People often mistake the terms “waterproof” and “water resistant” and when searching for a heart rate monitor tracker, they think of a “waterproof activity tracker”. However, I can firmly say that no fitness trackers label their model as waterproof but just water resistant instead.
Ok, I’m not confusing you anymore. Let’s explore together:
What’s the difference between Waterproof and Water resistant?
Ability to resist the penetration of water to some degree but not entirely. To put it simply, a watch that is water resistant (without any added tag) can just withstand the average hand-washing or light rain shower and not safe for swimming. Fitbit is notorious for its water resistance. As you can see here, Fitbit admitted that most of their devices, including Fitbit Charge HR and Fitbit Charge 2 is just water resistant and not safe for swimming or showering.
Impervious to water. It should be understood that no matter how long and how deep you submerge your device under water it still works like a charm. I don’t say that’s impossible but imagine if such fitness tracker exists, it would be very heavy, looking odd and not stylish at all on your wrist.
So far, no organization has set up an industry standard to verify that a device is waterproof. What you might believe as “waterproof” fitness trackers actually are just “water resistant” to some extent. For example, you might see an activity tracker labelled as “water resistant to 5M” or “waterproof IP67”.
For example, Garmin vivosmart HR fitness tracker – one of my favorite is water resistant to 50M. That means you can take this smart band along when scuba diving without worrying it will be damaged.
Polar A360 is water resistant IPX8, what does that mean? If you see any device that is labelled water resistant with IP, check out this link. IP stands for International/Ingress Protection Marking (International Electronical Commission Standard), providing users information of solid particle and liquid ingress protection of a device or equipment. IPX8 indicates that this device is suitable for continuous immersion, 1m or more depth.
I’ve helped you clarify the vague terms “waterproof” and “water resistant”. From now on, despite whichever term is used, it all means water resistant to some level.
What water resistant level is safe for showering and swimming?
When you check a description of a fitness tracker, it always provide you water resistant level. However, I keep seeing a lot of people asking “is it safe for swimming?”.
Yes, manufactures throw some jargon to customers while what we really care is more simple. Some people want to monitor their heart when swimming for better performance and some people are just too lazy to take off the device every time showering 😛 To be honest, unless swimming is your favorite form of exercise, water resistance should not be your concern since most fitness trackers are now resistant to at least spraying water.
Anyway, let’s see what labels are safe for swimming and what are not:
Not safe for neither showering nor swimming
– Water resistant (without further tag): as I mentioned above, a fitness tracker labelled water resistant means that it can just withstand hand-washing or dripping sweat.
– Water resistant IPX1-IPX4: A device of this range may be out of whack if you forget to take it off when showering.
Not safe for swimming but ok for showering
– Water resistant to 1.5m (for example, Wahoo Tickr heart rate monitor chest strap): technically, you can take it for a shower or swimming. But don’t try diving in a swimming pool of 3-5m depth. I don’t recommend you use this type of device for swimming though.
– Water resistant IPX5-IPX7: You may have a shower wearing your fitness tracker but should not take it for a swim.
Safe for both showering and swimming
– Water resistant to 5m-50m (1 ATM-5 ATM): This guarantees you a worry-free swim.
– Water resistant IPX8-IPX9: Enjoy dressing your activity tracker everytime, everywhere!
I’d better stop rambling and get straight to the list of best water resistant activity trackers!
Best Waterproof / Water resistant Activity Trackers 2016
To be in this list of best swimming trackers, a device must be labelled water resistant at least 5M or IPX8. Besides, a built-in heart rate monitor would be a plus as it would help you swim more efficiently.
Polar A360, released in October 2015, is a good choice for swimming fan. It’s water resistant to 30m. What I really like of this waterproof smartwatch is that it has a heart rate monitor which works smoothly under water. Though having a colorful touch screen, its battery can last up to 2 weeks. You rarely see a smartwatch with a lot of functions that has such a long battery life.
Besides tracking your heart rate, Polar A360 can track workouts, steps, distance, calories burned, sleep quality, and activity 24/7. It can connect iPhone and android devices via bluetooth.
Garmin Vivosmart HR was released in May this year (2016). This best swimming tracker is in the wishlist of many people due to its sleek design with 3 color options: black, imperial purple and midnight blue. Beyond heart rate monitor feature, this fitness band also tracks steps, distance, calories, heart rate, floors climbed and activity intensity. You can receive text, call, email, social media and calendar alerts. Besides it allows you to control your music and your VIRB action camera. It can connect with Bluetooth & ANT+ devices and battery can last up to 5 days. Reasonable price for offered functions!
And if you compare Vivosmart with other devices of same price and same functions, you will be impressed with the water resistant level of Vivosmart. It’s totally safe for swimming and showering since it can be submerged under water of 50m depth.
I know that the information might sound good in theory and you may question if the device really stops working after a swim?
Here’s a review that you can refer: ”I have a Garmin Vivosmart that stopped working one day after swimming (it was great for about 6 months before that). I returned it to Garmin and they sent me a new one right away. It was great warranty service!”
This one is a more sophisticated version of Garmin Vivosmart, thus of course more expensive. But it’s worth every penny. Garmin vivoactive is a waterproof smartwatch that has long battery life of up to 8 days. And built-in GPS is what makes it expensive. It has water resistance of 50m like Garmin vivosmart.
In a nutshell, this one fits those want to take all kinds of exercises: running, cycling (with GPS), swimming, boating (water resistant 50m), gym, etc…
This watch is born for swimming as its name refers. It’s water resistant to 50m and can record swim distance, pace, stroke count and pool lengths. I didn’t put this waterproof smartwatch to the top of the list just because it doesn’t have a heart rate monitor. But if you’re serious about swimming and just swimming, you should definitely consider this one.
Pebble 2, launched in Sep 2016, is the latest model of Pebble. It is water resistant to 30m which is safe for swimming. It has quite a lot of functions beyond tracking heart rate: sleep and activity tracking; built-in microphone, record voice notes; music control, etc… This waterproof smartwatch offers 5 color options for you to choose: Black, white, aqua, flame and lime. E-paper display screen allows battery life of up to 7 days.
You can find my detailed review of this smartwatch here.
Mio Alpha is water resistant to 30m. Comparing with other fitness trackers, it has less functions and battery life is short – just 20+ hours. Priced less than $70 but it does have a heart rate monitor that can tell you data during exercise. If your budget is limited, this is still a good choice.
I know that there are a lot of Fitbit fans are feeling disappointed right now as they don’t see any Fitbit model listed here. But you know, most of Fitbit devices can just withstand hand spraying. Only Fitbit Flex 2 is asserted as swim proof. However, this super slim fitness band doesn’t have a heart rate monitor which is a big drawback! You can’t exercise targeting your heart rate zone for better performance. And the band doesn’t have a screen at all, which is also a minus because you have to finish your swim then read all data later in your smartphone. Similarly, Moov Now and Misfit Shine which are recommended for swimming by some sites are not in my list for having no heart rate monitor and no display screen.
Phew, quite a lot of information to consume, right? Oops, I need to take a shower now before going to bed. Of course, I will take off my tracker first… *witty*