I have been waiting to write this post for a while. I picked up my Suunto Core, weirdly enough through a credit card promotion and I haven't really had the chance to put it through its paces until my recent trip to the lake district! I only review products that I have had a chance to properly test, so if you are looking for a new hiking/ walking watch i'll just cut to the chase and say that this thing is brilliant!
First off, Suunto if you are not familiar with them, are a Finnish company that specialize in watches and compasses among other things. I bought my Suunto compass around a decade ago and it is still going strong today. They are well known for their quality and focus on practicality. Among their various watch options, the Core is pretty much the go-to all rounder for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts alike due to its reliability and streamlined feature set.
Outside of the obvious timer functions the features include:
Sunrise / sunset (super handy for photographers!)
Depth meter for snorkeling
Multiple watch, date and time functions
Multilingual menu (EN, FR, DE, ES)
Its hard to say anything bad about the design here. Hiking watches are usually fairly utilitarian and are not going to be worn as fashion items. What I do like however is that the design is simple, sleek and doesn't look out of place in everyday life, There are several different options available in the core range with the "All Black" (below) being one of the most popular. This thing is built like a tank and you can feel that when it is on your wrist. The watch has a lot weight to it which comes from the steel casing and bezel as well as the thick face glass, as a result however I never worry about knocking this thing if I am climbing over a rocky outcrop . The watch straps are also interchangeable with quite a few different options available. My watch came with a soft silicone strap which is very comfortable but has a habit of collecting dirt pretty easily, I may end up swapping it for one of the more conventional hard plastic straps.
The display on this watch is very simple, which is something I like. The interface is very uncluttered, with three main screens for Time, Alti/ Baro, Compass and then a smaller sub screen which can be used to display a variety of other information depending on what is on the main display. Switching between these is very easy and almost all of the interface is managed with the Mode and View buttons. Accessing the menu is achieved by holding the Mode button for 3 seconds and then the menu is navigated with the + and - buttons. I must say that the menu is very well laid out and un-cluttered which is a really nice feature and also makes using it in the field super easy. One final note on the display is that it is very dark. The watch face is black and all of the display is in a very dark grey meaning that even in daylight it can be hard to read the display. This may be a battery saving option perhaps and is easily remedied with the back light button. Its not game breaking, just a little annoying.
The Altimeter/ Barometer is probably the most interesting feature and something I have had great fun playing with especially with the bad weather I had on my trip. The watch has a single pressure sensor meaning it can be used for either weather prediction or altitude. It can also be used as a depth meter if you are using the watch for diving/ snorkeling. Something I really like is that the pressure sensor runs constantly in the background so you don't need to turn it on and off ever.
The sensor is sensitive to changes in altitude/ depth in 1m increments making it incredibly accurate. It will also translate your last known altitude over to the barometer's reference altitude making switching between the two effortless. This is very handy if you are say, on a long uphill hike and want to take a break for lunch or to make camp. The barometer also comes with a storm alarm feature which will alert you to rapid pressure drops, which I found to be a little hit and miss but over all a useful feature. The altimeter and barometer also have the ability to record logs which can be used for things like tracking total ascent or mapping long term pressure changes.
Personally I found both modes to be very useful for both navigation and weather mapping purposes and the smooth interface makes switching between them very easy!
The compass was probably my least used feature of this watch. Accessing the compass is very easy as it makes up the third major screen in the main display. Setting declination is easy enough to do on the fly in the menu, and other than that the compass will display the north direction using the smal display around the bezel and then your current bearing in the main display which is accurate to one degree.
The compass I found was a handy tool for quick reference, however I can't ever see it replacing my handy pocket compass, simply because the latter is so much easier to use and far more accurate with an OS map.
Lastly the battery has a pretty respectable year long life, which is pretty damn good for a watch with this much functionality running all the time. The best bit however is that it is super easy to change the battery yourself using one of the SUUNTO battery replacement kits as shown below. Its not a complicated process and as long as you remember to change the O ring the watch will stay waterproof.
As I said above, I love this watch and I tend to only review items which I like and have had a good chance to use. This watch is an excellent addition to any hikers arsenal of kit and there is a reason why the Core is on of Suunto's best selling products. It is a little pricey at around 150GBP but you do get a respectable two year standard warranty to ease the pain a little.
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