Best Survival Watches
If you find yourself stuck on a desert island then you are going to be oh so glad of your survival watch. The reality is that you are highly unlikely to ever be lost on an island but you may well find yourself in hiking situations where a survival watch would come in really handy.
We take a look at the best survival watches on the market in 2018 and also provide you with a handy buyers guide to help you know what key features to look for.
What To Look For In A Survival Watch
There are a number of key elements that you should look out for when buying a survival watch:
The build quality of the watch is perhaps one of the most important facets to look for when choosing a watch for the outdoors. It is likely that it is going to get knocked, scraped, sat on, bashed or any other adjective that might describe a Flintstones style calamity. Put simply, your watch is going to be one of your most important tools in the great outdoors and if you are miles from civilization you are going to be highly dependent on it – so go for quality and sturdiness to ensure it is fully functioning when needed.
In terms of the wristband, rubber (resin) is optimal as it can withstand most things that you throw at it.
Similar to our last point but your survival watch needs to be capable of withstanding those knocks and scrapes so looking out for good shock resistance is a top priority.
We are not talking about fashion sense here but more style and design that is going to help you use your watch when outdoors. The key elements to look for here are the materials used in the build of the watch but more importantly the type of display it uses. Think about the various times you might need to use the watch and how you might be using it. Convenience is key here and the more hands free you can be the better. For example, buying a survival watch the luminous hands will mean you don’t have to press a backlight button to read the time in the dark and using a watch that has a negative display will allow you to see it easily during bright sunny conditions.
The chances are you are going to be coming in to contact with water at some point. At least we hope so otherwise there won’t be much surviving going on! All joking aside, having some degree of water resistance is fundamental to success when choosing a survival watch – the level of water resistance or water proofing will depend on your exact needs.
Note the difference between water resistant and water proof survival watches. Water proof will mean it can withstand being submerged in water to a certain depth. Water resistant simply means it can take a certain level of splashes and humidity. It is unlikely you will find a watch in this category that does not have at least water resistance but you need to be clear on what you are buying.
Another crucial consideration is how your survival watch is powered. If you have one with a standard battery then you will need to ensure it is well powered before setting off for any length of time. There are also mechanical watches that require little to no maintenance, kinetic watches that do use batteries but require replacement very rarely, solar powered and wind up survival watches.
The accuracy is key to a good watch and watch makers have battled with this since almost the dawn of time. You are going to be so dependent on the accuracy of your watch that you need to be 100% sure of the data it is giving you.
Finally, you do need to consider comfort when it comes to your decision. Consider the weight and size of the watch as well as the strap type. You are going to be wearing it non-stop so it needs to be something you are comfortable with.
As well as the above, you should also be considering the features of the watch you buy. Extra Features you might look out for include:
GPS and/or Compass
Whether you are a modern day GPS lover or you prefer the traditional compass, you will need at least one method of finding your way from point A to point B. It is quite advisable to not rely on GPS solely so a compass really is the bare minimum – now of course you don’t have to have this as part of your watch but having a survival watch with a built in compass means you have one less thing to carry (and lose).
GPS is going to increase the cost of a survival watch but it can certainly help you out of a scrape if you are lost. GPS is quick, reliable and efficient – even it does feel a little like cheating.
A thermometer is not one of those features that you instantly think of needing but it can be incredibly useful – particularly when navigating in extreme temperatures. The more you understand about the environmental conditions around you, the better decisions you can make in adapting to them. A thermometer is actually a really useful feature to have.
When you are walking or climbing at altitude an Altimeter is crucially important. Again, the more you can understand about your surroundings the better and having an idea of your altitude can help you plan your day. Sunset and sunrise times will vary depending on your altitude and the air quality and temperature will also be impacted – this is such a useful feature.
The elements are either working for you or against you when you are adventuring and using a barometer can help you to make them work for you. Extreme weather in particular can be hazardous and if you have an idea that it is coming you can plan and prepare for it.
Casio PAG240-1CR Pathfinder
10/10 – Best all-rounder
The Casio Pathfinder is a triple sensor sports/survival watch that has a good range of functions, is affordable, comfortable, reliable and accurate. It may not suit those looking for a premium survival watch but it will suit those looking for something that ticks most of the boxes and won’t break the bank.
With a digital compass, altimeter, barometer and being water resistant to 100m, this watch has pretty much everything most adventurers will need. It features a dual layer LCD meaning you can have access to the data you need at a glance by calibrating the watch to show you what you need.
The Pathfinder is solar powered but will run for 6 months on a single charge (even if you are caving for months on end with no sunlight) so it is perfect for those who are going to be away from civilization for a while – or who simply cannot be bothered to change a battery.
The altimeter works by assessing the atmospheric pressure around you at any given time. It works best if you set an altitude yourself at a level where you have a good idea of the specific altitude – this will give you more accurate readouts on your trip.
The barometer takes readings every 2 hours and gives you a graphical reading so you can interpret the expected conditions.
We love the compass on the Casio Pathfinder and it is perhaps its best feature. It is a digital compass so it uses its bearing memory to give you a graphical illustration of your direction. You can use the rotating clock face to hep you set a course and ensure that you are always heading toward the 12 o’clock position – this makes it incredibly easy to use.
Unless you specifically need GPS or a watch for scuba diving then the Casio Pathfinder ticks almost every box. It is affordable, easy to use and is simply perfect for navigating. It is well built, robust in design and appearance and was extremely accurate in testing. The back light comes on automatically in low lit conditions at the flick of the wrist meaning that it is easy to use hands free at night time.
Casio G Shock Rangeman GW9400
9.5/10 – Quality and Toughness Assured
The Casio G-Shock GW9400 is one of the best watches we have ever reviewed. In a word, we ‘love’ this watch. It is available in a variety of trims but the classic red and black did it for us. This is another solar powered watch but also has the added benefit of having atomic timekeeping – meaning that this watch is ultra accurate.
You get the same features here as our number one choice so you will find a digital compass, barometer, altimeter and thermometer on board the GW9400.
The GW9400 is water resistant to 200m and is suitable for casual diving as well as being able to take plenty of splashes from the weather.
Labelled as ‘the watch that never breaks’ thanks to a design concept known as ‘Triple 10’, the GW9400 can withstand falls of at least 10m and has a battery life of 10 years.
The three sensors provide plenty of atmospheric data to help you plan and navigate even the most testing of conditions and for anyone needing super accurate timing this is the watch for you.
The Rangeman also has three distinct display zones on the single LCD display which makes it incredibly easy to get the information you need at a glance. If you need to record timings for any reason then this can all be done with a single touch of a button.
Comfort and Build
The resin strap is very well made and super comfortable to wear – even over long periods of time. Weighing just over 11 ounces it is also very lightweight on the wrist and shouldn’t impact your freedom of movement in any way.
We loved the overall design of this watch and the protective mineral crystal window makes this even tougher than it looks.
Overall, we love this watch. So much so that we deliberated over putting it in top spot. It is a little pricier than some of its competitors which is about all that stopped us from awarding it number one. If you rely on accuracy and need something that will always be ready to work then this is your watch.
Casio G-Shock Mudman
8.5/10 – Best for value
Featuring a digital compass, thermometer and even a moon graph, this solar powered watch takes some beating – and what’s more, it is one of the most affordable in its category.
Water resistant to 200m, the G-Shock Mudman will withstand most conditions you throw at it – so unless you are going diving to a depth of 200m+ this could well be the watch for you.
One of its biggest pluses is that its battery power is phenomenal. Reviews from scores of people tell us that the battery is still going after years with the reading still showing as fully charged – that’s thanks to its solar powered charging.
Unfortunately, there is no altimeter here but the if you can get past that you will still enjoy a range of other features including a digital compass with magnetic declination correction. It is mud, dust and dirt resistance as well as being shock resistant so you can really put this thing through its paces.
The auto backlight makes it extremely easy to use in the dark and the resin strap is one of the most comfortable and hard wearing we have come across.
The thermometer is a little clunky to use at times and you will definitely need to take the watch off to get an accurate reading but for all other purposes this is a really feature rich and value packed watch. Extremely accurate for time keeping, ease of use and looks and feels great.
Suunto Core Black Military Watch
8/10 – Best Looking
The Suunto Core watch is one of a range of outdoor watches brought to us by this long running Finnish company. With a history that is steeped in orienteering and outdoor pursuits, you know that you are getting quality when you buy from Suunto.
As well as the features (we will get on to that shortly) we just love the design of the All Black Suunto Core. It is perhaps the most stylish of the best survival watches we have listed here and you would be quite happy to have this as your ‘all the time’ watch rather than just reserving it for your expeditions.
Complete with an altimeter, barometer and compass, the Suunto Core shows you all of this key data on the display at all times. Utilising a completely digital display means that you have really clear visibility of a range of data.
The Suunto does one thing better than any of the other watches on this page and that is how it warns of upcoming weather condition changes. It features a unique storm alarm and will inform you of poor weather conditions well ahead of time. It also utilises a really useful session data system so you can easily see how your altitude has change over time and will show ascent or descent data at the push of a button.
The only drawback to this watch and the others listed here is the lack of water resistance. It will not withstand much more than 10m of submersion although it will withstand heavy rain and splashes.
If you want a great looking survival watch that you can wear every day and can give you excellent advance weather warnings then this is a great watch for you. The omission of analogue hands and a thermometer may be off putting to some but if you don’t need these in your life then the Suunto Core is an excellent choice.
Casio G-Shock GD-100
7/10 – Best Cheap Outdoors Watch
The Casio G-Shock GD100 is the cheapest survival watch on our list. What it may lack in functionality it certainly makes up for in looks, durability and comfort and has all the hallmarks of a G-Shock watch.
It is perhaps a little dubious as to whether it could be called a survival watch but it is certainly built for the outdoors and even has a good level of shock resistance and is water resistant to 200m – yes 200m!
The negative display on this watch is actually really easy to see and is an excellent feature of the GD100. This one is the standard size G-Shock so is a little smaller than some of the others shown on this page and is capable of withstanding some serious bashing and crashing.
There is a backlight for nighttime use which is very effective, it has world times for up to 4 locations, you can set multiple alarms and timers as you would expect. This uses a standard battery and dial window is Quartz. The buckle and strap are well made with the latter being made from resin which we found as comfortable as any other G-Shock watch.
The G-Shock is a budget outdoor watch that does the basics really well as well as looking the part. For the price you will not find a better watch so if you just need a watch for the outdoors at a low price then this is for you.
These survival and outdoor watches have some fantastic features and really bring a new dimension to anyone who is orienteering, hiking, fishing, diving or many other kinds of fantastic adventuresome activities. The Pathfinder is our number one pick as it has some brilliant features, an excellent design, top accuracy and also comes at a reasonable price.
Has some excellent features
Easy to view display
Excellent value for money
Very good battery life (solar powered)
Thermometer is cumbersome to use