Updated: May 29, 2015

Altimeter Reviews:

Who Makes the Best Altimeters? - Are you an outdoor enthusiast or a fitness fanatic? Whether you are hiking, biking, skiing, mountain or rock climbing, or even driving to a great location for any of the above, keeping track of information is important. Altimeters are one of the most important tools that a person can use for navigation and recording purposes alike. Once used exclusively for their main function of measuring height above a fixed point, today's altimeters generally serve a wide variety of functions. There are a few areas to look at in determining which of the dozens of altimeters out there are the best for you. How much does the altimeter cost? What functions does the altimeter have? Is a handheld altimeter or an altimeter watch the best choice? The top brands are Suunto, Brunton, Highgear, Polar, Sun, Timex and Silva. You can altimeters for sale at REI, Target, Backcountry.com and many other retailers or websites.

Popular Altimeters for Physical Activity

- The first choice you will have to make is whether to use a handheld altimeter or an altimeter watch combination. This will ultimately depend on your level of physical activity, or what exactly you are doing with your altimeter. Remember that with a handheld unit such as the Oregon Scientific you will not only have to have a place to store it while you are out walking or biking, but you will have to access it from those spots as well. This is a popular altimeter for driving purposes; getting to your trail and so on. It's easy to store in a car and the digital display is easy to read as well. And of course you get all the ease of digital; companies such as Polar include uplinks from the device to your PC or even cellular phone in their Axn line, along with several KB worth of memory for storing multiple trips. So if you want to log a lot of information before and after a trip, digital altimeters work very well. However, when it comes to your actual work on a trail or up a slope, handheld units are not the most convenient, largely due to their limited storage options. You could put them in a pocket or even around your neck for safekeeping, but that means they are a lot harder to access. Most of the reviews we read online at sites such as Outdoorreview.com and Feedthehabit.com would only review altimeter watch combinations, and that makes sense. An altimeter watch allows you to quickly access the information you need about your height, the air pressure, weather, and so on by simply moving back your sleeve. It only takes a few seconds and you don't have to worry about taking off any gear (many altimeter users are up in colder elevations and reluctant to remove protective gloves), or about anything else falling out of your pockets while you dig around. So we recommend getting a digital handheld altimeter for your vehicle, but relying on a watch altimeter for your actual field activity. You can browse the best selling altimeters online here.

Which is the best altimeter watch?:

Because so many altimeter watches have so much in common, it really is a matter of personal needs when it comes to deciding which is the best altimeter watch for you. If you love all the extra information you can get and don't mind paying a higher price for that information on your wrist, then the Suunto X6 is a great choice (see all the Suunto Altimeters here). On the other hand, you may not worry too much about your fitness (seeing as you are hiking a lot already), want to pay a bit less, and have your own doubts about the accuracy of a wrist compass (even a digital one). In that case, you can get your altitude readings, weather gauge, thermometer, and direction in a model like the Highgear Ti Watch altimeter. It's about half the price of the Suunto's top models and we couldn't find anything but positive feedback about it on altimeter watch reviews posted at Backcountry.com Trails.com. On a final note, keep in mind that weight is always a concern when you are trekking, but again this won't be a huge issue with any of the altimeter watches we could find. They are all very light on the wrist, though most also have large (and large is handy when you want to see all that information) displays.

Features in a Good Altimeter Watch:

When it comes to choosing a great altimeter, what are the features you should look for? First, we might as well cover one of the downfalls of altimeters whether digital, watch mode, or handheld: they need a lot of calibration. It is common amongst all the major brands and no one from Timex to Oregon to Nike has been able to solve this problem yet. So whatever brand you buy, make sure you frequently calibrate your altimeter at your starting point. A look at a few instruction booklets has us thinking that models from Suunto and Casio are the easiest to calibrate, while reviews of the Timex Adventure Tech altimeter on Trailspace.com and other sites suggest that not only is it complicated to calibrate, it falls out of sync quickly as well. However, this is something that is not uncommon amongst the lower priced altimeter watches (the Timex Adventure Tech sell for under $80 online and off). Price is a major consideration when it comes to buying a good altimeter. Not only will it determine the ease of use in most cases, price will also dictate how many features an altimeter watch comes with. We'll start out by saying that across the board, all companies seem to be able to make a really hardy altimeter watch given certain price ranges. From economy models such as the Timex to the Suunto X6HR, which sells for around $500 offline although you can find it for half the price at Amazon, we couldn't find any altimeter watch that was fragile. The main difference in these watches are the features. Generally speaking, the higher the price, the more features a watch will have. For example, the X6HR includes the altimeter of course, but there are a number of other features that are very useful to the avid outdoor enthusiast and/or fitness freak. The HR stands for Heart Rate, which records your beats per minute in both real time and recorded at highs and lows for the duration of the workout. This makes this watch appealing not only for the recreational hiker or skier, but for those looking to increase their cardio strength as well. Suunto has also managed to make an altimeter watch in both the X6HR and models like the Suunto Observer series which can store a lot of information and still keep access to that information easy. Even with gloves on the three button Mode mechanisms of the Suunto line are easy to use to access your displays. These higher end models also include dual time displays, a stop watch, back lights, features which track total calories burned during a trip (useful not only for those looking for fitness records but for people on longer treks, needing information on what food to pack along), and a digital compass. See the most popular altimeter watches here.