OUTDOORS

Best Outdoor Watches: Track Time Well Spent

Best outdoor watches
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

If you love spending time in nature, then you probably know how often it happens that you lose track of time. However, wearing just your everyday watch to your hiking adventures isn’t the best idea ever, as watches like that can easily get damaged. But picking one of the best outdoor watches out there might help you out more than you think!

In a perfect world, your next hiking watch won’t only help you keep track of time but it’ll allow you a clear insight into data you probably need the most on the trail, such as the altitude or the weather info. On top of that, it’ll be durable and tough enough to sustain more than a few nature trips.

Since we know that picking something that’s both comfortable and functional isn’t an easy quest, we’ve made this article to help you out. In it, apart from giving you reviews of the top eight watches on the market, we’ve also made sure to include the things you may want to watch out before going on and doing the investment. Keep reading on for more!

Our Top Picks

Product NameWeightGPSIdeal ForPrice
Garmin Sapphire Fēnix 32.88 oz.EXO antennaBoth long and short hiking tripsCheck price on Amazon
Suunto Ambit3 Peak GPS3.14 oz.YesHigh-altitude hikingCheck price on Amazon
Suunto Traverse0.8 oz.Yes + GLONASSGeneral outdoor useCheck price on Amazon
Casio Protrek Black Sport6.4 oz.NoLong hiking & backpacking tripsCheck price on Amazon
Suunto Spartan Ultra8 oz.Yes + GLONASSGeneral outdoor useCheck price on Amazon
Casio Pro Trek Digital Sport12 oz.NoHiking, backpacking & camping tripsCheck price on Amazon
Casio Analog-Digital Sport10.4 oz.NoGeneral outdoor useCheck price on Amazon
Garmin Epix3.04 oz.YesBoth everyday use and outdoor useCheck price on Amazon

Features to Consider Before Buying

The factors you should take into account when choosing your survival watch are more than just weight, the use you will have for the watch and small features you can find on any other watch.

Display

The display matters probably the most – it is kind of what makes or breaks the watch, isn’t it? As 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.

Suunto watch

But here’s another catch – the best hiking watch should tell you the time in any lighting conditions, complete darkness included. 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 – which is where the luminescent heads come to the rescue.

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.

Materials

The best materials you’ll find are corundum, stainless steels, and polymers. 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.

Garmin watch

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.

Waterproofing & Dustproofing

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.

Casio tough solar

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 10 ATM if you’re planning to go swimming with your watch on.

Durability

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.

Casio shock resist

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.

Extra Features

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.

Phone and watch

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.

Accuracy

Last but not least, its majesty – Accuracy! Why bother wearing a device on your wrist if it isn’t accurate, right? 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.

On top of that, if the watch comes with other features included – such as a GPS, a compass or a barometer – check to see how accurate and reliable those are. For instance, you won’t get much use out of a watch with storm alerts if the watch doesn’t accurately warn you when the storm is coming close.

Best Products on Today’s Market

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.

Garmin Sapphire Fēnix 3Garmin fēnix 3 Sapphire

Price: Approx. $500

Weight: 2.88 oz.

Dimensions: 0.6 x 2 x 2 in

Specific features: Chroma display, sapphire lens, EXO-antenna, wireless connectivity, long-lasting battery

Best use: Both long and short hiking trips

Description: The Garmin Sapphire Fēnix 3 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 together account for very 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. All in all, this is more than a decent buy when it comes to outdoor watches.

PROS:

  • Great display resolution
  • Made of highly durable materials
  • Plenty of additional features
  • Long battery life

CONS:

  • Android users might not enjoy the connectivity feature because of some issues with Android platform
  • Backlight is not as light as it is supposed to be
  • Bluetooth connectivity is poor

Related: If you’re looking for a place to properly store your watch, then the JustNile Luxury Watch Display Organizer might be a good choice. Allowing you to store six watches at the same time, the organizer is fully lockable and keeps your items safe. Another great thing about it is that its interior is multi-functional, so you’d be able to store jewelry and other valuables.

Check the price on Amazon

Suunto Ambit3 Peak GPS Unit WatchSuunto Ambit3 Peak HR Running GPS Unit

Price: Approx. $300

Weight: 3.14 oz.

Dimensions: 1.97 x 1.97 x 0.71 in

Specific features: Weather info, altimeter, barometer, GPS, compass, 200-hour battery life, up to 100 meters water resistance, smartphone connectivity

Best use: High-altitude hiking

Description: The Suunto Ambit3 Peak GPS Unit Watch 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 in water up until 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.

PROS:

  • Accurate weather & altitude reading
  • Long battery life
  • Can be connected to smartphone to receive texts and calls on your watch
  • The option to add Photos in movement
  • Movescount app keeps you connected to social media

CONS:

  • Water resistant but can’t be used for scuba diving
  • Movescount app is hard to use
  • Possible issues with the HR measurement feature

Related: Investing in a good watch might often be useless if you don’t invest in proper protection as well – and this Ace Armorshield Screen Protector may save you a watch or two in nature! The protector is specifically made for this specific Suunto model and chances are, it’ll help you prolong the durability of your watch for a fraction of the cost you’ve bought the watch for!

Check the price on Amazon

Suunto Traverse WatchSuunto Traverse

Price: Approx. $300

Weight: 0.8 oz.

Dimensions: 2 x 0.7 x 2 in

Specific features: GPS, GLONASS Satellite, distance and altitude statistics, barometric trend, storm alerts, daylight hours, connects to smartphone

Best use: General outdoor use

Description: The Suunto Traverse 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.

PROS:

  • Comes with GPS and GLONASS Satellite navigation systems
  • Features breadcrumb trail (retrace your steps)
  • Decent weather prediction using its barometric feature
  • Accurate sunrise and sunset prediction

CONS:

  • You need to manually set-up everything for each function
  • Short battery life
  • Movescount app is hard to use

Related: Protect your watch from scratches and dust by putting the Suunto Traverse Alpha Screen Protector on it. Available in two different options, the screen protector is a great budget-friendly option to prolong the durability of your watch. Additionally, you’ll also receive a microfiber cloth to keep your watch clean and spotless.

Check the price on Amazon

Casio PRW-3000-1ACR Protrek Sport WatchCasio Men's PRW-3000-1ACR

Price: Approx. $200

Weight: 6.4 oz.

Dimensions: 5.9 x 5.9 x 5.9 in

Specific features: Multiple extra features, power saving function & long battery life, a stainless steel case with a mineral dial window, quartz movement, up to 100 meters water resistant

Best use: Long hiking & backpacking trips

Description: The Casio PRW-3000-1ACR Protrek Watch is the epitome of a sports watch – and 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 or your position, thanks to the digital compass. On top of that, you’d be able to keep track of the atmospheric pressure with the built-in barometer, as well as get the exact temperature reading, a courtesy of its thermometer. So we can all agree this isn’t a shabby watch when it comes to accuracy, right?

On top of that, the watch shows you the sunrise and sunset times, allowing you to plan your day in nature accordingly. The battery level is also shown though it shouldn’t worry you – chances are, it’ll last pretty long with this timepiece. The battery can resist 7 whole months, but you also have an indicator to tell you the level of charging, as well as a power-saving option.

This Casio watch is also very sturdy, being able to withstand temperatures as low as 14°F. Not to mention you can take it swimming since it’s water resistant to 100 meters. That’s because it has a resistant case made of stainless steel, the dial window is mineral, and the resin band is likewise tough.

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. If you’re looking for accuracy and durability, then this might be a good option!

PROS:

  • Solar powered battery
  • Long battery life once charged
  • Auto-programmed calendar until 2099
  • Highly durable stainless-made watch

CONS:

  • Water resistant but limited to 100m only
  • Illumination is only 3 seconds and it is too short

Related: The Casio Protrek Replacement Band comes at a reasonable price and helps you get the most out of your watch even if the original band breaks! By having a replacement band, you can use your watch more freely and deliberately, safe in the reassurance that you won’t have to give up on it once the original band breaks.

Check the price on Amazon

Suunto Spartan Ultra HRSuunto Spartan Ultra HR

Price: Approx. $550

Weight: 8 oz.

Dimensions: 2 x 1 x 2 in

Specific features: Color touchscreen, wide viewing angle, 80 different sports modes, 26-hour battery life, GPS, altimeter, barometer, compass, water-resistant up to 100 meters, connects to a smartphone

Best use: General outdoor use

Description: The Suunto Spartan Ultra HR 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 the precise height and pressure readings.

If that’s not enough, you can also go swimming or snorkel any time you like since the Spartan Ultra still functions after being submerged in water. However, diving is not recommended because its water resistance is up to 100 meters.

The watch is very easy to connect to your smartphone to get all sorts of notifications and useful updates. All in all, this is a great watch for versatile use outdoors.

PROS:

  • Colored touchscreen
  • Wide viewing angle
  • Long battery life at 26 hours of continuous use
  • Smartphone connectivity for additional functionalities
  • Comes fully set up

CONS:

  • Water resistant but not great for diving
  • Deleting memory is not possible
  • Bluetooth connection is hard to use

Related: If you’d like to keep your display as sharp as possible, try giving the Wimaha Suunto Spartan Screen Protector Glass a try. Made specifically for the Suunto Spartan Watch, this protective glass should be very easy to install as it uses a so-called suction cup technology, saving you from the very annoying bubbles appearing underneath the surface.

Check the price on Amazon

Casio PRG-270-4CR Pro Trek Digital WatchCasio Men's PRG-270-4CR

Price: Approx. $110

Weight: 12 oz.

Dimensions: 5.9 x 5.9 x 5.9 in

Specific features: Multiple functions, up to 100 meters water resistance, up to 9 months battery life, solar power rechargeable battery, LED backlight

Best use: Hiking, backpacking & camping trips

Description: The Casio PRG-270-4CR Pro Trek Digital Watch is another good product made by Casio, enjoying the brand’s love for gadgets and technological improvements. As such, it has included an altimeter for measuring altitudes and memorizing them, a digital compass to mark your position, as well as a barometer to give an accurate atmospheric pressure.

But don’t think the basic features are lacking on this one! You’d be able to easily tell the temperature, as well as the time in different cities around the globe, and the always-helpful sunrise and sunset information. If you’re into outdoor games, then you’d very likely get the most out of the stopwatch and countdown timer features.

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.

Along all of that, you’ll get all these features 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.

PROS:

  • Sporty design
  • Pretty durable
  • Night illumination afterglow
  • Very affordable price

CONS:

  • Water resistant but limited to 100 meters only
  • A bit bulky
  • Screen is too dark even during daytime

Related: If you’re hitting the road often, then doing the investment and getting yourself the BluShark Travel Watch Case might be a wise thing to do – it’s a compact but very stylish pouch to keep your watch safely tucked in! The case should be big enough to fit most watches on the market.

Check the price on Amazon

Casio PRW-6000Y-1ACR Analog-Digital WatchCasio Men's PRW-6000Y-1ACR

Price: Approx. $400

Weight: 10.4 oz.

Dimensions: 5.9 x 5.9 x 5.9 in

Specific features: Multi-function dial, analog-digital display, quartz movement, multiple functions, resin case, water-resistant up to 100 meters

Best use: General outdoor activities

Description: The Casio PRW-6000Y-1ACR Analog-Digital Watch comes in a striking black color that many would appreciate. 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 on 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.

PROS:

  • Versatile use as far as outdoor activities go
  • Sturdy & durable
  • Long battery life
  • Solar charging

CONS:

  • Not great for diving
  • Glow in the dark function is useless
  • Temperature function works if watch is OFF your wrist

Related: If your watch has the very handy option of solar power charging, then the CoolFire Solar Watch Fast Charger might save the day more than once! The light is strong enough to replace the sun on a typical summer day but at the same time, it won’t ever overheat your phone. The charger is compact enough to be moved around with ease and is compatible with most solar watches.

Check the price on Amazon

Garmin Epix WatchGarmin epix

Price: Approx. $270

Weight: 3.04 oz.

Dimensions: 0.7 x 2 x 2.1 in

Specific features: Color touchscreen, expanded memory, connects to IQ app, connects to a smartphone

Best use: Both everyday use and outdoor use

Description: The 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-inch 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.

PROS:

  • Handy display
  • Large internal memory
  • Versatile use
  • Able to connect via Wi-Fi
  • Can be used to receive email, texts, and alerts

CONS:

  • A bit too expensive considering its features
  • Too bulky – looks like a GPS device, not a watch

Related: The BoxWave Garmin Epix Screen Protector does exactly what its name suggests it’ll do – it adds a layer of valuable protection to your Garmin Epix Watch! A great thing about the screen protector is the fact that even when put on, it won’t change the display nor weaken the colors, something many people are annoyed with.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrapping Up

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!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.