November 27, 2019

9 Best Backpacking Watches for 2020 (Review)

Best Overall

Casio G-SHOCK Rangeman GW9400-1

Premium Pick

Garmin Fenix 6x Pro Solar

Vaue for Money

Casio G-Shock Digital Watch DW5600E

by M. Avila - Serving buyer's guides for all the interested
November 27, 2019

The exponential advancements in technology in recent years has brought about better access and knowledge of the world. Many have made it a mission to see as much of the world as possible, leading to the rise of the backpacking trend. In this guide, we explored the best Watches for Backpacking for 2020.

Our team at the Spring Bar shortlisted some of the best backpacking watches available in the market for all kinds of backpackers. Although many pieces can fit the role of a timekeeping watch, backpackers’ watches need to be more durable to the hazards that accompany the backpacking trend. In accordance with this, the variety of watches chosen in this guide were handpicked according to its durability, affordability, power source, and its other various functionalities.

The variety of watches were split between smartwatches and regular watches. An aspiring backpacker should know the benefits and failings of having either watch and how the watch choice would affect their backpacking experience. Understandably, many more watches could have entered our roster for backpacking watches. However, these choices were also filtered according to popularity and practicality.

In this guide, the Spring Bar compiled all the information necessary in order to choose the most appropriate backpacking watch for you. We have tabled the basics, specifications and key features of each watch, as well as listed each one’s pros and cons in order to help you decide which backpacking watch best suits your needs.

9 Best Watches for Backpacking 2020

ProductsPriceKey Features
Casio G-Shock DW5600E$69.95- Highly affordable
- Long battery life
- Multiple time-keeping functionalities
Garmin Fenix 6x Pro Solar$999.99- Premium pick
- Perfect all-around watch
- Solar powered
Suunto Traverse$469- Medium price range
- Various functionalities
- Decent battery life
Citizen Promaster Nighthawk (Blue Angels)$475.00- Dual time zone tracking
- Medium price range
Timex Men’s Expedition Field Chronograph$53.30- Highly affordable
- Tough, rugged look
- Very simple watch
Casio G-SHOCK Rangeman GW9400-1$191.49- Best in overall
- Good price and functions
Casio Smart Outdoor Watch WSD-F10$399- Affordable smartwatch
- Added functionalities via Google
Casio G-Shock Master of G Rangeman$800- Next best premium pick
- Top-notch functions
- Very durable
Timex Allied Three GMT Watch$317.11- Simple and straightforward
- Triple time zone tracking

1 Casio G-Shock Digital Watch DW5600E

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The Casio G-Shock Digital Watch DW5600E is one of the more classic watches rostered in the G-Shock line. Sporting the G-Shock’s testament of durability and shock-proofing, the DW5600E sets itself aside from its dual-display, rubberized round case brothers with classy steel options and a square-ish face.

The DW5600E is known for being an everyday watch, not only for its numerous functionalities, but also its all-around look. Aside from being insanely tough—ensuring the capability of surviving extreme situations—it’s classic look makes it a popular styling choice for any occasion. Its numerous time-keeping functionalities and the easily replaceable battery would make the DW5600E a very low-maintenance watch for the thrifty backpacker.

The Basics:

Brand: Casio
Model: G-Shock
Price: $69.95

Reference Number: DW5600E-1V
Diameter: 45 mm
Thickness: 13.4 mm
Case Material: Resin
Water Resistance: 200m
Strap/Bracelet: Resin
Crystal: Mineral

Additional: Shock-resistance, Battery powered

The Movement/Specifications:

Caliber: Casio Caliber 3229 battery-powered quartz
Functions: Hour, minute, second, pm, month, date, day, 1/100-second stopwatch, countdown timer, multi-function alarm
Diameter: 45 mm
Thickness: 13.4 mm
Weight: 53g

Additional Details: 

  • Approx. two year battery life
Key Features:

Brand: Casio
Model: G-Shock
Price: $69.95

Reference Number: DW5600E-1V
Diameter: 45 mm
Thickness: 13.4 mm
Case Material: Resin
Water Resistance: 200m
Strap/Bracelet: Resin
Crystal: Mineral

Additional: Shock-resistance, Battery powered

+PROS

  • Two year battery life
  • Insanely tough watch

-CONS

  • No GMT capability
  • Minimalist for a Casio watch

2 Garmin Fenix 6x Pro Solar

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The Garmin Fenix 6x Pro Solar is one of the most premium watches available from the Garmin wearable technology line. Sporting a classy design, this technological marvel has highly advanced functionalities that skyrocket it to the top of the smartwatch market. Its beautiful display and advanced sensors definitely make this watch our premium pick.

As a backpacking watch, wearing this highly expensive piece of technology on your wrist may seem risky, but its functionalities make it well worth the risk. Not only does the Fenix 6x Pro Solar have access to GPS functionalities, but to GLONASS and Galileo as well. It also sports a wrist-based heart rate system, Pulse Ox capability, access to compass, altimeter and barometer functions and HRV stress testing. To top all of it off, its solar charging capability makes this watch a partner for the long haul.

The Basics:

Brand: Garmin
Model: Fenix 6x Pro Solar
Price: $999.99

Reference Number: 010-02157-20
Diameter: 51mm
Thickness: 14.9mm
Case Material: Fiber-reinforced polymer with metal rear cover
Water Resistance: 100m
Strap/Bracelet: Silicone
Crystal: Power Glass™

Additional: 280 x 280 colored display resolution, titanium bezel, Multiple outdoor modes, GPS/GLONASS/Galileo Watch, Garmin Elevate™ wrist-based heart rate monitor, Pulse Ox, Compatible with Android and IOS

The Movement/Specifications:

Caliber: Digital (Smartwatch) 
Functions: Hour, minute, seconds, date
Diameter: 51mm
Thickness: 14.9mm
Display Resolution: 280 x 280
Weight: 82g

Additional Details: 

  • GPS/GLONASS/Galileo Watch
  • Colored display
  • Sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) display
  • Up to 24 day battery life (Smartwatch mode); up to 148 hours (Max battery GPS mode)
  • GPS Time Sync function
Key Features:

Brand: Garmin
Model: Fenix 6x Pro Solar
Price: $999.99

Reference Number: 010-02157-20
Diameter: 51mm
Thickness: 14.9mm
Case Material: Fiber-reinforced polymer with metal rear cover
Water Resistance: 100m
Strap/Bracelet: Silicone
Crystal: Power Glass™

Additional: 280 x 280 colored display resolution, titanium bezel, Multiple outdoor modes, GPS/GLONASS/Galileo Watch, Garmin Elevate™ wrist-based heart rate monitor, Pulse Ox, Compatible with Android and IOS

+PROS

  • Has a customizable power-saving mode
  • GPS/GLONASS/Galileo tracking
  • GPS time sync function

-CONS

  • Expensive

3 Suunto Traverse

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The Suunto Traverse is a smartwatch built with the rigours of the outdoors in mind. Tough and militaristic, this smartwatch has been equated to reliable craftsmanship equated to the Suunto brand. The Traverse’s GPS/Glonass functionality and various sensors make for a great partner for trekking through the great outdoors.

Although not as advanced as the Suunto Traverse Alpha, the Traverse holds all of the necessary requirements for a backpacking smartwatch. Hosting a simple and durable design, its GPS/Glonass functionalities and GPS time date are a reliable tool for navigating cross-country. The Traverse is a great competitor for our team’s best pick, failing only its battery life and single-powered battery.

The Basics:

Brand: Suunto
Model: Traverse
Price: $469.00

Reference Number: SS021844000
Diameter: 50 mm
Thickness: 16.5 mm
Case Material: Composite
Water Resistance: 100m
Strap/Bracelet: Silicone
Crystal: Mineral

Additional: Smartwatch (app compatible with Android and IOS), Stainless steel bezel, Multiple outdoor modes, GPS/GLONASS watch

The Movement/Specifications:

Caliber: Digital [Smartwatch]
Display Resolution: 128 x 128
Functions: hour, minute, second, month, date, day
Diameter: 50 mm
Thickness: 16.5 mm
Display Resolution: 128 x 128
Weight: 80g

Additional Details:

  • Two-year Limited Warranty
  • Rechargeable lithium-ion battery (via USB cable)
  • Compatible with most smartphones via Bluetooth
  • Flashlight backlight option
  • Up to 14 day battery life (Smartwatch mode); up to 100 hours (GPS mode)
  • GPS time update
Key Features:

Brand: Suunto
Model: Traverse
Price: $469.00

Reference Number: SS021844000
Diameter: 50 mm
Thickness: 16.5 mm
Case Material: Composite
Water Resistance: 100m
Strap/Bracelet: Silicone
Crystal: Mineral

Additional: Smartwatch (app compatible with Android and IOS), Stainless steel bezel, Multiple outdoor modes, GPS/GLONASS watch

+PROS

  • Smartwatch with multiple functionalities
  • Durable watch
  • GPS time update

-CONS

  • Limited battery capability and charging

4 Citizen Promaster Nighthawk (Blue Angels) BJ7006-56L

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The Citizen Promaster Nighthawk (Blue Angels) BJ7006-56L is a stainless steel masterpiece. It is one of the few analogue watches in our list, and its brilliant design is truly a work of art. Not only is it capable of tracking two time zones, but it also runs on Citizen’s Eco-Drive, a system that runs on sunlight.

The Promaster Nighthawk boasts a stainless steel design, making for a very tough and fashionable look. Its dual time-keeping makes it a worthy backpacking watch, and its Eco-Drive system ensures that your watch won’t have to worry too much about power. These two factors make it a very reliable watch, although its price and weight would definitely be a turn-off for some backpackers.

The Basics:

Brand: Citizen
Model: Promaster Nighthawk (Blue Angels)
Price: $475.00

Reference Number: BJ7006-56L
Diameter: 42 mm
Thickness: 12 mm
Case Material: Stainless steel
Water Resistance: 200m
Strap/Bracelet: Stainless steel with fold-over clasp and push-button closure
Crystal: Anti-reflective mineral

Additional: Pilot’s rotating slide ring bezel, Dual time

The Movement/Specifications:

Caliber: Citizen Caliber B877, Dual Time
Functions: hour, minute, second, date, dual time zone
Diameter: 42 mm
Thickness: 12 mm
Weight: 154g

Additional Details:

  • Five-year limited manufacturer’s warranty
  • Eco-Drive (powered by sunlight)
  • Up to 6 months battery life (from full charge)
Key Features:

Brand: Citizen
Model: Promaster Nighthawk (Blue Angels)
Price: $475.00

Reference Number: BJ7006-56L
Diameter: 42 mm
Thickness: 12 mm
Case Material: Stainless steel
Water Resistance: 200m
Strap/Bracelet: Stainless steel with fold-over clasp and push-button closure
Crystal: Anti-reflective mineral

Additional: Pilot’s rotating slide ring bezel, Dual time

+PROS

  • Eco-Drive
  • Beautiful and classy steel design
  • Dual time zone capable

-CONS

  • A bit on the heavy side
  • Expensive for functionalities

5 Timex Men’s Expedition Field Chronograph

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The Timex Expedition Field Chronograph has a simple and militaristic look with its brass casing and genuine leather strap. This piece features a simple chronograph, adding to its beauty. That no-nonsense design and affordable price make for a perfect everyday beater watch.

Definitely not as glamorous as the rest of the watches on this list, the Expedition Field Chronograph makes up for its lacklustre functionality with its excessively low price. The Genuine leather strap and brass casing make for a durable watch as well, ensuring it could take a meagre beatdown. Any damages would be easily replaceable due to its low-price, and its battery longevity ensures a worthy companion for the road.

The Basics:

Brand: Timex
Model: Expedition Field Chronograph
Price: $53.30

Reference Number: T49905ZA
Diameter: 42 mm
Thickness: 12.5 mm
Case Material: Brass
Water Resistance: 100m
Strap/Bracelet: Genuine leather
Crystal: Mineral

Additional: Chronograph, Date feature

The Movement/Specifications:

Movement: Quartz analogue
Functions: hour, minute, second, date
Diameter: 42 mm
Thickness: 12.5 mm
Weight: 77g

Additional Details:

  • One-year limited warranty
  • INDIGLO® night-light with night-mode
  • Approx. three year battery life
Key Features:

Brand: Timex
Model: Expedition Field Chronograph
Price: $53.30

Reference Number: T49905ZA
Diameter: 42 mm
Thickness: 12.5 mm
Case Material: Brass
Water Resistance: 100m
Strap/Bracelet: Genuine leather
Crystal: Mineral

Additional: Chronograph, Date feature

+PROS

  • Three year battery life
  • Casual rugged design for everyday use
  • Very affordable price

-CONS

  • Limited functionality
  • Leather strap has to be broken-in

6 Casio G-SHOCK Rangeman GW9400-1

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The Casio G-Shock Rangeman GW9400-1 is a classic G-Shock piece known for its durability and reliability. The Rangeman’s functionalities and shock-proofing make it a popular choice for those who lead a fast-paced lifestyle and need a watch that can keep up with extreme pressure. Its rugged exterior also makes for a great sporty or casual look.

The G-Shock Rangeman becomes the best choice for the regular backpacker because of its extreme value for money. Not only does it have a compass, altimeter and barometer function (Triple Sensor), the Rangeman also boasts a solar-powered capability and atomic timekeeping. This watch will definitely be a long and reliable companion when out backpacking.

The Basics:

Brand: Casio
Model: G-Shock Rangeman
Price: $191.49

Reference Number: GW9400-1
Diameter: 55.2 mm
Thickness: 18.2 mm
Case Material: Resin
Water Resistance: 200m
Strap/Bracelet: Resin
Crystal: Mineral

Additional: Shock-resistance, Resin fixed bezel, Super Illuminator LED backlight, Solar powered, Multi-band atomic timekeeping

The Movement/Specifications:

Caliber: Casio Module 3410
Functions: hour, minute, second, pm, month, date, day, 1/100-second stopwatch, countdown timer, multi-function alarm
Diameter: 56.2 mm
Thickness: 17.3 mm
Weight: 93g

Additional Details:

  • Approx. 7-month battery life
  • Mud-resistant buttons
  • Compass, altimeter, barometer (Triple-sensor)
Key Features:

Brand: Casio
Model: G-Shock Rangeman
Price: $191.49

Reference Number: GW9400-1
Diameter: 55.2 mm
Thickness: 18.2 mm
Case Material: Resin
Water Resistance: 200m
Strap/Bracelet: Resin
Crystal: Mineral

Additional: Shock-resistance, Resin fixed bezel, Super Illuminator LED backlight, Solar powered, Multi-band atomic timekeeping

+PROS

  • Highly durable
  • Solar-powered
  • Affordable multi-function atomic timekeeping watch

-CONS

7 Casio Smart Outdoor Watch WSD-F10

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The Casio Smart Outdoor Watch WSD-F10 was a technological phenomenon when it was released in 2016. The WSD-F10  runs on an Android operating system and can access various Google Apps via your smartphone. Its in-built functionalities also prove its worth as an outdoor watch despite its age.

The WSD-F10 may have been one of the best smartwatches of its time, but it’s lacking GPS functionality leaves it lacking. Although capable of accessing Google Maps through your cell phone, this leaves the user to have to handle two devices for one purpose, which makes it a bother to use. Another big issue that leaves the WSD-F10 in the dust would be its poor battery-life and its single charging option.

The Basics:

Brand: Casio
Model: Smart Outdoor Watch
Price: $399

Reference Number: WSD-F10RG
Diameter: 55 mm
Thickness: 15 mm
Case Material: Resin
Water Resistance: 50m
Strap/Bracelet: Soft Urethane

Additional: Military standard MIL-STD-810G compliant, Dual-layered digital LCD display, Color TFT LCD and monochrome LCD, Compatible with various Google apps

The Movement/Specifications:

Caliber: Digital [Smartwatch]
Functions: Hour, minute, second
Diameter: 55 mm
Thickness: 15 mm
Display Resolution: 320 x 300
Weight: 95g

Additional Details: 

  • GPS available via smartphone
  • Approx. 1 day to 1 month battery life depending on use
  • Color TFT LCD and monochrome LCD
Key Features:

Brand: Casio
Model: Smart Outdoor Watch
Price: $399

Reference Number: WSD-F10RG
Diameter: 55 mm
Thickness: 15 mm
Case Material: Resin
Water Resistance: 50m
Strap/Bracelet: Soft Urethane

Additional: Military standard MIL-STD-810G compliant, Dual-layered digital LCD display, Color TFT LCD and monochrome LCD, Compatible with various Google apps

+PROS

  • Affordable
  • Offers compatibility to various Google applications
  • Military standard MIL-STD-810G compliant

-CONS

  • No GPS sensor
  • Only rechargeable via USB
  • Poor battery capability

8 Casio G-Shock Master of G Rangeman GPRB1000-1

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The Casio G-Shock Master of G Rangeman GPRB1000-1 is another Casio masterpiece from the G-Shock line. Its resin and stainless steel case patterned with a sapphire crystal provides the best shock-proof and durable design a watch can have. Its capabilities ups that of its more common iteration, the Rangeman GW9400-1.

The biggest difference between the GPRB1000-1 and the GW9400-1 would be its GPS capability and GPS time sync function. The GPRB1000-1 patterns this with its solar-powered battery for an almost immortal and highly efficient watch. The only downside to the Master of G Rangeman would be its excessively high price, making this our second option as a premium watch.

The Basics:

Brand: Casio
Model: Master of G G-Shock Rangeman
Price: $800

Reference Number: GPRB1000-1
Diameter: 58 mm
Thickness: 20.2 mm
Case Material: Resin / stainless steel
Water Resistance: 200m
Strap/Bracelet: Carbon fiber insert resin
Crystal: Sapphire with non-reflective coating

Additional: Shock-resistance, Resin fixed bezel, Super Illuminator LED backlight, Solar powered, GPS capable

The Movement/Specifications:

Caliber: Casio Module 3452
Functions: hour, minute, second, pm, month, date, day, 1/100-second stopwatch, countdown timer, multi-function alarm
Diameter: 58 mm
Thickness: 20.2 mm
Weight: 142g

Additional Details:

  • Approx. 20 hours to 29 month battery life
  • Mud-resistant buttons
  • Compass, altimeter, barometer (Triple-sensor)
  • GPS capable
Key Features:

Brand: Casio
Model: Master of G G-Shock Rangeman
Price: $800

Reference Number: GPRB1000-1
Diameter: 58 mm
Thickness: 20.2 mm
Case Material: Resin / stainless steel
Water Resistance: 200m
Strap/Bracelet: Carbon fiber insert resin
Crystal: Sapphire with non-reflective coating

Additional: Shock-resistance, Resin fixed bezel, Super Illuminator LED backlight, Solar powered, GPS capable

+PROS

  • Solar-powered
  • GPS capable
  • Highly durable smartwatch

-CONS

  • Expensive

9 Timex Allied Three GMT Watch

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The Timex Allied Three GMT Watch is another beautiful analogue watch to make our list. Featuring a stainless steel case and genuine leather strap, this watch makes for a classy yet casual look. Like most Timex watches, it’s straightforward design and functionality make this watch shine through.

The Allied Three GMT Watch sets it apart from other watches due to its triple time zone tracking rotating bezel. Its Timex branding places it on a medium to high spending range, which makes it worth it because of its durability. The leather strap contributes to its relatively light weight, and its INDIGLO® Light-Up dial is definitely a bonus for the night. As a backpacking watch, this can be a cheaper alternative for those who don’t want anything too flashy in a watch.

The Basics:

Brand: Timex
Model: Allied Three GMT Watch
Price: $315.26

Reference Number: TW2R43600
Diameter: 43 mm
Thickness: 13 mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Water Resistance: 100m
Strap/Bracelet: Genuine leather
Crystal: Mineral

Additional: Stainless steel bezel, Triple time zone feature, INDIGLO® Light-Up Watch Dial

The Movement/Specifications:

Movement: Intelligent Quartz™ 3 GMT Movement
Functions: hour, minute, second, date
Diameter: 42 mm
Thickness: 12.5 mm
Weight: 84g

Additional Details:

  • One-year limited warranty
  • INDIGLO® Light-Up Watch Dial
  • Triple time zone tracking bezel
Key Features:

Brand: Timex
Model: Allied Three GMT Watch
Price: $315.26

Reference Number: TW2R43600
Diameter: 43 mm
Thickness: 13 mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Water Resistance: 100m
Strap/Bracelet: Genuine leather
Crystal: Mineral

Additional: Stainless steel bezel, Triple time zone feature, INDIGLO® Light-Up Watch Dial

+PROS

  • Classy design for all around use
  • Triple time zone tracking bezel
  • Lightweight

-CONS

  • Expensive for limited functionality

Best Watches for Backpacking Buyer’s Guide and FAQs

Key Features to Consider In Buying a Watch for Backpacking

In this guide, we compared the best options that fall under watches for backpacking in terms of durability, affordability, power source and the additional functionalities.

  • Durability: The durability of your backpacking watch is a definite necessity. Travelling definitely places a toll on the watch’s lifespan, not only in terms of its battery, but in its overall state as well. As a backpacker, your watch will more-or-less be on you at all times and can be subject to various hazards. A backpacking watch should be able to withstand minor dings, dents, and the perils of weather.
  • Affordability: The price range and affordability is another major factor in looking for a watch for backpacking. Depending on the kind of backpacker you are, what you wear will definitely make its mark on the people around you, and the routes you take. Highly expensive watches can be a prime target for pickpockets or can make it difficult to replace if the watch breaks down.
  • Power source / Battery: The battery of a watch is also a key feature to consider, as its longevity and durability are both put into question. When backpacking, one may not know just how long you’ll have to be out on a trail, and an unreliable watch may die on you in the middle of your trip. As such, looking for alternative ways to power your watch would definitely be a big plus.
  • Additional functionalities: Backpacking watches can serve multiple purposes. The most basic factor would be timekeeping, but the value in a watch would be the additional functions it can push through.

For backpackers, the greatest additions would be multiple time-zone support (GMT tracking), GPS functionality, and GPS time synchronization. These additions would not only support you in giving accurate time, but would also help in tracking time when you cross a time zone. GPS functionality would ensure that getting loss would not be a problem, but an adventure. Other functionalities like heart rate tracking or pulse oximetry would be for monitoring health while you’re out on the trail.

What are backpackers?

In a rough sense of the word, backpackers are travellers who take trips in order to see more of the world. Backpacking is usually associated with people who wear backpacks and go cross-country adventuring. Although the image is apt, the reasoning for the backpack was analogous to travelling light, which resulted in cheaper fares for flights and travel, and ease of movement. 

 

The advancement of technology and society has resulted in cheaper flight rates and travelling costs, thus some “backpackers” may be seen with strollers or multiple luggage. Different backpackers would pack differently and have different goals for their trip. Some want to pack lightly, as the strain from carrying a bag for too long would be arduous in their trips to save money. Some prefer packing more items and prefer living in comfort, not minding adding an extra buck for safety. Regardless, different backpackers have different needs, and this guide provides a watch for every type of backpacker.

Should I opt for a smartwatch or a regular watch when backpacking?

The answer to this question would simply fall as to what kind of a backpacker you would be. A regular watch would definitely fit the minimum specifications for all types of backpackers. In an analogue watch, the important thing would be its accuracy in time-keeping, while in digital watches, visibility would be a key point. Smartwatches, on the other hand, have more functionalities, but as a backpacker, the most important factor would be the power supply.

 

For long term travels, the choice between smartwatch and regular watch would lie in how much access you have to your watch’s power source. For smartwatches, this would generally be electrical outlets, and solar-powered watches would have superiority in this regard. Regular watches would either be solely battery-powered, or have an automatic movement, or have access to solar powering as well. Regular watches would definitely have a longer battery life, whereas smartwatches would be somewhat more limited according to use.

Another factor would be the need for GPS. Understandably, smartwatches have superiority, as regular watches would generally not be GPS capable. If going out on excessively long treks without a guide, a smartwatch may be a safer choice.

The last factor in deciding between the two would be how much risk your backpacking would give you. Smartwatches would be prime targets for theft, and smartwatch breakages would definitely cost more than the repair of a regular watch.

In summary, if you would not need the added functionalities of a smartwatch, going with a regular analogue or digital watch would be your best bet. If, however, you would be in a more controlled environment and would need the additional health or activity tracking, the smartwatch would be a better pick.