Gear Review -- Highgear Alterra

At $170, Highgear’s Alterra comes with the requisite adventure gauges you’d expect at that price, including an altimeter, a barometer, a digital compass, a thermometer, and more.

I put the Highgear (www.highgear.com) watch up against the Suunto t6, a standby performer that’s ticking strong for me after a year-and-a-half of hard labor and outdoors abuse.

Both have a digital face with an altimeter to read your altitude, a barometer for assessing weather, and chronograph functions for tracking splits during workouts or competition.

But the Alterra has a few features the Suunto leaves out, including a digital compass, a thermometer, and a “ski chrono” function for tracking downhill runs.

High Gear - Alterra watchDD2.jpg

The $289 Suunto t6, in turn, has exclusives like a heart-rate monitor and an accompanying computer program for analyzing workout data. Highgear does not have either. (See my full review of the Suunto t6 here: thegearjunkie.com/heart-rate-monitor-watches.)

On my trip last month to climb on Mount Shasta, I put these two watches head to head, assessing usability and comparing altimeter readings at various points on the mountainside. The Highgear fared well against its more expensive competition, with few performance discrepancies between the two.

The Alterra’s altimeter was accurate within a 20-foot range, which is good enough for any type of mountaineering.

Its digital compass worked fine, too, spinning to all points with little hesitation, though calibrating it is a slight annoyance that takes about a minute before each outing. I also still just have trouble trusting anything but an analog compass, and thus was loathe to only rely on the Highgear watch, however silly. It’s sort of like always bringing matches, when a Bic lighter might just do the job better.

Overall, compared to the t6, Highgear gave the more-pricey Suunto a literal run for its money in this test.

Here are the full lay of specs on the Alterra, as per Highear’s literature. . .

Altimeter
+ Digital altimeter
+ Working range from -2,303ft to 30,058ft (-702m to 9,164m)
+ Current, Accumulated and Maximum altitude in ft or m
+ Altitude resolution 3ft (1m)
+ Graphic altitude trend display
+ Altitude/Temperature display
+ Rate of ascent and descent
+ Altitude alarm
+ 15 Altitude log book memories with log date, average-ascent and descent, total-ascent and descent, number of hills and total time.
+ 3 Altitude Presets for quick calibration

Barometer
+ Digital barometer
+ Sea level pressure and absolute pressure displays in both mbar/hPa and inHg
+ Resolution 1mbar (0.05inHg) working range 300mbar to 1100mbar (8.16inHg to 32.48inHg)
+ Graphic barometer display
+ Weather forecast
+ Barometer/Temp display

Compass
+ Digital compass
+ Graphic compass display with 360° compass bearing
+ 1° resolution
+ Adjustable declination

Thermometer
+ Digital thermometer
+ Resolution 0.1° in °F and °C
+ Working range +14°F to +122°F (-10°C to +50°C)

Ski Chrono
+ Input current altitude and base altitude, start chrono / chrono auto stops when base altitude is reached
+ Calculates speed of descent

Chronograph
+ Resolution 1/100 second with Maximum time range 24hr 00min 00sec
+ Maximum 50 laps/20 runs
+ Times for each lap and split, with best and average laps’ time

Watch
+ Time/Day/Date/Month with Dual Time Zone
+ 12 or 24 hour format
+ Time/Temp display
+ Dual daily alarm
+ Hourly chime
+ EL backlight system
+ Mineral glass lens
+ Water resistant 5Om
+ 2.8 oz
+ Consumer serviceable battery (1 CR2032)

Price: $170

Contact: www.highgear.com

Posted by Ron - 08/18/2007 07:18 PM

Thanks for the review. One question what does “Water resistant 5Om” really mean?

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