Suunto Core Extreme Edition Silver

[Category: Gear Reviews] [link] [Date: 2011-01-09 14:15:34]

This post marks the first post in a new category that I am calling gear reviews. While I'm calling it "reviews" I expect most of it will merely be considerations, impressions, and comments. Two months ago I purchased a Suunto Core Extreme Edition Silver ABC (an altimeter, barometer and compass). When I was hiking in Maine this last summer I found myself pouring over the trail maps constantly attempting to assess my current location more accurately. I realized that without knowing an approximate elevation that my guess was that and only that -- a guess.

There are two methods of electronic measurement that can provide elevation estimates. The least expensive and more popular method is that of the ABC which uses barometric pressure to approximate altitude. One positive aspect of this method is that you also end up carrying around a miniature weather station that can provide ample warning of incoming low pressure systems which can potentially care precipitation. Conversely, these same changes in pressure that occur due to large air masses flowing over the landscape can cause the altimeter and barometer readings to be largely inaccurate. It is because of this that an accurate altitude reading depends greatly on the frequency and consistency of calibration. Many GPS-based watches provide an altitude reading, but these are often intentionally scrambled for safety precautions and are often less accurate than ABC devices. The most advanced devices use both a pressure sensor and GPS to constantly calibrate and approximate elevation.

Most wrist-based altimeters have an enormous face

Suunto has made an plethora of different varieties of it's Core model. The first ABC I purchased was a HighGear Alterra from Campmor. Not only was it sent to me with a dead battery, but the altimeter and barometer did not even work! I was sent a dead watch. From the appearance of the box, it looked like it had been relaxing in a warehouse for years. I decided that I had to take my game to the next level. If I have learned one thing from spending oodles of money on outdoor gear it's that you must make price not an objective. It's better to search for gear that you like, or that is of high quality, then worry about finding a good deal on it.

With that in mind, I began to scope out deals on Suunto Core watches. I eventually made a purchase of an all-black military design with a negative display. The watch performed and worked wonderfully, but it was terribly hard to read in most lighting scenarios. It was for this reason that I exchanged it for the Suunto Core Extreme Edition Silver. This watch has a much more modest face that is a bit less thick than the normal core edition and lacks most of the distractions of the normal Core face. Setting up the Core is so easy. I didn't even have to read the manual. It has a limited set of functions, but they are all intuitive and easy to use. Some of the reset actions are not as intuitive as the normal user interface browsing, but all in all it's a terrific interface. Contrast this with the interface on the Alterra which had far too many features to ever be easy to use. Extra ski chronometers and excessive alarms further complicates setup on the Alterra.

The major pros of the Suunto Core include a disturbingly accurate altimeter and barometer, an easy to read face, the storm alarm, and the directional compass. I am never more than 1hPa off from the measurements made at the nearby airport and the altimeter accuracy of 1m typically leads to results within 5-10ft of the true elevation. The storm alarm has successfully beeped at me before more than three quarters of most significant snowfalls here in Kentucky. Using the directional compass assisted me in some field work I had to do for a project that I recently finished focusing on landslides in the region. Cons are few and far between. The primary downside to this timepiece is it's enormous face. This is common amongst ABC watches, though. I would like to see a dual-alarm setup that would allow for both a morning and afternoon alarm, as well.

Bottom line: I can't wait until I get to try this thing out on a few real trips. I've been adding significantly to my winter gear collection and hope to do a few winter trips this year along with a few other "big" trips which are still coming together. Suunto did a wonderful job on this upgrade to their already successful Core line.

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