For several years, I’ve been using Casio watches in the backcountry – specifically the Pathfinder PAW1300 Reviewed Here, and most recently the newer Pro Trek PRW3000. Compared to my older model, the 3000 features an updated sensor promising better usage of power and more accurate readings and a few other convenient features.
The form factor is smaller than many multi-function watches and will fit nearly any wrist well, and best of all in my mind it’s a nearly set and forget watch: Automatic atomic time keeping updates the time for you automatically, and the watch is solar powered – You never have to charge the watch or replace the batteries, with a full charge lasting 7 months without exposure to further light. The watch comes in a variety of color options – From blue to black to pink, and is also offered in a normal display as shown here, or in a reverse / negative display as well. The watch is water-resistant and features a useful but short lasting backlight.
While there’s no GPS on board like many of the newer offerings from makers such as Garmin and Suunto, and it may not be as trendy as recent developments from Apple, like the old Pathfinders the Pro Trek PRW3000 has many features that are quite useful on the trail and in the backcountry, as well as in everyday life.
In mountainous terrain, an altimeter can be extremely useful as a navigation assistant. The watch’s altimeter is accurate in 5 foot intervals, with one caveat – It needs to be calibrated frequently based on changing weather conditions. Setting it to the trailhead elevation at the start of your trip and updating it in camp that night / the next morning is usually close enough. If you’re not changing altitude frequently, the barometer also offers a nice confirmation that increasing clouds do in fact, indicate a low pressure system moving in, and the thermometer is always interesting to check out during those early morning tent hours with a lower limit of 14 degrees. (Although keep in mind if you’re wearing the watch, the temp won’t be accurate)
Though there’s no baseplate here, the compass is an always within reach assistant and you can program the declination – Combined with the altimeter these two features really help to keep you on track and in my case get the most use. For me, the compass is usually sufficient for almost all compass work I usually need to perform and recently worked great on a backpacking trip at Craters of the Moon National Monument, combined with a good map it got me exactly where I needed to be. Also as you might expect, there’s a stopwatch for those training runs, a timer, alarms, the current time of course, and even sunrise / sunset data.
Above: Compass, Sunrise/Sunset, Altimeter, and Barometer / Thermometer.
As with my previous experience with Casio’s solar watches performance in the battery life department is great. After just a few runs and hikes on sunny days the watch fully charged and has remained that way since without even worrying about it, and everything else works as expected and as it did on the previous model, just a bit better. Weight is 2.25 ounces for my specific color, band, and screen choice. (The PRW3000-1CR) One benefit of the new sensor, an addition to a higher level of accuracy is that you now get up to 60 seconds of compass use per press, (20 seconds was a little frustrating at times) and altitude is calculated each second. Overall, the watch does everything I need and performs really well.
The Casio Pro Trek PRW3000 retails for $300, but is nearly always on sale for nearly half that here at Amazon. You can also check it out here at REI and at Backcountry.com if you prefer a negative display.
What's your current backcountry watch of choice?