Top 10 Outdoor Watches Reviewed and Rated
If you find yourself in soggy and sticky situations in the wilderness, a delicate wristwatch just won’t cut it. Outdoor watches are designed to provide more information than just the time and they are incredibly durable. Many of the selections on our list for the best outdoor watches come from trusted brands and offer classic and innovative designs.
We liked watches that provided a few extra bells and whistles to lend a hand while out in the middle of nowhere. Features such as alarms and stopwatch come in really handy at times. Plus, many of the designs on our list are waterproof, which means that you can even go swimming without taking off your watch.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 7 hrs of research
10 Best Outdoor Watches
1. Garmin Instinct
If you want something with all of the bells and whistles of a smartwatch with incredible durability, the Garmin Instinct is one of your best options. It has a sleek and stylish display and band that is offered in quite a few color options. It has a much higher price point than most, but it is well worth the extra cost!
The very first thing that we noticed about this design is all of the extra features. Not only does it digitally display the time, but it's also a compass watch with a GPS and a barometric altimeter. We love the Traceback feature that tracks your route from your starting position so you can easily track back to your car.
The rubber band comes in a wide variety of stylish color options that include yellow, black, blue, gray, and red. The watch face also matches the color of the band. A heart rate monitor on the back of the watch face tracks your steps as well as your heart rate.
If you are in the market for something that is packed with helpful features, this is one of your best options. Do not let the digital display and GPS features fool you, this watch is made to take a beating. It is has a U.S military-grade that withstands shock, water, and cold (or hot) conditions.
2. Suunto Core
This design from SUUNTO has the style and function of digital watches similar to Garmin, it is just lacking the GPS feature. This abbreviated design saves on battery life, and it also makes the price tag a little easier to swallow. If you need a rugged watch with a myriad of features, this is a great option.
What we loved about this design is that it has a digital display that relays a lot of important information you need while out in the woods. Not only does it display the time, but it also displays your altitude, barometric pressure, and a compass.
Our favorite feature of this design is the weather alarm. When there is a storm front sweeping into your location, there is an alarm to alert you to take proper precautions. The display also indicates the time of sunrise and sunset so you can make sure that you make it back to camp before the sun goes down.
For those in the market for a rugged waterproof timepiece that provides you all of the information you need to stay safe out in the woods, this is a great choice. Plus, it comes in at a much more affordable price point when compared to designs with GPS functions.
3. Timex Expedition
Long battery life
It’s no surprise that a trusted brand such as Timex makes our list at least once. What really stands out about the Expedition is that it is built like a tank. Sometimes when a design is built tough, it offers limited features. The Expedition, however, has a ton of unique and helpful features that work even as you roll down the side of a mountain!
What makes this design stand out from the rest is the ability to set various timers that alert you with vibration as well as alarms. You can set a timer for various occasions, such as sunrise or sunset, or just when it is time to sit down and eat. It also has hydration alarms to ensure you get enough water to fuel your travels.
The band and face are composed of high-quality resin with an acrylic lens that can really take a beating. It is water-resistant for depths up to 330 feet. This means that you don’t have to take off your watch when caught in a rainstorm, or even when swimming.
If you are in the market for something that is built incredibly tough, you can’t go wrong with this design from Timex. It has an Indiglo backlight to read the time even in the dark, and a battery that lasts up to 10 years!
4. Suunto 9 GPS
Difficult to pair
SUUNTO makes out list yet again with this GPS model. This design is built to keep up with you while lending feedback on your location, distance traveled, and activity levels. While many smart and sports watches are delicate and weak, this option is waterproof and can really take a beating. If you can get over the steep price tag, this design is the perfect companion on your next trip.
The simple digital display has a touch screen so it is easy to toggle through menus that offer a myriad of information. The GPS function works without needlessly draining your battery. The battery life lasts an impressive 120 hours before it needs to be recharged. It also displays barometric altitude, and counts your steps and sends it to your phone.
The face is composed of sapphire glass that is meant for high impact and increased activity levels. It is considered to be completely waterproof. In fact, it even has a swimming activity setting to track your strokes.
For those in the market for something that comes with all of the bells and whistles to ensure that you are never lost, this is a great option. Plus, it has a rugged and durable face and a band that can really take a beating without flinching.
One look at this design from G-Shock and you know it is made to live in the wilderness. It has a thick and bulky frame that is made from comfortable and high-quality materials that won’t flinch in the harshest of outdoor conditions. While it doesn’t have a lot of the same features as others on the market, it comes in at a great price point and sharp color options.
The very first thing that we noticed is that it has a utilitarian design that is made to take a beating. It boasts a sturdy resin band that securely straps in place with a buckle. It comes in two color options that include olive green and black.
The display in this model is simple and to the point. It has a small backlit screen that displays the time and date at a glance. Toggling through menus allows you to set timers that go off with a powerful alarm.
The face of this watch is shock resistant and waterproof. This means that it is able to keep up with you during water sports activities (for the exception of scuba diving). It won’t flinch if you take a tumble on the trails or accidentally hit it against any surface. If you need something heavy-duty, this is one of your best options!
Short battery life
No watch list would be complete without a Casio design! When you conjure an image of a watch to wear outdoors, the style of this option is probably what you imagine. This design has a bulky and utilitarian design that is incredibly comfortable on those long days, as well as easy to read.
What we liked most about this option from Casio is that it is incredibly comfortable. It boasts a nylon band that is much more breathable and comfortable than resin options out there on the market. It has a large screen that displays the time and date at a glance.
Toggling through menus opens up the use of helpful functions. It has an altimeter, thermometer, and barometer. Users can also set up to five alarms that alert you with a loud bell. This design is heavy duty and completely waterproof. This means that you can go swimming without taking off your watch. It is important to note, however, that the nylon band may not dry as quickly as some of the other resin designs out there on the market.
If you are in the market for something built to last the comes from a trusted brand, this is one of your best options. Plus, it comes in at one of the most affordable price points of any of the other designs making our list.
7. BlueStraw Survival Bracelet
Long battery life
If you are really roughing it out in the woods, this survival bracelet may be one of your best options. When it comes to the watch on this design, simplicity is the name of the game. It has an analog watch that shows you the time and nothing more. Where this watch really shines is in the built-in features found in the wrist band.
This is the only analog watch to make our list. While it doesn’t have the same features as a digital face, it gets the job done and doesn’t need to be charged or have its batteries changes frequently. What makes this watch really shine is found in the wrist band.
The wrist band is constructed from braided paracord which can be unraveled to create a very strong rope if you find yourself in dire circumstances in the woods. The band is also equipped with a whistle to help signal to your group if you become lost, an analog compass, a thermometer, and a fire starter.
Paracord bracelets can save your life, but outdoorsmen often don’t wear them because they don’t serve many functions outside of an emergency. With the addition of a functional watch face, you are more inclined to wear this helpful tool on your wrist everywhere you go.
8. Armitron Digital Chronograph
Simplicity is the name of the game when it comes to this design from Armitron. It has a bulky and rugged frame that is really able to take a beating. At a glance, it provides the time and date on a large digital display that is easy to read. We also love that it comes in a lot of unique color options.
Not only it is waterproof, but it is also made of high-quality resin that won’t lose strength with consistent and continuous use. It has a 46 mm face with a large display that shows the time and date. Plus, it is backlit to read in the dark as well.
The case, as well as the band, come in a wide variety of color options. Colors include basic black, red, green, blue, gray, and yellow. While the face looks like it includes a compass, it is important to note that this compass is decorative only.
If you are in the market for something that is incredibly functional, simple, and comfortable, this design is one of your best options. It has a long battery life and an easy fit that is great for all outdoor endeavors.
If you want something that has a sleeker and less rugged design, this is a great option. It has a modern and polished finish, yet it has the durability and features of many of the other utilitarian designs that made our list. Plus, users find that this band is incredibly comfortable to wear.
At first glance, this design looks like an expensive and sleek market watch. However, it's considered to be shock resistance, and waterproof enough that you can wear it even when you are swimming! The band is made from rubber that provides a comfortable fit that moves as you move.
The display provides the time and date, and there is a backlight so you can read it even in the dark. It also has a few settings that allow you to set alarms to go off every hour, or just use it as your standard alarm clock.
If you are in the market for something tough and durable without the bulk of other sporty options out there on the market, this is a great choice. Plus, it comes in at an incredibly affordable price point that gives you little reason not to give it a try!
Long battery life
Difficult to set
It doesn’t get any more simple than this model from Infantry. It is designed for those that need to check the time while scaling a mountain and nothing more. It is one of the few analog options to make our list, which means that the band may disintegrate overtime before the battery dies!
What we loved about this design is that it is incredibly simple and comfortable. It has a very thin face and watches that won’t get caught on your sleeves or when you need to fish something out of your pocket. The band is composed of lightweight and comfortable nylon that moves as you move.
While it boasts a simple and classic design, this watch was built for durability. Users are able to wear it while swimming and when caught in the rain. The face is scratch resistance and shockproof, so this option is able to keep up with whatever you throw at it.
It isn’t equipped with additional features that prove to be handy in the wilderness. However, if you simply need something that tells you the time and nothing more, this is a great choice.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
For outdoor watches, durability is the most important feature. We wanted to make sure that we selected designs that wouldn’t skip a second if you fall into a river or got a few scratches along the way. The great outdoors is full of surprises, and you need gear that can hold up to whatever mother nature throws at it.
There were a few key points that we made sure every item on our list came equipped.
Waterproof: Whether you get caught in the rain or fall into a lake, water is something that is a reality of any outdoor excursion. That’s why we selected products for our list of best outdoor watches that could withstand water without flooding and breaking down.
Waterproof designs are able to withstand being submerged in water, which means that you are free to cool off with a quick swim without taking off your watch. It is important to note that most models aren’t equipped to be worn in the shower due to the hot water.
While you are free to swim and engage in a myriad of watersports with these watches, scuba diving is the only exception. When your watch hits a certain pressure when you dive deep, it can cause it to stop working.
Shock-resistant: It wouldn’t be an outdoor adventure if you didn’t trip over an aggressive tree root. Or six. One of the most common reasons for a watch to quit working is a shock to the system that sent all of the gears and bolts out of wack. For standard watches, one tumble on the ground causes the hands to quit working.
That’s why we wanted to make sure that the items that we selected for our list were shock-resistant. This means that even if you tumble down the side of a mountain, you still have the option to check the time once you reach the bottom!
Ease of Use
No one likes to be bothered with gear that is difficult to use. We wanted to make sure that we selected items on our list that were easy to use, and easy to set. If you hate being bothered with long instruction manuals and difficult to navigate menus, you may be better off with a more simple design.
The more bells and whistles built into a design means the more time spent reading an instruction manual. Advanced features are fun and useful, but an unintuitive design renders them useless. That’s why we selected models that were a little bit easier to use.
To determine which products were user-friendly, we combed through hundreds of user reviews. If there was an overwhelming number of users that found a certain design was impossible to navigate, we would move on to another design.
One of the most common complaints from previous users is that they feel certain options are difficult to navigate. When you are out in the wilderness, you don’t have the time to read your instruction manual on a crash course on how to use the GPS.
If you are someone that doesn’t like to be bothered with learning new tech, you may benefit from selecting one of the more simple designs. Flashy features often come at a much higher price point, and it is a waste of your hard-earned money if you never quite learn how to use these features!
Watches with touch screens made navigating features buried in menus just a little bit easier. If a watch doesn’t come with a touch screen, it means that users need to press buttons along the side of the face to display the information that they need.
At the end of the day, take into consideration what you need and what you don’t need.
Certain features not only make things easier, but they could also help save your life! We wanted to include watches that offered both quality of life and life-saving features to help you get the most out of your next outdoor adventure.
Below, some of our favorite features found in models that we selected for our list.
GPS: Exploring the wilderness is amazing, but getting lost can be a real problem. If you like to navigate wooded areas that you aren’t familiar with, opting for a watch with GPS function can actually save your life.
Weather Alert: You may check the weather forecast before you leave and see nothing but blue skies, but that can change at the drop of a hat. When you are far from a cellphone signal to tell you when nasty weather is on its way. With a weather alert on your wrist, you can take the proper precautions to stay safe.
Paracord Bracelet: While most watches use a simple nylon or resin band, some companies opt for the use of a braided paracord. What we loved about this design is that if you get stranded out in the middle of the woods, the band of your watch could actually save your life.
Paracord designs may not have the advanced bells and whistles as other designs but use an actual whistle instead. The whistle helps to draw attention to yourself if you get separated from your group. These bracelets also offer a fire starter and compass as well.
It is important to note that advanced features also means that you will need to sit down and learn how to use your device. If you love learning new gadgets, these additional features are well worth it when you are in a tight spot!
No one likes to be bothered with changing the battery on their watch. Watch batteries are small and finicky, and a real pain in the neck to find the right size at the drugstore.
We selected designs that are rechargeable, or that have a battery life that will last for years without the need of being replaced.
There are two types of batteries in the designs we selected for our list.
Rechargeable: These types of batteries are typically found on designs that offer advanced features such as GPS or smartphone compatibility. We selected models that had a battery that lasts quite a bit longer than your standard smartwatch. While most smartwatches have a battery life of about 24 hours, the designs we selected had an impressive battery life of about 120 hours.
It is important to note that you will need access to a power source to charge you watch once the battery dies. This makes these styles ideal for short weekend trips. If you intend of being away from a power source for long periods of time, we suggest packing a portable battery for a quick charge. You can elect for a non-rechargeable option as well.
Replaceable: Replaceable batteries may seem less than ideal when compared to rechargeable, but they have quite a few benefits. Many of the products that we selected have a battery life that will last for years before it needs to be replaced.
In fact, your watch band may die before your battery with these options! Plus, many of them come at such an affordable price point that it may be better just to by another watch rather than get a new battery.
It’s important that your gear is always lightweight and comfortable. The styles that we chose are made from a few different types of material that are tough and durable, but lightweight as well.
Below, the materials used for the bands.
Resin: Resin is the most popular material used for many of the bands on our list. What makes resin ideal is that it has a little bit of bend to it, and it is also incredibly durable. It forms comfortably to the shape of your wrist, and it's thin and lightweight. The downside to resin, however, is that it isn’t very breathable.
Nylon: The other most popular option is nylon. Nylon is softer than resin, and it feels great when worn directly against your skin. Plus, it has a lot more bend and movement to it over stiffer options. The only downside to nylon is that it doesn’t dry as fast when it gets wet.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
If you hate the idea of charging your watch or changing the batteries, opting for a simple design free of extra bells and whistles may spare you this headache. Features such as GPS and active heart-rate monitoring are super helpful, but they are constantly running in the background. This means that these features are a constant drain on the battery. For extended battery life, keep things simple.
You are miles and miles away from a cellphone signal, so how does the GPS on your watch actually work? Cellphones use signals that come from towers that are planted on Earth. GPS signals, however, use satellites to generate a signal.
Humans have been telling time for thousands of years, but the first wristwatch didn’t hit the scene until the 1570s. These early iterations of the wristwatch were called arm watches and were primarily worn by women.
Other Factors to Consider
At the end of the day, when it comes to the best outdoor watches, you want something that is durable and reliable. Selecting trusted brands with military-grade outdoor watches is the best way to ensure you don’t have to use a makeshift sundial in the middle of the woods on your next camping trip.
When you think military-grade, you probably imagine a very bulky and utilitarian designed timepiece. However, there are certain designs out there on the market that are just as tough as their tank-like counterparts, but they offer a sleeker design that can also be worn at the office as well.
Before you take the plunge, think about the features that are most important to you. GPS functions are nice, but can really drain the battery and might be unnecessary if you know the woods like the back of your hand. A product that has few bells and whistles is known to have extended battery life and longer life in general.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Why do I need an outdoor watch?
There is a big difference between the watch you wear to work and one you wear camping. The thing that makes outdoor watches stand out is they are incredibly durable. Features such as shock-resistance means you can really get down and dirty without affecting your watch.
These watches also have to be waterproof. You never know when it will start to rain, or when your friend will push you into a river because you’re complaining too much. Selecting a waterproof watch means that you can even go swimming without taking off your gear.
q: What's better: analog or digital?
The answer to this question boils down to a matter of personal preference. While each style has its unique advantages and disadvantages, you need to decide which is right for you.
Digital faces are beneficial due to the fact that most offer backlit screens to read in the dark, and are easy to check the time and date at a glance. Plus, many offer much more information rather than just the time.
The downside to digital faces is that its battery life is much less than analog. Analog watches are known to run for years and years without the need to ever replace the battery. One of the downsides is that they often do not have helpful features such as a backlit face.
q: What does shock-resistant mean?
All of the designs that we selected for our list are considered to be shock-resistant. So, what exactly does shock-resistant mean? Basically, it means that the internal components won’t get all jumbled up if you fall off the side of the mountain.
This means you can time how long it takes your camping companions to come to your rescue!
If you ask your local watch repairman, they would tell you that the most common reason watches end up in the shop is because they suffered a blow that shifted a gear loose. By selecting a design that is shock-resistant means that it won’t stop working due to a heavy blow.
q: What’s the difference between waterproof and water-resistant?
There is a big difference between waterproof and water-resistant, and it is important that you don’t get them confused. Water-resistant simply means that it is able to be subjected to a little bit of water, like getting caught in the rain. However, water-resistant gear is not able to be submerged in water.
The watches that we selected for our list are all categorized as waterproof. Not only does this mean it can withstand a little bit of water, but it can also be completely submerged in water without skipping a beat.
The only place that you cannot wear waterproof gear is in the shower (due to the hot water) and scuba diving (due to the pressure).
q: How do I clean my watch?
Everyone knows that very specific smell that collects on the underside of your watchband. You know it will smell bad, but something compels you to smell it anyway! So, how do you clean a funky watchband?
For the resin and nylon options on our list, cleaning them is super simple and safe to the face. We like to use a little bit of warm water, soap, and an old toothbrush to wash away dirt, oil, and debris that likes to collect in all of the nooks and crannies.
Be sure that you clean your watch frequently! If you love your watch and want to ensure that it has a long and fruitful life, regular cleanings are key.
q: Are some more durable than others?
Yes, some models are considered to be just a little more durable than other models. How can you tell? First of all, additional bells and whistles such as GPS and Bluetooth connectivity make a watch a little less durable than other simple designs.
If you want something that is able to withstand a hurricane, it’s better to go simple. Designs such as that from Infantry which is classified as military-grade and have simple analog faces that can really take a beating.
q: How can some watches detect storms?
You may have noticed that some of the watched out there can actually help to warn you of incoming storms when you are far away from any cellphone reception. They are able to achieve this due to the built-in barometer.
Barometers were something standard hanging in everyone’s home before the invention of the weather channel. In fact, you may notice that your grandmother still has one hanging in her dining room! In many of the watches found on our list, there is actually a tiny barometer built right into the device.
Barometers are able to detect shifts in barometric pressure. Whenever there is a shift in barometric pressure in the atmosphere, it means that there is a storm brewing in the atmosphere.
Watches with a built-in barometer detect shifts in pressure and alarm you that there is a storm brewing.
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