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altimeter

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altimeter

Postby sparky » Tue Aug 16, 2011 5:10 pm

So I'm looking for a reliable altimeter and was hoping to generate some discussion and hear opinions.

I would like a altimeter watch combo unless it compromises the accuracy. Cost is an important factor, need the cheapest, most effective. I don't want to buy a POS either.

Use is for hiking on and off trail.

No idea what models are good enough either way.
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Re: altimeter

Postby rlown » Tue Aug 16, 2011 7:25 pm

I have an old Casio 1170 ES watch. It was a gift. It has an altimeter and a compass, but it was heavy. If there is any reason to replace the battery it would only be for the cooking time. Funny, my camera has all those functions as well (not the compass).
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Re: altimeter

Postby oldranger » Tue Aug 16, 2011 8:30 pm

I've been using a High Sierra this season and the last two seasons. Works great when doing off trail stuff that is heavily wooded if you remember to adjust it regularly whenever at known elevations. Changes in atmospheric pressure can "move" you up or down as you sleep. I got mine for less than $100, on sale at the Sportsman's Wherehouse in St. George, Utah. It is not a wristwatch but has a beiner type clip that I clip onto the chest strap of my backpack. Also use the alarm clock function when I need to get up early.

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Re: altimeter

Postby dave54 » Wed Aug 17, 2011 8:48 pm

Just curious as to why you want one.

Not really useful for most general hiking. You can look at a topo map and determine elevation as accurately as most altimeters, certainly within any margin of error needed for hiking. Detect changes in air pressure? Sky awareness is as good a backcountry weather forecast as the barometer function.

Unless you are doing some mapping work where precise elevations are used I don't see the need.

Does it really matter if you estimate your elevation at 8200 feet versus knowing you are 8179?
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Re: altimeter

Postby rlown » Wed Aug 17, 2011 8:52 pm

dave54 wrote:Just curious as to why you want one.

Not really useful for most general hiking. You can look at a topo map and determine elevation as accurately as most altimeters, certainly within any margin of error needed for hiking. Detect changes in air pressure? Sky awareness is as good a backcountry weather forecast as the barometer function.

Unless you are doing some mapping work where precise elevations are used I don't see the need.

Does it really matter if you estimate your elevation at 8200 feet versus knowing you are 8179?


It's kind of true. If you are at a lake you know, you already know how high you are just by looking at the map. It's only helpful if you're in a full-fledged forest and cant see jack, to help you know if you're too high or too low.
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Re: altimeter

Postby sparky » Wed Aug 17, 2011 10:09 pm

Almost every hike I go on I wonder about my elevation, and wrong guesses has effected my navigation a couple times. No twenty feet doesn't matter, but 100 or 200 ft does...I have been in plenty of situations where it was hard to be sure.....perhaps the money is better spent elsewear, but I think I would use it nearly every trip.

Now if I would take a minute and pull out my compass more often that would also solve navigation errors ;-). Perhaps I should spend a little on a proper compass, but my nice ones have always disappeared rather quickly. The one I have now is just barely next to worthless
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Re: altimeter

Postby rlown » Wed Aug 17, 2011 10:28 pm

sparky wrote:Almost every hike I go on I wonder about my elevation, and wrong guesses has effected my navigation a couple times. No twenty feet doesn't matter, but 100 or 200 ft does...I have been in plenty of situations where it was hard to be sure.....perhaps the money is better spent elsewear, but I think I would use it nearly every trip.

Now if I would take a minute and pull out my compass more often that would also solve navigation errors ;-). Perhaps I should spend a little on a proper compass, but my nice ones have always disappeared rather quickly. The one I have now is just barely next to worthless


Ok, a different tack. where'd you get lost and why? I was lost a few times. Fog. Before any of my gear besides the compass. Altitude is actually important off-trail. A compass tells you where you "might" be headed.

Just wondering..
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Re: altimeter

Postby sparky » Thu Aug 18, 2011 6:58 pm

I've never been lost, just not where I thought I was ;-). I hike in all kinds of conditions and environments, on and off trail, year round.

In July in kings canyon, I was too high to catch the trail, but thought I wasn't high enough, thunder and storm clouds were approaching, was on an exposed cliff. Yes a more careful look at the map showed where I could pick it up at the river. But a quick check of altitude might have prevented searching up and down wasting energy. It was right where sphinx creek drops to bubbs creek. I was way too high up on that cliff.

Tablelands this July I started descending buck creek canyon without realizing it. When I finally realized had drifted way to the south it seemed like 500 ft or more to regain to get below pterodactyl. Amazing canyon....and a lot of fun, but hard work to traverse. I went to the tiny lakes at a dropoff directly below moose. If I had gone strait to the pass, I wouldn't have had second thoughts about heading to lonely lake. It kind of threw the momentum of the hike, and decided to shine it.

And many more blunders throughout my career that's just my last two trips ;-). Again, wipping my compass out more would help solve most issues. And its nothing that an hour or two didn't fix. When I'm solo its fine, but leading others I can get the stink eye.

They are pricey, and a little more vigilance might make it obsolete. Dunno, I probably need a new pack more than a new altimeter. All my packs are hammered.
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Re: altimeter

Postby fishmonger » Wed Aug 24, 2011 9:36 am

I used altimeters in the 80s and early 90s. The best ones ever made come from a Swiss company called Thommen. You can find these frequently on Ebay for peanuts. They used to cost about $500 and more (the 8000m model was very expensive).

They don't really do much my garmin 60csx doesn't do (it has a built it real barometer to supplement the sat data), and even the Thommen units are nowhere near as accurate as my GPS. The do work without batteries, and they are very easy to use. Tell you every morning what the weather trend is in terms of pressure, etc.

I've been looking at ebay for a while to grab one of the nice units, as I have this silly plan of doing a "retro hike" on the JMT one of these days. Alitmeter, film camera, GAZ Bleuet stove, etc - all the good 1980's stuff.
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Re: altimeter

Postby Mike McGuire » Sat Aug 27, 2011 6:12 pm

dave54 wrote:Just curious as to why you want one.

Not really useful for most general hiking. You can look at a topo map and determine elevation as accurately as most altimeters, certainly within any margin of error needed for hiking. Detect changes in air pressure? Sky awareness is as good a backcountry weather forecast as the barometer function.

Unless you are doing some mapping work where precise elevations are used I don't see the need.

Does it really matter if you estimate your elevation at 8200 feet versus knowing you are 8179?


Not so! If your are in terrain with much relief at all, the altimeter and a map will tell you where you are if you are on any linear terrain feature. It also gives you an idea of your progress on a climb or descent. This becomes even more useful if visibility is not good. Not all hiking and mountaineering is done under sunny skies. I have a Thommen I bought back in the 70's and carried up Denali. I still use it. Even though I was present at the creation of GPS and worked on an important support technology--precision clocks, I have yet to spring for one of those.

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Re: altimeter

Postby balzaccom » Sun Aug 28, 2011 8:56 am

I have a solar powered Casio that works pretty well. You have to remember a couple of things about these watches:

1. I takes a little time for them to adjust their readings. When I drive up a road that climbs steeply, the watch will not keep up with the rate of climb. It is as if it is sampling every three minutes, and yet I am changing altitude much quicker than that...this isn't much of an issue at walking pace.

2. It makes sense to reset it every morning in case there has been a barometric change over night---something that is true of any altimeter that works on atmospheric pressure.

Now I am not going to argue that you need one of these---or any watch at all in the wilderness. But I wear a watch anyway, and I like that this one can tell me my elevation with reasonable accuracy. Yes, I've used it to "contour" line across a slope....and I've also used it to get a sense of how much further I have to hike uphill, or downhill.

IT doesn't weigh much and it's fun
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Re: altimeter

Postby fishhunter » Mon Aug 29, 2011 7:00 pm

I would recommend Suunto altimeter watches (around $199 with electronic compass). Very good accuracy/sensitivity. My hiking buddy has a Casio, which seems very inaccurate by comparison. Only problem I have with the Suunto is that the night glow feature is quite dim. As to others posts about why you would want an altimeter, ever try hiking in at night with no moon? Another option (more expensive and heavier) is handheld GPS.
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