The mountaineering watch is by definition the specifically designed watch for mountaineers. Unlike ordinary watches, mountaineering watches are not just ornaments or time-watching tools. Their focus is more on practical functions such as altitude, barometer, and compass, etc.. In the field of mountaineering watches, Suunto, Garmin, and Casio are recognized as the top 3 manufacturers. Suunto has a strong comprehensive performance, Garmin is good at GPS, and Casio has strong battery life.
What We Should Know Before Buying Mountaineering Watches?
Accuracy is the core factor of mountaineering watches, which refers to the accuracy of the mountaineering watch’s timing, positioning, altitude, etc. In outdoor activities, accuracy is especially important for controlling the progress of activities and measuring data.
Compared with ordinary watches, in addition to waterproof, shockproof, and impact-proof, mountaineering watches also should have these necessary functions such as altimeter, barometer, compass. Some mountaineering watches also add tide graph display, PC operation, and GPS. The function of the mountaineering watch should be more practical outdoors.
The durability of mountaineering watches is reflected in the bezel, strap, and mirror material. For the bezel, titanium alloy is superior to stainless steel and plastic materials. The overall performance of the silicone strap is better. Although the metal is durable and wear-resistant, it has no weight advantage. On the mirror surface, the wear resistance of the synthetic sapphire mirror is better than that of the mineral crystal glass mirror.
4. Battery Life
For users who have long time mountain activities, battery life is an important factor. The battery life of the mountaineering watch is related to the battery capacity, but the larger battery capacity, the greater size, and weight of the watch. In addition, if the mountaineering watch integrated with more functions, it will accelerate the power consumption.
This includes the design of the dial and strap, reasonable structure and exterior design can bring users a better experience. Although the circular dial conforms to the traditional mainstream aesthetics, it is relatively inefficient to display information; while the rectangular screen has the advantage of information display and is more practical. The titanium alloy case is durable and high-end, the stainless steel has high gloss, and the plastic material has average durability, but it has rich colors. Common strap materials are metal, silicone, plastic, and leather. Although metal and leather are of higher grade, their weight and durability are relatively average. Silicone is a more balanced material and is a more practical choice.
Our brand rankings are also based on these 5 factors.
Suunto belongs to the Finnish No.1 sports equipment company – Amer Group. In Finnish, “Suunto” means “direction” or “path”. This company founded more than 80 years ago, it produced the world’s first liquid-filled compass, which greatly improved the insufficient accuracy of traditional compasses.
In order to solve the problem of high power consumption of GPS, Suunto’s mountaineering watches are designed with 3 GPS pings: 1s, 5s, and 60s. The lower the GPS ping, the less power consumption, and more battery-saving. When the GPS function in low-consumption mode is used, the battery life can even reach an extremely high level of 200 hours, which is relatively practical for long-distance climbers.
Songtuo currently on sale mountaineering watches mainly include 9, Ambit, Traverse, and Spartan series. The classic CORE series has been discontinued, but there are still channels to buy. These series of mountaineering watches are equipped with GPS, and some of them are equipped with the Russian GLONASS navigation satellite system, which can improve the accuracy of positioning when used with GPS. Both the 9 and the SPARTAN series use color touch screens, and the other configurations are relatively high-end.
The Suunto 9 is the flagship mountaineering watch, its GPS is very accurate. The 9 Series adopts synthetic sapphire mirror and stainless steel material. However, this series of products is not that perfect, its fitness tracking function is not so good, so it is more suitable for use as a mountaineering watch. In addition, some 9 series models have the “Baro” suffix, which means that the barometer function has been added. When GPS cannot receive the signal, the barometer can assist in providing altitude and weather information, so it is recommended to buy the Baro models.
Suunto Ambit3 is also well received, and many professional outdoor sports media ranked it first in the review of mountaineering watches. Although Ambit3 is not as rich in functions as the 9 series, its battery life is better than the 9 series.
When the GPS is turned off, the battery life can last for 30 days. When the GPS is turned on within 1s, 5s, and 60s GPS pings, the battery life is respectively of 20, 30, and 200 hours. And the price of the Ambit3 mountaineering watch is much more affordable.
The Spartan and Traverse series is also equipped with outdoor climbing functions such as altitude, air pressure, temperature, and GPS. But slightly different from the 9 and Ambit series, Spartan prefers outdoor trail running, while Traverse prefers scenes such as fishing and hunting.
Garmin is the leading GPS brand. In the field of civil aviation navigation equipment, Garmin has absolute dominance. Among the 230,000 civil aircraft worldwide, up to 90% of them use Garmin systems.
In addition to being used in aerospace, diving, and outdoor sports, Garmin’s products have even been used in the military. During the Gulf War, Garmin GPS was used for Precision Guided Munitions. In the Iraq War, with the help of Garmin GPS, the US military captured former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
In addition to the GPS function, Garmin mountaineering watches are basically integrated with a heart rate monitor. But unlike traditional HRM watches, Garmin mountaineering watches do not need to wear a heart rate wristband separately. The back of the watch can emit light and automatically measure heart rate, making it more convenient and comfortable to wear. However, for mountain enthusiasts, the heart rate monitoring function is not a necessary option.
Garmin watches for mountain sports are mainly FENIX 5 and FENIX 3 series. The FENIX 5 series is Garmin’s flagship mountaineering watch. Many outdoor media had rated the FENIX 5 models as the best mountaineering watch.
The FENIX 5 integrated 3 satellite systems (US GPS, Russian GLONASS, Japan Michibiki), in addition to heart rate monitoring and music storage functions, it also supports multiple sports scenes such as running, cycling, mountain climbing, swimming, and fitness. In terms of material, the mirror surface of the FENIX 5 series is made of the most wear-resistant synthetic sapphire, and its bezel is covered with a coating, which is not easy to scratch even if it is dropped on the ground. Depending on the configuration, the price of the FENIX 5 series covers the range of $200~$500. If the budget is limited, you can consider the FENIX 3 series which also has a good performance.
It is worth mentioning that the design of outdoor mountaineering watches has always been masculine. With the increase in the proportion of women buying in recent years, Garmin mountaineering watches paid more attention to feminine. Take the Garmin Instinct mountaineering watch as an example. It is available in white, yellow, black, and orange colors. The dial is simple and stylish without complex design, it is very popular among female users. The Instinct mountaineering watch can work normally at a temperature of -20°C to 60°C, supports 100 meters of water resistance, earthquake resistance, and corrosion resistance, and supports 4 satellite systems.
According to statistics, more than 50% of Casio’s annual sales come from watches, the watch became Casio’s mainstay product.
Casio watches have G-SHOCK, EDIFICE, PROTREK, BABY-G, and other series, and the positioning of each series is different. Among them, G-SHOCK is the most famous for its durability. Each G-SHOCK watch needs to pass rigorous testing, including hammering, dropping, and immersion.
As Casio’s outdoor mountaineering watch series, PROTREK is positioned differently from G-SHOCK. Due to considering the needs of mountain climbers, the PROTREK series has built-in sensors such as air pressure, altitude, and temperature, so its seismic durability is not as good as G-SHOCK. However, the structure of the PROTREK series still draws on some advantages of G-SHOCK.
The biggest features of the PROTREK watches are that it has a battery-recharging system and MULTI BAND 6 technology, these two features distinguish PROTREK from other mountaineering watches.
PROTREK’s solar-powered technology can convert light energy into electrical energy in the case of insufficient light, which is very suitable for changeable weather. And the battery life of solar-powered batteries is significantly better than coin and rechargeable batteries.
PROTREK’s MULTI BAND 6 technology receives time calibration radio signals from the US, UK, Germany, Japan, China to keep the displayed time accurate.
The release of PROTREK WSD-F10 in 2016 marked Casio is entering the smarter outdoor climbing watch market. The PROTREK WSD series has been updated to the third-generation WSD-F30. The PROTREK WSD-F30 outdoor watch equipped with 3 compatible satellite systems(US GPS, Russian GLONASS, Japan Michibiki).
Another major selling point of WSD-F30 is power-saving. Optimal management of battery power allows you to reduce power consumption, within the lowest GPS ping model, the WSD-F30 has a battery life of up to 30 days.
In general, the Casio PROTREK WSD series is a new attempt by Casio. Although there are still many problems to be improved, its overall structure and design are still top-notch. If you like PROTREK’s solar-powered climb watch, PROTREK PRW-7000, and PRW-6100 are more recommended, they have a higher appearance, and their functions are mainly focused on mountaineering activities which are more practical.
Coros is a young smart sports technology company founded in 2014, focusing on sports helmets and sports watches.
Coros currently only has 3 smart sports watches, namely Pace, Apex, and Vertix. The performance of these 3 watches has increased successively, and the prices are respectively $199.99, $349.99, and $599.99.
Coros watches are not specifically developed for mountain sports, but cover other outdoor sports such as running, swimming, cycling, triathlon and indoor fitness. Each Coro’s watch is equipped with altitude, air pressure, temperature, GPS, and heart rate functions, so it is fully qualified for mountaineering activities.
In addition to strong battery life, Coros Pace also has good ease of use. Pace has 4 buttons with labels. There is no need to use key combinations during operation, and the embedded functions are less redundant. The simple design can help users quickly find the functions they need.
However, Pace also has disadvantages. Its appearance is inferior compared to the other two Coros Apex and Vertix watches. In addition, although Pace has 3 satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS, and BDS), it’s unable to provide guidance for complex road conditions.
But overall, Pace still has good cost-effectiveness. In addition to the slightly lower scores of functions and appearance design, its accuracy and ease of use are not inferior to Garmin and Suunto watches, but the price is only less than half of them. Coros Pace watch is the TOP PICK for non-professional athletes.
If you have more pursuit of functions, you can choose Coros Apex, which is a higher level than Pace. Compared with Pace, Apex has mainly upgraded functions, battery life, case, and mirror. In terms of functions, Apex is relatively more complete, with functions that Pace does not have, such as navigation, recovery consultant, and aerobic training results. In terms of battery life, Apex has a battery life of 35 hours in full GPS mode, which is better than Pace’s 25 hours. In addition, Apex uses a titanium alloy case and a sapphire crystal glass, which is more durable and abrasion-resistant than Pace’s engineering plastic case and mineral glass.
Coros Vertix is the flagship watch launched by Coros in 2019. Compared with Apex, this watch mainly includes a 24/7 blood Oxygen monitoring function. This function can monitor the blood oxygen concentration of the human body in real-time, and combine with the heart rate data to provide users intensity recommendations for outdoor exercisers to prevent altitude sickness. In terms of temperature resistance and battery life, Vertix is also more powerful than Apex. Its minimum operating temperature is as low as -20°C. The high-precision full GPS mode has a battery life of 60 hours, and the UltraMax GPS mode has a battery life of 150 hours. It is very suitable for long-distance mountaineering activities in harsh environments.