05 Sep The Best Watches For Hiking and Backpacking
We look at 20 of the best options when it comes to buying a watch for hiking and backpacking.
No matter what list of watches you set out to rank, there is just no shortage of options! The key to finding a good outdoor watch is to talk to someone who has experienced the actual watch being recommended.
Lucky for you, I am just such a guy. I am also an avid backpacker and off-trail explorer, so I have real world, in the field knowledge of what works and what doesn’t.
For the most part, I often recommend people choose a watch for hiking and outdoor adventures that is quartz or solar powered. That’s not saying there aren’t tough automatic watches out there, but I would rather have something more reliable and rugged than an automatic watch on my wrist during an adventure.
I have three basic reasons for my choice for a quartz or solar powered option. One (and the most important), is that a quartz or solar powered watch can take the shock from a hard impact much better than an automatic.
This is important if you will be doing a lot of chopping of wood and swinging of an ax or machete.
For Serious Adventures, Ditch The Rechargeable
GPS Watch And Get Something Rugged and Reliable
The second biggest reason I prefer quartz in a hiking watch is price. For the most part, quartz watches are a lot cheaper. Now, I know you can buy some pretty inexpensive automatic watches, but do you think the lower end autos are going to be reliable in the field?
If you are doing any type of serious backcountry traveling, you’re probably going to bang your watch around. Better to not fret over scraping and gouging an expensive watch. I have a few higher end quartz on this list, but usually they have extra or special features or are built from more quality materials such as titanium.
There is a third reason I like quartz watches for hiking, and that is for the light or backlight option. Trust me on this, having a watch with a light is extremely helpful when you’re tossing and turning in your tent because you can’t sleep and you want to know how many hours until daylight.
A light is also convenient around camp when you don’t want to use a flashlight to disturb others or ruin your night vision. Unless you go with some tritium tubes, lume on a watch will not always get you through the night.
In the following list, I stuck to analog watches this time. I will be making a digital and automatic list soon, followed up by my reviews of GPS/Compass hiking watches later. In mu opinion, a classic analog watch is a good option and more reliable while outdoors. I love a good GPS watch, but they add another level of complexity and accessories to pack such as cables and charges. Without anymore ramblings, I give you the best analog watches for hiking and backpacking.
Casio F91W-1 Classic
So good and so cheap! This watch is almost disposable with it’s sub $15 price tag. But don’t be fooled, it’s surprisingly robust and can take a beating. If you look close, these were even handed out on the BBC TV show “Who Dares, Wins” where they go through modified SAS training. On top of that recommendation, my kids have beat on these for years. The straps give out long before the watch does.
Casio Analog Sport MRW200H-7BV
This is another watch that is hard to believe is under $20. It’s also one of the reasons we love a solid quartz watch. This Casio comes in several color combinations and even has a rotating bezel.
With a water resistance of 100m and a rugged strap, it’s a good watch to have on your wrist when the going gets tough. Another bonus (like the Timex Scout below) is that you can pick these up at almost any Walmart, so it’s also a good watch if you forgot or lost yours while out of town or on vacation.
Citizen Watches BM8180-03E
This watch makes every single watch list around! That’s because it’s rugged, looks good and is inexpensive. I also think it’s recommended so much because it’s often on an Amazon “deal of the day” for well under $200. It’s a tad on the small side, and only has a 18mm band width, but if you like a discreet watch on the wrist, here is your pick.
This is a personal favorite of mine, and one I often recommend. The white dial version has the best Indiglo function of any Time watch around. Lightweight, easy to read, and priced just right so that if you smash it or lose it, no tears will be shed.
I have taken these guys on many trips from river adventures to multi-day backpacking trips without issue. It’s also my “beater” watch that I wear in the shop and while working on the cars or yard.
You can’t get more outdoorsy than the classic Timex Scout. Perfect field watch look with an easy to read dial and the added benefit of Indiglo. When you finally reach civilization again, the watch can be dressed up nicely for the office.
Besides online, you can find these at almost any Walmart around. It’s actually this watch that really got me hooked on the whole wristwatch thing as they say.
Timex offers several dial and case colors and they come on different straps too. If someone asks me for a inexpensive watch that looks good, the Scout is always my forts choice.
It is also a watch that makes you question the higher end of the horology spectrum. frankly, it looks just like a classic Hamilton field watch and other than the sometimes loud ticking, performs just as good.
Seiko Solar Tuna
The Seiko Prospex Solar Dive Watch, nicknamed the “Solar Tuna,” is a handsome and rugged addition to Seiko’s long line of exceptional dive watches. It’s a fairly close replica of the Seiko 7549 “Golden Tuna” model from the ’70s, one of the most iconic dive watches of all time.
The solar battery has a 10-month reserve when fully charged, and the Lumibrite-coated hands and markers are easy to read at a glance. It’s water-resistant to a depth of 200 meters, making it a functional dive watch as well as a good-looking trail companion.
For me, the DayNight Diver and this really go head-to-head and I love them both, but there is just something about that deep dial and crazy lume on the Tuna!
You Can Also Check Out Jomashop For Seiko Deals!
Victorinox 249087 Original
This is what you might call a no-nonsense watch. It’s a well built one too. Swiss-made and featuring an easy-to-read dial with luminous hands, its design closely resembles its forebears dating back to the ’80s. I’ve met people who wore the original as kids, so there’s a definite nostalgia factor for some.
That aside, the Victorinox is a great watch for outdoorsy types who don’t want to worry too much about their timepiece getting dunked if their kayak tips over. It’s water resistant to a depth of 100 meters, so it’ll survive a swim with no problem, but you probably shouldn’t take it diving.
Still, at just under $100, it’s a quality watch that’s also surprisingly affordable.
Citizen BN0211-50E Promaster Tough
Slick, simple and hardwearing, the Citizen Promaster Tough is a rough-and-tumble watch that looks great and doesn’t quit. The black dial is easy to read and offers excellent contrast against the stainless steel case and chain-link bracelet. It’s nice to know you can wear your watch on a hiking or fishing trip without having to worry about getting it wet or banging it on a rock.
This thing isn’t quite indestructible, but it’s close. Plus, the Eco-Drive technology is powered by light—any light—to ensure that you’ll never need a battery. I think Citizen built it to go up against the Victorinox Inox and its a close battle.
The Victorinox Swiss Army Men’s I.N.O.X. Watch has a reputation that rests on its toughness. It’s made to resist fire, water, salt–you name it. But almost as importantly, it’s a stylish timepiece that looks just as good at a swanky dinner party as it does when you’re scrambling up a rugged rock face.
The watch comes with a handsome and durable leather strap (the same grade of leather used in firefighters’ boots) so the strap is just as tough as the watch it’s attached to. It’s come along with me on many camping trips, and I have zero complaints.
This is also an interesting watch because it comes in so many combinations, which makes the pricing all over the place. You can snag these for $200 to $600 and up depending on the movement, case, band, etc. Beware, all the bracelets are not created equal here.
If you go and watch the Victorinox Inox torture test videos, the bracelet that is used has a special fold over locking clasp. It’s a little of a pain compared to a regular divers buckle, but if you want to hand from a helicopter it’s a small price to pay. Some of the bracelet models have more traditional divers clasp. One complaint is they use 21mm lugs…but I guess if Rolex if going to 21mm lugs, we can live with it.
Good thing the a there are a lot of strap options, like my favorite silicone quick release from Ritche, which come in 21mm!
Citizen PRT Eco Drive Watch AW7045-09E
The Citizen PRT is a beautiful and sturdy watch that makes for a trusted companion on any adventure. It certainly looks the part, with a black, ion-plated, stainless steel case and rugged, brown leather strap. The black dial, luminous silver-tone hands, and rotating bezel with compass markings give it a look that is—if you’ll forgive the pun—timeless.
I imagine it would go nicely with a whip and a fedora. This watch is also water resistant to 200 meters, and keeps ticking along without a battery change thanks to Citizen Eco-Drive technology. One cool feature that I wish every watch had is a power indicator!
I have several solar Citizen and they seem to hold a charge for a very long time. Once every few months I grab them and line them up outside for a few hours and it keeps them ticking.
Wenger Sport Model: 01.1541.104
I love the design simplicity of the Wenger Men’s Sport Stainless Steel Swiss-Quartz Watch. With luminous hands, and bold hour marks against a black case and dial, it has a clean and dynamic look that’s easy to read in all conditions. It’s Swiss-made and has a 3-year manufacturer’s warranty.
This watch comes with a tough nylon band that gives it an outdoorsy look as well as being water and abrasion resistant. I’m a fan, but the band is pretty easy to switch out if it’s not your style. Overall, this is one of the best watches of its kind for under $200.
Field watches have been mounting a comeback in recent years, and the H.Goose Gen 3 Saluda is a great indicator of why that is. It’s plenty durable for hikers and other outdoorsy types, and has a vintage-inspired look that’s handsome but by no means flashy.
This watch comes with either a nylon or leather strap (I personally prefer the nylon for outdoor wear) so you can choose the style you like best. Also, the medium-sized 39mm case may be refreshing to anyone who’s gotten a little tired of the “big watch” trend. I have to also give H.Goose a few bonus points for making this watch right here in South Carolina.
Casio Heavy Duty Chronograph
This is one of those I bought killing time at Walmart! I only recently got into Gshocks and these sub $50 Casio’s are a great way to test the waters if you want to wear a bigger watch. I’ve really ended up loving this watch.
Lightweight and comfy on the wrist, you will barley know it’s these while your slogging away the miles down the trail. One of the best traits is that the chrono / stopwatch function is VERY easy to use on this guy. I love chronographs, but more for the looks than practical use. However, this Casio’s chrono function works well and you can actually use it to time a lot of stuff.
Deep Blue Tritium Diver
Deep Blue may not be a household name in the watch world yet, but the New York-based company makes some truly exceptional dive watches that stack up nicely against the Seikos and Citizens that dominate the market.
The DAYNIGHT Tritium Quartz Dive Watch is a prime example. Dependable, lightweight and water resistant to 200 meters, this is a great watch that will stay with you through some tough scrapes.
It’s good-looking and comfortable on the wrist too. One of the best parts of the DAYNIGHT series is the tritium lume on the hands and dial markers, which makes it easy to read from about a mile away. Overall, it’s a great value in the $300 range.
This really has become one of my go-to choices for almost any backcountry adventure, mainly because the Tritium tubes! Rather than traditional lume, the DayNight uses little tubes of radioactive Tritium gas that glow for 25 years. You just can’t beat the nighttime advantage over lume or pressing a button.
There are a lot of watches out there that you could call “strong,” “sturdy,” “long-lasting,” hard-wearing,” and just about a hundred other adjectives meant to make a product sound tough. But the Bertucci Men’s 13330 A-11T, with its solid titanium unibody case and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, is really, really tough.
The same design that makes this watch durable also makes it incredibly comfortable and surprisingly lightweight. I love the vintage WWII-inspired design, and I love wearing a watch that I can accidentally drop off a cliff and still find ticking at the bottom.
I recently picked this guy up because of the new dial layout and it’s a quick favorite. I reviewed in-depth the Bertucci A2-T here, the watches are very similar.
Seiko SSC081 Compass
Seiko has a well-earned reputation for making some of the world’s finest solar watches, and the Seiko Men’s SSC081 Adventure-Solar Classic Casual Watch more than lives up to the standards set by its extended family.
It’s a pretty hefty timepiece, but there are times when there’s a direct line between weight and quality. The stainless steel bezel and case are tough (and easy on the eye) and the watch is water resistant to 100 meters. Personally, I really love the vintage look of this watch, particularly the black compass dial, although it must be said that the compass feature is more ornamental than practical.
Fellman Superstition V2
Fellman watches are hand-made in Scottsdale, AZ, and the attention to detail really shines through on the Superstition V2. The simplicity of the design makes this watch a real work of art, and it’s made with heavy backcountry use in mind (the watch is named for Arizona’s Superstition Mountain Range, where this model was thoroughly field-tested).
The sapphire crystal is about as scratch-resistant as it gets, and the watch was designed with the lightweight profile of a classic field watch, so it fits very comfortably on the wrist. And at just $125, it’s almost shockingly affordable considering the quality.
Seiko Prospex “Arnie”
The Seiko Prospex Divers Solar 200m Men’s Watch is designed to replicate the Seiko watch that Arnold Schwarzenegger exclusively wore in the ’80s. While that may or may not be a selling point, the fact remains that this is a great, reliable and durable watch with the classic Seiko diver look.
The black band, dial and case are slick and easy to read, and the one-way rotating elapsed time bezel is a nice touch. The watch also has a small digital display that can be used as a simple stopwatch, or to display local time, day and date.
Phoibos Eagle Ray GMT
A key to picking a solid watch to take camping is the watches versatility. This slim quartz from Phoibos is perfect as a companion in the wilderness on the weekend, but still dressy enough for the Monday morning business meeting.
What set this watch above a lot of other quartz watches are the screw down crowns making this guy watertight to 300 meters, a rare feat for many field watches. packing stellar lume and a sapphire crystal, the Eagle Ray will be able to withstand some abuse. You know a watch is a good looker when the kids want to wear it too. mine has stood up to heavy wear and tear with nary a scratch.
Orient Chronograph FKV01005Y
The Orient Sporty Chronograph Men’s Watch has a lot going for it: reliable Quartz movement, tough stainless steel case, scratch resistant mineral crystal. The smaller sub-dials track seconds, minutes and hours in military time.
They also give the watch, with its cream-colored dial, a classic military look, though the case is maybe a bit over-sized for a true “vintage” watch. One small drawback is the leather band, which is perfectly functional but nothing to write home about.
You can easily replace it if you’re so inclined. Overall, I’d call it one of the best watches you can find under $100.
Reliable Watch Choices For Hiking and Camping
In reality, almost any watch is perfectly fine for camping and backpacking if it’s durable. Every watch above I have owned or still do. So, it’s good to get some first hand advice about whether you need a watch when you go hiking and then watch watch you should pick. I think I touched on this above, but i would never go hiking without a watch! One because I am crazy and two because I think in a list of top survival tools, a watch is straight up there. Not only can you tract your movement, time of day and the such, a watch in a serious situation will help you keep a level head, it gives you a sense of civilization and normalcy.
Blair Witkowski is an avid watch nut, loves pocket knives and flashlights and when he is not trying to be a good dad to his nine kids, you will find him running or posting pics on Instagram. Besides writing articles for Tech Writer EDC he is also the founder of Lowcountry Style & Living. In addition to writing, he is focused on improving his clients websites for his other passion, Search Engine Optimization. His wife Jennifer and he live in coastal South Carolina.