Spoiler Alert: Conquerwild named the Casio Pathfinder Triple Sensor Multi-Function Sport Watch as the best compass watch for outdoor adventurers!!
As an outdoor adventurer, there are few things that can be more beneficial than a compass watch. These high-tech, convenient gadgets are often durable, fashionable and packed with dozens of essential survival tools. For someone unfamiliar with the in’s and out’s of these watches, picking one out can seem daunting.
I’ve researched and discovered what I believe are the 5 best compass watches on the market for every type of adventurer out there. Let’s break it down.
What We’ll Be Reviewing
- Timex Intelligent Quartz Tide Temp Compass Watch
- Casio Men’s SGW-100-2BCF Twin Sensor Digital Display Quartz Black Watch
- Casio Men’s SGW500H Multifunction Watch
- Casio Men’s Pathfinder Triple Sensor Multi-Function Sport Watch
- Casio Men’s Pathfinder Triple Sensor Multi-Function Sport Watch
Timex Group U.S.A have origins dating back to the mid 1800’s. Over the years, they’ve truly mastered the art of balance with their products. If you’re looking for the best of both worlds, their Intelligent Quartz Tide Temp Compass Watch may be the product for you. This watch is the epitome of elegant-meets-rugged.
Its 45 millimeter, stainless steel case means no rust or corrosion, no matter how much you expose it to your environment. Its sleek yet sturdy silicone strap prevents any pinching or sliding on your wrist. I also appreciate how compact yet precise the analog layout is. Everything is clearly laid out without giving too much of a crammed look. The light-up dial and luminous hands allow the entire watch face to be visible at night. Not all watches illuminate completely like this.
As the Timex Tide Temp’s name suggests, its signature feature is its tide tracker. No, this tool will not be essential for everyone, but it’s super helpful if when camping on the beach (it’s also a great feature to brag about to your friends). Its digital thermometer can detect air or water temperature. Most customers report that the watch must be removed from the wrist to detect an accurate temperature, which is a bit of a bummer. However, it’s sturdy, it’s durable and it’s fashionable. While it may not have some of the advanced features that backpacking experts look for, this watch is a great place to get started.
- It’s water resistant up to 330 feet (100 meters).
- Includes digital compass.
- Has an elegant analog display.
- There’s a sturdy strap and durable case.
- Great value for the price.
- Does not feature advanced gadgets like barometer or altimeter.
- Replacing the battery can be difficult.
Being true pioneers in the world of technology, it’s no surprise that 4/5 of the recommendations on this list are by Casio. Over the last half century, Casio has gone from electric pocket calculators, to musical instruments to everything in between. Venturing into the watch market, Casio was able to take their massive technological advancements, and put them onto customers’ wrists. From the research I’ve done, I believe Casio has some of the most advanced, durable and reliable products on the market.
As far as affordable compass watches go, the Casio Twin Sensor Quartz is about as cheap as you want to go. I mean “cheap” referring to price, not quality. Its water-resistant, sporty design features a digital display in a 45 millimeter case. Its resin band will withstand the test of time and remain high-impact with proper care. The LCD face displays simplified digitized numbers and figures, split into 3 segments.
This watch has everything you need for time keeping: stopwatch, countdown timer and world time. The “Twin Sensor” includes both a digital compass and thermometer. Both tools are fairly accurate when calibrated correctly. As with any product, you must thoroughly read through the manual if you want prime functionality.
This watch is a decent tool for simple camping trips, hiking trips or sporty activities in general. If you’re looking for a wild excursion through the uncharted Amazon Rainforest, you may want something that’s a bit more precise. As far as looks go, the colorful bezel can be love-it or hate-it, depending on your preference. However, I believe this is the best watch with compass and thermometer within its price range.
- The most affordable watch on the list.
- Has a 13 millimeter thick, stainless steel case with mineral glass window.
- It’s water resistant up to 330 feet (100 meters).
- Its tough build makes it mostly shock-resistant.
- The face lights up, but only for short periods of time.
- Customers have reported low brightness from the LCD screen.
- It lacks some advanced features.
Slightly higher on the price spectrum, the Casio Multifunction Watch watch gives what I’d call a 60/40 ratio when it comes to functionality/fashion. Alike its sportier-looking cousin (Casio’s Twin Sensor), it’s water resistant and sturdy with a nearly indestructible resin band. It’s got an analog display and a 46.8 millimeter case: definitely on the larger side. I also appreciate the nice contrast of color on the bezel.
When it comes to features, this watch has most of the basic areas covered and does allow customization. For those in need of daily reminders, the Casio Multifunction hosts up to 5 daily alarms, world time and a 1/100 second stopwatch.
My favorite unique feature of this one is its moon age detector. This keeps track of the lunar cycle. Some may find this a bit frivolous, but to me it’s an awesome touch. It also keeps track of sunrise and sunset.
Surely a mild step up in price from the cheapest watch on this list, but I think it’s an even bigger step up in quality and durability.
Side note: Just because the word “men” is used in the title, does not mean it will burn a hole through your arm if you’re a female. These watches are for everyone, regardless of your gender identification!
- It’s water resistant up to 330 feet (100 meters).
- Has a digital compass with needle indicator.
- Great value for a decent price.
- Uses accurate Japanese Quartz movement.
- Features a unique moon age tool.
- Contains LED light with afterglow
- Contains a Fahrenheit/Celsius thermometer.
- You must remove the watch from your wrist for an accurate temperature reading.
- The case is not scratch proof.
If you’re someone looking for a more advanced compass watch, this may be the one for you. The Casio Pathfinder is an adventurer’s watch. It combines state of the art features with an easy-to-use format. This product puts the term “triple sensor” to good use with an altimeter, barometer/thermometer and digital compass. This means that no weather condition, or sudden altitude change will be a surprise when you’re using the watch to its full potential. It’s got everything a compass watch needs to be considered an essential backpacking tool.
The pathfinder looks ferociously rugged at first glance. Very Bear Grylls-esque. At night, it transforms into an elegant piece of jewelry. Its LED backlight is something out of the front page of GQ. This watch is also super light weight, which is exactly what most backpackers need for long, strenuous expeditions. The Pathfinder ticks all the boxes of the previous products on the list, and then some.
The best feature, in my opinion, is its solar powered automatic rechargeable battery. This can be a literal lifesaver if your battery decides to run out at the wrong time. This saves significantly on charging time and ensures that it is always ready to go. In my book, this watch is a beast in every way that matters.
- The LED backlight is easily accessible with an Auto Illumination Feature.
- Contains a SOLAR POWERED RECHARGEABLE BATTERY and battery power indicator.
- Holds 6 months of battery on a full charge without exposing it to sunlight.
- Has digital compass, thermometer, barometer, altimeter, 5 alarms per day, stopwatch, countdown timer, world clock, full auto calendar and more.
- Quartz movement with digital display.
- Has a 51 millimeter stainless steel case and mineral dial window.
- It has 12/24 hour time formats.
- Directional markings are imprinted on bezel.
- It’s a bit pricier than the previous watches on the list.
- May be inconvenient for those not looking for a lot of features.
If none of the previous watches have met your standards, then Casio’s Pro Trek Stainless Steel Quartz Watch may be your lucky winner. Built for a survival guru, the sight of this watch screams functionality. This is not the watch you want for the grand ball. Its forest green and black combination feels like the deep woods. Its 55 millimeter mineral glass case and stainless steel bezel are water resistant up to 660 feet (200 meters)! It’s well suited for military personnel and even professional marine activity.
Perhaps the most advanced aspect of this watch is its barometric pressure tendency alarm alerts, which alerts its wearer when there is a sudden drop in atmospheric pressure. This is vital when attempting dangerous treks with unpredictable weather conditions, as you will never be caught off guard. This is also the only watch on the list that is low-temperature proof. From a digital compass, to LED backlights, to a solar powered battery and everything in between, the Pro Trek has nearly every survival feature you can think of.
If you are not the ultimate outdoors person, I would not recommend this watch due to its excessive features (unless, of course, you think it looks cool). There is virtually no circumstance you could throw at this watch in which it would not prevail.
- It’s SUPER water resistant.
- Has more features than any of the other watches on this list.
- There’s a stainless steel rotary bezel.
- It has a clear, easy-to-read digital display.
- It has an extremely accurate compass, thermometer, barometer and altimeter.
- It’s light for its size.
- The most expensive watch on this list.
- It has many features that are only relevant for somewhat advanced backpackers.
Watch Wearing Basics
Whether or not you consider yourself a timekeeping connoisseur there are a few things to keep in mind before purchasing a compass watch. Some of the more advanced products may seem a bit daunting, but that does not mean you should turn a blind eye on some of these incredible features.
While there are dozens of customized differences between most watches, there are 2 formats which every timepiece falls into: analog or digital.
The Analog Watch
The more traditional of the 2 categories, the analog watch (sometimes written as “analogue compass watch”) is usually recognized as being more “formal” looking. These watches use an internal, mechanical system to operate their clock. This is what gives it that good old fashion “tick-tock” noise.
Fixed markers around the face of the watch indicate the hours and minutes. They’re usually labeled with Roman numerals or numbers. Most analog watches have 3 separate hands to show time: an hour hand, a minute hand and a second hand (in order from shortest to longest).
Master The Movements
Although all analog watches operate using a similar display, there are 3 different types of hand movement to analyze.
- Quartz– Battery powered movement transmits signals through a piece of quartz, a crystalized mineral inside of the watch. This causes the mineral to vibrate 32,768 times per second and creates very accurate hand movement. With quartz movement, the second hand rotates in “individual ticks.”
- Mechanical– Movement that is driven by internal gears which are turned manually. The gears’ built up energy allows the hands of the watch to move without battery power. This allows the second hand to move in a continuous, sweeping motion.
- Automatic– A similar process to mechanical movement, except the motion of the user’s hand powers the gears. This requires no batteries. The watch will always function as long as you wear it regularly.
If the compass on your watch is truly analog, it’ll take a bit of work to get a gauge on directions.
Analog compass watches usually have directions marked around the bezel (north, south, east and west).
To use it, you must first hold the watch completely horizontally. Then, find the sun in the sky and align the hour hand with the sun’s position. If you’ve aligned this correctly, south will be located halfway between the hour hand and 12 o’clock on your watch.
Once you’ve figured this out, you may rotate the bezel so that the “S” marking matches up with this reading. This method is not 100% accurate, but if you’re looking for the rogue conqueror vibe, an analog compass watch may be the way to go.
Giving a less formal appearance, the digital watch is identified by its electronic look. These watches typically do not have time markers arranged in a circle or any hands. Instead, they use LED screens to give straightforward readings.
Digital watches are often more customizable. Many products allow you to choose between 12 or 24 hour time. A lot of them have multiple, segmented screens- each dedicated to different informational readings.
For example, the Casio Twin Sensor Digital Watch has a three-section screen. One section is for the time reading, one is for the directional reading and one is for the temperature reading. Digital watches are usually a better option if you’re looking for stopwatches, alarms, world clocks or any other “sporty” extras.
In general, digital compass watches are more reliable than the analog sort. With digital, you do not have to rely on your own judgement or ability to see the sun to ensure your directional positioning.
Digital compasses use the Earth’s magnetic field to tell where north, south, east and west are. However, you need to calibrate these carefully. You can always do so by referring to the product’s manual.
If you have a digital compass watch, it may be prone to interference. It’s important that there are no magnetic objects nearby when you calibrate them.
Best of Both Worlds
Some watches have an analog display, but use a digital compass. This is the case with the Timex Intelligent Quartz Tide Temp Compass Watch. This allows you to have the classic look while also having more accurate, easy directional readings.
These watches usually have a fourth hand to indicate direction, or simple arrows on the watch face.
Sometimes confused with either analog or digital, the standard compass is likely the type which you’re most acquainted with. This kind of compass uses the Earth’s magnetic field to tell the direction. Some compass watches include a standard compass on the clock face with a separate hand that interprets direction.
Standard compasses are sometimes known to wobble a bit when in close proximity to other magnetic objects.
Do You Need A Compass Watch?
Many readers may be unsure if they really need a compass watch for backpacking. This is 2020. Almost all of us have smartphones.
Though the truth is, we cannot rely on them all the time. Phones die. They break. They lose connection. So, while many of these compass watch features can be found on your phone, it’s important that every dedicated backpacker has a more reliable system. The most reliable system: a compass watch.
At the end of the day, the compass watch is an accessory for the adventurer. Anyone who’s well versed in camping, backpacking or hiking will find great use for these gadgets.
However, not every person who buys a compass watch is going to be at the same skill level. The important question to ask yourself is, what do you need from it.
Some people may decide to purchase a compass watch based on style alone. That’s perfectly fine. Though if this is the case, you may want to steer away from watches with excessive features.
For the ultimate conquerors out there, the goal is to find a compass watch with state of the art tools and technology. I always recommend looking for functionality over fashion.
Whichever category you fall into, be honest with yourself and think practically before making your purchase.
What To Always Look For
Regardless of your specific needs, there are certain elements everyone should examine when picking out a product. Whether you’re wearing this watch to a business meeting or to climb K2, you must always seek quality. The goal is to find a watch that holds up over time.
It is common sense that a watch with more tools, sensors and settings is going to consume battery at a quicker rate. When picking out a watch, always look out for battery life. How long does the battery last? Is it an automatic, self-powered watch? Will you need to change the battery often?
The gold standard, in my eyes, is a solar compass watch. This ensures that, as long as you’re in the sun, your watch will never die. Having one of these can save you from a few headaches.
If a watch is not rechargeable, be sure that the battery is easily accessible. With some watches, it’s difficult to open the battery compartment without professional help.
The more active you are with your compass watch, the more you need a product that is durable. It’s great to look for products that are shock and/or water resistant. Many compass watches can be submerged in water over 300 feet deep. This means they’re not only great in the rain and snow, but also on snorkeling expeditions!
Watches that are cheaply made tend to scratch more easily. When it comes to the crystal, try to stay away from acrylic as it tends to accumulate scratches. Mineral glass is a great, common material to look for as it’s not overpriced and it’s ultra flexible. It can take a bit of a beating without breaking.
The material of your watch’s band depends on the wearer’s preference. They come in cloth, metal, leather, silicone and everything in between.
Silicone can be great as it’s water resistant, durable and holds firmly onto your wrist without pinching or pulling at the skin.
Overall, I prefer resin bands for survival watches. They’re affordable, waterproof and virtually indestructible. Resin screams durability.
When choosing a digital watch with various functions, customization is important. This means finding a watch that allows you to switch from Farenheit to Celcius, from a 12 hour clock to a 24 hour clock or from timezone to timezone. If you have poor eyesight, make sure the watch you’re choosing has readable symbols. See if it allows you to switch between various fonts, styles and setups.
No two watch wearers have the exact same preference, so make sure the one you want to purchase can be customized.
Top 12 Compass Watch Tools
Finally, the elements that make the compass watch an essential for true survivalists. Here are my top 12 compass watch features and tools to look for (in order from most to least important).
- Compass– Obviously, a compass watch must include a compass, or else it’s just a watch. As we’ve discussed previously, you can choose from an analog, digital or standard compass. Either way, it’s important that you find an efficient watch with compass capabilities.
- Dial Backlight– You want to be sure that your watch is just as readable at night as it is during the day. A dial backlight allows the face of your watch to glow in dark environments. Some watches automatically engage the backlight as soon as darkness sets in. This is especially helpful for camping trips.
- Solar Powered Battery– As stated previously, a solar powered battery makes for supreme convenience and efficiency. It’s a huge weight off your shoulder to know that your watch will not die on you. Solar powered batteries are mostly found in high end products.
- Thermometer– It’s always a great idea to monitor the temperature of your environment. A good thermometer allows you to toggle between Farenheit and Celcius. An even better one allows you to determine water temperature as well as air temperature.
- Barometer– A tool for measuring fluctuations in air pressure. This will help you foresee sudden impending storms. If your watch has a barometer, it’s important that you know how to use it correctly.
- Altimeter– This tool will help determine your level of elevation. While hiking, it can be easy to gain elevation quickly without realizing. An altimeter will help you stay in control of this.
- Alarms– Backpackers need alarms in the wild for everything from reminding themselves to take their medication, to waking themselves up while camping.
- Stopwatch/Countdown Timer– Both of these tools are basic timekeeping essentials. Most digital compass watches have these features easily accessible and ready for use.
- Calendar– This tool can be helpful in the wild and in your day-to-day life. This is especially useful for long, multi-day camping trips.
- Sunrise/Sunset Tracker– Important for ensuring that long hikes are on schedule during multi-day camping trips. This is also great if you want to enjoy a breathtaking sunset in nature.
- Tide Tracker– A feature that will keep you updated on high and low tide. While not everyone considers this useful, this tool is fantastic for beach camping/hiking.
- Moon Age Detector– This unique tool keeps track of the phases of the moon. Certainly not a survival essential, but it’s helpful when you feel like gazing at the night sky.
It’s clear that compass watches come in all shapes and sizes for all different types of people. I would recommend you take a second to think about what it is that you are looking for before making a purchase. Think about what you’ll need your watch for and where your priorities are.
Our Top Pick Is….
If you are looking for a watch with optimal functionality, optimal customization and great value, this is the one for you. It has all the basic features and all of the essential advanced features. This watch is easy to navigate for experts and first timers alike. It will withstand the test of time, as well as the test of impact and water resistance. Not to mention, it’s got a modern, rugged look that exudes ultimate adventurer energy.
If you’re looking to stay on a budget and are not too concerned about having less features, I would recommend the Casio Multifunction. In all other aspects, Casio’s Pathfinder Triple Sensor Watch can’t be beat.