Have a Suunto, six or seven years old by now, that has altimeter and compass and admit I never use the compass. It's a bear to calibrate, not terribly intutive to use, and increases power consumption. Hopefully they've improved the UI since because in theory, it would be nice to have. I almost think an analogue watch with magnetic compass might be better.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
I gave up on an altimeter watch. While it was nice to know when it was going to rain (my camp in the morning is 200 feet higher than it was the night before), resetting it was just too much of a pain. Besides, I have small wrists, and those heavy and bulky high-tech watches all have wristbands too big for me.
What I do need is a watch with an alarm loud enough to wake me up should I want to get out on the trail early in the morning!
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
Thanks for the inputs, guys/gals. I need a watch to tell what time it is, and the barometer pressure will come in handy. The altimeter would be just for fun to me. I'll keep a plain ol' fashion compass on my pack as always instead putting 100% faith in digital compass.
Edited by ETSU Pride (02/27/1410:23 AM)
It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy.-- Horace Kephart
Couple follow-up comments: My watch can't be a barometer and altimiter at the same time, I have to switch between the modes so leave it on altimeter except when in camp. I don't know whether this applies to other models, but thought I'd mention it. I set the altimeter to a known elevation, daily, to accommodate barometric drift.
Look for temperature compensation. Without it, temp affects alti/baro readings, including heat from the wrist--very unhelpful.
Altitude can be a very helpful nav aid, especially when off trail or in the snow. It's a good complement to map and compass, especially when there's no view of prominent geographic features (most of the time when not above treeline).
Loc: Washington State, King County
"So true, I've never had a watch alarm I couldn't sleep through."
At the risk of further thread drift ... what works for me is an app on my smartphone. Wakes me up gradually (not jarringly) but gets increasingly louder until it's loud enough to definitely wake me.
In terms of electronic compasses as the OP asked about --- I have little experience, I tend to pull out a light analog compass if I need one. I too have fallen out of love with altitude watches, and now prefer just the cheapest Casio I can find. It's lighter, it keeps fine time, and it's one less thing to worry or stress over.
If I really want to know my altitude and can't derive it from a map, the GPS app on my smartphone will tell me this to within all the accuracy I care about (generally by looking at topo lines rather than GPS-calculated).
I would never solely rely on and on an electronic compass. I always carry a quality Suunto mc5. I do however own and use a Garmin Tactix. It rocks! It uses a GPS-based and a magnetic compass. I find it to be quite accurate. I've had it for a year and a half while ocean kayaking, skydiving(Jumpmastering and watching glide ratio), ski mountaineering, and backpacking of course. I plan on weaving a paracord wriststrap for it using a firestarter/ whistle buckle.