1 Tough tech
Name: Mission Watch
Headline-wise, the Nixon is the one to shout about here. It’s the first smartwatch to be designed with weatherproof outdoor function as its chief concern.
Now, I’m going to try and hide my feelings about wearable tech here and be impartial, but I don’t think I’m going to succeed. Essentially it runs a version of Android OS and connects to your smartphone via bluetooth – the two then sync your vital apps and accounts and it becomes a wrist-based extension of your brick. This means you can “Ok Google” it as much as you please and get messages, walking directions, weather forecasts, flight updates and such directly to your wrist without the agony of having to take your phone out of your pocket. Oh, and its battery life is roughly similar to that of your smartphone too (I told you I wouldn’t be able to hide my true feelings).
What’s genuinely very cool is that it’s a waterproof (to 10m), shockproof outdoor watch that even when disconnected from your phone can still track your runs, cycles and swims and play downloaded music - which for the price is pretty snazzy.
Nixon is keen to shout about the in-built app which gives you live snow and surf updates, which is presumably very handy if you live near a ski resort or some decent breaks (ie. ‘merica).
What they’re quieter about is the weight rating (not included anywhere in their press releases), but my kitchen scales have it at a surprisingly sturdy 105g.
Still, the silicone strap is excellent and it doesn’t feel overwhelming in use. If you’re really into your tech, this is a pretty groundbreaking product in the outdoor arena. If you’re not, you’ll still find this a decent outdoor watch, albeit a far more distracting one than most competitors.
Verdict: You’ll love or loathe wearable tech…but there’s no disputing the quality. 7/10.
It's tough and waterproof, but the Mission watch feels chunky on your wrist and weighs a substantial 105g. It's available in this vibrant orange casing and strap, or in more subdued black and grey versions.
2 Fully functioned
Name: Fenix 3 Sapphire HR watch
The Fenix 3 is something of a beast, and listing the total number of functions that it’s capable of would take up the length of this review and more. Suffice to say: if you can think of it, Garmin’s flagship watch probably does it. This means that you can track your exact location using in the in-built GPS (and get the figure in a slew of global formats, including an OS grid reference), but also measure air pressure, current altitude, pulse rate, recovery times, stress levels, stride length, lactate threshold and cadence… to name just a few.
My cynical instinct supposed that this was a watch too overloaded with function to, er… function. But I was really quite taken aback at how wrong I was. The ultimate test came from approaching the Fenix without consulting the manual. Within a few easy manipulations of the well-marked pentalogy of buttons I was able to check the current temperature (of my wrist), access the compass, see the spaces reserved for the data-heavy exercise sessions I’d fill it with and even begin measuring my progress on a stand up paddle boarding session (that I wasn’t engaged in).
In use I’ve found it just the right side of bulky: it weighs a fairly meaty 86g and I’ve been aware of, but not off put by, it on my wrist whilst running and cycling.
And, having taken it on a mountaineering trip to the Greater Caucasus this summer, I can vouch for its exemplary rugged outdoorsiness. The battery life is good-not-great – the downside of a beautiful colour display – and 12hrs of measurement on a mountain route will drain it pretty well; otherwise you’re looking at two weeks between charges. You can save yourself £90 by ditching the pulse monitor and glitzy sapphire screen, but go the whole hog and you’re in for a treat.
Verdict: The one to beat. A superbly built and fully loaded outdoor tool. 9/10.
The Fenix 3 bristles with useful functions for hiking, trail running, cycling and other outdoor activities.
3 Ideal for hikers
Name: Traverse watch
The Traverse is aimed specifically at explorers of wilderness. Don’t let this scare you off, though. What it really means is that it’s GPS equipped and offers all of the navigational tools and data that could prove helpful in the outdoors, without any of the fitness-centric features better suited to sports hobbyists.
That clarity of purpose carries through into the design: the monochrome screen isn’t as eye-catching as other models in the Finnish brand’s range (or Garmin’s Fenix 3, for example), but the 80g weight rating and weather/shock resistance to military standards are impressive – as is the fact that its no-frills approach offers around 100hrs of performance, even whilst recording your progress across the hill.
You can check your location easily and measure it in any number of international formats, you can be guided along a pre-planned route worked out on your lap/desktop back home, a barometer-led warning function will alert you to the sudden drops in pressure which typically herald a storm, altitude, distance, temperature and sunrise/sunset stats are available at the press of a button, the digital compass will keep you straight and there’s even a “breadcrumb trail” feature to retrace your steps in unfamiliar terrain.
Personally, I found the Traverse’s ascetic styling extremely appealing – and enjoyed the logical simplicity through which you access each one of its sensible functions. The nearest it gets to frivolity is a backlight “flashlight” mode which provides a small emergency light by simply holding down one of its five buttons. Most judicious. If you’re a hiker through and through, this may be exactly what you’re looking for.
Verdict: Everything a hillwalker, trekker or mountaineer needs, and nothing they don’t. 8/10.
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