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Suunto Wrist Watch Gps


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I am a backpacker and the big drawback to all the handheld GPSR units is weight and battery life. I am looking into getting a Suunto X9. It seems this little wristwatch has all the bells and wistles my Magellan Exploist 500 and more. It has a 3 axel compass that will give accurate readings no matter what angle it is held at along with the ability to store lots of waypoints (500) and nearly 8000 checkpoints. It is pricy, at about $500 but if apears it will track an entire 3 week backpacking trip and still let me download my trip into my computer when I get home. At just 2.1 oz it is light and durable. With altimiter, compass, barometer, thermometer and the ability to store 5 tracks I can't seem to find a bad thing about it.


I was wondering if anyone has anything that would deter me from getting this piece of equipment. It sure looks like it is the answer to my problems.



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A few years ago, i had a Sunto wristwatch/ Altimeter/Barometer/Thermometer. I found that A/ the thermometer took 1/2hr. after it was off your wrist before it took any accurate readings (due to body heat). B/ After only 2-3 months, all the printing on it started to rub off on the outside of the unit & after 4 months, you couldn't read the functions very well at all. Don't get me wrong, i really liked that watch (even tho it was huge!), but i didn't like spending all that money for something that acted like a cheap imitation! I ended up returning it. :anibad:

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"Rechargeable Li-ion battery, lifetime 4.5 hr (1 sec GPS fix rate) / 12 h (1 min. GPS fix rate) / 2 wks (manual GPS fix, > 500 locations) / 2 months (in time and alti-baro modes)"

Given this information, I think you'll be unsatisfied with the watch. Unless you use it very rarely, you'll find yourself out of batteries.



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it looks like I will have to keep looking for something else.


I have decided that there is no good unit out there that can handle a multiple day backpacking trip. No one makes a unit that will allow me to keep the GPSr on during my actual hiking time. I have wantd to be able to log an entire three week backpack trip and then come home and input it into the computer. The ability to show the actual elevation changes along my rout is somehting I really want to do. But as of today there is nothig that can be bought that will do it for me.


If there were lots of stores along the way I would dump my Explorist 500 and get a Garmin that allows AA batteries. But I am an ultralight backpacker and the only way for me to go a three week hiking trip from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney is to keep things as light as possible. I am not going to carry the additonal weight of three weeks worth of batteries just so I can log my trip. I have topo maps for that.


I really appreciate your responses. Suunto does make a decent watch that has a barometer, altimeter, and compass. I know about the thermometer problem. Body heat does play havoc with that. I carry one of those tiny thermometers that attach to the zipper on my jacket.


Thanks anyway people.



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I have decided that there is no good unit out there that can handle a multiple day backpacking trip.  No one makes a unit that will allow me to keep the GPSr on during my actual hiking time.  I have wantd to be able to log an entire three week backpack trip and then come home and input it into the computer.  The ability to show the actual elevation changes along my rout is somehting I really want to do.  But as of today there is nothig that can be bought that will do it for me. 


There are two obvious solutions to this.


1. You can combine a couple of instruments to do what you want. I have done this on a 25 day excursion on Denali, as well as other 2 and 3 week treks. First thing to consider is that you will not need to record anything like 24 hours a day on your 3 week trip. Very few people are on the move more than 10 hours a day, and most less than 5 hours. There are a number of units less than 8 ounces that have 20-30 hours battery life. What I usually do is record waypoints periodically at important locations, turning the unit off between marks, or using battery-saver mode. The continuous altitude readout is done with a recording altimeter, such as the Suunto X6 (not the HRM version, the basic one), or if I want the heart rate recorded as well, the Polar 710 or Polar 625. The 710 is intended for bicyclists, so you won't have the distance measurement for your hike. The 625 does a very accurate measurement of distance with a footpod. The memory is sufficient for 8 hours a day hiking for 3 or 4 weeks, and the battery life is plenty as well (except the footpod, which takes a AAA battery for something like 20 hours). When I get back to the computer, I download the waypoints from the GPSR and the time/altitude/distance/heart rate from the Polar (or time/altitude from the Suunto X6). On big mountains like Denali or Orizaba, I don't use the footpod, and sometimes not the chest strap (for heart rate), just recording the time/altitude trace and combining it with the GPSR waypoints. Yeah, sure, it doesn't produce a detailed trail map, but unless you are going to publish a map book for your hikes, that isn't really very informative.


2. Lightweight, small volume solar panels are available that will recharge 12v (less than a pound and roughly 10 inches by 3 inch diameter rolled up). These are flexible, rollup sheets. You can use one to power the GPSR, or you can recharge AA NiMH with these pretty rapidly, either by draping the panel over your pack, or during rest stops. They do produce charge even on cloudy days, although at a slower rate. I used to use a small solar charger box that is not much larger than 4 AAs and 3 ounces plus the 4 batteries, but that was old technology and hence pretty slow. I did use this on one of my Denali climbs (24 hr of daylight, though) for not only the GPSR, but also my ham radio handheld.


I have been wandering the hills and woods for many decades, and using GPS as a navigational adjunct for 10 years. On the very few occasions I have wanted a complete track (mapping service project for a local park, for example), I have used everything from a gelcel pack to using a flexible solar panel to provide all the power for the GPSR and its external antenna. Again, why would you really feel the need to map every inch of your hiking route - actually, the update on consumer GPSRs is 1 sec (Magellan) or 2 sec (Garmin), so you are getting points spaced every 1 or 2 steps. All of the units have a limit on the number of points they store in a track, so you aren't getting anything close to a complete track for your 3 week hike anyway.

Edited by OGBO
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I second the suggestion for the roll-up solar panel to recharge batteries. It is going to be the only way you can record a continuous track of a hike unless you want to carry tons of batteries. Generally speaking, I'm willing to carry 2 extra sets of batteries with me on a trip. If that won't allow me to record what I want, then I just use my GPS or camera less. I would really love to have the solar panel as an option to recharge batteries.


You might consider using Lithium batteries, as well. Lithiums will run longer than NiMH's, so you'll be better off there. However, I do not know of any rechargeable lithium-ion AA's yet.


You'll have to suck up it up and deal with a few more oz (god forbid) if you want to carry a GPS you can use for 3 weeks in the woods.

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why not the foretrex 101 plus a solar battery charger?

The big problem with the whole Foretrex series, as with the Suunto GPS watches, even more so than the eTrex series is that the plate antenna that these all have is pretty poor in canyon/canopy conditions. If the OP is going into anything like heavy woods (esp our Calif redwoods or the Wash/Oreg spruce forests), he will need a unit with a quad-helix (e.g., the Garmin 60 or 76 series), or better yet, an external antenna (which the 60 and 76 will take, but it is even more batteries), to get anything like a continuous track. And units with the quad-helix antennas in general lock on noticeably faster if you are turning the unit on and off to conserve batteries. Not that I have much problem on the mountains I spend a lot of time on, well above treeline. But in the landnav workshops I run, I see the differences in performance (lock on, EPE, and agreement in position known locations) all the time. I sometimes do hikes in local redwood forests with new units to compare. The notorious 7-parks hike in the Santa Cruz Mountains is a very tough test (for human endurance as well as the GPSRs - 35 miles, 5500 ft elevation gain, 2/3 in groves of coast redwoods, the other third in oak and madrone forest and a few miles in open grasslands, and perhaps half is down in deep canyons). Once out of the grasslands, the Foretrex units are almost useless, and the eTrex not much better.


On the other hand, I have seen the 60 and 76 series and several Magellans keep a track through the full 35 miles that matches the mapped trails closely enough that the eye cannot distinguish the difference on the computer screen on 80-90 percent of the route (except one section where the trail was re-routed and the maps have not been revised). Obviously, this is not true every time, but often enough that it is clear that the units with quad helix antennas have a definite advantage for such conditions.


The problem with the Foretrex and eTrex is not the innards. It is primarily due to the poor performance of the antenna.


The bottom line is that you pay for the performance in weight (and money) :D

Edited by OGBO
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The big problem with the whole Foretrex series, as with the Suunto GPS watches, even more so than the eTrex series is that the plate antenna that these all have is pretty poor in canyon/canopy conditions.

Just for the record, I have to disagree with this assessment. Based on empirical evidence the chipset being used is a significantly bigger contributor to the "quality of the lock" than the size or type of the antenna.


It is true that plopping a quad-helix in front of a poor chipset will yield somewhat superior results than a patch antenna -- under heavy canopy, but NOT in canyons and narrow streets... For those conditions the gain profile of a patch antenna is a better match.


Using a SiRF III instead of an older Garmin chipset (such as the one in the Foretrex and the 60c series) will yield dramatically better results. My tiny bluetooth GPS with its small patch antenna consistently and significantly outperforms the 60cs across the board under any condition may it be forest or sky scraper.


In fact, even a Garmin Legend/Vista C tends to outperform the 60cs due to the newer generation chipset employed.

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I have the explorist 600, u should try the solar power method. look on line for solar powered hats. people use them to charge their cell phone when walking, might sound dumb as all. but it could charge your unit on the move. i think you will need a solar unit that has at least 1000milla amps for the amperage drawb to chargit. coleman makes a nice solar powercenter for on the move. it has a removeable battery pack with a 5v usb connection on it. charge it up on the move during the day. use it at night for charging up the gps.

Edited by flir67
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Those are some great ideas. I am going to look online to see if there is a rechargable setup, either a rollup or the hat idea. If one of them will work it just might be the ticket. My Exploirst 500 might become more than just a geocache toy.


Frankly, I was very disappointed when I bought my Explorist 500 as I did not understand the battery limitation. This limitation is the same for all the mfg's. It is an inherent problem for those who like to take long trips. I have wanted to take my gpsr on trips in order to log elevation gain, waypoints, along with general trip data.


I thank you for your input. Now it's time to do some more research.



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FWIW, I recently got a Vista Cx (my first GPSr) and used it on a 6 day backpack/photography trip in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming. I left the unit on during the daylight hours to record a tracklog of the entire trip. And later used the tracklog to geotag my photos. I changed batteries only once, on day 4, which I thought was pretty good, considering that I was constantly "playing" with all the fun features (sun/moon rise is great for photographers). :D


I have a trip report on my website which includes GPX and Google Earth track, waypoint, and image downloads. CaStarman and OGBO will get a good laugh (as ultralight bp'ers) at our huge pack weights... :D:D


Also FWIW, I've owned a Suunto Observer (compass, alt, etc.) for over 4 years, wear it every day, and still love it - durable and accurate.

Edited by sbacon
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