Hiking or engaging in several outdoor activities is literally exhausting. That will be even worse if you bring your bags or backpack, even if you are [...]
What You Need to Know About Your Hiking Watch
Published: July 14, 2021
Before you use a hiking watch, it is important to know the features it offers, and how to use them. That way, it will be easier for you to operate it when you get in a place where you need it. Don’t learn it in the middle of your hiking activity.
It is important to know how to read the altimeter, barometer, and compass. We suggest you get familiar with all of your hiking watch’s features before you start your hiking trail.
We’ll be talking about these different topics, and will further discuss deeper subjects as we go on. Let’s get started.
What you’ll find in a hiking watch
The differences between a regular watch and a hiking watch are the added features that are important for hiking. For example, you will find the time, battery life, date, fitness tracker, altimeter, GPS, compass, and barometer on the dial area of the watch. Hiking watches’ overall looks are not far from that of standard watches.
This is the main purpose of this gear, as it is literally a watch. Though, this is designed for hikers for multiple purposes and advantages, and it avoids packing several instruments in your backpack. You can find the information you need for hiking with just one glance at your wrist.
Hiking watches are digital, which means that they are battery-powered. They are easily drained if you use them for multiple hours a day. They are like modern cellphones. So, if you leave the GPS on, the battery can be consumed quickly.
From what we have seen on hiking watches, when you check the screen, one component you will notice is the bars that indicate the battery’s life. We suggest you to minimize the usage of your watch, especially if you’ll be out for more than a day.
A lot of — or should we say, most — hiking watches show the current date on the screen. This is actually called a dial-in wristwatch. But, note that not all hiking watches have this feature. Therefore, we suggest you to get a hiking watch with this attribute.
- Fitness tracker
Hiking watches commonly feature a fitness tracker, but some of them do not. This instrument is used to measure the steps you take, as well as your heart rate, and anything that is relevant to physical activity. Some athletes are seen to use fitness trackers alone.
It looks like just a slim digital wristwatch. On hiking watches, you have options to use this feature depending on the watch’s interface.
- Altimeter, GPS, compass, and barometer
The Altimeter, GPS Compass and Barometer are the commonly added features that are implanted into hiking watches. Usually, they are featured on those that are quite pricey, particularly the ones that come with a GPS. Pricing for cheaper hiking watches ranges around $100, but these watches do not include the GPS feature. We asked other hikers about the substantial feature they needed for hiking, and most of them do us the GPS.
How to read a hiking watch
We breakdown the information into three features: altimeter, barometer, and compass. For the altimeter, the main thing to remember is the three hands that indicate intervals. If the pressure of the barometer is falling fast, it signifies that a storm is coming. And the compass has three categories of cardinal points that you should remember.
This device commonly contains three pointers. The long one is to measure the altitude in intervals of 10,000 feet. The short, thick one measures altitude in intervals of 1,000 feet, while the mid-sized one is measures it in intervals of 100 feet.
These intervals are multiplied by the number where the hand is pointing. For example, the long hand is directed to 2, which means that it will be equal to 20,000 feet.
According to our research, there are three types of pressure involved in weather prediction when using a barometer.
The first one is the high pressure, which is 30.20 inHg. This means the sky is clear and the weather is fair. The second one is the normal pressure. It ranges between 29.80 and 30.20 inHg, which determines steady weather. The last one is the low pressure, with 29.80 inHg. It expresses warm air and rainstorms.
Note that if the pressure is quickly falling, it indicates a storm. On the contrary, if it’s gradually falling, rain is expected.
To make the explanation easier, we will be using bullet points.
- Cardinal points: North, South, East, and West
- Intercardinal points: Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, and Northwest
- Secondary intercardinal points: North-Northeast, East-Northeast, East-Southeast, South-Southeast, etc.
Pros and cons of a hiking watch
Among the pros of having a hiking watch is that it allows you to monitor the location you are at, and track your physical activities and the weather. That is like having many devices in just one device. On the other hand, the cons of this type of gear is that the GPS is not very accurate, the battery drains quickly, it may lose signal, and some people find them challenging to use.
Pros of having a hiking watch
- You can monitor your location
In the high-tech era that we currently live in, numerous devices are made to be handy. Hiking watches are generally used for their extra features, like the GPS. If you own a watch that features this, you won’t need a map, nor to brainstorm to know your location.
All you need to do is tap on the buttons to access the GPS feature, and voila!
- It allows you to track your physical activities
Just like we mentioned before, hiking watches come with fitness trackers. It is a great advantage if you want to monitor your physical activities. They will also provide you information about whether you need to take your snacks. Another factor that covers this is to have an idea about your limitations.
- It compresses the different navigation instruments into a single one
Imagine if you had to bring a watch, plus a compass, map, barometer, fitness tracker, and even a mini calendar on your physical activities. That’s a huge hassle and disadvantage. You might misplace these things, or worst, forgot to pack them.
We are impressed with the ever-improving technology, and how manufacturers applied these innovations to hiking watches. Wearing one of these will squeeze all of the things you’ll need for navigation purposes into a single device.
- It keeps an eye on the weather
Knowing the weather is essential when you are going on outdoors adventures. Since hiking will bring you to isolated places, it is hard to keep track of the weather conditions. You’ll never know if a storm is about to hit the area when you are hiking.
- It’s a handy gear
One of the best features of this device is its portability. Everything is just easy to carry, and won’t be an obstacle to your activities. Hiking requires a lot of movements. You need to put your focus on supporting your body. All you have to do is wrap it on your wrist, and you’ll be armed with your needs.
Would you love to see a hiking watch with all these features? Check out our Suunto 9 Baro in-depth review, as part of our Best Hiking Watches in 2021 article. There, we did a breakdown of all its features, design, battery life, and more. Plus, you’ll find four more products that may suit your style and needs.
Cons of a hiking watch
- It’s expensive
As something you can buy for about $100 and over, this is truly an expensive device.
- Signals or internet access may not be available
When in the mountains, your signal may possibly cut. If that happens, other features will be unusable.
- The battery drains quickly when used frequently
This type of watches is not only used to check the time. It offers a lot of features that can drain the battery faster, just like smartphones.
- GPS’ inaccuracies
The GPS depends on the signal access, which makes it inaccurate. If you have a good signal, then your watch can show great performances. But without a good signal, it will be useless.
- It can be challenging to use for some
If you are not a tech savvy, then this may be hard for you to use. It will take you time to learn how to operate your device.
- It may rely on your smartphone
Some hiking watches rely on smartphones. The GPS and other features are needed to be connected for you to use it.
How would you know if the price is right for a hiking watch?
You’ll know the price of the hiking watch is reasonable, as the pricing for a device without a GPS ranges around $100, while those with a GPS and other features can reach $600 and over. There also are some cheaper hiking watches, however, expect a lower quality, even if they have complete features.
Based on our evaluations and price check of the different hiking watches, we noticed some feedbacks and reviews that affect the cost and features of these devices. If a watch is cheap, for example, it is usually placed in the standard level. As for the expensive ones, hikers may either express disappointment, or be impressed by the product.
As you go along and scrutinize your hiking watch, you’ll discover more features that you may not be aware of at first. This applies to those who buy their watches with a lack of research and information.
Although this might be a negative action, it is a fact that most people nowadays just buy devices based on the given description, and some descriptions are based on very little research. So, we advise you to do some research before you purchase a hiking watch.