Why buy an altimeter watch?
An altimeter watch is used for mountain activities : hiking, climbing, mountaineering, trail running, trekking, cycling, skiing … It is an electronic watch that gives the altitude but also the speed of ascent and descent, storing the elevation points and altitude alarm. It checks its progress. So it is a very useful and even indispensable accessory for mountain sports.
Before choosing an altimeter watch, we must learn about its accuracy, reliability, robustness. By cons, be aware that the altitude measurement is never exact with this kind of watch. Indeed, the altitude is measured relative to standard atmospheric pressure. The indicated altitude does not always correspond to the actual altitude meter.
What a difference between GPS altimeter or barometric altimeter?
Which solution to choose between GPS altimeter and barometric altimeter? Each solution has its advantages and disadvantages. For more precision a watch that combines the two is ideal.
GPS watch with altimeter: the most common solution in sports watches at present is the altimeter based on GPS coordinates. On a watch GPS altimeter, a scientist calculation is performed to determine the altitude based on the coordinates and the reference ellipsoid.
The drawback with GPS altimeter is inconsistent measures caused by several factors. First, there is a margin of error of the GPS system itself. The GPS error is a few meters horizontally but vertically higher.Then the signal obstructions (buildings, trees, cows, etc …) further increase the error rate. Finally, the reference ellipsoid may cause other differences. The accumulation of these small errors can result.Fortunately software like Garmin Connect can correct these errors afterwards.
Watch with barometric altimeter: this watch has a sensor that uses atmospheric pressure to determine your altitude. A watch with barometric altimeter is more accurate to calculate the gradients. It gives a smoother elevation profile as GPS.
Pressure altimeters are much simpler design. A barometric altimeter measures the difference in atmospheric pressure between its position and a reference surface. The instrument displays the corresponding altitude assuming a standard atmosphere.
The disadvantage with the barometric altimeter drift is detected at a pressure variation due to climate variations. The ideal is to use a barometric altimeter combined with a GPS to remove the drift due to the climate.
Watch with barometric altimeter and GPS : Latest GPS watch models have a barometric altimeter corrected by GPS for greater accuracy. This is the case of the Garmin Fenix 3 and Suunto Ambit 3 Peak .
What are the altimeter watch brands?
The main altimeter watch brands for extreme conditions Suunto, Garmin and Casio.
Suunto offers more adventure watch models that gives the altitude with the Suunto Vector ranges of watches, Suunto Core, Suunto Ambit.
Garmin is a specialist in GPS watches. The brand offers watches for hiking and mountain with Garmin Fenix range.
Casio offers altimeter watches valued for their reliability and robustness. The brand has a range of watches suitable for hiking and mountain sports like Casio PRO TREK.
Other fashion brands like Polar offer pocket watches that also have an altimeter as the Polar RC3 . But this type of watch is not as robust.
Pricewise, an altimeter watch costs between 100 and 400 Euros. Altimeters Casio watches are cheaper.Newer models like the Garmin Fenix 3 or Suunto Ambit 3 are higher-end models. This is connected with GPS altimeter watches.
What is the best altimeter watch?
There is not a better model, but several. It all depends on your needs, your preferences and your budget.For most hikers, the Garmin Fenix 3 is the GPS shows it takes. For 400 € is a connected GPS watch really complete and easy to use.