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Casio SGW100 - best budget bug out watch?

Casio SGW100B-3V

I unintentionally discovered this is the best budget "bug out" watch there is.

What does "bug out" mean?

This is a term used by those who believe strongly in disaster preparation, whether for natural disaster, economic disaster, financial disaster, disaster brought by war, etc. People of this ilk are called survivalists or "preppers", depending on whom you talk to.

Every survivalist has a "bug out" bag ready-to-use. This bag is a backpack full of stuff, and the intended use is that in the event of disaster, this is the bag you grab before you leave quickly, i.e. bug out. The SGW100 would be appropriate to have in the bag.

I did not buy the Casio SGW100 (mine is the SGW100B-3V model) for bug out purposes, but the more I examined it, the more I realized that this timepiece really is the best budget bug out watch one could buy.

Examples of typical bug out watches

Before I get into the particulars of the SGW100, the timepieces of choice survivalists go for depends on the specific functionality he's looking for.

For analog quartz timepieces, the go-to brands are Luminox and Victorinox. For all-mechanical, Glycine has a few offerings with the most survivalist-friendly being the black PVD coated variety.

For quartz digital, the best-of-the-best survivalist timepiece is a Casio G-SHOCK that is solar powered and has atomic timekeeping. Such an example is the GW5000. Or if you're the type that wants ABC functionality (altimeter, barometer, compass,) then you want a Casio Pro Trek, of which there are several.

Enter the SGW100

The SGW100 is a twin sensor, so it's not ABC. The two sensors are thermometer and compass and I'll get into more detail on those in a moment.

This watch is powered by a CR2025, no solar. Battery life is estimated to be 3 years. It has the ability to do world time with 29 time zones and 48 cities supported, supports DST, has 4 alarms + 1 snooze alarm, has a countdown timer (24 hours maximum) with auto-repeat and has a 1-hour maximum stopwatch.

Weight of the watch is 53 to 55 grams depending on model and strap type.

Size is stated to be 51.5mm lug-to-lug, 47.6 case size, 13.2mm thick. However, the canvas strap version that I have has a slightly shorter lug-to-lug at around 49mm, meaning the watch is smaller-wrist-friendly.

The digit display is huge, but done right. Very easy to read.

How to use the thermometer and compass correctly

The two biggest complaint reviews about the watch is that the compass and thermometer are inaccurate. They're not if adjusted correctly.

Adjusting magnetic north vs. geographic north

A compass will always point to magnetic north, which is not the same as geographic north. Out of the box, the SGW100 points to the same place a regular compass would, magnetic north.

To adjust for geographic north, the watch needs to have its magnetic declination set. This is simply a degree number.

Where do you get this number? From the Magnetic Field Calculator. On that page, see the section "Lookup Latitude / Longitude", enter your location information, get the coordinates, then hit the calculate button. For where I am, Tampa Florida, the declination at the time I write this is currently 5 degrees west, with emphasis on currently. To keep the compass accurate in the watch, I would need to revisit the calculator once a year to get the adjusted declination value.

Sound too difficult? It isn't. The SGW100 makes it stupidly easy to adjust magnetic declination.

Once the declination is set correctly for where you are in the world, it will always be correct, provided you calibrated the compass correctly per the manual's instructions (which is also stupidly easy.)

Getting an accurate temperature reading

Take the watch off the wrist. Wait 20 minutes, then take a temperature reading. If it's off by a few degrees, you can adjust +/- however many degrees until it's correct...

...and that's it. The watch will then always display the correct temperature when not on the wrist.

The temperature sensor is inside the case of the watch. What this means is that body heat will always make the temperature reading not match what the actual ambient temperature is. To get an accurate reading, the watch must be taken off the wrist and let to stand for 20 minutes so there is no body heat left in the case.

Think of this the same way as using a regular oral glass thermometer. When used in the mouth, the temperature changes because it's touching the body. When left to sit in a jar, in about 20 minutes it will show the room's ambient temperature.

What makes the SGW100 the best budget bug out watch?

The SGW100, while not G-SHOCK tough, is definitely tough enough to handle whatever you throw at it. It also has the stuff that's genuinely useful to a survivalist. Namely, the big digit display, compass, 200M water resistance, multiple alarms, countdown timer with auto-repeat and grooved buttons that are easy to press while designed right so they don't get knocked accidentally.

True, it's not solar nor does it have atomic timekeeping. The watch has +/- 30 seconds a month for accuracy, so if you assume 1 second gained or lost per day, at worst you will only see the time off by 6 minutes after 1 year of not adjusting the time at all. And that's truly not bad. Certainly better than any mechanical watch.

So why did I buy the SGW100?

As noted above, I didn't get it for bug out purposes, but rather because it has every single thing I want out of a digital timepiece.

This is my new daily wearer. I thought I could get away with wearing a simpler Casio digital, but as it turns out I really appreciate a watch that shows weekday/month/day on the face, has multiple alarms, countdown timer with auto-repeat and stopwatch. And I'm really liking the larger display as well. I thought it might be too large but it's not. The design is right.

I have a smaller 6.75" wrist. This watch has all that I want and fits me. That's why I bought it. I'm very happy with my SGW100. Great as a bug out watch, but also really good for daily use.

Published 2018 Jan 15

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