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The best Apple Watch Ultra bands you can buy: Expert tested

We tested some of the best Apple Watch Ultra straps that are ready to wear for every occasion, from working out to working in an office.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer
Apple Trail Loop | Best Apple Watch Ultra band overall
Apple Trail Loop
Best Apple Watch Ultra band overall
View now View at Apple
Nomad Waterproof Sport Band | Best Apple Watch Ultra sport band alternative
Apple Watch Series 9 with new Snoopy watch face and Nomad band
Nomad Waterproof Sport Band
Best Apple Watch Ultra sport band alternative
View now View at Nomad Goods
Nike Sport Band | Best Apple Watch Ultra band for comfort and daily workouts
Apple Watch Series 9 with box and Nike Sport Band
Nike Sport Band
Best Apple Watch Ultra band for comfort and daily workouts
View now View at Apple
Zulu Alpha Apple Strap | Best Apple Watch Ultra band for custom lengths
Zulu Alpha Apple Strap
Best Apple Watch Ultra band for custom lengths
View now View at Zulu Alpha Straps
Nomad Rugged Band | Best Apple Watch Ultra band for swimming
Nomad Rugged Band
Best Apple Watch Ultra band for swimming
View now View at Nomad Goods
Lelong band | Best Apple Watch Ultra band for small wrists
Lelong band
Best Apple Watch Ultra band for small wrists
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Casetify Genuine Leather Band | Best leather Apple Watch Ultra band
Brown leather watch band against white backdrop
Casetify Genuine Leather Band
Best leather Apple Watch Ultra band
View now View at Casetify
Sandmarc Titatinum Edition Apple Watch Ultra Band | Best metal Apple Watch Ultra band
Metal Apple Watch band against white backdrop
Sandmarc Titatinum Edition Apple Watch Ultra Band
Best metal Apple Watch Ultra band
View now View at Sandmarc
Show more (3 items)

Can you really enjoy the benefits of that new Apple Watch Ultra 2 with a subpar band? The watch has a rugged exterior, a large display, and ample battery life, but to enjoy all of those features, you have to feel good with the watch strap on your wrist. 

The Apple Watch Ultra and Ultra 2 share the same size, dimensions, and price. When you purchase an Apple Watch Ultra 2, Apple includes one of three official Apple bands. Each of these Apple options are high-quality bands optimized for your primary activity, but there are also many other options built for every occasion.

Also: The best Apple Watches

The best Apple Watch Ultra bands listed below work perfectly for heavy exercise, swimming, everyday comfort and work, or dressing up. I tested several Apple Watch Ultra bands, and consulted ZDNET reviews and staff members recommendations to curate this list of the top Apple Watch Ultra straps you can buy. (Note that the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is a 49mm watch, so bands fit for the larger Apple Watch Series 9, 45mm, also work with the Watch Ultra 2.)

What is the best Apple Watch Ultra strap right now?

After months of use in various activities and daily life, my pick for the best Apple Watch Ultra band overall is Apple's own Trail Loop strap. Despite testing many different bands, I keep returning to the Trail Loop thanks to its supreme level of comfort, custom and flexible fit, light weight, and price (it is included with your Apple Watch Ultra 2 purchase). Read on to learn about our other Apple Watch Ultra recommendations. 

Best Apple Watch Ultra straps of 2024

Pros & Cons
  • Included with your Apple Watch Ultra 2
  • Light weight
  • Durable
  • Three color options
  • Length fully customizable
  • Expensive at $99
  • Only three muted color choices
More Details

With past Apple Watch purchases, I always moved on to straps from other manufacturers, but Apple's Watch Ultra 2 options are compelling. After trying two of the three available options, it is clear to me that the Trail Loop is the best band that I keep going back to for daily use.

The Trail Loop band is lightweight and durable, and comfortable to wear, making it my pick for the best Apple Watch Ultra band overall. 

Pros & Cons
  • High quality for the price
  • Durable
  • Wide color selection
  • Grippy-ness of the material makes the band stiff
More Details

Nomad Waterproof Sport Band features: Material: Fluoroelastomer rubber | Waterproof: Yes | Compatibility: Apple Watch Ultra, Series 8, 7, 6, SE, and all previous versions of Apple Watch | Colors: 13 | Band sizes: 45mm/49mm or 40mm/41mm

With 13 different colors to accompany your Apple Watch Ultra, these sport bands from Nomad are customizable and made for intense workouts as well as everyday wear. The band is 100% waterproof, so you can wear the band as you exercise in rain, sleet, or snow with no worries of damage. With a lightweight design that encourages ventilation, if your sport band gets wet, it won't stay wet for long or cling to oil. 

Keep an eye on the Nomad website because the company regularly offers Limited Edition models with cool colors and styles (including the one pictured above on an Apple Watch Series 9). These historically sell out quickly, so if you see a Limited Edition offering you better make your purchase quickly.

Pros & Cons
  • Very comfortable
  • Breathes well
  • Durable
  • Distinctive look
  • Dust and residue collect in the holes
  • Can be time-consuming to clean
More Details

Nike Sport Band features: Material: Aluminum | Waterproof: Yes | Compatibility: Apple Watch models 38mm, 40mm, 41mm | Colors: 6 | Band sizes: fit S/M (130-180mm) and M/L (150-200mm)

With the Nike Sport Band, for $49, you're getting an Apple-branded sports band for all sorts of terrain. Wear it while you track your progress for marathon training or while cooking and cleaning around the house. 

The band features six colors with flecks randomly strewn across. For added breathability, Apple also included compression-molded perforations (essentially small holes across the band) to keep it durable, lightweight, strong, and soft. The only issue, ZDNET editor-in-chief Jason Hiner pointed out in his testing is that the holes can collect dust and dirt, taking some time to clean. 

Pros & Cons
  • Handmade in the UK
  • Ships worldwide
  • Company makes straps in custom lengths
  • Free shipping only applies to orders above $183
More Details

Zulu Alpha strap features: Material: Tubular bonded polyester webbing | Thickness: 1.2mm | Width: 22mm | Waterproof: Yes | Compatibility: All Apple Watches | Colors: 14 | Band sizes: 38mm / 40mm / 41mm or 42mm / 44mm / 45mm / 49mm

This rugged watch strap was handmade in the UK with the purpose of maintaining comfort in challenging environments. The Zulu Alpha Apple Strap features tubular bonded polyester webbing, which withstands abrasions better than nylon does. The material also dries more quickly, so you can wear your watch with less downtime or more comfortably if it gets wet while on your wrist. Metal connectors, which you can choose in steel or black, are sewn into the straps for a perfect fit.

Also: My search for the ultimate Apple Watch Ultra strap is over

ZDNET contributor Adrian Kingsley-Hughes tested this band and said he liked the strong stitching, the tri-glide buckle that fastens with ease, and the overall comfort. As he wrote in his review: "This is a strap that will no doubt outlast the Apple Watch Ultra itself."

The strap is made to order and handmade, taking around 1.5 hours to complete and passing through three hands before it ships out. This means that these straps aren't mass-produced or gathering dust on a shelf before they reach your door. Instead, they're carefully crafted with high-quality materials to sustain all of your rugged adventures. 

Pros & Cons
  • High-quality antimicrobial waterproof material
  • Lugs and buckle made out of marine-grade 316 stainless steel
  • Silver or black hardware
  • Certain colors are sold out
More Details

Nomad Rugged band features: Material: FKM fluoroelastomer rubber | Waterproof: Yes | Compatibility: Apple Watch Ultra, Series 8, 7, 6, SE, and all previous versions of Apple Watch | Colors: 3 | Band sizes: 45 mm / 49 mm or 40 mm / 41 mm

I reviewed the Nomad Rugged Strap in October 2022, highlighting its high-quality, flexible FKM fluoroelastomer rubber. FKM rubber is antimicrobial and easily wiped down with soap and water. It won't get damaged if you expose it to high temperatures, sunlight, oils, or chemicals. The buckle and lugs of the band are made of marine-grade 316 stainless steel. The material is pre-curved out of the box, so it sits perfectly on your wrist, and the band has notches that allow sweat to run free without getting trapped between your wrist and the band. 

Also: Nomad Apple Watch Ultra bands: Waterproof bands as rugged as the watch

I wore the Rugged Band while I was running, swimming, biking, and fly fishing, and at the end of all of that activity, the Nomad Rugged Strap still looks brand new. Avid swimmers will benefit from a band as waterproof as this one, and it's comfortable for everyday wear as well. You can choose between silver or black hardware and ultra orange or black for the band color.

Pros & Cons
  • Comes with resizing tool
  • Extra 1/2 link
  • Waterproof
  • Not as sparkly in certain lighting
  • Wouldn't wear it to work out
More Details

Lelong band features: Material: Stainless steel | Waterproof: No | Compatibility: Apple Watch Ultra, SE, Series 9 and all previous Apple Watches | Colors: 10 | Band sizes: 38mm/40mm/41mm or 42mm/44mm/45mm/49mm 

This band is not only pleasant to look at, with its wide array of color choices and substantial embedding of rhinestones, but it is also waterproof and comes with an 18-month warranty. At the time of this writing, over 28,000 customers have rated it an average of 4.5 stars. 

The secret to such high levels of satisfaction lies in the band's sizing. In order to ensure a perfect fit, especially for smaller wrist sizes or in-between wrist sizes, the company includes a resizing tool with the strap, as well as an extra 1/2 link for those who fall in between. Don't worry if you've never used a resizing tool before -- there's an easy-to-follow video on the product page. Some customers have even used the resizing tool to adjust the links of other watch straps.

Pros & Cons
  • All-day comfort
  • Plenty of colors
  • High-quality leather
  • Not the most eye-catching
More Details

Casetify Genuine Leather Band features: Material: Leather | Waterproof: No | Compatibility: All Apple Watch models | Colors: 9 | Band sizes: 38mm/40mm/41mm or 42mm/44mm/45mm/49mm 

As sweat-wicking and lightweight as some of our favorite workout straps are, there are times when you want to dress up your Apple Watch Ultra, and a bright orange sports strap isn't going to cut it. For an everyday band you can wear to work and out on the town, this Casetify Genuine Leather band works perfectly. Made with authentic Italian and German leather, the straps are intentionally designed for prolonged wear. With nine band colors and four buckle colors to choose from, you can personalize your watch strap for dinner parties, work conferences, and weekend outings. 

Pros & Cons
  • Waterproof
  • Lightweight
  • Matches the colorway of the Apple Watch
  • Expensive
More Details

Sandmarc Titanium Edition Apple Watch Ultra Band features: Material: Titanium Grade 2 and 4 options | Waterproof: Yes | Compatibility: Apple Watch Ultra 2 & Ultra | Colors:

Out of all the options on this list, this titanium edition Apple Watch Ultra band from Sandmarc has to be the watch band that fits in the most seamlessly with the Apple Watch Ultra. The Sandmarc band comes in a gorgeous Grade 2 or Grade 4 titanium that blends into the colorway of the Apple Watch Ultra for complete aesthetic cohesion. The material is lightweight and waterproof, so you don't have to be precious while you wear it around the house, while doing yard work, or taking a hike. 

While the Grad 2 is likely best for most people, Sandmarc offers a Grade 4 band as well. The Grade 4 model is a bit heavier at 74 grams, compared to the Grade 2 band at 57 grams.

What is the best Apple Watch Ultra band?

The best Apple Watch Ultra strap is the Zulu Alpha Apple strap for its material choice, which is more abrasion-resistant than nylon, and its overall quality.

Apple Watch Ultra strapPriceMaterialCompatibilityHardwareKey feature
Apple Trail Loop$99Nylon weaveUltra and Ultra 2TitaniumFully waterproof
Nomad Waterproof Sport Band$60FKM RubberSeries 1-8, SE, and Ultra Rubber Fully waterproof
Nike Sport Band $49Aluminum38mm, 40mm, 41mmAluminumLightweight for workouts
Zulu Alpha Apple Strap $86Tubular bonded polyester webbingAll Apple Watch models
Steel or black hardwareTri-glide buckle system
Nomad Rugged Band$60FKM fluoroelastomer rubberSeries 1-8, SE, and Ultra Stainless steel lugs and buckleFully waterproof
Lelong band$23Stainless steelAll Apple Watch models
Stainless steel links18-month warranty
Casetify Genuine Leather Band $68LeatherAll Apple Watch models

Stylish band for dressing up
Sandmarc Titanium Edition Apple Watch Ultra Band$200Titanium Apple Watch Ultra and Ultra 2TitaniumLightweight titanium for dressing up and everyday wear

Which is the right Apple Watch Ultra strap for you?

The right Apple Watch Ultra strap depends on what you prioritize. If you want a screen protector or if you want antimicrobial properties, the right strap exists for you.

Choose this Apple Watch Ultra strap... If you want...
Apple Trail Loop The best band overall for sleeping, exercising, and living. It's free with your Apple Watch Ultra purchase too.
Nomad Waterproof Sport Band The best alternative rubber band that isn't made by Apple.
Nike Sport Band The best band for exercise. It's lightweight, breathable, and wicks sweat and oils.
Zulu Alpha Apple Strap The best band with remarkable craftsmanship. Each strap is handmade and made to order.
Nomad Rugged Band An antimicrobial band with marine-grade hardware, perfect for swimming. It holds up well to strenuous exercise.
Lelong band A dazzling band that you can easily adjust to the size of your wrist. It comes with an extra 1/2 link for those who are in between sizes.
Casetify Genuine Leather Band The best lightweight leather band.
Sandmarc Titanium Edition Apple Watch Ultra Band The most expensive option on this list, but it's the best metal watch band that seamlessly blends with your watch.

Factors to consider when choosing an Apple Watch Ultra band

We each have our own priorities for using our smartwatch, and the factors that I use to consider as I make a decision on buying a band may be different than yours. However, here are several factors to consider, based on our years of experience testing wearables:

  • Materials: Apple Watch Ultra straps are generally made of silicone/rubber, fabric, leather, or metal so first consider which material you want your band made of. Your material selection will likely also align with your activities since you do not want to wear a leather band if you plan to swim or run with your Apple Watch.

  • Sleep or not to sleep: If you plan to use your Apple Watch Ultra for sleep tracking and wear it to bed each night, then you are going to want to purchase a comfortable band. The Watch Ultra is the largest Apple Watch so finding a band that is light and comfortable is key to wearing such a large watch to sleep. A metal band is likely not the best option for sleeping with your watch.

  • Price: Apple offers a host of watch bands itself, but in almost all cases the Apple branded straps are more expensive than third party straps. Apple's bands are all of high quality, but you can save lots of money by looking at other makers for your watch band.

  • Color and style: I don't know many people who have a single watch band that they always wear and with the easy removal design you may want to consider multiple bands for your Watch Ultra. It's great to have a band for working out and sleeping with another for going out on the town or dressing up for special occasions.

How we test Apple Watch Ultra straps

At ZDNET, we prioritize hands-on testing of Apple Watches and their straps, wearing them over the course of days or weeks during our daily lives. That means I and others on our staff have worn these bands while working, exercising, sleeping, and doing all other daily activities. Here are some of the key elements we evaluate with the watch bands:

  • Comfort: I wear my smartwatches for more than 18 hours a day and often for 24 hours a day so the first thing I test is the fit, finish, and comfort of the watch strap. One major reason that I picked Apple's own Trail Loop is the extremely comfortable design and light weight that makes wearing it a sheer joy.

  • Durability: Given that I wear my Apple Watch Ultra 2 to track all of my activities, it has to be able to withstand my excessive sweat and water from the rain and pool. I need the watch strap to last for at least a year or two under these conditions and thanks to Apple's continued lug design I actually can wear bands for years to test out the durability.

  • Security: A watch band has to be trusted to keep the $800 Apple Watch Ultra 2 on my wrist in all situations. I had a Garmin watch fly off my wrist and disappear down the river while fly fishing last year after I slipped on a rock and need a band to be more reliable than that. The clasp mechanism has to be able to handle body weight workout flexure and unexpected impacts that may happen in some situations.

  • Ability to change out: Apple's slide in system is brilliant and allows a user to quickly and easily change watch straps. However, I purchased some inexpensive bands on Amazon in the past and they did not slide in and out of the lug system very well. Thus, I test the ability of the band to align properly and by replaced seamlessly.

Is buying the Apple Watch Ultra worth it?

Yes, it is. I put the watch through the Tough Mudder 15K, which has over 30 obstacles on land and in water, and the watch held up well. The display didn't even have a scratch on it. The Apple Watch Ultra is worth it if you know you're going to put it through taxing environments, like grueling outdoor workouts or 15Ks, and you want to use it like a regular smartwatch. If you want both of those things, this is the watch for you.

There are downsides to the watch though. For example, the Apple Watch Ultra doesn't allow you to see your data on a desktop or the web. Even though you can export the data into another app, that's an additional step that isn't required for other GPS sports watches from companies like Garmin and Polar. The Apple Watch Ultra also loses battery more quickly than other GPS sports watches, like the Coros Vertix 2. For example, when I went through the Tough Mudder 15K, my Coros Vertix 2 lost 5% of its battery over 2 hours and 40 minutes, while the Watch Ultra lost 24% of its battery in the same time period. 

Review: Apple Watch Ultra: Tougher than a Tough Mudder

Which strap is best for Apple Watch Ultra?

The best strap that we recommend for the Apple Watch Ultra is Apple's own Trail Loop for its durability, comfort, and versatility. Since the band is waterproof, you can exercise with it outdoors or sweat up a storm in it and not have to worry about water damage. It's casual enough to wear around the house or for exercise but is neutral enough to wear for dressier events. 

Should you get the Apple Watch Ultra or Apple Watch Ultra 2?

There are a few differences between the Apple Watch Ultra and the Apple Watch Ultra 2. Namely, there's a much brighter screen, a newer processor, greater storage, and recycled titanium with the Apple Watch Ultra 2. The size, battery life, and sensors are the exact same. Their prices are also the same. 

Also: Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Apple Watch Ultra: Is it time to upgrade? 

Can you put any band on an Apple Watch Ultra?

It's a good idea to check the manufacturer's specifications when it comes to this question. For Apple loops, bands for 44mm, 45mm, and 49mm cases are generally compatible with one another. Other manufacturers may have different parameters when it comes to this. But generally, no, you cannot put any band on the Apple Watch Ultra if you want the band to fit well. 

Are there alternative Apple Watch Ultra straps worth considering?

Yes, there are. Here are a few alternatives.

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