ADVENTURE: GEAR Photo by Andrew Jakovac

Smartest watches for mountain athletes.


For many years, I avoided any watch touting smart, fitness or GPS capacities. I preferred to run around like a Paleolithic throwback, assessing miles based on trailhead signs or physical exhaustion, and navigate via paper maps rather than clumsy user interfaces, dead batteries when you need actual navigation, and wrist discs so large they catch on tree branches.

But as the pandemic inspired throngs of newbies out of the gym and into the outdoors, fitness and GPS smartwatches have really upped their game in form and function. Even the dubious (me) are impressed. Options abound for the different goals of burgeoning or expert outdoor athletes. Here, we highlight a few top options.

Slide Polar Grit X Polar is a Finnish company with decades of sports computer and
heart rate monitor development experience. The Grit is a foray
into GPS watches and provides plenty of detailed, accurate fitness
and GPS bang for the buck. It’s comparable with the Garmin, but
without preloaded maps and not quite as seamless of an experience
with the accompanying Flow app. But, it’s solid and nearly half the
fēnix price.
$430 |

Slide Suunto 7 Wear OS A capable, civilized touchscreen GPS sports watch, the 7 tracks
legions of activities and integrates Google’s Wear OS to up this
model’s lifestyle/smartwatch game. Wear OS has Google Pay,
Play, Fit and Assistant, so you can ask your watch all sorts of
questions, and even respond to Android texts and emails while
following your waypoints to a summit. Battery life is only a few
days, so the 7 is best for local missions.
$400 |

Slide Coros Pace 2 A brilliantly designed, minimalist athlete’s tool, the Pace 2 packs a big
punch from 5-year-old industry newcomer COROS. The user interface,
setup and function are intuitive and sleek: no phone or data analyst
needed for interpretation. Streamlined features, easy to use scroll/
button orientation, along with the lightest weight (29 grams), longest
battery (20 days) and thinnest profile make this a standout. It’s won
various accolades, and is by far the easiest on your wallet.
$199 |

Slide Garmin Fenix 6S Pro Solar This sleek GPS watch has your back from neighborhood training
to an Andean expedition, with GPS statistics, maps, analytics
spanning sleep quality to fitness progress, sport-specific tracking
and more. Depending on GPS usage, the battery lasts 25 hours to
over a month, given the watch face doubles as a solar charger.
And the gadget itself can connect to your InReach device and
serve as SOS button, for a serious adventure and dependable
training buddy.
$800 |

Brigid Mander is a skier and writer based in Jackson, Wyoming. She writes about mountain sports, culture and conservation issues for publications ranging from Backcountry Magazine to the Wall Street Journal.