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Thru Hiking watch-which is best?
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Peter Sustr
(czechxpress) - F - M

Locale: Boulder
Thru Hiking watch-which is best? on 12/07/2012 10:12:02 MST Print View

I have a Suunto gift card I need to use by the end of the year so I am debating between the Suunto Core and the Vector. Anybody have any thoughts or experience with either of them?

Suunto Core:

Suunto Vector:

If not a Suunto which one?

Thomas Conly
(conly) - F

Locale: Lots of canoeing and snow
AT? on 12/07/2012 10:53:53 MST Print View

Gotta be honest. I debated what watch to get when I was thru-hiking the AT in 2011. Debated GPS watches with altimeters, etc. In the end I just didn't have the money and went with the Wally World $20 thing I was already wearing. If you're hiking the AT, the trail is so well marked, the books are so detailed and you'll get such a feel for the weather anyway that all that extra jazz will probably be extra weight on your wrist. I didn't even once use the compas that I carried then entire time. I'm still wearing the same watch too so durability wasn't even an issue. I'd say go with the cheaper one if you have the gift card anyway. Although, if you're hiking a different trail it might be different.

Edited by conly on 12/07/2012 10:55:31 MST.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
None on 12/07/2012 11:28:45 MST Print View

Use your phone

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
watch on 12/07/2012 11:53:48 MST Print View

Don't know if it is "the best" (I truly don't think there is any "best" gear..but that's another discussion ), but I'd have had excellent luck with a Timex Indiglo.

It tells the time. It has the date. It glows in the dark. :)

Unlike a phone, I don't have to recharge it. ;)

A map provides elevation. The watch lets me do dead reckoning. And a watch is handy when you have to take a pulse and resp rates (which, believe it or not, did yesterday at work for my boss..but that's another story. He's OK..just scared the crap out of us).

I like to others may want something different.

Edited by PaulMags on 12/07/2012 11:54:31 MST.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Thru Hiking watch-which is best? on 12/07/2012 12:03:02 MST Print View

I use a Timex Ironman for hiking. It is light, cheap ($20 on sale), gives the time, date, all kinds of timer functions, an alarm and a backlight.

I don't like digital compasses at all. An altimeter might be interesting in a lage Suunto style watch.

Yuri R
(Yazon) - F

Casio ProTrek (former Pathfinder) on 12/07/2012 12:17:42 MST Print View

And this is not because suunto isn't good or some such nonsense, but simply because if you are buying a watch - you want to make sure it will last and work well.

Suunto uses user replaceable batteries with plastic cover, which is the most likely point of failure. Not only that, but good luck finding a battery down on AT when you do it again in 4 years (if you do it in one shot and battery goes).

Casio (and many others) make Solar charging watches, so you don't have to open it and mess up a seal or cause a short. ProTrek/Pathfinder have all the right features and work great. And they can be had for as little as $150 from costco and others.

Suunto makes great watches, but i personally think that one should either get a solar (practical) or automatic (nostalgia and fascination). Everything else is great and will work...but solar watches just make so much sense. Plus it's good for environment not to throw away those batteries every so often.

I do have to agree with others that i would rather bring a real Suunto or Brunton compass instead of the watch, but the altimeter function is quite useful.

Despite all that, my favorite is the fully mechanical, non-automatic piece my parents gave me when i was 16yo. It needs to be wound up every 24 hours, doesn't do anything but show time. Hoping to pass it to my son when he is older.

Edited by Yazon on 12/07/2012 12:21:08 MST.

Kenneth Jacobs
(f8less) - F

Locale: Midwest
Timex Expedition on 12/07/2012 12:51:46 MST Print View



Mike R
(redpoint) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Suunto on 12/07/2012 13:12:49 MST Print View

I have no direct experience with Suunto outdoor watches, but I've used their dive computers a lot and they're terrific. If I were to buy a hiking specific watch, it would be a Suunto. You basically have 3 choices [you mentioned two]: Vector, Core, and Ambit. The Vector is the oldest, it's been around a very long time, 10 years at least. The Core is only a few years old, and the Ambit is a brand-new fully featured GPS watch. I'd say get the Ambit, b/c it gets good reviews etc., but if you're using the GPS regularly, it'll need to be recharged somehow. Just using the watch/altimeter functions I believe it will last a month or so. The Core is probably the best value, but I've read a lot online about reliability issues [might want to read some reviews]. The Vector is the cheapest and the most proven, but the technology is older. The biggest reason for getting one of these watches is the altimeter I would say. The Vector and Ambit are made in Finland and the Core is made in China - if that's important to you. If the battery life and price of the Ambit works for you, that's what I'd get.

Edited by redpoint on 12/07/2012 13:14:54 MST.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
prefer cheap watch now on 12/07/2012 13:23:59 MST Print View

I've owned three altimeter watches, and at this point I feel a bit of fool to have done so. The first required that I mail it back to have a new battery put in every 18 months or so, an expensive option --- so watch out for that, get one with a user-replaceable battery.

The other two eventually both got wonky on me, i.e., at some point the elevation readings just got unreliable, regardless of how carefully I recalibrated at known points.

On a thru-hike, at some point your legs get so strong that you just don't care as much (you still care, just not as much) about elevation deltas --- you'll obsess on this less. I found that I just didn't tend to look, whereas for trips when I wasn't in good shape I would sometimes find myself looking at the elevation all the time on a long climb.

If you have a smartphone with a built-in GPS (that doesn't require cell towers to work), on an infrequent basis if you really want altitude (or location) you can get it that way. And if you need it frequently then, IMO, in most cases that means that either "you're doing it wrong" and/or you would find it worth carrying a standalone GPS unit.

The other thing I like out of a watch (besides current date/time) is an alarm clock (quite infrequently). My smartphone does a much better job of that too, watch alarms often don't wake me up. In fact, one could perhaps just omit a watch in favor of a cell phone. I do like having a very light, cheap Casio on my wrist when hiking but it's not an essential.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Thru Hiking watch-which is best? on 12/07/2012 13:34:45 MST Print View

Peter, you have a gift card-
Buy a Suunto!
I own 2 Core's, I like them. I also have a Timex expedition analog, it only tells time, it doesn't do what the Core does. For me the Core is worth having, but I also know how to use it and what its strengths and weakness are
I don't have any experience with a Vector so I can't say anything about it.

The Core has a metal back (not plastic as said above), It doesn't leak and the batteries need changing about once a year on average (I have a 4 year history to base this off from). For a long Thru hike put an extra CR2032- the size of a quarter, in your supply box and you will be good.

There is a learning curve to these type of watches. I use mine everyday.

I gave a Core to my son-in- law and he said the "storm alarm went off during church" and when he got outside it was sunny. I told him- don't wear your watch in church and wait a few hours, the weather will change; it did. Remember the learning curve.

Here is a thread on Multifunction Watches

Edited by bestbuilder on 12/07/2012 13:40:03 MST.

Katy Anderson
(KatyAnderson) - F
Cheap is the way to go on 12/07/2012 14:11:50 MST Print View

Spend $5, or $10, max $20. Features to look for: tells time, lights up in the dark, has an alarm - that's it.

You don't want to rely on your phone for telling time as you want it turned off as much as possible while hiking to conserve battery life. And you'll definitely have your phone turned off at night, and that's when you really want to know what time it is in addition to possibly using the alarm function.

For the few times that you need something fancier such as altimeter, compass, weather, gps or whathaveyou, you turn on your phone.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Thru Hiking watch-which is best? on 12/07/2012 15:17:26 MST Print View

I have a Vector that is almost 8 years old and has proven reliable and extremely durable. I have only replaced the battery twice in that time (recently the second time). It is a daily wear for me as well. Love it. Pay the extra for durability.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
Re: Thru Hiking watch-which is best? on 12/07/2012 15:51:12 MST Print View

Suunto? Pfff.

For the most extreme outdoor walking scenarios, every hiker must put a genuine gold Rolex at the top of their time keeping device list.

Don't take chances with time or quality, go big or go home.

Kenneth Jacobs
(f8less) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: Thru Hiking watch-which is best? on 12/07/2012 16:10:46 MST Print View


Rolex - Bling on the adventure!

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Thru Hiking watch-which is best? on 12/07/2012 16:15:27 MST Print View

The BEST Thru hiking watch is the one you can get with your GIFT CARD!

Kyle Kuschel
(kkuschel) - M
Core on 12/07/2012 17:53:50 MST Print View

My Suunto Core died shortly after the 2 year warranty was up. I liked it well enough, but they are pretty damn big, so take that into account. Also, the batteries only lasted about 5 - 6 months. On the plus side, its easy to read and the alarm is great!
I think for hiking long distances, the chopped down $10 dollar Timex watch strapped to my pack is the best. Lights up, has an alarm if you need it, tells you the date and the time. You get good at judging your time vs miles + elevation gain/descent after awhile and don't really need a watch. I think not having one on your wrist actually helps the miles go by. Get up when you're awake, go to sleep when you're tired.

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
we don't need no stinking watches ... on 12/07/2012 18:07:57 MST Print View

the "best" hiking watch is the one you left in your tool chest at work.

the sun comes around every day. it makes a big 'ol revolution of the world.
now, if we call that circle it makes 360°, and divide it my 24 hours, it cometh out to about 15° per hour.
using such upper math, we can see that if noon is south (or there-abouts), then it is dead easy to keep track of things such as 6am is 90°
thusly , using a compass is a sure fire, never-fails way to tell the time.

if the sun is not shining and it is raining, it is time to get wet.


Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Thru Hiking Watch on 12/07/2012 18:51:20 MST Print View

I know there is 24 hours in a day but I like to keep track of the minutes on my breaks and plus in full motion on a 3 HR session.

"Timex Expedition" with two hands and a alarm (0.7oz) It's good to wake the "F" up early and get going!

Edited by Creachen on 12/07/2012 20:33:00 MST.

Ryan Dorn
Watch on 12/07/2012 21:53:05 MST Print View

I use the Casio SGW100 with a compass and thermometer. Rugged and only around $40. I've beat the crap out of it and it still looks great.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Suunto on 12/07/2012 22:00:39 MST Print View

Do NOT buy a Suunto VECTOR. They eat through batteries like mad. (Don't ask.)

But for the teensy extra weight of a "navigating" watch I'd get a good Casio that does all the tricks of the Suuntos but with likely greater reliability. I still have an ancient Casio form the '70s.