senses that you’re climbing up a hill, it changes the screen to show more information about elevation.
Besides the 7S, which is the smallest one, there are other sizes to choose from, the 7X, which is more extensive and more expensive. There are three different band colors for each one. Besides that, there are Solar variants of each size with more functionalities and colors.
In general, the Fenix 7 is durable and sturdy. It’s easy to switch out quick-fit watch bands so that you can go from a synthetic rubber band for trail running to a more relaxed metal band.
The Fenix 7 is also very good at bike riding, skiing, water sports, and paddle sports, just like kayaking or canoeing. It doesn’t matter what you do. The Fenix will be able to help you. You can wear them for other things as well as, aside from sports.
Somewhat like Apple Watch, you can pay with the Fenix. This means that you can keep and listen to music without having to carry a phone with you. However, this does drain the battery a fair bit.
Improved battery life isn’t the only thing that makes it better. It’s also customizable, so you can pick the features that are important to you to get the most out of your battery. You can even make adjustments while you’re running.
2. Suunto 9 Baro
This watch from Suunto is the best GPS watch on the market regarding how long it takes to charge. An excellent feature about it is that it has a battery performance of 25 to 125 hours! There’s a lot of battery drain with wrist heart rate monitoring, which is well known for that. It’s excellent for 100-mile races and other ultra-marathoners that last a long time.
The Suunto 9 has a bunch of different traceability modes to save battery capacity. The more conservative battery modes lose a little bit of accuracy when they are used. Even better is that you can switch modes while you’re running. The watch gives you an idea of how much battery power is left. If you think that won’t be enough for you through your cycle, you can shift to a more conservative power mode during the run.
Perhaps nicer, the Suunto 9 can figure out how much power you’ll need with your next run based on how much you’ve done in the past. A charge reminder is sent to you if it thinks you won’t have enough battery power. Remember to recharge your watch before you go for your next run!
Among other things, the Suunto 9 has a new functionality called Fusedtrack. Using this feature, you can get a precise track while saving battery power. It combines GPS data with data from motion sensors.
Because it is made to last, the Suunto 9 is built to be durable. When you go on the trail, it’s going to take a lot of pounding. It can handle that.
As with many GPS watches, the Suunto 9 records GPS information, as well as the watch’s altitude and wrist heart rate. It also has a built-in barometer, which can track changes in the weather. Great navigational tools, like breadcrumb maps and an electronic compass, are also on the way.
For people who do a lot of different things, this device can record open and pool swims and bike equipment like a cadence sensor and a power meter. That’s not all. This watch has more than 80 different types of sports configurations, so it’s great for many outdoor activities.
3. Coros APEX
Long battery life, precise GPS, and powerful elevation monitoring make the COROS APEX a superb watch for running on the trail or in the woods.
So even better, this watch is a lot cheaper than similar pieces by Suunto or Garmin, which are both satisfactory. The APEX has most of the GPS features you need for trail running, but it doesn’t have as many as Garmin’s Fenix 6 or the Suunto 9. It tends to cost less than half as much.
This is with the 46mm version of the APEX, which has a battery that lasts 35 hours in standard GPS mode. The 42mm version only has a battery that lasts 30 hours in this mode. A lot of practice runs and trail races, as well as most ultras, even 100-mile races, should be able to go on with this. 30 days of everyday use, and the battery life lasts for that long, as well.
The APEX has an “UltraMax” setting that cuts the number of GPS data points but tends to increase the accelerometer use to track distance and pace to keep the battery alive. You can get up to 100 hours of battery life out of your watch in this setting.
In this case, a built-in barometer can figure out where the ground level is. Besides that, there’s a built-in compass. You will be able to add paths to a breadcrumb map in the future. This will make it that much easier to navigate your way around.
The APEX tracks distance, speed, altitude while you’re running, as well as the cadence, calories, and wrist heart rate. You can set up alerts if you want to stay above or below a certain pace or heart rate.
The APEX has a big, easy-to-read screen in a color that is simple to see. Users can change data fields and the look of the watch display. The watch menus are controlled by two buttons and a crown bezel, which are on the side of the watch. It’s easy to use and doesn’t take a lot of time.
The watch works with a phone. After you finish, the COROS app sends your data wirelessly to the COROS app. But you can also connect to apps like Strava and other third-party apps to keep track of long-term improvements.
People can see their phone notifications on the APEX. These notifications are for things like texts and reminders.
Besides trail running, the APEX can track treadmill runs, swim in a pool, and swim in the open sea.
APEX is a good trail running watch because it has a long battery and is cost-effective.
Speed, time, and distance are just as essential for trail running as for road running. So, because trail running and big climbs are connected, we looked at watches that could tell you how high you are and how quickly you are constantly moving.
We seem to like watches that can help us find our way around. Sometimes they might fall. They must have a tough, durable shell to protect them from that. Having an extended battery capacity was significant for the ultra trail runners out there, too.
It can be hard to get out a paper map while trail running, so the watch’s navigational features are helpful to keep you from taking a wrong turn. We don’t think it’s a good idea to use a watch instead of a map; however, some watches have basic map-based functionalities that will enable you to stay on the right track.
If you want to do ultra running and trail running simultaneously, you’ll need a watch with a lot of power. So many people depend on their watch for help with navigation. We want a watch with enough battery life that will last throughout your whole run.
These watches often have a battery that lasts about 10-15 hours on a single charge. A lot of people should be able to use that, but the perfect watches have batteries strong enough to last for 20 hours or over.
People who do long 50 and 100-mile runs should have a watch that can last the whole race.
If you’re an average person, even if you’re not running for a long time, having a powerful battery means you don’t have to charge it as often between sprints.
Barometric navigation systems are more precise and show a steady rise in elevation. Many times, the GPS elevation changes; it can deliver a height that changes by 30 or 40 feet.
A barometer has its drawbacks. It needs to be re-calibrated to account for changes in air pressure caused by storms and changing weather.
Watches that assess altitude can also show you how quickly you go up and down when you have a watch that shows how high you go. This is a fantastic way to keep track of how swiftly you move up and downhills.