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Many hikers, backpackers, and hunters utilize what’s known as an “ABC watch” when in the outdoors. “ABC” stands for altitude, barometer, and compass–useful outdoor tools that differentiate this particular type of watch, not to mention alarm, time/date, timer, and the rest of your typical digital watch functions.
In the watch business, Casio has long been synonymous with quality and affordability. One of their recent offerings to the ABC watch game is the PRO TREK PAG240-1, and I recently got to try one out.
When you first try on any ABC, you’ll most likely be struck by the size. These features come at a cost of some bulk–but not to worry, it’ll simply give you a better watch-tan than your buddies! The next impression of this particular watch is that it feels solid and well-built, with large enough buttons for gloved hands, yet inset into the watch body such that accidental presses are minimized.
This watch is solar powered–a fantastic feature for long treks where a battery failure would be highly inconvenient. There is a battery indicator on the very bottom of the watch. In my use, the solar power worked great, and always stayed charged. They say the battery will last six months on a full charge without any further exposure to light.
Another notable feature is the “Duplex LCD” display, which allows the watch to display two layers of information; e.g. the compass needle over the rest of the display. Smart thinking.
For the gram-counters out there, the watch came in at 64 grams on my kitchen scale.
Now, how did the watch work? Well after reading over the manual, it was quite user-friendly. The compass and barometer functioned as expected, and are fairly self-explanatory. There are various modes and adjustments the user can make, such as switching units and graphing barometric changes. All in all, very functional.
The altimeter was one feature I was very excited about–it should make a great accompaniment to a topo map for quickly identifying locations, as well as gathering data on vertical feet climbed. In practice, though, I learned the downfall of all ABC altimeters: they give altitude based on changes in atmospheric pressure, so they must be set at known altitudes frequently (easily accomplished with this model), and can change at random, even without changes in altitude. They are most reliable on calm days, but volatile weather conditions and fronts moving through can really wreak havoc on their accuracy. For example, in under two hours of calm weather, according to the altimeter my office gained 40 feet in elevation. In under 24 hours of calm weather later that week, it then lost 80 feet. This is somewhat disappointing, but it is a fault of the system, not of the watch.
The altimeter also has a memory, can graph your treks, calculate elevation differential, total ascent and descent, and high and low altitudes–all the nerdy statistics that hikers like me enjoy knowing.
The thermometer also worked fine, although a thermometer on a wristwatch is an interesting proposition. Being worn against the body will always give inaccurate readings, since the watch stays warm from body heat. This reduces the thermometer’s usefulness; however, if you take it off (say, at night), you can still get proper temperatures. It also has sunrise/sunset data–handy for following legal hunting times, or when calculating what time to set the alarm in order to be chasing that bull by dawn!
Of course, as expected, the PAG240-1 is water resistant, has a backlight, alarms, stopwatch, calendar, etc. All you’d expect on any decent digital watch.
This watch retails at $250–not a small number, but competitive for the features found on it. For my fellow outdoorsmen with a geeky side, if you’re in the market for such an instrument, you’d do well to give this one a look.
Images courtesy Pete Acker