The 7 Most Important Functions in Camping and Outdoor Watches

Man with camping watch

Just because you are communing with nature doesn’t mean that you have to give up all ties to the civilized world. There are more and more outdoor and camping watches popping up on the market and it is easy to see why. For one, we have all gotten so reliant upon technology in our daily lives. As a result, many people have diminished capabilities when it comes to tackling the great outdoors.

Even if you are a skilled hiker or camper, however, it is still worthwhile to have one of these watches strapped to your hand. This is for one very simple reason: safety. Watches such as these can make sure that you stay on the path that you are supposed and help you to overcome many of the obstacles you can face in the wild. First, though, you need to find the right watch to help you with this. Here are the most important functions that you should keep an eye out for in camping and outdoor watches:

1. Accuracy

The right outdoor watch can help you out in an emergency. This, however, is only if it is absolutely accurate. If your watch tends to waiver in the precision of its readings, this could cost you when you need to rely on it most. Of course, it is important that the watch is able to provide the right time of day, down to the second. Just as important, nonetheless, is that your watch is precise in all of the features that it has.

Consistency is also key when it comes to accurate. This means that from moment to moment, you should be able to trust the readings on your watch. There should be no need to reset it or meddle with the settings frequently. Remember, when you are hiking or on a camping trip, you don’t have other readings to compare to.

Therefore, you will be completely dependent on whatever it is that your watch is showing you. Now, all watch companies promise accuracy but this isn’t always true. This is why you should never take off camping or exploring with a brand new watch. You should first break it in, monitoring it for a couple of weeks to ensure that the readings can be relied upon.

2. Durability and Hardiness

When you are heading off the beaten path, the last thing that you can do is be careful with your watch. There is a good chance that it is going to be scraped against rocks, splattered with dirt, and brushed against branches. All of this means that durability is one of the most important functions of an outdoor watch. When grading hardiness, there are three main components of the watch that you need to watch out for – the display window, the case, and the strap.

Let’s start with the display window. It is important to protect this part of the watch from scratches and cracks. After all, if the display gets obliterated in any way, you will not be able to really utilize any of the other functions. The two toughest materials used in watch displays are mineral crystal and sapphire crystal. Mineral crystal can be found on mid-priced watches. It is shatter resistant although if hit hard enough, it can break. Sapphire crystal, on the other hand, is scratch resistant and shatterproof. However, it is quite expensive.

Then, there is the casing that holds all of the elements of the watch together. It is difficult to beat titanium if you are looking for hardy cases. This is hands down, one of the toughest materials. It is highly resistant to scratches, dings, and essentially any other type of damage. Stainless steel that has been coated in diamond-like carbon coating can also be just as tough.

Last but not least, the strap of the watch. Although it may seem surprising, toughened fabric and tough leather are the hardiest materials for straps. Rubber or silicone may tear or break quite easily. However, fabric or leather that has been sewn well is unlikely to come after easily.

So, what are some of the watches you can look for if you want the most durable? Well, Momentum Cobalt V Special Edition is an excellent choice. If you are looking for something more high end, the MTM Silencer is equal parts classy and hardy. Of course, it is difficult to beat a good, old Casio G-Shock watch such as the Frogman. These are affordable and much like their name suggests, extremely resistant to shocks of all kinds.

3. Reliable Power Source

The power source becomes incredibly important if you are on a camping trip. This is because you don’t have access to the supplies that you may need. The two most common type of power sources are mechanical (also known as automatic) powered watches and quartz movement watches. Mechanical watches need to be wound up about every forty hours or so, to make sure that they are running properly. The level of precision can also vary due to the necessity to rewind it. While the features on such a watch are limited, you can be quite certain not to run out of battery.

Quartz movement watches rely upon a battery to power it. However, it functions with the help of the movement of your wrist. Therefore, although it doesn’t need to be wound up, it should be kept on your wrist on a consistent basis. This type of watch also tends to be more accurate and require less maintenance.

There is an option that is even better than quartz movement. These are solar powered watches. One of the most famous examples of this type of watch is the Citizen Eco Drive line. This can be powered up in dim lighting or even artificial lighting sources. It only needs to be exposed to the light for a brief time and then can continue to work for about six months without a hitch.

4. Relevant Features

The next thing that you will have to focus on is the features of each of the watches. Of course, it is not just what these watch models offer up but also how well they are able to cater to your needs. Here are some of the features that you need to watch out for:

  • Altimeter: are you someone who likes to conquer vertical distances instead of horizontal? Well, then you are going to need an altimeter to keep track of how high you are going. Watches tend to display altimeter information with the help of graphs. This enables you to look at your previous progress as well as what is currently going on. In terms of features and accuracy, Suunto Ambit3 is an excellent option.
  • Barometer: you will be hard-pressed to find an altimeter watch that doesn’t also contain a barometer function. A barometer monitors the air pressure around you. With the help of this, you will be able to identify any changes in the weather taking place.
  • Storm Alarms: as the name suggests, this feature lets you know when a storm might be brewing it does so by taking note of air pressure that is dropping at a rapid rate. If you are hiking or camping in an area that is prone to bad weather, this can be quite useful. It will help you to find proper shelter before the storm hits. The Suunto Core Crush is an excellent example of such a feature.
  • Depth reader: this is for individuals who like to dive with their watches on. This function indicates the changing depth, as well as the surrounding pressure as well. For the recreational diver or swimmer, the Timex Intelligent Quartz Depth Gauge Dive Watch works great and is affordable.
  • Compass: it is certainly an old fashioned way of navigating but it is one that is reliable. It provides accurate readings and is unlikely to shut down due to overuse or drain the battery of your watch. This is why you should make sure that your watch has an easy to read compass on it.

5. Waterproof vs. Water Resistant

An issue arises when people believe that water resistant and waterproof are terms that can be substituted for one another. These two features are quite different and it is important to understand how.

A water resistant watch is one that can be splashed with water and not have any damage done to it. However, it should not be immersed under any circumstances. This means that if you get a little bit of mud on it or if it drizzles, the watch will be fine. You shouldn’t go swimming or diving with it though.

The term waterproof is also a little misleading, truth be told. This is because no watch is 100 percent waterproof. Instead, it can withstand being immersed in water up to a certain extent. You will find that waterproof watches are so up to 100m or more.

For those who want a watch that can survive being immersed in water or battered by heavy rain, the Casio G-Shock GWN1000B-1B is ideal.

6. GPS

You may ask the question, if you can get a watch with a compass, why would you want to look for the clearly more expensive feature GPS? If you are quite certain that you are never going to head too far off the beaten track then perhaps, you don’t need GPS. There are a few disadvantages to this function. For instance, it is a drain on your battery power, significantly decreasing your watch’s battery life. Then there is the fact that most watches with GPS are almost automatically more complicated to use.

At the same time, GPS can be quite useful. Unlike with compasses, a GPS is able to immediately and accurately provide you with your current coordinates, regardless of where you are. It is especially useful for hikers and climbers as it can map out your ascent and descent as well as the speed at which you are travelling.

It is also great for planning routes. Not to mention, it can help coordinate your location with mapped out routes so that you will be able to find your way there. This is especially helpful if you have set up camp and want to go on a hike. This feature will help you find your way back to your campsite. Depending on the type of activity that you are most involved in, you will need to weigh the pros and cons of GPS against one another to reach a decision.

If you do choose to get such a watch, the Garmin Fenix 3 is a hardy watch that has GPS and GPS-related functions.

7. Sport and Exercise Features

There are many people who like to combine their outdoor time with exercising. Of course, one of the most common tech trends today is having electronics – watches in particular – that are able to monitor such activities. This can range from monitoring your heart rate to simply keeping track of how much you have run or walked. Then there are other versions that also help to calculate the number of calories that you have lost. The problem here is that exercise or sports-oriented watches aren’t always the toughest or the hardiest.

Therefore, it can be a little difficult to use them when camping. Fortunately, the Suunto Spartan line is a hybrid of both these types of watches. It is equal parts durable and able to offer features valuable for a variety of physical activities.

When deciding on a camping or outdoor watch, there is something else that you should consider. It may be easy to get overwhelmed with all of the features and hi-tech options.

Nonetheless, you should ensure that you are able to easily and properly use the watch. After all, there is little use in splurging on a feature-filled watch if you are unsure how to use it.

Remember, as you are hiking through rough terrain, exerting yourself, or trying to find shelter, you are not going to have much time or patience. This is why you should settle for a watch that has the necessary features but is also something that you can use quickly and easily.


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