8 reasons hikers and pedestrians should buy a smartwatch

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Smartwatches are useful and elegant everyday wearable devices, but they also have some added benefits if you spend a lot of time climbing mountains or hiking trails.

Track your tracks as workouts

One of the primary functions of a smartwatch is the ability to keep track of your workouts. This can be motivating whether you are just starting out or are a seasoned hiker. Any routes you log on a smartwatch can be checked later, allowing you to see exactly where you’ve been which is useful for planning frequent trips or changing lanes for the next time.

Apple Watch route data

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 in the loops of movement and exercise. Your workouts are saved in the fitness app and you can use the data collected to get a better view of your overall fitness level.

You can also compete with other Apple Watch users if you’re feeling competitive and looking for extra motivation.

Related: How Apple Watch can help you stay active

GPS on your wrist

A smartwatch with GPS function can act as a standalone GPS device, such as those purchased specifically for hiking. With the right watch and apps, you can replace your bulky portable GPS with something that lives on your arm and provides direction and information with a flick of your wrist.

If you’re serious about hiking, a GPS hiking watch like the Garmin Fenix ​​will serve you better than your Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy. These come with Garmin’s built-in map software and have a longer battery life compared to less specialized wearables. You can transfer GPX files to your smartwatch and follow waypoints, just as you can on a handheld device.

Garmin Fenix ​​7

Even lifestyle wearables like the Apple Watch work well for short walks if you’re prepared to charge them more frequently. Use apps like WorkOutDoors ($5.99) and Gaia GPS to send GPX files on your Apple Watch, or use the apps to find nearby tracks. AllTrails work, too, but the Apple Watch app is little more than a remote control for the iPhone app.

Don’t lose your compass

The Apple Watch 5 and later can act as a compass, as do most Garmin hiking smartwatches. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 also includes a geomagnetic sensor which means it can also be used as a compass using a free app like Samsung Compass.

Compass Apple Watch Series 5

You probably shouldn’t rely on a smartwatch’s compass to navigate on its own (since the battery may fail to do so), but as a backup tool, having a compass on your wrist can help you navigate if you get lost or find yourself unable to use the sun or moon’s position as a guide.

Get more information about your trip

Some smartwatches are designed with navigation in mind, allowing you to see the location of the next route point right on your wrist. This is especially true for the Garmin devices like the Fenix ​​mentioned above, but there are also apps that work on the Apple Watch that can do the same.

You will also get more information about your route using the basic exercise tracking available on most devices. This includes metrics like altitude gained, splits (per mile or kilometer covered), how long you’ve been moving, and the distance you’ve traveled.

Apple Watch exercise data in the Fitness app

You can use this information to make a call about when to go back if you are counterclockwise in terms of daylight or weather conditions. This data is also somewhat interesting if you are a data lover. At the end of the trip, you can see how much energy you’ve burned, which can help you plan your future trips better and better understand your nutritional needs.

The blood oxygen sensor on Apple Watch Series 6 and above can help you show how O2 changes as you go up or down. Garmin Fenix ​​can show you what altitude you’ve acclimatised. While not all of this data is useful, many people will find it interesting.

Related: How to measure blood oxygen levels with Apple Watch

Get help in an emergency

Fall detection on Apple Watch has already been credited with saving lives. Once enabled, the feature makes a pre-recorded emergency call letting first responders know your GPS coordinates, then sends messages to any designated emergency contacts to let them know you’re in trouble.

You can also use your Apple Watch to quickly start an emergency call by pressing and holding the side button until you hear an alert. If you are injured and do not have access to your smartphone, you can still make emergency calls as long as your device is within range (about 30 meters or 100 feet).

Activate Emergency SOS on Apple Watch
Tim Brooks / How-To Geek

The Samsung Galaxy Watch line has had a similar feature since 2020 that can send an SOS alert if it detects a fall, or send a similar alert if the Home key is pressed three times.

Garmin models like the Fenix ​​have similar security features including accident detection, SOS messaging, and a feature called LiveTrack that lets friends and family follow your location in real time. It depends on your Garmin device being connected to a compatible Android phone running Garmin Connect via Bluetooth.

Apple Watch can monitor your heart rate and identify patterns that could indicate a cardiac event. This includes an elevated resting heart rate, which will alert you that something might be wrong. This can help you make wiser decisions like not pushing him too hard if you feel unwell.

Take better selfies on the road

Who doesn’t love a good selfie on top of a mountain, on the edge of a stream, or next to a Really interesting Stone? Support your smartphone, launch the companion app on your smartwatch, and frame the shot perfectly. You can then use the shutter delay to perfectly time the shot, so you’re not looking at your watch when the photo is taken.

Using your smartwatch as a viewfinder for your phone’s camera is an underrated feature and very easy to forget. But the feature works surprisingly well and the tones have to carry (or be seen with) a selfie stick. It also takes the guesswork out of using the camera’s timer function.

Not only is this good for selfies, it’s great for group shots, capturing motion, and turning on your device remotely to start shooting a video as well.

Leave your phone in your bag

You probably don’t want to check your phone too often while you’re on the road. A wearable that’s always connected may not seem to be fully “off” compatible in nature, but that does mean you can leave your phone in your bag while still being able to access useful functions.

With hands-free utilities like Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant, you can send quick text messages, take notes and reminders, or even perform web searches and look up information without reaching for your phone. You can also get quick information like notifications or weather information, and see who’s calling you before you decide whether to respond or not.

Request time from Apple Watch on Siri

If you previously used your smartphone as a GPS device to track altitudes, you can also offload this to your smartwatch instead. This will save your smartphone battery for more important things (like making emergency calls and taking pictures).

Related: How to install Google Assistant on Samsung Galaxy Smartwatches

Monitor your fitness over time

Just getting into hiking or running or trying to walk more? The data you gather during your workout can help you stay motivated by monitoring your progress over time. This is especially true on the Apple Watch, which does a great job of displaying trends in the Health app on the iPhone using data collected from your workouts.

The more you track, the more data you collect. Before long, you’ll have enough raw data on metrics like daily step count, active energy burned, VO² max, resting heart rate, walking heart rate, and other indicators of fitness. You can see these on the chart to get a better picture of which direction you’re headed.

For example, here’s the improvement we saw in resting heart rate over the course of a year, with improved heart health (thanks to more regular hiking) and weight loss:

Resting heart rate health app

Here’s what all of that does to your heart rate while you’re walking, too:

Hearing a walk in the Health app

Apple’s Fitness app also helps you feel good about positive trends by highlighting successes:

Keep It Going Trends on Apple Fitness

While it also shows you the areas you might want to improve:

Worth a look for the trends at Apple Fitness

The Achilles heel of the Apple system is that it is built on a model of infinite optimization, which even professional athletes cannot achieve. In the end, you’ll have a slow week where your pace slows down or you simply can’t make it to the gym, and that will affect your trends.

These features aren’t just limited to the Apple ecosystem, as the Garmin Connect app provides a similar interface for analyzing data collected from hiking, running, and other forms of exercise. For Galaxy Watch owners, Samsung Health does a similar job.

Choose the right smart watch

Make sure to choose the right smartwatch. For iPhone users, the Apple Watch is probably the best option unless you’re a very serious hiker looking to replace your GPS with something like the Garmin Fenix ​​(and until then, some Fenix ​​features only work with Android).

Lifestyle wearables such as the Apple Watch and the Samsung Galaxy Watch series are arguably the best everyday devices but they are inferior to Garmin’s offering in this area. They will need to be shipped often and lack dedicated routing features out of the box, but they are better integrated into their smartphone ecosystems.

Whatever you choose, if you’re going on a multi-day trip, you’ll also need a portable battery.

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