Alex Roddie tests the Garmin fenix 6 Pro Solar, an expensive but full-featured watch that comes with a big learning curve.
The Garmin fenix 6 Pro Solar is the most full-featured watch tested in our guide to the best GPS watches for hiking, with superb build quality, comprehensive tools for mountain navigation, and colour mapping. The watch itself is fairly compact but chunky, and incredibly durable. I found the plastic strap uncomfortable to wear.
The supplied maps are poor for walking (many paths missing and no contours), but better alternatives are available free online and storage is big enough to store maps for several countries. The map screen drains battery more quickly and can be slow to refresh. It’s good for quick checks, though. Unlike the fenix 5 series, OS mapping is no longer supported.
The user interface has a steep learning curve but is efficient and powerful once mastered, with deep customisation options. You can deactivate most functions you don’t need. The phone app situation is confusing, with two apps doing different jobs; the Explore app lets you transfer routes to and from the watch offline.
Although it has a solar panel, this will only slow battery drain slightly, even in full sun. However, battery life is superb; I routinely got over 35 hours with GPS and heart rate. You can switch off features for even better battery life.
Despite high cost, if you want mapping on your wrist this is an excellent choice.
If you want to compare more GPS watches, check out the rest of Alex’s guide to GPS watches.
This review first featured in The Great Outdoors in August 2021.