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www.wta.org

January + February 2010 » Washington Trails

Backcountry

The Gear Closet »

Altimeters

Some pieces of gear, like winter cycling boots, are perfect for just one activ- ity or one season. Others are useful year-round and for all sorts of outdoor pursuits. Altimeters come in handy any time you want to know where you are.

Beyond their usefulness in basic navigation, these devices often come with a host of other functions. Track your speed. Predict the weather. Count your laps. If you’re not keen on winter hiking, now is the perfect time to punch buttons and familiarize yourself with all that altimeters can do.

We’ve surveyed four new models that highlight the range of options available to you.

Highgear Terrapod

Highgear Terrapod, $70

Silva Tech4O TraiLeader 1, $140

Highgear is marketing their new Terrapod as an entry-level altimeter, but it’s more than that. Despite being about as large as a hand- held stopwatch, it weighs just grams more than my personal altimeter watch.

It has a large hanging loop, as well as the usual features: time, alarm, altimeter, compass, barometric pressure, temperature. It’s easy to use and calibrate, and it has a nice backlight feature on it, as well as a keylock feature. There’s also a flashlight, a welcome feature, though it lacks enough output to be even a backup flashlight.

The Terrapod lacks a couple of key features for the advanced user, but these are minor for such a well-priced device. The first is a graphi- cal display of barometric pressure trend, an invaluable tool for those of us less gifted at reading clouds. Personally, I’d be lost without this feature. The second is that it lacks an alarm system for every feature, so that one could, say, set an alarm when reaching a cer- tain temperature or elevation. In spite of these shortcomings, the Terrapod is a great little device. Allison Woods

In order to test this piece under real-life conditions, I promptly lost the instructions. Luckily, the operating manual could be found online easily, so this watch passed its first test. Next real-life test: could it be programmed on a forty-minute drive to the trailhead? Just the ba- sics, but, yes, again. Please note that compass calibration will have to wait until you step out of the moving car.

The Tech4O TraiLeader 1 is quite handy. In addition to your current altitude, you can track your twenty-four-hour minimum/maximum alti- tude and your total ascent/descent. You can set reference altitudes as well as alarms. Orienteers should appreciate both the bearing lock and the reverse compass bearing feature. One unique feature is its accelerometer, which gives you an accurate measurement of your speed, the dis- tance you’ve covered and even the calories you have burned. When backlit, the face is easily read in the dark, and I could make adjustments while wearing liner gloves. It’s not particu- larly stylish, but it is a comfortable fit and will certainly help to get you where you need to go. Lace Thornberg

Allison Woods

WTA Gear Editor allison@wta.org

Check out Allison’s new blog at www. allisonsadventures. wordpress.com.

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