The 5 best outdoor watches
When it comes to outdoor activities, not all watches are created equal. The best outdoor watches have displays that are easy to read in both bright and low-light conditions and have a water-resistance rating of at least IPX6 or 3 ATM to withstand rain and sweat.
Water-resistance is one of the most important things to look for in an outdoor watch. A water-resistance rating of IPX6 can handle torrential downpours, and watches that are rated IPX7 or 8 can typically be worn for shallow swimming. Some watches use a depth-based or atmospheric (ATM) water-resistance rating, since water pressure increases as you swim deeper and can affect the inner workings of your watch — a rating of 3 ATM, for example, is fine for taking a walk on a rainy day.
If you only need basic watch functions or are on a budget, a simple analog or digital watch can work well for most outdoor activities. Data-driven athletes may want to splurge on a smart watch, which can track things like your workouts, heart rate, and sleep. For those going the smartwatch route, you’ll want an option with a long-lasting battery, so you don’t end up with an expensive blank screen in the middle of a weekend hike.
Outdoor activities like hiking or camping often require you to be outside in variable light conditions, so you’ll want a watch that has a high-contrast or light-up display that’s easy to read at all times of the day and night. You’ll also want to consider whether you prefer to read an analog or digital watch-face, though some models will come with both options.
With all of this in mind, here are the best outdoor watches you can buy right now, all conveniently available on Amazon. While a few of them are classified as "men's" watches, the only real difference is the size of the band and face, so choose the one that suits your needs and style the most.
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1. The basic outdoor watch
If you need a watch that can stand up to swimming and rain, the Timex Ironman Classic 30 watch was designed for triathlon races and training. It’s water-resistant up to 100 meters, so it can typically withstand surface swims and snorkeling, and it has multiple alarm, time, and stopwatch modes. The watch is housed in a lightweight body, and the display is easy to read in bright light or with the included Indiglo backlight. For race and training enthusiasts, this watch also has a 100-hour chronograph with a 30-lap memory, so you’ll be able to keep track of your splits as your training progresses. And with this watch’s 10-year battery life, you’re more likely to misplace it than have it die out on you.
One reviewer wrote: “About a year ago I bought this watch so that I could have it on my wrist while I was running. It has since become a watch I wear any time I know I'm going to be doing something Outdoors. It is incredibly rugged and durable. I have swam with it and hiked with it. The Indiglo light is very bright and still works very well. I have 7 1/4 inch wrists and it fits nicely. Battery is still running strong.”
- Available styles: 16
2. The solar-powered watch
This solar-powered Garmin smartwatch is perfect for those who are frequently outdoors in sunny conditions. The watch uses a three-axis compass and GPS navigation to track your location during hikes or bike rides, and you can also track your heart rate, stress, sleep, and other activities to optimize your training and performance. Garmin’s solar-powered watch is also water-rated down to 100 meters with a rating of IPX8, and it's rated for thermal- and shock-resistance too, so you can be confident it will hold up in a variety of conditions. Since this watch is solar-powered, there’s also a battery activity monitor that lets you adjust which features are active to further extend the battery life.
One reviewer wrote: “Fact that I don’t have to charge this watch for almost a month is a big plus. Plus excellent outdoor activities features with GPS and navigation features means I don’t need my phone always on me. It’s a great standalone watch too. It’s super light. Like the minimalistic black and white screen. Having no touch screen actually makes it cooler and retro-ish. Buttons are super easy to navigate all menu options and I don’t miss having a touch screen aka Apple Watch. Connect with Garmin connect app and extended access to all fitness and health stats is super helpful. I haven’t been this excited about a product in a while. Garmin has delivered a super fitness and smart watch.”
- Available styles: 18
3. The analog tactical watch
This analog tactical watch presents the best of both worlds for someone who wants the option of analog and digital faces. You can use the small digital face to keep track of a separate time zone, and the large analog face is easy to read and has a rotating bezel you can use as a stopwatch. The watch is water-resistant up to 3 ATM, so it’s protected against splashes and rain but isn’t suitable for diving. Reviewers noted that the all-black tactical design is sleek enough for everyday use yet durable enough for activities like hiking or mountain biking.
One reviewer wrote: “Great watch, very solid feeling. I’m using it mainly for hiking and mountaineering and it’s a great companion. I have big hands and a relatively thin wrist and it’s just the right size for me. Watch is on the heavier side. Highly recommended for this price point.”
- Available styles: 2
4. The splurge-worthy Apple watch
If you want the ultimate synced experience with your Apple products, the Apple Watch Series 6 is a top choice for outdoor activities. It's water-resistant up to 50 meters, so you can easily swim or surf with it, and any water that gets into the device can be expelled from its speakers or microphones as you dry off. Like the Apple Watches before it, the Series 6 is Bluetooth-compatible and can pair with your iPhone to control music, respond to messages, and answer calls.
It's equipped with GPS navigation, and the activity tracking on the Series 6 also goes beyond your traditional smartwatch, with an O2 monitor, an electrocardiogram to monitor your heartbeat, and fall detection. You can also adjust the face design and brightness, so it’s easy to read in both bright and lowlight environments. On top of all that, the band comes in two sizes: 40mm and 44mm.
One reviewer wrote: “The watch I received works perfectly and it is super convenient to use at work, though typing a message on is pretty tedious, nonetheless I love to keep it on during my workouts, and other outdoor activities.”
- Available styles: 10
5. The budget retro watch
The slim profile of this Casio sport watch is durable and lightweight, and at only $15, it's hard to resist picking one up. This watch can perform simple tasks like set alarms and act as a stopwatch, and the digital display has enough contrast to read in bright sunlight, while the LED backlight is great for darker environments. The brand notes that this watch is water-resistant, but it doesn't have a rating so it's probably best to avoid prolonged or heavy exposure to water. Back in my days as a rock climbing instructor, I wore this watch every day at work and during my climbing trips to help me tell time without my phone. I’ve had this watch for almost five years, and both the watch and battery are still chugging along with no issues.
One reviewer wrote: “I had this watch for about 3 years, wore it almost everyday doing all kinds of outdoor things. Swimming, climbing, canoeing, etc... and it was good to me. Unfortunately water got in the screen and I couldn't get it out, so the condensation made it hard to read. I like this watch so much so I bought a second one, that I'm hoping will be as good as the first. I like the simple display and for a great price.”