You wouldn’t believe all the information these survival watches can give you – even while out in the wild!
Those mountains will always be there… But these watches won’t! So you better grab them while you can.
If you’re unsure what’s best for your specific survival watch needs…
… keep reading!
In this article, we’ll get into complete detail about:
- The best survival watch on the market – there are ten of those that you can choose from;
- Which one is the most durable, affordable, reliable, and other qualities;
- Their best survival features like ABC, GPS, tracker, etc.;
- The pros and cons of each watch; and
- Lots more!
You’ll find digital, smart, and analog survival watches in this list. Don’t judge yet – especially the analog ones. You’ll be surprised what they have in store for you!
If that’s the time…
… we better get going!
Whenever I get a new watch, I immediately look at its case material and read about its claims. I watch out for water resistance, shock and scratch resistance, and other durability features.
But for a survival watch…
I pay more attention to how much info I can get from it to help me have a better – and safer – outdoor adventure.
I added a few more qualities to look out for. Its accuracy and precision are the biggest factors, especially when it comes to its advanced features like built-in GPS, altimeter, barometer, compass, “bread crumb” tracker, and others.
It should also have a powerful battery that lasts longer than a few hiking trips. And, of course, I squeezed in its value for the money I spent on it.
For the first try…
… I wear the watches to Pikes Peak, a mountain that I’ve trekked a hundred times. I also love to wear them when I go wake surfing and swimming. When I find they’re reliable, I wear them to more rugged trails.
Out of all the watches I’ve worn over the years, here are the best ones. When you go through them, surely you’ll find one or two that would fit your needs!
SECTION 2: Best Survival Watches
Best ABC Survival Watch- Editor’s Choice
SUUNTO Core, Outdoor Sports Watch
- Relatively affordable
- Includes unique survival features
- Complete basic clock features
- 30-meter water resistance
- Good battery life
- All the features are accurate
- Slight durability issues
- The manufacturer doesn’t offer replacement parts
This Suunto Core survival watch has more features than I can count – at least for a watch of this price point.
We’re talking about…
… an altimeter, barometer, and compass – the whole ABC package. There’s also a storm alarm and dual-time features. And all of those work properly and with unmatched accuracy!
When I was just testing the Suunto Core out in Pikes Peak – I brought individual tools with me to compare the watch’s readings. So I found out that the compass was on-point, the barometer had about a 0.02 difference, and the altimeter was the same when rounded off.
This watch saved me from a dangerous hike on one of my trips when it alerted me of a coming storm.
Needless to say…
I fell in love with Suunto Core after the first try. So it became my go-to watch whenever I wanted to go hiking.
But I discovered it’s also great for swimming because of its water resistance. Suunto claims that it can go up to 30 meters underwater, but I haven’t tried that yet. But I know that salt or freshwater don’t have a say against this watch.
Just be careful…
Other users claim that the strap and band aren’t as durable as the watch itself. My Suunto Core is still intact after several years of use. But the straps indeed wear out faster than the rest of the watch.
They also say that the company doesn’t give spare parts for free even though it’s within the warranty. Maybe they just consider factory defects, I don’t know. But I haven’t had this problem since I met Suunto Core.
What I do know is…
I never needed to replace its batteries yet. Maybe it’s because I turn the ABC features off when I’m not hiking. But if you need those regularly, I’m guessing you’ll still find their battery life long-lasting.
And the best part is that Suunto Core isn’t the most expensive survival watch on the market! There’s no doubt about it being our Editor’s Choice.
Best Budget Survival Watch – Best Value Award
Timex Men’s T49612 Expedition Shock Digital Compass Watch
- Super affordable
- Great backlight for nighttime visibility
- Great battery life
- 200-m water resistance
- Great basic clock features
- Durability issues
- The parts cannot be replaced
- Less visible display in daylight
If you want an affordable yet not-so-basic watch that can last several years, I can’t recommend anything other than the Timex Expedition.
You won’t find the ABC features, but there’s a dual time display, which is still more than the basic digital watch can offer. But the best thing that this Timex survival watch can offer is its long-lasting battery power and affordability.
That’s why it’s our Best Value award winner!
My outdoor buddies and I decided to go wake surfing and I just needed an uncomplicated yet reliable survival watch. I thought it was the best time to put this Timex Expedition to the test.
And it passed with flying colors! It’s completely water-resistant. Although, I haven’t tried it with diving because, well, I don’t do that. But it’s safe to wear while doing some surface sports.
This Timex’s straps are less durable than those of the other survival watches I’ve tried. After around five years of regular use, the straps had torn off, but not completely.
Still, I looked for a replacement but it wasn’t possible. I have to buy a new one! But the one I have right now is still working so I’m just going to wait for it to completely break down before I decide if I want to buy another.
It’s an affordable yet great survival watch. I don’t regret getting this one, and I’m guessing you won’t either.
Best Bluetooth Survival Watch – Top Pick
Garmin Instinct Tactical, Rugged GPS Watch
- Compatible with smartphone
- 100-m water resistance
- It has lots of smart features
- Rugged and durable design
- Accurate readings
- Relatively low battery life
- Might be big and bulky for some
I was never a fan of smartwatches. I thought they had too many unnecessary features. But this tactical watch from Garmin changed my mind!
Unlike other smartwatches…
Garmin Instinct is a good survival watch. It has the necessary stuff – altimeter, barometer, digital compass, and other things that you’ll usually find on your phone.
My friends like that they can sync it with their smartphones. But I’m just impressed that this durable survival watch is still with me after five years and still looking good!
I wore this to Pikes Peak for a quick hike. It’s not the smoothest climb, and it rained that day, but Garmin Instinct didn’t even flinch. After that, I wore it lots of times to different mountains, and to go wake surfing and swimming.
I surprised myself with how much I love this watch!
But like any other smartwatch…
Its battery doesn’t last as long as your usual survival watch. It can last only up to 14 hours when in full survival mode. I’d prefer more than that when in a survival situation.
That’s why Garmin Instinct isn’t my favorite.
But it’s our Top Pick award winner for its durable build that doesn’t seem to wear out even after years of use!
Best Low-Temperature Resistant Survival Watch
Casio Protrek Tough-Solar PRW3500
- Durable and rugged build
- Accurate ABC and other features
- It has extra survival features
- Basic clock function work properly
- Great visibility and backlighting
- Might be too bulky for some users
- ABC features don’t work well when used simultaneously
- Poor battery life
The Casio Protrek 3500 is a super reliable watch. I found no complications when it comes to its basic watch features – stopwatch, countdown timer, alarm, sunrise/sunset, etc.
And when it comes to the altimeter, barometer, and compass – Casio 3500 is one of the most accurate survival watches I’ve tried.
But that’s not all…
The Casio Protrek 3500 has a storm alarm too. It will have saved many people from lots of run-ins with bad weather before.
There’s only the matter of using all the functions at once. Once I turned the altimeter on, I noticed that the barometer became slightly inaccurate. When I calibrate it again, the altimeter or the compass gets disturbed. So they just go back and forth.
But that’s not a thing to worry about. You won’t have to use them all at once in a survival situation anyway. If you’re fine with calibrating now and then, you won’t have a problem with Casio 3500.
The Casio 3500 maintains its accuracy and performance even in cold weather conditions.
It’s water-resistant, which is useful when I go swimming or do other surface sports. But I was most impressed when I wore this on a three-day hiking and camping trip with my friends in Pikes Peak.
I didn’t need to calibrate it as often as the other G-Shock models or brands. And it’s a solar-powered watch, mind you!
You’ll easily see accurate readings whether you go hiking during the day or camp at night. I dare say Casio 3500’s backlighting is one of the best. And it’s quite important for someone with eyesight as bad as mine.
The only downer about this is the battery consumption. It’s hard enough to charge it fully, even if it’s exposed to the sun all day. Now all the functions and the best backlighting eat up the battery in just 10 hours.
Casio 3500 is solar-powered. The battery tops up as you wear it. And based on my experience, it lasts for the whole night.
So I highly recommend this survival watch even though it’s a little heavy on the wallet. But it’s still less expensive than the Casio G-Shock watches if you’re familiar with those.
Besides, it survived years of rugged use with me. And I’m not the most careful watch owner in the world.
Best Survival Watch With Wearable4U USB Power Bank
Garmin Instinct Tactical Edition GPS Watch
- It comes with a power bank
- Relatively long battery life (not including power bank)
- Designed for water, thermal, and shock resistance
- Includes four tactical modes
- Precise and accurate functionality
- Durable overall build
- Very expensive
- Prone to glitching
- The display wore out quickly
Based on my experience, smartwatches aren’t the best survival watches because of their batteries.
You might argue, “You can just charge it, dude,” But what’s the use of a rechargeable battery when you’re out in the wilderness with no power source?
The Garmin manufacturer thought about that and included a power bank in this Garmin Instinct survival watch package! And it’s compact and lightweight too, so it’s easy to carry anywhere.
Compared to other survival watches of this functionality and price point, Garmin has long battery life. Add to that the power bank’s energy storage, and I found it more convenient than other smartwatches.
It’s as rugged as expected from a Garmin watch – especially the price. The watch and the power bank survived different mountains and climates with me.
It got soaked, scorched, and fell off my wrist when I got a little clumsy. And its water, thermal, shock, and scratch-resistance claims proved to be true.
Over the years, I had to reset and re-calibrate my Garmin’s functions several times. The watch features remained on-point, but the essential features for survival kept jumping up and down.
More than once, I noticed that the digital compass went off a few degrees when I hadn’t even moved. At first, I thought I had just got a defective watch. But based on other reviews, this problem is pretty common for Garmin users.
And as much as I loved the durability of its overall build, I was disappointed by the display. One morning, I woke up to see a blotch on the corner of my watch’s screen. It’s still there right now.
The blotch didn’t seem to affect this watch’s key features. And it doesn’t get in the way of the reading display.
So even now, I’m still enjoying Garmin’s stealth, dual-position GPS, waypoint projection, and Jumpmaster modes. I specifically loved how you can save ways and navigation, leave a “bread crumb” trail, the trackback function, and the good old storm alert.
This Garmin survival watch proved to be reliable and high-performing every time I wore it!
Best Full Auto LED Survival Watch
Casio Men’s Pro Trek PRG-270-1 Tough Solar Triple Sensor Multifunction Digital Sport Watch
- Long battery life
- Easy to set, customize, and calibrate
- Great daylight and nighttime display
- ABC features don’t work well when used simultaneously
- Body temperature hugely affects functionality
- Slight durability issues
When I trek on familiar trails or sites, I usually go for a simple watch. I’d love to have more than the basics – maybe the ABC and other essential features for survival. But they’re not my priority.
Instead, I care more about battery, durability, and compactness. And this Casio Pro Trek model has those!
This Casio has an altimeter, barometer, and digital compass. Right after calibrating, I was impressed by its accuracy. However, it seemed to keep on glitching, and I had to re-calibrate.
After reading about it in other reviews, I found out that it has something to do with how all these features affect their functionality.
Since there’s no GPS, the altimeter depends on temperature and other surrounding factors. So when the barometer reading changes, so does the altimeter. And my body temperature has a say in all these too.
So, I learned…
If I wanted to get the most accurate readings, I shouldn’t use all these features simultaneously. That means I had to re-calibrate as soon as I switched the display.
You can guess how I felt about that – disappointed. But it’s good that navigating through the watch’s interface was foolproof.
Besides, for this Casio Pro Trek’s price, I have to say it’s still more than I expected. Sure it’s not the most rugged and durable out there. But its stainless steel case hasn’t shown signs of wear just yet.
And in the end…
I’ve grown to love this Casio Pro Trek and its simplicity. I had no complaints about its digital clock, countdown timer, etc.
In trails that I’ve almost memorized over the years – like Pikes Peak and other nearby mountains – telling the time is more important than the altitude.
On top of all that…
This survival watch lasted eight or nine months before recharging. That’s more than I can say about the Casio G-Shock and other brand models!
Best Water Resistance Survival Watch
Luminox Men’s 3051 EVO Navy SEAL Colormark Watch
- 200-meter water resistance
- Simple, yet cool design
- Rugged and durable design
- Very light and comfortable
- Long battery life
- Very expensive
- No ABC features
If you want an even simpler and more basic option than the Casio smartwatch, let me point you to Luminox. It’s the best among the analog watches I’ve tried so far.
Just to be clear…
As an outdoor enthusiast living in this century, my quest for the best survival watch was supposed to be focused on digital ones. But this Luminox analog watch caught my attention.
While swimming with a buddy, I saw his Luminox watch, and I thought it looked cool. I just had to try it.
I expected it to be basic – no altimeter, barometer, digital compass, etc. It only had the time and date. But I didn’t expect it to be so pricey.
But before I could complain about it, I could easily guess that this Luminox watch would last years with me. And it did, even until now. It’s still one of my favorites to take on a quick trek or wake surfing.
Long story short…
Luminox stayed true to its promises. I usually wear it when I go swimming, jogging, and do other outdoor activities. It’s reliable enough in any weather condition, so I keep using it.
I’ve never had to repair this Luminox analog watch except when the batteries ran out, which happened years after I bought it.
And it’s one of the most comfortable watches I own!
Best High-Torque Quartz Survival Watch
MARATHON 41mm Pilot’s Navigator
- Excellent overall durability
- It has a “low battery” indicator mechanism
- Classy and elegant design
- Very expensive
- Relatively poor battery life
When I started exploring analog outdoor watches, I kept getting suggestions to buy a Marathon watch. So I did, and despite its expensive price, I don’t regret a penny!
I didn’t expect the altimeter, barometer, and digital compass trio. But durability is its expertise.
You’ll be able to tell, straight from the box, that this is more than just a stylish watch.
I found out that it’s recommended for military personnel because it’s water, thermal, and shock-resistant.
It’s still intact, even after years of use and abuse. However, I’ve had its battery replaced more than once because it runs out quicker than the Luminox watches.
I was disappointed about that because it was more expensive.
But one thing I loved regarding the battery is how it tells you when it’s running low. The second-hand ticks forward in advance every four seconds before it starts slowing down and telling you the wrong time.
It took me a while to figure out why it did that. But my friend, a Marathon fan, told me that it meant the batteries needed changing.
It’s worth the money, and I love wearing my Marathon survival watch even when I’m not in any of my outdoor activities.
Best Quality Survival Watch
Casio Pathfinder Men’s Tough Solar Triple Sensor
- Very affordable
- 100-meter water resistance
- World time feature
- Solar-powered and long battery life (with the power save option)
- Accurate ABC and thermometer functions
- It has display inconsistencies
- Alarm volume is too low
- Slight durability issues
I was pretty impressed by Casio Pathfinder’s basic watch features. You can set up to five alarms with it, use the stopwatch, and its world time feature gives the date and time for 48 cities.
When it comes to key features for survival…
The Casio Pathfinder doesn’t disappoint as well! The altimeter, barometer, digital compass, and thermometer readings are accurate, and I didn’t have to recalibrate them as often as the other Casio G-Shock models and different brands.
Even when my body temperature was high, the watch still read the altitude and barometric pressure properly. This watch’s performance was great!
The only problem is…
Casio Pathfinder’s backlight isn’t as bright as I hoped. And after turning it on, it switches off immediately once I push another button.
I asked and researched how to get around that because I thought I just didn’t know how to use it properly. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one with that problem.
It’s an affordable watch, especially compared to most Casio G-Shock survival watches. So I expected it when I found out it’s not the best survival watch for durability.
The stainless steel case protects the watch well, but the band seems to be flimsier than the rest of it.
It will last longer if you’re careful enough. My Casio Pathfinder is still with me, and its battery can last for more than a year. If you often use it outdoors, that is. Otherwise, it runs for only five to six months.
Overall, it’s a pretty impressive Casio survival watch!
Best Analog Display Survival Watch
Luminox Recon Pointman Quartz Movement Black Dial Men’s Watch
- Great overall durability
- Great nighttime visibility
- Long battery life
- Reliable basic features
- No ABC features
After my fifth analog survival watch purchase, I thought, “Why are they more expensive than ABC and GPS watches?”
The quick answer was…
… they last longer. These watches are usually made to stay with you for a lifetime with infrequent battery changes.
And the Luminox Recon is the third analog survival watch that proved true to its word. I’ve only had to replace its batteries twice in five or six years. And I use it all the time too!
I only wear this as an everyday watch. It’s not an ideal survival watch because I need more than the time and date when I explore a new trail.
But it’s a durable watch so I can’t blame it for its price. You’ll still find it worth every penny if you’re a minimalist, even in your outdoor adventures.
And by the way…
It doesn’t have a backlight like a digital display watch, but it has the brightest glow-in-the-dark clock hands. It’s not a unique feature, but I found that this Luminox watch is best in that case.
Section 3: Why Trust Us?
Here at Bugoutbill.com, my buddies and I have been reviewing lots of gear and equipment for outdoor activities.
Then I thought…
“Why not make a review of my watches?” After all, I’ve had them for years, and I’ve bought lots of them because I wanted to find the best one. And it’s a small but terrible survival tool.
Since my opinion wasn’t always the same as my fellow outdoor enthusiasts, I figured I could make a top ten list so you can have options.
And here it is!
After years of wearing and testing them like a committed skeptic, I can say that I’ve found the best survival watch for me.
Hopefully, this list will lead you to yours!
Section 4: Buyers Guide: How To Choose The Best Survival Watch
What are the different types of Survival Watches?
- Analog – traditionally designed watches with hour, minute, and second hands.
- Digital – tells the time by flashing the digits and has other functions like a countdown timer, stopwatch, world time, etc.
- Smart – like a digital one but you can sync it with your smartphone; it has more functions like the ABC, health tracker, GPS, and other features.
Features to look out for:
- A survival watch with GPS has a more accurate and consistent ABC reading.
- A water-resistant watch is a must in survival situations.
- A solar-powered watch is highly recommended when you go to remote places.
Survival watch and specifications explained:
Like an ordinary wristwatch, a survival wristwatch tells the time and date for you. Sometimes you can set daily alarms with it too. But a survival watch has better build quality, built-in GPS, ABC functions, and other key features for survival.
- Dial size – diameter of the watch face
- Case size – dimensions of the whole package
- GPS – watches with built-in GPS have more accurate ABC readings
- Case material – determines the build quality
These are things to consider:
- No matter how durable a watch is, it’s all for nothing if it’s not water-resistant and shock-resistant.
- Analog survival watches have longer battery life than digital ones. But the latter is usually solar-powered, so they recharge as you use them.
- ABC – altimeter, barometer, compass
Quartz – the movement in a watch circuit board that powers the watch; it can be Japanese quartz or a Swiss quartz movement.
Section 5: FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions
Q – What is the most useful watch?
A – It depends on the features that you feel are most important. If you’re particular about the watch’s battery and durability, an analog survival watch like the Luminox and Marathon watches might appeal to you. But if you’re looking for the ABC and other features, a digital outdoor watch might be your thing (Casio, Garmin, etc.)
Q – Will a digital watch survive an EMP?
A – Digital watches in metal casings have a better chance than those in plastic. But in the case of an EMP, an analog watch would be more useful.
Q – Do quartz watches emit radiation?
A – Quartz watches do emit a weak electromagnetic radiation. It’s almost undetectable, but it’s more than you’ll find from most household devices.
If you still can’t choose, maybe these metric rankings will help you. Check out the best ones for each metric to know what exactly it is you’re looking for!
Section 6: Our Analysis, Comparisons & Test Results
Value for Money
Survival watches come in a wide range of prices. So I based my expectations on those prices and scored each watch according to how they met or exceeded those expectations.
In the end…Our Best Value Timex Expedition and Editor’s Choice Suunto Core got perfect scores. They’re two of the most affordable ones and the highest quality.
For this metric, the most important thing for me is the battery life of the watch. And one of its factors is how much the watch can do with so little energy consumed.
…that the most long-lasting watches are the analog ones. But the digital ones are rechargeable so I gave them credit for that.Our Best Value Timex Expedition got a perfect score because it always took me a while before I had to top up its battery.
This is the most important metric because it affects the watch’s functions and determines whether I have to buy another one or not. I considered the case material, the band integrity, and the overall performance of the watch for this.
And the winners are…The Luminox military-grade watch and our Top Pick, the Garmin Instinct survival watch. Even after years of hiking, swimming, surfing, and other outdoor activities, they barely have scratches.
This metric is where the accuracy and precision of the promised watch functions come in. For the ones with an altimeter, barometer, compass, and other survival features, I tested them against actual tools for those.
And, of course, I compared their timekeeping to other clocks and watches.
The best survival watch in this area is…… our Editor’s Choice Suunto Core and the Casio ProTrek 3500.
In this metric, I squeezed in all the other considerations. The overall design, build, feel, number of functions and features, ease of operation, etc.
As you can see…Our Editor’s Choice, Suunto Core, towered over the others. Although, they’re not far behind.
Our Final Verdict: Best Survival Watches
If you want the safest choice…
…you must go with our award winners! Our Editor’s Choice Suunto Core is the best performing, most accurate, and one of the most affordable watches.
Our Best Value Timex Expedition is both affordable and high-quality. And there’s our Top Pick Garmin Instinct with its durable build.
They’re all just within your reach!
Section 7: Conclusion: Best Survival Watches
From one enthusiast to another…
Sometimes the difference between a good adventurer and a great one is the ultimate survival watch that suits your needs perfectly!
I found the ones that I rotate around whenever I go hiking, trekking, swimming, surfing, etc. These are the best on the market based on my years of experience.
You’ll never know…
Maybe you’ll grow to love analog choices like the Luminox and Marathon ones. They’re long-lasting and very durable.
But if you want to stick to the digital world – like me – Suunto Core, Garmin Instinct, Timex, and Casio are the best choices.
So, gear up!
Your outdoor expeditions are about to get better!