One invaluable asset to have when venturing out into the wilderness is peace of mind. While a constant focus and diligence on your surroundings and gear maintenance is important, it’s also quite helpful to have a few elements of the trip that you can rely on without a second guess. One such asset is a quality, consistent watch that is able to withstand nearly everything your trip can throw at it and still maintain reliability. Sifting through the available watches on the market today can be difficult, however, so it helps to know what features you’ll need before going shopping for one. Today, I’ve outlined a few of the more desirable features of watches made for the outdoors, as well as a few of the models that have proven themselves to be fan favorites.

Not all of us were born with an impeccable sense of direction, and even if that were the case, I’d still always want a compass with me when I went camping. Many modern watches have some sort of built-in compass feature, whether it’s digital or a small magnetic compass attached to the band or the face. Timex’s Expedition Digital Compass Watch ($69.96) is a safe bet if you’re in need of this feature. Aside from a compass, there are some models that feature built-in barometers to help you keep track of changes in the weather during your trip, which can be very helpful in planning each day. After all, what camper or hiker wouldn’t want a heads up on the weather? Suunto’s Core ($269) possesses both an altimeter and barometer function.

Some watch models track changes in elevation, as well as ascent/descent rates on the trail. This is a useful feature when determining your anticipated route through a region with many changes in elevation, and also allows you to correlate your plans with trail length, available time, etc.  Frequent international travelers might also want to look into a watch that displays different time zones. This just makes checking the local time much easier. The G-Shock ($129.95) and Pathfinder ($200), both from Casio, feature very easy to read time zone displays.

If your activities lean more towards the athletic, such as kayaking or trail running, then you probably won’t need a barometer or time zone display. Watches that are water resistant and even waterproof up to certain depths are great for kayaking, and watches with lap timers are a runner’s best friend, especially those training for marathons. Timex’s Ironman Tap ($89.95) and Ironman 30-Lap ($54.95) offer timers and are comprised of lightweight, sleek designs for athletic performance.

Watches are an important item to have during trips to the outdoors. Which one you purchase will depend, as always, on your activity, your needs, and your price range. Many models do cost a little more than some are ready to spend, but like I always say, if you’re not going to utilize it often, then it’s not worth it to spend more than you need to. Check online for reviews of any potential purchase and stay focused on the essentials, and you’ll be just fine. 

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