20 Best Outdoor Watches (2022): Buyer’s Guide and Unbiased Reviews

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Are you on a quest to find the best outdoor watches?

Then you’re in the right place. Because I have done the hard work for you and have reviewed dozens of products to bring you the best outdoor watches.

In addition, I will introduce the following related topics.

  • Product Details (Including advantages and disadvantages) 
  • Buyer’s Guide
  • Analog Vs. Digital Display
  • Compass

I will also answer some common questions.

  • What Exactly is a Chronograph Watch?
  • Will a GPS Watch Work Outside the United States?
  • How Can You Clean the Face of the Watch?
  • What About the Watch Band, Can You Clean That?
  • Can Water Still Damage Water-Resistant Outdoor Watches?
  • Why Can’t I Just Use Any Smartwatch?
  • What are Offline Maps?
  • What can I use an Outdoor Watch for?

Without further ado, let’s begin!

Top 3 Picks

In a Hurry? Here are the winners.

Editor’s Choice & Best Seller
Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire - Black with Black Band#ad
Professional's Choice
Garmin 010-01746-00 Forerunner 935 Running GPS Unit (Black)#ad
Best Value
Suunto Core Classic, Outdoor Watch, All Black#ad
Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire - Black with Black Band#ad
Garmin 010-01746-00 Forerunner 935 Running GPS Unit (Black)#ad
Suunto Core Classic, Outdoor Watch, All Black#ad
Our Rating
Editor’s Choice & Best Seller
Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire - Black with Black Band#ad
Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire - Black with Black Band#ad
Our Rating
Read Full Review
View on Amazon
Professional's Choice
Garmin 010-01746-00 Forerunner 935 Running GPS Unit (Black)#ad
Garmin 010-01746-00 Forerunner 935 Running GPS Unit (Black)#ad
Our Rating
Read Full Review
View on Amazon
Best Value
Suunto Core Classic, Outdoor Watch, All Black#ad
Suunto Core Classic, Outdoor Watch, All Black#ad
Our Rating
Read Full Review
View on Amazon

Chief Editor


Hours Researching

Products Evaluated

Reviews Considered

Researched Sources

Best Outdoor Watches

Lovers of Mother Nature and the great outdoors should have a timepiece that they can rely on. However, not all timepieces are created equal. Outdoor watches are usually stronger, and more durable than other watches. They also have special features such as GPS tracking.

No matter the sport you engage in – be it snowboarding, trail running, skiing or hiking, the best outdoor watch should be your everyday companion.

1. Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire – Editor’s Choice & Best Seller

Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire - Black with Black Band#ad
  • Premium multi sport GPS watch with elevate wrist heart rate...
  • Fit for adventure with rugged design that features stainless...
  • Put key stats at your fingertips with the performance widget...
  • Connected features include smart notifications, automatic...
  • Outdoor sensors, including GPS and Glonass satellite...

The Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire comes with all the features you can expect in a high-quality watch. However, what makes it perfect for outdoor use is it’s sturdy design and GPS tracking feature.

The rear case, buttons and bezel are all made from high-quality stainless steel. You can get the watch in a wide range of bands such as silicone, metal and leather.

You can get a battery life of up to 24 hours when using the GPS tracking feature on the watch. In normal smartwatch mode, the battery life can go up to 2 weeks.

Not only does this outdoor watch come with both GPS and GLONASS technology, but it also comes with a barometric altimeter and triple-axis compass. You can link this watch with your phone to get notifications and updates via Garmin Connect.

The watch also boasts of a full color and high-resolution Garmin Chroma LED display. You can view all your body vitals and stats from this display using the in-built performance widget.

While there are numerous color options to choose from, the jet-black option is arguably the most beautiful.

The truth of the matter is that any device that has a Garmin brand name on it is bound to impress. This is one of the best outdoor watches that Garmin has created in recent years.

  • Comes with in-depth training apps and features
  • You can easily swap bands from the available selection of QuickFit bands
  • The display uses transflective technology to make outdoor visibility easier
  • They watch has been reported to freeze randomly but this can be fixed through regular updates

2. Garmin vívoactive 3 Music, GPS Smartwatch with Music Storage and Built-in Sports Apps

Garmin 010-01985-01 Vivoactive 3 Music, Gps Smartwatch with Music Storage and Built-In Sports Apps, Black#ad
  • GPS smartwatch with music storage and playback. Fits wrists...
  • Easily download up to 500 songs on your watch, and connect...
  • Garmin Pay contactless payment solution (available for...
  • Customize with thousands of free watch faces, apps and more...
  • More than 15 preloaded sports apps, including yoga, running,...

The Vivoactive 3 is the perfect outdoor watch for hikes and long walks. After a long run, you can easily relax next to a beautiful waterfall or spring as you listen to your favorite jam. This watch packs all the features and capabilities you are probably looking for.

It has a slim and appealing interface that is made up of silicone, strengthened glass and stainless steel. This watch is definitely strong and sturdy which makes it perfect for tough adventures and expeditions. You can even go under water to a distance of up to 50 meters. The watch has a gorgeous display that’s easily visible in the brightest of days.

If you are using the watch in GPS mode, you can expect a battery life of up to 13 hours. If you are using the watch in normal mode, you can expect the battery to last you a whole week with no problem.

The Vivoactive 3 comes with Garmin Pay which means that you don’t have to carry your wallet wherever you go. Garmin Pay connect to most banks and you can pay for most outdoor supplies without having to use cash or credit cards. You can easily monitor your GPS navigation data, heart rate and V02 Max with this watch.

The watch comes with more than 50 unique digital faces. All faces make use of large fonts that are easy to read both during the day and night.

This is truly an excellent outdoor watch that can easily become your normal day-to-day watch. It’s neither too bright nor bulky. You can easily swap bands with this watch and fit in any 20mm band of your choice.

  • Store up to 500 songs
  • Supports Garmin Pay
  • Lightweight design
  • Unreliable heart rate monitor

3. Garmin vívoactive

Garmin vívoactive Black#ad
  • Built-in sports apps, including GPS-enabled running, biking...
  • Refer to page 10 in the User Manual for troubleshooting...
  • Ultra-thin, high-resolution, sunlight-readable, color...
  • Built-in sports apps, including GPS-enabled running, biking...
  • Battery charge lasts through all your activities with up to...

The Garmin Vívoactive has everything you could possibly need when traversing the great outdoors. This is simply one of those outdoor watches that outperforms most regular watches out there today.

From the very start, this watch feels really nice when your wear it. It’s very easily and convenient to put on and it comes with an ultra-thin display that visible even on very sunny days. The display is function, responsive and colorful. Garmin didn’t disappoint in this area.

On top of this, the Garmin Vivoactive comes with in-built sports apps that make your outdoor experience a lot easier and seamless. Some of the outdoor apps and features you can expect include GPS tracked biking, swimming, running, and other forms of tracking. The watch can pair with your smartphone to all syncing of notifications and updates.

It doesn’t end there. The watch makes slight vibrations and displays alerts when you receive calls, emails or texts. It also comes with useful clock and calendar functions that facilitate setting of reminders and alarms. You can easily change how the watch’s interface look by tweaking face designs and widgets which you can download from the web for free.

Another crucial feature you will be wondering about is battery life. This watch does not let down in this department. The watch can last up to 3 weeks on a single charge. This is some pretty hefty battery life considering you are using the various apps and features that the watch has to offer.

However, if you choose to keep the GPS tracking on, the watch will only stay on for about 10 hours straight.

  • Simple to use
  • Can be used with a heart rate monitor
  • Cheap
  • Can freeze up
  • Cannot tell time while tracking
  • Can stop syncing

4. Garmin Forerunner 935 Running GPS Unit – Professional’s Choice

Garmin 010-01746-00 Forerunner 935 Running GPS Unit (Black)#ad
  • Premium GPS running/triathlon watch with wrist based heart...
  • Offers advanced running and multisport Features in a...
  • Provides elevation changes with a built in barometer;...
  • Evaluates your training status to indicate if you’re...
  • Provides advanced dynamics for running, cycling and...

You can get the Garmin Forerunner 935 Running GPS Unit for under $500. This is an excellent watch for an outdoor enthusiast. This is a watch that you can easily wear as you run a triathlon and expect maximum performance and reliability.

It has an in-built heart rate monitor as well as activity and sleep tracking.

On top of this, the watch can track different types of sporting activities using its barometric altimeter and compass features. Simply put, this is a GPS, barometric altimeter watch that you can rely on.

The watch is comfortable to wear and it’s also very appealing to the eye. It also comes with a waterproof design that gives you the luxury of showing with watch on on diving into pools of water for depths not deeper than 50 meters.

The watch is mostly suitable for runners, but it can also be worn by cyclist and swimmers. The GPS feature on this watch is also quite good.

Another thing about this watch that we loved was its accuracy. It didn’t disappoint at all in this area.

On top of this, the menu layout is implemented in such a way that there is a favorites section at the top. This means that you don’t have to go deep into the activity options to get what you are looking for.

We really enjoyed the user-friendly interface of this watch. Upon scrolling down, you find the fitness tests like HRV Stress and TrainingPeaks guided workout options with ease. With this watch, you get the feeling of working with an actual personal trainer as opposed to simply tracking your vitals.

Moreover, you can easily switch between activities with a push of a button. It’s such small but useful features that make this watch worth buying.

The watch keeps track of your activities in detail while not being difficult to use. It’s simply an excellent watch for both beginners and professionals athletes.

The only downside we could highlight about this watch is that the Garmin Connect app is a bit overcrowded. It sometimes offers too much information without allowing the user to decide what they should see.

The watch has some pretty amazing battery-life. You can essentially use the watch to its full potential for 2 week straight.

  • Plenty of activity data at your disposal
  • Sleek design
  • Personalized training feature
  • Accurate
  • The Garmin Connect app is slightly overcrowded
  • No on-board music support

5. Casio Men’s Pro Trek PRW-2500R-1CR Tough Solar Digital Sport Watch

Casio - Casio Protrek Multi Band 6 Ato (PRW2500R-1CR)#ad
  • 200M Water Resistance
  • Chronograph Display
  • Tough Solar Power
  • Multi-Band 6 Atomic Timekeeping
  • Duplex LC Display

The Casio Men’s Pro Trek PRW2500R Digital Solar Sport Watch is a high performance outdoor timepiece that is perfect for tough environments. This is a simple digital watch that comes with an innovative one-touch function.

You can expect a duplex LCD display that shows you everything you need with ease. Also, it comes with a graph that displays important barometric pressure information. You can also find information on the moon and tide which can be very useful if you are going kayaking or fishing.

This digital sport watch is also suitable for rafting and river crossing. The Casio Pro Trek has a water resistance of up to 200 meters and this is pretty amazing to say the least. The major shortcoming of this watch is its poorly-lit LCD that makes visibility hard in most lighting conditions. This is a really popular outdoor watch for men.

Professional and advanced athletes can find this watch to be the perfect fit for them. This is mainly because they can depend on this watch regardless of the environment or weather conditions they are in. This is simply one of the best digital watches out there today. It is very durable and long-lasting as well.

  • Excellent outdoor features
  • Soft and comfortable band
  • Solar powered meaning no batteries are needed
  • Reliable compass for outdoor navigation
  • Easy to use and operate in tough environments
  • Thermometer not 100% accurate
  • Thermometer may need recalibration to function properly in your region
  • Backlight feature doesn’t work when setting up the watch

6. SUUNTO Ambit3 Peak HR Monitor Running GPS Unit

Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR Monitor Running GPS Unit, Black#ad
  • SUUNTO Ambit3 peak delivers stable and accurate altitude and...
  • Includes built in altimeter, barometer, compass and GPS with...
  • One of the most competitive battery hours in the market, 200...
  • Connect Ambit3 peak to your smartphone for syncing your...
  • Add Photos in movement and create a SUUNTO Movie with the...

If you love hiking and going up at higher altitudes, the Suunto Ambit 3 is the perfect outdoor watch for you. The answer is simple: this watch gives you a reading of the exact height as to where you’re standing, in addition to the accurate weather information. In the mountains, we all know that weather changes often, and this watch surely comes in handy. The said unit also comes with an accurate navigation feature.

Since we’re talking about outdoor watches, one of the things that you shouldn’t take for granted is that the watch should be durable enough to withstand shocks, not to mention, they should be waterproof, and that is exactly what the Ambit 3 Peak HR is all about. It can be submerged in water up to 100 meters deep and you don’t have to worry about anything.

Other than the altimeter, the watch also features a barometer to measure the atmospheric pressure. Along with that, it has a GPS and compass that are both great additional features to have in the event that you’ve lost your way. This helps you with your outdoor adventure and make you enjoy your exploration even more.

It has a pretty great battery life – it can last for up to 200 hours! With a 1-minute accuracy, you can easily synchronize with the rest of the group. You can also sync your smartphone with this watch, share the photos on devices and even receive real-time notifications.

  • Altitude and weather forecast readings are accurate.
  • Amazing battery life.
  • Receive real-time notifications from your smartphone.
  • Option to add photos while on the move.
  • Keeps you connected to your social media accounts with Movescount app.
  • Water-resistant and can be used up to 100m, but not for scuba diving.
  • The Movescount app is a little bit difficult to use.
  • May have possible problems with the feature from HR measurement.

7. SUUNTO Traverse Alpha

Suunto Traverse Alpha - Foliage#ad
  • Features a rugged, knurled stainless steel bezel, durable...
  • Suunto's automatic shot detection technology keeps track of...
  • Gps tracks your path, helping you find your way back using...
  • Location based moon Phase calendar with moon rise and moon...
  • Suunto Traverse Alpha watches are handmade in Finland....

This watch is incredibly resistant to physical damages, thanks to its sapphire crystal glass. This makes the watch scratch-proof and extremely durable. The Traverse Alpha is a stainless steel casing which stops moisture from getting into your watch and can be used up to 300 meters. For the wraps, it comes with a nylon strap that is also water-resistant and damage-resistant without reducing the comfortability for the wearer.

With its robust GPS added feature, the Traverse Alpha can be used as a nav system thanks to its added GPS. Whenever you’re out, the accurate GPS technology will show you your location’s coordinates in a short period of time, as you also have the option to set it to its longitude/latitude, MGRS or UTM readings, all of which depending on which you’re comfortable using. Of course, you can also set your route, making it easier for you to explore lands and areas that you haven’t even been to before without the fear of losing your way.

The Traverse has other more features that are proven to be very useful. You can pair it with your phone for real-time notifications. Additionally, it has a built-in flashlight just in case you’ve stumbled upon dark areas.

With its military standard designs, expect that the watch is as durable as it can ever be. The GPS function and all the other features are also proven to be reliable and helpful whether you’re fishing or hunting.

The only thing that we’re not happy about the watch is its Movescout app. Other than the fact that it requires an active connection with your phone and watch at all times, it’s also hard to navigate, not to mention that there are some accuracy issues with it.

  • Amazing GPS features.
  • Can connect with your phone.
  • Has a built-in emergency flashlight.
  • Water-resistant and durable design.
  • Movescout is inaccurate and hard to use.

8. SUUNTO Core All Black Military Men’s Outdoor Sports Watch – SS014279010 – Best Value

Suunto Core Classic, Outdoor Watch, All Black#ad
  • Suunto Core: This classic outdoor sports watch is packed...
  • Essential for Adventure: This watch has dual times, a date...
  • Suunto Sports Watches: Versatile and durable, Suunto sports...
  • Adventure Starts Here: Combining Scandinavian design with...
  • Authentic Heritage: Founded in 1936, Suunto brings over 80...

We’ll move on with our list with another Suunto watch, this time something that covers all the bare basics. It has a barometer, an altimeter. You can use the barometric pressure reading and may become useful whenever you’re snorkeling. If you’re going for higher trails, the altimeter will be automatically switched on instead of the barometer if you’re ascending tall terrains.

It also has a built-in compass – but it doesn’t just tell you which direction is north. You can set your location then the compass will show you the direction that you’ll follow. Some of the features include that you’ll be able to measure your tracking and heading in degrees.

With a bezel aluminum as its casing, it also has a mineral glass for the display. Since both materials are known to be durable, they can withstand wear and tear and is expected to last for a long time. The watch is also water-resistant and can reach up to 100 meters deep.

Staying true to their promise, the brand has kept up to the basic, yet essential functions that someone needs when it comes to an outdoor watch. Starting with the ABC route setting function, you don’t have to worry about charging your watch since it comes with a CR2032 internal battery that can last 12 months, or even more! The only thing we don’t like about it is that the straps aren’t as durable as compared to its head. When we tested ours, cracks and tears are easily noticeable after wearing the watch only for a couple of months. It also doesn’t have a GPS installed for easy navigation.

  • ABC tools.
  • Set your route.
  • The watch head is durable.
  • The internal battery can last for 12 months or more.
  • The strap is made of low-quality materials.
  • No GPS.

9. Casio G-Shock X-Large Display Stealth Black Watch (GA110-1B) – Water and Shock Resistant

Known for their “G-Shock” military watches, Casio has surprisingly has shown a huge advancement in their timepieces ever since they’ve released the very first G-shock watch. As a matter of fact, the newer Casio G-Shock watches distinctively looks amazingly great and has an amazing performance as well. While there’s no denying that Casio has laid out a few changes in terms of the style of their military watches, they surely have made these changes in favor as it lets people conveniently look stylish with the same robust features.

This watch has excellent features, not to mention looks stylish and amazing! This black military watch is popular because it is water-resistant, has anti-magnetic features and is also shock-resistant all at the same time. The said model is perfect for travelers of all types.

Everything that you needed from an outdoor watch, the G-Shock has surely covered it all. Despite the fact that the watch looks pretty amazing and is stylish, they aren’t as expensive too!

In general, this is an incredible watch to have and it’s quite difficult to find an alternative watch that has the exact same features that will fit within G-Shock’s parameters that also falls within the same price range.

  • Unisex.
  • Has a pre-set calendar up to the year 2099
  • Word time and has 29 time zones.
  • Their popular backlight feature isn’t as reliable during the daytime.
  • The speed dial seems to be a little bit small.

10. Timex Men’s T49905 Expedition Rugged Field Chronograph Black/Brown Leather Strap Watch

Timex Men’s T49905 Expedition Field Chronograph Black/Brown Leather Strap Watch#ad
  • Adjustable brown 20 millimeter genuine leather strap fits up...
  • Black dial with date window at 4 o'clock; Arabic numerals in...
  • 30-minute chronograph measures to 1/20th second
  • Black 43 millimeter brass case with mineral glass crystal;...
  • Water-resistant to 100 meters (330 feet): In general,...

Men’s Expedition from Timex combines the vintage outdoor look with its superior durable materials so you can get the best of both worlds. As compared to its competitors, you can enjoy using this one on extreme activities and is perfect for those who are in contact with nature most of the time. You can expect the Expedition Field to hold up pretty well even on the most challenging hiking trails. Style-wise, you don’t have to worry about it not being able to watch because its vintage design looks great on almost all types of wardrobe.

On top of all the wonderful features, it comes with a leather strap that promises the wearer great comfort, not to mention, durability at the same time. Timex surely knows how to pay attention to their watches’ detail, and for every release, the designs are always improved. This timepiece has natural tones, has a wide range of perforated patterns, and at the same time some other added features such as contrasting threads on each timepiece. The dials also come in various color schemes, mostly colors that are within the bright color spectrum – making it a top choice in terms of design for most people.

  • Has a brass case with a mineral dial window.
  • Beautiful and durable leather strap.
  • Has Indiglo night lighting feature for easier visibility especially at night,
  • Has black sub-dials, date window, and skeleton hands.
  • Some reviews have mentioned that the overlook of this watch looks rugged and is best suited for men.

More Products (Our Rating: 4 Stars)

11. Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire Performance Bundle

No products found.

12. Garmin Fenix 3 HR Special Edition, Titanium w/ Titanium DLC Band
Garmin Fenix 3 HR Special Edition, Titanium w/ Titanium DLC Band#ad
  • Omni-directional stainless Steel exon antenna, with...
  • Elevate wrist heart rate technology measures heart rate at...
  • Fitness training features like advanced running dynamics...
  • 1.2-Inch Sunlight-readable Garmin Chroma display with...
  • Outdoor navigation features like 3-axis compass, altimeter...
13. Seiko Men's SNK805 Seiko 5 Automatic Stainless Steel Watch with Green Canvas
SEIKO Men's SNK805 SEIKO 5 Automatic Stainless Steel Watch with Green Canvas#ad
  • Military-inspired timepiece featuring green dial, luminous...
  • Automatic movement with analog display; Hardlex crystal
  • Features green nylon strap with buckle closure. When setting...
  • Water resistant to 30 m (99 ft): In general, withstands...
14. G-Shock Rescue Concept Casual Digital Watch
G-Shock G-Rescue Series Red Dial Men's Watch G-7900A#ad
  • Shock-resistant sport watch featuring moon/tide graphs, low...
  • Flash Alert (flashes with buzzer that sounds for alarms,...
  • Water resistant to 200 m (660 ft): In general, suitable for...
  • Large buttons & format display for ease of use while wearing...
  • Also includes chronograph with 12 and 24-hour formats, 29...
15. Casio G-Shock Rangeman Master Of G Series Stylish Watch
Casio Watch (Model: GW9400-3CR)#ad
  • 推出 rangeman , Master of g...
  • rangeman...
  • 字样印刷在常用的传感器按钮(右侧),一个�...
16. SEIKO Solar Nylon Strap Watch
Seiko Men's SNE331 Sport Solar Black Stainless Steel Watch with Beige Nylon Band#ad
  • Black solar-powered watch featuring stencil-like numerals...
  • 43-mm stainless steel case with hardlex dial window
  • 10-month power reserve once fully charged
  • Nylon band with buckle closure
  • Water resistant to 100 m (330 ft): In general, suitable for...
17. Citizen Watches Men's BM8180-03E
Citizen Eco-Drive GarrisonQuartz Unisex Watch, Stainless Steel with Nylon strap, Field watch, Green (Model: BM8180-03E)#ad
  • LIGHT-POWERED ECO-DRIVE: Converts any light, whether natural...
  • WATER RESISTANT TO 100 M: This tactical watch is water...
  • FOR YOUR ACTIVE LIFESTYLE: This Citizen silver-toned...
  • GUARANTEE & 5-YEAR WARRANTY: At Citizen, we stand by quality...
18. Garmin epix
Garmin epix#ad
  • TOUCHSCREEN : 1.4 inch high resolution, sunlight visible...
  • EXPANDED MEMORY : 8 GB internal memory lets you load a...
  • CONNECT IQ APP : Customize your watch with a variety of...
  • STAY CONNECTED : Automatically uploads data wireless to...
  • MULTI ACTIVITY : Easy and quick access to multiple...
19. Fitbit Versa Smart Watch, Black/Black Aluminium
Fitbit Versa Smart Watch, Black/Black Aluminium, One Size (S & L Bands Included)#ad
  • Includes all Versa Lite Edition features plus: store and...
  • Track your all day activity, 24/7 heart rate, & sleep...
  • Use 15 plus exercise modes like run or swim (Fitbit versa is...
  • Access your favorite apps for sports, weather & more and get...
  • Get call, text, calendar and smartphone app notifications...
20. Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate + Fitness Wristband
Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate + Fitness Wristband, Plum, Large (US Version)#ad
  • Pure Pulse continuous, automatic wrist based heart rate...
  • Maximize your workouts using simplified heart rate zones...
  • See call, text & calendar notifications on the OLED display;...
  • Get a better understanding of your fitness level and see how...
  • Track all day activity like steps, distance, calories...

Buying Guide

In the following guide I will introduce you to everything you really need to know about choosing the best outdoor watches for you. We are going to get into some grave detail so hold on.

By the time you are through with this reading you will be able to recognize the right watch for you from across a crowded mall. This will significantly reduce your time spent shopping.


Corundum, stainless steel and polymers are the best options for your outdoor watch. All of these are highly resistant to impacts and comfortable after long periods of time. Corundum is a little heavier and more expensive than the other two, polymers at the other end, are lighter and cheaper.

But the materials are not the only selection, you should also consider the craftsmanship of your outdoor watch. You will find that all decent brands have a set of options available for all budget labels. So you never have to sacrifice quality for a really attractive fake, which never pans out well.

Waterproofing & Dustproofing

Because you will be in the great outdoors and there will be rivers, rain, dust storms, wind changes and more, you will encounter many different elements that you don’t want getting into the fine mechanisms within your watch. For this reason, there is an International Protection Scale that tells you exactly how much protection you can expect from your device.

This number is expressed in two digits, the first is your watches resistance to dust, ash etc. and the other shows how well it resists water damage. For wilderness exploration and the activities you will be doing outdoors, you want a minimum of 5 in dust protection which means you are protected from limited dust ingress. A rating of 7 is a bit better and ensures total protection from dust ingress.

Then there is the water resistance factor. A 4 will mean that your watch is well protected from the light water spray coming in all directions. Watches with a 4 rating should not be worn when swimming or even in the shower. 7 and 8 is a better rating for those who might be fishing, boating or rafting as it protects the interior up to a certain pressure.

You will also want to ensure that your watch will be able to withstand a certain amount of atmospheres of pressure. If you hope to go swimming with your watch you will need a t least 10 ATM.

Shock Resistance and Solid Construction

When you will be heading out into the wild, everything you bring should be well-built and long-lasting. This is true about the outdoor watch as anything else. Besides, in the wilderness things can happen all of a sudden and you will need to have a timepiece that will be tough to take it. This means that good construction and shock resistance are two things you should never be without.

Watch Face

No matter if it is you laptop, PC, tablet or iPhone, it is the face or screen that get most of the attention and is crucial to functionality. Of course, with a watch this is a little different because their screens don’t necessarily need to be big and bright to be readable. But, you will want to think of the conditions you will be using your watch in and what you would like to see when you do. This is probably true about touch screen watches and smartwatches than regular timepieces.

But, you also have to pay attention to the entire screen and display unit? Is the resolution sufficient? Will it be clearly visible in darker environments? Is it clearly visible from your wrist to your eyes? After all you don’t want to be straining your eyesight every time you are looking at your watch, do you?


This aspect of your watch is almost entirely irrelevant and really only a matter of personal choice. When it comes to style and outdoor watches the point is mostly moot. Make your decisions on the most convenient set up and practicality and that will be the best look for you.

Analog Vs. Digital Display

Digital watches are most often recommended for outdoor environments. But, you can really choose any type of watch so long as it serves its purpose well. Something to keep I mind is that digital watches tend to have considerably more functions on them and are highly versatile. In addition to a compass, many are also equipped with a barometer, altimeter and many other functions such as best fishing times, moon phases, and much more.


Finally, but potentially the most important point here, you will want an accurate timepiece above all else. Why even use a watch if you aren’t absolutely sure that its readings are correct? Accuracy is significant because it makes sure that things progress efficiently, this is important when operating as a team.

So be absolutely sure that your watch is not only functional and durable but also not going to need adjustments constantly. This is why you should consider getting yourself a top quality item like the quartz digital watch as this will ensure you only lose about 0.07 seconds each day.

Additionally, you will want to check the accuracy of thermometers, barometers, altimeters, GPS and all other functions to ensure you will not be operating off inaccurate readings. A barometer can warn you that the weather is getting bad and to take precautionary action, but only if it is working properly.


This could be considered one of the most important aspects of selecting a good watch and an entirely personal decision. You will need the model that is not complicated and provide easy and intuitive access to the functions you will need the most. Like the calendar, compass, thermometer and other functions. Furthermore, you will want your watch to have a waterproof depth of 300 ft.


Most outdoor watches these days will include one of these pressure sensors that can detect changes in atmospheric pressure. This is good because it can warn you of changes in the weather and allow you some time before rain and storms strike.

One thing any outdoors person will tell you, you gain a better sense of the weather just by being outside and you can usually tell when things are about to get bad, By the time your barometer is detecting a disturbance in the atmospheric pressure you will probably already be heading for cover and hiding from the inclement weather.

Another point would be the barometers available on your average low-end outdoor watch. These may be accurate to a degree, but tend to become less so with the passage of time. If you actually want a barometer on your watch you probably also want accurate readings and should invest in one of the higher end options.


The altitude reader may use information from the barometer and the GPS system to provide a fairly accurate indication of your position above sea-level. Not all watches will have this though and some only use the barometer to verify their readings.

When it comes to accuracy, there is nothing like the triple check. And for this very reason, I would recommend getting a watch that uses GPS positioning to ensure that your elevation readings are accurate.

If you will be making climb using only a barometric outdoor watch, be sure to calibrate it properly at the base of the ascent this way you will get a more accurate reading from the summit.

One place where the altimeter can come in especially handy is when navigating topographical maps. The elevation as seen on the altimeter can give you a fairly good indication of where you are at any given point.


I have come to learn something through hard experience that when navigating the world of digital compasses and GPS units. When it comes to accuracy and proper readings: the 3-axis compass is the best option all round.

2 Axis Compasses

This is what you will find in many of the lower class models. This option requires that the watch be held perfectly flat to provide a reading. While this saves money for the manufacturers, it really doesn’t do much for the users.

3 Axis Compasses

With this option you can hold the watch anyway you like and the reading will be correct.

The integrated compass is actually one of the most useful features I have found in the outdoor watch and it makes a lot of sense to have a compass on your wrist when navigating terrain and referencing maps.

Orienteering Compasses

However, if you will be doing some serious navigation in the wild and going through unfamiliar terrain, than I would most certainly advise that you get a proper dedicated compass for this task. No matter how accurate and spiffy your integrated compass may be, your navigation depends on precision. And an integrated watch compass can’t compete with a proper navigational instrument when using a topo map.

Declination Adjustment

Some watches today have supporting features for their compass. Dclination adjustment can save time and promote accuracy in the field. Because magnetic north doesn’t always match the “north” indicated on a map you have to make manual adjustments called declination. Because true north and magnetic north have some discrepancies between them, it is very important to compensate for declination when navigating.

If you get a watch that does this for you, your work will be that much easier. Without this feature a declination error can throw off your positioning by yards or miles.

Battery Life

One thing about all these extra gadgets is that you will need the battery power to support them all so your watch is not failing at the most inopportune moments.

If you will be regularly heading out on very long trips (over 8 hours at a time). You will need a watch that can conserve it life span for the entire trip. You can also consider taking an additional power supply with you.

This is less of an issue if you will be visiting ski resorts, beach resorts and making day trips where you return to your hotel or other locations where there is a power sources available, a campsite for example.

So, look for the outdoor watch that will supply you with at least 8 hours of life, this seems to work for me just fine and is a good rule of thumb. Remember that those outdoor watches that are sued for winter sports will naturally drain their life faster than others. That’s just because colder weather has this effect and not indicative of a flaw.

To combat this you can do one of three things:

  • Get a watch with a more powerful battery
  • Get a watch that is power conservative
  • Take portable battery charging packs with you.

The number of recharges you’ll get out a battery pack depends on two things:

  • Battery size of the watch
  • Size of the battery pack

If your watch is equipped with a 500 mAh battery then 10,000 mAh will give you a total of 20 full charges. Then you can do the math and predict exactly when you will be completely out of energy for your battery.

Watch Bands

Modern watches with interchangeable straps have become so popular nowadays that it is hard to imagine buying a wristwatch with just one band. However, many people don’t like the hassle of changing wristbands.

Regardless of your preference in this regard, wristband choice and buckle style are some of the things that you should be giving due consideration to when buying a wristwatch. This is particularly true in the case of an outdoor watch that for some people can be a vital part of their navigation and tracking hardware. In this case, the choice of wristband and buckle style will matter a great deal.


Always look for high quality, fairly thick metal buckles in outdoor wristwatches. You may have to compromise a little but the ideal buckle should be made from rugged, durable steel that can withstand the demands that outdoor activities place on it. With so many options available on the market it can be difficult to find the right band but this can be easily verified by checking reviews online, unboxing videos or trying it on in person if possible.


Velcro material has become quite common in wristbands but you should avoid this type of band as it may lose its grip over a short period of time and will not look good in the long run. An outdoor wristwatch needs a reliable mechanical connection that ensures it will not fall off during strenuous activity.


If you are opting for just one wristband you should carefully consider the type of material it is made of. With interchangeable wristbands, this may not be that critical.

Ideally, you should opt for a rubber wristband that is durable and safe. Rubber is more resistant to abrasions, damage, and abuse over time. Genuine leather bands are a great option but it can be difficult to find as nowadays so-called ‘leather’ bands are made of cheaper synthetic materials that look very much like real leather.

Onboard Watch GPS

Every year new and improved features in wristwatches appear on the market that aims to simplify and improve the basic structure of a good outdoor watch which is why it is impossible to fully summarize all the GPS capabilities of outdoor wristwatches in this article.

If you need a full-featured GPS unit for outdoor activities, we would recommend buying a handheld unit. The battery on a handheld unit lasts longer, power and accuracy are better, and it is easier to switch to new batteries in the filed when needed.

Minimal capabilities in an outdoor wristwatch can aid features like a compass, pedometer, and altimeter with even more extensive features available in today’s full-featured GPS wristwatch units. However, they utilize a lot of power and may be more suited for a long run or afternoon of golf than a tough outdoor backpacking trip.

Before committing to an outdoor watch with GPS capabilities, consider the particular situations it will be used for. A handheld GPS with a separate outdoor wristwatch may be more a better solution, each having their own pros and cons.


One of the best capabilities to look for in an outdoor wristwatch is a trackback or waypoint feature. Setting a waypoint at the location of the trailhead or where your car is parked can be helpful in an emergency situation. A waypoint can also be set at a trail intersection or at a point where you left a trail when exploring. In an emergency situation, this simple precaution could get you out of a tight spot.

Heart Rate Monitor

The heart rate monitor on an outdoor wristwatch is a popular feature that helps to maintain a regular, steady strain during a hike. This feature can be very helpful during biking, running, hiking, and other outdoor activities and you should choose a wristwatch accordingly if this is an important feature for you.


The BlueTooth feature on an outdoor wristwatch allows your watch to morph into a smartwatch with the capability of syncing with your smartphone. This will allow you to receive texts and call notifications directly from your smartphone as well as access to additional applications.

Luminescent Hands

Some outdoor activities can take up the whole day and even into the night which makes it extremely important to have luminous digits or hands that enable you to read the time in any light condition. This feature eliminates the need to push the backlight button on your wristwatch which is very helpful when you are in a hurry. It can be especially useful when you need both your hands to carry sports equipment.


What Exactly is a Chronograph Watch?

A chronograph timepiece is flexible and can be used as a standard display watch and a stopwatch. This type of wristwatch typically features separate dials for hours, minutes, and seconds which can be used to conduct specific tests, for example, how long it takes to drive from one point to another or how long it took to do the grocery shopping. At its core, a standard chronograph watch is a very simple device that requires a button to be pressed at the beginning and again at the conclusion of the test.

Will a GPS Watch Work Outside the United States?

Technically, GPS technology was not designed for indoor use and as such is perfectly suited for outdoor wristwatches. The reason why GPS cannot function properly inside a building is that it makes use of various signals from satellites to triangulate its position. If it is not exposed to the sky it cannot receive a clear signal. Building components such as doors and walls will block the attempt of the satellite to reach the GPS, rendering it useless. Most of the best outdoor wristwatches today are equipped with GPS technology.

When used outside it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, your watch will function without a problem as long as it has direct access to the sky to pick up constant data transmitted from satellites space.

How Can You Clean the Face of the Watch?

Over time, outdoor watches are bound to succumb to dust, dirt, and bacteria in the environment. Although this is not hazardous to your health, depending on the type of material your wristwatch is made of, it could corrode the metal in the unit. The screen or face of the watch is typically more prone to becoming contaminated with dirt and bacteria as it is more exposed to the environment. Cleaning the face of an outdoor watch is an easy process and it can be done regularly to preserve its life.

A dish with a touch of mild dishwashing detergent diluted in warm water and a soft cloth or soft toothbrush is all that is needed. Apply the solution to the face of the watch with the cloth or brush and gently clean the screen without exerting any force to remove accumulated dust and dirt. Wipe the surface with a clean dry cloth to remove any residual dirt and moisture.

What About the Watch Band, Can You Clean That?

In the same way, the band of the watch can be cleaned, however, different types of material like steel, leather or nylon will require different methods. Leather bands are the simplest to clean and all that is required is a wipe-down with a damp cloth.

Steel bands or any other metal type of material can be cleaned by using the same method as used to clean the face of the watch.

A metal band can be scrubbed with a soft-bristled toothbrush dipped in warm soapy water. The band should be allowed to air dry completely before being worn again.

Nylon wristbands can be cleaned in the same way as metal bands and detachable ones can even be tossed into the washing machine.

Can Water Still Damage Water-Resistant Outdoor Watches?

As we have already established, water-resistant does not have the same meaning as waterproof. The water depth rating in meters will determine whether the watch can be submerged in water for any period of time. In addition to understanding the meaning of water rating, knowledge about individual bodies of water that should be avoided is also useful. One example is saltwater which is capable of corroding metal five times faster than regular water. However, a metal such as stainless steel will hold up reasonably well in saltwater conditions.

Why Can’t I Just Use Any Smartwatch?

More smartwatches are entering the market today than outdoor-specific wristwatches and there is no reason why you cannot use a smartwatch for all the outside activities you love to do. However, having said that, you will have to do some serious research regarding compatibility. Many smartwatches don’t have a barometer, altimeter, or built-in compass and many of them rely on borrowing information from a WiFi connection or a paired phone as they don’t have a full-featured GPS onboard.

That does not mean that a smartwatch won’t work in certain situations, just make sure that the one you choose has the features and capabilities you require or an app functionality that replicates them.

What are Offline Maps?

Popular navigation apps like Google Maps offer online maps that can download map data directly onto a phone or watch. This is particularly useful when you are in the mountains without cell data or WiFi access as you will still be able to navigate using the downloaded data you saved on your device.

Offline maps are more helpful in areas that are outside normal WiFi or cell services. If this is what you need you will have to make sure that the wristwatch you buy comes with offline capabilities.

What can I use an Outdoor Watch for?

The sky’s the limit on what outdoor watches can be used for as they can be built around a multitude of specific outdoor activities such as:

  • Skiing / Snowboarding
  • Mountaineering
  • Climbing
  • Golf
  • Running and Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Races and Triathlons

Wrapping Up

With all the benefits and advantages discussed, the wristwatches we have listed here combine convenience with comfort and have been designed in a wide range of price choices. From the more affordable watches to ones that are rather more costly, we made sure that solutions were included for different pocket ranges. When it comes to more affordable options we reviewed a few different units for you to consider.

In the end, the only thing that will be left for you to do is to choose the wristwatch that will perfectly suit your own personal requirements. Going through the specifications of each watch in detail as well as actually trying it on your wrist will provide you with everything you need to make a more informed buying decision.


Best Outdoor Watches ( Top 3 Picks )

Editor’s Choice & Best Seller
Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire - Black with Black Band#ad
Professional's Choice
Garmin 010-01746-00 Forerunner 935 Running GPS Unit (Black)#ad
Best Value
Suunto Core Classic, Outdoor Watch, All Black#ad
Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire - Black with Black Band#ad
Garmin 010-01746-00 Forerunner 935 Running GPS Unit (Black)#ad
Suunto Core Classic, Outdoor Watch, All Black#ad
Our Rating
Editor’s Choice & Best Seller
Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire - Black with Black Band#ad
Garmin Fenix 5 Sapphire - Black with Black Band#ad
Our Rating
Read Full Review
View on Amazon
Professional's Choice
Garmin 010-01746-00 Forerunner 935 Running GPS Unit (Black)#ad
Garmin 010-01746-00 Forerunner 935 Running GPS Unit (Black)#ad
Our Rating
Read Full Review
View on Amazon
Best Value
Suunto Core Classic, Outdoor Watch, All Black#ad
Suunto Core Classic, Outdoor Watch, All Black#ad
Our Rating
Read Full Review
View on Amazon

Last update on 2022-05-30 / Rating by Author / Affiliate links, Images, Descriptions & Price from Amazon Product Advertising API

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