This post is part of the Backpacking Gear for Beginners course.
Why do you need a watch?
Having a watch on the trail, even a cheap sports watch, is very helpful.
If weather rolls in, it’s easy to sleep past when you wanted to get up and onto the trail. If you need to get to somewhere by a certain time, you’ll know what time it is. Often trails have a bus service at the end that leave at a certain time. Any trails on the coast by the ocean will have tides and areas that may need to be crossed at certain times. The West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island has sections that are impassible at high tide.
Some of the better watches have GPS, compass or weather alerts in them as well.
An easy to set alarm is nice on the trail. You might be getting up with the sun or when all your friends are up but other times you might have to be up at a certain time to get moving for the day.
If you are going to be out on the trail for a few days or a week, the watch needs to easily last that long. Any basic sports watch will go for months. Newer smart or GPS watches have to be charged much more often. Careful with GPS modes that drain the battery.
A good watch will last through a rain storm or falling in a puddle. If you’re relying on your watch every day, make sure it’s waterproof.