GPS watches are becoming a staple piece of equipment for most trail runners. Gone are the days when a pair of trainers and shorts are all you needed. To make sure you are on the right path, both literally and in terms of data to track your improvements, here are some of the best GPS watches on the market today.
Polar Vantage M
The Vantage M’s main selling point is the vast amount of data, presented in fancy graphs, it collects. With a chest band heart rate monitor and a GPS function it records everything from progress, training and even sleep. But, unlikely some other watches, it does not act as a map. You can show the data to your coach, or even hiring a coach via Polar to dive straight into the data. You can sync the watch with an app on your phone. You can turn on all the data collecting functions, such as heart rate, separately to the GPS. This means the GPS is off while you are on a treadmill, but is back on when you are on the hills. You can also buy the Vantage V, which has many of the same functions and more. But it is a bit harsher on the wallet.
SUUNOT 9 BARO Titanium
The 9 BARO Titanium is built to help you navigate your chosen trail, so it’s perfect for those long races you have not had a chance to recce. You can plan a route via your online account and transfer it to your watch, then follow a small arrow that represents you. It also provides data on your daily goals, heart rate and other information. You can switch it to match different kinds of training, such as interval training. If you chose not to engage your GPS, you can still track your vertical gain and loss with an inbuilt barometer.
Garmin Fenix® 5S Plus
The 5S Plus offers highly detailed maps on its screen that include contour lines and other topographical features. It also comes with a barometer to check altitude (or weather if you are on a flat road). Like the other watches, it monitors various metrics for you to analyse your training. It is an expensive watch, but it is durable for serious adventures and runs, and comes with a host of other functions.
The GPS in the iconic, as with the Vantage M, is to measure data such as distance and speed, not to map your route. But you will be able to view your route once you have finished. You can pause the GPS function when you come to a road or traffic lights, for example. Not only can you track your workouts, but you can even use the watch to form a plan – it comes with built-in sessions you can follow. The workouts are interactive in a sense too. If you have to perform a set amount of press ups or sit ups, it will buzz when you complete you set.
Apple Watch 4
As an Apple product, and an extension of the phone, you can download other apps to map your run and later upload your workout, such as Strava or Garmin. If the screen is on, the battery life is not great. Afterwards, you can view a host of data, including splits, calories and even cadence. It also has preloaded workouts for you to follow. But the Apple Watch is designed to be many things to many people, so it is not a runners watch per se, which means the touch screen, instead of buttons, can be a nightmare when you are sweaty. But it is a great watch as you can use it for your pre-work run and go straight to the office without having to use several different products.