The questions we get asked here at the Outdoor GPS Shop are. What is the best GPS watch for Ultra and Trail Running?
The key things to look at when considering a GPS watch for these activities are the following –
1. Good Battery life.
With the recent changes to the Garmin Fenix 6 range of GPS watches you now have the ability to see how various settings and sensors impact the watch’s battery life. This enables you to make battery-extending changes on the fly.
If you are on long ultra runs or trail runs you can switch off sensors and features on and Garmin Fenix 6 watch to prolong battery life.
in the past, this would have been given you as a % of battery life. Frankly is useless, but with the new capabilities on the Garmin Fenix 6 range of GPS watches it actually tells you the hours and minutes you have with your current battery state. By switching on and off various sensors and features on the watch you will this battery time increase or decrease accordingly.
2. Very good durability for the GPS watch and of course it must be waterproof.
Durability is key for the ultra and trail runner.
We would always recommend going for a Sapphire screen if wearing a watch for ultra or trail running.
Sapphire has a value of 9 while diamond has a value of 10 under the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. This means that a Sapphire glass is almost resistant to scratch unless it will come in direct and hard abrasive contact with a diamond. A Sapphire glass screen on an outdoor GPS watch is not only hard but also strong.
Therefore, if you accidentally fall or catch the GPS Watch on a rock the screen will survive and not scratch.
3. What built-in maps to aid navigation do you want in a GPS watch for Ultra and Trail Running.
Garmin Fenix GPS watches (5 plus onwards) come with built-in Topo Active maps.
These are fully digital maps, so as you zoom in you get more information as you zoom out you get less, making them, ideal on the relatively small screen of a GPS watch, compared to a larger handheld GPS unit used when hiking.
An Ordnance Survey map on a GPS watch is frankly not ideal on a GPS watch as the screen is not large enough to accommodate a map made for large paper maps.
The Garmin Topo Active maps on Garmin Fenix GPS watches still show paths, roads, rivers, contours and everything else you would expect from a map, but as they have originated from satellite imagery and locally sourced data you will actually find them to be more accurate than the Ordnance Survey maps on not only a GPS watch but any outdoor GPS unit.
4. An easy to follow navigational experience, even when you are fatigued it is key that it needs to be easy to follow.
To get the best navigational experience on any GPS watch it is best to load it with a course. These are usually .gpx files that event organisers will issue to you before your Ultra or trail running event.
If you are using the GPS watch to navigate you on a training run you can create your own .gpx file on any mapping software including Memory Map, Quo, Anquet and many apps including OS map app, View Ranger and many others.
It is just a case of plotting your training run on one of these mapping software’s or apps and then transferring the .gpx file onto your Outdoor GPS Watch.
Once this is done your GPS watch will navigate you along your ultra or trail run, think of it as a car sat-nav, but off-road.
5. Great features on the GPS watch to aid both training and performance during any race. These will include heart rate and other physiological measurements
These are the things that really make a good Outdoor GPS watch made for Ultrarunning and Trail running stand out.
The built-in technology will measure your cardiorespiratory fitness and aerobic performance capacity.
The ability to see your current fitness level and track changes over time is a game-changer and with all the Garmin GPS watches currently showing recovery times etc it really is a great tool for your training programme.
So, taking all these key points onboard – What is the best GPS watch for Ultra and Trail Running?
1. Garmin Fenix 6x Sapphire – more here
2. Garmin Fenix 6 Sapphire – more here
3. Garmin Fenix 6s Sapphire (for those wanting a smaller GPS Watch) – more here