Updated May 2017
With Spring and Summer objectives on the horizon, we updated this review to bring you the latest info on the altimeter market. Garmin recently released the latest version of the Fenix watch, a powerhouse of a watch with a high price tag. We detail the differences between the older and newer versions of this model in the individual review. We also reformatted this article with charts, tables, and pros and cons to help you quickly compare key aspects of these products.
Best Overall Altimeter Watch
Suunto Ambit3 Peak
High-quality & easy to use
Multiple great features, like GPS and a rechargeable battery
Limited battery life
For our 2017 adventures, the Suunto Ambit3 Peak
remains our favorite model. The high-quality display adds to the user-friendly interface of this feature-riddled model. For complex features, it's also simple to transfer, view, and manage data on a computer as necessary. We like its ergonomic fit, along with the fact that our wrists didn't sweat much under the breathable design. The Ambit3 Peak
's altimeter is also one of the most accurate tested. Similar to GPS watches, this model doesn't boast a long battery life, although it is rechargeable. It's also more affordable than most GPS options and is frequently offered at a discount at online retailers. This beast is great for tracking altitude, but also includes tons of extra features we love, such as navigation, fitness tracking, and more.
Read full review: Suunto Ambit3 Peak
Best Bang for the Buck
Suunto Core Alu
Great battery life
Durable aluminum finish
Easy to use interface
Sub-par ltitude & barometric graphs
Screen settings not adjustable
The Suunto Core Alu
is by far the most accurate model we tested, and our Best Buy Award winner. Not filled with as many features as our Top Pick for Features, this classic altimeter watch is designed to track total ascent and descent. It comes fully featured with both barometer and altimeter graphs, a compass, and a reliable long-lasting battery. Don't be afraid to take this on a multi-day or multi-month mission. What's more, is the price is all right. For $420 you can get the Suunto Core Aluminum style, or if you're looking for something a little more affordable, opt for the traditional Core — that's about $100 less. It comes in many fun colors that are both durable and attractive.
Read full review: Suunto Core Alu
Best Model for a Shoestring Budget
Simple & lightweight
Lacks features and comfort
Lacks a compass
Poor quality display
The Casio SGW300-HB
is a bare bones model that didn't score nearly as high in the metrics as other contenders but is the cheapest tested. It features a dual-sensor that can track barometric pressure and altitude. It also has the basic time-telling function. If you're an outdoor recreationist who is just in the market for a timepiece, but you'd like to know the barometric pressure and altitude every now and then (but don't rely on it for 100 percent accuracy), this $65 option is the best out there. Unlike other watches, this one is not as reliable because the altitude is read in 20-foot increments, but we were surprised to see that it was still fairly accurate and provided a decent estimate of the altitude when calibrated regularly. So, if you're just looking for a cheap watch that's light, easy to use, with a long battery life, this Best Buy winner may be your best option!
Read full review: Casio SGW300-HB
Top Pick for Features
Garmin Fenix 5
Longest GPS battery life
Simple interface makes it easy to use
Colorful and easily legible font
Poor battery life compared to models without GPS
The Garmin Fenix 5
is the most powerful GPS watch here. It has so many features to track fitness data that many of our users were actually intimidated by it. Definitely designed as a watch to track fitness, it truly does come with it all: altimeter, barometer, temperature, daily activity tracking, navigational capabilities, compass, personal virtual pacer, metronome, activity-specific data faces, pool capabilities, and more. Not only that but it has a variety of compatible sensors that it can be used with heart rate, bike, and foot pods. Similar to the Suunto Ambit3 Peak, the major downside of this watch is its high price at $600 and poor battery life (in comparison to non-GPS watches). For a GPS watch, it has proven to last a little longer than others but seems to be less accurate when in areas of poor GPS reception (i.e. canyons, near cliffs, heavily forested areas, etc.) That set aside, we still enjoyed the array of fun, fancy features it offers. Therefore, it earned a place among our winners as our Top Pick for Features.
Read full review: Garmin Fenix 5