The best tool in any given situation is the one you have to hand.
With a watch, you can put it on your wrist and forget about it until you need it. And it doesn’t take up any room in your bug out bag, because you already have it on your person.
Survival watches are a cut above more traditional watches. They do way more than merely tell the time. They can stand up to the elements, and help you get your bearings in the great outdoors. If not more.
There’s a wide array of survival watches out on the market at the moment, but some are way better than others.
We’ve been going through them, and after much deliberation, we were able to handpick our favorite few which we’ll be showing you very shortly.
Most of the watches we’ll be showing are men’s watches, but several of the watches that made our shortlist could pass for unisex. And you know what? It was really hard to put these survival watches into any kind of order. They all come with some great features that would make them really handy in an emergency situation.
But because we’re going to be showing you so many watches (11), we thought you could also use a buying guide too.
So if you scroll down you will find our buying guide which talks you through some of the key things you might want to think about before you buy.
Then we’re going to top that off with a section where we answer some of your most frequently asked questions.
Our Top Picks
OUR TOP PICK
The MudMaster is designed to work in the harshest conditions.
It has a super tough construction, sufficiently reinforced to stand up against more than mere dust, mud, and a splash of rain, it can resist shocks, centrifugal force, and vibrations from rough driving or machine operating.
No matter what kind of emergency situation you find yourself in (even earthquakes) this watch will not fail you.
As the name suggests, the buttons are protected against the entry of mud, so your watch will keep working no matter how dirty it gets.
And there’s the water resistance, able to withstand brief submersions. And it will continue to work in conditions as cold as -10 degrees Celsius.
And while it doesn’t feature GPS, it instead has an altimeter, a barometer, and a compass (the ABC we talk about in our buying guide).
This way, you can tell whether you're heading in your desired direction, and you can use the barometer to predict the weather, and determine how long you’ve got before you need to find shelter.
The watch’s clock also features lume, so you can still read it at night when it’s dark.
The other thing we love about it is that it’s solar-powered. It only needs 8 minutes of sunlight a day to maintain a full charge.
And on a full charge it will last for several weeks. You won’t ever need to carry around spare batteries or have to quickly get to a charging socket.
- Shock and vibration resistance
- Amazing mud resistance
- Resists submersion in water
- Features the full ABC
- Solar-powered watch
- No GPS tracking
- No smartwatch functionality
- Premium product at a premium price
Now, this is a watch that ticks all the boxes! No wonder it’s flying off the shelves!
It features not only GPS and ABC (more on those in our buying guide), but it also has smartwatch functionality, which means that wherever you are, so you can receive vital messages on your watch even when your smartphone is stashed in your bug out bag or backpack.
It’s compatible with both iOS and Android devices.
It has an excellent satellite system for navigation, as you’d expect from the Garmin brand, since it’s hooked up to not only to GPS but also GLONASS and Galileo (don’t worry, we explain all this in our buying guide later).
And with all these systems at your disposal, you get a much better identification of your true position.
But if you wanted to try your hand at a more traditional method of navigation, there’s also a barometric altimeter in the watch to tell you how high up you are, and a built-in 3 axis compass.
It’s a rugged watch, designed for the great outdoors and built to military standards - it’s got thermal, shock and water resistance (rated to 100 meters).
The fiber-reinforced polymer casing gives it real durability, and the scratch-resistant display is sufficiently high-contrast to be read in bright sunlight.
And in an emergency situation, you may also want to keep tabs on your heart rate, and this watch will do that for you.
We ought to point out that how long the rechargeable battery lasts on a full charge depends very much on what mode it’s in. It will last up to 16 hours in GPS mode, so depending on the season it could last throughout the daylight.
But to be well prepared in an emergency situation, you should stick to using this mode only when you need it, and switch to the smartwatch mode to save the battery. There’s also an UltraTrac battery saver mode that you can set which will give you 40 hours of battery life.
It’s available in 20 different color options. We’re quite partial to the Graphite Camo.
Amazon occasionally has deals on this product - worth a look. But, there are several different versions of this watch on the same Amazon page, so be careful to select the one you want if you decide to buy.
- compatible with iOS and Android
- excellent satellite navigation
- barometric altimeter and compass
- Measures your heart rate
- thermal, shock, and water resistance
- Not solar-assisted
This may be an expensive watch, but with all its features it’s no wonder it’s become so popular.
First of all, we love the GPS functionality. It displays your current location on a route or bearing to a destination. And it can save data such as longitude/latitude, altitude, and temperature.
You can also hook it up to your smartphone via Bluetooth, and once connected, you can use the G-SHOCK Connected app to create routes or log data in the app.
You can charge it either wirelessly or via solar power, but wireless charging is more effective and will enable you to use the GPS function for up to 33 hours on a full charge.
It’s both mud and water-resistant, making it a great option for the rugged outdoors.
It receives data from time servers to keep accurate time anywhere in the world, regardless of battery level.
- Features GPS navigation
- Hook up to your smartphone
- Accurate timekeeping
- Mud and water-resistant
- Solar power assisted
- Premium product at a premium price
We’re going to level with you here. This watch doesn’t have a lot of high tech features, such as GPS navigation, or smartwatch functionality.
But it instead has a lot of other cool features that most other watches simply do not have. Moreover, even preppers with a tiny budget can easily afford to buy it.
We love that the bracelet of the band is made from 7 strand parachute cord. It’s an incredibly strong cord, able to take 550 pounds of weight.
You could use it for tying down and securing your gear in high winds, build hunting traps, bind rafts, as a rescue rope, or even to bind wounds until you get the wounded to a first aid kit.
But that’s not all. It also features a compass to help find your way, a whistle to attract a rescuer’s attention, a thermometer, and our other favorite a fire starter and scraper.
The magnesia rod firestarter is a great addition to an outdoor survival kit. Once you’ve successfully made a fire, you can keep warm, boil water, and cook game.
The fire starter and scraper are very easy to use, you can get a fire going in 3 simple steps, all laid out for you on the Amazon page.
The watch dial itself is big and bold and very easy to read. The white and indicators really stand out against the pitch-black background.
Although it's generally a very handy watch for the great outdoors, we’d advise you to be careful with it around water. It’s not designed for submersion.
It's a best seller with online retailers in the category of camping survival kits. And it's a bargain at this price. If you were thinking of getting two survival watches, one for you and one for your partner, you could easily make this the more affordable second watch.
- Magnesia rod Firestarter
- Fire Starter blade
- Emergency Whistle
- Compass for direction
- Strong parachute cord
- Not waterproof
- No GPS navigation
- No smartwatch capability
The customer feedback for this watch on the Amazon page blew us away. After over 4000 individual customer ratings, the average customer rating comes out at an amazing 5 stars out of 5!!
And we can see why it’s so popular.
The main thing we love about it is the battery life. It’s solar rechargeable and on a full charge, it will last an entire 7 months! In our minds, this makes it one of the most reliable watches you can get.
You don’t have to worry about finding a socket to recharge it, and you don’t have to worry about buying a spare battery. Plus it has a low battery indicator and a power-saving function.
It also features the full ABC for determining your whereabouts. (More on that in our buying guide.) It may not be quite as easy to use as GPS, but if you take the time to learn how to use it, you will always be able to identify where you are.
It’s both mud and water-resistant. The case and buttons are sealed to prevent dirt, dust, and mud from getting into the watch. AND it can handle being dropped into a river.
It also features multi-band atomic timekeeping, whereby it receives time calibration radio signals which keep the displayed time accurate
- Never run out of battery life
- features the full ABC
- mud and water-resistant
- multi-band atomic timekeeping
- No GPS
- No smartphone functionality
This is a great sports watch for those with an eye for design, with its smart and sleek all-black finish, large unencumbered clock face, and minimalized display.
But it’s in no way a case of form over function. This watch really lives up to the job of a survival watch. And it’s available at a great price too.
It comes from top brand Suunto, who it turns out, has actually been around longer than Casio.
What we love about this watch is the ABC, the altimeter to track your vertical movement, a barometer to give you the trend in air pressure, and a compass, so you always know which you're headed.
It’s a great survival watch for areas that get hit by storms, because it has an intelligent storm alarm, braced ready to let you know when there’s a storm approaching.
It will even give you a weather trend graph so you can predict how the weather’s going to change.
Using the watch to navigate is a cakewalk. All you have to do is point the top of the watch toward your intended destination and lock it in.
It also comes with a 2-year warranty, which is quite reassuring as many sports watches usually just offer 1 year.
All in all, it’s a great survival watch for the style-conscious who want to wear the watch day to day.
- Looks amazing
- Affordable price
- Very easy to use
- Features full ABC
- 2-year warranty
- No GPS signal
- Mixed reports on battery life
- No smartwatch functionality
The customer feedback on this watch is phenomenal. The Amazon page is showing an average customer rating of a full 5 stars out of 5, even after well over 600 individual customer ratings.
What we love the most about this watch is that it's solar powered, which means you’ll never run out of battery during the daylight hours!
We were also impressed with just how waterproof it is - it’s classed as suitable for surface water sports, so you could walk through a river and not have to worry about any splashing.
But the water-resistance is not the only thing that makes it such a durable watch. It’s constructed with stainless steel and tough mineral glass.
And while it may not feature GPS navigation, it does instead feature several navigation tools, the full ABC in fact, altimeter, barometer, and compass. (We talk more about these in our buying guide later.)
We also like the olive green band. Would really fit in against a camo jacket or shirt.
Amazon occasionally has deals on this watch - certainly worth a look.
- Highly water-resistant
- Full ABC of navigation
- Tough and durable
- No GPS navigation
This watch is aimed at hikers, people who are exploring out in the wilderness. It’s a much easier watch to read than a traditional watch, with all your location data very clearly displayed.
The stand out feature of this beauty is its highly-sensitive GPS receiver, which, when used with its Hotfix boosts the GPS performance so much that you should still get a signal even when you’re under heavy tree cover. Perfect in an emergency situation.
The Foretrex has a great TracBack feature, which helps you retrace your steps. You can save any location into the watch’s memory to find your way back to important places.
But like any other good outdoor watch, it also has a built-in barometric altimeter and electronic compass. So even if you couldn’t get the GPS to work, you still find your way back to safety.
This watch has a nice big display, and it supports dual position readout which means that you can view your location in different formats.
We also that it runs off AAA batteries, batteries that you can get in any corner store, and you probably already have some spares somewhere in your house.
The battery life is pretty good, but if you want to make it last for over 24 hours, you should switch it out of GPS when mode whenever you don’t need it. You can also charge it via USB.
Its water resistance rating (more on that in our buying guide) comes in at IPX7, which means it can definitely handle the rain.
It should probably be ok after a drop in a puddle too, but if your watch does get submerged in water, you may have to dry out the battery compartment to get it back to normal.
- highly-sensitive GPS receiver
- has the full ABC
- runs off AAA batteries
- very large and clear display
- water resistance rating of IPX7
- No smartwatch capability
This is a great watch to have on you in an emergency situation. And it’s available at a great price too. Perfect for those prepping on a tight budget.
It’s not just a watch but is loaded with handy survival gear.
It comes with 3 different interchangeable straps, including a regular silicone band for wearing every day, or two survival bracelets made with strong 7 strand parachute cord, which has all number of potential uses in an emergency situation, from making animal traps to binding a wound.
The all-black paracord bracelet includes a compass to find your way, a thermometer, a whistle to attract a rescuer, a flint, and a fire starter scraper, to keep warm boil water, or cook food.
The black and white paracord bracelet meanwhile houses yet more handy bits and pieces. Again there’s a fire starting, and there’s also a small blade, several fishing items, and several first aid items.
If you ever wanted all the items at hand, you could wear one strap on your wrist and attach the other straps to your backpack.
But that’s not all this watch has going for it. The watch itself is easy to read with a backlight so you can still read it in the dark. And it has some water resistance to it, so it can handle a little rain.
It’s a bestseller in women’s sports watches, and almost made the men’s bestseller lists as well.
- Bargain price
- Entire survival kit
- Not solar powered
- No GPS navigation
Now, this is an entire survival kit that you can wear right on your wrist!
The strap is made from 10 feet of 550 lbs grade parachute cord. And that in itself can have a myriad of uses. But there’s a lot more besides, it comes with all kinds of tools, a compass, a fire starter, a blade, a saw, and more.
We also love how it features an SOS LED light. And when you combine that function with the included whistle, you get the best possible chance of being found by a rescuer.
What makes this particular watch stand out against other watches with paracord bracelets is that it’s completely adjustable, whereas other paracord bracelets can be 7 to 9 inches long, which is no good for thinner, more dainty wrists, where they’d be at risk of falling off.
It’s a great EDC. Moreover, it comes as a pack of two, so you get one for yourself and one for your partner. Neither of you will be stuck without it when SHTF.
- 10 feet of paracord
- Entire survival kit
- Adjustable strap
- Pack of two bands
- No GPS navigation
And this watch is a great all-rounder as survival watches go!
It’s solar-powered and will last an entire 6 months on a full charge, without any further exposure to light, so you don’t ever have to worry about the battery running out on you.
And although it doesn’t feature GPS navigation, it does instead feature an altimeter, barometer, and a compass, so you will still be able to use the watch to get your bearings and get you back to safety.
Its water resistance is also very impressive. Not only can it handle being caught out in the rain, but it can even handle being used while swimming - you can’t get much more waterproof than that!
And cold weather won’t slow it down either - it will still operate at -10 degrees celsius.
Because of its use as a compass, the outer rim of the clock face is rather busy. However, the time, date, and day are very clearly displayed digitally in the center of the watch face, making it very easy to read.
Amazon occasionally has deals on this particular watch - certainly worth a look.
- Full A,B, & C
- Easy to read
- No GPS navigation
As promised here’s your survival watch buying guide. Have a scan through - it pays to be prepared.
The following sections are not listed in any particular order.
If you don’t know where you are, how can you make your way back to a safe place? And how is anyone else going to find you?
The most convenient way to establish where you are when you find yourself in unfamiliar territory is by way of a satellite positioning system such as GPS.
GPS is a network of about 30 satellites orbiting the planet, and when a sufficient signal is received, it allows the user to see where they are located. All without the aid of a map.
Did you know that GPS is not the only global navigation satellite system? There’s also GLONASS, and Galileo, and others. Galileo is thought to be the most accurate one.
Having a GPS system in your watch saves you from having to carry a GPS system separately. Which means more room for essentials in your bug out bag.
A.B.C. stands for altimeter, barometer, and compass. These are the tools people used to use to ascertain their whereabouts before we had GPS.
An altimeter records your ascension and descent speeds on any incline you’re on and displays your current elevation levels.
A barometer measures the air pressure in the atmosphere, which you can then use to predict the weather. And a compass (as you likely already know) will tell you exactly which way is North.
Your survival watch should be able to stand up to a bit of dust and rain. This means it should have a good IP rating. IP stands for ingress progression.
The first figure represents protection against dust, while the second digit indicates protection against water (or rain).
You should look for a watch with an IP rating of at least IP56 or better.
Smartwatch or not smartwatch?
Now, as you probably know, smartwatches have way more functionality than regular watches.
And their best function in an emergency situation is their use as a communications device. You can tell someone where you are, or you can check up on other people.
But this only works when you’re sufficiently close to a cell tower. If you’re out in the wilderness or the back of beyond, this will be no good to you.
Plus they can really drain the watch’s battery and will need regular charging. Besides if you already have a smartphone on your person, then having a smartwatch too is a little overkill.
So, there are pros and cons on both sides. We included a smartwatch in our top picks if you are interested though, it’s the Garmin Instinct, Rugged Outdoor Watch with GPS. If you do decide to get yourself a smartwatch, you must ensure that it’s compatible with your smartphone.
Never underestimate the value of good battery life. The last thing you want is to be caught in a tricky situation only to find that your survival watch’s battery has died right when you need it.
Rechargeable watches are great when you can get to a socket to charge it, but if you can’t, a regular watch battery might be a better option. Regular watch batteries can sometimes run for many months before they need to be replaced.
For a survival watch, you might want to look at ones that are solar-powered, or solar assisted.
Band / Bracelet
One thing you might not have given much thought to is the band that keeps the watch face in place on your wrist.
Rubber or silicone bands are good, but when SHTF, you may be very glad that you chose a watch with a paracord strap. Or a strap that also houses other handy survival tools, such as a fire starter.
And around your wrist has to be one of the most convenient ways to carry around the paracord. You can carry it hands-free and access it any time.
Easy to Use
As you may have noticed, survival watches often come packed with handy features. And that’s great, but sometimes it’s nice to have a simple, straightforward, no-frills watch that's super easy to get to grips with and understand.
Ideally, a perfect survival watch would be easy to read both in bright sunlight and in a dark cave.
There is a huge variety in the costs of survival watches. You can get some good but basic ones for under $30, and you can get big brand high-tech ones for over $800.
Our main piece of advice on this is to be sure to make a note of prices as you go along. As to how high you set your budget, that depends on your total survival gear budget, and how much of that budget you’re happy to devote to your survival watch.
To be honest some of the cheaper watches in our shortlist can be more valuable in an emergency than the ones that cost hundreds of dollars more.
There are a couple of brands that dominate the market in survival watches. There’s Casio who’s been in the business for many decades now, before the advent of GPS.
And there’s Garmin, which specializes in watches with GPS functionality.
And we also like BlueStraw, their watches tend to have more survival functions than your usual watches, with their paracord bracelets and such.
We were sure to include watches from these brands in our top 5 picks, but there are other good brands out there too, like Bear Grylls for instance.
Deciding what features you actually need
What features your survival watch has depends very much on what other prepping items you already have in your arsenal.
If you already have a GPS system that you always take with you to the great outdoors, then maybe you don’t need one on your wrist as well.
You should also consider whether you’ll need your watch in a city environment or in the wilderness. In a city environment, you can easily recharge the watch’s batteries, or buy new ones. Or you can take advantage of any smartwatch capability your watch may have.
But if instead, you find yourself stuck for several days in the wilderness, you’d be very grateful for a watch that’s solar-powered.
You may even decide that you could use a watch you already own, but you could also get a paracord bracelet or a GPS system that you can wear on your wrist.
frequently asked questions
What is the best survival watch?
Now, that’s the real question here, isn’t it. But it’s a very difficult question to answer since it depends entirely on exactly what your immediate needs are in an emergency situation.
We honestly feel that all the watches in our shortlist all have something great to offer. Decide what features you like the best and shop accordingly.
What are the most durable watches?
Out of all the watches we’ve shown you, there’s one that really stands out to us as incredibly durable. It’s the Casio G-Shock Mudmaster Men’s Watch...
Designed to work in the harshest conditions, it can resist shocks, centrifugal force, and vibrations. And, as the name suggests, the buttons are protected against the entry of mud, so your watch will keep working no matter how dirty it gets…
But that’s not all - there’s also the water resistance, able to withstand brief submersions. Plus, it will continue to work in conditions as cold as -10 degrees Celsius.
What is the best outdoor watch?
We think that the best outdoor watch would be one that features both GPS navigation, AND have the full ABC of outdoor functions (You can scroll back up to our buying guide to learn more about that.) Like the Garmin Instinct, Rugged Outdoor Watch with GPS for example.
But besides watches that can help you find your bearings, other great watches for the outdoors can feature paracord and fire starters, such as the BlueStraw Emergency Survival Watch.
What is the best solar powered survival watch?
We love solar-powered survival watches. No having to worry about spare batteries for finding a wall socket to get it charged.
A watch that can charge on its own just by being out in the daylight, even if it’s very cloudy and overcast is right up our street. Very handy in emergency situations.
We think the best solar powered survival watch is the Casio G-Shock Rangeman GW-9400. It will last an entire 7 months on a full charge.
What is the best survival watch under $100?
We think that the best survival watch available on the market right now for under $100 is the BlueStraw Emergency Survival Watch we showed you earlier. It’s really multi-functional.
As well as being a watch, it’s also a Paracord, a Whistle, a Fire Starter, a Scraper, Compass, and Thermometer.
And while it doesn’t have more expensive features like GPS navigation, so long as you can understand the watch’s compass, you may not ever need GPS.
What survival watch wouldn’t look out of place as an EDC?
The Suunto Core All Black Military Men's Outdoor Sports Watch is very sleek and stylish, and all in black it looks great against office attire.
Perfect as an EDC that you can wear on you at all times.