Survival situations can arise in the blink of an eye, so we are always looking for ways to increase preparedness. However, carrying all of your survival gear on a daily basis simply is not practical for most people. Therefore, we also try to find lightweight gear with multiple functions that can be carried discretely as you go about your day. With so many features available, tactical watches are a survival tool worth investigating.
The tactical watch is possibly the most impressive form of wearable technology. With many practical uses, as well as specialized functions for extreme operations, tactical watches can provide you with a wealth of information to aid you in survival. The key to making the best choice is to determine how you are most likely to use it and finding the features that best meet those needs.
Survival Features Of Tactical Watches
Sure, a tactical watch sounds like an awesome piece of must-have gear but choosing one will be based on exactly what you will be doing. Completing a threat assessment will help you decide which features will most benefit you, then you can look for the watch with the best design for those features. No matter how you plan to use your watch, a secure comfortable fit and ease of use will play an important role.
In a world where we rarely use phones to talk, it isn’t too far-fetched that the primary function of a watch is the one least considered. How the time is displayed is a matter of personal preference. Digital or analog, military or standard 12 hour, or any combination may be available, depending on the specific tactical watch.
In addition to simply displaying the time, there are useful features that come into play in a post-disaster situation, such as a full calendar and sunrise/sunset indicator. Having a sense of how much time has passed when bugging out will provide a sense of stability and continuity. You can be sure the water boiled for a full 10 minutes, plan when to check your traps, or figure out how far your bug out party can travel during daylight. It is especially useful to know the exact date if you are tuning into emergency broadcasts for instruction, such as when and where relief efforts will commence.
Standing Up To The Elements
Tactical watches are built tough to withstand rigorous activity and a variety of conditions. Some have extra features to deal with special situations, such as diving, parachuting, and high impact activities.
The face will typically be made of a scratch- and shatter-resistant material, such as sapphire or mineral crystal. Stainless steel is a common material for the bevel and casing, due to its durability. Anodized aluminum is a lightweight alternative that does not compromise strength.
Tactical watch bands come in a variety of styles of materials, including nylon, rubber, leather, and steel. There are advantages to each material, depending on intended use and personal comfort.
Other areas to consider that are specific to your needs are low-temperature resistance, submersion, impact resistance, and dust resistance. You’ll want to make sure that the construction is solid and will keep out anything that could damage the internal mechanisms.
Finding Your Way
Navigation features range in accuracy and capability. For simple orientation, you might get by with compass points on a rotating ring to give you a general idea of the direction you are heading. Some tactical watches have an actual button compass integrated into the watchband, while others use a digital or analog compass display.
Altimeters are usually displayed as a real-time reading but some tactical watches are able to record elevation data. Tracking your elevation is very useful in conjunction with topographical maps, making it easier to know if you are on the correct trail.
For more precise navigation, you can choose a watch with a digital GPS readout so you are able to pinpoint exactly where you are. This can be very useful if you need to share or record your specific location coordinates, such as for search and rescue, locating your bug out camp, or coordinating a gathering point for your bug out party. For day to day use, approximate location may be sufficient but if you spend a lot of time in remote areas, you may want to go with a tactical watch that has GPS.
Monitoring Your (Or Someone Else’s) Health
For daily use, a heart rate monitor can be used to track your activity. This is a great feature for fitness training but it also has survival applications. Unless you pack a stethoscope into your bug out bag, a heart rate monitor is the next best thing when you or a member of your bug out party is sick or severely injured. For conditions such as disease, loss of blood, and shock, keeping track of the person’s heart rate and being alerted to accelerations or decelerations can be life-saving.
If you are a traversing high-altitude region, an altimeter will also help with health maintenance. Altitude sickness can occur at 8000 feet above sea level and if left untreated, can result in death. The first warning signs are headache, nausea, and fatigue and should not be ignored. Breathlessness, caused by fluid in the lungs, is a sign of High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema (HAPE) and can be accompanied by fever and a frothy cough. Drowsiness, clumsiness, and irritability are signs of fluid on the brain, known as High Altitude Cerebral Oedema (HACE). Both of these conditions are fatal. Therefore, paying close attention to your altitude is especially important to your survival.
A thermometer can assist you in making sure that your shelter is warm enough, knowing when to avoid being exposed to extremely low temperatures, or conversely, extremely high temperatures. The general safe temperature range for humans is 40F-95F. Spending prolonged time on the low end of that can result in hypothermia or on the high end of the range, hyperthermia. Being aware of the temperature will help you make decisions that favor your survival.
Top 5 Tactical Watches
#1 Garmin Tactix Bravo
This watch is built tough for handling rigorous field operations. A high-strength domed sapphire lens is mounted in a stainless steel bezel and rear case plate. The buttons are knurled for ease of grip and are also PVD-coated stainless steel. The display is non-reflective and night-vision compatible. Two interchangeable nylon straps are included.
The high-resolution display turns the watch face from an analog clock to a personal GPS device, with TracBack technology for finding your way back to your starting point. You can view your precise coordinates or switch to map view and follow your progress point to point. Mark locations along the way, such as water sources or dangerous terrain, and share them using Bluetooth or ANT+ wireless connections.
The Garmin Tactix Bravo also has great features for training purposes, such as monitoring stride length, cadence, ground contact time, and vertical oscillation. The heart rate metrics provide a stress score, performance condition, and lactate threshold readout so you can track how your body is handling physical activity. It also tracks sleep patterns to create a record of your overall health.
One of the coolest features of the Tactix Bravo is the ability to download additional screens to customize to your specific needs. You can even set it up to receive alerts from another device, such as emails and texts from your smartphone.
The battery life depends on which mode you are using: 20 hours in GPS mode or 50 hours in UltraTrac mode. A USB charger is included.
#2 Casio G-9300-1 G-Shock Mudman
Named for its resilience to mud and debris, the G-Shock Mudman has internal gaskets on all of the buttons and screws that are designed to handle dirty work. A sapphire crystal face protects the digital display, which features 12 or 24 hour time, date, temperature, pressure, and directional readouts. It also tracks the phases of the moon in a visual graphic.
The Mudman is shock resistant and water resistant to a depth of 200 meters, making it a suitable diving companion, as well. For navigating on land, use the digital compass with full 0-359 degree range, corrected for magnetic declination.
Since it is solar-powered, the G-Shock Mudman does not need to be charged or wound and it can last up to 8 months on a full charge even without exposure to light. This is a great feature for backcountry survival.
#4 Timex T49859 Intelligent Quartz Tide-Temp-Compass
With several key nautical features, the Timex Tide-Temp-Compass is ideal for boating, swimming, and snorkeling. Behind the mineral glass lens is a quartz analog clock with concentric rings that include analog tide tracker and temperature displays. The digital thermometer reads air or water temperature, and the watch is water resistant to 100 meters. An Indiglo light allows you to view the full face in low lighting.
The stainless steel case has a slide-rule bevel with directional indicators. A fourth hand on the clock serves as an analog display for the digital compass. The sturdy stainless steel band features a deployment clasp for a secure fit. Overall, this is a rugged watch by a trusted brand, and more economical than others in its class.
Tactical watches are far sturdier than other electronic devices, such as cell phones and tablets. If you rely heavily on your smartphone to provide tactical information, keep in mind that it may cease to function in a disaster scenario and it likely wouldn’t survive 100 meter submersion, even in the toughest protective case. The convenience of having a wealth of information at your wrist and the extreme durability of tactical watches makes them a useful tool for survival situations.
Which features do you think you would be most likely to use in a survival situation? Do you think tactical watches can replace other survival gear? Share your opinions in the Comments section below, thanks!
4 comments on “Are Tactical Watches Useful For Urban And Wilderness Survival?”
The Casio G-9300-1 G-Shock Mudman is an excellent watch but after writing a post on tactical watches, I fell in love with the G-Shock Rangeman Master Of G. I feel like I can take on the world when I’m wearing it haha
I think this is a well-researched article and it has given me some ideas. However, I believe a tactical watch is a “rich man’s” toy and most people won’t find them all that useful.
If you need a compass, you should own one. If you need a flashlight, you should own one. If you need to tell the time of day, you should own a watch. The weight is not an issue for me, as I’ll be bugging in (and perhaps that will be the reason for my ultimate demise).
Having been retired for nearly a decade, I’ve found I don’t really need a watch (I quit wearing one the day after I retired), and I get by just fine with a clock in the house and one in the car.
I think the money spent on a tactical watch could be better spent on ammo or seeds or water purification or building materials…but that is my opinion and I don’t expect everyone to agree with my take on life.
If “tacti-cool” really floats your boat, go for it.
Thanks for your feedback, Old Guy.
I think to a certain extent you are correct. There are a lot of gimmicky, expensive watches and other gear out there that will just weigh you down.
Not everybody needs one of these watches but for someone who sees their value, I want to be sure they can make an informed decision.
Thanks for adding to the discussion and good luck prepping.
Good information but consider the following:
1. In an urban survival situation you will need to remain at a low profile…no expensive looking watches.
2. The above being considered…think about a Seiko “sports” self winding watch for the following reasons: no battery needed. Does not “stand out”. It is an analog watch and therefore can be easily be read if your vision is compromised.