Best Survival Watch: A Must-Read Guide on Shopping for Survival Watches

Survival watches review
Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

There was a time when no man or woman would leave their homes without a watch on his or her wrist. Some wear watches in order to be fashionable, some wear them for the simple purpose of being able to tell the time or both. Watches has come a long way from analog and wind-up models to fully digital and feature rich ones.

For the majority of outdoor enthusiasts and preppers, a watch is so much more than a tool to tell time – it’s an essential survival gear. True enough, having the best survival watch can greatly improve your overall experience and survivability while trekking the wilderness.

If you think for a moment that your trusty smartphone will be useful for navigation in the wild, you’re in for an unpleasant surprise. Due to lack of coverage and no way to charge the battery, your smartphone can only do so much. It’s a good thing that there are watches designed not only to tell the current time and date, they can also help navigate unfamiliar terrain.

Sharkfin survival watches

If you are someone who spends a lot of time outdoors, having a survival watch is definitely a good investment. However with all the choices available out there, shopping for a survival watch that’s right for you can be a daunting task.

Factors to Consider When Buying Survival Watches

If you want a watch that best fits your survival needs, you can’t just buy the first one you come across. Choosing a watch that will serve you in a survival situation is not a matter that’s to be taken lightly. With many different models and myriads of features, shopping for a survival watch can be a tricky affair. Here are some factors to take into account when shopping for a survival watch.

Accurate timekeeping

This one’s pretty much a no-brainer! When you’re out in the wilderness and trying to get away from it all, it’s easy to lose track of time. However in a bug out or grid-down situation, precise timekeeping is crucial to your survival.

For instance, for cases where you need to keep the fire burning until daylight or you need to find food, water and shelter before dark, being able to tell the time makes all the difference. Thus, you need a watch with a good reputation for accurate timekeeping. Preferably, go for quartz-based or digital watches.

Waterproof vs. Water-resistant

You need to be careful with this one because there is a lot of marketing malarkey concerning this feature. Many ads for survival watches use water resistant and waterproof as if they’re interchangeable but it’s not the case at all.

Waterproof survival watch

A water resistant watch can be occasionally exposed to elements like rain and snow or even be quickly submerged in water. There are watches that indicate water resistance up to a certain depth. On the other hand, waterproof watches are designed to withstand being submerged in water for extended periods of time.

Power type

  • Quartz-based or battery operated: these are models that are battery operated. Know that the batteries themselves can run out of juice or malfunction which then need to be replaced.
  • Solar powered: many outdoor persons prefer solar powered survival watches because they require little to no maintenance. As you might have guessed from the name, these watches are either directly powered by sunlight or the batteries can be recharged using the sun.
  • Mechanically wound or self-winding: there are outdoor watches that will require the user to wind them up to ensure accuracy in time keeping. On the other hand, there are also ones that can self-wind as long as the watch is worn and in motion.

Other noteworthy features

  • Temperature: this is pretty self-explanatory and it’s safe to say you know why this feature is important in a survival watch.
  • Altimeter: if you are into hiking, an altimeter is useful for indicating elevation above sea level. This is also useful for navigating so you can tell if you are indeed climbing or descending.
  • Barometer: for measuring air pressure so you can forecast weather changes.
  • GPS: the best survival watches feature a working GPS for telling the coordinates of your location. However, it’s advisable that you only use your watch’s GPS for backup.
  • Compass: of course, there’s nothing more convenient than getting a precise reading just with a glance at your wrist.

Not all survival watches are created equal so it’s important that you take your time when shopping for one.

Waterproof survival watch

By taking these key features into consideration, shopping for a solid survival watch that fits your needs and requirements shouldn’t be that hard.

Which Are The Best Survival Watches in The Market?

If you are still having a hard time choosing which watch to buy, you should take a look at the products featured below in order to get you started. Here are some of the best reviewed survival watches available:

Casio G-SHOCK 30th Anniversary Initial Blue

Casio G-SHOCK 30th Anniversary Initial Blue MUDMAN MULTI BAND 6 GW9330B-1

Weight: 2.40 oz

Dimensions: 5.4 x 4.7 x 4.7 inches

Features: Made in USA, shock resist, dust-proof construction mud waterproof 20 atm, compass, temperature, stainless steel, tough solar (solar powered), stopwatch, timer, carbon fiber insert band

Best use: Sports and fitness, hiking, camping, survival

Description: Casio is not exactly an unknown brand and with most of their products, quality is not a concern. This applies to this product as well. First off, the stainless steel and carbon fiber insert band ensures that the watch can withstand even the toughest of conditions. As for the features, you will not be disappointed with this watch.

The Casio G-SHOCK 30th Anniversary Initial Blue MUDMAN MULTI BAND 6 GW9330B-1 will automatically set the right time through radio waves – a great feature to have if you travel frequently.

Features like the built-in compass, temperature and moon data make for a solid survival watch. This watch also has a solar charge system which means that sunlight or any artificial light will charge the battery. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s a very good looking watch. Overall, this 30th anniversary piece is a solid option for those who are looking for a good outdoor survival tool.

Casio G-Shock Digital Dial Resin Quartz Men’s Watch

Casio G-Shock Digital Dial Resin Quartz Men's Watch GWF1000-1

Weight: 4 oz

Dimensions: 4.5 x 3.9 x 3.5 inches

Features: Sapphire cover glass, shock resistant certified dive timer, tide graph, moon age display, world time, tough solar power, ISO 200M Water Resistant, full auto calendar

Best use: diving, outdoors, camping, hiking

Description: You might be asking now, “Isn’t this a dive watch?” You are right because being a FROGMAN model, this is indeed a watch designed for diving as it can resist water up to 200m of depth. However, this doesn’t mean that this watch won’t serve you well in the wild.

Being a dive watch only guarantees that this watch can take a lot of punishment. Its sapphire cover glass and shock resistant band ensures that it would be a perfect companion outdoors. Casio G-Shock Digital Dial Resin Quartz Men’s Watch GWF1000-1 has a compass and moon age display as well.

Being solar powered, you will not have to worry about replacing the batteries. It also features multi-band atomic timekeeping which means that time will be automatically re-calibrated via radio signals even if you travel out of the country. As a dive watch, it’s also fairly large and heavier than your typical outdoor watches.

Casio Men’s PRW-2500T-7CR Pro Trek Watch

Casio Men's PRW-2500T-7CR Pro Trek Tough Solar Digital Sport Watch

Weight: 4 oz

Dimensions: 3 x 3 x 4 inches

Features: Tough solar power, 200M water resistant, Duplex LC Display, Full Auto EL Backlight with Afterglow, Tide graph, Moon data, Countdown Timer, Battery level indicator, Power saving function, Multi-Band Atomic Timekeeping

Best use: Sports and fitness, outdoor survival, camping, hiking

Description: The Pro Trek PRW2500 is a high performance watch designed to take on the challenging conditions of the outdoors. If you’re in the market for a feature-packed survival watch, this model shouldn’t disappoint.

The Multi-Band Atomic Timekeeping provides accurate timekeeping via radio waves. The watch is also a triple sensor model which means that it has a compass, thermometer, and altimeter / barometer which is of course invaluable when navigating the great outdoors.

The solar powered batteries are charged reliably which means that running out of juice is not a concern. The tide and moon data also provides convenient information which are vital when you’re out kayaking or fishing.

What we love the most about this watch is its crisp display, enabling you to get the information you want at a glance. On top of that, the backlight is also bright for better visibility. Overall, it’s one of the top survival watches from Casio.

Suunto Core Wrist-Top Computer Watch with ABC

Suunto Core Wrist-Top Computer Watch with Altimeter, Barometer, Compass, and Depth Measurement

Weight: 8 oz

Dimensions: 6 x 4 x 4 inches

Features: Altimeter, barometer, compass, Robust construction with a comfortable elastomer strap, Mountain & everywhere use, Temperature and Storm alarm, Weather functions

Best use: Outdoor survival, hiking, camping, sports, fitness

Suunto is another company that is known for making some of the best watches out there. Suunto Core Wrist-Top Computer Watch with Altimeter, Barometer, Compass, and Depth Measurement is one of the many takes of Suunto for a survival watch and it does not disappoint. Let us start by saying that all-black model is just gorgeously sleek. Military types should find a lot to love in this watch in terms of aesthetics. With that said, this is a great survival watch that’s packed to the brim with features. It has the navigation basics like the altimeter, barometer and compass.

In addition, it has a logbook function, log graph, guided calibration, cardinal directions, bearing tracking and more – all of which are great features that could serve you well while camping or hiking. It even has a weather forecast system feature. If there is a slight drawback, it’s the fact that it’s not solar powered like the other watches mentioned before. However, it has a low battery warning feature that will inform you if the batteries need to be replaced.

G-Shock Rangeman Master Of G Series Stylish Watch

G-Shock Rangeman Master Of G Series Stylish Watch

Weight: 8 oz

Dimensions: 4 x 2 x 2 inches

Features: Multi-Band 6 Atomic Timekeeping, Tough solar, Shock Resistant, Triple Sensor

Best use: Sports and fitness, outdoor survival, camping, hiking

Description: Here’s another timepiece from Casio that the key functions and features you’ll need in order to deal with emergency situations or while simply out in the wild.

Of course, the triple sensor that can work as altimeter / barometer, thermometer and compass are must-have features for any outdoorsman. The G-Shock Rangeman Master Of G Series Stylish Watch is also solar powered which means you can wear it and forget about running out of batteries or replacing them.

The atomic timekeeping feature is always a good thing and appreciated. There are customers who are complaining about the negative display but if you have a near decent eyesight, this shouldn’t be an issue. It also has the signature toughness of G-Shock so you can trust that this piece can withstand the most challenging conditions.

It’s also worth mentioning that the army green color gives the watch a great look. Fashionable and functional, best of both worlds. This is yet another classic timepiece from Casio.

Garmin Quatix NMEA Marine GPS Sport Watch

Garmin Quatix NMEA Marine GPS Sport Watch

Weight: 2.88 oz

Dimensions: 1.9 x 0.7 x 1.9 inches

Features: High-sensitivity, GPS-enabled marine watch with altimeter, barometer and 3-axis compass, Waterproof up to 50 meters, Tide charts display detailed tide data, Compatible with GNT 10 NMEA Transceiver

Best use: diving, kayaking, sailing, sports, outdoor survival

Description: As you can see from the weight and dimensions of Garmin Quatix NMEA Marine GPS Sport Watch, it’s quite lightweight and on the smaller side especially when compared to the other watches featured here. However, don’t think for a second that it comes up short in terms of features. Although at first glance it’s a sport watch, it’s actually a great all-in-one device.

For navigation, it has an altimeter / barometer, temperature sensor, tide information and a 3-axis compass, all of which are calibrated automatically.

If you like sailing, you’ll be pleased to know that the watch has a number of specialized sailing features. The Quatix can establish a virtual starting line between 2 GPS waypoints.

If you are participating in races, the Quatix will give you that much-needed competitive edge. It’s also worth noting that the watch can seamlessly share data wirelessly with other compatible Garmin apps. The watch and its features can take quite a bit of learning but once mastered, it’s quite easy to use.

Timex Expedition Shock Digital Compass Watch

Timex Expedition Shock Digital Compass Watch

Weight: 6.08 oz

Dimensions: 4.7 x 3.5 x 2.9 inches

Features: Quartz movement with digital display, Acrylic crystal dial window, Resin band, Water resistant to 660 feet (200 M), Shock resistant, compass

Best use: recreational scuba, outdoor survival, hiking, camping

Description: Timex is a brand name associated with timepieces that are budget-friendly but still provide quality and reliability. If you are looking for a survival watch that will not break the bank, the Timex Expedition Shock is worth looking into.

Although the watch only has a resin band, it is surprisingly a tough piece. It’s a very well-made watch and it can stand up to the demanding conditions of the outdoors.

There are even many customers saying that their watch is still alive and ticking after so many years. It’s not the most feature-packed watch out there but what it offers can still please even the most jaded outdoor person. The built-in compass works as advertised and it is water resistant down to 200m.

However, there’s no denying that the strongest selling point of the Timex Expedition Shock is its tough to beat price. At $50+, it gives other more expensive outdoor watches a run for their money.

Citizen Men’s Shock-Proof Titanium Watch

Citizen Men's BJ8075-58F Eco-Drive STX43 Shock-Proof Titanium Watch

Weight: 4.16 oz

Dimensions: 5.9 x 5.9 x 5.9 inches

Features: Shock-proof, Black titanium, Japanese quartz movement with analog display, Solar powered, Water resistant to 200m

Best use: outdoor survival, diving, camping, hiking

Description: Here’s another well-known brand that’s synonymous with quality timepieces. Citizen’s Eco-Drive STX43 has all the makings of a solid survival watch. Despite being a lightweight piece, the bezel and bracelet are made of titanium which means it can stand up to a good deal of abuse, making it a perfect outdoor companion.

The orange luminous hands provide great visibility even during low-light conditions. The solar powered battery offers a lifetime’s worth of usage without ever needing a replacement.

What we really love about the Eco-Drive STX43 is that it’s really good looking watch. The attention to detail is impeccable. It looks fairly sporty but still manages to be elegant. We thought we’ll hate the orange color of the hands but surprisingly, it works well. It’s not exactly the most feature-rich watch in our list but it is certainly up there in terms of aesthetics and toughness.

BLACKHAWK Advanced Field Operator Watch


Weight: 8.3 oz

Dimensions: n/a

Features: Miyota quartz movements for extreme accuracy, Constructed of highly corrosion-resistant 316L stainless steel, Scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, Case is precision milled for maximum waterproofness, PVD finish is electrochemically bonded to stainless surface

Best use: tactical training, field training, diving, outdoor survival

Description: Don’t need all the fancy features that other watches have on this list? Then the Blackhawk Advanced Field Operator watch should be right down your alley. Blackhawk has taken the no-nonsense approach to tactical / survival timepieces by doing away with the extra sub-dials and other fancy distractions.

It just gives you the time and that’s pretty much it. What it lacks in features makes up for it in terms of accuracy and reliability. This watch is designed for tactical situations where you need to mark the time under stress.

The sapphire crystal face and corrosion-resistant 316L stainless steel ensures that this watch can handle anything you throw at it. It’s also waterproof up to 100m and the molded silicone strap provides great fit and comfort. The watch prioritizes toughness and clarity under extreme conditions. If you are someone who believes that “less is more”, this watch would be the perfect timekeeping tool for you.

And there you go, some of the best survival watches we could find in the market. Hopefully, you can use these recommendations to give you an idea on how to shop for survival watches.

Final Thoughts

Survival watches in general are expensive devices. This is why before you decide to buy one, make sure that you do your research or risk disappointment. It’s always a good practice to read reviews and feedback before purchasing.

On top of that, make a shortlist of watches you like and narrow it down to the ones you like best. Then, it’s just a matter of comparing specifications and features. Hopefully, this guide will help you make an informed purchase down the line.

Survival Watch

So any other survival watches you think deserve to be on our list? Sound off in the comments section. Be sure to also share this article for the benefit of your family and friends that might consider buying an outdoor watch in the future.

Daniel Carraway
Daniel Carraway

Daniel Carraway joined our team last year. He is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.

  • Elliot Giles

    In love with the Casio G-SHOCK 30th Anniversary Initial Blue. This is by far my favorite G-Shock and I own about a dozen. The features are great, being able to see the time while the stop watch is going, the alphanumeric day with the date. The moon phase is cool also. This watch is powered by solar and any source of artificial light so I don’t have to worry about changing the battery on it. OH YEAH. there’s also a function where if you tilt your wrist 30 degrees the light will turn on so if its night time and you want to know the time you don’t have to press anything, just look at your watch like you would normally and boom, time.
    Since it was the 30th Anniversary Initial Blue, it has a sexy metallic blue rim on the bezel and the face is dark blue.

  • Daniel Carraway

    Seems to me you really love the G-Shock, lol! Well, I do too and i have the G-Shock Rangeman Master Of G Series Stylish Watch to prove it. The G-Shock series really combine aesthetics, dependability and usability. I love the fact that it’s solar powered so i can just forget about the batteries. These survival watches are really awesome, right?

  • Carl Thompson

    I also got the G-Shock Rangeman Master Of G Series Stylish Watch. Aesthetically, Casio took this model one notch higher by adding a polished tang and keeper and stainless steel pushers and screws. These more sophisticated accents make the watch suitable for use in more diverse social environments other than shooting, hiking, fishing, and the like. As for functionality, the triple sensors make a great selling point for “technogeeks“, but even Casio states that the altimeter, temperature, and barometric pressure are subjective and should not be used as actual instruments in a critical situation. Overall, I feel that this watch is a great execution and wouldn’t hesitate convincing others to own one.

  • Daniel Carraway

    Excellent choice Carl! You can’t go wrong with that watch. It has functionality and style rolled in a sleek package. Whatever your lifestyle, this little guy will fit right in. It also helps that the G-Shock series of Casio is very popular, even at a hefty price.
    Right now, I’m looking closely at the Citizen Men’s Shock-Proof Titanium Watch which I find interesting. I think my G-shock will have a companion soon.
    Thanks for the great review Carl!