watch selection

12:46 a.m. on October 15, 2008 (EDT)
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I am currently looking to purchase a watch. While do plan on using it here in the states for minor activities my main reason for getting it will be coming up here soon. I will be spending most of this coming spring in South Africa. While I'm there I plan on doing a lot of traveling camping and whatnot. After that, if all goes well, I will be going to south america for the peace corps. while there, i will be pretty much in the middle of no where and obviously spend some time out of touch. Some of the pieces of looked at are the casio pathfinder series. i really like the solar feature. While in hte peace corps, I may not always be somewhere with batteries readily available and the compass and other features could definitely come in handy. I have however been looking at GPS devices. I havent seen any that were solar powered and i was just wondering if anyone had some advice for me about the benefits of both and if there are some GPS pieces that are solar powered. Thanks

1:54 p.m. on October 15, 2008 (EDT)
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While watches use "watch" batteries which are not rechargeable, you might consider using rechargeable batteries for GPS receivers and flashlight/headlamps. You can get small solar battery chargers for AA and AAA sized batteries, the size used in most headlamps and GPSRs. The smallest AA and AAA charger I have is a bit slow in the recharging, but I have a foldable solar panel (folds to about the size of an 8.5x11 sheet of paper, and a couple inches thick with the various adapters I take for camera batteries, etc). This recharges my camera batteries in about 2 hours. It puts out 28 watts (newer version is rated at 35 watts - electronics keeps improving!), so I can run a laptop for brief periods with it or recharge the batteries.

Several companies make these. The one I have is from Brunton (subsidiary of Silva Sweden). They and other companies have a wide range of such chargers.

As for the watches, Suunto makes much better "wristop computers" than Casio. I use a Timex "Ironman" for basic timing, and a Suunto for a combination watch/altimeter/barometer/other functions. I would strongly suggest that you get a basic baseplate compass, though, rather than relying on a battery-powered compass, even one in a watch. Flux-gate compasses (which these are) are battery-hogs. I would also suggest in looking for a GPSR, you avoid models with a built-in compass. They drain the battery much too fast even there. A simple baseplate compass has no batteries to die, plus it is MUCH cheaper.

The Suunto watches take a widely available "coin" battery that you can easily replace yourself. I have seen the batteries in Africa and Chile. Since mine seem to last 1.5-2 years in the watch and have a 5-10 year shelf life, you could just take one or two spares with you. There are other similar watches that also allow user replacement of the batteries (same series of batteries, in fact).

I have not used the Casio solar-powered watch myself, but people I know who have tell me that they have trouble with them. For one thing, rechargeable batteries (which the Casios have in them for non-sunny hours) are limited in the number of recharge cycles. Everyone I know who has had one has had to either replace the battery within 2-3 years or just replace the watch. Considering that something like my Timex (and the similar Casio model I had previously) has had 5 year battery lives, the only attraction of the Casio solar appears to be that it is supposedly "green".

2:28 p.m. on October 21, 2008 (EDT)
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As a good basic watch that glows have a look at the Traser 6508.Ive had more techy watches and if one part fails then the watch becomes usless.Get a basic gps and seperate compass.thats what ive done.

11:48 p.m. on October 22, 2008 (EDT)
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You want a watch you don't have to worry about batteries? Get one you have to wind. Expensive, but are usually crafted so well they last until it's your Grandkid's time to wear it.

Compass, Bill's spot on of course: baseplate and learn how to use it.

GPS....make sure you can read a map first, then get the model that does what you want it to do and nothing more; otherwise you're wasting battery life on features you don't want or need. As previously stated, I loves me some yellow eTrex!

December 18, 2014
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