Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority
Plenty of people strap smartwatches to their wrists. Tactical smartwatches, however, are feature-packed wearables built for a very specific crowd. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, find out our top picks for the best tactical smartwatches you can buy.
Read more: The best smartwatches you can buy
Buying the right tactical smartwatch for your needs
Tactical smartwatches are durable devices built to withstand the elements. They are especially popular with individuals who spend a lot of time in rugged terrain. This includes hikers, hunters, and even service members. If you are looking to buy a new tactical smartwatch, consider the features below before making your selection.
- Durability: First and foremost, tactical smartwatches are rugged devices. As such, they should be able to take a beating. Many are tested to military-grade standards for shock and water resistance. Some can even withstand extremes in temperature.
- GPS: You would also be remiss to choose a device without accurate navigation and tracking tools. Look for a smartwatch with GPS. If possible, a compass is also a useful tool to keep users on track no matter what.
- Weather: Outdoor enthusiasts spend a lot of time well, outdoors. A good tactical smartwatch offers reliable weather forecasting as well as sunrise and sunset times.
- Battery life: The last thing you want from your tactical watch is a dead device. Solid battery life is integral to the usability of these wearables and should be a high priority.
- Tactical features: Many tactical watches offer dedicated features for hunting and other specific scenarios. Determine your need for features like stealth mode and night-goggle compatibility before choosing a new device.
- Health and fitness tracking: The best tactical smartwatches also keep tabs on users’ basic stats. Look for a device with health and fitness tracking. These tools help make sure your body is ready for every adventure.
The best tactical smartwatches
- Gamin Instinct 2 Solar Tactical Edition: The best Garmin tactical smartwatch, the Instinct 2 Solar Tactical Edition boasts military-grade durability, impressive battery life, and a number of tactical-specific features.
- Suunto Traverse Alpha: Finnish design meets durability in Suunto’s best tactical smartwatch, the Traverse Alpha. This smartwatch offers navigation tools, shot detection, and more.
- Casio GBDH1000-1: Casio is no stranger to rugged devices. The Casio GBDH1000-1 is the most affordable tactical smartwatch from the company’s G-Shock line.
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar Tactical Edition: The best Garmin tactical smartwatch
The tactical edition of Garmin’s latest adventure watch, the Instinct 2 Solar, is a very solid pick. The device features military-grade durability and is water-resistant to 100 meters. It also packs a heart rate sensor, SpO2 monitor, and dual-format GPS. Most impressively, solar charging gives this device unlimited battery life in smartwatch mode.
In addition to the full suite of health and training features of the Instinct 2 line, this specialty edition offers a number of tactical features. For example, users can switch the display into a nighttime view to read on-screen data while wearing night-vision goggles. If needed, a kill switch wipes the device clean of all data at the tap of a button.
Stealth Mode allows users to disable all wireless connectivity and GPS positioning. Jumpmaster Mode automatically calculates high-altitude release points according to military guidelines. These are just some of the features that make this device a prominent choice.
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar Tactical
With military-grade specs, the feature-packed Instinct 2 Solar Tactical is ready for any adventure.
This rugged dual-format GPS smartwatch from Garmin is equipped with a full suite of health and fitness tracking features, ABC sensors, and tactical-specific tools like Stealth Mode and Kill Switch. It also offers solar charging so it will always be as ready as you. It is available in black or Coyote Tan.
Suunto Traverse Alpha Stealth: The best Suunto tactical smartwatch
To start, the Suunto Traverse Alpha Stealth combines military-grade durability with built-in GPS/GLONASS navigation. On hikes, users can access route previews and real-time breadcrumb route views. You can also access heatmaps on the Suunto app to find new trails. Meanwhile, the device will track your distance, speed, altitude, daily steps, and calories.
The Traverse Alpha’s tactical features include a red backlight compatible with night-vision goggles and automatic shot detection. It also provides weather trends and storm alerts. The device also offers hunting, fishing, and hiking modes as well as mobile alerts from compatible smartphones. Finally, the Suunto watch sells with a strong, textile band that’s water-resistant and flexible on the wrist. However, users can purchase an alternative fluoroelastomer option if desired.
If a smartwatch is not a priority, Suunto also sells tactical watches without smart features. In short, the Suunto Core Alpha is an affordable, rugged option with plenty of features. However, you won’t find GPS or Bluetooth on this device.
Suunto Traverse Alpha Stealth
The Suunto Traverse Alpha Stealth is a great pick for hunters, hikers, and other outdoor enthusiasts.
This device is durable and accurate with GPS/GLONASS satellite systems and many route tracking features. For hunters, its automatic shot recognition detects when a shot is fired to accurately track its distance and elevation. Meanwhile, vibration alerts and a customizable red backlight allow users to stay unheard and undetected while out in the field.
Casio GBDH1000-1: A G-Shock device at a reasonable price
Built to last, Casio’s G-shock watches are among the best-known rugged devices. The company’s Move lineup offers a smartwatch designed to stand up to intense conditions while keeping users active, oriented, and powered up.
The GBDH1000-1 features Bluetooth connectivity and GPS as well as Casio’s proprietary Tough Solar battery-recharging technology. It’s also shock-resistant and water-resistant up to 200 meters. You can find the Casio GBDH1000-1 for $399.
Additionally, Casio’s Mudmaster is another popular device with shock and water resistance, plus mud resistance. However, this device does not offer GPS. As such, it is also more moderately priced than some of Casio’s newer or higher-end models. On the other hand, the GPRB1000 is the top-of-line tactical smartwatch you can buy from Casio.
Like most Casio devices, the GBDH1000-1 is built tough.
A popular pick from the G-Shock Move series, the GBDH1000-1 offers GPS, temperature sensors, an accelerometer, and Bluetooth support. It also helps wearers keep tabs on their wellness with a heart rate monitor and other basic health tracking features. Finally, its build offers shock and water resistance plus the iconic aesthetic of the G-Shock line.
Q: Are tactical smartwatches compatible with all smartphones?
A: As always with wearables, compatibility varies from device to device. All of the tactical smartwatches in this list are compatible with iOS phones and Android phones.
Q: Are tactical watches more expensive than standard smartwatches?
A: The choices above represent mid-level devices. They are best for users who want a tactical aesthetic but don’t need the most advanced features. As a result, their price points are comparable to popular Wears OS smartwatches and high-end multi-sport devices. However, tactical smartwatches can get very pricey. Garmin’s Tactix Delta Solar Tactical GPS smartwatch, for example, sells for over $1,000.
Q: Are tactical smartwatches waterproof?
A: No device is truly waterproof but many tactical smartwatches provide impressive water resistance. However, these values typically apply to splashes, rainfall, and activities such as snorkeling. If you are interested in deep marine exploration, look for a device certified for scuba diving.
Q: What is an ABC watch?
A: An ABC watch is a multi-sport watch utilizing an altimeter, barometer, and compass. These sensors determine the user’s elevation, atmospheric pressure, and direction. In general, ABC watches tend to feature rugged, durable designs.