looking to buy a watch gps/altimeter

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looking to buy a watch gps/altimeter

Postby mayankov » Sun Jan 20, 2013 11:19 am

Hi all!
I am interested in buying a watch gps/altimeter for when I hike not only 14ers, but just hike around in general. I'd eventually like to get into higher and harder mountaineering, but I need to start with the basics first. After searching the forums the only topic I've found was on a Garmin fenix. I'm not sure if this is the best or what others are out there that people like. I'm just looking for feedback as this is a first time buy and don't want to waste money. Any tips and advice is appreciated! Thanks!


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Re: looking to buy a watch gps/altimeter

Postby nyker » Sun Jan 20, 2013 11:54 am

I like Suunto products - as a good rugged outdoor watch with other functionality depending on what else you're looking for.

I've used the Observer and the T6c as altimeters and they have been fairly accurate - though as most barometric pressure-based altimeters, you will get different readings as the weather changes even through your climb if a front is coming in, even if you calibrated it at the trailhead. So, while you will get a fairly good understanding of what altitude you're at, don't bet your life on it where it could be a few hundred feet off. Usually it is pretty accurate and good instrument to use together with a compass and topo map. The battery life on these watches are also more like normal watch battery life and measured in years and not hours or days like some GPS watches, which at least to me is a big benefit.

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Re: looking to buy a watch gps/altimeter

Postby Tory Wells » Sun Jan 20, 2013 12:23 pm

For GPS-capable watches, you want to look at the Suunto Ambit, the Garmin Fenix, and the Garmin Forerunner series. There might be more out there but I'm not aware of them. If you go to REI.com you can compare their features and read reviews.

Of those mentioned I have only used the Garmin Forerunner 205, which is a bit outdated now compared to the newer models but it has served me well. I really like the features of both the Ambit and the Fenix; I'm sure I'll be investing in one of them soon as well.

edit: looking at the Ambit, it appears to lack the full track-back feature (follows the same route back that one took going out) that Garmins have. I consider this to be a major flaw and would be a deal-breaker for me with the Ambit.
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Re: looking to buy a watch gps/altimeter

Postby douglas » Mon Jan 21, 2013 8:56 am

I have the Garmin Forerunner 310XT and absolutely love it. It has a 20 hour battery life which is great for multi-day hikes. The altimeter has been very accurate and it's worked great on the 14ers. I also use it for biking. There's a newer version (910XT) which is supposed to be better, especially for swimming if you like to do triathlons. The GPS in the 310XT doesn't track well in water, but the 910XT will.

Re: looking to buy a watch gps/altimeter

Postby Bean » Mon Jan 21, 2013 11:29 am

douglas wrote:There's a newer version (910XT) which is supposed to be better, especially for swimming if you like to do triathlons. The GPS in the 310XT doesn't track well in water, but the 910XT will.

The open-water swim GPS tracking of the 910 is pretty mediocre as well. The only real changes from the 310 to the 910 are form factor and swim stroke tracking. There might be some slight power meter differences for cycling but I'm not sure off the top of my head. 910 also had some pretty bad bugs at first but I haven't heard of them in a while and so assume they're mostly resolved.

I've got a 310 and like it for just about everything. That it doesn't have a barometric altimeter is, to me, a benefit. As long as you have a strong signal, it'll be reasonably accurate. I rarely have a big day with a barometric altimeter that doesn't have screwed up elevation data.
"There are no hard 14ers, but some are easier than others." - Scott P

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Re: looking to buy a watch gps/altimeter

Postby ThuChad » Mon Jan 21, 2013 4:06 pm

I have the Garmin Fenix and Forerunner 210. I'm not sure if I'm just dumb and don't know how to setup the altimeter or if it's just really awful on the Fenix. It's suppose to be "auto-calibrating". When I upload the track to garmin connect, strava, etc. the elevations are corrected but out in the field they can be off by as much as 1000 ft. Flying to and from locations may have something to do with it? I don't know.

Speaking to the GPS part of your questions, I used the Fenix Friday and Saturday on Sherman and La Plata. I climbed Sherman solo and purposely didn't read any route descriptions. I relied completely on the Fenix to tell me where to go. Although it's just an arrow and a line, it worked flawlessly. Granted Sherman isn't the hardest 14er for route finding but the trail and a few cairns were snow covered. I definitely would have followed the wrong trail a couple of times. It also worked great on La Plata to help us find the winter variation of the standard route.

I'm starting to really like the Fenix the more I use it. While it's not quite as advertised, it's proved itself very useful in the short time I've had it. It takes a month or two of use before you fully understand all the functions. It's a complicated watch. Shoot me a PM if you have any more questions about it.
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Re: looking to buy a watch gps/altimeter

Postby pvnisher » Mon Jan 21, 2013 6:17 pm

Timex global trainer works for me. Kinda big, like all of them, but I like the ability to set up multiple firlds( up to four) on the display. Running I see pace, duration, alt, and heart rate. Hiking I see alt, time of day, pace, and hr just for fun.

Re: looking to buy a watch gps/altimeter

Postby highplaces » Tue Jan 22, 2013 1:35 pm

I used to carry the Highgear Altitech attached to my pack. Had a lot of issues with the altimeter reading being off even though I frequently recalibrated it.

Got the Garmin Forerunner 405CX about a year ago and I love it. Easy to use across a variety of activities (hiking, running, biking, skiing, etc). Can be used with or without the chest-strap. Collects a lot of data in an easy to manage way. One downside is the battery only lasts for about 9 hours, so if I'm doing a multi-day backpack trip, I can't use it.

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Re: looking to buy a watch gps/altimeter

Postby twotyerfryer » Tue Jan 22, 2013 8:41 pm

ThuChad had another thread that addressed the Fenix and some battery life problems he had with it. I have a good friend that works for Garmin here in Olathe and did some of the work on the Fenix. He addressed the battery life issue as I posted here:

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