12 Best Survival Watches – Top Picks for 2024

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We reviewed over 30 of the best survival watches available, and the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar was easily the best option.

Over the past 25 years, I have owned most of the brands in this list in my watch collection and spend a lot of time reviewing the new watches that come out each year. I built this list considering the best brands with the best features while also looking at the value of each. 

Best Survival Watches
Survival Watch sitting on a stump showing a Compass, Bearing, and Altitude on the face
My Garmin Survival Watch

The Garmin Instinct 2 Solar has a long battery life and several smartwatch capabilities, allowing me to use it as a navigation aid. 

Of course, personal preference plays a big part in choosing a watch you will wear daily. Some like smaller watches, analog over digital, or don’t care about certain extra features. I have included 12 options here, considering our top pick may not be for you.

As you look for a survival watch, consider that new models come out each year. Any list that you find will quickly become obsolete. We will keep this list updated (just updated in late Dec 2023) so that you will never have old information.


Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

BEST OVERALL
Garmin Instinct 2 Solar

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar

Built-in GPS

Good Battery Life

Smartwatch Features

Price: $$

BEST BATTERY LIFE
Coros Vertix 2

Coros Vertix 2

Great Battery Life

On-board Maps

Dual Freq GPS

Price: $$$

BEST SIZE OPTIONS
Garmin Fenix 7 Solar

Garmin Fenix 7 Solar

Touch Screen

Multiple Sizes

Displays Maps

Price: $$$

BEST PREMIUM
Garmin Tactix 7 Pro

Garmin Tactix 7 Pro

Full Featured

Touchscreen

On-board Maps

Price: $$$$

BEST BUDGET
Suunto Core

Suunto Core

Large Screen

Weather Warnings

Great Price

Price: $


Best Survival Watches

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar – Best Overall

Garmin Instinct 2 Solar

This watch is packed with features. It is built and tested to military standards, so it is durable. Along with ABC sensors for navigation, it has built-in GPS. I like the trackback feature that shows me how to get back to a waypoint the same way I came. It is also a solar watch, so recharging the battery is never an issue.

It checks all our boxes, and the great price makes it our top pick. 

The Instinct 2 Solar introduces more features and better battery life over the original Instinct Solar watch. I have been testing the original model since it came out, and it is still the watch I wear daily.

While it may seem like a small detail, I like that I can change the information displayed on the watch’s “Home” screen. There are many options to choose from, even the current temperature outside.

Quality

Garmin is known for its quality and durability and is a pioneer in GPS technology. They manufacture aviation products that can not fail and bring this knowledge to their watches.

Durability

This watch has a lightweight fiber-reinforced polymer case and beefy strap pins built to military standards. The lens is chemically strengthened and recessed, surrounded by a hefty bumper. The buttons are flat, low profile, and lower on the case near your arm for protection. It is also water resistant down to 100 meters.

This watch has ABC sensors, a 3-axis electronic compass, and full GPS capability with GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo systems. You can store waypoints and utilize the “trackback” feature. This will guide you along the same route as you return to your vehicle, home, or trailhead.

The watch also includes a reference point mode that tells you your heading and distance to any known waypoint. There is even a hunting and fishing mode where you can store your hunting blind location or favorite fishing spot.

Smartwatch Capability

The Garmin Instinct 2 Solar has full smartwatch capability when paired with your smartphone. This includes smart notifications, access to your calendar, and automatic incident detection. The Garmin Connect app also connects to the watch for full access to health and movement data such as workout data, heart rate graphs, Pulse OX, and various specific sports applications. 

It even has a golf mode to show you the hole you are on and the distance to the green.

Some people have quirky issues with the smartwatch notifications and the outside temperature depending on their phone model. Going into the Garmin Connect app and resyncing seems to help this issue. I have experienced this a few times, it seems to happen when my phone is away from my watch for awhile.

After using this watch for nearly one year, I still get strange notifications sometimes from Facebook for example. I have found that I need to power it down every so often and then it syncs back up fine.

Battery Life

This watch is a solar watch and can also be charged by a special cable that connects to a standard USB port. In smartwatch mode, the battery can last up to 28 days. The battery life is unlimited after about 3 hours of sun exposure daily. This is a great feature for a survival watch; it never needs to be charged. In my experience I find that my watch has about a 25% charge left after two weeks.

GPS mode does use more power than smartwatch mode. Depending on the time the GPS is active and the mode used, the battery will last at least 48 hours. Numerous power-saving modes are available, with an Expedition GPS Activity mode with unlimited battery life with solar charging.

Size

The Garmin Instinct 2 Solar now comes in three sizes, 40mm (2S), 45mm (2), and 50mm (2X). Since most survival watches in our list are fairly large, the smaller 40mm size is a great option for people that prefer a smaller watch.

The Garmin Instinct 2 Solar is a great all-around watch packed with features at an affordable price. Solar charging allows unlimited battery life, and the smartwatch features make this a watch you can use daily. The size and color options allow you to choose one that fits your preferences. A Tactical and Surfing version is also available, so something for everyone.

There is a learning curve to understanding all the menus and what the buttons do. It is fairly intuitive, but putting a lot of info on the screen is impossible on a watch. Plan to spend some time with the manual and practice with the watch before using it.

I purchased the original Instinct Solar before this one came out.  It is still going strong and is a great watch. With even more battery life and the added sports features, I do not hesitate to recommend the Instinct 2 Solar. At a similar price to a basic smartwatch, it is a no-brainer.

It is also one of the primary items we recommend in our Survival Gear List Strategy Guide.

PROS

GPS Capability

Battery Life

Smart Features

Good Value, Affordable

CONS

Learning Curve

No Touchscreen

Notification Issues


Coros Vertix 2 – Best Battery Life

Coros Vertix 2

The Coros Vertix 2 is a full-featured adventure and survival watch with a color touch screen, GPS capability, built-in maps, and health monitoring. What sets this watch apart from all the others is the battery life. Even with these features, it will last up to 140 hours in standard GPS mode.

The GPS in this watch is one of the best and can connect to all five satellite systems in dual frequency. This lets you get a GPS signal under heavy cover or in a deep mountain valley.

I particularly like the scroll function using the button on the watch’s right side. You simply roll the button, like using the crown button to wind an old watch. You can do this easily with one finger; it is quick and intuitive.

The large screen is also nice at 1.4” and 280×280 resolution. It can display up to 8 data items simultaneously, so you don’t have to flip between screens to find what you need.

Quality

Coros is a fairly young company, but they have been dedicated to building the best GPS watch for outdoor enthusiasts and athletes. They offer a 2-year warranty, are based in the US, and are known to have great customer support.

Durability

The Coros Vertix 2 has a Titanium Alloy case and bezel. The strap is a tough nylon/silicone combination, and the buttons are recessed into guided tubes. The main scroll button worries me since it is exposed, but most people have not had an issue with it. This watch feels like it could take a beating with no issue.

This watch has a full ABC sensor array along with GPS. It can communicate with all 5 GPS systems (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou, QZSS), so it will function anywhere in the world. It also has dual frequency capability, so satellite reception is better than most GPS watches.

A full global landscape map comes preloaded on the watch, and you can display the map on the 1.4” color screen. You can zoom in with the scroll button or pan the map on the touch screen. This setup is very easy to use and intuitive, much like your phone or PC. Topographical maps can be downloaded by region for free.

Smartwatch Capability

Full Smartwatch capability includes notifications, health monitoring, sleep and activity tracking. There are also multiple workout modes so you can monitor your training.

Battery Life

Battery life is where this watch shines. In standard smartwatch mode, under daily use, it will last for 60 days. In normal GPS mode, it will last for 140 hours; in Dual frequency GPS mode, it will last up to 50 hours. It does not have solar charging capability but can be fully charged with the included cable in less than 2 hours. In an extended power outage, you must have the cable and a power source to charge it.

Size

This watch is 50mm in diameter, so on the larger end of the other watches we have on the list. The screen is nice and large to display maps. Because of this, you sacrifice some compactness. Some people with smaller arms feel this watch is too big for them.

The Coros Vertix 2 is for someone looking for a full GPS watch with maps and great battery life. This watch is on the higher end of the price range, but with all the features, there certainly is value. It could have been our top choice if it had solar charging capability and multiple sizes.

PROS

Battery Life

On-Board Maps

Dual Freq GPS

CONS

No Solar Charging

Large Size

Price


Garmin Fenix 7 Solar – Most Size Options

Garmin Fenix 7 Solar

The Garmin Fenix 7 Solar is the next step above our top pick. It includes all of the same features that the Instinct 2 has but adds a beautiful color touchscreen. It is still tested to military specs for shock, temperature, and water resistance, so the screen does not compromise durability. 

The screen allows the watch to display standard, topographical, and even golf course maps in color. At a glance, you can see exactly where you are and where you are headed. This is an advantage over other survival watches since no external map is needed to plot a course or find your position.

Three sizes are available: 42mm, 47mm, and 51mm. Multiple colors and bands are also available, making this watch fully customizable to your preferences.

Durability

The Garmin Fenix 7 Solar is tested to military specs, so you know it is durable. The case is a fiber-reinforced polymer, and the round guided buttons are guarded with metal tubes to prevent damage. The strap is interchangeable with Instinct 2.

This watch includes ABC sensors, GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo satellite capabilities. Full-color maps can be directly downloaded to the watch without a smartphone connection. Basic maps, topographical maps, and even satellite imagery are available. Remember that you have to download these when you have Wifi reception and before you need them. 

I think it is nice that you don’t have a phone or computer to download the maps (although you do have to purchase them on a computer first). Note that there is no zoom-in or out function while using the maps, only pan.

Smartwatch Capability

This watch has every smartwatch function you can think of. From smart notifications to your heart rate, it will display the chart of your 50 favorite stocks. The number of workouts and sports functions is as long as my arm. If you are a golfer, it has the maps of 43,000 courses preloaded and a built-in scorecard. This watch is like having a laptop computer right on your wrist.

What I think is cool is that you can download different watch faces from the Garmin Connect store. There are many to choose from, and you can instantly make it look like a different watch. Some have analog watch hands for those that like a classic look.

Battery Life

Since this is a solar watch, the battery life is great. The screen takes more power than the other Garmin watches, you do not have unlimited battery life. There are various power saver modes, so you can manage the battery life more than the Instinct 2 solar in a survival situation. This is the tradeoff of having full maps right on your watch.

In smartwatch mode, it will last 22 days with 3 hours per day of solar charging or 18 days with no solar charging. Like all Garmin watches, you can also charge it with a special cable that is included.

In GPS mode, it will last up to 48 hours with solar charging. In Expedition GPS mode, it will last up to 74 days. Remember that these are just guidelines, and you may experience more or less depending on how much you use them.

Size

The Garmin Fenix 7 has three sizes. The standard model has a 47mm case, the S model has a smaller 42 mm case, and the X model has a 51mm case. With the larger case, you get a larger screen, which is helpful when using the built-in maps. The smaller size is great for anyone with a smaller arm and who does not like a big watch.

The Garmin Fenix 7 Solar is great for anyone looking for that extra feature of maps right on their watch. If you are into any outdoor activity, from horseback riding to paddleboarding, using your watch for navigation instead of your phone is a great feature.

During a survival situation, the maps will allow you to see what is around you and where you need to go. While not a must-have, the maps are a great feature if you have the extra budget. The battery life is not unlimited, but it is enough even if the power grid is down if you manage how much you use it.

PROS

Touch Screen

Multiple Sizes

Displays Maps

CONS

Battery Life

No Map Zoom

Price


Suunto 9 Peak Pro

Suunto 9 Peak Pro

The Suunto 9 Peak Pro is built with the outdoor adventurer in mind. With over 95 sport modes, it can track any outdoor activity you can think of. With built-in GPS and smartwatch capabilities, it checks all the boxes.

I like the looks of this watch. The slim case and simple design make it one of the cleanest-looking watches on the market. But don’t let the clean design fool you; it is still tested and meets Military spec MIL-STD-810H.

This watch also has a nice touchscreen. This and the intuitive button layout and interface make this watch easy to use. 

Quality

Suunto watches are designed and have been made in Finland since 1936. The company started making compasses originally, and are legendary in Europe for building quality products. Later they made the world’s first watch-sized dive computer.

Durability

This watch has a glass fiber-reinforced polymer case and a stainless-steel bezel. The strap is a tough silicone rubber. Since this watch meets military specifications, durability is not in question.

With ABC sensors and GPS capability, this watch can get you where you need to go (or not go). It is compatible with GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, QZSS, BEIDOU systems, so it will work anywhere in the world.

Using the Suunto smartphone app, you can set up routes and plan your day, ensuring you never get lost.

Smartwatch Capability

The Suunto 9 peak pro has full smartwatch capability, including notifications and health tracking. Along with the Suunto app, it is a full training system. For example, you can pair external sensors for running or biking for even more training data.

Battery Life

This watch has a rechargeable battery but no solar charging capability. In smartwatch mode, it will last for 21 days without charging. In GPS mode, it will last at least 40 hours. Charging time is very fast. Most find they can almost fully charge the watch in just 30 minutes.

Size

The smaller size is appealing at 43mm in diameter and is one of the thinnest GPS watches on the market. This is great for anyone with a smaller arm that doesn’t like big, bulky watches.

The Suunto 9 Peak Pro is great for athletes and anyone who enjoys outdoor sporting activities. This is a watch you can wear every day. It has a superior screen and interface and is a full sport training solution. 

As a survival watch, it will help you navigate safely in an emergency. Not having solar charging capability is a big negative for this watch in a survival situation. To rely on this watch for an extended time, it must be paired with an external solar charging power pack.

Update – Suunto has released the new Suunto Vertical that has a 50mm screen. This is a larger watch, but the maps look amazing on it. Take a look at this one if maps are important to you.

PROS

Small Size

Charging Time

Athletic Modes

CONS

No Solar Charging

No Maps

No Screen Bumper


Garmin Tactix 7 Pro

Garmin Tactix 7 Pro

The Garmin Tactix 7 Pro is Garmin’s ultimate survival watch. Not only does it have a supreme 1.4” touch screen and full navigation capabilities, but it also includes special tactical features. Features like stealth and night vision modes allow you to read the screen while wearing night vision goggles. It even has a kill switch mode that will wipe the device of all user memory if your security is compromised.

It also includes an aviation mode that allows you to navigate an aircraft straight to a location or waypoint in the worldwide aeronautical database. When paired with your smartphone, you can review aviation weather, including radar, wind, visibility, and more.

It includes all of the advanced features of the Garmin Fenix 7, including over 30 built-in sports apps. You can pair the watch to external sensors for a full training system.

It even has a built-in flashlight that has both white and green LEDs.

The things this watch can do are amazing, and way too much to list here. If you are looking for the ultimate, this is it.

Durability

Built to military specification MIL-STD-810, this watch has a fiber-reinforced polymer case and a titanium rear cover. It is water resistant down to 10 atmospheres. The buttons are metal and guarded to prevent damage. The bezel is titanium and surrounds the recessed lens. 

The strap is beefy. 26mm wide and made from braided nylon and tough silicone rubber. Some people have found the included silicon rubber strap uncomfortable and changed it to the Nylon strap that Garmin offers.

This watch has full ABC sensors, GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo capabilities. It also has a special Garmin SatIQ mode that automatically identifies the best satellite band depending on the location to save battery life.

You can download full topographical or satellite image maps to the Garmin Tactix Pro. For hunters, you can download public land boundaries to see exactly which zone you are in when you harvest an animal.

Smartwatch Capability

All the smartwatch functions you would expect on a high-end watch are included, with additional apps and widgets you can download from Garmin Connect. Advanced Heart Rate, Pulse Ox, and respiration tracking are logged to give you an overall health snapshot. 

It will even give you a report each morning of how you slept, how you are recovering from training and the current weather. This can also be customized.

Battery Life

The Tactix 7 Pro is a solar watch that can recharge in sunlight. In smartwatch mode, it can last up to 28 days before you must recharge it with the included cable. This can be extended to 37 days if exposed to sunlight for 3 hours each day.

In GPS mode, it can last up to 89 hours or 122 hours with solar charging. In expedition GPS mode, it can last up to 139 days.

A full power management widget is included on the watch, and you can turn on and off various features to maximize battery life. In a survival situation, you could manage the battery life to last as long as needed.

Size

This watch is fairly large at 51mm and is only available in this size. If you have smaller arms, this may feel too big for you. 

The Garmin Tactix 7 Pro is for the person that wants it all. Full tactical and aviation capabilities with maps and a hardcore training smartwatch. Instead of buying multiple watches for different activities, just get this one. 

But what if you are a long-range shooter and need a built-in ballistics calculator? Sorry, the Garmin Tactix 7 Pro doesn’t have that. But the Garmin Tactix 7 Pro Ballistics Edition does!

However, the price of this watch is the highest on our list. If you are on a budget, the added features may not be worth your investment.

PROS

Many Features

Displays Maps

Touchscreen

CONS

Large Size

Price

Wide Strap


Casio GGB100-1A G Shock Mudmaster

Casio GGB100-1A G Shock Mudmaster

As the Casio G-Shock Mudmaster‘s name suggests, this watch is made to take punishment. This is the most durable watch that we could find. It is a legendary G Shock with even more built-in protection from mud, dust, and abuse.

It has built-in ABC sensors to help you navigate and will connect to a smartphone to review watch data in the G-shock app. It has the standard analog watch hands for a classic look. However, the small digital display on the bottom of the watch can be hard to read and is obscured by the watch’s hands.

If you are looking for a tough survival watch, this is it.

Quality

Casio watches are one of the most reliable watches you can own. I have a Casio tough solar that is over 15 years old and never had any issues. The battery has never been replaced, either. It is beaten up and looks like crap, but still works just as well as the day it was new.

Durability

This G-shock watch has a rigid carbon fiber case that keeps it from deforming under pressure. It also has extra filters to protect the internals from the ingress of mud and debris. The bezel resembles a jerry can and has three epoxy and carbon fiber layers to protect the lens. 

The case back is stainless steel and is covered with a fiber-reinforced polymer cover for two layers of protection. Finally, the buttons are guarded, guided, and sealed for protection from damage.

This watch has an ABC sensor and thermometer. When paired to a smartphone, you can record your current position and input a destination. The watch will then show you the correct bearing with the second hand, and the distance to your destination will be shown on the LCD. 

This is a nice feature to have when finding your way back to your home, camp, trailhead, or vehicle. But your phone must be available to use this feature. 

Alternatively, you can use this watch alongside a topo map if you don’t have your phone. This watch does not have a built-in GPS. Also, note that you must calibrate the compass periodically.

Smartwatch Capability

While this watch does have a smartphone app with some cool features, it does not have the normal smartwatch features like notifications or health monitoring.

Battery Life

The Mudmaster does not have solar charging capability. However, it uses a standard CR2025 battery that will last about two years. I recommend setting a calendar alert and changing the battery every 18 months to stay prepared. It is easy to lose track of time, and you don’t want a survival situation to occur at the 2-year mark.

Size

Similar to the other G-Shock watches, this one is larger at 55m.

If you are looking for a tough watch that can survive anything, the Casio G-Shock Mudmaster is it. The Mudmaster is a great-looking watch with analog watch hands and a carbon fiber bezel. The ABC sensors will help you navigate, and the G-shock phone app is a bonus. 

It has no rechargeable or solar charging capability, so you must keep a spare battery available. If you don’t like large watches, this one may not be for you.

PROS

Super Durable

Phone App

Battery Life

CONS

Large Size

No GPS

Digital Hard to Read


Casio GW-9400-1CR G-Shock Rangeman

Casio GW-9400-1CR G-Shock Rangeman

Almost everyone in the military wears the Casio G Shock series of watches. It is one of the first things that most privates buy after basic training (right after they buy their Mustang, of course!) Why do they choose G-shocks? They are legendary for their durability. Add solar charging capability and ABC sensors, and the G-Shock Rangeman makes a great survival watch

Durability

There is a reason the military loves these watches; they are durable. If they can hold up to a private going through boot camp, then a survival situation will be a breeze.

The Rangeman takes this one step further with a Resin shock-resistant case. The buttons are guarded and housed in a cylindrical metal pipe. This protects them from damage from side impacts, the most common failure mode of watches. The button shafts have O-rings that provide water resistance down to 200 meters of pressure.

This watch has a triple ABC sensor that measures altitude, barometric pressure, orientation, temperature, and direction at high speed. The large sensor button on the right of the watch provides an easy way to quickly bring up the data of each sensor. The watch makes a distinct audible tone at each sensor display, so you can easily cycle through them without looking at the watch.

This watch has no built-in GPS, so you need a topographical map to pinpoint your position.

Smartwatch Capability

The Rangeman has no smartwatch capabilities and will not pair with your smartphone.

Battery Life

The battery life of this watch is infinite since it has built-in solar recharging capabilities. The specifications say the watch will run for eight months without sunlight exposure. If you have not seen sunlight for eight months, you are probably in Zion and about to enter the matrix anyway – no watch needed.

Size

Most of the G-shock watches are larger. This one is about 55mm in Diameter, one of the largest watches on our list. If you have a smaller arm and are not sure if you like larger watches, this may not be the watch for you.

The Casio Rangeman GW9400 is for someone looking for a super tough survival watch and doesn’t care about smartwatch capabilities or GPS positioning. 

You should be comfortable finding your location on a topographical map with an altitude and a heading. Remember that Casio recommends calibrating the compass each time you use it (which can be a pain). If you don’t want to worry about battery life, this watch is for you. 

PROS

Durable

Sensor Tones

Battery Life

CONS

Large Size

No GPS

Needs Calibration


Garmin Instinct Crossover Solar

Garmin Instinct Crossover Solar

The Garmin Instinct Crossover Solar is very similar to the Instinct 2 Solar. However, it has one feature that Instinct 2 doesn’t have and one that some people love – Analog Watch hands.

I love analog watch hands. There is just something about the classic look.

This watch has all of the great features that the Instinct 2 has but is only offered in the 45 mm size. A Tactical version is available, although the extra cost probably doesn’t make sense for most people.

Durability

This watch is thermal and shock resistant and built to military standards. The case is similar to other Garmin watches made from a fiber-reinforced polymer. The strap is the same as the Instinct 2, with beefy pins and a vented, tough Silicone rubber band. It is also water resistant to 10 Atmospheres.

Navigation capabilities resemble Instinct 2, with ABC sensors, full GPS capability, and waypoint/trackback features.

Smartwatch Capability

The Garmin Instinct Crossover has the full gamut of Smartwatch features. It includes many sport tracking modes and 24/7 health and wellness features.

I think it is cool that the watch hands move to the center when you cycle through the menus. This lets you see the screen better as you move through the options. Like the Instinct 2, you can change what data is displayed on the home screen. 

Since the time is displayed with the analog hands, there is more room on the screen for other data. I like that you can customize this to your preferences and are not stuck with the default widgets.

Battery Life

The battery life of the Instinct Crossover is slightly less than the Instinct 2 since it has to drive analog hands. It has solar charging capabilities, and the life is unlimited in battery saver mode if exposed to at least 3 hours of sun per day. In smartwatch mode, it can last up to 70 days. Even without any solar exposure, it can last up to 28 days.

GPS modes take more power, with at least 25 hours of battery life without solar exposure. In Expedition GPS mode, it can last 327 days with 3 hours of solar charge time per day. That is pretty close to unlimited if you ask me.

Most people find the watch will last 2-3 weeks under normal use while using GPS for a few hours per week for fitness tracking.

Size

The Instinct Crossover only comes in one size, 45mm. This is a standard size for a watch of this type. If you want a smaller watch, look at the Instinct 2 Solar. This watch is a little thicker than others, so if you have tighter cuffs on your shirt, it may not fit under them.

The Garmin Instinct Crossover Solar is for someone looking for a classic type analog watch with all of the GPS and smartwatch features of a digital watch. It is a good-looking watch; with all the features you could need for health and fitness tracking. Its navigation capabilities could also save your life and lead you to safety.

PROS

Analog Hands

GPS

Smartwatch Features

CONS

Battery Life

Learning Curve

One Size


Suunto Core

Suunto Core

The Suunto Core is a basic survival watch with a full digital screen. The screen is the great part of this watch. It is large and has plenty of room to display the time, pressure graphs, altitude, and compass data. With adjustable contrast, you can also adjust it to your preference.

If you are looking for a basic survival watch, this is it. With Suunto’s quality, you don’t have to worry about it failing when you need it most.

Durability

This watch has a composite case and an aluminum bezel to protect the mineral crystal lens. It is water resistant down to 30 meters, so you don’t have to worry about it getting wet. It has a depth meter for snorkeling, and Suunto is known for building high-quality diving watches. They have plenty of experience in building durable devices.

The Suunto Core has ABC sensors and a thermometer. The large digital display makes the sensor data easy to see with large numbers and graphs. This watch does not have GPS capability.

The compass and altimeter need to be calibrated, and some users find the accuracy off depending on where they calibrate it. Big weather changes and traveling in an airplane can also affect it.

The watch has a storm alarm to alert you to incoming weather when it sees a quick pressure drop. This is a great feature, especially when you’re outdoors without a phone. 

Smartwatch Capability

This watch does not have any smartwatch functions.

Battery Life

This watch runs on a standard CR2032 battery and does not have solar charging capability. The expected battery life is one year. Many users have noted that they only get about six months of battery life. Since time can pass quickly, keep spare batteries and make a note in your calendar to change it every six months.

Size

The Suunto Core is a 49mm watch, which is a bit large. The large screen is a tradeoff with the size of the case. It is a thinner watch, so it does not feel as bulky as other large watches.

The Suunto Core is for someone who likes a full digital watch that is easy to read. This watch is the most affordable on our list and looks great. The full ABC sensors and storm warning feature can get you to safety during a survival situation.

Update: Suunto also has the Suunto Core Alpha model that has a low profile red display that works great for hunting or with night vision goggles.

PROS

Price

Large Screen

Weather Warnings

CONS

Battery not Rechargeable

No GPS

Needs Calibration


Casio PRW-3510Y-8CR Tough Solar Pro Trek

Casio PRW-3510Y-8CR Tough Solar Pro Trek

If you are looking for Casio quality and ruggedness but don’t like the look of the larger G-shock watches, the Casio Tough Solar Pro Trek is for you.

This watch has an STN LCD screen with great contrast and is easy to read. It is a tough solar watch, so the battery life is infinite. I have a tough solar watch that I have used for over 15 years, and I have never had to change the battery.

With Casio’s triple ABC sensor, you can navigate your way to safety. The Barometer will also alert you to quick changes in atmospheric pressure, which usually means a storm system is approaching.

Durability

Casio is known for rugged watches. While this is not a G-shock, it does have a polymer resin and stainless-steel case. It is water resistant to 200 meters, has guarded buttons, and a bezel to protect the recessed screen.

The built-in ABC sensor can help you navigate and pinpoint your position on a topographical map. The watch will sound a weather warning alarm if it detects a significant change in pressure. Note that the compass must be calibrated, especially near where you plan to use it. This watch does not have a built-in GPS and does not have smartphone connectivity.

Smartwatch Capability

This watch does not have any smartwatch features.

Battery Life

This watch is solar-powered and will last indefinitely. Casio claims it will run for seven months without being exposed to sunlight. In my experience, I believe them.

Size

The Pro Trek is 57mm long and 43mm wide on the large side. The case has more of a lower profile than the traditional G-shock watches.

The Casio Tough Solar Pro Trek is recommended for someone who wants a simple, reliable digital survival watch. With this watch, you never have to worry about the battery. If you like the legendary Casio ruggedness but don’t like the look or the size of the G-shock watches, this is the watch for you.

PROS

Price

Battery Life

Easy to Read Screen

CONS

No Smartwatch Functions

No GPS

Needs Calibration


Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Altichron

Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Altichron

I love Citizen Eco-Drive watches. They have that classic look with the analog dial and rotating bezel. While Citizen watches are not typically considered survival watches, the Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Altichron is a classy watch that has a built-in compass and altimeter. Add to that the Eco-drive solar charging system with infinite battery life, and the you have one good-looking survival watch.

Quality

Citizen watches are known for quality and make some very nice high-end watches. They have been making watches for over 100 years and were the first to create quartz crystal timepieces. This watch also comes with a 5-year warranty.

Durability

This watch has a Stainless-Steel case and is water resistant up to 200 meters. The impact and shatter-resistant lens is recessed behind the bezel. The buttons are guided in stainless steel tubes.

One concern is the crown button on the right of the watch. It does not push in and lock into a recess. However, it is rotated down to the 4 o’clock position. This should make it less likely to be damaged since it is on the leading side of the watch.

The Citizen Altichron has an altimeter that measures up to 32,000ft. The compass is analog, and your heading is indicated by a 4th red hand that rests behind the time hands. The compass and altimeter do need to be calibrated periodically. The compass can be affected by large metallic items nearby. A Barometric pressure sensor is not included, nor is GPS capability.

Smartwatch Capability

This watch does not have Smartwatch Capability.

Battery Life

Battery life is infinite thanks to the solar charging Eco-drive system. The battery never has to be charged or changed.

Size

This watch has a case diameter of 47mm, about the same as most other watches on our list. It is big enough to be seen and does not feel bulky on your arm. You may want to consider a different band if you have a larger wrist. The one that comes with it is on the short side.

The Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Altichron is for someone looking for a classic all analog premium watch but still wants some navigational features. The battery life is superior, although the durability could be questionable under extreme use. This watch looks great and could certainly help you navigate to safety.

PROS

Good Looks

Battery Life

High Quality

CONS

Durability

Price

Short Strap


Timex Expedition North Tide-Temp-Compass

Timex Expedition North Tide-Temp-Compass

Timex is known for “takes a licking and keeps on ticking,” so we had to include one. The Timex Expedition North is a full analog watch has a built-in compass, tide tracker, and thermometer. 

This watch is one of the smallest on our list, so if you don’t like big digital watches, this classic Timex is for you.

Quality

Timex has been building watches for more than 150 years. They have a long history of being one of the most reliable timepieces you can buy.

Durability

The case of this watch is made from 316L stainless steel. The buttons are guarded, and the strap is made from heavy-duty Nylon webbing. It is water resistant down to 100 meters.

The Timex has an analog compass, indicated by a 4th hand on the watch face. No altimeter is included with this watch, so pinpointing your location will not be as easy with a topo map. This watch does not have GPS capability.

This watch has a tide tracker, so if you live near or visit the ocean regularly, this could be useful. 

Calibrating the compass can be challenging and should be done away from large metallic objects. There is a specific process to follow that takes some time.

Smartwatch Capability

This watch does not have Smartwatch capability. It is strictly a standalone analog watch.

Battery Life

This watch has a non-rechargeable watch battery. While Timex does not indicate the expected battery life, most claim they last for years. Timex recommends that the battery only be replaced by a Timex watch dealer. If you go with this watch, you should have some sort of backup or schedule battery changes regularly.

Size

This watch is 43mm in diameter and on the smaller end of the spectrum. 

The Timex Expedition North watch is another option for someone who doesn’t like larger digital watches and prefers a classic analog watch that is smaller in size. While this watch only has a compass and no altimeter, it is the minimum in what I would consider being a survival watch.

PROS

Simple Design

Tide Tracker

Long Life

CONS

No ABC Sensor

Not Solar

No GPS


What is a Survival Watch?

A survival watch should have features that assist you in surviving an emergency. The main way a survival watch can assist you is with navigation. Knowing the time, barometric pressure, and sunrise and sunset times are also critical information when you are in a survival situation and need shelter. 

While most people today rely on their phones for this information, phone batteries typically last less than a day. They also must have cellular signals for most functions. A cellular signal may not be available in a widespread emergency or in remote areas.

To be considered a survival watch, a watch should have a compass. An ABC Sensor is even better. ABC stands for Altimeter, Barometric Pressure, and Compass. At least all the watches we included in this review have a compass. 

Knowing your altitude and heading will allow you to determine your position on a topographic map and guide you to safety. Finding your way or avoiding unsafe areas is critical if you are traveling. If you do not have a map, it will at least keep you from traveling in circles if you are lost.

A fast change in barometric pressure will allow you to determine if a big change in weather is coming. Knowing weather changes are coming can help you plan to build or seek shelter sooner before it arrives.

Other features, such as built-in GPS guidance, can lead you to waypoints you previously set or have coordinates for. During an emergency, this function can be invaluable when you are trying to get home.

Sunrise and sunset times can help you decide when to start building a shelter or when to return to camp so you are not stuck traveling in the dark.

Knowing the time can help you determine your travel pace, meet others at a specific time, or know how long your food has been cooking.

When an emergency occurs, you just simply can’t rely on your phone. Having a survival watch is a critical first step in being prepared. There are so many valuable uses, and making it through a survival situation would be that much harder without one.


Tips for choosing a Survival Watch

Below are some features and characteristics to look for in a survival watch.

Quality

Most people consider the quality of anything before they buy it. But especially for watches, many cheap copies of name brands are on the market today. Usually, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You can sometimes find good deals on older models of name brands, but make sure you are not buying a knockoff. Buy it from a reputable store with a good return policy.

Durability

A survival watch should be durable. Since it could be the primary device that gets you to safety, you want to ensure it can withstand harsh conditions. The case should be made from a polymer or Stainless Steel. The strap should be hefty and made from a strong rubber or nylon web. The strap pins should be strong enough so the watch is not easily ripped off your arm.

A survival watch should also be waterproof to at least 100ft. While most watches are water-resistant today, not all of them are.

The case should be designed to resist significant damage. The screen should be recessed with a bumper to reduce the chance of cracking the screen. A cracked screen could cause the screen to be unreadable or allow water to enter the watch.

Another likely part of a watch that can get damaged is the buttons. If something strikes a button and causes it to fail, it could render the watch unusable. A button that is stuck in the depressed position is not good. The buttons should be in a “safe” position in the case. They should be on the side of the watch and either recessed or protected by bumpers.

ABC Sensor

As I discussed above, a survival watch should have a compass. A full ABC sensor is even better. Even though you can determine North and South with a regular analog wristwatch and the sun, this method will not work on a cloudy day or at night.

GPS

Altimeter and Compass mode on my Garmin Watch
Altimeter and Compass on my Garmin Watch

The next step above an ABC sensor is a built-in GPS. GPS watches will allow you to set waypoints and give you directions back to them if you get lost. This is especially helpful to hunters who track big game or for someone trying to get home during an emergency. Simply set a waypoint at home, camp, or your vehicle. 

This feature is also great for helping you find your car in a large parking lot, just set a waypoint when you park.

There are a few different GPS systems active around the world today. The best watches will read their position from at least three of them.

Maps

Some higher-end survival watches have built-in GPS and can also store and display maps showing your current position. This takes any question from your location and the best route to your destination.

Smartwatch Capability

While this is a personal preference, some people like to have a smartwatch connected to their phones. Today’s smartwatches are exceptional, with notification alerts, heartbeat monitors, fitness trackers, step and stair counting, sleep monitoring, and many other features.

Heart rate monitor on a Survival watch
My heart rate graph on a hike

Some survival watches also include a full range of smartwatch features. For someone who would like to have these features, going with a survival watch that has this makes a lot of sense. Save the money you would have spent on a smartwatch without GPS and go for the full-featured survival watch. If you wear it every day, you will probably have it when you need it.

Battery Life

Battery life is a big consideration for a survival watch. Added features on a survival watch will consume more power. GPS watches especially will consume lots of power when the GPS is active. 

If you need to recharge your watch every night, it is simply not a survival watch. We did not consider any watch a survival watch that either did not have at least a week of battery life or had solar recharging capability. 

Solar Powered Watch
Solar charging can make your battery life infinite

However, even if you have a solar watch, you may still have to recharge it periodically. My Garmin Instinct solar watch typically needs to be recharged every two weeks.

Most higher-end watches have a power-saving mode. If you do find yourself in a situation where you need it long-term, you can set it to power save mode when you are not using it. During the day, you can ensure it has direct sunlight to charge as much as possible. Under this scenario, you could theoretically never have to charge your watch externally, depending on how much you use it.

Size

Most survival watches are larger in size, so take that into consideration before purchasing one. Some of the watches, like some of the Garmin options, come in various sizes also. 

I slept with my Garmin watch for a week to test the sleep-tracking feature but found it too big to sleep comfortably. I have never slept with a watch on, so it is likely that any watch would bother me to sleep with. It all comes down to personal preference.

I still use the watch since I don’t care about the sleep-tracking feature. If sleep tracking is important to you, you may want to consider a separate device just for sleep tracking.


Why Have a Survival Watch?

A survival watch could be argued as one of the most critical items to have during an emergency. If you are unexpectedly separated from others in a remote area without any of your gear, what are you likely to still have with you? Your EDC (Everyday Carry), the items in your pockets, and the watch on your arm.

A regular watch during an extended survival situation is invaluable. By knowing the time, you know how long you have cooked your food and how long you have been walking. You can use it to meet others at a specific time.

If your everyday watch is a survival watch, it can prove to be a critical tool when you need it most. It can be the single device that can lead you back to safety or keep you away from unsafe areas. The navigational features, from just a compass to a full GPS with maps, are far worth it. Add smartwatch features, and buying a regular smartwatch at a similar price makes no sense.

Survival Watch Navigation Tutorial

In this video some of the Garmin navigation features are demonstrated.


Get Prepared

Our top pick, the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar has a great balance of features at an affordable price.

Selecting a survival watch should be based on your preferences and what you feel you can wear every day. A watch at home in the drawer does no one any good. It could very well be the one decision that saves you from being lost and leads you to safety. Use this guide to help make the best decision for you.

Now that you have your watch selected, check out our preparedness guide. Have you put together your bug out bag yet? A survival watch is also a big part of putting together a get home bag so you can navigate your way back home in an emergency.

You could also use one during a Bushcraft camping trip just in case you loose your way in an unfamiliar area. Also consider carrying a paper map and a survival compass just in case.

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Jason has an engineering and problem solving background. He is an avid outdoorsman, survivalist, and competitive shooter. He enjoys researching the best and most practical solutions for the problem at hand, studying stoicism, and finding innovative ways to be prepared.