Recommended mountaineering watches

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  • #16288

    Hi Scott,
    I noticed you replied on another forum thread about HR monitors and you mentioned you could provide some recommendations for mountaineering & HR watches?

    I am looking for a watch to track HR and also will serve me for mountaineering.

    Thanks in advance,

Posted In: Mountaineering

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    Anonymous on #16291

    I’m not Scott but I use a Suunto Ambit 3 Peak (Hr monitor comes separately) and I’m very pleased with it. I don’t do a ton of data mining/tracking so I can’t speak to its ease of use in that regard.

    Rachel on #16300

    I have a Suunto Spartan Trainer and use it with a chest strap to monitor HR (except for sleep tracking which uses the built in wrist HR). The built in HR is crappy like pretty much all optical wrist HR so I wouldn’t rely just on that. The couple of times I’ve done a workout with the chest strap the wrist reported HR is all over the place and unreliable. Like it will report very high numbers that I know are just wrong. It seems to do better with resting heart rate.

    I haven’t figured out if an all-day event will drain the watch battery yet but I think it will be able to handle it (then charge in the evening or at night.) I usually charge it once every couple days or so.

    I believe one of the Scotts or Steve recommended this watch in another thread. I started with the Ambit Run but it was huge on my small wrist so I looked for a smaller Suunto (I think it’s 45 mm diameter vs 50.) The Garmin Fenix series look nice too but they were a bit pricey.

    Anonymous on #16303

    I used a Forerunner 910Xt for years and recently switched to a refurbished Fenix 2.

    I find the bells and whistles to be more expensive than they’re worth because I’d rather use my phone or a dedicated GPS for navigation. I would get a watch with just the basics for training (and turn off the optical wrist monitor if it has one).

    Anonymous on #16306

    I like my Forerunner 935 with chest strap. It is the smallest Garmin with a barometric altimeter. That was the main feature I wanted and don’t like the huge Fenix watches on my wrist as they are always getting hung up on pack straps and turning on/off inadvertently. It does not have so many cool features as the Fenix 3 or 5 but I’m to dumb to figure all of those out anyway. David Goettler whom I coach loves his Fenix 5. This summer while he was training for a marathon he was entering the interval workout into the watch from TP and he then just followed along. That’s cool but not so important for mountaineers.

    I’m not familiar with Suunto watches so will have to let others comment. I just know that a mountain watch needs a good altimeter.


    Jan on #16315

    I don’t have too much experience with watches, but really like my Suunto Ambit 3 Peak.
    It has all the functions you should need.
    It has different modes of GPS accuracy, so you can make it really accurate for training but less accurate for multi-day trips. In the least accurate mode it has a battery life of 200 hours.
    You should also be able to get a good deal on used ones.

    Participant on #16318

    Thank you all for responding. This is very helpful in informing my research/decision.

    With gratitude,

    hafjell on #16320

    Have had good luck with my Suunto Ambit3 watch especially the altimeter. The HR monitor was terrible, couldn’t connect, so I binned it. Tiny sample size of 1, but coming from a Garmin bike HR monitor that just worked every time, I was disappointed. Aside from the HR monitor, the Suunto is great. Very good web-based interfaces too.

    Jan on #16337

    Interesting, I never have problems with the HR belt as long as I clean it once a week and the battery life is still good.
    Andrew Skurka has a good review of the watch and a troubleshooting for the belt:

    TerryLui on #16883

    I’m a Suunto Ambit 3 user as well.
    The tips that Jan posted worked well when I had HRM issues. I now wear the strap with the HRM module/disc on the left side of my chest (under my left armpit).

    Also, as mentioned in the above links, static electricity from synthetic shirts (esp. tight fitting ones) really messed up my HRM signal as well. I now wear loose-ish fitting merino wool or synthetic shirts and rub a bit of water on/under the shirt to reduce static when I’m out.

    I took me 2-3 weeks of trial and error until I found solutions stated above. Good luck!

    hafjell on #16895

    Thanks, Terry. Not to quibble, and not to imply it’s a deal breaker because I really do like the watch, but my Garmin worked out of the box without the above mentioned work arounds. And it worked with road bike shirts which were much tighter than my ski and running shirts, and all synthetic. Just want to be honest for the OP as he’s in the market. Also, Suunto is talking about ditching Movescount. Not ideal for me.

    Participant on #16908

    This summer while he was training for a marathon he was entering the interval workout into the watch from TP and he then just followed along. That’s cool but not so important for mountaineers.

    Your 935 can do the same.

    The 935 is more or less a Fenix 5 in another package.

    Steve House on #22258

    Here is a new option. I just got one, I’ll post here once I’ve had it for a month or so. My first impression is quite positive. The app is really good, much better than the Garmin or Suunto app.

    dwpyle on #22308

    I got the Garmin Instinct about a month ago. I haven’t used it in the mountains yet, but for workouts and training I like it quite a bit better than my Suunto Spartan. And at $299 much better deal than Fenix/Suunto 9. Not as capable of course, no mapping, but I’d rather use a phone with Gaia GPS.

    Scholesm on #22668

    I have myself a Fenix 5s. I have tinier wrists and arms than most people and hate the big bulky watches that many training watches are. The 5s is perfect for me. Works really well minus a few bugs here and there over the last year and a half that i’ve had it. Sometimes it refuses to sync, sometimes charging cable doesn’t work, sometimes when unplugging charging cable it seems to think its still charging so remains frozen displaying the battery life leaving me unable to use the watch.

    Happens rarely, but while still annoying, none of these issues occur when i’m actually training with it on.

    My one gripe is the built in gps though and altimeter. Neither of them are fantastic.

    For example, one of my training runs is exactly a 10.1 km trail loop, I start and stop the watch at the very same spot every run and sometimes it will tell me I did a 8.76 km run, while on other days it magically becomes a 9.5 km run, and this past weekened appartently it turned into a 14.1km run and that had be really scratching my head.

    Altimeter needs to be calibrated often as apparently I’m consistently living at over 3800m above sea level (I don’).
    So the calibration is off but at least it works in a sense that i’ll start my training at 3800m according to the watch and finish at 4200m. While I don’t finish at 4200m, I did infact do 400m of elevation gain so that’s what matters to me. When I do calibrate it, then it works just fine: example. last summer at the Britannia hut, I calibrated it to the height of the hut and for the next few weeks going up and down the peaks around Sass, it was spot on until I got back on the plane.

    I do love the watch and the issues are really not too bad. I suppose for the price you pay it would be nice if it worked 100% of the time but I’m not sure that its realistic to expect that either. Doesn’t hurt that I got it on a major sale on Boxing Day so that helps me accept a few more issues.

    Participant on #23160

    (Sorry if this is a double post. My original post disappeared after an edit so I have reposted.)

    Scholesm, you can’t have a fixed calibration for a barometric altimeter. Not even for a few weeks.

    The barometric altimeter will compare your actual ambient air pressure to a reference air pressure at a known altitude and then calculate your altitude from the difference.

    However, the reference air pressure is not fixed. It will change every day. Over some days, the pressure can change +/- 30 millibar relative to the average, and in extreme cases it can change +/- 50 millibar.

    Each millibar is equal to 8-10 meter of elevation. So in the worst case, your altitude can change by up to 1000 meter if going from minimum pressure to maximum pressure or vice versa.

    So there is no way around frequent calibrations if you want correct absolute altitude. Which leads to this question:
    From the factory, your 5S was set up to do automatic altimeter calibration every time you start a GPS enabled activity. Have you disabled that? Or do you start your activities before you have a good GPS fix?

    (It should be noted that the Fenix 5 does have some known hardware issues for the ambient pressure sensor, and you may also be hit by those:
    Sometimes they are sensitive to static electricity, which will cause your altitude to change by several kilometer in a short time.
    And sometimes they are sensitive to temperature changes, which will cause your altitude to change by up to 100-200 meter over the first 15 minutes of an outdoor session where you came from indoor.)

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