Best Survival Watch: The Complete Buyer’s Guide for 2020

navigation watch

A survival situation can happen in an instant. Because of this, many people are always looking for different ways that they can increase their preparedness. Using the best survival watch can be invaluable in emergency situations. It can be worn daily, anywhere, unlike other survival gear which you can’t always take with you. Survival watches are multifunctional and lightweight and can be worn discreetly. Many of the leading models come equipped with a wide range of features which is what makes them a must-have accessory for any survivalist.

However, if you’ve been shopping around online looking for the right model, then you may have realized that finding a durable, feature-packed watch that will work in a variety of situations is not as easy as it sounds. Because of this, I’ve created a buyer’s guide that includes the important features to look for when you’re shopping for the perfect survival tool. I’ve also tested out many of the leading models, narrowing it down to six that have what it takes to get you through an emergency situation alive. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that lists each of the models that made it onto my list, their best features, and how they rated.

Survival Watch Comparison Chart

ProductTypeAnalog/DigitalGPSRating
G-Shock Rangeman GW-9400

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TechnicalAnalogNo
Outdoor Edge Tactical
Survival Watch

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ParacordAnalogNo
Aoslsi Survival Watch

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TechnicalDigitalNo
POLAR Grit X Rugged
Outdoor Watch

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TechnicalDigitalYes
Lad Weather Survival Watch

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TechnicalDigitalNo
Equipped Outdoors
Survival Watch

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ParacordAnalogNo

Casio G-Shock Rangeman GW-9400 Watch


Our Rating: (5/5)

This latest model by Casio is solar-powered and made out of stainless steel. It features multiple displays, textured pushers, and red contrasts that make the face highly visible in a variety of light conditions. The analog display and protective mineral crystal dial window will shine through at night but will not be overly bright. The watch is equipped with a digital thermometer, barometer, altimeter, compass, time stamp, sunset and sunrise date, and MB6 atomic timekeeping. This model is loaded with all the right features for the survivalist, avid camper and hiker, and anyone that wants a watch that can help them remain prepared for anything. It also has a water-resistant rating for up to 660 feet, so it’s a great choice for the scuba diver.

Pros

  • Water resistant rating for up to 660 feet
  • Solar-powered
  • Made out of stainless steel
  • Shock resistant desig

Cons

  • Can be difficult to learn how to use

Conclusion

This is one rugged timepiece. It’s able to read temperatures, barometric pressure, and altitude, thanks to the shock resistant triple sensor design. This model’s durability and one-touch time recording, feature-packed design, and accuracy are just some of the reasons this watch earned a high user rating and remains one of Casio’s top-rated survival watches to date.

Outdoor Edge ParaClaw CQD Tactical Survival Watch


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This is a paracord survival watch that features a titanium PVD coated frame, a water resistance rating of up to one hundred feet, and a built in knife blade that’s one and a half inches long. The blade can easily and quickly be released. The bracelet or band of the watch is made out of 550 heavy-duty paracord rope, and is highly adjustable. This model also features a nightglow lume face, so the face can easily be read in low light conditions.

Pros

  • Includes 550 paracord
  • Nightglow lume face
  • Built-in knife blade
  • Titanium PVD coated frame

Cons

  • Low water-resistant rating
  • Includes basic features

Conclusion

This model is durable and a great choice for everyday wear, camping, hiking, and hunting trips. In terms of features, this model is fairly basic, but people who are looking for a watch that’s easy to use and a model that’s rugged and reliable will appreciate the durable design, simple settings, and built-in knife and paracord.

Aoslsi Survival Watch


Our Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

A feature-packed survival watch, this is a model that has it all. It can tell you your current elevation using the built-in altimeter and can also record the last twenty-four-hour history via an altitude graph. The barometer will display both sea level pressure and local pressure. The thermometer will display the current temperature, with impressive accuracy. The weather forecast feature will allow you to keep a close eye on the weather using four symbols to indicate upcoming weather conditions. In terms of health monitoring, this model will count how far you’ve walked, how many calories you’ve burned, and how many steps you’ve taken. It comes with a 3 ATM waterproof rating, double alarms, dual time options, and features a thick casing that’s made out of durable ABS.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • 3 ATM waterproof rating
  • Altimeter
  • Measures local pressure and sea level pressure
  • Low price

Cons

  • Can be difficult to read in low light conditions

Conclusion

This model is perfect for daily use, will come in handy for anyone who wants to push themselves to be more active and monitor their daily progress, and will be a great choice for the survivalist, hiker, hunter, and avid camper. The simple interface makes it easy to adjust the settings, choose features, and use this model for navigation purposes and weather predictions. This is a multifunctional masterpiece that you’ll never want to leave the house without.

POLAR Grit X – Rugged Outdoor Watch


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This model is designed to handle extreme temperatures and has a waterproof rating of up to one hundred meters. This model is also able to display the current weather reading, in addition to a two-day forecast. It also comes with built-in GPS, so you can use it as you navigate through the backcountry on your next hiking, camping, or hunting adventure. The built-in altimeter and compass will also come in handy and can make it easier to navigate through rural areas. The watch is durable, lightweight, and comes with an ultra-long battery life, in addition to multiple power saving options. It also includes advanced wrist-based heart rate readings, although it’s not as accurate as a chest heart rate style monitor is.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • GPS
  • Ultra-long battery life
  • Displays two-day weather forecast

Cons

  • Price
  • Heart rate readings are not very accurate

Conclusion

For many, the biggest drawback for this best-selling watch is the high price tag. However, this is one of the most reliable survival watches on the market, not to mention one of the most durable. Additionally, buyers should keep in mind that the wrist-based heart rate reading is not very accurate. If you need a device to monitor your heart rate, a chest heart rate monitor is a much better choice and one that will provide a highly accurate reading. Overall, this watch will be a great buy for use in a variety of settings and applications and is a good option for anyone who wants to make healthier lifestyle choices.

Lad Weather Survival Watch


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This model is designed for everyday use and is a great choice for fishing, cycling, camping, hiking, and more. It will display the weather forecast using four icons. It has a water resistance rating of 3 ATM, and includes a built-in barometer, altimeter, and compass. The case is made out of durable ABS plastic with a stainless steel case back. It comes with basic watch features including a timer, and stopwatch.

Pros

  • Durable case
  • Compass
  • 3 ATM water resistance rating
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Compass needs to be recalibrated often

Conclusion

This lightweight, durable survival watch is affordable, equipped with some great features that will allow you to easily navigate through rural areas, and is a must have if you’re looking for a survival watch that can handle daily use.

Equipped Outdoors Survival Watch


Our Rating: (4/5)

There are many pricey survival watches on the market. These watches are often equipped with a variety of bells and whistles that are designed to help the wearer make it through an emergency situation or help them navigate the backcountry. This latest model from Equipped Outdoors is very basic in design, but it’s also impressively durable and lightweight. The included compass is very accurate and can help those who know how to use a compass navigate through rural areas. The band of the watch is made out of paracord, which can be put to use by experienced survivalists. The watch also comes with an easy to use magnesium fire starter, so even beginners should have no trouble building a fire with some basic materials. The watch is covered by a lifetime manufacturer’s warranty, which is pretty surprising, considering the low cost of this model.

Pros

  • Tough paracord watch band
  • Compass
  • Includes magnesium fire starter
  • Lifetime manufacturer warranty

Cons

  • Battery does not last long
  • Watch face is difficult to read in low light conditions

Conclusion

Despite its low price, this model comes with a lifetime manufacturer warranty, which is impressive. The lightweight design and basic features make this model comfortable to wear and easy to use. Unfortunately, seeing the watch face clearly can be very difficult in low light conditions. Additionally, there have been many reports that the included battery does not last very long and may need to be replaced after just a month or two of use. Overall, for the price, this model is a great buy for anyone in need of a lightweight, handy watch to use on their next backcountry adventure, or daily use. However, I recommend upgrading the included battery as soon as possible.

Survival Watch Buyer’s Guide

For many, survival watches are one of the most impressive forms of wearable technology available. Because it offers many practical uses, in addition to specialized functions that can be relied on in extreme situations, the survival watch can provide the wear with a wealth of information that will aid in their survival. However, the key to choosing the right model will depend on how you will most likely use it and finding the best features that will meet those needs.

Before I dive into the must-have features to look for while you’re on your search for the right survival watch, let’s first learn more about the benefits it has to offer and what makes it a much better choice than a standard watch.

Benefits of Using a Survival Watch

Many survivalists believe that this style of watch is significantly better than a standard watch for a variety of reasons.

  • A survival watch is a better choice since it offers more functionality compared to a regular model. A basic watch will tell you what time it is and maybe offers more aesthetic appeal, however the survival watch can get you through an emergency situation.
  • These watches are perfect for anyone who wants to be prepared, those who love adventure, hunters, and people who spend plenty of time outdoors. These watches prove to be a better option over traditional watches since many basic watches are delicate and can easily become damaged.
  • Survival watches are more durable and rugged and have been specifically designed to survive harsh conditions. These watches are perfect for the survivalist, hiker, hunter, and explorer.
  • These watches are made out of high-quality materials. Many models are made out of aluminum, mineral glass, and stainless steel, all of which can protect the electronics, gear mechanisms and other important components inside the watch from external elements such as water, or even fire. Additionally, the face of these watches are often made out of durable material such as sapphire glass which is resistant to scratches. The bands of these watches are usually made out of superior materials as well and will not break as easily as a regular watch band.
  • A basic watch is not able to show you the direction you’re headed in, and can’t measure altitude, or measure air pressure. A survival watch can. These watches are often equipped with weather indicators, altimeters, barometers, and compasses.
  • The purpose of wearing one of these watches is to  be able to read important information quickly, as well as to know the time. While a basic watch will come equipped with built-in LEDs, the lights are usually not as bright as what you’ll find on a survival watch. These models have a higher contrast lighting that consists of powerful LEDs strategically placed in the back panel.
  • Additionally, the numbers, dials, and other figures on the watch face are usually made out of luminescent materials such as tritium, which provide an everlasting glow even in low-light conditions. This is a useful feature to have since it is a very low profile design that will not make you stand out in the dark.

Other Important Features

winter watch

This type of watch is one that you’ll wear every single day. Unlike other types of survival gear, it will go wherever you go. Because of this, you need one that’s reliable and durable.

Time Telling Basics

One of the first features that you should look for is how the watch tells time. You’ll have your choice between analog or digital, in addition to standard 12-hour or military. You may even find some that offer a combination of the two.

Aside from displaying the time, these watches will have features that will come into play in a type of post-disaster situation. Models that come with a sunset and sunrise indicator will be invaluable since you may not be able to tell how much time has passed during a natural disaster. It will also help you keep track of the hours that go by in a crisis, how much time you have left to travel during daylight, how long to boil water, when you can check your traps, and more. When a disaster strikes time can be everything.

Durability

These watches are incredibly durable and designed to handle a variety of weather conditions. Additionally, some may have extra features that will work for special situations including high-impact activities, parachuting, and diving.

Watch Face and Casing

The face of the watch is often made out of a type of shatter resistant and scratch resistant material such as mineral crystal or sapphire. Stainless steel is also commonly used for the casing and bevel because of its natural rust resistance and overall durability.

Bands

The bands of these watches will also be available in a wide variety of styles such as steel, leather, rubber, and nylon. Often, the type of watch band material you choose will be a matter of personal preference.

Navigation

The different types of navigation features you’ll find will range in capability and accuracy. For a basic navigational system, you may just need a watch that comes equipped with compass points on a rotating ring. The simple setup will give you an idea of the general direction you’re heading in. Some models will also come with a button compass that’s been integrated into the watch band. Other models are techier and will have a digital compass display.

Some models are able to record elevation data. The altimeter will usually be displayed in real time. Keeping track of your elevation can come in handy in conjunction with topographical maps, since together, it can make it much easier for you to know if you’re headed on the right trail.

GPS

A watch that features digital GPS can provide more precise navigation allowing you to easily pinpoint where you are and where you’re headed. This will come in handy if you need to record or share your location coordinates, such as for locating a bug out camp, or for search-and-rescue purposes. For daily use, many survivalists recommend watches that have GPS since this feature is sufficient for those who spend a lot of time in remote areas.

Health Monitoring

If you want to keep a close eye on your health, then you need a model that comes equipped with a heart rate monitor. This feature will be perfect for fitness training; however, it does have survival use. Unless your bug-out bag has a stethoscope in it, having a watch with a heart rate monitor on it is the next best thing and it can be used when a member of your party becomes severely injured or sick. Keeping track of a person’s heart rate for conditions such as shock, loss of blood, or disease, can be lifesaving.

Types of Survival Watches

These watches will fall into one of two categories:

  • Technical
  • Paracord

Paracord models act as a mini survival kit located on your wrist. These watches have very similar features. Aside from telling time, they often also include a compass, whistle, and fire starter. The bands of the watches are made out of paracord.

Technical models work as miniature survival computers. These watches will include important features such as sunrise and sunset timers, altimeters, thermometers, barometers, GPS, and a compass.

In some cases, a survivalist will wear a paracord bracelet, and use a technical tactical watch instead. This allows the wearer to enjoy the best of both worlds, especially if they have a bug out bag that includes many of the same features that are included in a standard passcode watch such as a fire starter, whistle, or compass. The type of watch you choose should be dependent on what features you are looking for, and which ones you feel you would rely on the most in an emergency situation.

Luminescent Digits or Hands

Being able to read your watch in the dark will be essential, especially if you want to be able to view the face of the watch without having to use one of your hands to click on the backlight button. Because of this, I recommend choosing a model that comes with luminescent hands or digits, since this will make reading the time much simpler.

Pressure and Water-Resistant

ATMs are pressures of units that represent the level of pressure a watch is able to handle. A model with a 3 ATM rating is able to endure pressure that’s equivalent to the type of pressure that exists under approximately 100 feet of water. Keep in mind that an ATM rating is not the same as measure of depth. I recommend purchasing a model that has an ATM rating of at least 3.

Analog or Digital

Many survivalists recommend going with an analog watch over a digital. While digital watches often offer more sophisticated functions and are extremely accurate, many survivalists and hikers claim that analog watches are more reliable. Ultimately, the type of watch you choose will be a matter of personal preference, however if you’re looking for a more feature-packed model then you’ll want to go with digital. For some, the simple visual sight of the hands moving around the face can help them have a better grasp on time. It can also help when it comes to better understanding the pace that needs to be kept when doing a specific task in order to meet certain goals.

Warranty

Leading models will often come with a one to five-year warranty. A warranty for this type of important investment is a must, since these watches are designed with superior durability and should last significantly longer than a standard watch. Lower priced models may only come with a warranty that covers against defects and provides six to twelve months of coverage. Higher priced models will offer the best and most coverage, so buyer’s can feel more confident in this type of important purchase, knowing the manufacturers stand behind their products.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do Soldiers Wear their Watches Backward?

One of the main reasons a soldier will wear their watch backward is because the crystal face of the watch can reflect light. To prevent this a soldier will wear their watch inverted.

Is it okay to Wear a Watch on Your Right Hand?

It is, if you’re left-handed. The general rule concerning which wrist to wear your watch on depends on which hand is your dominant hand. Always wear your watch on your non-dominant hand. This will make it easier to read your watch.

Is it Bad to Sleep with Your Watch on?

Sleep studies have shown that it’s bad to sleep wearing a watch since people tend to constantly check the time when they’re in bed, especially if they’re having a hard time falling asleep. Looking at the time frequently can make the wearer feel anxious and pressured to fall asleep as soon as possible. One study showed that people who slept with their watch on got less REM sleep compared to people who didn’t sleep wearing their watch.

Is it Okay to Wind a Watch Backward?

No. The mechanisms in a watch are not designed to be wound backward. While doing so will not cause immediate damage to your watch, over time, it will place unnecessary wear and stress on the gears, which can significantly cut down the lifespan of your watch.

Is it Bad to let a Mechanical Watch Stop?

No. It’s perfectly safe to allow your watch to wind down, this simply means that the mainspring is fully unwound. Of course, allowing your watch to wind down means it will not accurately show the time the next time you wind it back up, so you’ll need to reset it.

Final Thoughts

The best survival watch will be one that you know how to use, one that comes loaded with the types of features you can rely on in an emergency situation, and a model that’s waterproof, durable, and designed to last. This buyer’s guide, in addition to the models that made it onto my top 6 list, will help you choose the perfect watch that can protect you and help guide you in the event of a natural disaster or other type of emergency situation. Each of the six models that made it onto my last all earned a higher user rating for their durable design, reliability, and their many important features that a survivalist or hiker can rely on in an emergency situation. Remember, when you’re shopping for a survival watch, you always want to go with a model that comes with features that you know you will use and can rely on, whether you’re hiking through the backcountry, dealing with a natural disaster, or you simply need to bug out.

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