Let’s level things out here: altimeter watches measure altitude…if you forgot that part. At least that’s how we all understand them. The technical side of things state that they actually measure atmospheric pressure, so they’re basically barometers designed for a specific purpose.
How altimeter watches work:
The simple explanation is that the higher you go, the less atmosphere is above you, the lower the air pressure is, so the higher the altitude. Most watches track altitude changes in 3 foot increments, and since they rely on pressure readings, they usually display both the adjusted-for-sea-level pressure reading and absolute air pressure so that you understand the readings.
Why Should You Invest in an Altimeter Watch?
Look, most outdoor enthusiast want and need to track their adventures, which is why handheld GPS units, altimeter watches and smart watches are becoming more common by the day. Most of these watches sport digital compasses and thermometers, features you can use to help you navigate and keep track with your progress. Depending on your hobby, your altimeter watch’s usefulness can vary between a curiosity cure and a life-saving tool.
What Makes a Great Altimeter Watch?
Before you go ahead in invest, do your homework and make sure that you’ve considered the following aspects:
- The Features – while standard features like date, stop watch, count down timer, barometer, and trackers are normal in altimeter watches, the extras are what really count. Think GPS and computer graphing.
- The Time – again, features like a stop watch and a timer are standard on altimeter watches, but you’re looking for more value wherever you can find it. More alarms, louder alarms, world time and dual time, those are the things you’re hunting down.
- The Altimeter – this one is pretty obvious. You need a reliable and accurate altimeter; we’re talking measurements down to three foot increments, an altitude log, a history of vertical levels gained, and the ability to transfer data to your computer.
- The Barometer – if you care about climatic changes at all (honestly all outdoorsmen should!) than a great barometer is an absolute must. Charting barometric pressure is essential whether you’re hiking, cycling, skiing or just exploring uncharted terrain.
- The Compass – while you could easily just buy a separate compass, it just makes more sense to invest in a watch that has all the features, including a great and reliable compass. Opt for models that sport 3D compass technology if you’re a serious cross-country traveler, otherwise a good digital compass will suffice.
- Ease of Use – you need a watch that has well labeled features and a menu that’s easy to understand and operate.
Got that? If you’re ready to invest in a great altitude watch, just stick with us because now it’s time for us to show you some of your best altimeter watch options for 2016.
Buying Guide: Altimeter Watch Reviews
Best Performance Altimeter Watch
Suunto Ambit 2
At the moment, the Suunto Ambit 2 is the market leader in altitude watches; in fact it boasts so many great features that it’s so much more than just an altimeter watch. Its display and impressive interface puts it way ahead of the competition and its unique ability to transfer and view data, manage it and use additional features on your computer totally puts it in a league of its own. All man made things have defects, so it’s fair to pick at the disappointingly low battery life of the Ambit 2. All things considered, if you’ve got the cash to splash, this is by far the best value that money can buy!
· It’s very rich in great features
· The display is impressive
· It has a built in GPS
· It’s very accurate
· It has a low battery life
· It’s expensive
Best Value Altimeter Watch
Coming in at 2nd place is the Ambit 2’s little bro, the Suunto Core. It totally excels in its common features and has one of the most accurate altimeters; it also has a great altitude log and one of the best barometric weather graphs when compared to the competition. We love the sunrise and sunset times feature and the fact that it boasts waterproof buttons. The interface is pretty great too since it’s easy to use and features a well-labeled menu. It’s nothing like the Ambit, but if you’re a little budget conscious, the Core offers you great standard features at roughly half the price of the Ambit.
· It has one of the most accurate altimeters
· It’s durable
· It boasts an easy to use menu
· It has a lot of useful and innovative features
· It doesn’t have a GPS
· The screen is hard to read in bright or low light
Best Looking Altimeter Watch
Casio Men’s Pro Trek
We’ve always known the Pro Trek line from Casio for its toughness, durable performance and great quality, but the PRW-600Y-1A is a game changer of sorts since it’s the first Pro Trek that actually looks pretty darn amazing. This is arguably one of Casio’s best looking outdoor watches with its modern face and a stylish band sporting carbon fiber inserts. It’ll do what you need it to and more thanks to the features like an altimeter, barometer, compass, a thermometer, a stopwatch and a time function that’s always spot on. We love that it’s a solar powered watch so you’ll never have to stress about batteries. For its price, the Casio PRW-600Y-1A Pro Trek truly shines bright among the rest.
· It looks amazing yet it’s rugged and extremely durable
· The fit and finish is top notch
· The features are just what you need and work like they should
· The watch is easy to use and understand
· It doesn’t have a GPS feature
Best Affordable Altimeter Watch
Released in late 2015, the Suunto Traverse became an overnight hit among the likes of hikers, backpackers, mountaineers and outdoorsmen across the world as soon as it hit the shelves. Why? Well the attractive design might be one of the main reasons for its popularity, plus the fact that it boasts an extensive range of great features. The design differs from the Ambit we mentioned earlier in the sense that it’s much more elegant and not as sporty. The shaving off they did with the sporty features means you won’t benefit from features like multi-sport mode or advanced training analysis, but then again, the regular outdoorsman doesn’t need all of that.
What you do get are kick-ass features like vibrational alerts, a pedometer, flashback lights and GLONASS navigation, none of which are present in the Ambit. The Traverse will still connect wirelessly via Bluetooth with your smartphone and offers pretty much all the other features found in the Ambit like a great altimeter, barometer, digital compass etc. Overall, it’s a great outdoor watch that boasts helpful and practical features plus it looks sleek enough for everyday wear.
· It’s very stylish and made with high quality materials
· It easily syncs with your smart devices
· It has a lot of great features
· It runs on GLONASS maps
· It doesn’t come with multisport mode
· POD’s aren’t supported
With the likes of these four great watches, you’re bound to pick one of them as the best altimeter watch for you. Yes, most of them are Suunto’s, but that just gives you an indication of who the market leader is in this industry.