In the not so distant past, having a reliable timepiece meant one that could ensure an accurate time and date reading.
Nowadays, hiking aficionados only look for the best outdoor watches that have a ton of functions and apps, apart from ensuring an accurate display during day and night. That’s why we’ll help you navigate the sea of watches, and choose a gadget that will really prove itself worthy.
So we’ll start you off with a few features you need to consider, and end up with some gizmos we think are really grade A.
Making Sure You Get The Best
The factors you should take into account when choosing your survival watch are:
The display matters probably the most, and you can remember that a decade or so ago, the reflection was the number one enemy in the outdoors. However, tactical watches have developed enormously from a technological viewpoint, and their display is clear even in bad weather.
That means there’s no squinting or changing positions required when you’re out in the open sun, so make sure you get an anti-glare display.
Accuracy is significant because it minimizes time loss, particularly when you schedule activities depending on a group.
So apart from the display, you need a gadget that doesn’t require constant readjusting. That’s why you should buy a watch that doesn’t drift, like quartz or digital, since these only allow a maximum variation of 0.07 seconds each day.
The best hiking watch should tell you the time in any lighting conditions, including in complete darkness. And it’s even better if it can do that without you using both your hands, like you’d do when pushing a side button to activate the backlight.
Imagine you’re hunting at nightfall, and you’re probably holding your shotgun all the time. Putting it down to read the watch is a nuisance, which is why luminescent hands are better.
From all the extras you can get with your outdoor watch, having a GPS is perhaps the most important feature. That’s because you need to set a clear path, follow a certain track or have a quick way out in case you get lost.
Besides, GPS is great for planning in advance or double-checking tracks with other members of your group.
Another good feature that prevents you getting lost is having a compass. This is especially good when you receive no signal to activate your GPS.
At this point, you need a backup plan that’s most likely using an old-fashioned compass and map to triangulate your position and find out the direction you should be moving in.
Resistance to the elements
That generally translates to two basic characteristics: being waterproof and dustproof. Since being in the wilderness entails lots of rain, storms, climbing, and using certain survival tools, you’ll surely have to deal with water and debris, which you don’t want to get into your watch.
The good news is that there’s such a thing as the International Protection scale which offers you a table with all sorts of ratings which tells you if your gadget is good to go. The number you’ll read is composed out of two digits, the first showing your watch’s dust resistance and the second showing its resistance to liquids.
As such, you’ll need at least a 5 for the first digit, which means you’re safe in conditions of limited dust ingress. The 6 means you’re safe from total dust ingress, which is definitely better.
For the second digit, we recommend at least a 4, that stands for protection against water spraying from all possible directions.
That means a 4 is a good level to keep your watch safe when it’s raining or when you’re in the shower. A 7 or an 8 would be even better, because at this level your watch can even be submerged in water, up to a particular pressure.
So it’s also a good idea to check how many atmospheres of pressure your gizmo can resist to, but we can tell you need above 10atm if you’re planning to go swimming with your watch on.
Having a watch with all the right features but with an incredibly brief life is nothing short than a hassle. You need your batteries to hold for at least two days, although some of the top shelf tactical watches will last double that long. In that case, and especially for longer trips, you definitely need to pack your charger too.
Apart from resistance to water and dust, there are other things your watch needs to withstand, like damages, scratches, and hits.
Durability is extremely important when it comes to outdoor use because we all know it’s impossible to enjoy a hiking trip without getting a few bumps yourself. Which is why getting a shock-resistant watch is a real necessity: you want it to work for as long as possible, and after as many impacts as possible.
So you don’t want your screen scratched very easily, that would mess with the watch’s display and your ability to read it fast and accurate. That entails durability is linked to materials, craftsmanship, and tests made to ensure you have a sturdy item.
The best materials you’ll find are:
- Stainless steels.
All these are resistant to shocks, and pretty comfortable to wear, although Corundum is heavier and a bit more expensive. Most polymers are the cheaper and lighter option from the three.
But craftsmanship is equally important, which is why you should make sure your gizmo was manufactured by a trustworthy brand. Most brands today market items that are affordable for different budgets, so don’t buy a fake just for saving a few bucks, because in the long-term you actually don’t.
Brands will also test the watch in hard conditions as they want to keep their reputation, which is another plus.
What Gadgets We Recommend
Taking all these factors into account is the preliminary, yet necessary step before starting to browse the items on the market. In order to get a better idea of what a good timepiece looks like, we’ve compiled a top 8 best hiking watches list. Starting with:
Garmin fēnix 3, Sapphire
Weight: 2.88 ounces
Dimensions: 0.6 x 2 x 2 inches
Specifications: chroma display; sapphire lens; exo-antenna; wireless connectivity; long-lasting battery
Best Use: hiking
Description: At 4.4 stars and $569.00, Garmin fēnix 3, Sapphire is one watch that certainly deserves its reputation and high rating. To begin with, it has an awesome display which you can read even in direct sunlight.
That’s because it’s a Chroma display that allows for a great resolution and visibility, seeing as it’s optically-bonded.
The material from which the lens is made of is Sapphire, which is another name for Corundum. This is the most resistant material on the market, that is very strong and reliable in preventing all sorts of scratches.
Apart from its GPS, you’ll also get more options that help you mark your position, like an exo-antenna, GLONASS, and EPO. These four combined account for increased accuracy and control of your movements. Not to mention you also have the valuable extra of wireless connectivity for software updates and data synchronization.
And the rechargeable battery has a very long lifespan: you can use the watch for 6 weeks in the plain watch mode, and for a maximum of 20 hours with the GPS on.
Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR Running GPS Unit
Weight: 3.14 ounces
Dimensions: 1.97 x 1.97 x 0.71 inches
Specifications: altitude and weather info; altimeter; barometer; GPS; compass; 200 hours battery life; 100 meters water resistance; connects to smartphone
Best Use: high-altitude hiking
Description: At 4.5 stars and $329.99, Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR Running GPS Unit is perfect for the outdoorsman who loves hiking at higher altitudes.
That’s because it offers an exact reading of the height you’re at, as well as very precise weather information. As you know, whether changes very fast in the mountains, which is why you need all that, along with accurate navigation.
The Ambit3 can do that, and moreover provide a sturdy exterior that’s resistant to various shocks and waterproof. You can submerge it into water up til 100 meters and it will still work like a charm.
Apart from the altimeter, this gadget includes a barometer for measuring the atmospheric pressure. The included compass and GPS are good extra features to have that prevent you from getting lost, as well as helping you plan your journey better.
The battery life is another amazing feat, it can last 200 whole hours, and the accuracy is 1 minute, which is why you’ll sync up perfectly with your group. Speaking of which, you can easily connect this watch to your smartphone and share the photos and movies you can take with it, as well as get your notifications in time.
Suunto Traverse Watch
Weight: 0.8 ounces
Dimensions: 2 x 0.7 x 2 inches
Specifications: GPS; GLONASS Satellite; distance and altitude statistics; barometric trend; storm alerts; daylight hours; connects to smartphone
Best Use: perfect planning
Description: This 4.2 stars and $326.37 Suunto Traverse Watch is the perfect gizmo for hikers who are addicted to both planning and discovering new territories at the same time.
If you’re a geek for statistics of all kinds, you can easily see what progress you’ve made by using incorporated statistics regarding distance and altitude progress.
This feature also allows you to save the location of the areas that you found most appealing for a revisit. Later on, you can actually come back and retrace your movements with a feature called the “breadcrumb trail”.
All that will help you explore and find new routes, which you can afterward upload to the watch. Besides, since the Suunto Traverse is equipped with both GPS and GLONASS, you’ll be sure to always have an accurate position and never get lost.
Besides, if you’re interested in statistics and accurate measurements, you’ll be thrilled with the barometric trend option, that measures pressure and helps you predict if the weather’s about to change. You’ll get some storm alerts too so you know when to stay put.
Another treat for people who love numbers is the exact hours at which the sun rises and sets, for an improved planning of your hike according to daylight.
Casio Men’s PRW-3000-1ACR Protrek Black Sport Watch
Weight: 6.4 ounces
Dimensions: 5.9 x 5.9 x 5.9 inches
Specifications: imported; multiple functions; power saving function; long battery life; stainless steel case; mineral dial window; quartz movement; digital display; 100 meters water resistance
Best Use: long hiking trips
Description: This imported 4.1 stars and $182.99 Casio Men’s PRW-3000-1ACR Protrek Black Sport Watch is the epitome of a sports watch.
That’s because it has a lot of functions that make it the perfect gadget to have, thanks to its increased versatility. For one, it’s great for timekeeping since it has multiple bands. But it will additionally tell you things like:
- The altitude you’re at with the included altimeter.
- Your position, thanks to the digital compass.
- The atmospheric pressure with the built-in barometer.
- The exact temperature courtesy of its thermometer.
- When the sun rises and sets.
- The battery level.
This Casio timepiece is in plus very sturdy, being able to withstand temperatures as low as 14°F. That’s because it has a resistant case made of stainless steel, the dial window is mineral, and the resin band is likewise tough.
The battery can resist 7 whole months, but you also have an indicator to tell you its level of charging, as well as a power-saving option. Not to mention you can take it swimming since it’s water resistant to 100 meters.
Furthermore, the watch has a good nighttime display thanks to its LED backlight that allows an after-glow so you don’t have to push some side button to get an accurate reading.
Suunto Spartan Ultra
Weight: 8 ounces
Dimensions: 2 x 1 x 2 inches
Specifications: color touchscreen; wide viewing angle; 80 Sports modes; 26 hours battery life; GPS; altimeter; barometer; compass; 100 meters water resistance; connects to smartphone
Best Use: outdoor
Description: This 3.6 stars and $799 all black titanium Suunto Spartan Ultra is great when it comes to hiking in sunny weather.
It will tell you the accurate time without you having to tilt it or find shade since it has a last generation color touchscreen for increased visibility. It moreover has a wide viewing angle that basically has the same purpose, which is a great asset outdoors.
Its 80 sports modes are pre-installed to assist you in a plethora of outdoor activities, so it’s a very versatile gadget.
You’re also able to go in rougher expeditions or hikes since its battery can live for about 26 hours before needing a recharge. Plus you get a GPS and compass to set your position and track your movements, as well as an altimeter and barometer to get precise height and pressure readings.
And you can go swimming or snorkel any time you like since the Spartan Ultra still functions after being submerged into water. However, diving is not recommended because its water resistance is up to 100 meters.
Besides, it’s easy to connect this gadget to your smartphone to get all sorts of notifications and useful updates.
Related: Black ($699); Stealth Titanium ($799); White ($699)
Casio Men’s PRG-270-4CR “Pro Trek” Digital Sport Watch
Weight: 12 ounces
Dimensions: 5.9 x 5.9 x 5.9 inches
Specifications: multiple functions; 100 meters water resistance; above 14°F temperature; 9 months battery life; solar power rechargeable battery; LED backlight
Best Use: camping trips
Description: This 3.6 stars and $124 Casio Men’s PRG-270-4CR “Pro Trek” Digital Sport Watch is another good product made by Casio, enjoying the brand’s love for gadgets and technological improvements. As such, it has included:
- Altimeter for measuring altitudes and memorizing them.
- Digital compass to mark your position.
- Barometer to give an accurate atmospheric pressure.
- Thermometer to measure temperature.
- World time for different time zones.
- Sunrise and sunset information.
- Stopwatch and countdown timer.
And much more. But the Pro Trek is likewise a sturdy piece of equipment, given that it’s resistant to water up to 100 meters and to temperatures above 14°F.
Its battery life is pretty long too: it can resist 9 months on a full charge, but you’re able to use its power saving feature and make it last even more. The good news is that you can recharge it easily using solar power, so that’s definitely an advantage.
And you’ll get all these uses with an accurate display since this watch is not just anti-glare but has nighttime illumination too, thanks to its LED backlight that has an afterglow.
Casio Men’s PRW-6000Y-1ACR Pro Trek
Weight: 10.4 ounces
Dimensions: 5.9 x 5.9 x 5.9 inches
Specifications: multi-function dial; analog/ digital display; quartz movement; multiple functions; resin case; sapphire dial; resin band; buckle closure; 100 meters water resistance
Best Use: outdoor activities
Description: This 4.3 stars and $399.97 Casio Men’s PRW-6000Y-1ACR Pro Trek is a black sports watch. That makes it appropriate for various outdoor endeavors, helping you benefit from its multiple purposes and readings, including accurate displays of altitudes, pressure, temperature, and location.
So you can use take it in various hiking treks, but also use it in sports since it has a stopwatch and countdown timer options too.
It’s a sturdy gadget, being manufactured with great materials. The resin case makes it resistant to damages and shocks, the sapphire dial prevents scratches, and the resin band with buckle closure will ensure it will never fall off your wrist.
Besides, this watch can be submerged in water and you can take it swimming with no damage to its functioning.
The accuracy of its display is a further advantage. You can get the exact time and date in a 12 or 24-hour format thanks to a precise quartz movement. And the display can either be analog or digital, according to your personal taste.
Weight: 3.04 ounces
Dimensions: 0.7 x 2 x 2.1 inches
Specifications: color touchscreen; expanded memory; connect IQ app; connects to smartphone; wireless; versatile
Best Use: indoor/ outdoor activities
Description: This 4.1 stars and $457.45 Garmin epix has a top notch display that helps you get exact readings even in direct sunlight. That’s because it has a Chroma touchscreen that isn’t affected by the sun and accounts for great visibility.
Plus it has a very high 1,4” resolution in order to increase your reading accuracy.
Its greatest feat, however, is that it allows you to store various data, thanks to an improved internal memory of 8 GB. So you can upload many maps in order to plan your hiking trip better, and minimize the risk of getting lost.
The maps that can be loaded are the TOPO US 24K and the City Navigator NT, so you can make the most out of your US trip.
Plus, you have the IQ app that allows you to customize this gadget and use the applications that are more convenient for you. Therefore, the Garmin epix can be used for indoor activities, as well as outdoor expeditions.
Its wireless connection as well as ability to connect to Smartphone 4 helps you stay in touch with your friends and family via social media, receive important notifications, texts and e-mails as well as various alerts of your choosing.
Keep Your Eyes on The Prize
After perusing through these reviews, you can get a clearer picture of why it’s important to choose the best hiking watch: the multiple functions and technologically sound advancements are courtesy of reputable brands, that invest good materials and skills into their production. And you can find gadgets at a wide range of retail prices, but with the guarantee of quality.
That being said, what sort of watch do you have? Which one of the models we’ve discussed above would be best for you and why?
What sort of outdoor activities do you do that require a good survival timepiece? Have you bought an outdoor watch you totally love or one you really hate? Let us know in the comments!