With the exception of hardcore bushcrafters, most folks look at survival situations as dire experiences best avoided. Of course, a smart outdoorsman knows it’s better to prepare for the worst than face the consequences. That being said, watches are still not always a consideration. They should be, however, as they can be invaluable in emergencies — especially away from civilization.
And while an intrepid explorer can use a standard analog watch as a navigational tool, there’s no reason not to take advantage of modern technology. In fact, there are actually a wide variety of more comprehensively equipped timepieces that could certainly be considered survival watches. We’ve rounded up the best of the best on our following guide to the 10 best survival watches that money can buy.
What's A Survival Watch?
Technically speaking, a regular analog watch can be used in a survival situation. In fact, if you’re clever enough, you can actually use one to navigate by the position of the sun in the sky. Of course, if you really want a leg up, there are a few key things to look for in a survival watch to up your chances of making it through whatever situation in which you find yourself. An array of sensors — like an altimeter, barometer, and thermometer (all standard in Triple Sensor G-SHOCK watches) — is a good start. But with the advent of smart technologies and the miniaturization of tech, you can find timepieces that are even more useful — like those with onboard GPS/GLONASS capabilities or even full-color topographical maps. Now, you’re not going to find all of these in every potential survival watch, especially the ones on the lower end of the budgetary spectrum, but they can be hugely beneficial in survival situations.
Casio Pro Trek Pathfinder PAG240-1 Survival Watch
Because of its digital display, this watch can’t really be used to navigate via the sun. But that’s okay because it actually has a suite of onboard sensors — including its own compass. On top of that, it comes equipped with a barometer, thermometer, altimeter, and even a world timer function. Better still, it’s solar-powered — meaning you’ll only need sunlight to keep it ticking. And it’s even resistant to extreme variations in temperature, giving it a major leg up in regards to survival. And that’s only a few of the many features of this spectacular Casio Pro Trek timepiece.
Casio G-SHOCK Rangeman GW9400 Survival Watch
The entirety of Casio’s G-SHOCK lineup is legendary for its extreme durability — making just about any of them a solid option in regards to survival. We’re particularly fond of this one, however, with its solar-powered movement, Triple Sensor array (thermometer, barometer, altimeter), and 200m water-resistance rating. Favored by outdoorsmen, survivalists, law enforcement, and even military personnel, you can’t really go wrong with an ever-capable G-SHOCK — least of all this one. And that’s only made better by its affordability.
Citizen Promaster Altichron Survival Watch
While some might expect this list to be dominated by digital watches, as they’re quite easy to load with features, there are some pretty big benefits to analog options — and, like this one, there are plenty with loads of features, as well. You see, the Citizen Promaster Altichron has its own built-in altimeter that’s rated to measure from 1,000 to 32,000 feet. On top of that, it also boasts its own compass and even has a date window for keeping track of longer stretches of time. As if that wasn’t enough, it also has an Eco-Drive movement that can be charged using any light source — so you never have to worry about swapping out the battery or plugging it in.
Suunto Traverse Alpha Outdoor Watch
Suunto’s Traverse Alpha isn’t quite a smartwatch, but it isn’t far off, either. You see, this digital outdoor watch is packed full of some of the most comprehensively useful tools for adventurers anywhere. In fact, it was actually made to help hunters with their escapades. As such, it has an onboard GPS that’s compatible with both Android and iOS smartphones, an automatic breadcrumb mapping function to help you more easily retrace your steps, and even has an onboard location-based moonphase calendar. It is, however, limited by a rechargeable battery that can, at maximum, run for 14 days. Still, if you’re careful with how you use it, there’s no denying just how impressive this is as a survival tool.
Luminox Recon NAV 8831 KM Survival Watch
Luminox is a brand that has built its reputation on building some of the toughest watches in the world for the toughest people in the world — including Navy SEALs and Iceland’s search-and-rescue teams. So it should come as no surprise that their take on a survival watch is top-tier. Equipped with a reliable Swiss-made quartz movement, it comes in a Carbon reinforced PC case mated to a rubber strap that has its own integrated compass. It also has a date window, a timer bezel, and — most uniquely — a tachymeter bezel designed specifically around tracking your speed on-foot. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s also waterproof to 200 meters.
Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 Outdoor Smartwatch
True smartwatches have some pretty major drawbacks not found in more-traditional analog and even digital watches. Namely, they’re subject to a painfully-short battery life most of the time and are typically at constant risk of shutting down permanently if exposed to too much moisture. This one, however, does a pretty good job of limiting those downsides significantly — as it’s equipped to function for a day and a half between charges in full-smartwatch mode (including the usage of GPS) and is water-resistant to 50 meters. It can also download full-color topographical maps to help aid you on your adventures, has a comprehensive suite of sensors and onboard tools (including a digital compass), and even boasts a touchscreen for easy, intuitive control.
SureFire Luminox 2211 WristLight Watch
Technically, the SureFire 2211 isn’t actually a watch at all. It’s a wrist-mounted LED flashlight designed for tactical usage. But the brand paired up with the legendary craftsmen at Luminox to equip it with its own ultra-tough onboard timepiece — complete with a rotating timer bezel, a Swiss quartz movement, a date window, and 24-hour markings. The flashlight portion of this survival watch is made from mil-spec aluminum for extra durability and has a trio of output levels ranging from as low as 15 lumens to as many as 300 — making this perhaps the best option for low-light situations.
Casio G-SHOCK Rangeman GPR-B1000-1JR GPS Watch
As previously mentioned, just about every single G-SHOCK watch could be considered a decent option for a survival watch. That being said, there are some that are better than others — and this one is certainly amongst them. That’s because — on top of it having a water-resistance of 200m, Triple Sensor functionality, a world timer, and a ton of other features — it comes with its own onboard GPS system for satellite navigation around the world. And that unique addition makes this Rangeman one of the best survival watches in all of Casio’s G-SHOCK lineup.
Victorinox I.N.O.X. 241858 Swiss Army Watch
As far as onboard sensors are concerned, Victorinox’s I.N.O.X. Swiss Army Watch you see here is woefully underequipped. In fact, the watch portion itself is fairly basic — boasting little more than a standard three-hand dial and a date window. But it does have a couple of other things the competition doesn’t have that helps set it apart. For starters, its carbon case is literally tough enough to survive being run over by a tank. But, perhaps most importantly, this watch has a strap that’s made from paracord — which might just be the most useful survival tool in the world, as it can be used to build traps, in first aid, to put up shelters, and so much more.
Garmin MARQ Commander Tactical Smartwatch
As we mentioned previously, most smartwatches are not great for outdoor survival — or any kind of survival, really — due to some severe limitations. However, put Garmin in control and it seems like all things are possible. Or at least they managed to do away with traditional smartwatch problems when they created their MARQ Commander tactical option. This timepiece is built from ultra-tough DLC-coated titanium, boasts dual-format onboard GPS, has a suite of onboard sensors and apps (including those for HALO jumps), and can even function for 14 days between charges. There’s even a killswitch function if you need to wipe sensitive information in the case of capture. This might be the most overbuilt outdoor smartwatch ever made and we’re in love.
The 8 Basic Survival Skills Everyone Should Know
Owning a survival watch is only one small factor influencing your ability to deal with dire situations. But it’s not going to do you much good if you don’t know the basic survival skills everyone should know. Thankfully, we’ve got a guide covering just that.