How To Buy a Watch

Lewis and Clark navigated the wilderness using a sextant, an octant, a surveying compass, and an artificial horizon among other things. Today’s explorers wear their technologies on their wrists, with watches boasting features that go far beyond timekeeping. If you are a climber or skier, watches containing barometers and altimeters will help you avoid hazardous weather conditions and notify you of your altitude. GPS capabilities now assist runners and trainers with developing beneficial routes, showing where the athlete may be struggling so he/she can strategize and improve their weaknesses. Some watches may contain only a few of these features, while others will have nearly all of them. As you might expect, the more programs a watch has the more likely it is to come with a higher price tag.

Get ready to do some homework, assess needs and budget, and enjoy the fascinating world of watches. This guide will introduce you to some topics that will help you learn how to choose the best watch for your outdoor needs.

Time Features: Aside from just displaying the time, watches provide a number of other features that orientate you during your day-to-day pursuits. Most watches, both digital and analog, supply users with dates and calendars, alarms and stopwatches. Some have chronographs, multiple time zone settings and other advanced time-telling features.

Display: The watch’s display is a vital aspect of determining the device’s usefulness. Although it may seem like a superfluous and cosmetic detail, the watch’s display shows all the necessary information such as time, date, altitude and heart rate an owner wants to know. Consider the size of numbers, contrast, and night illumination.

Handling: Quick and easy access to programs without complicated directions eliminates frustration and wasted time. Expect some learning to be involved with new equipment, but simpler is usually better. Even powerful GPS watches can usually be navigated with just a few buttons if the interface is well engineered.

Size: The mass of a watch should be appropriate for the intended activity. Runners may prefer to invest in something lightweight. For those users who wear gloves while hiking in the winter or biking along roughened trails, big buttons are useful when trying to get information regarding time, location, and dates without having to pull gloves off.

Water resistance: Most outdoor watches are at least somewhat water resistant. Some are capable of diving much deeper than the human body. Many watches are rated to a depth of 100 meters, or about 300 feet. This is sufficient for pretty much anything short commercial diving or competitive free diving. Even recreational scuba divers will never go deeper than 130 feet.


Watches With Weather Features 

These watches include barometers, altimeters, digital compasses and thermometers. They can posses all four of these features or just one along with some of the attributes mentioned previously.

Barometer: Curious to know what weather shifts are coming your way? The barometer feature can warn you about everything from approaching showers to devastating snowstorms while you explore backcountry hillsides. This tool measures the rises and falls of atmospheric pressure. This is a great method for predicting weather changes to the trained user. Some of these watches even come with alarms that alert you of pressure drops.

Altimeter: The altimeter works by measuring changes in barometric pressure, which drops as one climbs. Many also use GPS to gauge altitude. This tool is especially useful to backcountry hikers, mountaineers, skiers and anyone else that ascends or descends hillsides and mountains. Recognizing your altitude can locate you in regard to how much height you have gained or lost, and subsequently, how much further you need to go. When considering buying a watch with altimeter capabilities, review the accuracy of the device. Many styles require frequent re-calibration as weather changes result in changes of baseline barometric pressures. Also know that having a slow digital countdown to the summit on your wrist can make a slow, challenging ascent feel that much more demoralizing. Pro Tip: Keep your eyes on the trail, not the altimeter.

Digital Compass: This fundamental tool is a must-have in the backcountry. A digital compass on a watch is an excellent backup to a handheld compass. However, since these electronic compasses require calibration for accuracy, and batteries for life, you should always pack an analog compass when venturing through unfamiliar forests and trails.


Training Watches

The latest generation of training watches has opened up a world of online applications to outdoor athletes. These watches allow data to be charted and graphed by simply plugging the watch into a computer. Most high-end training watches feature modes for running, cycling, swimming, hiking, navigation, and more.

These watches will display useful information, such as minutes per mile, total miles covered, GPS location and altitude while still on the wrist. Once home, the data can be transferred to a computer for much more in-depth analysis.

Some training watches are also compatible with external devices, like heart rate monitors and watt monitors for cycling.

Dive Computers: These specialized watches compute depth over time to determine safe dive times, surface intervals and a lot more.

Route Maps: Watches designed for training or navigation use simple route maps that help guide the user when off trail.

Heart Rate Monitors: Another feature to consider when shopping for a watch is if it has a heart rate monitor. Knowing your heart rate at different parts of a run is critical for athletes training at a high level of performance.

There are two primary types of monitoring watches: chest strap models and finger sensor models. The first comes with a strap containing a transmitter which is buckled around the chest. The second type gathers your pulse once you have placed a finger on the sensor of the watch. Typically, the chest strap model is recommended for those desiring highly accurate measurements of their pulses while the finger sensor offers a more affordable and comfortable option for those just beginning.

Calorie Burning Monitor: Watches that contain heart rate monitors often have calorie burning monitors too that provide information regarding the effectiveness of workouts as well as diets. Keeping track of all those calories consumed throughout the day and how many were lost while exercising can be difficult. The calorie burning function records how long you have exercised and compares it to your pulse and personal stats including age, height and weight, resulting in a calculation geared specifically to the user. Like the heart rate monitors, this feature uses chest strap watch combinations or finger sensors to collect the necessary information.

By incorporating the technologies of today, watches have replaced pack-loads of navigation and monitoring equipment and opened up new landscapes to intrepid outdoorsfolk. Be sure to read reviews, ask questions and always follow the instructions that accompany new watch purchases.