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altimeter

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Postby PKelley » Thu Oct 11, 2007 8:07 am

I say spend the money on a good map and learn how to really read it (and a $10 compass). I think that GPS units are neat, but they don't always work. The more time you spend working with 7.5 minute topos, the better you will get. Topos can be checked out at the CSM library in Golden, or can be had for $6. You can also buy some pretty detailed larger maps of areas of the state that are great and much more economical (I recommend the Latitude 40 maps).

The best thing an altimiter can do for you is tell you what the weather appears to be doing at a fixed altitude like camp. Set it at night and look to see whether the pressure rose or fell over night (hope it rises).

Don't forget that the trees provide a pretty solid elevation data point in Colorado (generally 11,600-11,800) and that there are other subtle vegitation changes as you go higher to give you some clue.
The Dalai Lama when asked what surprised him most about humanity:
“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

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Postby gme » Thu Oct 11, 2007 8:32 am

I know this is a low tech idea in this world of GPS, but over twenty years ago I met a climber on a 14'er who carried a small light-weight pocket level with a sight. When some peak a few miles away that he knew the elevation of got close to the horizon he sight it in his level. So when he was at the same level as the summit of that peak (say 13,831') he'd know he was pretty close to 13,800'. It made a fairly accurate subsitute for an altimeter if you weren't obscured by clouds. I know the curvature of the earth has an effect on the accuracy, that's why he'd choose a peak only a few miles away, not 50 miles down the range or all the way across South Park.

CG_old

Postby CG_old » Thu Oct 11, 2007 1:38 pm

Actually, an altimeter is extremely handy under many circumstances. The most important that comes to mind is during poor weather conditions. A barometric altimeter, even off a few hundred feet, is better than wandering completely blind in a storm.

A pocket level wouldn't be much use in a storm and a heavy storm can make a GPS wildly inaccurate, especially with elevation. I can't see judging your elevation by treeline as being especially useful... treeline varies quite a bit and it would only be useful in good weather, when you were at or very near treeline.

That said, I've had good luck with my Suunto and better luck with my Polar. Much better battery life in the Polar and slightly more accurate.

FWIW, my altimeter is a LOT more accurate at calculating vertical gain and loss throughout the day vs my Garmin GPS (Forerunner 205). The GPS data on cumulative gain is so often completely wrong that I normally just discard the data.

The map and compass advice is solid, but I wouldn't write off an altimeter as frivolous or unneeded. Add a good altimeter to the mix. Sometimes it's really nice to have that extra data point. I'd personally never rely on a GPS for critical navigation. Too many things can go wrong... unit can go tits up, batteries can die, etc.

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Postby Bullwinkle » Thu Oct 11, 2007 2:49 pm

I picked up a Brunton unit a year ago for under $100 at REI and am happy with it--even though I also picked a Garmin 60CSx later. The Brunton is small, lightweight and has a number of useful functions in addition to altimeter: timepiece, stopwatch, alarm, temperature, barometer, compass. The altimeter is not as accurate as the Garmin GPS, but it is reasonably close if calibrated regularly at landmarks. The multi-function aspect makes it a nice trail companion.
As a mountain more fully reveals itself to a man, so the true nature of the man will be more fully revealed

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Postby Wayne » Thu Oct 11, 2007 4:20 pm

Booth, I use compasses, GPS units and altimeters extensively.

For under $100, you might find an altimeter that can give you 100 ft. increments, but I would question the precision and durability.

If you are happy with getting within about 100 feet of your elevation, then go for a cheaper model.

I've owned Suunto's Vector watch for many years now, and have verified its readings with expensive and very precise altimeters. The watch is a superb altimeter, and gives constant read-outs of your elevation gain or loss each minute. For example, if you are pacing your elevation gain, like 1000 feet per hour, you can use the watch to see if you are gaining at least 16 feet per minute. It even shows the information graphically.

All aneroid altimeters, including aneroids in GPS units, must be constantly adjusted for known elevations, otherwise the readings could be off by hundreds of feet.

Best to you on your choice. Have fun.

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Postby iceman » Thu Oct 11, 2007 8:05 pm

Must have a map and compass with you and know how to use them. However, I have been carrying a Garmin Legend up until 1 year ago when I upgraded to a Garmin Rino 530. In those 7 years I have never had to pull out my map and compass to navigate. I keep extra batteries on me and try not to beat the GPS up to much. The altimeter is always within 20' at all summits and other known elevations and usually within 5' to 10'. My Suunto Observer watch on the other hand is usually off by 100s of feet. I still try to keep my map and compass skills tuned up just in case. And BTW I have never adjusted or calibrated my GPS.

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