Whether you are an angler, a hunter, a hiker, or just someone who loves to spend their time away from the city, you will find yourself in numerous situations, where an ordinary wristwatch cannot handle the rugged conditions and environments that you are going to put it through. And that’s why you will need a reliable and sturdy watch that will not fail you, whether you are trekking through rain or swimming from one side of the river to the other. Military watches or tactical watches are perfect for such situations and conditions. But with so many options on the market, buying a tactical watch can prove to be quite an overwhelming process, especially if you’ve never purchased one before. Here are some of the factors to consider when purchasing an outdoor watch.


Your watch will be resting on your wrist most of the time. Therefore, you need to choose a piece that is comfortable. When it comes to wristwatches, comfort depends mainly on two things – the strap and its weight. Unfortunately, most tactical watches tend to be bulky, mainly due to the features they have been equipped with and the sturdy materials used to build them. Due to such reasons, you need to find a piece that strikes the right balance between weight, durability, and comfort. You also need to pay attention to the quality of the strap. Watches feature straps made of different materials like metal, rubber, plastic, nylon, leather, ceramic and cloth. Cloth straps are the least durable, compared to the other materials. If you are looking for a military-grade outdoor watch, then you should stay away from cloth straps.

Water Resistance

Water-resistance is also an important factor to consider when purchasing a watch for your outdoor adventures. The level of water resistance will depend on your lifestyle as well as the activities that you engage in when you go outdoors. For instance, a watch with a water resistance of up to 33 ft can handle occasional water splashes and rain. Also, they can comfortably handle ordinary wear and tear. For hiking, it’s advisable to choose a watch with a water resistance of 328 feet or 100 meters. If you intend to do some scuba diving during your trip, then you should opt for one with a rating of 656 feet or 200 meters. However, such a watch should also have a sturdy build. When it comes to water resistance, you should note that changing your watch’s battery will interfere with its water resistance. Therefore, you need to be extra cautious when changing a watch’s battery. If possible, you should take it to a professional when it’s time to switch batteries. Scratches and chips can also affect a watch’s water resistance capabilities over time – especially when it’s underwater.


An outdoor watch should remain effective, fully functional and in good shape, even after years of shocks, rubs, impacts or anything that you throw at it. If a watch is not durable, its straps will come off, it’s overall appearance will deteriorate and it will be impossible to see anything on the display, making it basically useless. And that’s why you should never compromise on durability when purchasing a tactical watch. So, what aspects of durability should you watch out for when buying an outdoor watch?

First, the crystal, the crown, the bezel or any other part should not come off when the watch falls from your hand and hits the ground. If a watch incurs any form of damage during this test, then you should not purchase it at all, regardless of its price or the features it’s equipped with. When you are hiking, hunting, fishing or camping, you will definitely come across a wide range of harsh conditions and surfaces. And if your watch cannot endure such conditions, then it’s definitely not designed for outdoor use.

Second, it should be made of aircraft-grade aluminum or carbon polycarbonate. Also, it’s lens should be impact resistant and scratch-resistant. It’s highly advisable to purchase a hiking watch whose lens is made of sapphire. If your watch is made from plastic or low-quality metal, it’s highly vulnerable to breaking and impact damage, which means you will be going back to the shop to purchase a replacement soon. Watches whose case is made of 316L steel are also quite durable since this material doesn’t oxidize. And this means that your witch can effectively handle harsh conditions and environment, without any significant damage. However, if you are allergic to high-grade stainless steel, then you can opt for one whose case is made of ceramic or polymer-plastic.

It’s important to note that if the entire piece was poorly put together, then the materials used will not matter. When purchasing an outdoor watch, make sure you always check it’s testing procedure. If possible, go for one that was tested under extreme or rugged conditions. And this is whey purchasing a piece made by a reliable brand could provide better value for money, as opposed to buying any watch that you come across just it’s labeled “military-grade.” Furthermore, most of the established watch brands offer extended warranties, which means you can trust their products.

Analog Vs. Digital

Outdoor watches are available in two main designs – analog and digital. Some people prefer a modern, digital watch while some will opt for the classic look of an analog watch. You should note that just because a certain watch uses analog technology, doesn’t mean that its readings will be inaccurate. In fact, some analog watches, especially those powered by a high precision movement of springs and gears and a sweeping second hand, can be more accurate compared to a digital one that only displays time in hours and minutes. Digital watches, on the other hand, are equipped with a wide range of sophisticated technologies. Therefore, choosing between a digital watch and analog one comes down to personal preferences. You can also opt for one that provides both digital and analog technologies if you want to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Battery Life

A watch’s battery life is extremely important, whether you are going for a short trip or an extended one. For instance, you might encounter some unexpected challenges when you are out there, which means you might be forced to stay longer than you had expected. If your watch dies in such circumstances, then you will be totally stranded, especially if you didn’t carry a secondary compass and GPS. Watches equipped with lithium-ion batteries are your best bet if you are looking for one that can provide long-term service. However, even such batteries will eventually run out with prolonged use. If you will be spending most of your time outdoors, you should instead opt for a solar-powered or self-winding watch. With such watches, you don’t have to worry about the battery running out of juice, thanks to their advanced re-charging mechanisms.

Watch Features

Whether you are buying an outdoor watch, for hunting, fishing, or backpacking, you need to choose one that’s equipped with at least these 3 features – an altimeter, a barometer as well as a compass. In fact, most hiking watches are known as ABC watches, due to these features. You might be probably asking yourself how these features will help you or whether you will ever need them. Well, let’s break them down for you:

  • Altimeter: Just like the name suggests, an altimeter is a feature that you can use to determine your current altitude, whether you are hiking, snorkeling, mountaineering or sky diving. This feature will come in handy, especially if you are hiking in a mountainous area. Some tactical watches will just show you your current altitude. However, others are equipped with advanced features, which allow you to upload that data to a phone, a computer or any other connected device. Choosing one that allows you to upload your altitude data to another device will help you to assess your hiking terrain after the trip, and then use that information to prepare for future hikes.
  • Barometer: Outdoor conditions are always unpredictable. However, it’s always wise to be prepared for such situations. And this is where a barometer comes in. It’s used to measure atmospheric pressure, thus helping you to determine the weather conditions to expect and prepare accordingly. For instance, if the atmospheric pressure drops suddenly, it means that there is a high chance of a storm. On the other hand, if there is an increase in atmospheric pressure, then you can expect friendly weather. As you can see, it’s quite a handy feature in a watch, especially for people who spend most of their time outdoors.
  • Compass: When hiking, hunting or trekking or backpacking, it’s important to have a compass with you at all times. The good news is that most hiking watches are equipped with a compass, which means you don’t have to carry another one. However, you should note that some compasses tend to be more effective and accurate than others. For instance, if your tactical watch is equipped with a 2D compass, then it means that it can only work when the watch is placed in a perfectly horizontal position. On the other hand, if your outdoor watch features a 3D compass, then the compass will give you accurate readings, regardless of its positioning. Therefore, go for a watch that has a 3D compass. While it might be slightly more expensive than one with a 2D watch, it will save you plenty of time and energy.


Some outdoor activities like fishing are a 24-hours game. Therefore, the watch you choose should have night illumination. Tactical watches feature two types of illumination – one that emits continuous illumination and another one where you can only read the time wearing night-vision goggles. If you are going for an activity that requires a high level of discretion, then you should choose the latter. For ordinary outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and backpacking, a watch that provides ordinary night illumination will be ideal.

Final Thoughts

Watches have undergone significant advancements over the last couple of years. Apart from being a timepiece, a solid watch can also prove to be a lifesaver in various situations. The right outdoor watch will help you to navigate harsh and rugged conditions, help you to monitor your surroundings, and most importantly, help you to keep track of time. Therefore, if you know that you will be spending most of your time in the wilderness, make sure you pay attention to the above factors, to ensure you purchase an outdoor watch that will not fail you during critical moments.

About the Author Cindy

Hello, I'm Cindy. I’m a super duper mega hiking enthusiast, with a love for everything that has to do with outdoors, hiking, gear, footwear and more.

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