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Discussion: Altimeter Recommendation

in: Adventure Racing; General

Mar 26, 2022 6:32 AM # 
P-K:
Hey everybody, just wondering if anyone has an altimeter they really like for expedition racing?

I'm overwhelmed by options and wondering if anybody has a brand/model they swear by.
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Mar 26, 2022 12:38 PM # 
MHtrailvet:
We’ve used a few models. In general they are a bit fiddly and moody, at least in eastern/central NA where elevation changes are more subtle. We *try* to remember to recalibrate at every known elevation while racing. The Garmin Enduro uses barometric pressure (not GPS) like other altimeter watches. However, it has a feature to auto-calibrate the altimeter using GPS. This would be amazing, but I don’t know if it is disabled in AR mode.
Mar 26, 2022 3:20 PM # 
MHtrailvet:
...just noticed your question was specific to expedition length. Interested to hear others' comments
Mar 28, 2022 4:19 PM # 
P-K:
thx MHtrailvet, we're gonna ask the RD about AR mode and probably have to go with something like the enduro if it's allowed
Mar 28, 2022 8:54 PM # 
glewis:
I bought a Columbia altimeter from REI ~10 years ago on clearance. I don't use allof the features, but it's perfect (and fully legal) for all ARs (no gps). The bonus is that the altimeter is the best I've ever used, or even heard of anyone else using. In normal-ish weather it is accurate to within 5 feet. When resetting the altitude at known locations it has been accurate to within 2 feet for me for 24hrs+; I can almost always trust it 100%. Also guaranteed to work for expedition racing as it isn't rechargeable and takes a regular watch battery.

The catch is that I have no idea where to find it anymore. This link below is to the watch, but I don't know where to find it in stock. I imagine that any Columbia cw002 that is still for sale would be trustworthy.

https://www.amazon.in/Columbia-CW002005-Headstream...
Mar 31, 2022 4:35 PM # 
MHtrailvet:
After using the Garmin AR mode a couple times, the altimeter performance seems similar to other barometric ones - very stable at times, less at others. The displayed altitude had drifted up 19 feet after a 1.5 hr loop bike ride, consistent with our currently falling atmospheric pressure. So…the GPS-based auto-calibration is apparently disabled in AR mode. It only allows manual calibration of the altitude, while in AR mode. This is a couple menu screens/scrolls deep, on the Enduro - not great for frequent corrections while racing. But, it’s still nice to have prolonged detailed GPS tracking, time and altimeter in one compact, allowed watch.
Apr 10, 2022 2:36 PM # 
tRicky:
I can almost always trust it 100%.

60% of the time, it works every time.
Apr 10, 2022 6:50 PM # 
glewis:
Ha - hadn't realized that I typed that. But I don't think it's actually inaccurate despite the clunky wording. When it is trustworthy, it works perfectly, which is much more accurate than any other altimeter that I have heard about. When it is not (bad weather, etc.), it is slightly less accurate. Those times are incredibly apparent from the moment that an event begins.
Apr 12, 2022 4:06 PM # 
mayer22:
GLewis
Most altimeter watches I have used work well when you reset them occasionally. Yours doesn't sound above average to me but par for the course. You're basically matching you're clunky wording. Saying it doesn't work perfectly so I have to reset it every once in a while to make sure it isn't too wrong.

That being said I don't know that I would recommend any watch over another. I would think a reasonable quality brand name would be wise. Then start using it and get a sense for accuracy. For me a lot of times you can use relative altitude just as easily as absolute altitude for navigation purposes, e.g., go downhill 200ft to the CP. Therefore the altimeter could say anything as long as it can accurately measure the change over those 200ft which most (all?) altimeters will do well. Absolute accuracy is always preferable but as has been stated there doesn't seem to be anything yet that can do it without some degree of error and drift.

I have had some garmin GPS watches and have seen varying results on their ability to estimate total elevation change on a run/ride. I don't know if that correlates to the quality of altimeter readings at specific points or not.


MHtrailvet
It appears there are different settings on how the autocalibration is performed on Garmin watches. I don't have this option on mine. I used manual calibration during the race this weekend to make occasional updates.
https://support.garmin.com/en-US/?faq=FhOYuggxmV6A...
It may not update during any activity (AR or not).
Apr 12, 2022 9:56 PM # 
glewis:
Really good points, especially about relative altitude. Maybe my teammates just have all had bad altimeters? When I cross check with someone, I rarely get accurate numbers from others.

My (obviously limited) experience tells me that I would want an altimeter that isn't also a GPS watch. Do you have a different experience?
Apr 13, 2022 3:33 AM # 
mayer22:
If you want to use your watch in an AR then likely you would need a watch that has an altimeter but doesn't have GPS as GPS watches are usually restricted (unless in AR mode).
Is that what you were asking?
Apr 13, 2022 10:53 AM # 
glewis:
I was more asking about the accuracy. The watches that I've seen that aren't very good as altimeters are GPS watches first, with an altimeter component added to them. The better altimeters that I've seen aren't GPS watches. I was wondering if that was also your experience.
Apr 23, 2022 9:42 PM # 
mayer22:
I don't think it matters. My GPS watch does as well as my altimeter when it isn't connected for automatic updates.

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