The Essentials: Tick List

The best new adventure-ready timepieces.

Adventure watches     Photo: Photograph by Inga Hendrickson

1. BETTER THAN BREADCRUMBS
Yes, Garmin's waterproof Foretrex 401 is a bit bulky and techy-looking. But when you want dependable altitude, distance, and speed measurements, a GPS watch is the most accurate by far (using both barometer and GPS to calculate its altitude). It also helps you retrace your path through a whiteout, delivers reams of data, and lets you swap its AAA batteries in the field—a big plus over other GPS watches. $249; garmin.com

2. PEAK BAGGER
Editors' Choice
Betting it all on a weather window? You'll need a sophisticated ABC (altimeter/barometer/compass) watch like Suunto's Core Extreme Edition. It can also warn of incoming storms, display weather trends, log your vertical gain and loss, and store a bearing so you can keep moving when the clouds roll in. It takes more time to learn, but getting back safe is worth the homework. $329; www.suunto.com

3. BEAUTY + BRAINS
Analog watches may be classy, but only a few, like Timex's new Expedition E-Altimeter, come in handy on the trail. Its barometric altimeter can tell your elevation within ten feet and recall your highest and lowest points. It's a little hefty, and the altitude hands can be tough to read at times, but it's great for travel or light hikes. $200; timexexpedition.com

4. RUNNING BUDDY
Killer Value
As with most non-GPS watches, Tech4o's lightweight TrailLeader Jet tracks speed and distance like a pedometer—sensing the frequency of your steps, then multiplying by your stride length. While the results are just ballpark accurate, there's also an altimeter, barometer (with basic weather forecasting), and compass for navigation, and the stopwatch and light weight make it perfect for trail runners. $160; tech4o.com

5. LEARN YOUR ABC'S
There are a lot of basic ABC watches out there, but the Casio Pathfinder PAW1500GB-3 is one of the most user-friendly—and it throws in extras like tide and moon phase. Since the altitude gauge really just measures air pressure, which also changes with weather and temp, it can easily be a hundred feet off (a problem shared by all the watches here except the Garmin GPS). Bonus: An elastic strap lets you wear it outside a jacket in nasty conditions. $380; path­finder.casio.com

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