A GUIDE TO SMARTWATCHES
Who got the most runs down the piste? Who caught the most waves or completed the most steps? With the latest smartwatches, you can keep track of your activity for ultimate bragging rights, but there’s so much more to these watches than just one-upmanship. From providing on the wrist directions when you’re out hiking to monitoring your vital functions and keeping track of your fitness, here we jump into the main features and functions, you should look out for when choosing a smartwatch for your epic adventures.
The greatest benefit of a smartwatch to anyone who loves to get outdoors is GPS (global positioning system). With all the tech you find in a handheld system, just more convenient when you’re out in all conditions, the GPS smartwatch is a must for anyone serious about hiking. Not only can you get full directions of your route conveniently pinged to your wrist, but you can use your watch as a compass, and in the event you get into difficulties, it can provide a more accurate location for the emergency services.
GPS systems are often compatible with different apps that allow you to track your movements and share your adventures with friends. They tend to be slightly more expensive than standard smartwatches, but you’re getting a whole lot of tech at your wrist, so if you love getting out to explore, then in our opinion, the price is well worth it.
- Tech is only good when it’s working correctly, which is why no matter how advanced your watch, you should always carry an old school map and compass, just in case.
Many smartwatches come with fitness tracking capabilities, ranging from counting your steps and measuring your activity levels to monitoring your vital stats like heart rate, respiratory rate, blood oxygen and temperature, so whatever your goal, a smartwatch can help you keep your fitness on track.
Fitness trackers are also great when you’re training for an event. Whether it’s a marathon, a cycling challenge or a triathlon, a smartwatch is a must for monitoring your progress as well as your recovery to ensure you’re fully ready for your comp.
They’re also great for reminding and encouraging you to get out and exercise when motivation ebbs. Some even offer suggested workouts based on previous data, which means for many people, they're the next best thing to having their own personal trainer.
- Make sure the device has all the fitness tracking features you need for now, but also consider whether it’s worth spending a bit more to get features that you may wish to use when your fitness improves
- If you’re hoping to track activity in the water, be sure to look out for a smart watch with a good waterproof rating
- When you’re getting active, the last thing you want is something uncomfortable on your wrist distracting your efforts, so try a few different smart watches on to make sure you’re happy with the fit
It’s no secret that we perform better after a good night’s sleep, so if you’re looking to challenge yourself, getting to know more about your sleep quality and patterns can give you the edge.
Not only can you use your smartwatch as an alarm to gently wake you in the morning, but it can also switch off any notifications at a set time to ensure that you are disturbed as you wind down for the evening and can track your sleep through the night. Whilst not as accurate as high-tech medical sleep trackers, smartwatches offer an insight into your sleeping patterns, and it may soon become clear that a late-night coffee is doing you no good!
- Sleep tracking won’t improve your sleep, but it can be useful for tracking trends in your sleep patterns so that you can improve your evening routine
Another big pro of smart watches is that they offer many of the same functions as your phone. This means when you’re out on a run, or hiking up a mountain, there’s no longer any need to scramble around in your pocket for your phone. Instead, you can answer a call or read a text at the tap of a button on your watch. Many smart watches will even read your text messages out for you and allow you to dictate a reply, so there’s no need to even look at your watch.
For many this kind of functionality is great, but for some getting away from notifications is part of the draw of getting outside. The good news is that these functions can be managed, so that you only receive the notifications you want to your smart watch.
- Look out for phone compatibility and sync your watch for full functionality of the move
- Voice control is a godsend when you’re wearing gloves, so is something climbers, bikers and those getting active in winter may want to bear in mind
- Turn off unnecessary notifications (trust us, you don’t need to know your bestie has just posted on socials when you’re out on a run), so that when you get out you can find some headspace
Whether you’re out on an expedition or competing in a multi-day race, the last thing you want to be worrying about is charging your watch, so looking at battery life is a must.
The good news is that most manufacturers have recognised the need for a device that performs longer, and as a result, many can now perform for days at a time without charging. The caveat is it depends on how you use them and how often. For example, some functions drain the battery quicker than others, and this can drastically affect how often you need to charge it.
There are usually ways to help preserve battery life though, from closing down battery-draining apps to putting your watch into battery-saver mode.
Whether you’re on a group adventure or out solo, it pays to take extra measures to keep yourself safe, so looking for a smartwatch that can track and share your location with your emergency contacts is essential.
Garmin’s LiveTrack technology is a great example, as it creates a real-time view of your location and shares it with friends and family via a link sent by text. It means no matter where you go, your friends and family can stay connected with your activity and raise the alarm if things look amiss.
As well as tracking, many smartwatches can monitor your movement and alert designated contacts after a set time if they detect you’ve had a fall. A must for solo adventurers, it gives you the reassurance you need when you’re out pushing boundaries.
- Although great for safety, tracking features like Garmin’s LiveTrack are also great for races, as your family can make sure they’re at the finish line for your photo finish
- Don’t scrimp on safety on safety, although an often overlooked function of smart watches it can really pay to invest in the right safety features, especially for solo adventures
Other things to look out for when choosing a smartwatch
We’ve covered some of the main features you might want to look out for when choosing a smartwatch, but there’s more to choosing the right watch than just what it can do.
Firstly, you need the watch to be comfortable and fit well, because otherwise you won’t end up wearing it. Although a large display can make things like directions easier to read, on smaller wrists, it’s likely to be too bulky.
The shape of the display can also affect the fit, so it’s worth trying on a few different options to find what works best for you. Then there are the straps; most watches come with a standard size strap, but this may or may not fit depending on your wrists, so look out for smartwatches with interchangeable straps that can be sized up or down.
Another thing to check is that your chosen watch is compatible with your mobile and the features or apps you want access to on the move.
Finally, tech changes all the time, so do your research before purchasing to ensure the watch you buy has all the tech you want before you commit. If your budget allows, we’d always recommend opting for the slightly more advanced option because even if you don’t intend to use all the features straight away, you may find you want them a few months down the line.
Outsmarting rush hour traffic, avoiding public transport, getting healthy, saving money…the perks of run commuting are pretty much endless, but getting started is a pretty scary thought. So we thought we’d make it easy for you – here’s our ultimate guide to getting your run commute underway and never looking back. You’re welcome.
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