In today’s world, you can easily traverse the trails and climb mountain peaks with modern technology by your side. If you are looking to climb to higher altitudes, an altimeter watch is a gadget you’ll want to add to your collection.

An altimeter watch (often referred to as an ABC watch) features an altimeter, a barometer, and a compass packed in one device. In addition to calculating altitude, the best altimeter watches can also predict incoming storms and keep logs. Modern altimeter watches even include features like heart rate monitors and GPS compatibility.

Our buying guide was created to help you choose the best altimeter watch by reviewing various styles, features, and designs. But before we jump into it, check out our list of 10 Best Altimeter Watches in 2020.

How to Choose An Altimeter Watch – Buying Guide

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Accuracy

Altimeter watches will never be 100% accurate, mainly because nature is not always predictable. Altimeter watches use air pressure to measure the changes in altitude. Sometimes an incoming storm may change the air pressure, so the reading won’t be as accurate.

However, if you take the information and use it as a good estimate, you can rely on your device to give you an accurate guideline. To get the most accurate readings, you should calibrate your altimeter watch often.

Comfort

It may seem trivial, but an uncomfortable watch can frustrate you on the trail. You need to make sure that your watch is comfortable to wear, which means ensuring that the model is not too heavy or bulky.

On top of this, it’s best to get a band made of soft and breathable material. Your watch should have a snug fit, but not be too tight that it restricts circulation.

Durability

Because they are commonly used in outdoor activities like climbing and hiking, altimeter watches need to be durable. Investing in a backpacking watch made of high-quality materials will guarantee that you can use it for years to come.

With the help of our altimeter watch reviews, you should be able to find a model that is within your budget but doesn’t skimp on the materials. When it comes to durability, your altimeter watch should be top of the class.

Readability

Regardless of the type of watch, it should always be easy to read. Two factors come into play here. First, the watch interface and bezel should be organized in a way that is easy to comprehend.

On top of this, it’s a big plus if your new watch has some type of backlight. Whether it’s an EL light or some other type, it illuminates the display in low-light conditions so you can always read the info you need.

Technology

Thanks to modern technology, some altimeter watches come with awesome new features. These range from GPS systems and thermometers to fitness trackers. If you are looking for an all-in-one design, watches like the Garmin Fenix 3 or Casio Pro Trek can do all of these things and more.

To give an example, a fitness tracker is very useful to have in an altimeter watch. Rather than wearing two separate devices, you can combine everything into a single device.

Additionally, a built-in GPS function allows you to track your location on the trail. Some models even offer downloadable maps to use offline while exploring the trail.

Related Review: Garmin Watches

Style

As you had the chance to see, there are many different styles of altimeter watches. From color and size to the watch face design, you have many different options to choose from. Some altimeter watches have bezels and watch faces loaded with information, while others are minimal in their design. Choosing the style of your new watch comes down to your personal preference.

However, don’t buy an altimeter watch based on its style alone. While it may be appealing to you visually, functionality and performance are more important factors. Even though they might not look as good, some watches may have features that are more useful to you.

Fit

When buying a new watch, the fit shouldn’t be overlooked. Your altimeter watch should fit snugly, so it won’t get caught into things or even fall off your wrist. However, you don’t it to be too tight either because it may feel uncomfortable.

If you have a chance, you should try on as many different altimeter watches before ordering them online. Also, check out the reviews from other people who bought the model you like – you may learn something useful.

Activity

An altimeter watch can be used for any outdoor activity, but it really shines at higher altitudes. While the main use for an altimeter watch is to measure your altitude, features like the barometer, compass, or weather forecast can be very useful on your adventures too.

In reality, the best mountaineering watch should have no restrictions – they can be used for hiking, climbing, or even swimming. However, some models may cater to specific activities better than others. For example, a hill runner may want to track speed and elevation, while a hiker may just need the altimeter and barometric functions.

Weight

When taking a trip to the great outdoors, every ounce counts. This is why you should get a watch that you feel comfortable wearing. If we are discussing weight alone, the best altimeter watches can weigh as little as two ounces. However, these are made of lighter materials that aren’t as durable. If you want a more robust watch with a steel case, it will weigh anywhere between 5 and 10 ounces.

Design

A great thing about altimeter watches is that you have countless designs to choose from. Some models are sleek and modern while others have a more rugged construction (similar to tactical watches). Depending on your preference, you may feel that a bulkier design looks better or you may go with a more modern and laid-back model.

Remember, however, that the design is not the most important aspect. It should be a factor in your decision but never the main reason you bought a watch. Functionality and fit should always have an advantage when choosing.

Display

An easy-to-read display is an important part of your altimeter watch. The altimeter watch is meant to assist your trip, so be sure that you can read all the information before you hit the trails. Readability can also be influenced by your eyesight. If you have problems reading small fonts, perhaps a digital smartwatch display like the Garmin Fenix 3 is the best choice.

Dimensions

Altimeter watches can be quite bulky because of all the high-tech features. For this reason, they tend to be wider and thicker than most standard watch designs. Even though they are fairly large, they should never interfere with your task at hand. On average, altimeter watches measure around 50mm in diameter.

Power source

The power source of your watch can make a difference when using it outdoors. Traditional watches are powered by a coin cell battery that is placed in the back of the watch face. Altimeter watches that use disposable batteries usually work for about a year before you need to change the battery.

On the other hand, some altimeter watches use a rechargeable Li-Ion battery. These are common in modern altimeter watches that use GPS navigation. While you have to charge them, you don’t have to worry about replacing the battery. Keep in mind that the GPS function can drain the battery in less than 24 hours.

Finally, some altimeter watches are solar-powered. The Li-Ion battery inside is charged through a solar panel on the watch face, so you don’t ever have to worry about power. This is probably the most convenient option since you can use the watch completely worry-free.

Related Review: Solar Watches

FAQs

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Q: How Does An Altimeter Watch Measure The Elevation Of An Area?

A: 

Altimeter watches measure air pressure to determine the altitude. They use barometric readings to perform a non-linear calibration and provide you with the changing altitude. Air pressure decreases as the altitude increases, allowing the watch to calculate the changes.

An altimeter watch can be made even more accurate by providing a reference elevation. If you input the elevation of the city you live in or the mean elevation of the sea level, your altimeter watch can more easily figure out your current elevation.

Q: How Do You Calibrate An Altimeter Watch?

A: 

To calibrate an altimeter watch you have to input the starting elevation. This reference elevation can be a benchmark, building, city, or home. The important part is that you know the elevation exactly and can input the information into your watch.

Some watches with altimeter have GPS systems that allow them to calibrate automatically. If your watch has a GPS system, you should be able to set the elevation to your current location. Then, you can set how often you would like your watch to measure. A common measurement is to read the changes every 20ft you have walked.

Q: Do I Need GPS In My Altimeter Watch?

A: 

No, it’s not necessary. However, while you don’t need GPS in an altimeter, it may be very useful. An altimeter watch with a GPS system can recalibrate automatically (instead of manually), and provide location-tracking information.

On the other hand, the prices of GPS altimeter watches can be drastically higher. If you are only looking to track altitude, spending the extra money on a GPS system may not be worth it. But if you need extra information, a GPS watch is a great choice.

Q: Are All Altimeter Watches Considered ABC Watches?

A: 

No, but most are. They are commonly called ABC watches (altimeter, barometer, compass), but not all altimeter watches include hiking compasses. If you are someone who uses a watch for navigation, you should pay attention and look for watches with compass and altimeter. The compass feature does not drain your battery, so really there isn’t much of a difference. Of course, you can always carry a separate compass.

Related Review: Compass Watches

Q: Why Is It Important To Know The Altitude?

A: 

Knowing the altitude is important because it allows you to avoid hypoxia. Hypoxia is a medical condition that is more commonly known as altitude sickness. It slows down your cells so your body stops absorbing nutrients and eliminating waste.

Altitude sickness can lead to death in extreme cases and you certainly don’t want to face it alone. Outdoor enthusiasts who have altitude sickness often get confused, which means they can easily get lost. Hypoxia also leads to lethargy, headaches, and vomiting.

If you’re going to high altitudes, an altimeter watch can help you track elevation along the way. If you are climbing to high altitudes too fast, you’ll be prone to experiencing hypoxia because your body won’t have time to adjust. By tracking the altitude and the climbing time, you can reduce the risk of hypoxia by respecting your body’s limits.

Globo Surf Overview

Choosing the best mountaineering watch can greatly enhance your outdoor experience, whether you’re hiking or mountaineering. A top-rated ABC watch can track altitude, pressure, and show you direction. Some of the best altimeter watches can even predict the weather, measure heart rate, and track your activities. An altimeter watch is a great investment that will be very valuable every time you go on an adventure.

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!