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Best Survival Watches: Winners
Watches are an all-too-often overlooked article of survival gear.
Most people have removed their watches and left them in a drawer. Why wear one when everybody has a smartphone?
What advantage does a
watch have over a pocket computer?
More than you’d think.
In addition to how much more rugged watches are compared with smartphones, along with their much better battery life, watches also often offer features your phone lacks.
Does your phone contain an altimeter/barometer? A compass without batteries? Can you access weather information without the internet?
A good survival watch can help you get back to the road if you’re lost. Some can even warn you of incoming inclement weather
Let’s look at the best watches for survival and preparedness that’ll help you get home safe when disaster falls.
The Best Survival Watches
Best Survival Watch for the Money – Casio Pathfinder PAG-240
Pathfinder PAG-240 is a sports watch by Casio that’s an excellent outdoor watch without the expense of many others.
It has a backlit digital display that’s also a solar cell so you don’t have to worry about the battery expiring on you.
The Pathfinder includes an altimeter/barometer, a compass, and a thermometer, to aid your navigation in the wild. You’ll have to keep the sensors calibrated, though.
This watch is also quite light for its size, so it won’t weigh down your arm on
long hikes. Check Price Specs
Display: Digital Power: Solar Water Resistance: 330 ft Sensors: Altimeter, Barometer, Compass, Thermometer
Lightweight yet durable Practically infinite battery life due to the solar cell Triple sensor design that can calculate your altitude when calibrated correctly
The resin strap is an uncomfortable weak point, though replacement straps exist The sensors are not professional-grade so you’ll have to calibrate them
Casio Pathfinder PAG-240 is a great blend of utility and value. It’s light yet is a full-function ABC watch. However, you may want to replace the strap.
Best Budget Survival Watch – Timex Expedition Gallatin Solar-Powered Watch
There are many cheap “survival” watches for under $50 that look like tough guys on your wrist. Most of them will break apart under a little pressure in the woods, though.
Timex Expedition Gallatin Solar is not one of those weakling watches, though it is just as inexpensive.
The Gallatin has a solar-powered analog display with luminous hands so you can read it in the dark without having to hit a backlight button.
It comes with a leather strap, though replacements are available. Everything is blacked or a non-reflective color, so it won’t give away your position easily.
So, what do you give up for the price?
ABC functionality. The Gallatin doesn’t have external sensors, just date and time.
Check Price Specs
Display: Analog Power: Solar Water Resistance: 165 ft Sensors: None
The battery recharges using solar power Good water resistance for the price
Timex Expedition Gallatin Solar is a fine budget watch that will survive a long time in the wild, but it won’t help you navigate your way home.
Upgrade Pick – Casio G-Shock Rangeman GW-9400
Casio’s G-Shock line of watches includes enough variants to fit the needs of any survivalist!
G-Shock Rangeman GW-9400 is a particularly great choice if you want a rugged, feature-filled survival watch without hitting the far end of the cost/benefit curve.
It’s an ABC watch plus thermometer. The timekeeping auto-updates with the atomic clock.
You can set up to five alarms and record up to 40 atmospheric condition recordings. It’ll use your position to tell you when the sun will rise or set, too.
What elevates the G-Shock Rangeman over the Pathfinder is the ruggedness. It resists water to 660 feet and is built to keep dirt, dust, and mud out of the case.
! Don’t forget to click here for a complete review of the Casio G-Shock Rangeman GW-9400 Check Price Specs
Display: Digital Power: Solar Water Resistance: 660 ft Sensors: Altimeter, Barometer, Compass, Thermometer
High-efficiency solar power Very rugged design
The backlight turns off every time you hit another button so low-light use can be annoying Resin watch band
Casio G-Shock Rangeman GW-9400 is a tough watch with good atmospheric sensors and the ability to withstand whatever mud and shock you send its way.
Toughest Survival Watch – Casio G-Shock GGB100 Master of G Mudmaster
What if you want an even stronger watch? One that can survive a landslide?
Casio GGB100 Master of G Mudmaster is the toughest watch you can buy.
It has a triple-layered bezel with carbon-fiber-reinforced resin. The back has both a stainless steel cover and a fiberglass resin cover. All of the buttons are metal.
In addition to the standard altimeter/barometer/compass, this watch also has a thermometer and an accelerometer. It can automatically log your movements and count up to 999,999 steps.
Plus, you can connect the Mudmaster to your smartphone for configuration and recordkeeping purposes!
However, if you want to add solar power, that’ll cost you $100 more.
Check Price Specs
Display: Analog (Mostly) Power: Battery Water Resistance: 660 ft Sensors: Accelerometer, Altimeter, Barometer, Compass, Thermometer
Multiple layers of armor and waterproofing Quad sensor design that can track your route
Difficult battery replacement and no solar power
Best Survival Watch with Flashlight – SureFire 2211 Wristlight
All survival watches have at least luminous hands to help you check the time at night. Most don’t get beyond a backlight, though, and you cannot use a backlight to illuminate your campsite.
SureFire teamed up with Luminox to create a high-quality survival watch that includes a SureFire-designed light so you will always have light, as they say, at hand!
SureFire 2211‘s LED flashlight can output 15, 60, or 300 lumens of light. It’s powered by a built-in lithium-ion battery that charges off of USB and aligns perfectly when you grip a pistol properly.
The body is made from either anodized aluminum or high-impact polymer, making it durable, but there is a weakness: the strap pins.
However, any jeweler (or tinkerer) will be able to upgrade those.
Check Price Specs
Display: Analog Power: Rechargeable Battery Water Resistance: Not Stated, “Resistant” Sensors: None
High-quality watch with high-quality flashlight USB charging port
Chonky size and shape Right-handed users only Weak pins (can be strengthened)
SureFire 2211 Wristlight is designed as a pistol companion but it also does well at the campsite as an emergency flashlight.
Best Survival Watch for Bad Weather – Suunto Core
Inclement weather can sneak up on you when you’re outdoors. The
Suunto Core has a storm alarm to let you know when you’re about to be hit.
It uses the altimeter and barometer to track the ambient air pressure and lets you know when there’s a drop that may portend that incoming storm.
The Suunto Core also lets you know when the sun is about to rise or set so you won’t be caught too far from your campsite. You can check out a graph of your altitude changes throughout the day, but it cannot track your distance.
You can get a year’s worth of power from one battery until you start using the sensors. The storm alarm in particular is known for devouring electricity.
Thankfully, the Suunto Core uses a standard CR2032 battery.
Check Price Specs
Display: Digital Power: Battery Water Resistance: 98 ft Sensors: Altimeter, Barometer, Compass, Depth Meter
Automatic storm alarm High-quality sensors that rarely need calibration
The useful features will eat into your watch’s battery life
Suunto Core can save your life by alerting you to a storm you may have otherwise missed.
Best Tactical Survival Watch – Garmin tactix Delta
Garmin tactix Delta is a tactical smartwatch, and not in the mall-ninja tacticool way.
This watch was designed with
military operations in mind. What other watch has a HALO Jumpmaster Mode?
More practically, the tactix Delta has waypoints, multiple GPS systems, a stealth mode that turns off GPS, and even a kill switch that erases all data off of the watch.
If you own night vision goggles there’s even a night vision mode suitable for use with them!
You can also connect the tactix Delta to the Garmin Express app for further customization.
Check Price Specs
Display: Screen Power: Rechargeable Battery Water Resistance: Not Stated Sensors: Altimiter, Barometer, Compass, Multi-GNSS (GPS, GLONASS, & Galileo)
The best watch for land navigation due to the ABC, GPS, and waypoint features Long battery life for a smartwatch (some users have reported a week with GPS on)
Expensive Not as scratch-resistant as expected
Garmin tactix Delta is aimed at the military, which means it’s packed full of features for survivalists and preppers as well. More features than you’ll use, in fact!
Best Survival Watch for Hunters and Fishermen – Suunto Traverse Alpha
Suunto Traverse Alpha is not a smartwatch, though it does flirt with being one.
The digital screen changes to show a clean look at every feature you want. This includes a topographical map of your travels, showing you the path back to base camp.
You can also mark points of interest on the map, letting you record your favorite fishing hole. It can even record your position when you shoot an animal!
The Traverse Alpha also has a night-vision-compatible red backlight and a small yet effective flashlight.
It can also connect to your phone via Bluetooth, but not to the same extent as a proper smartwatch.
Check Price Specs
Display: Digital Power: Rechargeable Battery Water Resistance: 330 ft Sensors: Altimeter, Barometer, Compass, GPS, GLONASS
Good mapping features for hunters and fishers Very durable for a “smart” watch
Short battery life that maxes out at 14 days with the GPS off
Suunto Traverse Alpha is aimed at outdoor enthusiasts. These features make it a good choice as a survival watch, though you’ll have to be careful about keeping the battery charged.
Best Survival Smartwatch – Garmin Instinct Solar Tactical
Smartwatches are often thought as urban tools but the
Garmin Instinct Solar Tactical is at home in the woods as well.
It’s a ruggedized GPS-compatible smartwatch that meets MIL-STD-810G so it can withstand shock, vibration, and 330 feet of water.
You get all the normal smartwatch spiffiness, such as a heart rate tracker. The Instinct Tactical also includes a feature called “TracBack” that combines your movements with the GPS so you can follow your steps even if they’ve been washed away.
There’s also a stealth mode if you need to keep hidden from somebody tracking electronics.
In fact, the Instinct Solar Tactical includes many of the extra features of the tactix Delta at a lower cost, but with a bit less durability.
That’s not to say the Instinct isn’t a durable watch, though!
All these power-hungry features would be a problem if it weren’t for the solar cell that keeps the battery topped off. If you want a 14-day battery life (16
hours on GPS) then you can save some money by buying the non-solar Garmin Instinct Tactical. Check Price Specs
Display: Screen Power: Solar Water Resistance: 330 ft Sensors: Altimeter, Barometer, Compass, Multi-GNSS (GPS, GLONASS, & Galileo)
Excellent battery life for a smartwatch due to the solar cell Rich with helpful survival features
Not as durable as the tactix Delta (but it is also half the price)
Garmin Instinct Solar Tactical overcomes the primary smartwatch weakness, battery life, by adding a solar panel. However, this does add more expense than it should.
What to Look For When Choosing a Survival Watch
Survival watches range from extra-rugged analog timekeepers to solar-powered miniature computers with more processing power than the spaceship that landed on the moon.
Let’s look at some features you may want to keep in mind when choosing which survival watch you want to buy.
Survival watches also range in expense from $50 to $1000 or more!
You do get what you pay for but, after a certain point, you start to spend a lot more money for very little improvement in quality.
For example, the
Timex Expedition Solar is under $50. The solar cell on the Garmin Instinct Solar Tactical adds about $200 to the price.
Is the Garmin a lot more watch? Yes.
Is it less value for the money? Also yes.
That’s not to say that it’s not worth getting the Instinct Solar Tactical, though. It’s one of the best watches you can buy today.
And some of those features can give you the edge you need to survive in an emergency.
It’s worth keeping in mind how much you can afford.
Keep in mind that saving up for the exact watch you want can save you money in the long run because you’ll skip buying lesser watches.
ABC Sensors (And Other Sensors)
An ABC watch is one with an altimeter/barometer and a compass.
Often, the altimeter uses the barometer’s pressure reading along with starting info to keep track of your altitude.
You can use an
ABC watch to navigate on land, especially if you have access to a topographical map.
Some watches will add more sensors, such as an accelerometer, which keeps track of the watch’s physical movements
Of course, you need to be willing to practice using these sensors before you’re thrust into a survival situation and find yourself needing them!
GNSS Compatibility (GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo)
GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo are all global navigation satellite systems
GPS is the USA’s system, GLONASS is maintained by Russia, and Galileo belongs to the European Union.
A watch with one of the three is fine but having access to all three is better.
That’s because you’ll have a higher chance of contacting the GNSS satellites, especially in more rugged terrain or at higher latitudes.
Keep in mind that connecting your watch to a satellite does eat a lot of electricity. Be prepared with extra batteries or a battery pack!
Naturally, you’ll want a survival watch to withstand the elements.
Make sure your watch is water resistant. You don’t want a rainstorm to knock out your land navigation aid.
Deep water depth capability may seem silly but it can mean the difference between a ticking watch and a dead watch if you fall off a boat!
All of the above watches are rugged choices for keeping time when in the wild, whether or not you’re fighting to survive.
Though all of them are great, several stand out to me.
Garmin Instinct Solar Tactical offers the most features without being as expensive as the Garmin tactix Delta, making it perfect for most people.
Casio G-Shock Rangeman is a venerable survival watch that reigns supreme for durability, especially the upgraded Mudmaster model.
Suunto’s handmade Traverse Alpha is a clean-looking choice that’s great for outdoor sports such as hunting and fishing.
Finally, if you cannot decide on one and do not want to spend too much money, the
Casio Pathfinder is the best value survival watch for the money.
Which watch do you wear in the wild?
https://outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/13195/how-does-weather-affect-an-altimeter-watch https://www.livescience.com/40102-accelerometers.html https://www.gps.gov/systems/gnss/