Watches that notify you when someone tags you on Facebook can keep you connected to your friends. But they won’t do much good if you’re somebody whose idea of a vacation is eating MREs and gathering herbs in the middle of a national park. For that, the paltry battery life of an Apple Watch won’t cut it. You’ll need something that that help you enjoy your time away from civilization — or help you survive the zombie apocalypse.
If your main question when choosing a smartwatch is “will this help me when I’m 200 miles from the nearest cell phone tower?” then you’ll want to check out these sturdy survival watches.
Casio Pathfinder PAG240
The Casio Pathfinder PAG240 gives your Davy Crockett skills a boost for a surprisingly affordable price. This is a survival watch that includes a compass, barometer, thermometer, sunset and sunrise times, and data history storage, plus a whole lot of other features designed to help you safely trek nature. The instruction manual alone is 110 pages.
It doesn’t include a GPS sensor, making it a truly off-the-grid watch. However, you can still pinpoint your exact location if you have a contour map of your area. If you know your compass bearing and elevation, you can match that info on your map to find your spot.
Additionally, it runs entirely on solar power. As long as it’s regularly exposed to direct sunlight, you won’t have to worry about it powering down.
The Suunto Core is great for either mountain climbing or shallow diving. It’s water resistant down to 30 meters, and it includes a depth meter that can tell you how far down you are.
One of the most interesting features of the Suunto Core is that the barometer and altimeter are linked together. It measures elevation in very precise 3-foot or 1-meter increments. Many other watches measure relevant increments between 3-5 meters. When you’re climbing a mountain, the watch knows that air pressure changes are due to elevation changes. When you stay still, it knows that air pressure changes are due to changes in barometric pressure. That leads to more accurate barometric readings.
Garmin Tactix Bravo
The Garmin Tactix Bravo is a watch built for special operations. It doesn’t just have a GPS antenna — it also has support for GLONASS, Russia’s GPS system. To keep track of your path, you can mark and store up to 1,000 waypoints. You can also track three types of parachute jumps: HAHO, HALO, and Static. Unless you’re an avid skydiver or a secret agent, it’s unlikely you’ll need to perform a parachute jump any time soon — but it’s definitely something that your friends don’t have on their watch.
Oh, and speaking of secret agents: there’s a special mode that allows it to be seen while you’re wearing night vision goggles.
While it doesn’t feature built-in solar recharging, it does sport a strong battery life. It can last up to three weeks as an everyday smartwatch, 50 hours while in “tracking” mode, and 20 hours while in GPS mode.
Casio WSD-F10 Smart Outdoor Watch
If you prefer a survival watch that’s a lot closer to a fully featured smartwatch, then your best bet is the Casio WSD-F10 Smart Outdoor Watch. It has features common on other tactical watches, like an altimeter, compass, and barometer. It also boasts a rugged case and buttons-only interface. But it’s powered by Android Wear, so you can install common smartwatch apps. It comes standard with activity modes (such as fishing, trekking, and cycling) that help enhance your outdoor adventures with custom notifications and tracking.
The Casio WSD-F10 has a unique “dual-layer” LCD display. When you know that a power outlet is close by, you can use the full color display. But when you can’t count on charging it any time soon, you can switch to a power-saving monochrome display to save battery life.
G Shock Rangeman
This beefy, rugged watch features a digital barometer, altimeter, and compass. Like the Casio Pathfinder, it uses solar energy in order to keep it charged. It also has a neat feature that automatically detects the presence of light, and only turns on the backlight when it's too dim outside to see.
The front digital display is old-school LCD, but it tells you everything a mountaineer needs to know. The top section can either show the day of the week or barometric pressure changes. The dial includes a power level indicator, so you can know if it’s going to power down soon at a glance. The circular section can either tick down the seconds or serve as a compass.
While a Fitbit or Apple Watch will probably meet your day-to-day needs, survival watches are great picks for mountaineers, long-distance hikers, and people who want to prepare for the end of the world. Did we miss your favorite watch? Tell us about it in the comments.