For starters – an altimeter watch has to be accurate and durable. It needs to fit the activity–an altimeter for mountain climbing, for example, requires different information than one for downhill skiing. More bells and whistles doesn’t necessarily mean higher quality. Many altimeters come with compasses, which might be convenient but drain the battery more quickly and really aren’t any more practical or accurate than a handheld compass.
Video – Top 10 Altimeter Watches
Check out the Suunto Ambit HR Altimeter Watch Review at BackCountry.com
We get asked all the time “What is the best altimeter watch for climbing?”. Check out this list and you can make a better choice.
#10 SUUNTO CORE
The Suunto Core Crush multifunction watch is considered essential equipment for backcountry endeavors. It provides the data you need to take on nature’s greatest challenges. Altimeter, Barometer, Compass (ABC) wrist-top design delivers crucial data for gauging performance, direction and weather. Barometric altimeter is accurate to 29,500 ft. and displays current elevation and elevation gain/loss; records entire session for later analysis.
Common Pitfalls buying an altimeter watch – Altimeters that rely upon barometric pressure to measure altitude are common and convenient for predicting weather, but they have to be frequently recalibrated to ensure accuracy since changing weather can affect the measurement. GPS-enabled altimeters are usually more expensive but don’t have to be recalibrated. Their accuracy depends almost solely upon the accuracy of the map used by the device manufacturer.
#9 SUUNTO VECTOR Review by JWPC
I’ve had this watch since 1999, replaced the battery about 4 times and the band twice, and other than those wear-related problems, have not ever had a problem with the watch itself. It has been with me throughout south america, up mountains and down the amazon– around the world and never a problem. Its the battery that usually goes out at the wrong time. I use the altimeter and compass functions often and those just drain the battery, so I always take a back up with me when I go on trips. And when I’m home and not needing it, I remove the battery and keep it cool. I’d love to upgrade one day, but for the money, I’m happy with my vector, it does all I need it to do, and then some!
Video – Suunto Ambit Altimeter Watch
Casio Protrek PAW1300 Altimeter Watch
#8 Casio Pathfinder PAG240-1 by Hedge
This watch does it all. I’ve used it backpacking in Estes Park, Glacier National Park, Pictured Rocks and the list goes on. It’s nice for altitude, high/low pressure systems, temperature, sunrise/sunset, world time, count down, alarm, and 1,000 other features. The solar power part is awesome because I am tired of watches dying. This watch can go 6 months without any light; that includes any artificial light (lamp).
Where To Buy
Specialty sporting goods stores, such as REI or Eastern Mountain Sports, are the best places to buy an altimeter. Knowledgeable stores can offer advice on different models for individuals. Don’t hesitate to do research on online forums, as well. Comparison shoppers can often pick up good online deals on altimeters.
#7 Casio Pathfinder PAG240T-7
High-quality altimeters range in price from $100 to $300, with the cost of some advanced models approaching $500. Altimeters on the low end of the scale will include an altimeter, barometer, thermometer and light for night reading. The higher-priced models usually also will have a compass, watch and historical barometric and altitude data.
The Suunto altimeters are regarded as the top-of-the-line models. The Suunto Core models, which range in price from $250 to $500, include a storm warning sensor that alerts climbers to sudden changes in barometric pressure that can signal a rapid weather change. Mid-range altimeters from manufacturers such as Highgear and Garmin cost about $150 and come with a variety of options.
Try to find an altimeter that has a battery you can replace. Altimeters with scratch-resistant glass are a good investment, particularly for skiing or climbing.
Questions from our readers online.
Question: What is a good altimeter from REI? We like the Suunto altimer at REI or at BackCountry.com.
Question: Are there problems with the SUUNTO Core battery draining too quickly? The battery drain is not too bad but as a back up check out this video on how to change a battery in a Suunto Core.
Question: I want to start climbing mountains. Where can I learn more about that sport? Check out the American Alpine Club here:
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