The Best Survival Watch Buying Guide

A survival watch is an essential piece of gear to have because it allows you to track time and days while out in the wilderness. Not only that, but watches intended for outdoor adventures also come with a wide range of survival features. Now, there are watch manufacturers that have designed watches durable enough to withstand various outdoor elements.

This article will outline the factors to consider to help you find the best survival watch and give product reviews of the most popular models you’ll find on the market.

Factors to Consider



When it comes to buying a watch, it’s important to find one with a high degree of accuracy. Digital clocks tend to be more accurate than analog clocks. Digital clocks have a time reading accuracy of 0.007 seconds and analog clocks can delay for up to 0.07 seconds.


Survival watches need to be well-constructed to ensure that they can withstand the outdoor elements. For instance, shock resistance is a feature to look out for. A watch that is heat proof is also important if your watch will be exposed to intense sunlight for extended periods of time. Make sure the watch cover is made out of mineral crystal, which makes it virtually indestructible. Crystal plastic is also durable, but can be scratched more easily. Also, look for watch bezels that are made with high-quality materials such as titanium, carbon fiber or high-grade plastics.

Wrist Band/Strap

It’s important to have a durable wrist band to reduce the likelihood of your watch breaking while in the wild. Some of the best wrist band materials you’ll find are silicone, rubber and paracord. Straps made out of metal and leather are not recommended because they do not hold up well in extreme outdoor conditions.

Water Resistance

Water resistant watches will work well in environments where humidity is not excessive, while waterproof watches allow you to submerge them underwater. The best survival watch will be water proof or have a high degree of water resistance. You’ll even find some watches that can withstand depths of up to 200 meters/660 feet. Be sure to check for any warnings with submerging a watch. Almost all survival watches have some degree of water resistance, but are not always recommended for water activities such as diving and snorkelling. You will need a waterproof watch to submerge it for an extended period of time.


For survival watches, readability is an important feature. A negative display (with black background and white text) is highly recommended for better readability outdoors. Also consider buying a watch with a non-reflective screen to prevent sun reflections and to be more discreet in the wild. It’s also important for your watch to be readable at night. Look for a survival watch with luminescent hands or digits or an inverse LCD screen. Some watches will have a button-activated backlight or red backlight for night time use.

Power Source

The best survival watches will either be mechanical or solar-powered to ensure that they don’t die while you’re in the wilderness. Mechanical watches can be continuously wound up to keep them going. Solar powered watches are powered by the sun or work in conjunction with batteries for extra power. These will be your most reliable options when it comes to survival watches. Quartz movement watches, on the other hand, rely on batteries and might die when you need it the most. But if you decide to buy a battery powered watch, be sure to ask whether the batteries can easily be replaced or if they need to be replaced in a shop or by the manufacturer. If the owner can easily replace the batteries, make sure to bring extra batteries on your trip.

Range of Survival Features

  • Global Positioning System (GPS): A GPS is a helpful feature to have because it provides you with coordinates in case you get lost. You can know your exact your location and figure out how to get to your next stop point or back to basecamp. It’s important to note that with some isolated locations, GPS functions may become limited.
  • Compass: Most survival watches will have a compass for navigation. Some will have a rotating needle compass, but most of the time they’ll be digital. A good compass will allow you to find true north in case you lose your way.
  • Thermometer: A thermometer is an important feature for places with extreme temperatures. You can track your body temperature or the air temperature around you. They can help you prevent the risk of hypothermia or heat stroke.
  • Barometer: This feature will help you predict rain and adverse weather conditions. Barometers measures atmospheric pressure and give you the ability to track pressure and get a sense when a storm might hit.
  • Altimeter: An altimeter is ideal for treks in mountainous regions so you know your exact altitude in relation to topographical maps. They can help you get back to base camp in case you get lost. They’re also more reliable than a GPS at measuring altitude.
  • Sunrise/Sunset Times:Having these times displayed on your survival watch will help you plan when to set up camp and when to start your trek in the morning. You can set a hiking timeline according to the hours of sunshine you have in a day.


For these survival features, it’s important to find out whether the readings follow the metric or imperial system. You may only be well-versed in one system and not the other. However, you will find that some survival watches that have readings in both the metric and imperial system.

Reliance on Wireless Networks

Some survival watches are technologically advanced and designed for connections with smartphones for certain functions. If you spend most of your outdoor adventures in isolated places, you may reconsider getting a watch with features that rely on wireless networks. These technologically advanced watches are often more expensive than other survival watches, so it’s important to consider whether the features can be successfully linked to a wireless network in your outdoor location(s).

Other Features

Other useful features that can be useful include: alarms, stop watch, chronograph, power-saving mode, route tracker and speed tracker. Overall, it’s important to access your individual outdoor needs to figure out which features will be the most useful for you.

Product Reviews

Now, it’s time to take a look at some of the best survival watches on the market.


Timex Expedition Shock Digital Compass Watch

This Expedition watch was designed to withstand Timex Outdoor Torture Tests. It’s shock resistant to I.S.O. standards and water resistant up to 200 meters/660 feet. The Expedition watch is made with durable resin case and a nylon strap. The nylon strap features a buckle closure that allows you to securely fasten the watch during rigorous outdoor use.

The Indiglo light-up watch dial and negative display will ensure that you can keep track of time even with its dark outside. To help with navigation in the wild, the watch also features a digital compass.

Pros: high degree of water resistance, illuminates for night use, shock resistant

Cons: wrist band could be more durable, limited number of survival features

>>>Click to see the latest price for Timex Expedition Shock Digital Compass Watch<<<

LAD Weather GPS Outdoor Watch

This LAD WEATHER GPS Outdoor digital watch is made with a mineral glass lens, polyurethane wrist band and an ABS plastic and stainless steel case.

It has a wide range of features, such as: GPS, navigation mode, track log interval, heart rate monitor, workout functions for biking, hiking and sailing, countdown timer, PC connection function, digital compass, waterproofness to 100 meters/330 feet and contrast light settings for better readability. The watch has a Quartz movement and powered by a lithium ion battery.

Pros: good range of survival features, high degree of water resistance, compass and GPS for navigation

Cons: battery powered

>>>Check out what other customers say about the LAD Weather GPS Outdoor Watch<<<

LAD Weather Swiss Sensor Digital Watch

LAD WEATHER’s Swiss Sensor Digital watch is constructed with an ABS plastic case, stainless steel band and a polyurethane clasp. It can increase or decrease contrast levels and can be used at night with its electro luminescence backlight feature. This Swiss Sensor watch has a number of survival features, such as: an altimeter, weather forecasting, barometer, digital compass, thermometer and chronograph.

The watch also allows you to go into power saving mode, dual time mode, pacer mode or set a timer, alarm and the day and date. The watch can also be set to the metric or imperial system.

Pros: wide range of survival features, illuminates for night use, metric and imperial readings

Cons: wrist band could be more durable, water resistance unknown

>>>Click here for more info about the LAD Weather Swiss Sensor Digital Watch<<<

Suunto Observer SR Wrist-Top Computer Watch

Suunto’s Observer SR is made with a rugged stainless steel housing and an elastic wrist strap. It features a built-in altimeter that can record your climbing sessions, a barometer that has a 4-day barometric memory, and a digital compass to help you with navigation. Other survival features include: temperature readings, chronograph, stopwatch, alarms and an electro luminescent display for night use.

This watch is great for outdoor use, and also has a water resistance up to 100 meters/330 feet. The Observer SR can be set to the metric or imperial system.

Pros: wide range of survival features, illuminates for night use, metric and imperial readings, high degree of water resistance

Cons: battery powered

>>>Click to see the latest price for Suunto Observer SR Wrist-Top Computer Watch<<<

Suunto Core Watch

The Suunto Core is a high-tech digital watch specifically designed for the outdoors. It includes a number of survival features, such as an altimeter to track your progress on climbs, a barometer to inform you of sudden changes in air pressure, a digital compass for navigation, and a sunrise/sunset feature for over 400 locations around the world.

It was built with a silicone strap to withstand the outdoor elements and is water resistant to a depth of 30 meters/98.4 feet. It has a negative display and adjustable contrast which improves readability outdoors. The Suunto Core also comes in a wide range of colors.

Pros: good range of survival features, water resistant

Cons: battery powered, wrist band could be more durable

>>>Check out what other customers say about the Suunto Core ALU Watch<<<

Suunto Traverse Watch

Suunto’s Traverse watch was designed for treks and adventures out in the wild. This digital watch is constructed with a mineral dial window, stainless steel case, silicone wrist band and buckle clasp. Apart from telling time, this survival watch has a wide range of useful features for the outdoors, such as: GPS and GLONASS for route and POI navigation, route records, speed tracking, distance and altitude tracker, compatibility with heat maps on Suunto Movescount, water resistance to 100 meters/330 feet, weather trend and storm alarm, sunrise and sunset times, compass, backlight in flashlight mode, GPS time update, vibration alarm, daily, weekly, monthly and yearly activity tracking of steps and calories, and mobile notifications.

Pros: wide range of survival features, high degree of water resistance compass and GPS for navigation

Cons: some features rely on wireless data

>>>Click here for more info about the Suunto Traverse Watch<<<

Casio Protrek WSD-F20 Smart Watch

This Casio PRO TREK Smart watch is powered by Quartz movement and constructed with a resin casing and strap, a buckle clasp and a mineral dial window. It has a wide range of survival features, such as: GPS, full color map display, location memory, altimeter, barometer, compass, water resistance to 50 meters/165 feet, and smart phone compatibility.

It also allows you to track progress for activities such as cycling, trekking and paddling. The PRO TREK Smart watch is up to military standards and complies with environmental performance.

Pros: wide range of survival features, compass and GPS for navigation

Cons: battery powered, some features rely on wireless data

>>>Click to see the latest price for Casio Protrek WSD-F20 Smart Watch<<<

Final Thoughts

When it comes to investing in a survival watch, it’s important to access your intended use and outdoor lifestyle. There are survival watches that have only a few features and some that have more than you may need. Think about the places you intend to use your watch and assess the terrain, weather conditions and humidity. Become familiar with the factors you should consider before buying a survival watch and research a wide range of models to find the best survival watch for your next outdoor adventure.

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