Apple Watch and backcountry hiking: How Apple’s smartwatch tracks long-distance exercise

“Around where I live, the Apple Watch is a hit,” Mathias Eichler writes for iMore. “I’m often surprised at how many people I see wearing one as I visit clients, or while standing in line at the coffee shop. Smart notifications, custom complications, and fitness tracking have made the watch a compelling product for most everyday tasks, and as of Series 3, the product seems to have at last found its groove.”

“But I don’t spend my free time doing everyday tasks: I prefer to leave the pavement and the daily workout routine behind and head for the mountains,” Eichler writes. “Naturally, it made me curious — could the Series 3 Apple Watch track my backcountry workouts as well as more-normal tasks?”

“After about two months of testing, I came to the realization that even if my watches weren’t the panacea I was looking for, I already have a great backcountry tool: my iPhone. It can recharge mid-flight, a key problem that no smartwatch can really handle effectively. It has a large screen and powerful mapping apps, both of which are much better ways to navigate through the woods,” Eichler writes. “On backcountry outings, you need to bring a backpack with essential gear, and a phone and charger won’t add much to your weight. And, of course: You need to phone to take pictures of your trip.”

Tons more in the full article – recommended – here.

MacDailyNews Take: For something like a long-distance backcountry run, we can definitely see how an iPhone and an external charger would trump a Garmin, Suunto, or Apple Watch.


  1. is an oxymoron, unless one is referring to your city greenbelt.
    It may have “gorilla glass” on the face, but it fits better in the office, or dinner parties.

    1. For those who live closer to the greenbelt than the backcountry, I can see your point. It’s like you can’t imagine why you’d ever take a Hummer offroad. But, there are those of us who live, work, and play near the backcountry and we understand what a true backcountry is and love it. The iPhone and Apple Watch do very well together or separately in the backcountry.

    2. I always wondered why can’t Apple (or 3rd party) make a cable going from iPhone to Apple Watch – to charge the Watch in situations when your Watch needs some juice. I can travel with both, I can put an additional battery case on the iPhone — so why not charge the Watch from that?

  2.  Watches used to be few and far between. Now, everywhere I go I see them. Like to the point where I’m almost embarrassed to have one too. I used to collect watches, and never had that problem as I liked obscure ones, but now,  has really made some inroads.

    1. Apple doesn’t market to outdoorsmen and hunters. The AW is definitely not designed for true backcountry use. I never see them used as anything but status symbols. In urbañia, AW wearers still grab their iphone or computer to do anything.

      In the backcountry, meaning without motorized vehicle and many hours hike from the nearest building, the Apple Wach doesn’t even come close to making the 10 Essentials list. If you’re really in the backcountry, battery powered gadgets are luxuries not to be relied on.

      The Aron Ralston saga illustrates what backcountry precautions and gadgets you might put on your list.

  3. Article starts w the Watch, ends up touting the iPhone. Well, okay, I agree with that. And the article talks about backcountry hiking. Except — dude! — it sounds like you are talking about day-hiking. And, if so, please just say so. Most day hikes are not really “backcountry” hikes where I am from …in the Northern Rockies.

    My 1st gen Watch barely makes a long day hike. Often powers down at the end, when it won’t even tell me the time. It was useless for day hikes. The Watch “activity” app was not very accurate for measuring distance on walks, either. Although software upgrades seem to have made a huge difference. Waiting for the next issue of Watch before upgrading. Since the iPhone is so useful.

    I do not go on a day hike (or bike), or ski — downhill, x-c, or Alpine Touring — without my iPhone. Gaia GPS is a useful app. Although some of their maps are old. I am still using their older paid-for app, although they have since switched to an annual subscription service. (Does anyone know of other good GPS mapping apps out there for iPhone?)

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