Best Hiking Watches

2020’s 9 Best Hiking Watches for Campers, Explorers, and Survivalists

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Our Top Pick

Best Choice Casio Mens PAG240T-7CR Pathfinder Triple-Sensor Stainless Steel Watch Titanium BraceletLook no further for a great watch for hiking!

Casio’s Pathfinder watch has all of the features that most people need in a hiking wristwatch at a good price.

It’s rugged, easy to use, and has the ABC functions you expect from a hiking watch, along with a battery kept alive by solar power!

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Smartphones have replaced watches for many people.

However, out in the woods, a good watch is a better choice than a great phone.

That’s because a proper hiking watch can give you more information than your phone without having to worry about cell signal or a short battery life.

They’re also convenient and hard to lose.

Watches live on your wrist, so you can’t drop it off the side of a mountain!

Plus, when the storm hits and you’re covered in muck and rain, you’ll still be able to check your watch without worrying about damaging the electronics.

Plus, the best modern hiking watches are ABC watches.

They have an altimeter, barometer, and compass.

These three sensors, when you know how to use them, will keep you from getting lost even if the satellites and radio towers fall.

There are lots of watches which look right but will fall apart when you bonk them off a tree once.

So, let’s look at some watches which will hold up to going innawoods for weeks on end!

(Or for a day, if you’re less adventurous!)

The Best Hiking Watches

ModelABC Watch?Power SourceRatingPrice
Casio Pathfinder PAG240TYesSolar + Battery4.6$$$

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Casio G-Shock DW-5600NoBattery4.7$

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Casio Pro Trek PRW2500TYesSolar + Battery4.5$$$$

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Garmin InstinctYesRechargeable Battery4.6$$$$

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Suunto CoreYesBattery4.2$$$

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Amazfit BipNoRechargeable Battery3.8$$

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Garmin Fenix 6X Plus SolarYesSolar + Battery4.5$$$$$

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Citizen Eco-Drive AT0200-05ENoSolar4.5$$$

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Casio Pro Trek PRG-600YBYesSolar + Battery4.5$$$$

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Overall Best Hiking Watch

Casio Pathfinder PAG240T

Casio Pathfinder Watch Best Most Durable Hiking Watch Review
Click the image for more specs
Specs
  • Display: Digital
  • Movement: Quartz
  • Power: Solar
  • Band Material: Titanium
  • Water Resistance: 100 Meters
  • Functions: ABC, Thermometer, Automatic LED Backlight, Power Saving Feature, World Time Setting

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Overview

The Casio Pathfinder is a tough watch that can handle everything from backpacking to wildland firefighting.

It sits in the intersection of value and features which means that if you want a little bit more watch you’ll have to pay a lot more.

The mineral face and steel body are tough enough to survive falling onto rocks without harming the watch.

The Pathfinder, as an ABC watch, has an altimeter, barometer, and compass. It also has a thermometer – though, like all such watches, you’ll have to take it off your wrist for an accurate reading.

Casio Men's Pathfinder Pro Trek Quartz Watch Model PAG240 Alternative Tough Solar
Non-titanium versions are a little bit cheaper

Though, Casio erred on the side of durability rather than accuracy for the Pathfinder.

The altimeter is only accurate to 20 feet or 5 meters and the compass, though you can calibrate it for declination, isn’t fine enough to be your primary compass.

The barometer, though, shows trends over time using one of the best graphs you’ll get with a non-smartwatch.

Also, the backlight is best-in-class.

It’s bright without glaring and can automatically turn on when you rotate your wrist!

Did I mention that this watch’s battery is charged via solar power?

You can leave it in a dark closet for 6 months before the battery goes dead!

Pros
  • Great backlight which can automatically turn on when you turn your wrist to view the Pathfinder
  • Good barometer graph
  • The solar-powered battery can go 6 months without light
Cons
  • The altimeter only updates in 20 foot/5 meter increments
  • Not good for small wrists
Recommendation

The Casio Pathfinder is a tough ABC watch with solar charging that can handle long, demanding visits to the outdoors, though the sensors are a little rough.

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Best Budget Hiking Watch

Casio G-Shock DW-5600

Casio Men's Women's G-Shock Quartz Watch Cheapest Budget Choice
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Specs
  • Display: Digital
  • Movement: Quartz
  • Power: Battery
  • Band Material: Resin
  • Water Resistance: 200 Meters
  • Functions: Backlight, Timekeeping Functions

See full specs

Overview

The Casio G-Shock is a classic digital wristwatch which has been tromping through the woods for decades.

If you don’t need the functionality of an ABC watch and just want something that will live on your wrist forever then the G-Shock is the watch for you.

The G-Shock is designed for two things:

  1. Keeping the time
  2. Surviving

Casio claims that this watch can survive a hockey slapshot, which is more shock than you’ll subject this watch to in the forest!

It can also survive water down to 660 feet, which is more than your average non-diving watch.

This makes the basic G-Shock a great tactical or military watch, too.

Plus, it’s accurate. You’ll only gain or lose about 4 minutes per year, which is darn accurate for a wristwatch[1].How Big is Casio G Shock Outdoor Watch Good for Hiking

However, there aren’t many functions other than “keeping the time.”

You can keep the time in different ways, such as with an alarm or using a stopwatch, but most other hiking watches can do that as well.

There’s also a good backlight.

But sometimes, simple is best. You aren’t paying for fancy features.

Pros
  • Extremely durable
  • Inexpensive
Cons
  • No navigation functions
Recommendation

The Casio G-Shock is a simple and extremely durable device that can survive the harshest environments.

Don’t miss our hands-on review of the G-Shock Rangeman GW 9400 watch.

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Upgrade Pick

Casio Pro Trek PRW2500T

Casio Pro Trek Tough Titanium Solar Powered Hiking Watch PRW2500T-7CR
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Specs
  • Display: Digital
  • Movement: Quartz
  • Power: Solar
  • Band Material: Titanium
  • Water Resistance: 200 Meters
  • Functions: Same as Pathfinder plus Atomic Timekeeping, Tide Graph, Moon Phase Data

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Overview

And now, let’s look at Casio’s upgraded version of the Pathfinder:

The Pro Trek.

Casio calls the Pro Trek their flagship watch.

(Don’t worry. I’ll get to non-Casio watches in a minute!)

The Pro Trek looks very similar to the Pathfinder but has several upgrades which make this choice better for some people.

The biggest upgrade is the radio receiver to synchronize the watch’s time setting using the government atomic clock.

This keeps the Pro Trek accurate everywhere you go. Unless you spend all day in an abandoned mineshaft.Casio Wristwatches Big on Wrist for Men Women How to Choose Pro Trek

The Pro Trek also keeps track of the moon’s phases and, more importantly, contains tide charts.

I’ve rescued people caught by the rising tide. A Pro Trek would have warned them to leave their hunting area before it was too late!

Pros
  • Automatically-updated atomic clock receiver
  • Includes a tide chart
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Same cons as the Pathfinder
Recommendation

The Casio Pro Trek is a much-beloved ABC hiking watch that adds some functionality to the Pathfinder and keeps itself accurate.

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Best GPS Hiking Watch for Navigation

Garmin Instinct

Garmin Instinct Rugged Outdoor Watch GPS GLONASS Galileo Heart Rate Monitoring 3-Axis Compass
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Specs
  • Display: Digital
  • Movement: Not Stated
  • Power: Rechargeable Lithium
  • Band Material: Silicone
  • Water Resistance: 100 Meters
  • Functions: Altimeter, Barometer, 3-Axis Compass, GPS, GLONASS, Galileo Satellite Network Compatible, Smartphone Integration, Heart Rate Monitor

See full specs

Overview

The Garmin Instinct watch is half smartwatch, half rugged outdoor hiking wristwatch.

It looks like a normal hiking watch with its large, digital display and round bezel, along with the built-in ABC functions.

But it’s also a smartwatch that can connect to your smartphone to push and receive notifications and automatically update the Garmin fitness app with your heart rate and stress level.

You don’t have to have a smartphone to use this watch, though, because the built-in navigation features are excellent.

Garmin Instrinct Best Navigation Map Hiking Watch for Outdoors TrekkingThe Instinct can connect to three global navigation satellite networks to show you your exact position:

  • USA’s GPS
  • Russia’s GLONASS
  • EU’s Galileo

It also contains an accurate altimeter, barometer, and compass, along with an accelerometer and thermometer.

You can even use the GPS system to track your route and return you to where you started!

However, using these advanced GPS features will heavily cut into the watch’s battery life, so you may want to carry extra batteries or use the GPS in bursts if you intend to stay outside for more than one day.

Pros
  • Advanced navigation features
  • Connects to 3 global navigation satellite systems
  • Lightweight and breathable design
  • Rugged to US military standard 810G for thermal, shock, and water resistance
Cons
  • The heart rate monitor can irritate some people’s skin
  • Short battery life when using the advanced features
Recommendation

The Garmin Instinct shines as a hiking smartwatch but stands tall on its own when used for navigation.

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Safest Hiking Watch with Weather Tracking

Suunto Core

SUUNTO Core All Black Military Men's Outdoor Sports Watch
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Specs
  • Display: Digital
  • Movement: Quartz
  • Power: CR2032 Battery
  • Band Material: Elastomer
  • Water Resistance: 30 Meters
  • Functions: Altimeter, Barometer, Compass, Storm Alarm, Weather Trend Graph, Sunrise/Sunset Times, Location Logbook

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Overview

The Suunto Core is an outdoors-focused, military-styled wristwatch that has many features designed to help keep you safe.

We all know what it’s like to lose time outdoors and realize we don’t have enough time to get to shelter before that storm arrives or the sun disappears for the night.

The Suunto Core has the normal ABC functions with some additional features to warn you of that impending storm.Suunto Core Weather Alerts Altimeter Barometer Compass Navigation Watch

You don’t have to keep track of the barometer manually; the storm alarm will go off if one’s about to hit.

Sunrise and sunset times can give you ample warning before twilight.

The Core also has a logbook that can track your altitude once every second, 5 seconds, 30 seconds, or minute, which can help you pinpoint where you are and where you’ve been on a topographical map.

Plus, there’s a bearing tracker so you can use the compass more easily!

Be sure to check out our more in-depth review of the Suunto Core.

Pros
  • Accurate sensors
  • Advanced ABC features
  • Storm alarm and weather tracker
Cons
  • Mediocre battery
  • Some users report that the band rots quickly (others haven’t had this problem)
Recommendation

The Suunto Core is an ABC watch on steroids. All three sensors are more advanced than those on most other ABC hiking watches and the watch can use these to alert you to incoming storms!

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Best Smartwatch for Hiking

Amazfit Bip

Amazfit Bip Smartwatch by Huami All-Day Heart Rate Activity Tracking Sleep Monitoring GPS Ultra-Long Battery Life
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Specs
  • Display: Digital
  • Movement: Not Stated
  • Power: Rechargeable Battery
  • Band Material: Resin
  • Water Resistance: IP68
  • Functions: GPS, Heart and Sleep Monitoring, Smartphone Integration

See full specs

Overview

Most smartwatches are designed for urban environments and get scared when they see more wilderness than a city park.

The Amazfit Bip is a bit more of a rugged smartwatch that you can take into the woods without fear.

For starters, it’s a well-regarded, non-proprietary smartwatch that works with both iOS and Android.

It’ll receive notifications and send data to your phone, though you won’t be able to respond to texts with your phone.Amazfit Bip Smartwatch Bluetooth US Service Warranty Best Outdoors Hiking Smartwatch

However, unlike some smartwatches, the Amazfit Bip has a 30-day battery life!

This won’t match a dedicated solar hiking watch but this is more battery life than you’d get from most smartwatches.

The GPS can be used to keep track of your position almost anywhere in the world.

The water resistance is “only” IP68. This isn’t as good as most hiking watches but is still more than adequate to keep the Bip safe when you have to ford a river or get caught in a storm.

Everyone I know who uses this watch on the trail uses it with the AmazTools app, by the way.

Pros
  • GPS-enabled
  • Very long battery life for a smartwatch
Cons
  • Mere 1.5-meter water resistance
  • Not an ABC watch
Recommendation

The Amazfit Bip is a great hiking watch for trailrunners and weekend campers, though it may not live up to the demands of bushcrafters and survivalists.

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Most Advanced Hiking Watch

Garmin Fenix 6X Plus Solar

Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar Premium Multisport GPS Watch Solar Charging Overall Best Hiking Watch
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Specs
  • Display: Digital
  • Movement: Not Stated
  • Power: Solar
  • Band Material: Resin
  • Water Resistance: 100 Meters
  • Functions: Altimeter, Barometer, 3-Axis Compass, Full Color Display, Gyroscope, Topographical Maps, GPS + GLONASS + Galileo Networks, Music, Fitness Information

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Overview

The Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar combines the best features of hiking watches, smartwatches, and handheld GPS devices.

It has an internal rechargeable lithium battery supplemented by a solar panel that lasts all day when using all of the features and several weeks if you use the GPS/biometrics intermittently.

And what features they are!Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar Man Features Mapping Music Grade-Adjusted Pace Guidance Pulse Ox Sensors

The Fenix 6X Pro Solar a full-fledged ABC watch with a 3-axis compass plus a gyroscope for more accurate sensing.

It can connect to the three major global satellite navigation systems and has preloaded, full-color topographical maps.

The health-tracking features include not just your pace, stride length, and heart rate, but also information such as VO2 Max and your blood oxygen saturation.

This combines with the altitude and your other biometric data to help guide your pace with PacePro so you can hike further without pushing yourself too hard.

There are some other nifty features such as the ability to store and play music as well as Garmin Pay, a contactless payment method.

Pros
  • Extremely advanced features
  • Full-color topographical maps
  • Pace guiding using your biometrics
Cons
  • Expensive
  • The solar feature extends battery life, but not forever
Recommendation

The Garmin Fenix 6X Plus Solar is a very expensive watch but it’s durable and no other hiking watch matches its features.

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Longest Lasting Hiking Watch

Citizen Eco-Drive AT0200-05E

Citizen Men's Eco-Drive Chronograph Watch Lasts Forever
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Specs

  • Display: Analog
  • Movement: Quartz
  • Power: Solar
  • Band Material: Fabric
  • Water Resistance: 100 Meters
  • Functions: Eco-Drive Corso

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Overview

The Citizen Eco-Drive series of watches use Eco-Drive Corso technology to provide a watch which you can wear almost forever.

The most notable feature is that the solar panel doesn’t just augment the battery. This watch is so efficient that a little bit of light every day is enough to keep this watch ticking indefinitely.

That wouldn’t matter very much if the watch itself doesn’t survive, but Citizen watches are some of the longest-living watches you can buy.

Japanese quartz keeps the Eco-Drive accurate for longer than other watches.

The biggest weakness with the watch isn’t with the watch itself. It’s the band.

The bands are not known for lasting very long.Citizen Eco Drive Classy Watch Lasts Forever with Sunlight

However, the lugs are your standard 20mm pattern, so you can replace the bands with whichever ones work best for you.

Also, the Eco-Drive is not a feature-filled watch.

The hands are luminous for reading in the dark and there are three subdials, but this is not an ABC watch.

Pros
  • Known to last a long time
  • Practically unlimited battery life
Cons
  • Mediocre band
  • Not an ABC watch
Recommendation

The Citizen Eco-Drive is an excellent watch for the hiker who wants a simple analog watch that will last forever and doesn’t care about having an altimeter, barometer, or compass as part of their watch.

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Best Analog Hiking Watch

Casio Pro Trek PRG-600YB

Casio Men's PRO TREK Quartz Resin and Cloth Casual Watch Analog Dial
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Specs
  • Display: Analog
  • Movement: Quartz
  • Power: Solar
  • Band Material: Fabric
  • Water Resistance: 200 Meters
  • Functions: Altimeter, Barometer, Compass, Thermometer

See full specs

Overview

I betcha thought you had seen the last of Casio!

However, not everyone likes digital watches. Sometimes you just want a classic analog display.

It’s rare to find an ABC watch that’s also analog, but Casio delivers with the Pro Trek PRG.

It has classic analog styling with an altimeter, barometer, compass, and thermometer.

Well, the PRG is not a purely-analog watch because the compass is digital, but it’s close enough!

Do note, however, that this is a large watch.

The case diameter is 52 mm, which is larger than any other watch on this list.

That’s a chonky watch!Best Looking Analog Hiking Watch Largest Easy to Read Casio Pro Trek

Also, since the ABC functions have to share space with the analog watch hands, they are a bit small and can be hard to read despite the large watch face.

Still, this is a durable ABC watch for those who prefer analog displays.

Pros
  • ABC functionality without a crowded digital display
  • Solar charging
Cons
  • ABC functions can be hard to read
  • Quite large
Recommendation

If you want an analog watch without sacrificing durability or ABC functionality then the Casio Pro Trek PRG is perfect for you.

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What to Look For in a Hiking Watch

The above watches range in price from two digits to almost four digits.

You get what you pay for with watches more than some objects, but this naturally has a point of diminishing returns.

This is generally around the $200 level.

You don’t want to wear a cheap watch into the woods unless you want to destroy that watch because, regardless of how it LOOKS, a cheap watch won’t be durable enough for the wild.

There are certain quality minimums you want to meet for a hiking watch.

Don’t worry. All of the above watches meet these minimums.

But once you’ve met those minimums, you need to think about how you’ll use the watch, which will determine which watch will work best for you.

Movement

A watch’s “movement” refers to how, physically, it keeps time.

How to choose hiking watch type of movement mechanical quartz digital
Delicate mechanical watches look classy but cannot survive rough treatment (I have two watches with broken balance shafts right now!)

Cheaper watches tend to have mechanical movement, which loses accuracy relatively quickly.

You want your watch movement to be quartz, at least.

Quartz movements are less susceptible to temperature variations and so will stay accurate for a long period of time.

You’ll gain or lose a couple of seconds every month but being off by a couple of minutes every year isn’t the end of the world.

Smartwatches may not say they have a quartz movement but they use accurate electronics to track the time.

An atomic watch, one that receives government radio signals updating the time, will be the most accurate for as long as those radio broadcasts continue.

Dial Face Material

The glass, crystal, or dial face (which is called that way even if there isn’t a dial) is protected by a transparent surface.

There are three main “glass” faces[2]:

  • Acrylic
  • Mineral
  • Sapphire

Hiking watches shouldn’t have acrylic faces. Those will get scratched up almost immediately.

Best hiking watch glass crystal dial face scratch resistance mineral acrylic

A hardened mineral face is adequate for most people and will be scratch resistant.

Sapphire faces are the most resistant to scratches but are also the most expensive

Avoid actual glass, too.

Even if it’s scratch-resistant, it’ll shatter more easily than the other options.

Power Source

A dead watch is useless.

Most hiking watches are battery-powered, which is fine for people who spend some time in the woods if you have a fresh battery in your watch.

Solar-powered watches are more expensive but are a great choice for avid outdoors people because the sun’s energy will keep your watch going for longer.

Or even indefinitely, if you have an Eco-Drive watch!

Functions

Every watch keeps time, of course.

Most watches also have advanced timekeeping methods such as a stopwatch, so you should expect these to be standard.

I glossed over those features because they’re so common.

There are other functions that can be of use to the hiker, though.

ABC Watches

Why altimeter barometer compass thermometer watch sensors when hiking

Including an altimeter, barometer, and compass in your watch is common enough for there to be a dedicated term: ABC watches.

  • An altimeter keeps track of your elevations, which is useful for navigation.
  • A barometer tracks the local air pressure, which is good for tracking and predicting the weather.
  • A compass uses the Earth’s magnetic field to tell you which direction is which.

These nuggets of information are indispensable to the knowledgeable hiker and can help you navigate and keep out of trouble.

Unless you just want the time, get an ABC watch.

Other Functions

But good hiking watches can have more than the ABC functions.

These can include tide charts, pre-loaded topographical maps, weather alarms, and many other features.

For the most part, whether these add value is up to you.

Do you spend all of your time in the Rocky Mountains?

Then you won’t need a tide chart!

But hunters and fishers in Southeast Alaska will!

It’s generally better to have something and not need it than to lack a feature and need it, but don’t stress out over getting a watch with functions you’re not likely to use.

Global Navigation Satellite Systems

There are three satellite systems set up by various nations to pinpoint your location:

  1. GPS
  2. GLONASS
  3. Galileo

Though they’re all global, some are better for other locations.

GPS GLONASS Galileo navigation satellite hiking watch triangulation

For example, GLONASS tends to be more accurate at higher latitudes, because Russia is at a higher latitude than most of the United States and so they launched their satellites at a higher orbital inclination[3].

GPS is good to have but having access to all three will make your watch more accurate because then your watch will be able to connect to more satellites rather than just a few.

Though, this does tend to consume battery quickly!

Smartphone Integration

Some of the above hiking watches are also smartwatches.

Smartwatches are designed to connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth or wifi so the two devices share data.Are smart watches good for hiking in the woods forest wild outdoors

Now, when I’m exploring the far reaches of the planet, I rarely have cell signal so my phone spends most of its time off.

This is why I use a watch instead of my phone when I’m in the woods. My phone’s battery is measured in days, even on airplane mode.

Even a smartwatch will last longer than that!

Generally, though, a smartwatch’s “smartness” lets it have more features than a “dumb watch” even if it’s not used with your phone.

So, a durable smartwatch with a good battery is still a good choice for hiking.

Conclusion

There is a bigger selection of hiking watches than ever before.

You can get a simple, rugged chronograph good for only time…

…or you can get an advanced wrist computer with functionality that would have made the Davy Crockett swoon.

There’s no one-size-fits-all hiking watch. It all depends on how YOU use the outdoors.

The Casio Pathfinder, however, is pretty darn close!

FAQs

Does Hot or Cold Weather Affect Hiking Watches?

Yes. Watches are not immune to the effects of extreme weather.

Temperature swings will cause the materials in your watch to contract or expand, which affects timekeeping accuracy.

This can also cause seals to let in water, which can cause corrosion inside the watch or disrupt electronics.

Plus, cold temperatures causes batteries to discharge faster[4].

Your watch’s manufacturer will give the safe temperature range for your watch.

Do You Need to Calibrate Watch Sensors?

Yes!

Any sensor has a baseline that will drift over time.

High-quality watches like the ones reviewed above let you calibrate the altimeter and barometer to ensure accuracy.

My Watch Compass Doesn’t Work! What’s Wrong?

Chances are, nothing is wrong with your watch’s compass!

Compasses rely on the Earth’s magnetic field to work so they are susceptible to interference.

This interference doesn’t just come from magnets. It can also come from electricity or even lots of iron nearby.

Also, is your compass a 2-axis or 3-axis compass?

3-axis compasses work no matter how you hold them but 2-axis compasses cannot compensate for being held at an angle and have to be held perfectly flat to work properly.

Does the Watch Band Material Matter?

Your watch’s band material is a personal preference.

Cloth is lightweight yet holds onto dirt and once it gets wet it stays wet for a long time.

Leather has a classic look but can rot if mistreated.

Resin and rubber generally handle harsh conditions well but get nasty when they do degrade, and they tend to pinch my arm hairs.

Titanium is lightweight and nearly impervious to the elements but you’ll spend a bit more.

Most watches have removable bands so you can find the material that works best for you without having to buy a new watch!

References

  1. http://chronocentric.com/watches/accuracy.shtml
  2. https://www.europastar.com/watch-knowledge/1004082393-watch-crystals.html
  3. http://www.positim.com/glonass_overview.html
  4. https://www.thoughtco.com/why-batteries-discharge-quickly-cold-weather-607889

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