Garmin Instinct Solar review

: out of 5

TGO Editor
TGO Editor


  • Overall Rating

    : 4-5 out of 5

Pros: Rugged; excellent battery life; effective solar charging; good for navigation; customisable

Cons: Steep learning curve; altimeter accuracy

Alex Roddie tests the Garmin Instinct Solar as part of his review of the top GPS watches for hillwalkers 

Alex Roddie tests the Garmin Instinct Solar as part of his review of the best GPS watches for hillwalkers

Garmin Instinct Solar 

Best thought of as a mini fenix, the Garmin Instinct Solar adds much better battery life and solar charging to the original Instinct, making it a top choice for UK walkers and features within our guide to The best GPS watches for hiking. It has a chunky design and feels good on the wrist. Despite a smaller display, it’s crisp and highly readable in all conditions.

The interface is similar to that of other Garmins. The circular cutout can show useful info such as elevation. Screens can be customised from the watch itself; this can take a while to set up, and can feel intimidating at first, but once configured is very powerful. Navigation features are comprehensive. It does all the basics well, including offline sync with your phone and OS grid reference at the push of a button.

Battery life is very good, and the solar panel can extend it considerably if used in full sun – by up to a third with GPS on, or more than double in smartwatch mode. Like other Garmins, battery life can be extended by deactivating features. In power-save mode (no GPS), battery life is effectively unlimited if used in full sun for a few hours a day. One design flaw is that the opening for the barometric sensor is flush with the wrist, which can occasionally result in inaccurate altimeter readings if blocked by sweat or rainwater.

Unless you want mapping, this is the best GPS watch for mountain walkers looking for comprehensive navigation tools. If you want to see more GPS watches then check out the rest of Alex’s guide to GPS watches

We’ve also recently answered a couple of the frequently asked questions when it comes to GPS watches check out Do GPS watches need the internet? And How to use GPS for hiking navigation



  • Weight


  • Case size

    45 x 45 x 15.3 mm

  • Screen

    0.9 " transflective monochrome, always-on

  • Battery life

    30-45 hours, or 24-54 days in smartwatch mode; unlimited in power-save mode

  • OS grid ref?


  • Mapping?

    No, but usable breadcrumb navigation

  • Operation


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