Fitness tracker reviews by Vong Hamilton for Hike it Baby

For some, March is the month of second chances – when the first round of resolutions gets revamped as visions of looking our best in new summer wear send us scrambling for the gym and outdoor activities. To reach those health goals, many look to fitness trackers as a way to maintain accountability. All fitness trackers have one thing in common: they track steps. But while some offer more bells and whistles, the advantages to using fitness trackers to help in reaching your health and fitness goals are:

  1. They track all your steps and some even give you a nudge to get moving when you’ve been idle too long.
  2. You can connect with friends and family, or fitness communities, and compete in weekly challenges.
  3. For those using programs like My Fitness Pal to track caloric intake, you can sync the device to your account and it will automatically make updates to the exercise portion to your journal so you don’t have to.
  4. You can check your progress if you sync it to your smartphone and download its corresponding app.
  5. And just as a perk, for most fitness trackers, you can buy extra bands to keep it fun or change the look to match your wardrobe. The bands are also interchangeable by length, so two people can share a tracker by replacing the band sizes.

There’s a plethora of fitness trackers on the market today that can fit any budget and purpose. But how do you know which one is the right one for you? If you don’t want to spend too much, you can opt for a simple tracker – which acts like a pedometer – to count your daily steps. But some fitness trackers take it up a notch and provide more than just tracking steps – they offer all the little extras that elevate your experience in a big way to help you reach your health goals. Cost aside, the right fitness tracker is the one that meets your personal needs whether you want to track steps, log miles or set fitness challenges.

Deciding which fitness tracker to invest your hard-earned cash on can feel intimidating, but here’s a quick rundown on some of the top fitness trackers hard at work for anyone needing an extra boost in reaching your goals.

Fitbit Charge 2™ – $149.95

Fitness tracker reviews by Vong Hamilton for Hike it BabyPhoto by Vong Hamilton

The Fitbit Charge 2 is Fitbit’s most popular tracker. It has one button on the side to access all the settings and is super user-friendly. It has built-in workout options you can choose from and is easy to record your workout from start to finish with one push of the button. The Charge 2 HR comes with a built-in heart monitor so you can quickly see your heart rate whether you’re resting or exercising. The Charge 2 offers a relaxation mode that guides you through 2- or 5-minute breathing exercises. But the biggest advantage it has over other trackers is its ability to track sleep. The heart-rate technology can detect all stages of sleep to offer insight on sleep patterns.

I had a [competitor tracker] and after seven months, switched to a Fitbit Charge 2. The first was too complicated to start tracking a hike with a million other kid-related things happening. Basically, all tapping through screens. The Fitbit has a side button that can be manipulated while wearing gloves. Push once to get “hike” on the screen, press and hold briefly to start. Repeat to end! It’s a bit funky on mileage, never getting as much as Map My Hike, but that could probably be overcome by some research/troubleshooting or wearing on my ankle, which is always moving on a hike vs. my wrist. A year later, I’m still happy with the Fitbit. – Kati Austgen

Fitbit Blaze™ – $199.95

Fitness tracker reviews by Vong Hamilton for Hike it BabyPhoto by Vong Hamilton

The Fitbit Blaze does everything the Charge 2 does – tracks steps, sleep cycle, calories and heart rate – but on a watch display. While it’s not considered a smartwatch, compared to other watches, the battery lasts quite a bit longer at 5 days, depending on use. It has a 1.25-inch color touchscreen LCD display with a resolution of 240×180. While it’s water-resistant, it’s not waterproof and can’t be worn in the pool. You can also sync the Blaze to your smartphone via Bluetooth so you can receive updates regularly through the day. The Blaze will automatically detect when you start an exercise; however, it takes about 15 minutes before it starts tracking, so to get an accurate read, it’s better to manually start and stop a workout. It doesn’t have GPS capability, but you can pair it with your phone during a workout and track your progress. The Blaze also makes it convenient to receive notifications from your phone or apps, but you still need to access your phone to respond to notifications.

I’ve enjoyed using the Fitbit Blaze! I like the fact that I can see incoming calls as well as view text messages. I also like the different features it has, such as measuring the heart rate, steps per day, amount of calories burned, estimated number of floors climbed, etc. The Fitbit Blaze also reminds me before the end of the hour how many steps I need in order to accomplish my hourly step goal. This motivates me to get up and move around. – Khou Herr

Garmin vivosmart® – $129.99

Fitness tracker reviews by Vong Hamilton for Hike it BabyPhoto by Joey Kendrick Johnson

The Garmin vivosmart has a sleek but simple look. The touchscreen display fades nicely into the design of the tracker for those who prefer to keep things subtle, but it lights up and adapts to the brightness when in use. The slim silicone strap keeps it lightweight for the wearer, but it’s sturdy enough that it can take a beating during a workout. To start a workout, you tap on the screen to start and finish; and you can swipe to access options. It also comes with heart rate tracking and is water-proof, so you can swim, shower or continue activities in the pouring rain and it does not affect the tracker. In addition, when synced with your smartphone, the vivosmart can receive notifications, so you never miss a text, email or call.

I really love the vivosmart! It has GPS and elevation on top of everything else, like steps, sleep and calories. It also plays music like Pandora and shows notifications from your phone. I haven’t had any stair-counting issues; in fact, it seems to track everything right on. I love that I only have to charge it once a week and I don’t have to take it off for showers or swimming or worry about it in rivers, lakes, etc. – Joey Kendrick Johnson

Garmin Forerunner® – $120+

Fitness tracker reviews for Hike it Baby.Photo by Sara DeVoto (Forerunner 15)

The Garmin Forerunner series is a great option for tracking multisports on land and in water with GPS capability and depths up to 50 meters. Once it tracks data from your workout, it sends the information wirelessly to your computer or smartphone for analysis. You can also sync it to the optional heart rate monitor to get a more accurate reading of your workout and calories burned. When running with the Forerunner, you can set alerts to keep you on pace. The virtual partner setting compares your pace with a virtual runner and lets you know mid-run if you are behind or on pace. The pace alert detects your heart rate and lets you know if you’re over or under your pace based on your heart rate.

The Garmin is far better for training. And for outdoor activities. I love the Garmin because it gives me an accurate map and built-in running conditioning programs which were great when I was running outside training for a half marathon. – Sarah DeVoto

TomTom Runner – $90

Photo by Christina Merhar

The TomTom Runner is a GPS-enabled watch that tracks distance, pace and calories burned. As TomTom is known for its GPS capabilities, the Runner offers precise GPS readings when detecting your distance and elevation. The large display offers a user-friendly menu for quick access and is waterproof up to 50 meters. You can also attach and sync the watch to other devices, such as a heart rate chest strap, for more accurate readings during your workouts. For even more accountability, you can set an alarm as a reminder to get up for that morning run. While it does not track “steps” like other trackers, it does provide accurate mileage for hikes, runs and walks.

The TomTom Runner is one of the more affordable choices. After a year of use, I’m happy with its performance. It tracks mileage and elevation accurately and the battery life lasts for longer runs or hikes. While the display information is limited to time, distance, pace and calories, the app and website provide more detailed information such as elevation and splits. It also syncs up with other fitness and food tracking apps, making it easy to record exercise. It’s been a great tool for hiking, trail running and walking!  – Christina Merhar

Apple Watch – $329+

Fitness tracker reviews by Vong Hamilton for Hike it BabyPhoto by Vong Hamilton (Apple Watch Series 3)

Apple offers a two-in-one powerhouse in the Apple Watch so you only need one device that has the ability to track everyday activities, while also making it convenient with its smartphone capabilities. Sync it to your iPhone and never worry about scrambling around looking for your phone again when you get an incoming call or notifications. It has GPS so you can be sure all your workouts and outdoor activities are accurate. You can also check messages and emails and listen to music from your watch without ever reaching for the phone. The Apple Watch offers a colorful touch-screen display with an easy-to-use menu you can maneuver through while swiping. It is water-resistant up to 50 meters, and the battery life is about 18-24 hours, depending on use.

I’ve been using the activity tracker function on my Apple Watch [Series 1] for the past two years. Combined with GPS (available in the new Apple 3, or available with the older models when paired with your iPhone), it gives a precise account of your steps/distance along with calories burned and heart rate. It’ll also give you notifications throughout the day to let you know your progress on meeting your daily exercise goals. But even better is the Apple Watch’s ability as a smart watch. Answer calls when you’re walking around the house instead of chasing down your phone when you hear it ring. Discreetly check texts from the babysitter when you’re out at dinner instead of having your phone on the table. Plus there’s something really fun about talking into your wrist like you’re Dick Tracy. The only downside that I’ve found is that the battery life only lasts one day, so you can’t use it as a sleep tracker. – Kristin Hinnant

Top photo by Vong Hamilton.

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Do you also use a fitness tracker or smartwatch to help keep you accountable in your health and fitness goals? Share what you love about your tracker and the ways you use it with us below.

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