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Tested: Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro

Adventures

Outdoor slaps on the new Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro and puts it to the test on an early morning Mt Warning hike.

I’ve never been much of a watch guy. I always thought they were just an expensive gadget that served more of an aesthetic appeal, rather than a practical one. Maybe if I wasn’t a Gen Y that has always carried the time around in my pocket (on a mobile phone), I’d feel a more nostalgic connection with the humble wrist watch. So when the new Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro hit Aussie shores, I didn’t rush to fork out my yearly smashed avocado budget on what looked to be a fancy fashion accessory. I then did some research and found out that this little baby packed some serious outdoorsy features. Looked like I was going to be eating Vegemite toast for the rest of the year...

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro 3

When the Suunto finally arrived in my mailbox, I quickly ripped it out of the packaging like a kid on Chrissy and slapped it straight onto my wrist. Damn, this thing did look pretty cool. Unfortunately, I couldn’t say the same for the name: Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro. I reckon the Suunto marketing department must’ve had writers block when they came up with that one. As you can probably guess from the literal name, the Spartan features an inbuilt HR (heart rate) monitor and barometer, which the unit also uses to measure altitude. I don’t really know why, but my initial thoughts were that the accuracy would be sketchy at best. Boy was I wrong though; this baby was bang on the money when it came to elevation. However, to get accurate readings, you do need to make sure you define an altitude reference point. This can be your current elevation (if you know it). To set mine I just sat by the ocean and dialled it in to 0m.

Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro 5

The Suunto has a range of different exercise settings. It features 17 activity modes with everything from simple running to cross country skiing. To put it to the test in the wilderness, I decided to take it to the top of Mt Warning, which is on the border of NSW and Qld. It’s one of the first places to see the sunrise in Australia and has an altitude of 1,156m (read all about the hike on page 70).

AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH

Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro 4

As we set off to conquer Mt Warning at 3am, I set the Suunto to hiking mode. Straight away it kicked into gear - locking onto my current heart rate, location, speed and elevation. The GPS has a great breadcrumb trail feature, which would be a godsend if you ever got lost in the bush. You wouldn’t want to take it for granted though; with the GPS activated you’ve only got approximately 20 hours of battery life when using a one second GPS update fix. For adventurers planning multi-day trips with no power available, this mightn’t be the watch for you. However, you can set it to a one minute GPS update fix, which will give you approximately 40 hours of battery life. In terms of GPS accuracy, I checked the latitude and longitude of my current location on the Suunto against a hand-held GPS unit and my smart phone and they all matched up perfectly. When we returned from the hike, the Suunto gave me a detailed information breakdown, which included calories burnt, average heart rate, how much recovery time I’d need and a bunch of other handy info. You can also save this info to your logbook, so you can keep track of all your activities and fitness progress.

STAY UP TO DATE

Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro 6

A couple of features that I was really excited about were the moon phase indicator and storm warning alerts. However, for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to use them. I scoured the instruction manual like a mad man, but my Suunto seemed to have a different settings menu. After a quick chat to the support team, they suggested I update the software. To do this I had to download the Suuntolink app for my Mac, which was simple. I plugged in the Suunto via USB and in less than 10 minutes my watch was fully updated with all the new features – winning! After the update the watch also ran much smoother and the time it took to get a fix on my GPS position was drastically reduced. Even if your watch is fully up to date, I’d still recommend getting the app and registering for Suunto Movescount. This function lets you view your activity log in extreme detail and features a great calendar tool that displays all your activities chronologically.

Apart from the software update speed bump, there wasn’t much to criticise about the Suunto. One thing that was slightly annoying was the fact that you have to update the time, date and altitude reference point all over again if you run the battery completely dry – yawn. On the whole though, the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR Baro is an epic adventure companion that’s simple to use, super lightweight and is packed to the brim with awesome features.

MORE OUTDOOR ADVENTURES

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- Suunto Traverse smart watch is brilliantly simple in operation, reliable and accurate