The Best Survival Watches of 2018 – Models with The Highest Quality

How can you find the best survival watch when few watches are actually branded as survival watches? To us, a survival watch is one that can handle rough outdoor conditions and still provide accurate time, date, and other basic information. The purpose of such a watch is to enhance safety and the overall wilderness experience, so it should also offer features like GPS, altimeter, weather instruments, and specialized time-keeping functions such as sunrise/sunset times, moon phases, tide tables, and so on.

Surviving the Hunt for the Best Survival Watch 

Tough-looking, gadget-filled watches have been in style for quite a few years now, and there are multitudes of these models on the market. It is no easy task to sort out watches that are really up to wilderness use and abuse, but we have taken on the challenge and selected the best models that are sturdy and useful enough to be called survival watches. 

Best Survival Watches Comparisons 

8 Best Survival Watches - Reviews

1. Suunto Traverse Alpha

The Suunto Traverse Alpha is a Finnish-made GPS watch specialized for hunting, fishing, and trekking.

Built to military standards, this watch looks rugged with its fiber-glass reinforced composite case, knurled stainless steel bezel and buttons, sapphire crystal, and nylon strap. The Traverse Alpha runs on a rechargeable Li-Ion battery and will give you 2 weeks of use in time mode and 10 hours in the most accurate GPS mode.

Among the many features of this watch, a couple interesting ones are the automatic shot detection function that records when and where you shoot, and an automatic breadcrumb trail to help you get back home. Sunrise/sunset alerts and a moon phase calendar with rise and set times are examples of hunting- and fishing-specific features. The Traverse also has altimeter and barometer functions and a built-in flashlight.

The Suunto Traverse is a wrist computer that has just about everything needed to get you in and out of the wilderness. If you’re planning to use the GPS, you will need to take a charging device with you, but if the watch is kept locked and its functions are only used intermittently then turned off, it is possible to get several days of battery life.

We loved the looks of this watch, and the price point is actually very reasonable considering what a powerful machine it is. Handmade Finnish quality is the clincher, so if you want a computer GPS watch, this is the top choice.

What we liked

  • Rugged build
  • Extreme and innovative functionality
  • Good looks

What we didn't like

  • Needs charging
  • Band is not replaceable
  • High price point

2. SureFire 2211-A-BK-LMX Luminox Compact Wrist Light

Designed and built as a shooting light for law enforcement officers, and a hands-free light for other first responders, the SureFire 2211 combines a tactical-grade LED light with a Luminox analog watch. 

SureFire is a leader in firearms lights, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the light on this watch can throw an intense, broad beam at 3 settings: 300, 60, and 15 lumens. Ambidextrous switches control the light, which runs on a lithium-ion battery that you can recharge via a micro-USB port and charging cable. The light will burn for over 1 hour on tactical setting and 13 hours on low setting—the dial also has a battery life gauge to indicate when a recharge is needed.

This watch is a classic analog design with a Swiss quartz movement, tritium glow-in-the-dark hands, and a unidirectional rotating bezel with timer markings. The dial crystal is mineral and sealed for water resistance. The SureFire 2211 is American-made from high-strength aerospace aluminum construction with Mil-Spec hard anodizing.

While this watch offers only one survival function and it needs recharging, light is one of the most useful tools in survival situations, and compact solar chargers are readily available. For most of us, any emergency is going to occur in an urban setting, and if this watch is taken out fully charged, it will provide light for an entire night. The watch runs on a battery and has a typical lifespan of a year or more.

We like the SureFire because it is the real thing and it has a heavy-duty construction geared for long use. The downside is the band, because we would want to wear this unit over a long sleeve in many situations. However, it is a simple matter to swap in a Velcro strap tactical-style watch band. The price point is high, but this is a high-quality tool that could be very useful in any tough situation.

What we liked

  • Excellent idea
  • Bomb-proof construction
  • Made in America

What we didn't like

  • Two functions only—time and light
  • Light needs charging
  • Watchband setup needs modification

3. Casio PAG240T-7CR Pathfinder Stainless Steel Watch

The Casio Pathfinder combines Japanese quality with good looks and durability—and it also packs plenty of useful features at a reasonable price point.

The PAG240T has a solar-powered battery recharging system and can operate for months without any exposure to light, but it can also be recharged when using power-hungry functions. The watch has a dual-layer LCD that displays time data and sunrise/sunset along with information from the altimeter, barometer/thermometer, and digital compass. The back light functions automatically, sensing when illumination is low and switching on when the wrist is tilted.

It’s easy to see Casio’s heritage of practical outdoor use the first time the dial light activates with a twist of the wrist. The watch can be worn over gloves when necessary, and the rotating bezel can also be operated with gloved fingers. For that matter, the function buttons will also work with thin gloves on.

The functions are good, but you will have to remove the watch from your wrist in order to get an accurate temperature reading due to body heat, and there is probably no way around this. The titanium band is tough but not too bulky, and the corners of the links are rounded so they don’t snag on clothes. We like the pebbled matte finish because it conceals wear and scratches and gives the watch a sturdy look.

With its scratch-resistant mineral dial window, 330 ft. of water resistance, and functions that will help you get up a mountain or out of the woods, the Pathfinder is a real survival watch at a value price.

What we liked

  • Good quality at a low price
  • Light but durable
  • Useful features

What we didn't like

  • Complicated instrument setup
  • Tricky to size the band
  • Battery is non-standard

4. G-Shock GW-9400-3CR Rangeman

The Rangeman is a durable outdoor watch that is light and comfortable to wear.

It has a tough plastic case and band and a solar-recharge system with a 10-year battery life. The chromed knurled function buttons are tough and useable with thin gloves, and the main button has a protective ring that provides impact protection and keeps debris out. The Rangeman keeps atomic time via multiband time calibration radio signals, but the time can also be updated manually.

He functions of this watch include compass, altimeter/barometer, thermometer, calendar, and sunrise/sunset. It also has a snooze button alarm. The G-Shock can handle a 30-foot drop and is water-resistant to over 600 feet.

G-Shock watches have a proven design, and the plastic construction is comfortable when wearing the watch in deep cold conditions. This watch has a negative display, meaning the dial has light numbers against a dark background—some people like this design, but we found it difficult to see the dial in low lighting. The 3-second limit on the dial light when the button is pushed is also frustrating, especially when you’re attempting to change modes. The lighting also comes from the side instead of being a true backlight. The watch functions do their job, but a rotating bezel is nice when working with a compass, and this watch does not have one.

Overall, this watch rates high in durability but is geared more toward style than survival function. If that fits your use patterns, the Rangeman would be a good choice.

What we liked

  • Takes a beating
  • Long battery life
  • Looks cool

What we didn't like

  • Difficult to read
  • Annoying backlight system
  • Band clasp gets scratched easily

5. Suunto Core All Black

Suunto Core All Black

What the Suunto Core offers is a high-quality wrist computer at a very nice price point.

With its sturdy composite case and aluminum bezel, the Core is built for hard outdoor use. It has a low-visibility black anodized finish and an elastomer band. This watch has every feature needed for movement through the outdoors including an altimeter that shows ascent and descent along with current elevation and a record of your current climb. The Core also has a barometer and storm alarm, a compass, and 400 preset sunset/sunrise times built in. Its battery life is in the 6-month range depending on function use.

The Core has all the features we like at an unbeatable price point for a watch of this quality. The model we tested has the negative display, but the digits are thick and large, so visibility was not a problem, and it is also possible to choose a bright white positive dial. 

The buttons are all easily use-able, but they project out and look a bit vulnerable—this also means some care is needed in managing the functions to preserve battery life as modes can be accidentally switched on. This watch can measure depth underwater up to 30 feet, something no other watch we tested can do.

The Suunto Core offers the best value for the money in a full-featured outdoor watch.

What we liked

  • Excellent price point
  • Good looks
  • Highly-visible bezel markings
  • Depth meter

What we didn't like

  • Bezel scratches easily
  • Replacement bands are expensive

6. Armitron Adventure AD/1011BLK Sport Watch

The Armitron Adventure is a bargain-priced outdoor watch with a quartz movement and functions that focus on weather information.

Resin case and band construction with a stainless steel bezel ring offer shock resistance and durability. The Adventure features an altimeter, barometer, temperature reference, and a weather station that can track wind speed, windchill, altitude change, and other information. The watch has the typical time-keeping and alarm functions and also includes a world time setting. The digital readout is large and easy to see, and the backlight function is bright.

This watch has a multitude of functions for its low price point, and we felt it would be a good watch for climbing and hiking—it is lightweight and low-profile, and the backlight function can be operated with gloves on. It is also water-resistant down to 165 feet which should be enough for light water sports and most river crossings.

On the downside, the band will not be easy to replace, and with an acrylic crystal this is not a super watch, but it is one of the lowest-priced altimeter watches available.

What we liked

  • Affordable price point
  • Useful hiking functions

What we didn't like

  • No compass
  • Light-duty construction

7. Casio Sports SGW500H-1BV Analog / Digital Watch

The Casio Sports has a set of useful features at a bargain price point.

The build is functional, with a Japanese quartz movement and a combination digital/analog display. Temperature and compass direction functions can be initiated by the large, easy-to-operate side buttons, and the second hand converts to a compass needle when that mode is selected. With sunrise/sunset data, moon phase, a 48-city world time clock, countdown timer, 1/100 second stopwatch, and 5 alarms, this Casio comes with a surprisingly long list of features.

We feel this watch rules the low-price range with its feature set, and even the most basic Casio watches are dependable. There’s something comfortable about having both analog and digital readouts. Some people may not like the band, but it can be changed out with ease.

One issue we noticed is that the buttons can be accidentally activated when the watch is worn on the left wrist. It also has the same irritating 3-second backlight limit that the more expensive G-Shocks have. Still, if you are looking for a budget watch that will do the job, the Casio Sports will work.

What we liked

  • Bargain price
  • Easy operation
  • Dual display

What we didn't like

  • Some defects reported
  • Buttons are poorly positioned

8. Timex T49612 Expedition Shock Watch

The Timex T49612 is a bargain-priced quartz-movement watch made to hold up to general outdoor sports and recreational water immersion. 

The plastic resin body and band are comfortable and durable, and the band has a secure buckle closure. The stationary bezel is black plastic and the dial cover is acrylic, and the total weight of the watch is just over 6 ounces. It comes with a basic set of functions that include calendar, compass, and backlight.

Sometimes cheap and simple are the best way to go, and Timex has a long-standing reputation for durability even in their non-sporting watch lines. We tend to avoid large, heavy, bulky watches, and sometimes it’s nice to have a watch that does not take a computer programmer to operate—the Timex is outstanding from this point of view. It does have a compass as well as stop watch, timer, and alarm functions. The Indiglo backlight is great and easy to turn on. This is a negative display watch, but the digital readout is large and clear so together with the backlight it is never a problem to see.

We do not like acrylic dial covers because they scratch so easily, but that is what comes at this price point. The Timex is our choice for watch that can take a beating and get you un-lost in the woods without the need for a major investment.

What we liked

  • Low price point
  • Easy to operate
  • Nice backlight

What we didn't like

  • Basic functions only
  • No replacement bands available
  • Band clasp gets scratched easily

Survival Time 

We were pleasantly surprised at the quality of survival watches available in an affordable price range. We stayed away from the multi-thousand dollar time pieces because it is impossible to feel at home crossing a swamp or fording a river with that kind of investment on your wrist. You can get a nice watch at an excellent price if you take a close look at our list because these are some of the best survival watches available.

David Valle
 

I started this blog to provide advanced material, guiding you towards a better and more comfortable fishing experience. I deliver more than fishing gear guides, and motivate people to hit the water!

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