Garmin Instinct smartwatch

Garmin Instinct: Rugged Smartwatch for Under $300

Military-grade durability, a suite of fitness tracking, and enough built-in tools to venture far off the beaten path give the Garmin Instinct smartwatch some impressive outdoor chops.

The world of adventure-ready smartwatches got a little more crowded today with Garmin’s launch of the Instinct. Designed to offer as much brawn as brains, the Instinct includes a number of handy features that cater to both travelers and fitness nuts.

Meanwhile, Garmin also managed to pack in all the smart-device goodies we’ve come to expect these days: phone pairing, real-time notifications, weather, calendar, and more. Perhaps most impressively, the Instinct manages to come in just under $300 — no small feat when watches (both smart and traditional) often flirt with the $1,000 mark.

Garmin Instinct Smartwatch

Garmin Instinct smartwatch

Outdoor Adventure

The big story Garmin is putting out with this release is the build quality. The Instinct carries the military standard 810G rating for thermal, shock, and water resistance (down to 100 meters). The body is fiber-reinforced poly, and the face is chemically reinforced glass.

That’s great for enduring adventure. But for actually assisting safe travel, the Instinct works conjunctively with GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo satellite networks. This should provide more support in maintaining accurate positioning than GPS alone.

The Instinct also has built-in three-axis compass and barometric altimeter, provides a real-time breadcrumb trail, and offers a TracBack feature to navigate users back the exact route they came.


In addition to its tactical prowess, the Garmin Instinct also houses a ton of fitness and sport-minded extras. Of course, it comes equipped with heart rate monitor, daily stress tracking, calorie monitor, step counter, sleep tracker, and activity/goal alerts.

But the Instinct also has a suite of activity-specific profiles. For runners, the Instinct has running profiles for the trail, track, treadmill, and more. It also has built-in workouts and tracks cadence, distance, time, and pace.

The instinct also has profiles for road, mountain, and indoor cycling — with relevant stat tracking — and pool and open-water swimming with workouts and drills.

For outdoor and adrenaline junkies, the Instinct also has training and metrics for hiking, climbing, skiing (and XC), snowboarding, SUPing, kayaking, rowing, and more.

Finally, the Garmin Instinct will also work as a gym buddy. It can count reps and comes loaded with both strength and cardio workouts.

Garmin Instinct Smartwatch Tech

Garmin Instinct smartwatch

At its core, though, the Garmin Instinct is a smartwatch. So it offers a digital high-contrast display for reading in sunlight. It has all the daily necessities like calendar reminders, weather notifications, timer, and stopwatch.

When paired with an iPhone or Android smartphone, the Garmin Instinct can display all your usual notifications, control your music, and more. In smartwatch mode alone, the Instinct boasts 14 days of battery life. That dips dramatically when you engage GPS — it works 16 hours with continuously running tracking and 40 hours in Garmin’s battery-saving UltraTrac intermittent GPS mode.

Still, for all its features and sturdy build specs, the $299.99 price tag seems reasonable. The Garmin Instinct is available now and you can learn more or buy one here.

Adam Ruggiero

Adam Ruggiero is the Editor In Chief of GearJunkie.

Adam has been covering daily news and writing about cycling, camping, hiking, and gear of all kinds for 15+ years. Prior to that, Adam lived in Hawaii and Puerto Rico, at which time he realized he’d never have a “normal job.” His pastimes — farming, bike racing, and fitness — provided a gateway to all manner of physical challenges and recreation outdoors.

Based in Kansas City, MO, Adam tests as much gear as he can get his hands, feet (and dog) into each and every day. As editor in chief, he works to maintain GearJunkie’s voice, style, and commitment to accurate and expert reporting across every category.