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The Search for the Best Survival Watch

It's always nice to have a device that does more things than one. A survival watch is a great example. More than just telling time, it has features that can help you in many ways when you are outdoors, especially with navigation.

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Survival watches are also designed to withstand natural elements like water, heat, snow, etc.

To help you find the best survival watch for your needs, we've reviewed five awesome options. But before that, here are some important things you should keep in mind.

Kinds of survival watches​


**Below, you'll find our more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.

There are two basic types of survival watches. The first kind is sort of like a mini survival kit which may include a fire starter, a whistle, a paracord, and a compass.

The second kind is sort of a mini navigation system on your wrist, with other special features. Among the two kinds, I find that the second one is more useful.

Anyways, if you are an outdoor person or a survivalist, you’ll probably already have a pocket knife and other tools with you that won’t call for a fire starter or a whistle in a watch.​

Features to consider in survival watch​

Aside from telling time, a survival watch has these other features that make them useful in outdoor and survival situations.

Altimeter​

An altimeter is an instrument that gives you your altitude or elevation above sea level. Knowing your altitude can be handy when you're lost.

However, you also have to have a topographical map and a compass with you so you can identify when you are exactly. Then you can find your way back to your camp or wherever you want to be.

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Barometer

A barometer is an instrument that measures the atmospheric pressure. This is important because it indicates the current weather and can forecast changes in the weather.

If there were a storm coming, the barometer would show that the atmospheric pressure is low. When it indicates that the air pressure is rising, then it means the weather is getting better. A barometer helps us be more prepared for what’s to come.

Compass

Not all survival watches may have a compass. That would be okay if you had a separate one. Otherwise, the altimeter is pretty much useless.

To use the altimeter, you will need a compass and a map to find out where you are exactly. Having a compass in your watch eliminates the need for having a separate one.​

Thermometer​

Being outdoors, it's also important to monitor the temperature so you know when you should get warm. You might get caught up with work or some activity that you don't realize that the temperature dropped.

Monitoring the temperature can prevent hypothermia because it warns you ahead when you should warm up, start a fire, etc. Keep in mind, that since it is on your wrist, your body temperature might alter the external temperature.​

Global Positioning System​

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Finding your way is a lot easier with a GPS. However, the GPS feature is only applicable to watches with a digital display. It eliminates the need for removes the need for maps, altimeters, and compasses.

The downside is, the batteries of a digital display watch will die out faster, which is not ideal in survival situations. When technology fails, the old school method of using maps and compasses saves the day.​

Power System/Battery Life

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Watches can be mechanically powered, battery powered, or solar powered. For battery powered watches, you should look into how long the battery lasts before it needs replacement.

It's also always a good idea to have spare batteries with you in case they suddenly die. The good thing is, watch batteries don't need to be changed so often.

There are also rechargeable batteries nowadays. These kinds of watches are the more modern ones with digital displays and GPS systems installed in them.

The batteries don’t last as long as the conventional coin cell batteries, but they are rechargeable. For survival situations, this isn’t very ideal because you might not have access to an outlet for charging. Then, the watch is pretty useless.

Solar powered watches are great because they don't need batteries. You'll always have the sun to power them. Mechanical watches also don't need batteries.

You only need to wind them up to keep them going. With solar and mechanical powered watches, you don't need to worry about them dying at the wrong moment.​

Waterproof, shockproof, heatproof, etc.

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A survival watch should be rugged and ready for what nature has to offer. Waterproof, shockproof, and heatproof are great features to look out for.​

Ruggedness​

Overall, the watch should be able to withstand outdoor elements. Aside from being waterproof, shockproof, and heatproof, think about the materials it uses.

What is the bezel made of? How about the strap and the crystal (the display’s cover or protection)? Make sure they are suitable to the outdoors.​

**Below, you'll find our more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.

Top 5 best survival watch​

1. Casio Men's Rangeman (GW-9400-3)

In the world of timekeeping devices, Casio is a huge name - one of the bests. They have a wide range of models and features, with many that are suitable for survival situations.

This next one is a new addition to the Master of G series, Rangeman. It comes in a few different colors, one which is ideal for military use.

The Rangeman is built to withstand the most punishing conditions outdoors. It’s water resistant up to 200 meters, it's shocking resistant, and it’s also mud resistant.

These are all important features for the watch to remain functional. However, the useful features for you to survive is the Casio's Shock Resistant Triple Sensor.

It includes an altimeter/barometer, compass, and thermometer, which can help you find your way to safety.

Other features of this watch include sunrise and sunset indicators, a stopwatch, countdown timer, and a calendar.

It also has Multi-Band 6 Atomic Timekeeping, which means that as you travel across different time zones, your watch will adjust itself.

You also don’t have to worry about your watch dying at inconvenient times because it has a battery level indicator. More importantly, it has it has solar rechargeable batteries.

Best for: Hiking, camping, survival situations, military​

Pros:
Cons:
  • Multi-band 6 atomic timekeeping
  • Water, shock, and mud resistant. It’s also low temperature resistant.
  • The shock resistant triple sensor gives pretty accurate information. The sunrise and sunset indicators are also pretty accurate.
  • Solar rechargeable batteries.
  • Easy to use functions and buttons.
  • Reasonable price tag.
  • It’s a large watch, so if you want something sleek, this one isn’t it.
  • The many features can be overwhelming. Mastering all the features can take some time.

2. Garmin Fenix 3 (Gray)

Garmin is huge company trusted by automotive, aviation, marine, fitness, sports, and outdoor enthusiasts.

They are known for their technology used in GPS devices in cars, watches, and more. The Garmin Fenix 3 has all the features and more, to help you in survival situations.

What separates it from the others is that has GPS and GLONNAS technology. This eliminates the need for maps and compasses and makes navigation so much easier.

It also has fitness training features like a heart rate monitor, running distance tracker, and other sports trackers. If you are a swimmer, it can track your pace, your strokes, and more.

Another great thing about this watch is its display. It has a very advanced colored display that is easy to read in different lighting. It also has the smart technology and can connect to your smartphone and the internet.

This allows you to receive notifications on your watch. You can also download different apps and display faces on it.

Though the GPS is more than enough for navigation purposes, it still has an altimeter, barometer and compass to give you relevant information. Using the GPS function will drain the battery faster, which isn’t great in survival situations.

With the GPS activated, the battery life is only around 20 hours. On simple watch mode, the battery can last up to six weeks.

Best for: Swimming, running, biking, and other sports that require tracking, fitness tracking, day hikes​

Pros:
Cons:
  • Great display - sunlight readable, colorful, and can be personalized.
  • GPS/GLONNAS features.
  • Water resistant up to 100 meters.
  • Fitness training features.
  • It has an altimeter, barometer, and compass.
  • You can stay connected to your phone and receive notifications on the watch.
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Very easy to use functions
  • Sleek design
  • For a survival watch, the battery life is not ideal.
  • Since it has more features, it’s also more expensive
  • Not as robust as the Casio watches. It’s durable and sleek, but you will still have anxiety if you drop it or hit it against rocks.

3. Casio PAG240-1CR Pathfinder Sport Watch

Another great one from Casio is the always improving Pathfinder lineup. The PAG240, which is an upgrade of the PAG40, is a great option for outdoor and survival enthusiasts.

It has similar features with the GW 9400 Rangeman. This includes Triple Sensor, sunrise and sunset indicator, and a solar powered battery. It’s also water-resistant, but only up to 100 meters.

Other features of this watch include 31 time zones, 48 cities, a pre-programmed auto calendar, countdown timer, stopwatch, and a backlight. The display is different from the Rangeman, but it is still very easy to read and operate.

The batteries can last up to 6 months on a full charge if it doesn’t get sunlight exposure. But they are solar rechargeable, so no worries there.

Pros:
Cons:
  • Triple Sensor (Altimeter/barometer, thermometer, and compass)
  • Sunrise and sunset indicators
  • Battery level indicators; solar rechargeable batteries
  • Water resistant up to 100 meters. It’s suitable for swimming and snorkeling.
  • Large display, so it’s easy to read the information.
  • Reasonable price tag.
  • Easy to use functions
  • It’s not as easy to use as you think. You will need to learn how to operate the functions, and that may take some time of getting used to.

4. Suunto Traverse

In 2016, Wilderness Magazine included the SUUNTO traverse as part of the gear of the year and rightfully so. This smartwatch is similar to the Garmin Fenix because it has GPS and GLONNAS satellite navigation systems.

These features are very useful when you go out to explore. It also records your route, tracks speed, distance, and altitude, and has shown weather trends.

As a smartwatch, it can connect to your smartphone, so you get your notifications on your watch.

You can update it with new maps and routes with the SUUNTO Movescount App. The battery can last for about three days when the GPS is on. On regular watch functions, the batteries can last about 10-12 days.

Best for: Day hikes, Everyday use.​

Pros:
Cons:
  • Very accurate GPS and GLONNAS technology
  • Can connect to smartphones
  • You can personalize it with apps
  • Very sleek. You can use for everyday activities.
  • Water resistant up to 100 meters.
  • Altimeter, compass, and barometer.
  • Battery life is not ideal for survival situations that may call for more reliability.
  • A lot of buffers
  • Has fewer sports features for a smartwatch

5. Casio Men's SGW400H-1B

If I didn't mention it yet, I just want to say that Casio has so many options. This next one is a sports watch but can be an excellent survival watch as well. It has a twin sensor that has an altimeter/barometer and thermometer.

What separates this model from the other Casio watches I just reviewed is that this one is very affordable. Under 100 dollars you get a very durable watch with pretty decent features.

Like most Casio watches, the SGW400H-1B has a robust design. It is water resistant up to 100 meters. It's also low temperature resistant.

The display is both analog and digital, with a Japanese Quartz movement. The batteries are pretty good, lasting a few years before a need for change.

Best for: low budget​

Pros:
Cons:
  • The most affordable watch in the bunch.
  • Altimeter and barometer
  • Water-resistance up to 100 meters.
  • Not as many features are suitable for survival situations.
  • It looks too kiddy for adults.

Conclusion

When it comes to survival watches, the important thing is that it will help you get to safer conditions. An altimeter, barometer, and compass are essentials.

Then the watch itself needs to be fit to face rough outdoor conditions, so consider water resistance, shock resistance, and any other feature that protects it from damage. Finally, make sure its power system won’t fail you.

If the Garmin Fenix 3 had a much longer battery life, then I would’ve chosen it as the winner. It has awesome features, and the GPS function eliminates the need for some things.

However, a survival watch needs to be prepared for the worst possible scenario (ex. possibility of being lost for multiple days, escaping from people while you’re on a hike, etc.).

Survival situations call for more reliability, especially in battery life. With the Fenix 3, you’ll worry about the battery dying on you.

So, the winner for the best survival watch is the Casio Rangeman. All the watches I mentioned are pretty awesome options, but I would feel more hope if I had the Rangeman watch on.

I love to be outdoors, and I think overall, it’s got all the right features for a survival situation. I think it’s also a great watch for the activities that I do (hiking, camping, backpacking, biking, etc.).

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