Person wearing Apple Watch Ultra with Alpine Loop
Justin Duino / How-To Geek

What to Look for in an Apple Watch Band in 2022

The Apple Watch Ultra is designed with activity in mind. It makes sense to match your choice of band to whatever you’ll be doing while the wearable is strapped to your wrist. This could be hiking or running up a mountain, exploring the ocean’s depths, or hitting new PBs in the gym.

Of course, you’ll be forgiven for buying an Apple Watch Ultra if you have none of those use-case scenarios in mind. Apple’s choice of accompanying bands shows that the Ultra is designed for the intrepid explorer, the elite endurance athlete, and the wetsuit-clad deep sea divers for whom the standard Apple Watch Series models fall short.

Based on Apple’s new bands, style takes a backseat to utility this time around. The Ultra is new for 2022, so there aren’t many Ultra-specific bands available yet. Apple released three designed specifically to accompany the 49mm model, and more are surely on the way with future revisions.

Official Ultra bands are pricey at $99, but they also have an edge when it comes to build quality. Opting for a cheaper clone can seem tempting, but it ultimately doesn’t make sense to pair a $799 timepiece with a $20 strap.

While clones may look the part, they often don’t hold up in terms of build quality. ZDNet’s Adrian Kingsley-Hughes noted shoddy stitching and adhesive that likely wouldn’t stand up to water or sweat when testing cheaper clone bands.

The good news is that the Apple Watch Ultra is compatible with standard 45mm (and 44mm) bands. This is great for anyone upgrading from an Apple Watch Series 7 or earlier, with an existing collection of bands. You can also pick up any Apple Watch band designed for the larger 45mm Series 8 and be confident that it will fit as advertised.

This allows you to dress the Ultra up and lose the utilitarian look, or use different styles of bands if you prefer. Many 45mm bands are cheaper, starting at $49, so you can grab a spare without spending too much more. Remember that 41mm or 40mm Watch bands won’t fit the Ultra, just in case you’re upgrading from a smaller model.

On that note, you can also grab any third-party bands mentioned in our best Apple Watch Series band round-up.

Best Apple Watch Ultra Band for Hiking and Running: Alpine Loop

White Alpine loop on table
Justin Duino / How-To Geek

Pros

  • Rugged polyester should stand the test of time
  • Titanium G hook design holds the strap firmly in place
  • A good balance of form and function

Cons

  • Lighter colors may show up dirt
  • Dual-layer fabric holds water and may take a while to try
  • Takes longer to fasten or adjust than loop style bands

The Apple Alpine Loop is designed to stay in place, no matter what you do. The band is made from two textile layers with individual loops for fastening using a titanium “G” hook. You’ll need to slide this into and out of place whenever you put the band on or take it off, ensuring the band stays fastened where other designs come undone.

The band is best suited to hikers, but runners and multi-sport athletes will also appreciate the stability offered by the Alpine Loop. The tough polyester fabric Apple has used won’t dry as quickly as lightweight nylon seen in other straps, but the rugged design should stand up to the elements over time.

The Alpine Loop is available in three colors—starlight, orange, and green. If you’re concerned about your band showing dirt, the green is your best bet since the lighter bands are bound to discolor in time. You can grab the Alpine Loop in three sizes for wrist sizes from 130mm up to 210mm.

Best for Hiking and Running

Apple Watch Band - Alpine Loop (49mm) - Green - Medium

Made from two textile layers of polyester woven together, the Alpine Loop fastens securely with a titanium G hook, which means it's sure to stay in place whatever you're doing.

Best Apple Watch Ultra Band for Swimming and Diving: Ocean Band

Black Ocean Loop on table
Justin Duino / How-To Geek

Pros

  • Rubberized fluoroelastomer band doesn't hold water like fabric bands
  • Stretchy and expandable to fit over a wet suit
  • Non-fabric bands won't absorb dirt

Cons

  • Relatively bulky compared to other bands
  • One-size-fits-all means smaller wrists may be left with too much band

The Ocean Band is a one-size-fits-all band designed for water sports of all kinds, including “high-speed water sports” like water skiing. The tough fluoroelastomer tubular band doesn’t hold water like the other fabric bands available with the Apple Water Ultra, making it ideal for frequent dips in the water.

The Ocean Band comes in three colors—midnight (black), white, and yellow but its rubberized construction means that the lighter colors shouldn’t show the dirt too easily.

The name may be a giveaway, but Apple designed the Ocean Band to accommodate even the most adventurous of water lovers. Pick up the Ocean Band Extension (an additional $49, no less) and increase the size of the band so that it can be worn on top of a wetsuit.

This transforms the Apple Water Ultra into a dive-ready wearable paired with the dive computer capabilities coming in the upcoming Oceanic+ subscription.

If you’re more of a swimmer than a diver and would rather something a little less bulky, consider the 45mm Sport Band ($49) designed for the standard Apple Watch Series 8. It won’t hold water either and it comes in many colors, but you won’t be able to get it over a wetsuit.

Best for Swimming and Diving

Apple Watch Band - Ocean Band (49mm) - Yellow - Regular

The Ocean Band is made from flexible fluoroelastomer that doesn't hold water like a fabric band. Grab the optional expansion band to fit it over a wet suit to turn your Apple Watch Ultra into a capable dive computer.

Best Apple Watch Ultra Band for Weightlifting and Training: Trail Loop

Person earing Apple Watch Ultra with trail loop
Justin Duino / How-To Geek

Pros

  • Lightweight and comfortable Apple Watch Ultra band
  • Easily adjustable velcro design
  • Relatively quick-drying nylon

Cons

  • Two-tone colorway won't be to everyone's tastes
  • Not as secure as other Ultra bands
  • Fabric will trap moisture until it dries

Which Apple Watch Ultra band you choose for weight-lifting ultimately depends on your preferences, but as someone who prefers resistance training over other forms of working out, I’ve always gone for the Sport Loop.

The closest band for the Apple Watch Ultra is the Trail Loop, a lightweight, comfortable, and adjustable band with a pull tab for quickly fastening or tightening your wearable as needed. It’s available in two sizes, with a range that spans 130mm to 220mm wrist sizes.

There are three colorways to choose from—black and grey (with an orange tab), blue and grey (with a grey tab), or yellow and beige (with a beige tab) . The usual caveats surrounding lighter fabric bands apply here. If you want your Trail Loop to look new for longer consider going for a darker shade.

The “loop” design lends itself to resistance training for being easily adjustable and relatively quick-drying, though being fabric you’ll want to wash it regularly to keep unpleasant odors at bay. The band will also give way fairly easily if you need it to (like if something gets caught on it in the gym) since it’s only held in place by velcro.

If your gym sessions are especially sweaty, consider a Sport Band variant instead. The Nike+ Sport Band in particular is worth considering since it has holes in it to help sweat dry.

Best for Weightlifting/Training

Apple Watch Band - Trail Loop (49mm) - Black/Gray - M/L

The most comfortable of the Apple Watch Ultra-specific bands, the Trail Loop is the lightest and thinnest band of its kind. It fastens with velcro rather than a hook or traditional pin, which makes adjusting your Watch quick and easy.

Best Apple Watch Ultra Band for Large Wrists: Ocean Band with Ocean Band Extension

Person wearing Apple Watch Ultra with Ocean Loop
Justin Duino / How-To Geek

Pros

  • Fits a wrist circumference of up to 250mm with expansion
  • Fluoroelastomer won't trap moisture like fabric
  • Flexible and rugged

Cons

  • Bulky compared to fabric bands
  • Only three colors
  • Only provides an extra 5mm compared to closest 45mm Sports Band and Sports Loop options

Most Apple Watch bands are available in multiple sizes, with the standard 45mm Midnight Sport Band available in “XL” sizes that fit a wrist circumference of up to 245mm. But the Ocean Loop can go even better of that when paired with the Ocean Band Extension.

The Ocean Loop is designed to fit up to 200mm wrist circumferences, increasing the expansion by 50mm. Primarily designed to help accommodate a wetsuit, this combination of band and extension comes with an additional adjustable loop to contain any additional slack you may have.

If you want to keep it Ultra and go with a band designed for the 49mm wearable, this seems like the best bet. The Ocean Band has a distinctive look and feel, and the flexible fluoroelastomer won’t trap moisture like a fabric band. If rubberized bands aren’t your thing, some 45mm Sport Loop colors also come in an “XL” size of up to 245mm.

Best for Swimming and Diving

Apple Watch Band - Ocean Band (49mm) - Yellow - Regular

The Ocean Band is made from flexible fluoroelastomer that doesn't hold water like a fabric band. Grab the optional expansion band to fit it over a wet suit to turn your Apple Watch Ultra into a capable dive computer.

Ocean Band Extension

Apple Watch Band - Ocean Band (49mm) - Yellow - Extension

Add this extension to your Ocean Band to fit larger wrists (or even slip over a wet suit).

Best Apple Watch Ultra Band for Small Wrists: Trail Loop

Apple Watch Trail Loop Back
Justin Duino / How-To Geek

Pros

  • Designed with wrist circumferences of 130mm or above
  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Easily adjust your Apple Watch fit throughout the day

Cons

  • Less secure than other bands

If you’re looking for an Ultra-specific band that’s easy to adjust, the Trail Loop is your best option. The S/M size starts at 130mm, and the soft and lightweight nylon fabric makes this the most comfortable of any of the 49mm bands.

If you’re already struggling with the weight of the Apple Watch Ultra, the Trail Loop avoids the additional titanium fittings found on the Ocean and Alpine bands.

Tom’s Guide fitness editor Jane McGuire called out the Trail Loop as being the best for small wrists, noting that the easily adjustable loop helped “to prevent the watch from pressing uncomfortably into my wrist” due to the Ultra’s massive size. This allows you to quickly adjust the Ultra when you’re not running a marathon or scaling a mountain for a more comfortable fit.

Alternatively, a standard 45mm band may also fit the bill. The stretchy Braided Solo Loop might be a good choice, starting at 130mm (smaller than many other 45mm bands). We found that the Solo Loop can be hard to get on if you have large hands since the band can be difficult to stretch over your hand while snugly on the wrist. If you have smaller hands and smaller wrists, this shouldn’t be a problem.

As always, if the size is a concern you should head to an Apple Store and try out the Ultra and any band combinations you’re curious about before you part with your cash.

Best for Small Wrists

Apple Watch Band - Trail Loop (49mm) - Black/Gray - M/L

The most comfortable of the Apple Watch Ultra-specific bands, the Trail Loop is the lightest and thinnest band of its kind. Starting at 130mm, it fastens with velcro which makes adjusting your Watch quick and easy.

Best Apple Watch Ultra Band for Sensitive Skin: Trail Loop

Trail Loop on table
Justin Duino / How-To Geek

Pros

  • The most lightweight and breathable Watch band
  • Easily adjustable throughout the day
  • Made from comfortable and soft premium nylon
  • Fabric should dry relatively quickly

Cons

  • Skin sensitivity issues could be a problem with any band
  • Fabric will hold moisture and need time to dry
  • Sacrifices stability for comfort

With so many skin sensitivities, making a blanket recommendation for those with sensitive skin can be hard. Depending on your skin, you could have issues with any of the bands listed here. With that in mind, the Trail Loop might be a good starting place if skin irritation is your main concern.

The Trail Loop is a lighter version of the standard Sport Loop found on the Apple Watch Series. The main difference is the thickness, with the Trail Loop being thinner, more flexible, and with a softer feel. It’s also a bit wider, to better accommodate the larger 49mm Apple Watch Ultra.

The Trail Loop is easily adjustable too, which means you can easily loosen it off throughout the day depending on what you’re doing. You might want the Watch tighter during a workout for better heart rate readings, with the option of wearing it a little looser for comfort during office hours.

Fabric isn’t to everyone’s tastes, but the nylon Trail Loop is probably the most breathable band that Apple sells. Nylon will hold water but is a relatively fast-drying man-made material. If irritation from trapped moisture is a concern, even rubberized bands could pose an issue since they can trap moisture between the band and your skin unless you remove the Watch to dry it.

If silicon sounds better for you, the Nike Sport Band has holes that should help sweat dry faster, so give that a look too.

The best thing to do is buy your Apple Watch directly from Apple and take advantage of the 14-day money-back guarantee if you encounter an issue. You can then switch to a different band if you need to.

Best for Sensitive Skin

Apple Watch Band - Trail Loop (49mm) - Black/Gray - M/L

If you have sensitive skin, the Trail Loop is your best bet for the Apple Watch Ultra, with the highly breathable nylon fabric.

The Best Apple Watches of 2022

Best Apple Watch Overall
Apple Watch Series 8 (GPS, 41mm)
Best Apple Watch Overall
Apple Watch Series 8 (GPS, 45mm)
Best Budget Apple Watch
Apple Watch SE (2nd Gen, 40mm)
Best Budget Apple Watch
Apple Watch SE (2nd Gen, 44mm)
Best Apple Watch with Cellular
Apple Watch Series 8 (GPS + Cellular, 41mm)
Best Apple Watch with Cellular
Apple Watch Series 8 (GPS + Cellular, 45mm)
Best Apple Watch for Durability
Apple Watch Ultra
Best Starter Apple Watch Band
Apple Braided Solo Loop
Profile Photo for Tim Brookes Tim Brookes
Tim Brookes is a technology writer with more than a decade of experience. He's invested in the Apple ecosystem, with experience covering Macs, iPhones, and iPads for publications like Zapier and MakeUseOf.
Read Full Bio »