Best Watch for Travel and Hiking

My watch of choice for travel and hiking is the Apple Watch Series 5. Comparing the other watches available at the time; Series 6, Series 3, and SE, the Series 5 has the best combination of price, performance, and usefulness.

Apple Watch Series 6 has features that I don’t feel is worth the extra money. It has a slightly faster processor that I didn’t really notice any difference in use, an Ultra Wideband chip that doesn’t have a good use case for yet, a blood oxygen sensor I don’t use, and 5GHz Wi-Fi capability. The additional speed provided by 5GHz Wi-Fi isn’t really a benefit with an Apple Watch because very little data moves to and from the watch.  The Series 3 isn’t worth the money in any way. So that leaves the options of Apple Watch SE and Series 5. 

Series 5 Features

Apple Watch SE is actually a Series 5 minus a few features I do use. The only differences between the SE and Series 5 is the Series 5 has an “Always On” display, the ECG heart rate monitoring App, and is available in two types of glass screen and three case materials.  With the Series 5 only available from Apple as refurbished, it was lower cost than the SE. 

Series 5 Features

I chose the Apple Watch Series 5 with the aluminum case. It is the lightest and shows the least dirt, fingerprints, and smudges. I’ve not had any durability issues. With the aluminum case the watch comes with Apple’s Ion-X glass display versus sapphire with the stainless steel and titanium cases. I’ve found that the Ion-X glass cracks, and the sapphire shatters. Cracks haven’t affected the watch’s performance, but shattering makes it useless. So I prefer aluminum for its durability, lower cost and lightness. This led to the final decision of Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi plus cellular. 

Series 5 Features

The Apple Watch Series 5 I chose is Wi-Fi only as I’m never without my iPhone. Even more important, the cellular option is not worth the extra upfront money plus a monthly cost. This can add up to half the cost of the watch over just two years.        

    For travelers, when outside the States cellular connectivity is virtually non existent due to the U.S. centric radio bands of the cellular radio. Not having cellular extends the watch’s battery life by about 30%. By not having cellular the Apple Watch works together with the iPhone to deliver significant benefits. 

Series 5 Features

Since I’m never without my iPhone, the watch and iPhone work together for following maps and recording heath data using GPS, barometer, altimeter, compass, heart monitor, and even a pedometer. 

    There are two main benefits to this tandem; one is that the device with the strongest signals, such as GPS, will follow and record that devices data. This results in very accurate location, tracking, and altitude information.

    Second, battery life is extended greatly for the watch as the iPhone handles its share of data gathering. Additionally, when I don’t want the health data, I turn off the heart monitor in the watch settings and and can get an additional full day of battery life. 

Series 5 Features

Battery life on The Apple Watch Series 5 lasts a full day of traveling and hiking. The watch charges fast from a charger, battery bank, or computer. Not having cellular, the watch passes more of the work to the iPhone, thus preserving battery drain. This is just one way the Apple watch and iPhone work together to create a valuable part of a travel and hiking kit. 

Series 5 Feature

An Apple Watch is an essential piece of travel and hiking gear. When traveling it’s convenient not having to have to pull out your phone for messages and listening to music or podcasts when it can all be done with an Apple Watch. For hiking I keep my phone in my pack and use mapping and trail software on my watch to guide me.

‍    The screen is bright and high-resolution.  Following maps and reading messages even in bright daylight is just right. The always-on feature enables me to glance at my watch when my hands are full, or even just wet or muddy. 

‍    The speaker and microphone are clear and loud. This is great for a phone conversation when your iPhone is in a pack or purse. Also, whether driving, walking, or hiking, good mapping software has voice guidance. Being able to ask Siri for assistance is a feature I use constantly.  

‍    The watch is water resistant enough to wear in the shower, under a waterfall, swimming, snorkeling, and surfing. I’ve hiked in jungle downpours with my phone packed away and water pouring off my watch. 

‍    An Apple Watch can be worn on either wrist for up to four different orientations. Choose your wrist and choose which side you want the crown to face. I change wrists often dependent on the task at hand, clothing, and just to even out the tan on my wrists. Some workflows such a photography dictate the free hand and wrist. 

‍    I use an iPhone and iPad for photographic and video work. The Apple Watch allows me to control the cameras using my watch. This way I don’t have to interrupt my workflow for phone calls and messages. Wearing and using the watch as I do requires a comfortable and durable band that makes for quick and easy wrist changes. 

Series 5 Features

Series 5 Feature

A great watch requires a great band. I’ve tried all of Apple’s bands and many from third-parties; from silicone, to plastic to leather. I always come back to Apple’s leather bands. I currently have the Leather Link in California Poppy (matches my iPhone case). It is the most minimalist band I’ve owned. It is two simple straps, with magnets in the leather, that overlap and held in place by the magnets.  This design has stayed securely on my wrist through day-to-day and strenuous activity. The design combined with the high-quality leather makes this band the most comfortable I’ve ever worn. 

‍    Apple’s leather bands are more durable than the silicone or plastic bands and will look better as they age.  Leather is the the best looking material on the wrist, is the most comfortable, and the best at handling sweat.  Unless you are morally opposed to leather, to a minimalist like me no material performs over its life as well as leather. 

For the minimalist I am, the Apple Watch Series 5 allows me to do more with less, increase my productivity, minimize inconveniences, and adds to the overall pleasure of traveling and hiking.