OUTDOORS

Best Altimeter Watch: Track Your Gains With Accuracy!

best altimeter watch
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

Did you ever spend your Friday evening planning an awesome weekend hike to a new destination, only to come back disappointed because the trail wasn’t marked properly and you got lost? Maybe you were gaining altitude too fast and struggled with a headache afterwards? Altimeters and a compass would solve these issues but they are a hassle to carry around. The perfect solution for these issues is to get the best altimeter watch!

A good altimeter watch should have a decent battery life, be accurate, and pleasant to wear. On top of that, it’ll be small enough to carry on your wrist, but capable and full of interesting features, so you don’t need to worry about headaches or getting lost – you will always know your location.

In this article, we wanted to present you what we consider to be the best altimeter watches on the market today. With prices of new technologies often being quite steep, we want to make sure you get the best product for your needs and your wallet. So, relax and sit back – we’ve got you covered!

Product NameGPSWater ResistanceBattery LifePrice
Suunto Core All Black MilitaryNoUp to 30 mApprox. 1 year with normal useCheck price on Amazon
LAD WEATHER German Sensor DigitalNoNo (but can handle washing hands, etc.)Approx. 1.5 years with normal useCheck price on Amazon
Garmin Tactix BravoYesUp to 100 mApprox. couple of weeksCheck price on Amazon
La Crosse Technology XG-55 DigitalNoUp to 9 mApprox. 1 - 1.5 years with normal useCheck price on Amazon
Casio PAG240B-2CR Pathfinder Multi-FunctionNoUp to 100 m5 - 23 monthsCheck price on Amazon
Suunto Ambit3 Vertical GPS UnitYesUp to 100 m15hCheck price on Amazon

Things to Consider Before Buying

When looking for a good altimeter watch, there is a lot of things to consider before you make your final purchase. Apart from the obvious such as battery life and altimeter accuracy, you should also look at additional features that will support your needs and lifestyle. We’ve put together a list of things we believe you should know about before you make your final decision.

Lifestyle Needs

If you are reading this article you probably consider yourself to be an avid outdoors lover. You spend your weekends running, hiking or just exploring your surroundings and evening looking for the newest gear to make your adventures even more fun. However, not all of you need the newest, most expensive tech – sometimes the simplest of the products will do just fine.

So, if you are training for a marathon or even a trail ultra, then you need an altimeter watch that will accurately collect data points. You will be able to plan your training and track your progress better and have the best chances at your next competition. A reliable piece of technology on your wrist could really improve your game.

running with heart rate monitor

However, if you are more of a weekend lover of the peaks and trails close to home, you don’t need the latest technology. Any altimeter watch will allow you to follow your hike for you to study after you get back home. Some products have a storm warning as well, so you can avoid getting caught in an unpleasant situation.

Battery Life

With the technology developing fast, the demands on the battery life becomes bigger and bigger. Producers of wearable tech are solving this issue in different ways. Some go with solar power, some rely on USB connection and the more traditional ones believe in simply getting a new battery when the old one dies.

If you determined your needs you can already cut many products from the list of possible purchases. Having the option to charge your watch overnight will expand your possibilities significantly. However, if you just don’t want to think about it, go with the solar powered watch.

solar powered altimeter watch

Battery life is closely connected to GPS tracking as well as it requires quite a lot of energy to keep your position accurate and constantly connect to satellites. Luckily, most watches have a variety of battery saving possibilities. Chose one that you will find easiest to charge and take care of.

Altimeter accuracy

The point of altimeter watch is to know at what altitude you are at the moment. To understand the accuracy, you first need to know how the watch measures the altitude. Bear with us; it’s actually quite simple.

First of all, your altimeter uses a pressure sensor to measure the current air pressure. The measured value then provides an estimated value based on altitude you inserted before you started your hike (basically you gave it a point of reference).

Preset pressure values are converted into altitude readings. Remember, that air pressure and temperature become lower as altitude increases. Then, altitude is measured based on the lowering air pressure, and this, in turn, judges your actual altitude.

holding an altimeter watch

So, in order to keep your watch as accurate as possible, you have to calibrate it before each log or each bigger activity. The more often you calibrate it, the more accurate it will be. Most watches have different modes – you can keep it in the barometric mode to track weather changes if you won’t be gaining a lot of altitudes, or in altitude more to track the gains.

Display Quality

By “display quality” we are talking about how easy it is to read the data on the watch screen. Some producers wanted to keep watches similar size as the sports watches of yesteryear to keep their comfort. However, sometimes this decision results in an overcrowded screen full of small numbers that are hard to read while on the go, and not much easier to see when you stop.

So, now that you know what is your basic need regarding this type of watch, you can decide a bit easier what kind would be useful based on screen size and the amount of data shown on it. Not all eyes are the same, not all users are the same, so make sure to take your time to choose the right one.

For those of you who like visual aid like graphs, we suggest you go with a clean design and organization, maybe on a bigger watch face.

altimeter watch display

If you don’t mind the small numbers traditionally sized watches like the Casio ones on our list would be a great option. If you have the opportunity to try them on before buying that’s great – but luckily, online retailers often offer quite accurate photos to judge display upon.

Ease of Use

These are not as easy to use as traditional watches, where you just set the time and go. You will need to sit down and study the instruction before you start using your new altimeter watch on your adventures. This is why we believe the ease of use deserves to be on the list of things to consider before your purchase.

Making sure setting up process is easy and simple will make you one happy user. A very complicated and poorly designed watch, on the other hand, will make your life a living hell, especially if the alarms start going off without a warning.

Check the comments from the people who are already using it, look for the design of the watch face that looks pleasing and easy to read in your opinion. Would you prefer a more rugged look or a simpler design? How many buttons are too many buttons? Ask yourself these questions before you buy something you might regret.

Best Products on Today’s Market

Below, you can find the list of six products we consider to be the best available on the market today. Some are from well-established watch producers, some are from well-known navigation experts. Give a chance to the younger brands on the list as well – they might surprise you!

Suunto Core All Black Military WatchSuunto Core All Black Military Watch

Price: Approx. $160

Weight: 2.26 oz.

Dimensions: 1.9 x 0.6 x 1.9 in.

Specific features: Sunrise/sunset, depth gauge (10 m), altitude graphics display, severe weather warning

Best use: Outdoors adventure

Description: All the real outdoor enthusiasts would benefit from owning one of these. The Suunto Core All Black Military Watch packs all the necessary tools to help you enjoy your adventure safely. Classic design and black finish make it a good option for everyday use as well.

As all ABC watches, this one, of course, has the altimeter to track your vertical progress, a barometer to tell the air pressure trend and a compass to point you in the right direction. Apart from these classic tools this watch also has some additional features that will make your life much easier.

If you enjoy water fun and snorkelling, you will be happy to enjoy its depth gauge that is designed with this sport in mind and can allow you to go down 10 meters. You also have over 400 preset locations to tell you about sunrise and sunset times. This way you can plan your adventures accordingly and stay safe.

This watch will also give you warnings and alerts according to the air pressure trends to make sure you seek shelter and/or protection with the storm approaching. Apart from all the gadgets this watch packs to help you plan and execute amazing adventures, this is still a watch. It provides dual times, a date display and an alarm.

PROS:

  • Weather trend indicator
  • Storm alarm
  • Digital thermometer

CONS:

  • Buttons failure possible
  • Possible reliability problems in extreme environments

Related: Every serious adventurer knows you can’t rely on technology only. To be prepared no matter what comes your way and never get lost we suggest this Suunto A-10 NH Recreational Field Compass. A very basic item that belongs in every backpack, you know it will be a great and reliable part of your gear.

Check the price on Amazon

LAD WEATHER German Sensor Digital Altimeter WatchLAD WEATHER German Sensor Digital Altimeter Watch

Price: Approx. $45

Weight: 2 oz.

Dimensions: 5.8 x 5.3 x 4.7 in.

Specific features: Weather forecast, track mode, thermometer, chronograph, German sensor, power saving mode

Best use: Everyday and adventure

Description: If you are looking for all the bang, but without the hefty price tag some of the altimeter watches come with, look no further. This LAD WEATHER German Sensor Digital Altimeter Watch has all the features of a traditional ABC watch: the altimeter, barometer and a digital compass.

Despite its reasonable price tag it also has some fun additional features that make it a fun piece of gear to have. The first and for many, most important one is the weather prediction and thermometer.

The watch predicts weather according to changes in atmospheric pressure and shows upcoming weather. You will see a picture of sunny, cloudy, cloudy with sun or raining weather on your display. It will also show the temperature in Celsius or Fahrenheit.

The altimeter will give you the altitude at your current location and also store up to 34 hours of past hourly data. The past data includes temperature, which is another point of reference for studying your hiking data.

You can also measure relative altitude – for example, the ascending or descending altitude between the starting and finishing point of the trail.

The barometer displays the barometric pressure and sea level pressure tendencies up to 34 hours. All avid outdoorsman and women know that rising pressure means good weather and lowering means worsening conditions, so you can plan ahead and be prepared.

Apart from all these, you will also enjoy chronograph and measure the elapsed time (up to 10 laps), have the timer, dual time mode, daily alarms, day and date calendar in different formats etc. All this data will be visible with electroluminescence backlight.

PROS:

  • German Sensor
  • Graphic display of predicted weather
  • Chronograph possibilities

CONS:

  • Too much info for small display
  • Flimsy
  • Poor visibility on display due to darkness

Related: Some people prefer to store their precious watches away during travel or when they aren’t using them. We suggest you use this WATCHPOD Travel Watch Case. It is sturdy, classically designed, and has cushioned interior and a deep concave center. You watch will fit well and travel safely in it. It might move around a bit, but because the inside is padded, you don’t need to worry about damaging it.

Check the price on Amazon

Garmin Tactix BravoGarmin Tactix Bravo

Price: Approx. $600

Weight: 3.2 oz.

Dimensions: 0.6 x 2 x 2 in.

Specific features: Jumpmaster, night vision, GPS/Glonass, outdoor navigation, wireless connectivity

Best use: Every day and demanding outdoors adventures

Description: This Garmin Tactix Bravo is a perfect choice for all the serious outdoor adventurers who train regularly and with a clear goal in the mind. It is a combination of functionality and smart features required for serious fitness training, outdoor navigation and activity tracking. It is truly a big package in a stylish everyday watch.

The watch features many built-in tactical features. This includes Jumpmaster activity and all the popular activities such as trail running, climbing, hiking etc. It also includes dual-format position and GPS coordinate data page that supports MGRS and Degrees Minus Seconds.

Tactix Bravo also has a great navigation and tracking functions that will guide you on and off the path. TracBack feature will guide you back to the starting point. The sensors will provide info on heading, elevation and weather changes. The electronic compass uses 3-axis system to keep your bearing if you are moving or not.

Like all ABC watches, this one will give you accurate elevation and short-term trends of air pressure information. However, you will also be able to stay connected and receive emails, texts and alerts through wireless smartphone compatibility. The messages received can be read on the watch screen whenever you want to connect it with the world.

This is one very rugged piece of gear and it is built to be your support on the trail and in your daily life. It is water resistant up to 100 meters and the battery will last up to 20 h with GPS on and whopping 50 hours in UltraTrac battery saving mode.

PROS:

  • Rugged design
  • Super useful features
  • Battery life

CONS:

  • Price performance
  • Random shut down possible
  • No map support

Related: The watch featured comes with a silicone strap, but if you prefer more rugged looking watch, we suggest this Garmin Nylon Strap. It is designed to fit the above-mentioned watch, so you don’t need to worry about that. If you plan to use it in the outdoors and in your everyday life, it is always nice to have options, and with a strap build specifically to fill both roles, you can be sure you will have a strap to fit whatever the occasion might be.

Check the price on Amazon

La Crosse Technology XG-55 Digital WatchLa Crosse Technology XG-55 Digital Watch

Price: Approx. $65

Weight: 8 oz.

Dimensions: 0.6 x 1.4 x 2.1 in.

Specific features: Digital altimeter and compass, dual time display, 100 lap memory function, 2 altimeter alarms, water resistant to 9 meters

Best use: Everyday and outdoor adventures

Description: This simple La Crosse Technology XG-55 Watch was designed with an everyday weekend warrior in mind. Running around the city, from work to appointment over the week and exploring the trails around the city during the weekend, this watch can help out no matter what your plans for the day are.

If you want to track your weekend adventures, this watch can store up to 100 laps in its impressive memory. It also has a countdown timer with a possibility to quick set values. It will save battery with the EL backlight. The display is dual time so you will always see all the data you need.

As all ABC watches, this one also has an altimeter, barometer and compass but also has a chronograph mode. If you prefer water sports to bagging peaks in your free time, you will be happy to know it is water resistant up to 9 meters. This is enough for you to enjoy swimming some laps or do some light scuba diving.

Keep in mind that in order for this watch to really be a good support for your adventures, you will need to take some time, sit down and properly install all the important values. Luckily, it comes with instructional DVD so this task will be easier. The default barometric pressure is set to 1013.2 MB.

PROS:

  • 100-lap memory function
  • Countdown Timer
  • Digital altimeter and compass

CONS:

  • Low quality
  • Needs resets and calibrations often

Related: To make sure your watch is protected and safe from scratches when you are not using it, we suggest you store it in one of these JASSINS Microfiber Pouch. These are big enough to store it comfortably and there are many different colors available, so you will be able to find one that will work best with your style.

Check the price on Amazon

Casio PAG240B-2CR Pathfinder Multi-Function WatchCasio PAG240B-2CR Pathfinder Multi-Function Watch

Price: Approx. $150

Weight: 8 oz.

Dimensions: 6 x 6 x 7 in.

Specific features: Solar power, sunrise and sunset data, low-temp resistance, 1/100 stopwatch, world time

Best use: Everyday and active use

Description: If you are looking for a rugged design with all the necessary features to make your outdoor adventures even better, look no further. This Casio PAG240B-2CR Pathfinder Multi-Function Watch really is what it says it is – multifunctional. It is also solar powered, so as long as the watch is getting sufficient sun exposure you don’t need to worry about battery life.

This solar-powered sports watch has a triple sensor, which provides altimeter, barometer, thermometer and compass information. The dual-layer LCD displays various kinds of data collected by different functions. Those are then displayed graphically.

The design of the register ring features rotating mechanism so you can store direction memories. The uneven surface makes it easier to rotate it using just your finger. The full auto EL light works simply by just tilting the wrist towards yourself – you can see all the data even in the middle of the night.

The display has some graphics components to help you follow your trends better. The altitude tendency graph is available on the top of the display. You can also see the atmospheric pressure and follow your compass with the help of the Bearing memory, which memorizes direction detected.

PROS:

  • Solar powered
  • Register ring easy to operate
  • Full auto EL light

CONS:

  • A bit clunky
  • Backlight button too small
  • Poor quality band

Related: The watches on this list are designed to last for a very long time, but in case you accidentally damage the wrist band we suggest you replace it with this Casio Pathfinder Replacement Band. Designed specifically for this watch, you won’t need to worry about fit and you’ll be sure that despite fashion and designs moving on in the future, you will always have a spare band that fits your watch perfectly.

Check the price on Amazon

Suunto Ambit3 Vertical GPS UnitSuunto Ambit3 Vertical GPS Unit

Price: Approx. $300

Weight: 3.58 oz.

Dimensions: 5.91 x 5.91 x 5.91 in.

Specific features: Altitude profile, vibration alerts, route navigation, activity tracking, Movescout app to track progress

Best use: Running, multisport

Description: If you are looking for a watch that will be your workout partner when training for a big marathon, the Suunto Ambit3 Vertical GPS Unit is the one to choose.

It was made with marathoners and runners in mind, but those that do a lot of hiking and trail running will enjoy it just as much. It comes with access to Movescout app and community, which a lot of people use to track progress and plan hikes with topo maps.

You can see the altitude profile of your route in real time directly on your display; you can follow the vertical gain and ascent to go to your finishing point. Your running power can be measured as well, following your recovery status. The built-in barometric pressure accurately tracks your ascent.

If you need to stay connected even when on the go, you can connect your watch to your smartphone. This way you can see the calls and notifications on the watch display as well. There are plenty of options to sync your activities and customize your experience on the go.

So, if you need a watch to do all the above mentioned activities and some more, this is the way to go. It is available in 4 fun colours and it is also available in a variety of heart rate monitor. If you don’t mind the size, this is a great fit for both men and women.

PROS:

  • Movescout app
  • Free topo maps
  • Recovery time calculation

CONS:

  • Bulky size
  • Durability and battery life possible issues

Related: This watch will surely go through some rough wear over the years performing as your ultimate adventure buddy. We suggest you prolong the life and tip-top shape of it by applying this D-FLECTOR Screen Protector. It is designed specifically for this watch, it won’t affect touch screen capabilities and it won’t leave any glue residue when you decide to replace it.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrapping Up

Buying a good product, especially when chances of buying an overpriced, underperforming and useless one is so high can be a real challenge. We believe we gave you enough information about which features to look for, so you will be able to make an informed decision. A good altimeter watch can improve your performance in the chosen sport, and a poor would be just very disappointing.

altimeter watch

Keep in mind that we always look at price performance before we recommend a product. We want to make sure no matter what your budget is, you are able to purchase a good product that will inspire you to get us more often. Happy customers with watches that improve the quality of their lives – this is our motivation.

In case you might feel we missed a real diamond, a truly amazing product, please, do let us know about it in the comments! We appreciate your feedback and are always happy to hear from you!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.