5 Most Rugged Smartwatches

January 17, 2022

These are the toughest, most hard wearing smartwatches on the market. But, they’re not all brawn and muscle. Check out what they can do in our guide to hard as nails smartwatches.

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Need a smartwatch that can cope with the harshest of elements and the toughest of workouts?

We recommend five of the most durable smartwatches on the market.

These watches are built to last and won’t let you down when you need them most.

There’s also a useful buyer’s guide that explains the key features you should be looking for in a tough, reliable, and durable smartwatch.

Our Recommended Tough Smartwatches

When it comes to finding the best rugged smartwatch, then look no further than our recommendations.

Check out our shortlist in the table below.

Find out why we think they’re special as we give the lowdown on the standout features following the table.


Key Features

Our Top Pick

Garmin Instinct

  • Military standard construction

  • 3-axis compass & barometric altimeter

  • GPS, GLONASS and Galileo satellite navigation

  • Waterproof to 100m

  • 14-day battery life

Awesome Alternative

Garmin Fenix 5X Plus

  • Scratch-resistant saphire lens

  • Color TOPO maps

  • Blood oxygen sensor

  • GPS, GLONASS and Galileo satellite navigation

  • 20-day battery life

Amazing Value

Amazfit T-Rex

  • Military grade construction

  • GPS

  • Waterproof to 50m

  • 20-day battery life

Our Top Pick – Garmin Instinct

When it comes to owning the best rugged smartwatch, the Garmin Instinct is an obvious choice.

Made to handle the toughest situations, this watch has been built to US Military standard 810G and provides thermal resistance, shock resistance, and water resistance to 100m; no matter the situation you are facing, this watch will be a reliable companion.

The case is particularly tough and is constructed with a fiber-reinforced polymer that will withstand significant punishment. The screen too is durable. The scratch-resistant and chemically strengthened screen features a high contrast display that is easily read when the sun shines brightly.

As well as being incredibly strong, this watch offers fourteen days of battery in smartwatch mode, 16 hours in GPS mode, and 40 hours in battery saver mode.

As you will be unlikely to need GPS running for 16 hours straight, you can reasonably expect this watch to last over a week when you make use of the range of modes available.

If you need to navigate your way or track where you have been, then the Instinct is always ready to go with you. The TracBack feature is an excellent one and allows the watch to track your route back to the starting point. A potential lifesaver for when the weather changes quickly up in the mountains.

The watch is also compatible with the Garmin Explore website where you can plan routes and synch them with your watch for navigation.

The Garmin Instinct has a 3-axis compass to help you find an accurate route as well as a barometric altimeter. These are backed by multiple global satellite navigation systems that include and Glonass, Galileo, and GPS.

In addition to the battery and navigation systems, you can use the Garmin Instinct to monitor your exercise activities as it comes with a range of preloaded activities for you to choose from.

You will also be able to keep a check on your heart rate and stress levels so that you are in your optimum training zone at all times.

The Instinct really is a top piece of kit for any explorers out there. It’s built for the great outdoors and packed with features that will make your life easier and your journeys safer. It’s actually really well priced too.

For these reasons we recommend the Garmin Instinct as the best rugged smartwatch.

Great Alternative – Garmin Fenix 5X Plus

Garmin is great at making rugged smartwatches, and the Fenix 5X Plus is no exception. It is made from stainless steel and has a scratch-resistant screen so that you will be hard pushed to damage it even in the harshest environments.

When it comes to power, you can expect this device to last up to twenty full days when it is in smartwatch mode, but this reduces to around 13 hours if you have GPS and music playing continuously. It is simple to charge and will be ready to go in no time at all!

There are a range of top-quality navigational features that include a full-color topographical map and the ability to track your current location. You can also use the Trendline feature to find out where the most frequented trails are to help you find the best route home.

The watch also comes with ClimbPro, a capability that gives you information on the gradients, elevation, and distance of any climbs you are undertaking and will even let you know how much further you have to go.

If you want this watch to help you track your health and fitness, then you will not be disappointed. You can check your heart rate, find out how many calories you have burned, and get an up to date stress score so you know how much further you can push yourself.

You can also track the fitness you are doing with preloaded fitness tracking and make use of the running power app that will update you on how hard you are working and how much energy you are expending.

Outstanding Value – Amazfit T-Rex Smartwatch

If you need a high-quality, durable smartwatch but need a budget price tag, then the Amazfit T-Rex may be a great choice. This device is certified to military-grade and offers a range of different modes and tracking options to suit anything you have to face.

It comes with twelve certificates to help prove its worth, and it is built to survive in a range of climates. With the ability to work in temperatures up to 150F and as low as -40F, there is really nowhere on earth that you cannot take it.

The battery life on offer is up to twenty days in smartwatch mode and up to forty hours with GPS on, which is fantastic when you think that you can go well over a day while continuously tracking your location. The in-built GPS comes with a 28nm Sony GPS chip to help you keep your power usage low and your tracking data accurate.

Keeping an eye on your own health and fitness is key when you are in the wilderness, and this watch has fourteen sports modes for you to choose from as well as a water-resistant body in case you need to swim or find yourself caught in a storm.

You can use it to keep an eye on how your heart is coping with your activities and use this insight to know when to push on and when it is time to rest.

Not only does this watch perform well, but it looks great on your wrist too. You can select from five different color options depending on the environment you will be using it in and know that all the important information is on your wrist at all times.

It is easy to navigate and has a 1.3-inch screen that shows off your display.

Feature Packed – Suunto Core

If you are a tech fan and want a watch that does it all and some, then the Suunto Core may be the ideal option for you! This heavy duty smartwatch is made from carbon fiber and comes with a top-quality silicone strap for the ultimate in comfort.

It offers a digital display that provides you will all the important information and can be navigated via one of the side buttons.

The best thing about this device is that it comes with a huge range of really useful features; there is an altimeter, a barometer, and a compass, as well as a storm alarm and weather graph.

These features not only work to give you an accurate picture of your surroundings but will help you understand when it is time to seek cover and also how long you can safely stay outside before the storm comes in.

You will be hard-pressed to find a device with a better battery life as this device can last for 12 – 18 months without needing to be replaced. Suunto makes it clear that the lower battery limit will be met if you find that you use the compass or backlight more frequently than expected but that you will still have around 10% of the battery life left when the warning sign is displayed, giving you ample time to get it replaced.

This watch was built to help you get outdoors on time and offers an alarm, snooze button, and the capability to use a weather alarm if you need to be altered to any potential weather issues. You can even store up to seven days of weather information to help you understand your surroundings.

This all-terrain watch is set to be there whenever you need it can even be taken into the water with a 100ft resistance level. Suunto Core’s feature-packed offer is set to impress many outdoor adventurers.

The Wildcard – POLAR Grit X

Our final pick may be the wildcard of the group, but it still offers itself as one of the most durable smartwatch devices on the market. It boasts military-grade features for walking, hiking, running, and biking and is dependable even when the weather is not.

It comes in three different colors and to different sizes so that you can personalize your choice somewhat.

There are both navigational buttons and a touchscreen for you to use, and it boasts being able to go to watery depths of 328 feet!

There is a range of great features that are designed to help you organize your adventure; an integrated GPS system, GLONASS, compass, altimeter, and barometer all work to enable you to see where you are and a forecasting app that tells you what the weather looks like.

You can also use it to plan where you are going and a nifty hill splitter app that automatically detects each hill you ascend and descend as well as your health stats while you are moving.

There are some decent health tracking features too so that you can analyze your sleep and stress levels as well as a fuelling reminder system that can estimate the carbs you need and tells you when you should stop to refuel.

If you plan on using this device to help with your training before you head off on an adventure, then you can use the FitSpark system that shares daily workouts for you to follow and matches your work rate with your current fitness levels.

When it comes to powering your device, there is a 40-hour battery if you are continuously using GPS and heart rate monitoring. However, if you are only using these features sporadically, then there are a range of power-saving options that can increase your battery life up to 100 hours in total.

Buyer’s Guide – What Makes a Smartwatch Tough?

If you’re looking for the toughest smartwatches but are not sure what features you should consider, then do not worry. We have developed this buyer’s guide to help you work out what you need to check before you commit to making a purchase.


When you are trying to find the best rugged smartwatch, then you have to have a real focus on finding one that offers the strength you need. Opting for an army or navy graded watch will not only guarantee that you can depend on the quality but on the toughness too.

However, be careful to fully investigate when a company states that their watch is military-grade; you should find one that offers a shock-proof design that is water-resistant and thermal resistant in the most extreme temperatures.

Related: Check out our recommended military smartwatches next.

Some of the best watch materials include stainless steel casing and silicone strapping, both of which should offer additional coatings so that they are protected from damage and will not allow dust, sand, or dirt to affect the way they work.

It also makes sense to opt for a model that comes with dials as a pure touchscreen model can be very hard to navigate when you have just gotten out of the water or are covered in mud or dirt.

A scratch-resistant screen is a must too!

Recommended: Don’t miss our guide to the very best smartwatches for listening to music.


Not only will the toughest smartwatches offer a range of great features, but they will also have a good battery life so that you do not need to waste your time charging. You should always go for an option that offers the longest battery life, but that also has different battery modes depending on what you are doing.

We all understand that GPS and music playback are real battery drainers, so it is advisable to look for a model that can turn these features off when they are not in use.

Combining different battery modes is a great way to conserve energy and help your watch to last for a long as possible so that you do not find yourself stuck in the wilderness without GPS!

When it comes to sourcing the best battery life for you, there are different types of watches; ones that plug in to charge, ones that come with an extended battery life of over a year, and ones that utilize solar power to top up on charge when you are away from a charging point.

It is wise to work out how long you expect to be away from a power source before you spend out on a watch only to find out it will not last as long as you need it to.

Recommended: Don’t miss our guide to the bargain smartwatches that can be found for less than $50!

GPS and Compass

The most rugged smartwatch designs understand that consumers want to purchase them to support their outdoor lifestyle, and being able to track where you are and where you are going in the most difficult situations is a must-have feature.

In-built compasses are there to help you navigate your route and can often be backed up by altimeters and barometers so that you can monitor height and air pressure. However, these features are best supported by a tracking capability such as GPS, Glonass, and Galileo.

Using each of these or a combination of these will ensure that you have the most up to date information on your wrist at all times. In fact, with the Garmin Instinct, you can even use the navigation system to ‘Trackback’ where you have come from, an amazing feature that keeps you safe.

When you utilize a watch that has a navigational system in place, you do need to be aware that it will wear down your battery and is best switched on only when needed.

By remembering to turn it off and on, you will be able to extend your time outdoors and feel confident that you can return to civilization with support whenever you need to.


These days most good smartwatches typically come with a range of health monitoring apps so that you can track your progress, work on improving your fitness, and ensure that you are fit enough to continue your journey.

Rugged smartwatches recognize that life in the wilderness can put an inordinate amount of pressure on your heart and so they typically come with heart rate trackers and stress level monitoring.

You can also get devices that measure your blood oxygenation, share the steps you have completed, and tell you the number of calories you have burned.

When it comes to fuelling your body, there are even watches that will remind you when it is time to eat and measure when you should consider topping up on carbs. Put together, these packages of health and fitness apps will keep you healthy, motivated, and able to push on even in the harshest conditions.

Recommended: We’ve got GPS hunting watches covered in our latest guide.

Weather Conditions

Getting the most durable smartwatch is important when you are planning to out in the wilderness a lot, especially if you are in a location where there is unpredictable weather or weather that can become extreme with little notice.

Not only will you need a water-resistant and durable smartwatch to help you through this type of weather, but you will also need one that can warn you of what is on the horizon. Some of the best models are able to monitor the weather in real-time, sharing warnings of potential weather changes so that you can modify your plans.

Other models are able to share a forecast of what is to come so that you are able to design your plans around the forecast.

If you need more detailed weather tracking, you will are able to purchase devices that store the weather information from the days that have recently passed, and you can use in-built capabilities such as barometers to work out what you are heading into before you even arrive.

Other Useful Features

As well as enjoying the typical features that come with a heavy-duty smartwatch, you should also take the time to see what else each device offers.

Most brands will have their own concoction of features that are designed to impress you, but you need to first decide what you are looking for in a watch to know what to go for.

Maybe music is important to you, and so it is always a good idea to find a watch that can double up as a music player. Remember that there are two main ways of listening to music – streaming from your phone and downloading to your watch – so make sure that you select the option that best suits what you need.

You may also want to get notifications to your watch so that you can stay in touch with the world and what is happening in it. Again, there are a variety of ways that watches can alert you, so spend some time working out what your ideal notification system looks like and opt for a watch that offers that.

Ultimately, when you are buying a rugged smartwatch, you will have a good idea of what you will be putting it through, how long you will need a battery to last, and what you want to get from it.

Check out the devices we have recommended and then purchase the one that ticks as many of your boxes as possible so that as soon as it arrives, you can head out into the world with it on your wrist.

About the Author Jamie

Jamie has a background in physics and electronics and has always been interested in technological innovation.

Since getting a Garmin Forerunner 220 way back in 2014, he's been obsessed with smartwatches, in particular running/exercise watches. He's our "go-to" guy for these!

He's currently wearing a Garmin 645 Music but can't wait to try the Venu 2 out in an upcoming review.

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