I wore five smartwatches to Mount Diablo’s peak. These brands were best for elevation accuracy

Last weekend, I strapped on five fitness smartwatches, drove to Mount Diablo State Park in California, and hiked about 2,100 feet to the summit. Why? To decide which smartwatch brand — Apple, COROS, Garmin, Polar, or Samsung — was most accurate for tracking elevation.

Most high-end smartwatches sport a barometric altimeter to judge your elevation gain during outdoor workouts. Altimeters use air pressure changes to calculate elevation changes in coordination with GPS data. But some are more accurate than others, and most brands don’t let you calibrate your starting position manually. 

I’ve wanted to test this for some time, ever since my experiment last year when I wore six smartwatches for 6,000 steps to see which came closest to the real number. Since then, I’ve also done several multi-watch GPS accuracy tests for reviews, but these have all been two-dimensional tests: I’ve never known how accurate my watch is when it tells me I’ve climbed X feet or Y flights of stairs. 

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

For my test, I chose three watches I’ve already reviewed — the COROS PACE 3, Garmin Forerunner 965, and Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic — along with two I’m currently reviewing, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 and Polar Vantage V3. 

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