You’re on the right track, Jacob. Suunto’s Core ($249 in the Lava Red Multifunction edition, which is pretty sharp) has all the basics: altimeter accurate to a meter, digital compass, watch functions, and a barometer. And it’s waterproof to 100 feet, just in case.
The Tech4o TrailLeader ($150) is a newish contender. It has all the same stuff as the Suunto except rate of ascent or descent, but adds an accelerometer to measure distance traveled. I haven’t tried it, but I am wildly skeptical of anything that isn't GPS-based and claims to measure distance. Who knows, though. It’s a well-featured watch at a good price.
My personal favorite is the St. Moritz VS-1 ($240). I like its super-sturdy steel case, accurate altimeter, and good all-around functionality. The barometer is particularly useful, as it shows trending air pressure and allows you to make an educated guess about weather that’s on the way.
Still, I mainly like altimeter watches for that altimeter function. It always helps to know how much longer I need to keep grinding uphill.
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