Altimeter watches are easy enough to define. Simply put, they are wristwatches with a built-in altitude meter or altimeter. Although not 100 percent on point, altimeter watches are accurate enough, making them indispensable tools for hiking, mountaineering, skiing, skydiving, and other outdoor activities.
Aside the altitude meter, altimeter watches often include several other functions that outdoor enthusiasts especially skydivers will find useful and even life – saving, such as a thermometer, a barometer, a moon phase indicator, and a compass, among others. A watch with a built – in altimeter, barometer, and compass is often called an ABC watch, with the acronym obviously referring to the initials of the three functions.
Originally, altimeters worked by sensing pressure changes in the atmosphere. It is not an infallible system, but it is generally pretty accurate. This is because the higher one climbs — be that on a mountain hike, in an aircraft for skydiving, or otherwise — the less pressure there is in the atmosphere.
This is mainly because the Earth’s gravity pulls everything toward the planet’s centre, even air molecules. So, the closer you get to the centre of the planet, the higher the pressure. Readings can also be altered by weather as the atmosphere is under constant change, but the general functionality remains reliable enough that the technology is still widely used today.
In the United States, the most common non-barometric altimeter that still exists and is commonly used is GPS – based. As you may already know, GPS uses a network of satellites orbiting the Earth to help triangulate a given device’s exact location on the planet. While this is typically used to determine longitude and latitude on a map, it can also be enlisted to determine altitude.
Irrespective of which type of altimeter watch you end up choosing, it is important to keep their pros and cons in mind, because knowing the limitations of your technology can potentially end up saving your life, should you find yourself in an emergency survival situation.
What are the Best Digital Altimeter Watches for Skydiving?
Considering the number of options on the market, shopping for the best digital altimeter watches can be challenging. In no particular order, here are the best digital altimeter watches that you can get today.
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Garmin Fenix 5X
When it comes to the best altimeter watches, the Garmin Fenix 5 is easily one of the top three, with many people believing it is the best one you can get today, considering that the market is full of excellent options, including solid contenders from both Suunto and Casio.
The Garmin Fenix 5X is the largest model being offered, featuring a 51 – millimeter face with a sapphire glass. Note that this expensive outdoor gear packs a bunch of tracking and navigation features, including an altimeter, a barometer, and a compass.
It comes with a full – colour topographic U.S. mapping system, allowing for a quick location reference. Generally, the Garmin Fenix 5X is a renowned altimeter watch that not only offers a wide range of functions but also puts emphasis on durability. It has a well – secured case with a scratch – resistant window and a water resistance rating of 330 feet.
Casio Rangeman GW – 9400 – 1CR
The Casio Rangeman GW – 9400 – 1CR is one of the most popular digital altimeter watches on the market – and a quick look at its features and construction will tell you why it carries that distinction. It is a big watch and features a stainless steel case and a mineral dial window. It has a stationary bezel with no cardinal points.
Also note that this rugged altimeter watch boasts water resistance up to 660 feet, making it ideal for both high – altitude skydiving activities and casual scuba diving. It is got a well – secured dial, with textured buttons for easy navigation.
It has an accurate altimeter and barometer and features a calendar, a countdown timer, and atomic timekeeping. Owing to its rugged design, it is not surprising that this altimeter watch is on the heavy side, so those with small wrists might find it uncomfortable to wear for an extended period.
When digital sports watches are mentioned, a lot of people instantly picture a bulky watch built like a tank, with different markers around the case. Although many products fit that description, there are also products that offer a subtler and more conservative design.
The Suunto Traverse is one such product, with its simple but stylish case easily separating it from most skydiving watches. It is an altimeter watch with a 100 – hour power reserve and water resistance up to 330 feet. Also note that the Suunto Traverse comes with a number of useful features for outdoor enthusiasts, including an option to retrace your steps.
It has an altimeter, a distance tracker, a compass, and sunrise/sunset times, among other functions. Also made of a stainless steel case and a silicone band, this sports watch is easy to use, with responsive buttons and a clear dial. It is an advisable product for those who prefer a more discreet altimeter watch, one that carries a more modern design.
Altimeter watches are renowned for being expensive, with some of the best ones going for over $300. But there are also budget options on the market, most of which don’t come from easily recognizable brands. The Pyle PSWWM82 is one such product. It sells for less than $50 on Amazon, cementing it as one of the most affordable altimeter watches.
Note that this multi – function sports watch comes with a bunch of features, including a chronograph and a weather forecast indicator. It is a full – fledged ABC watch, featuring an altimeter, a barometer, and a compass, all of which can be easily accessed with just a few clicks. Although it might not be on the same level as the premium products on the list, the altimeter is accurate enough, which might surprise those expecting it to be subpar, considering the price.
Suunto Ambit3 Peak
The Suunto Ambit3 Peak is another multi – function watch that offers a stylish and modern design. It is got twice the style and twice the battery life of the Suunto Traverse, boasting a 200 – hour battery life on a single charge. That’s an impressive battery, one that not many products in the same class can match. Also note that it has an elegant and modern look that makes it stand out among all the other products mentioned so far.
Have it in mind that the Suunto Ambit3 Peak is not just about style. It also comes with a number of features that outdoor enthusiasts will find useful, including an accurate altimeter, a barometer, and a compass. It is water resistant up to 330 feet and comes with a tough band.
Some might find it too large, though – the increased size is a trade-off for that exceptional battery life. Overall, this eye – catching sports watch is an ideal gear not only for hiking but also for skydiving, cycling, and swimming.
Casio Pro Trek PRW – 2500T – 7CR
When it comes to size, the Casio Pro Trek PRW – 2500T – 7CR is a bit more modest than the Casio Rangeman GW – 9400 – 1CR. However, do not think that it sacrificed durability and toughness in exchange for a relatively less imposing profile. It is still a rugged altimeter watch, boasting a titanium band and a stainless steel case with a bidirectional aluminium bezel and a mineral dial window.
Note that this digital watch comes with a Japanese quartz movement; it also includes an altimeter, a barometer, a digital compass, a thermometer, a calendar, a tide graph, a moon phase indicator, and a countdown timer, among others.
It is also solar – powered, with the ability to last up to 23 months while in power saving mode. Generally, it is a fantastic altimeter watch that you can use for different outdoor activities, including water – related ones such as kayaking and snorkelling, with its excellent water resistance giving it optimum aqua protection.
Tissot T – Touch Expert Titanium
The Tissot T – Touch Expert Titanium is probably the most unique product on this list, at least with regard to design. It comes with an analogue and digital display, with the latter on the bottom half of the dial. The case is made of titanium, with a unidirectional bezel and an anti-reflective, scratch-resistant sapphire window for supreme readability and protection. The band, on the other hand, is made of genuine leather, though some variations use a different material.
Also note that this watch is water resistant up to 330 feet, this titanium watch includes a bunch of functions, including an altimeter, a compass, a chronograph, a thermometer, and a countdown timer, among others. The functions can be easily accessed via the touch – sensitive screen. Like the Casio Pathfinder PAG240 – 1CR, this altimeter watch is solar – powered, which basically means you get unlimited power.
Casio Pathfinder PAG240 – 1CR
The Casio Pathfinder PAG240 – 1CR is a solar – powered watch, with the ability to last up to six months on just a single full charge. It is on the large and heavy side, with a 51 – millimeter case made of stainless steel and a mineral dial window. Also note that the case comes with a bidirectional bezel, with clearly marked cardinal points for navigation, which is crucial considering the case (and the dial itself) has a bunch of other markers.
A sports watch that can tell time in both 12 – hour and 24 – hour formats, the Casio Pathfinder PAG240 – 1CR includes all the core functions you might expect from such a sophisticated – looking item. Coupled with the altimeter, barometer, and compass, this outdoor watch has a countdown timer, sunset/sunrise times, a thermometer, and a calendar, among other features. It has excellent readability regardless of the light condition and boasts water resistance up to 330 feet, making it an all – around outdoor watch.
Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
This sports watch is an undeniably modern design, featuring a clean case devoid of any markers often associated with altimeter watches, such as the cardinal points. It is got a durable frame, with a stainless steel bezel and a sapphire glass.
This watch designed for both indoor training and outdoor sorties comes with a touch screen sports watch has an altimeter, a digital compass, a distance tracker, and a heart rate monitor, among other functions, all of which are easy to access with just a few button presses. Owing to its battery life, this product may not be suitable for hardcore skiers, but for casual ones, it can get the job done. It is built for different sports and offers excellent screen readability.
Casio SGW – 300HB – 3AV
The Casio SGW – 300HB – 3AV easily stands out as the best one under $100. It is a rugged digital watch, featuring a well – secured frame and a nylon strap, with a water resistance up to 330 feet. It comes with a large frame, with exposed screws and four buttons around the case. A multi – function watch, this budget product includes an altimeter and a barometer, both of which are fairly accurate.
It can display time in both 12 – hour and 24 – hour formats, with good readability all around. It has a thermometer, too, but don’t count on accurate readings on that one. Unlike most of the other products on this list, this Casio sports watch doesn’t have a compass.
A digital altimeter has the potential to be an indispensable function for anyone interested in skydiving. With the unique ability to tell you your altitude (or height) above a fixed point, altimeter watches are an important tool that can help in skydiving and can even help save your life in a survival situation.