The Casio F-91W, the tried and true ultralight backpackers watch that might just get you sent to guantanamo.
I’m on my third Casio F-91W. After being tired of finding my phone stuck in my jean pockets when all I need is the time I found myself searching for a watch.
What I found was a rediculous number of sometimes insanely priced watches.
All I wanted:
- A simple watch
- Preferably digital
- An alarm
- The date, and
- A couple meters of water resistance for the rain or odd river crossing in the back country.
After a few long hours searching the depths of amazon and ebay I came across something I thought had to be a missprice, the Casio F-91W. What is it?
Its an astoundingly simple watch. So ubiquitous it goes unseen by many. It even has such a following it has its own wikipedia page, which is worth a read by the way.
The Casio F-91W has even become so ubiquoutos and available that a certain terrorist group started using it to the extent the TSA will now give you a second look for wearing one, and no, in reality this has never actually happened to me.
The F-91W features are spartan but so well designed and thoughtful I’d like to cover them in some depth especially in regards to backpacking but I will cover some every day situations too.
The Casio F-91W
- Ultralight weight (0.7oz, or 20g)
- Slim design, doesn’t snag on clothes
- 7 Year battery life
- Bombproof construction
- Can handle the shower or a swim
- Straps weaken and break after 3-5 years (on my third)
- Scratches are inevitable
- Not made in the USA
- Looks a bit retro
Casio F-91W Alarm
The watch has two alarm modes, a simple hourly beep at the top of the hour, and a customizable daily alarm.
The daily alarm will chime a set of 20 beep-beep’s before realising you’re in a different room, this prevents the watch’s battery from draining and I find is enough to wake me up.
During heavier sleeps – which tend to happen outdoors when I want to wake up and hit the trail early, I find the alarm isn’t quite enough to wake me every time. I found tying the watch to some cord and dangling it in front of my face from the top of the tarp solved that problem.
The alarm, like the date and time, is relatively simple to work out I believe I only read the manual once.
The stopwatch was a feature I never thought I needed until I had it. I use it most often for timing something in the oven.
Out hiking I find myself using the stopwatch a considerably amount, especially on day hikes where I’m tracking my pace. Working from trail time estimates I’ll estimate my progress to make sure I’ll be home before dark or just to update my walking partners to let them how long we’ve been walking. I don’t know about you but my hiking partners like to chime on how long we’ve been walking I like to be able to tell them its only been 17 minutes.
The Casio F-91W is not waterproof to any depth, what it is, is water resistant to about 5m.
This is enough to wear in the rain, go for a swim, cross a river, wash your hands, or even take a daily shower.
The only time I ever had a problem with this was on my second watch of this kind where I somehow lost one of the backplate screws, after a few weeks condensation from taking showers built up in front of the screen. After realising the lost screw I dried the watch out for a few days then replaced the screw using one from my first watch – I still had the old one as it worked fine but the strap was broken.
Casio F-91W Battery Life
The battery life on this thing is crazy, today we talk about smart watches with battery life numbers in the days and hours. This watch, this watch’s battery will last SEVEN YEARS.
In all honesty, the straps will likely deteriorate before the battery ever dies.
If you’re looking for the lightest ultralight backpacking watch, the Casio F-91W is incredibly hard to beat.
At 0.7oz, thats only 20g, its the lightest backpacking watch available and you’ll hardly feel it on your wrist.
Shape and Fit
The shape and fit of the watch is incredibly low profile, its not bulky like newer smart watches, or even like older style gshock type watches that tend to buldge and get caught in clothing constantly. Its slim, light, and only does what its supposed to do.
As I’ve just mentioned, the only real problem I’ve had was where the rubber/resin straps deteriorated after a lot of time in adverse conditions like hot showers and lots of sunshine.
Other durability problems I’ve noticed is the front isn’t very scratch resistant, being plastic, a few brushes against a boulder or desk will eventually leave a few war wounds. Nothing I’ve ever worried about, but its there.
Strength and design wise, other than the straps, the thing is a tank and you could probably drive over it and not worry, its flat, compact, and robust.
Affordability and Availability
The Casio F-91W is probably one of the cheapest watches you will ever find that delivers the same qualities and features. Its price is so low, simply because after their first run in 1991, almost three decades of production, they’ve managed to get the cost down as low as feasibly possible.
The watch is available in almost any country of the world, and online shipping is almost always free as it comes bubble wrapped in a standard envelope.
The Casio F-91W is an alarming, water resistant, superstar that I don’t ever see leaving my wrist – and even if I replace it in town for something “smart”, I’ll always go back to the casio for backpacking and hiking for its simple reliability and lightweight effectiveness.
Oh, and by the way, the F-91W is only the most popular of the entire F-series, if you like its features, but don’t like its slightly dated retro look, you might be able to find something a little more grown up, one of my friend uses a stainless steel version where the straps don’t wear out nearly as quickly.