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How To Choose Your Outdoor Watch? Factors To Consider

If you love the outdoors and enjoy hiking, biking, and camping then you are well aware of how important your gear can be.  Along with handheld GPS devices, one of the main staples of outdoor equipment is a hiking watch.

Watches are no longer just a means of knowing the time.  They are technical tools to maximize your outdoor experiences.  In some situations out in the wild, it can even keep you safe.

With today’s modern technology and advancements, it can be a daunting task to choose the right watch for your outdoor activities. What do you really need? What to pay attention to when choosing your outdoor watch?

In this article, we will explore options and features that can help you make the correct choice for your outdoor watch needs.

About The 3 Satellite Navigation Systems

One important feature in today’s outdoor watches is GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems).  Currently, there are three main types used in most outdoor watches.


One of the most common types is GPS which was originally known as NAVSTAR GPS.  It is a satellite-based radio navigation system owned and operated by the US government.

GPS provides geolocation as well as time information anywhere on earth where you have an unobstructed signal from numerous satellites.  GPS is well known and is freely accessible to anyone with a device that contains a GPS receiver.


GLONASS stands for GLObal NAvigational Satellite System, and it is sometimes available in some outdoor watches.  This system originated in the Soviet Union and is operated by Russia.

This system is also a satellite-based radio navigation system. It just provides an alternative to GPS that also has global coverage with comparable accuracy.


Galileo is also a global navigation satellite system created by the European Union.  It is named after the astronomer Galileo Galilei.  It was developed to provide European nations with an alternative to the US and Russian systems.

The basic low precision service is free and accessible to anyone.  It also contains a more precise service for commercial users that requires a fee.  The payable service advertises it has capabilities for more precise measurements horizontally, vertically, and at higher latitudes.

outdoor watch guide

How to Choose an Outdoor Watch

This can seem like an overwhelming task when you consider all the brands, styles, and options. You should consider all the activities and situations you will encounter when choosing your watch.

Durability, functionality, capability, practicality, and style all should play a part in choosing the watch for you. Listed below is a quick overview of considerations.

The ABC’s of Outdoor Watches

When choosing an outdoor watch you need to consider what activities you enjoy and what abilities you want your watch to possess.  When we think about abilities we think of features. Features of a quality outdoor watch usually consist of ABC options.  Altimeter, Barometer, and Compass.

An Altimeter is a function that measures altitude.  The feature measures atmospheric pressure that it translates into altitude measurement above a fixed point ie. sea level.  This information can be displayed in feet and/or meters.

Next up is the barometer.  This function measures air pressure and calculates altitude and altitude changes.  Changes in air pressure can indicate changes in weather.

Lastly on the ABC list is the Compass.  A compass is a feature that is used for navigation and orientation devices to directions such as north, east, south, and west.

These are the most basic features of an outdoor watch and depending on your use, it can be enough! That said, models with GPS often offer better accuracy, at the cost of shorter battery life.

Battery Life

Talking about battery life, it is of course another important feature to consider.  The last thing you want to happen is your outdoor watch dying in the middle of your activity.

This is why it is important to take into consideration what activities you plan to do with your outdoor watch before choosing it. Too much technology is not only overkill but will also drain your battery much, much faster. Don’t really need GPS? Go for a simple “ABC” watch.

Also, consider how long your activity will last before you are able to recharge the watch. You can also choose a solar-powered option that will recharge itself as long as it is exposed to light.

Shock Resistance

When considering a watch another feature to consider is its durability.  One factor of durability is shock resistance.  Shock resistance refers to how well a watch holds up to a mechanical shock.

A mechanical shock can be thought of as an impact such as a drop on a hard surface or continuous vibrations such as running, jumping, or movement.  Consider your activities and match your watch to accommodate the actions.

Not all outdoor watches are created equal, and if you are practicing activities that are a little “riskier” such as bouldering, you will want to double check that the watch you fancy resists well to shocks and won’t be horribly scratched as soon as it touches a rock.

Water-Resistant Versus Waterproof

If your adventures consist of water then you need to consider water resistance.  Swimming, diving, and activities in heavy rain will damage watches that are not resistant to water.

The amount of water and the depth of the water involved also play a factor.  Water-resistant and waterproof are different degrees of how well a watch will survive being exposed to water.

Waterproof means it is impervious to water or able to resist the penetration of water.  A waterproof watch would be needed for activities such as diving and swimming.

Water-resistant means able to resist the penetration of water to some degree.  This feature would be beneficial for watches worn while doing activities in the rain.

Watches used while diving needs extra thought.  Even if the watch is waterproof does not mean it can be worn at any depth.  Water entering the watch isn’t the only consideration.  The deeper you go under the water the more pressure is exerted on the watch.  Most people only recreationally dive.  Recreational divers don’t typically dive deeper than 40 meters.

Beyond that depth, the diving would fall into technical diving.  Most outdoor watches that are suitable for diving have a water resistance rating from 100 meters to 300 meters.  Consider how deep you typically dive and select a watch to match your diving distance.

outdoor watch guide 2

Additional Features

In today’s advanced watch market there is an abundant amount of additional features that help you with your watch decision-making.  Health-related functions such as heart rate monitors and advanced performance metrics.

Connected features that allow you to pair with smartphones, apps, and social media.  There are multiple variations of display types from digital to high-resolution screens.

There are scratch-resistant faces made from fiber-reinforced polymer to sapphire crystal lenses.  Battery saving modes, storm alerts, Bluetooth compatibility, and recovery estimators are only a few examples of the capabilities that are available.

A Word About Watchbands

In today’s market, there is a wide range of watchbands available. Watchbands are available in many styles, colors, materials, and functions. Once again, take into consideration the activities you plan to do while wearing your watch.

Pick the material that will withstand the wear and tear your favorite activities will exert on your watch. Leather, metal, rubber, plastic, and cordage are a few popular options.

Choose a style that is functional and does not hinder your movement. Choose a style that is comfortable and can be worn for extended periods. Watchband options can be interchangeable and can also contain their own functions.

Some bands aid the heart monitor feature to provide accurate readings while others can double as cordage in a survival situation. The color does not have technical importance unless you need concealments, such as in hunting or tactical situations.

Pick a color that reflects your personality. Most of all have fun with your watch.

Final Thoughts

These watches really enhance your outdoor experiences. I think that once you’ve had one, it is hard to get back in the wild without your watch! In any case, I hope this guide was valuable to you! It should help you choose the best outdoor watch that is adapted to your needs.

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