The best heart rate monitor you could possibly buy is one that has a built in GPS chip that tracks your movement, tells you the speed you are moving at and the distance you have travelled. For most people it will not be something they really need but many people still buy one as a gadget with built in GPS.
Where such a HRM comes in very handy is if you want to keep track of the routes you have run or hiked. Pretty much any GPS heart rate monitor can be linked up with a computer to upload its data to a tracking application that can display all your past workout data and the routes you took.
For a serious athlete this can be incredibly useful information as you can better plan running a specific route to achieve a certain average heart rate.
For example, lets say you are planning a run where you want to achieve a higher than normal heart rate, and you know that you have had a few workout sessions in the past that achieved this. You can then look at your training history and check which routes achieved higher average heart rates, maybe because they involved more hills. Or periodic inclines.
One thing to keep in mind with GPS based devices is that a GPS chip requires an awful lot of energy. This has two impacts. Firstly, GPS chips use up a lot of energy, which drains the battery quite quickly. Despite having quite large rechargeable batteries you will find that you have less than 24 hours of power. Make sure you remind yourself to recharge the watch very regularly.
Secondly, the watch will be quite a bit bulkier than many other monitors you can get, because of the size of the battery and the chip. This may not be an issue if you really do need such a watch, but if you are getting it just as a gadget, then you need to factor this in. This also does not make it the most suitable watch for everyday use.
Alternatively you can use a GPS enabled smartphone and simply buy a compatible heart rate chest strap. This will give you the same functionality without needing to buy an expensive separate HRM. What you will need is an App installed that can read the data coming from the chest strap. There are some free apps available with limited functionality, but for a couple of dollars you can get an App that has some additional features and links up to Google maps to track your route.
The options with a smartphone are quite extensive, but many people prefer to have a separate device. If you are looking for some information on available devices then take a look at the ones reviewed on this site. Our very convenient comparison table can be sorted by GPS functionality giving you a quick way to see some of the most popular devices. It makes it much easier to compare different models and makes, so you can choose the features you want and then decide on a price you are willing to pay.
photo credit: thomas_sly