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.