Smartwatches are great, when you can charge them at the end of the day. If you want to track something more intensive than your afternoon walk around the local park, then you'll need a more hardcore device. Suunto's new Traverse GPS sports watch is made for hikers, and has a big enough battery to guide you through a three-day trek -- the kind that would leave any other smartwatch flat in the dust. It'll pick up worldwide satellites, too, to give you a more accurate location and trekking guide.
The $549 Suunto Traverse is available in either amber or black variants; the first has a very orange wristband, while the other is defined by its bright stainless steel bezel. Both otherwise identical watches pack an internal rechargeable lithium-ion battery that'll last for a fortnight of regular use -- step tracking, altitude/barometric pressure monitoring, and compass orientation -- or a full 100 hours of always-on GPS geolocation. The Traverse supports GLONASS as well as regular GPS; these Russian satellites are a useful secondary and more accurate backup to the American network.
While the bezel is stainless steel (and anodised on the amber variant), the casing of the 80g watch is composite plastic; that's to keep weight down on its otherwise already quite hefty 50x50x16.5mm frame. Yes, this is a big watch, even by GPS sport watch standards -- it has five multipurpose buttons protruding further from its casing, and the 128x128pixel monochrome display has a strong plastic face to protect it from damage, but the majority of the internal space is taken up by the sizeable battery for the GPS receiver. The watchbands are replaceable, and Suunto sells spare parts if you want to stay on-brand.
A GPS smart watch like this does require more investment of time and planning than a less-hardcore fitness watch or regular ol' smartwatch; if you want to map a route to follow, you'll need to sit down at your PC with the Suunto Traverse's companion software and plot a course. You can then transfer that to your watch, and then activate that route -- which kickstarts the watch's internal GPS receiver, and guides you along your journey -- by pressing a couple of buttons.
We gave the Suunto Traverse a very quick test run from Bronte to Bondi, the 2.2km walk that thousands of Sydneysiders and British ex-pats do every Saturday or Sunday morning. The guys at Suunto had helpfully pre-loaded a route, but after activating that it really was a matter of following the course displayed on the monochrome screen -- with your GPS location updated every second and your compass direction updated significantly faster than that, it's genuinely easy to understand and is a lot more granular than a Google Maps nav course.
It worked perfectly, and saved the trek's per-second GPS details into a map, as well as vital stats about average speed and highest speed, altitude rise and drop, and so on, onto the companion MovesCount app for later viewing. The app is quite pretty, too, and has a fair bit more functionality -- including creating a little movie of your hike -- than your average Jawbone or Fitbit app.
We're looking forward to giving this watch more of a serious hiking road test soon. The Suunto Traverse is out now at Mountain Designs, Paddy Pallin and other dedicated outdoors stores for $549. [Suunto]