If you’ve arranged to meet up with your fellow hikers at a particular time and place, you need to a) know the time and how long you’ve got, and b) know where you are in relation to the place you need to be.
And ideally, you want to achieve that without having to dig around forever in your backpack for a handheld GPS unit. It’s far more convenient to have all the important data right on your wrist, leaving your hands free.
And, you’re going to need something that’s 100% reliable, which is why it’s only natural to first look into the top brands of sports watches, brands you can trust.
The Garmin Instinct and the Suunto Core are hands down two of the best sports watches on the market at the moment. But you don’t need two. This is why we’ve put this article together…
We’re going to explore the different features of these two sports watches, and their various pros and cons, and by the end of the article you should be in no doubt of which may be the better option for you.
A quick heads up – this article is going to be looking specifically at the Garmin Instinct, and not the Instinct Tactical, the Instinct Esports Edition, or any of the Solar Editions. Similarly, we’ll only be looking at the Suunto Core Classic, and not the Suunto Alpha, Core, or Premium. To compare so many different watches is beyond the scope of this article.
This is a nice, big, sporty watch, with a wide strap and a large round clock face that’s very easy to read. And it’s available in a wide range of colors.
Coming from Garmin, you’d be right to expect that their star hiking watch comes with built-in GPS.
But, this watch goes beyond basic GPS and also allows access to other global navigations besides, including Glonass and Galileo. And with all three to hand, you’re almost guaranteed to never get lost, and you may even still get a signal when you’re in heavy cover.
It can provide you with routes and distances to way points, so you can work out your expected time of arrival. All thanks to the handy trackback feature.
But that’s not all. The Garmin Instinct also features old school navigational tools – the full ABC in fact, altimeter, barometer, and compass.
It also has features you’d find in a standard fitness tracker, with a selection of preloaded activity profiles, including running, hiking, cycling and swimming. And it will monitor your heart rate.
And it’s also a smartwatch too, and can pass on all your main smartphone notifications.
It’s built to withstand the elements, constructed to military standards, with thermal, shock and water resistance. And it’s quite impressive water resistance at that so you definitely don’t have to worry about hitting a bit of rain.
It has a scratch resistant display, which is crystal clear to read, even in direct sunlight.
A good, long adventure requires a watch with a decent battery life. And we’re pleased to report that the Garmin Instinct is certainly up to the task…
It will last up to 16 hours in GPS mode, which means most of the daylight hours. And it will last a whopping 14 days in smartwatch mode. There’s also a special Ultratrac battery saver mode, which will last up to 40 hours.
Despite this impressive battery life however, it would be prudent to only use the GPS mode when you really need it.
Value for Money
The full listing price for the Garmin Instinct is significantly more expensive than that for the Suunto Core. However, we would still argue that it’s great value for money.
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- Rugged GPS watch built to withstand the toughest environments
- Constructed to U.S. Military standard 810G for thermal, shock and water resistance (rated to 100 meters)
- Built in 3 axis compass and barometric altimeter, plus multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, Glonass and Galileo) support helps track in more challenging environments than GPS alone
- Monitor your estimated heart rate, activity and stress; Train with preloaded activity profiles. Strap material: Silicone
- Stay connected with smart notifications (with a compatible smartphone) and automatic data uploads to the Garmin connect online fitness community
- Features GPS, Glonass & Galileo
- Altimeter, barometer & compass
- Fitness tracker functionality
- Even doubles as a smartwatch
- Great battery life too
- It costs more than the Suunto Core
We would argue that the Suunto Core is a little more sleek and sophisticated in its aesthetic than the Garmin Instinct, though there’s not a lot in it. It’s available in all black, black with yellow accents, black with red accents, or black with a white display.
Although the Suunto Core doesn’t offer GPS, it instead provides more traditional means of navigation, in the form of an altimeter, barometer and compass. So it still makes for a pretty good hiking watch.
It’s great for predicting the weather, which is perfect for letting you know when you need to find shelter quickly.
It offers great water resistance – it’s designed to be taken swimming, so a little rain definitely won’t hurt it.
It comes with a battery included which is designed to last about 12 months, at which point it can be replaced.
Value for Money
The Suunto Core Classic has a significantly more affordable listing price than the Garmin Instinct, less than half the price in fact. But it doesn’t have the same features, so we would argue that it’s value for money could be better.
- Comes with an affordable price tag
- Altimeter, barometer & compass
- Long lasting battery lifespan
- Has some water resistance
- Predicts the weather for you
- Doesn’t feature GPS
- Not a fitness tracker
- No smartwatch functionality
- Suunto Core: This classic outdoor sports watch is packed with intelligent features like a Storm Alarm, Altimeter, Barometer and compass to keep you informed of conditions while you hike, bike, or camp
- Essential for Adventure: This watch has dual times, a date display, and alarm, plus predicted times for sunrise and sunset to help maximize your daylight hours and a depth meter accurate up to 30 feet
- Suunto Sports Watches: Versatile and durable, Suunto sports watches are great for running, swimming, cycling, gym workouts, hiking, and other outdoor sports; Whatever your needs, Suunto has a watch for you
- Adventure Starts Here: Combining Scandinavian design with ultra durable materials, our watches track your sports, daily activity, and sleep to help you keep life, training and recovery in balance
- Authentic Heritage: Founded in 1936, Suunto brings over 80 years of high quality heritage craftsmanship, relentless accuracy, and pioneering innovation to our watches, compasses, and dive products
Garmin Instinct Vs Suunto Core: The Final Verdict
So, provided you have the budget, the Garmin Instinct is by far the safest option to go for. This is because in addition to traditional navigation tools it also offers impressive GPS capabilities.
Which means that if you ever struggle to find where you are with the altimeter and compass, you will never truly be lost because you can always rely on the GPS if need be.
If however you’ve already spent most of your sport and hobby budget on other gear, then the more expensive Garmin Instinct may not be an option for you, in which case the Suunto Core isn’t a bad second choice.
You should also check out our article titled “Garmin Instinct Vs Vivoactive” which is available on this link.