With the evolution of GPS, lightweight watches and trackers have found their way onto must-have lists for every adventure-seeking Adrenalist.
The GPS network consists of 24 satellites catapulted into orbit by the U.S. Department of Defense. GPS was originally intended for military applications, but in the 1980s, the government made the system open to anyone. GPS works in any weather conditions, anywhere on Earth, 24/7. We may not usually consider it, but there are no subscription fees or setup charges to use GPS, which must be one of the coolest technologies ever invented.
The wizardry can pinpoint your position anywhere on earth and save you from getting lost ever again, whether you are on a bike or slogging on foot through the countryside. Here are some of the hottest outdoor GPS watches and trackers on the market.
Oregon 650 - $479.99
This rugged and waterproof handheld satellite navigation (or sat nav) device has serious satellite power behind a bright, user-friendly touchscreen. The Garmin device features a 3-inch sunlight-readable touchscreen display, an 8 megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash/torch, a global basemap with shaded relief, a 3-axis compass with accelerometer and barometric altimeter sensors, and a handy dual battery system — you get the choice between using 2 AA batteries or the included rechargeable internal NiMH (nickel–metal hydride) battery pack. The model continues the Garmin Oregon series by cramming even more features in a compact package without busting the budget. The 650 sports a new and faster processor, making usability as fluid as possible. Because it feels like a smartphone even new users should feel comfortable with the interface.
Magellan Switch Up - $249.99
Another rugged, waterproof GPS device – or fluid set of devices – the Magellan Switch Up is the solution for athletes who run, ride, and more. The Switch Up targets multisport Adrenalists, who are offered a “powerful, adaptable, and customizable family of fitness devices.” A Switch unit can take a drowning, surviving submergence of up to 50m. It’s intelligent, too. You choose the sport – be it cycling, swimming or whatever outdoor pursuit you pursue. Then Switch will try to steer you to peak performance, using exact GPS satellite data by logging distance, pace, and elevation. Armed with a high-resolution display, Switch offers sharp readability in tricky lighting conditions – especially bright light, which can be a nightmare with other device. Another plus is the calorie calculator, which spells out just how hard you are working out. The 8 hours of battery life from a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, mean you have enough gas in the tank to capture most activities. Ultra athletes might want to snap up the optional battery life extender giving you 16 more hours: a total of a whole day.
Nike+ SportWatch GPS Powered by TomTom - $169.00
The strapline for the Nike+ SportWatch GPS Powered by TomTom reads “Run enlightened, know more to go more”. As that statement suggests, this sat nav device is blindingly intelligent – reminiscent of a personal trainer. The gizmo keeps tabs on your personal records and tracks your time, distance, pace or speed, and calories burned. Plus, it gives you encouragement on your journey. This GPS watch will remind you to DO:MORE when you’re slacking off. If you duly run a personal record, you get a “Cheers” from the device. That’s an awful lot of brainpower from something you strap on your wrist. Take it on the road, trail, treadmill or any other terrain. If you want to get social, you can join challenges and connect with friends through harnessing the muscle of Nikeplus.com, which invites you to set your daily goal. Think of your first 24 hours as your baseline, then go for more.
Timex Ironman Run Trainer 2.0 - $225.00
Once synonymous with old-school “ticker” watches, Timex has gone high-tech. The Timex Run Trainer 2.0 boasts a hi-res screen, an intuitive upgraded menu system and logical interface. The result is that checking your pace, speed and distance are a cinch. Vibrating alerts spell out when you might want to think about hydrating or refueling. According to Timex, the GPS watch is “designed by runners and for runners of all levels.” The Timex comes with a crisp, CT display, intuitive interface and compact size. Like the Magellan Switch, this Ironman is also hard – it can stand submergence of up to 50 meters. The groundbreaking Ironman can sync to your PC or Mac, where you can check out graphs and charts of your personal records. The Timex comes close to filling in for a training partner or personal coach.
Polar RC3 $249.00 – $285.00
The Polar RC3 GPS watch is striking – a bit of a fashion statement. You can buy it in orange, or you might want to go for the snazzy gold Tour de France model, available for the first time this July. The product offers extremely accurate “smart coaching.” This includes spot-on readings of heart rate, calories burned, and pulse, probably better than any other tracker on the market. Besides recording your route, it also shows you your endurance levels for a post-workout assessment. The RC3 model is lighter, at two ounces, than any other GPS watch with a built-in battery on the market. It also has a slim profile and a sharp display, making it slick and sleek.
Know any other gadgets that deserve to make the shortlist of best GPS watches and trackers? Let us know in the comments below or @DegreeMen.