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Take It to the Backcountry with One of These
Best Watches for Ultra Running

This article was updated on 9/22/22 to add the Garmin fēnix 7X, Enduro 2, and Forerunner 955.

The best ultra running watch needs to excel in several specific areas, including battery life, GPS tracking and navigation features, durability, and performance metrics. Additionally, for some ultra runners, size will definitely be a factor.

If ultramarathons, multi-day efforts such as fastpacking, or trail runs through the mountains or backcountry are where you prefer to conquer your personal best, then consider one of these current top GPS watches for ultra running.

At PlayBetter, we only offer the most-trusted brands in our running watch collection, including Garmin, COROS, and Polar. Below, we go through all the ultra running must-haves in each of these watches, so that you can find the one that's right for chasing down your victiories!




Best Ultra Running GPS Watch of 2022

The Garmin Enduro 2 is the best overall ultra running watch in our collection. This ultraperformance watch is built for extremes—and has more battery life than you'll every need.

Battery Life

Will you ever need this much battery life? Maybe not, but this ultraperformance watch is going to give you:

Smartwatch: Up to 34 days / 46 days with solar
Battery Saver Watch Mode: Up to 111 days / 550 days with solar
GPS: Up to 110 hours / 150 hours with solar
All Satellite Systems: Up to 78 hours / 96 hours with solar
All Satellite Systems and Multi-band: Up to 68 hours / 81 hours with solar
All Satellite Systems and Music: Up to 20 hours
Max Battery GPS: Up to 264 hours / 714 with solar
Expedition GPS: 77 days / 172 days with solar

The Navigation

The Enduro 2 has the all the top navigation features of the Garmin fēnix 7X Sapphire Solar and the Forerunner 955, including preloaded topo maps. But here's what else you get:

  • AutoSelect mode uses SatIQ™ technology dynamically determines the GPS mode necessary to maximize battery life without compromising positional accuracy
  • Preloaded TopoActive and ski maps
  • The NextFork™ map guide
  • A superbright LED flashlight (twice as bright as the fēnix® 7X multisport GPS watch) offers variable intensities with a night mode!

Training & Performance

All of Garmin's best training tools are in the Enduro 2, plus some new ones, including:

  • Grade-adjusted pace
  • An automatic rest timer logs your breaks
  • A variety of built-in sports apps
  • An Adventure Racing World Series-approved adventure racing app
  • Advanced performance metrics—plus endurance and stamina
  • Traditional button controls that work in any environment are matched with a highly responsive touchscreen interface

Size & Durability

This watch, loaded with insane battery life, is the same size as a fēnix 7X Solar with a 1.4" display and 51 mm case, but weighs only 70 g compared to the fēnix 7X's 89–96 g weight. And you get the durable materials, as well, including Power Sapphire™ lens and titanium bezel and rear case cover.

But your budget will need to be durable, as well, as the Garmin Enduro 2 is an $1,100 GPS watch.


Most Durable Watch for Ultra Running

The Garmin fēnix 7X Solar is the most durable premium ultra running watch on this page. This advanced outdoor GPS watch hits the mark on all the specifics you'll want on wrist.

Battery Life

The fēnix 7X Solar battery life is more than sufficient for ultra running and looks like this:

Smartwatch: Up to 28 days/37 days with solar
Battery Saver Watch Mode: Up to 90 days/1+ year with solar
GPS Only: Up to 89 hours/122 hours with solar
All Satellite Systems: Up to 63 hours/77 hours with solar
All Satellite Systems + Music: Up to 16 hours
Max Battery GPS: Up to 213 hours/578 hours with solar
Expedition GPS: Up to 62 days/ 139 days with solar

Navigation

Full-color topo maps come preloaded on the fēnix 7X Sapphire Solar, and you can download them onto the fēnix 7X Solar. You'll also get ABC sensors—an altimeter for elevation data, a barometer to monitor weather, and a 3-axis electronic compass. Preloaded ski resort maps and over 42,000 golf courses worldwide come standard, plus a round-trip course creator, and Trendline™ popularity routing. Additionally, you get great navigation tools like Point-to-Point, real-time Bread Crumb Trail, Back to Start, TracBack®, Around Me Mode, Distance to Destination, Climbpro™ Ascent Planner, and it's compatible with BaseCamp™. Finally, you will have the best, most accurate GPS with Garmin's latest multi-frequency positioning.

Training & Performance

The fēnix 7X includes profiles for Running, Treadmill Running, Indoor Track Running, Trail Running, and Virtual Running. With a Garmin GPS, you get highly accurate wrist-based heart rate. You'll also get VO2 Max for your running profiles—including trail running—which tells you how you might expect to perform with heat or altitude factors. Use running Dynamics (with a compatible accessory) to measure crucial running metrics like cadence, stride length, ground contact time and balance, and more. Training Status lets you know if you’re training productively, peaking, or overreaching. Training Load compares your most recent stats to your optimal and historical fitness stats. Use PacePro™ pacing strategies and keep on pace with grade-adjusted guidance as you run a course.

These are just some of the training features and performance data you can expect out of this mega sport GPS watch.  

Size & Durability

This Garmin watch features a huge 1.4” display, built-in LED flashlight, and Power Sapphire™ solar charging lens in Sapphire edition and Power Glass™ solar charging lens with Solar model. And it has the long-lasting battery life of the fēnix 7 series.

And now you can choose the new touchscreen interface to conveniently access selections or use traditional, reliable button controls when weather or trail conditions or sweaty hands make them more preferable.

One issue that some runners may have is the weight and size of the fēnix 7X. More rugged materials give it a bigger size and bulkier shape it may be too bulky that may be too much on the wrist of some ultra runners. However, the Garmin fēnix 7 series offers a range of sizes including the 7 and 7S, which have all the same features, with only slightly less battery life.


Most Affordable GPS Watch for Ultra Running

We highly recommend the COROS APEX PRO in our ultramarathon watch lineup. This watch is built for longer runs—and can help create long-runners—with the stunning battery life that COROS is known for.

Battery Life

The APEX Pro has got 14% more battery life in full GPS than the original Apex multisport watch. When you're out running in the backcountry, you can count on 30 days of regular use, 40 hours in Full GPS mode, and 100 hours in UltraMax mode. Perfect for any of your ultra run endeavors!

Navigation

Get more advanced tracking with GPS/QZSS, GLONASS, and BeiDou satellite connections. Take advantage of built-in ABC sensors—an altimeter for elevation data, a barometer to monitor weather, and a compass. Use Bread Crumb and Back-to-Start navigation for those long, off-the-beaten path runs.

Training & Performance

This trail-tested, athlete-approved running smartwatch tells you your stride length, cadence, and elevation change along with a measurement of your aerobic and anaerobic productivity—all from a touchscreen that lets you move and zoom in/out on your navigation track. Run where you want with monitoring features for extreme conditions—like 24/7 blood oxygen monitoring with altitude acclimatization assistance and COROS EvoLab (VO2 Max, Fatigue, Training Load, Threshold Pace, etc). Keep tabs on how hard you're pushing yourself with the wrist-based heart rate monitor. Use the Training mode to create, share, and download specific workouts from pro athletes and coaches. Build your own workout and select from 200+ preloaded exercises. Plus take advantage of Night mode for nighttime activities that leaves a backlight on that's bright enough so you can see, but dim enough that you get the best battery life out of your GPS watch. Run profiles include Run, Indoor Run, and Track Run.

Size & Durability

This durable, lightweight ultra running watch comes with a silicone strap (59g) or with a nylon strap (49g). A scratch-resistant sapphire glass lens protects the 1.2" display. This rugged GPS watch also has a Grade 5 titanium alloy bezel with an aluminum cover. Pysical size is 47 x 47 x 13.4mm, making the COROS APEX Pro a pretty sleek watch for ultra running with more than substantial battery life!


Best Training Watch for Ultra Runners

The Polar Vantage V2 premium watch for ultra running is the ultimate tool for tapping into personalized smart training. This GPS smartwatch with color touch display will guide you toward intelligent training and your next personal best in all your ultramarathon pursuits!

Battery Life

Get up to 40 hours of continuous training time with the Vantage V2 GPS watch. Multiple power save options boost the battery life all the way up to 100 hours, making it ideal for ultra running.

Navigation

Get accurate location, speed, and distance data. Train with the best positioning experience anywhere in the world with assisted-GPS for faster fix times, supported by GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and QZSS satellite systems. The stylish, lightweight aluminum unibody also acts as an antenna signal booster for the built-in GPS, so you know you're getting the best tracking support. Also, import Komoot to your Vantage V2 ultramarathon watch and let the turn-by-turn guidance do the navigating for you. Get back to your start point with Track Back, and visualize all slopes and routes right on your watch with Elevation Profiles.

Training & Performance

The Polar Vantage V2 has all-day wrist-based heart rate monitoring—technology that Polar excels at. Recovery Pro™ reveals how training strains the body and provides metrics that show when it’s time to recover. Training Load Pro™ shows how your training sessions strain different parts of your body and how much you’ve been training, so you can determine if you’re on the right track. Get an idea of how well you recover during the night from the demands of your day with Nightly Recharge. Track your progress and personalize your heart rate, speed, and power zones with Running Performance Test. Leg Recovery Test tells you whether your legs are ready for high-intensity training in just a couple of minutes without any special equipment—just your watch! Get access to Polar Flow, an uber-comprehensive training platform that offers extensive training planning and analysis tools, an automatic training diary, progress reports, and much more!

Size & Durability

The durable Polar Vantage V2 is made from aerospace aluminium alloy and has a glass fiber reinforced polymer with a laminated Gorilla glass lens with anti-fingerprint coating. Its sunlight-visible, transflective color touchscreen is 1.2". This GPS watch for ultra running is one of the lighter models in this lineup, weighing in a 52g with physical dimensions of 47 x 47 x 13, making it one of the slimmer ones as well. It comes in 2 band sizes: Small (120-190 mm wrist circumference) and M/L (145-215 mm wrist circumference).


Lightest Ultramarathon Smartwatch

The Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar is the lightest watch in this lineup that still has all the features you want in an ultra running watch. Feature-wise, it's very close to the fēnix 7X. But even the smallest model in the fēnix 7 family has just a bit more bulk and weight than the Forerunner 955, which can make all the difference for some ultra runners. But you pay for it with just a little bit of battery life and durability. Ultimately, it comes down to preference.

Battery Life

The Sleeker, less cumbersome Forerunner 955 gets considerably less battery life than the Enduro 2 or fēnix 7X Solar/Sapphire Solar. But it's certainly still enough for an ultra runner.

Smartwatch mode: Up to 15 days/20 days with solar
GPS-only mode without music: Up to 42 hours/49 hours with solar
All-Systems GNSS mode plus Multi-Band with music: Up to 8.5 hours
All Systems GNSS mode plus Multi-Band without music: Up to 20 hours/22 hours with solar
Ultratrac mode: Up to 80 hours/110 hours with solar

Navigation

The FR 955 gets pretty much the same navigation as the fēnix 7X Solar/Sapphire Solar.

Training & Performance

Again, the Forerunner 955 is pretty much in line with the fēnix 7X when it comes to training features and performance data.

Size & Durability

This is also where the lesser bulk makes a difference between the Garmin watches. The Forerunner 955 has a 1.3" display—slightly bigger than a fēnix 7S, but is even lighter and slimmer, weighing in at 53 g with a physical size of 46.5 x 46.5 x 14.4 mm. The Forerunner 955 has a fiber-reinforced polymer bezel and cover, instead of a stainless steel/titanium bezel and metal/titanium cover like the fēnix 7 series. Also, the Forerunner 955 Solar has a Corning® Gorilla® Glass DX lens, whereas fēnix 7X Solar has a Power Glass™ lens and the 7X Sapphire Solar has a Power Sapphire™ lens for ultimate durability.

It comes down to whether you want the ultimate durability—and the price tag and bulk that go along with the fēnix 7X. Or do you want a lighter, not as rugged watch with very similar features?


Best Value Ultra Running GPS Watch

The VERTIX 2 adventure watch is the latest in the COROS lineup of GPS watches created for the most extreme athletes in the most extreme settings. It offers brow-raising features that ultra runners will love. The only downside? It is the heaviest and bulkiest watch on this list. Ultramarathon runners will have to weigh (quite literally) that one feature against the benefits of the rest when it comes to this impressive adventure watch.

Battery Life

Known for their long-lasting batteries, we didn't imagine a COROS watch could outdo the battery life of the VERTIX—but the VERTIX 2 has ... impressively. Amazingly, this ultimate GPS watch gets:

  • Up to 60 days in watch mode
  • Up to 140 hours in Standard Full GPS
  • Up to 240 hours in UltraMax GPS mode
  • Up to 50 hours in All Systems + Dual Frequency On

Navigation

Get 5 major satellite systems—GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou, and QZSS—accessed by your VERTIX 2 GPS sport watch at the same time! Dual Frequency satellite communication acts as an express lane for a faster, better signal previously only available in aviation products! Take advantage of built-in ABC sensors—an altimeter for elevation data, a barometer to monitor weather, and a compass. The VERTIX 2 GPS offers global offline mapping, and includes: Landscape, Topo, and Hybrid modes. Get a full global Landscape map out of the box and users can download their Topo map by regions for free from COROS.com. By zooming in and out of the map with the digital-dial, or dragging around the map with the highly-responsive touchscreen, the VERTIX 2 offers the best experience for on-wrist navigation. Plus have Breadcrumb and Back-to-Start navigation at your disposal.

Training & Performance

Use the new electrocardiogram (ECG) to get Heart Rate Variability (HRV) straight from your wrist. The HRV metric measures your body’s response to stress and its ability to recover—pretty handy knowledge when you're pushing in the extremes. Plus you get Altitude mode, advanced training analytics, and recovery time. Running profiles include Run, Indoor Run, Trail Run, and Track Run.

Size & Durability

The COROS VERTIX 2 adventure watch is built for the extremes. It's water resistant, opterates at extreme temperatures, and has a scratch-proof sapphire lens. Both the bezel and cover are constructed from highly durable Grade 5 titanium alloy with PVD coating. But this rugged, powerful, advanced tracking GPS watch is big, putting a 1.4" display on you wrist with dimensions of 50.3 x 50.3 x 15.7 mm and a weight of 89g.


The PlayBetter Bottom Line

Obviously, the best ultra running watch for you will be the one that has the combination of battery life, durability, actionable performance metrics, navigation, and size that is just right for you.

We recommend the Garmin Enduro 2, because it is a durable watch that has all the features you could want and offers the most powerful, customizeable battery life. But if you know you want a lighter watch, you may want a Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar, COROS APEX Pro, or Polar Vantage V2.

If you want to pair ultimate battery life with premium navigation and maximum durablility—and do not mind running with a bit more heft on your wrist—you probably lean toward a fēnix 7X Solar/7X Sapphire Solar or the COROS VERTIX 2.

Whatever you preference, we're confident that you'll find the perfect ultra running watch in our PlayBetter GPS running watch collection!

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