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