Please note that some of the links in this article are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link.
An altimeter is usually a barometer used to measure altitude with air pressure readings. The higher you go, the less the atmospheric pressure and air. That means less pressure is exerted on your barometer. Bathometers are the best altimeter watches used below the sea level. Unlike diving watches, altimeters usually void their warranties if used below the sea level.
Barometric altimeters include aneroid barometers and digital barometers such as the ABC watch (Altimeter, Barometer, Compass). Aneroid barometers measure the contraction and expansion of copper and beryllium metals. They’re often used when flying planes. On the other hand, digital barometers are sensors used to measure air pressure, hence making up critical aspects of your ABC watch.
Barometers can act as both altimeters and instruments for measuring atmospheric pressure data. Whereas some watches measure altitude only, others come packed with features such as logging of elevation. Although GPS can also measure your altitude, it isn’t an altimeter and thus less reliable.
Unlike calibrated barometric altimeters, GPS isn’t accurate. And, as you get closer to satellite horizon angles, GPS signal is lost. So, what’s an altimeter watch for? Who is it for? Rock climbers, mountain climbers and skiers have the need to track changes in their elevation either as a hobby or serious pass time activity.
Pilots and skydivers need to know their altitude. Lack of a navigation tool could make your outdoor adventure risky. Built with long-lived solar cells or batteries, altimeter watches can become handy when your phone goes off somewhere while driving in the wilderness. They also help with weather prediction.
Top 9 altimeter watches on the market
Last update on 2019-11-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Imagine climbing the mountain you’ve always wanted to get to its top, only for a storm to catch you off-guard. You need the right gear to keep you safe even when on the most extreme survivalist adventures outdoors. Any of our picks in the top 9 list will get you sorted; just make sure you pick the right watch for you.
ABC watches are fun and provide the correct data you need to support your post-adventures up to 8000 feet high of gained elevation. It is the answer you need for each of your backpacking trips to the mountains, deserts or even the wilderness. Anytime you get the urge or need to know your elevation during your outdoor adventure, the watch would come in handy.
Although a compass is also essential for your backcountry navigation setup, or just day hikes or camping near your home, you don’t have to opt for a gadget with full-on features you don’t need or won’t use. Nevertheless, the watches aren’t gimmicky because they provide you with various valuable data you need to make critical decisions during your trips outdoor.
Changes in weather can be signaled with significant air pressure variations. ABC watches graph the changes taking place in your environment in the barometer mode. The tool is what you need to gain useful insight into the upcoming weather. Certain advanced navigation watches such as Casio ProTrek 6000 and Suunto Ambit 3 are made with built-in alarms for added functionality.
The gadgets record the significant changes in your environment, promptly alerting you of the same. The notifications are essential if you’re trekking, biking, or mountaineering on exposed terrain outdoors.
1. Garmin Fenix 5X Plus
Garmin is a leading brand that engineers innovative products for outdoor use. The company is focused on manufacturing superior products for varied applications in the marine, automotive, outdoor, aviation and sports arenas. Its values are founded on the company’s integrity, culture, respect and honesty.
The company’s wearable technology and GPS navigation are what you need to enjoy your time outdoors. Garmin Fenix 5X Plus is costly, but the best multisport altimeter watch on the market. Built with complete ABC functionality, heart rate monitoring and GLONASS satellite and GPS compatibility, you can use the gadget for multiple applications.
The TOPO mapping feature is what sets it apart from other Garmin navigation watches such as the Fenix 5 and 5S models. The powerhouse comes with contour lines for exceptional insights you’ll find useful while mountaineering, hiking, camping or engaging in any other serious backcountry activity.
- TOPO mapping helps find the best route outdoors to follow
- Supports advanced elevation acclimation and monitoring of sleep
- Scratch resistant, robust performance and premium quality materials for long-term use
- Syncs to online music streaming services to store and play your preferred songs
- Supports convenient cashless and card-free payments on the go
- Ascent features for serious climbing on steeper terrains
- Multinetwork navigation across challenging terrains
- Long battery life up to 20 days under the smart watch mode
- It’s complex and expensive, thus not ideal for beginner survivalists
If you’re an outdoorsy person who’s always out full time and engages in varied activities such as running, skiing, hiking, biking and mountaineering, among others, this powerhouse is for you. It’s the best altimeter watch you need to rely on each time you’re outdoors for many years to come. Choose the right size and finish based on your personal preferences.
2. Garmin Fenix 3
Garmin is a premium ABC watch brand and thus we’ve featured it thrice on our list. The Garmin Fenix 3 navigator is a predecessor of the Fenix 5X model. It supports GLONASS and GPS for correct tracking and fast satellite lock use. The watch has several ‘sports’ modes designed to help you record critical data when biking, skiing, running, camping, hiking or even swimming.
Navigation mapping is simple and offers insightful information to help you track and follow the best route. The watch has been in use on the market for years. It has stood the test of time and undergone continuous improvement for better performance. The Fenix 3 ABC watch provides fast and accurate GPS positioning.
The activity tracker takes calories, steps and distance readings with a vibration alert to keep you focused and motivated on your endeavors. It’s made from mineral glass lens and stainless steel bezel for durability and a premium finish. Use data fields, watch faces, activities and widgets to customize the look and functionality of your outdoor wrist gear.
- Most ideal for mountaineering, hiking and skiing
- Multisport for most fitness activities
- Scratch resistant and reasonably-priced
- Access to fun data and great savings
- Less mapping capabilities than its successor
Opt for this navigation watch if you want a premium, reasonably-priced watch handcrafted by a leading brand on the market. The fact that it has been in use for years gives you the confidence you need to successfully use it.
3. Garmin Epix
Garmin has a large collection of high quality ABC watches designed to meet different user needs at different budgets. The Epix watch was released into the market for the first time a few years ago. It indicated the company’s GPS ability in a compact gadget. Designed for basic to medium use in terms of functionality and square shape, the watch supports triathlon use.
It features internal storage and maps you can easily share with others. The authentic ABC watch has a 3-axis compass for accurate directional readings. With only 8GB memory, the Fenix 5X is more advanced, user-friendly, and of course, has 16GB memory. You can expand your memory to hold various maps and other critical data.
The Garmin Epix keeps you connected while the preloaded mapping feature ensures geographical locations are at your disposal. Ultimately, the watch has the three main features (a barometer, an altimeter and a compass) you need to explore the outdoors at extreme conditions.
- Affordable, costing almost as much as a non-GPS model
- Easy to use and has a simple look
- Supports detailed mapping
- Bundled with many features and has an appealing look
- Difficult to use and wears out poorly
4. Casio Pro Trek PRW-6000Y-1ACR
Casio is a pioneer wristwatch brand with its roots dating back to the early 1970s. The company launched its first watch at the end of 1974 when technology was beginning to gain grounds in the industry.
The company aims at manufacturing radio-controlled watches you can easily charge using the solar system. Casio watches feature built-in solar batteries to eliminate the need for frequent battery replacement. With Casio wristwatches, you also don’t have to use atomic timekeeping for resetting time.
Its range of Bluetooth watches easily sync with your smartphone for automatic time updates. The Casio Pro Trek ABC watch has been built for tough, durable performance, but lacking on looks. The PRW-6000Y-1ACR is a multi-band 6 atomic timekeeping device designed to address these issues. It’s the most appealing Casio watch.
Constructed with less plastic, the backcountry navigation tool features a black modern face with green and white color accents on the analog-digital screen. Its fast and accurate sensors take elevation, bearing and barometric pressure readings.
The alarm and indicator features alert you whenever there are significant barometric pressure changes. The stylish band has carbon fiber inserts, and the watch comes with a thermometer, altimeter, compass, barometer, a precise time function and a stopwatch. Being solar-powered, you can use this everyday watch all the time without battery replacement or charging causing you worries.
- Ideal for both outdoor and office wear
- Provides fast and accurate readings
- Reliable and supports ease-of-use
- Attractive with high quality finish and fit
- Comes with a power saving function
- Battery life of up to 6 months upon full charge
- Low temperature and water resistant
- It’s expensive and lacks GPS
5. Casio G-Shock Rangeman GPR-B1000
Casio is a top brand worldwide with a large selection of watches built to deliver different functionalities, hence appears twice on our list of top ABC watches. The G-Shock Rangeman line of watches is built with ultimate toughness for the survivalists outdoor. The Casio Rangeman GPR-B1000 is the brand’s most recent ABC watch bearing its G-Shock name.
The GPS navigation auto records your tracks to help you trace your route. And with backtrack, you can easily navigate back to your starting bearing and point. There’s no chance for the survivor in you to get lost in the wilderness.
GPR-B1000’s ceramic case back is shock and water resistant, highly sensitive to GPS reception and supports wireless charging. Time display is solar-powered at all times despite your GPS function status. With its tough construction, you can use the watch under harsh conditions because it’s resistant to mud, dirt, dust and water (up to 200 meters deep).
The ABC watch has a digital compass, an altimeter, a barometer, a thermometer, an alarm and a stop watch for safe adventures outdoors. The gadget’s high specifications support use in various fields ranging from a snowy mountain to a dense jungle. The G-Shock Rangeman GPR-B1000 supports tough and hardy use.
- It’s GPS-enabled and has a long battery life
- Solar powered for easy recharge outdoors
- Strong and sturdy with G-shock toughness for outdoor use
- Water, mud, dirt and dust resistant
- Supports time calibration
- Built with premium materials for added strength
- Expensive and feels bulkier and larger on the wrist
Opt for this altimeter watch if you’re looking for GPS compatibility and solar power capability in a single gadget for extended backcountry trips under extreme conditions.
6. Suunto 9 Baro
Founded in 1936, Suunto is an innovative brand that handcrafts high quality instruments, sports watches and dive computers that have been tested for premium performance. The Suunto 9 Baro ABC sports watch was released in mid-2018, succeeding the Spartan Ultra. Based on the brand’s most recent technology, it’s GPS-enabled, has a reliable touchscreen and easy-to-use logical menus.
Thanks to its multi-sport recording capabilities, the built-in heart rate monitor and ease of use. Unlike its predecessors, the 9 Baro Suunto watch has a prolonged battery life.
Choose how often the GPS navigation feature should record your location; after every 1, 60 or 120 seconds. Even when in the midst of your runs or adventures, you can easily alter your navigation settings, especially if it’s about to die to prolong your battery life. It’s available in white, titanium and black finishes.
The Suunto Baro 9 navigation tool supports two modes of operation: the ultra and endurance performance modes.
With a battery life of up to 120 hours on the GPS mode, you don’t have to worry about your data accuracy being compromised. The thoughtful set of features, including clean lines and exceptional battery life, makes this watch ideal for outdoor persons with intermediate skills and experience exploring extreme outdoor adventures.
- Longer battery life than its predecessors when the GPS mode is on
- Provides precise readings even in the toughest conditions
- Fast and ideal for long sport trainings and everyday use
- Versatile and supports up to 80 sports activities
- Compatible with supported online apps
- Not ideal for beginners
Go for this ABC watch if your outdoor application requires frequent use of GPS navigation, and you need a gadget with prolonged battery life with the tracking feature on.
7. Suunto Ambit3 Peak
Suunto is also a top Finnish watch manufacturer hence we’ve featured it twice at different price points if you’re looking for something more affordable from the same brand. The Suunto Ambit 3 was released on the market years ago. It has stood the test of time to become a favorite outdoor watch model for many survivalist women and men.
The Ambit 3 ABC watch has all the features of the Suunto Core that’s now popular on the market. Its GPS navigation capability allows you to track your position outdoors to ensure you’re safe and don’t get lost. This altimeter watch provides precise altitude data, including graph ascents and descents. Use the Movescount app for easy customization of your navigation tool in terms of its features.
The watch has a storm alarm that goes off to trigger important alerts each time your barometric pressure registers changes. The navigation tool comes with the addition of a wrist-based heart rate monitor to help enhance your performance. Choose a watch with a heart rate monitor or one without.
- Sleek in design for portable use
- Has advanced multisport
- Bundled with many features and has a simple look
- Water resistant and customizable
- Delivers precise weather and altitude readings and is built with a premium finish
- Supports triathlete use, but not hiking
Do you want a reasonably-priced watch to take your passion to the next level? The Suunto Ambit 3 Peak won’t disappoint.
8. Suunto Core
The Suunto Core comes in a sleek minimalist design for use in busy areas. Choose from white, black and golden finishes. Retailing for less than $200, the watch is affordable to all. The core has lots of features such as changing pressure alerts, sunrise and sunset in more than 400 geographical locations, daylight ending and elevation log tracking in 7 days for hikers.
The ABC watch is built in a modern design with basic outdoor functionalities you’d want in your gear such as an altimeter, compass and stop watch, among other features. The stylish aluminum cases exert less weight on your wrist for prolonged use. The sapphire crystal glass and stainless steel materials increase its durability.
It provides the critical ABC data for gauging direction, device performance and even approaching weather. The alarm goes off if there’s fast change in atmospheric air pressure. Auto barometer/alti mode has the capability to sense movements, switching between the barometer and altimeter functionalities.
- Water resistant and has a prolonged battery life
- Precise elevation up to 29,500 feet
- Correctly predicts changing weather conditions
- Rugged design to support tough outdoor use
- Versatile for multiple applications.
- The band comes off easily under heavy use
- Not ideal for serious survivalists
Are you working on a tight budget and require a watch with basic features for your outdoor explorations? Opt for the Suunto Core ABC watch for entry-level use and outdoor exploration.
9. Suunto Traverse
Built for trekkers and hikers, the Suunto Traverse supports GPS navigation for easy route tracking. It has fewer functionalities than the Ambit3 watch. It’s also more lightweight with a lower design profile. Designed for a specific target market outdoors, the watch isn’t for bikers, runners or swimmers.
The ABC watch’s navigation capabilities allow easily route planning on your PC through the Movescount application you can download to your gadget. However, this watch provides accurate route tracking and useful guidance. Suunto Traverse gives you the confidence you need to succeed outdoors.
With your navigation gear and Movescount topographic maps, you stay on track and the long lasting battery powers your adventures to the end. It turns your fear and doubt into courage joy and success. Use heatmaps to uncover fun places nearby for swimming, running, skiing, riding, etc. The flashlight mode backlight comes in handy when it gets dark after sunset.
- Has a hiking-focused design
- Simple design for ease-of–use
- Cost-effective hence ideal for beginners
- Reasonably-priced for intermediate survivalists
- Customizable and comes in multiple colors: black graphite, amber & sapphire black
- Supports everyday adventurers
- Routes and experiences are sharable
- Offers fewer features than the Ambit 3 Peak.
If you’re just starting to explore the outdoors as a beginner, and working on a tight budget, you won’t go wrong with the Suunto Traverse ABC watch. You’ll also need its vast tools for hunting and fishing if need be.
How to select the best altimeter watch for your needs
Based on data-collection technologies, altimeter watches provide various functionalities. They offer the information you need regarding conditions in your surrounding environment and landscape. Data on location and altitude can benefit pilots, climbing guides, hunters, hikers and those among outdoorsy persons.
The market is stocked with different kinds of altimeter watches to choose from. For example, traditional ABC watches feature an altimeter, a barometer and a compass to provide the data you need to determine your location and map trends in local weather.
When shopping for this kind of watches, whether you’re a beginner or pro user, consider various factors to help you pick the best navigation tool for you. Choose between an altimeter with basic features and those built with advanced features. Here are things to look out for in your altimeter watch:
Type of altimeter watches
Choose between traditional and modern GPS altimeter watches. As mentioned before, traditional watches are built with ABC features and either use replaceable battery or solar-powered batteries.
On the other hand, GPS watches are modern, powerful and use rechargeable batteries. They’re mostly advanced and come built with lots of features unlike basic, traditional ABC watches. Although the watches offer a myriad of functionalities, battery life is their major limitation.
Traditional altimeter watches come with built-in solar panels and basic batteries. They have longer battery life and are more lightweight, reliable and affordable than GPS-based models. However, they’re not as attractive as GPS-enabled watches and have fewer features.
The watches are ideal for tracking vertical loss or gain, long adventures and timekeeping.
Watches with GPS capability capture satellite signals to help you determine your location. The capability of any given watch varies based on its power. In addition to the basic features you’ll find in a traditional altimeter watch, those with GPS navigation capability come with a lot more.
Apart from tracking trends in weather, vertical losses or gains, they also offer a fitness log for use in varied applications. You can connect your GPS altimeter watch to online and smartphone applications. The feature integrations allow for games, programs and virtual pacer uploads. They’re focused on helping you be consistent with your fitness training.
GPS navigation gives you the data you need each time you take a trip outdoors. However, GPS-enabled watches are expensive and have short battery life. Depending on your power settings, the battery can last up to 50 hours, making the gadgets overwhelming and costly.
These watches can be used for non-GPS-enabled weekly excursions, tracking and fitness training. They’re also handy during day trips based on the GPS mode.
The global positioning system (GPS)
Advanced altimeter watches support GPS navigation. GPS is a satellites network rotating around the earth. Upon receiving satellite signals from three different sources, your position gets triangulated. That means more satellite signals translate to increased accuracy in your positional data.
The GPS navigation system makes use of data stored in your device to determine your altitude at any point. However, note that sometimes altimeter readings can be incorrect. Most navigational tools make use of GPS and air pressure functionality to take elevation readings.
GPS tracking allows you to recount your travels. The tools for backcountry navigation are built with downloadable routes.
Opt for them if you’re an ultra marathoner, a triathlete or an explorer of extreme outdoor adventures. This advanced category of navigation watches has gained momentum with more outdoor lovers opting for them. As a result, they’re further broken down into two categories based on their mapping capabilities.
Other Garmin and Suunto altimeter watch offerings feature a basic marker or line on a blank display. They’d come in handy if you want to retrace or follow a specific route. However, despite a navigation tool’s mapping capability and just like any form of technology, don’t pick your backcountry navigation based on just GPS navigation. Look out for other critical features.
Altimeter power supply
The need to power your altimeter to operate at its full potential goes without saying. Consider watches with solar, wireless or cable chargers for charging whenever the battery drops low.
If GPS navigation is an important element of your watch, make sure it has enough power to support its functionality. Solar charging comes in handy when you need to recharge your altimeter watch outdoors.
Some watches have casings that are sensitive to sunlight reception. Therefore, your navigation gadget is often on solar charge. Traditional altimeter watches use coin cell batteries as source of power. Some navigator tools use these batteries and come with a lifespan of up to one year.
With low battery warnings, it’s easy to make a battery change. Although coin cell batteries aren’t as fun and convenient as solar batteries, they work just fine. Solar ABC watches are interesting. They eliminate the need to charge your navigator often or bring with you a replaceable battery. As a traveler, you’ll find the attractive, self-sufficient gadgets handy.
What’s more, the technology enables your navigation gadget to store charge for several months after a full charge. Furthermore, solar powered watches are cost-effective, especially if you’re a serious traveler who needs to use the tool often.
Altimeter frequency of use
Choose a watch built for everyday use if you intend to spend most of your time hiking outdoors. However, if you engage in adventures less often, find an ABC watch designed for light use. Garmin, Suunto and Casio have adopted various technologies on their high-end product offerings.
Altimeter watch recalibration
Air pressure readings on your backcountry navigator aren’t sturdy. Therefore, it becomes necessary to recalibrate your altimeter watch, especially before your travel. For example, when starting your hike, place your altimeter somewhere where the altitude is known (hiking panels or from a paper map) and calibrate it.
Although the process involved can be boring, recalibration is the best way to ensure your watch is accurate. One reason you bought an altimeter is its accuracy, explaining the essence of recalibrating it.
The use of air pressure to gauge elevation isn’t perfect. Change in weather can alter the prevailing air pressure, which, in turn, affects your altitude readings. However, the readings are close to the right elevation. You’ll appreciate the good estimates your navigation gadget provides.
Below you can find a video which shows you how accurate an altimeter watch can be when it is correctly calibrated. The guy takes three different watches in a Cessna 172 with an Instrument Certified Altimeter and compares the measures with those from the altimeter watches. And good news, the Suunto Core is part of the test!
Other essential factors to consider
Altimeter watches come with heart rate monitors, route navigation, smartphone apps, a compass, and pace and distance display, among other critical features worth looking into. Other important factors to consider when shopping for a navigation tool include price, waterproof or resistance and calibration and recalibration, including the following:
- Design – The functionality of a navigation watch is important, but its design and appearance are also essential. Choose a watch you’ll use its vast features for better safety outdoors. Also, make sure it’s attractive enough that you’ll want to wear it outdoors or even in the house to keep yourself on track.
- Weight – When backpacking, it’s important to pack as light as possible. That applies even to your wrist watch. Make sure it’s lightweight enough to wear for prolonged periods without getting fatigued or feeling it’s too bulky for your wrist.
- Dimensions – Altimeters with or without GPS have so much going on, hence they can feel bulky. The smaller the dimension of a watch, the better it is for your outdoor use.
- Battery life – Is your battery life long enough to support your outdoor activities? The wrist-bound wearable technologies require a steady supply of power for endless performance. You can opt for a portable power bank or a solar charge to increase your battery life outdoors.
- Display – The screen of your altimeter watch supports display of news and other important readings. They come as digital to analog, digital, touchscreen and sunlight-visible on their faces.
- Altimeter accuracy – One of the reasons you’re using an altimeter to navigate is that you’ll get to your destination safely. Recalibration must be carried out often to improve the accuracy of your watch. An accurate altimeter provides correct barometric air pressure, altitude and thermometer readings.
Find out your elevation, air pressure and temperature, among other elements at any given time, could be very convenient while practicing outdoor activities. This is truer if you love engaging in extreme adventures such as climbing steep mountains. The knowledge is beneficial in many ways, explaining the need to buy the best altimeter watch that meets your needs and working budget.
Knowledge of your current altitude is necessary for safety reasons because it greatly impacts on your navigation. You’ll also be in a better position in making the right decision on the best watch for you. Weather observation skills, snow stability tests, a compass and maps are ideal for proper navigation.
You also need to work on your level of experience. With the navigation tools in place, you become better at making safe choices for navigating extreme conditions and terrains. The longer you stay outdoors, the more you need to increase your safety. You’re also guaranteed better outdoor activity and increased comfort.
We hope that you found this buying guide and review helpful in your quest to buy your altimeter watch for easy navigation. Order your favorite navigation tool today for endless fun outdoors.
Featured image src: Simon