Gear Watch: A $65 Altimeter Watch

Altimeter watches are incredibly useful, but they haven't been cheap—until now. The Casio SGW300H-1AV multifunction watch ($65) is one of the first altimeter watches to break the $100 price point, making this the most affordable wrist-top option for measuring your elevation.

To achieve this price point, Casio has made some significant trade-offs. First, there is a conspicuous absence of functions. The SGW300H-1AV measures and displays your current elevation, as well as the barometric pressure (which it uses to gauge your altitude), but doesn't do much more than that. It won't track your cumulative elevation gain/loss (one of my favorite features), indicate your rate of ascent or descent, and has no altitude alarms to alert you when you reach a certain elevation—all standard features on other, more expensive altimeter watches.

Second—and this is a biggie—the SGW300H-1AV doesn't feature a user-replaceable battery. Estimated battery life is three years, but after that you'll need to send it in to Casio or take it to a watch shop to swap in a fresh battery. This is a real bummer; most other altimeter watches have a user-replaceable battery that makes it easy to extend the life of the watch (my Suunto Vector altimeter watch has been on my wrist for more than a decade now).

Third, there's no electronic compass though this is only a minor drawback in my opinion; in general watch compasses are a crude tool useful for little more than orienting yourself.

The SGW300H-1AV does have a few other capabilities beyond the altimeter. It features a built-in thermometer, though (like all watch thermometers) it must be used away from your wrist and its accompanying body heat to provide an accurate measurement. It also offers a good range of basic watch functions, including a backlight, stopwatch, countdown timer, and alarm. All in all, it's a great value for the price.

Casio also offers the SGW300HB-3AV ($65), which is the same watch in an olive green color with a cloth band; and the SGW300HD-1AV ($75, right), also the same watch but with an aluminum band. If you're looking for a fuller range of altimeter watch features, check out the excellent Casio Pathfinder series ($200 to $400+), which includes a range of models featuring everything from solar power to tides to phases of the moon.

Like all altimeter watches, the SGW300H-1AV measures altitude based on barometric pressure, which fluctuates with ambient weather conditions. As a result, you'll want to recalibrate it any time you're at a known elevation.

Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.

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