Smartwatches are useful and stylish wearables for everyday use, but if you spend a lot of time climbing mountains or hiking trails, they also have some added benefits.
Track your routes as Exercises
One of the most important functions of a smart watch is the ability to track your workouts. This can be motivating whether you are just starting out or a seasoned traveler. Any routes you record can then be checked on the smartwatch, allowing you to see exactly where you are, which is useful for planning repeat excursions or changing routes next time.
This goes hand in hand with using your smartwatch to improve your fitness. Tracking workouts on your Apple Watch is one of the best ways to fill your Move and Exercise rings. Your workouts are stored in the Fitness app, and you can use the collected data to get a better understanding of your overall fitness level.
If you’re feeling competitive and looking for some extra motivation, you can even enter races with other Apple Watch users.
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GPS on your wrist
A smartwatch with GPS functionality can work as a stand-alone GPS device, such as those purchased specifically for hiking. With the right watch and apps, you can replace your bulky handheld GPS with something that lives on your arm and provides guidance and information with a flick of your wrist.
If you’re serious about hiking, a dedicated GPS watch like the Garmin Fenix will serve you better than an Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy device. These come with Garmin’s built-in mapping software and have longer battery life than less specialized wearables. You can transfer GPX files to your smartwatch and track waypoints just like on a handheld device.
If you’re willing to charge frequently, even lifestyle wearables like the Apple Watch work well for shorter outings. Use apps like WorkOutDoors ($5.99) and Gaia GPS to send GPX files to your Apple Watch, or use apps to find nearby trails. AllTrails also works, but the Apple Watch app is little more than a remote for the iPhone app.
Never lose your compass
Apple Watch 5 and up can function as a compass, as can most dedicated hiking smartwatches from Garmin. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 also has a geomagnetic sensor, which means it can be used as a compass using a free app like Samsung Compass.
You probably shouldn’t rely solely on a smartwatch compass for navigation (because the battery can fail you), but as a backup tool, having a compass on your wrist can help you navigate when you’re lost or can’t use the sun or the sun. the position of the moon as a guide.
Get More Information About Your Trip
Some smartwatches are designed with navigation in mind, allowing you to see the location of your next waypoint right on your wrist. This is especially true of Garmin devices like the Fenix mentioned above, but there are also apps that run on the Apple Watch that can do the same thing.
You’ll also get more information about your route using basic exercise tracking, which is available on most devices. This includes metrics like elevation gain, splits (for every mile or kilometer you travel), how long you’ve been moving, and how far you’ve traveled.
If you are counterclockwise in terms of daylight or weather, you can use this information to call when to return. If you are a bit of a data monger, this information is also quite interesting. At the end of the trip, you can see how much energy you expended, which can help you better plan future trips and better understand your dietary needs.
The blood oxygen sensor on Apple Watch Series 6 and up can help show you how your O2 changes when you climb or descend. Garmin Fenix can even show you what altitude you’ve adjusted to. Although not all of this information is useful, many people will find it interesting.
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Get Emergency Help
Fall detection on the Apple Watch has already been credited with saving lives. Once activated, the feature makes a pre-recorded emergency call to inform first responders of your GPS coordinates, and then sends a message to designated emergency contacts to let them know you’re in trouble.
You can also use Apple Watch to quickly initiate an Emergency Call by pressing and holding the side button until you hear an alert. If you’re injured and can’t reach your smartphone, you can still make emergency calls as long as your device is within range (about 30 meters or 100 feet).
The Samsung Galaxy Watch line has had a similar feature since 2020, which can send an SOS alert if it detects a fall, or a similar alert if you triple-press the Home button.
Garmin models like the Fenix have similar safety features, including event detection, SOS messaging, and a feature called LiveTrack that lets friends and family track your location in real-time. These depend on your Garmin device being connected via Bluetooth to a compatible Android phone running Garmin Connect.
Apple Watch can even track your heart rate and identify patterns that could signal a cardiac event. This includes a high resting heart rate, which is a warning that something may be wrong. This can help you make wiser decisions like not pushing it too hard if you’re not feeling well.
Take better selfies on the go
Who doesn’t love to take a good selfie on top of a mountain, by a valley or by a river? really interesting rock? Support your smartphone, launch the companion app on your smartwatch, and frame your shot perfectly. You can then use the shutter delay to time the shot perfectly, so you won’t be looking at your watch when the picture is taken.
Using your smartwatch as a viewfinder for your phone’s camera is a low-cost feature that’s easy to forget. But this feature works surprisingly well and takes the hassle out of carrying (or being seen with) a selfie stick. It also takes the guesswork out of using your camera’s timer function.
It’s not only good for selfies, but it’s also great for group shots, motion capture, and remote triggering of your device to start recording.
Leave your phone in your bag
You probably don’t want to check your phone often when you’re on the go. An always-connected wearable may not seem quite as “off” in nature, but it means you can leave your phone in your bag while still getting useful features.
Using hands-free assistants like Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant, you can quickly send text messages, take notes and reminders, and even perform web searches and look up information without reaching for your phone. You can also get information at a glance, such as notifications or weather information, and see who’s calling you before deciding whether to pick up.
If you’ve previously used your smartphone as a GPS device to track your walks, you can download it to your smartwatch instead. This will save your smartphone battery for more important tasks (like making emergency calls and taking photos).
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Track your Fitness over time
Just going for a walk, jogging on a trail, or trying to walk more? The data you collect while exercising can help you stay motivated by tracking your progress over time. This is especially true of the Apple Watch, which does a great job of showing trends in the iPhone’s Health app using data collected from your workouts.
The more you watch, the more information you collect. Before long, you’ll have plenty of raw data on metrics like daily steps, active energy burned, VO² max, resting heart rate, walking heart rate, and other fitness metrics. You can view these on a chart to better see which direction you are trending.
For example, the improvement we saw in resting heart rate over a year with improved heart health (due to more regular walking) and weight loss:
And here’s what all that walking does to your heart rate:
Apple’s Fitness app also helps you feel good about positive trends by highlighting successes:
While showing you areas you may want to improve:
The Achilles heel of Apple’s system is that it is built on a model of endless improvement that even professional athletes cannot achieve. Eventually, you’ll have a slow week where your pace drops or you just can’t make it to the gym, and that will affect your tendencies.
These features aren’t limited to the Apple ecosystem, with Garmin Connect providing a similar interface for analyzing data collected from walking, running and other forms of exercise. For Galaxy Watch owners, Samsung Health does a similar thing.
Choose the Right Smart Watch
Make sure you choose the right smartwatch. For iPhone users, the Apple Watch is probably the best choice, unless you’re a serious hiker, intending to replace your handheld GPS with something like a Garmin Fenix (and even then, some Fenix features only work with Android ).
Lifestyle wearables like the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch series are certainly better day-to-day devices, but fall short of Garmin’s offerings in this area. They need to be charged more often and lack orientation-specific features, but they integrate better into their respective smartphone ecosystems.
Whatever you choose, if you’re doing a multi-day trip, you’ll also need a portable battery pack.