/ HRM/GPS/Altimeter watch for the smaller person

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George Ormerod - on 18 Apr 2019

My wife’s after a new watch. She’s only 5 foot and a half an inch (the half an inch is very important) so the manly wannabe special forces, half a house brick on the wrist, is out of the question. The main use will be general fitness, trail running, mountaineering. Ideal spec would be:

- GPS for distance measurement  Navigation not too important

- HRM with calories

- Barometric altimeter with height gain logging

Any smart watch bollocks like music, messages, paying for your latte is completely unnecessary. Also nice if it didn’t cost a grand.

Any suggestions?  Ta.

Post edited at 05:00
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girlymonkey - on 18 Apr 2019
In reply to George Ormerod:

I'm using a Garmin vivosmart HR+. It is very slim, doesn't have altimeter though. I have the same important half inch, and feel her pain in trying to find a watch that I can actually wear that has all the functions I want!

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SouthernSteve on 18 Apr 2019
In reply to George Ormerod:

I don't have a specific recommendation, but a small friend was complaining yesterday that her more ladylike small Fenix had rubbish battery life for longer events (half of the big ones) and so that might be something to consider. 

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steelbru - on 18 Apr 2019
In reply to George Ormerod:

The 2 main brands in this area are Garmin and Suunto, I don't know anything about Suunto models.

For Garmin, the models which have a barometric altimeter are not that many - Vivoactive 3, Forerunner 935 and the various models in the Fenix 5 range ( 5, 5s, 5X, 5 Plus, 5s Plus, 5X Plus ). Those are current models, there are some older models that you may still be able to find new, or definitely 2nd hand, mainly Fenix 3 I think ( note there was no Fenix 4, it jumped from 3 to 5 )

The Vivoactive 3 only has 1 button, lots of functions are touch screen which I personally don't like on a sports watch, too easy for sleeve cuffs, or even rain drops, to cause problems.

The Forerunner 935 is designed as a triathlon watch, and is effectively a Fenix 5 in a plastic case ( as opposed to the Fenix's metal casing ). It's quite a large watch !

For the Fenix 5 models, they come in 3 sizes :-  5s is smallest, 5 is medium, 5X is large
Functionality wise the 5s and 5 are similar, except the 5s has a smaller battery and therefore GPS time The 5X has proper mapping capability ( rather than just breadcrumb trail ). Then they introduced the Plus versions of the 3 models which added music, Garmin Pay, and mapping to all 3.
All these watches I've mentioned are smartwatches, so can pair them with a phone to see emails, texts, call details, etc, but you can choose not to pair, but you are paying for it.

So in summary, the smallest Garmin GPS watch with a barometric altimeter is the Garmin 5s, but if she's into long ultras or Ironmans then battery may not last long enough ( think it's officially 12-14 hours )

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mountain.martin - on 19 Apr 2019
In reply to steelbru:

I have the Garmin instinct and it is lighter than the fenix 5s and  considerably cheaper, about £230 as opposed to £340.

It also has a barometer.

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George Ormerod - on 19 Apr 2019
In reply to everyone:

Thanks for the advice, all very useful.  Looks like a Garmin of some sort. I think the final ergonomics will be the decider

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Heike - on 19 Apr 2019
In reply to mountain.martin:

I was given the Garmin Instinct for my birthday and it's a bit smaller than the others. It has got an altimeter and lots of other functions...I like it. And it comes in colours other than black or white.

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steelbru - on 19 Apr 2019
In reply to mountain.martin:

Ah yes, apologies forgot about the Instinct, that was the new one at the end of last year.
Good, rugged sportswatch, and as you say quite a bit cheaper than the Fenix. 
Not as "stylish" so less likely to be chosen as an everyday watch, which may or may not be important

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mountain.martin - on 19 Apr 2019
In reply to steelbru:

Agreed, the instinct  isn't as stylish as the fenix range it has more of a sports watch look.

I had the fenix 3 previously which looked better if worn when dressed up. But I don't dress up very often and the instinct is markedly smaller and lighter.

I got about 11 hours out of it in a long bike ride but then charged it on the go from a powerbank in about 45 mins, while continuing the ride. You can't charge while it is on you wrist (or handlebar) due to the position of the charger. Which seems a shame, but you can just stick it in a bag, or pocket for a short while when charging.

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George Ormerod - on 19 Apr 2019
In reply to mountain.martin:

Quick question on these Garmin watches, can you adjust the sampling rate to get longer battery life?  I've got a Suunto Ambit 3 Peak and have set up a mountaineering activity with a 10 minute GPS sampling time and it lasts ages - multiple 12-14 hour days before it requires charging.

Thanks for all the responses.

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steelbru - on 19 Apr 2019
In reply to George Ormerod:

Yes, rather than the default 1sec sampling, there's an UltraTrac mode that is ( I think ) every 15 seconds. This obviously leads to a loss in accuracy ( it just straightlines the 15 second dots ), especially where the course has a lot of tight turns. It's really designed for hiking where going at a slower speed does not lead to as high inaccuracies.
The other option is that you can charge the watch up with a battery powerbank as it's recording an activity. Unfortunately due to the where the charging cable attaches to the watch, you can't continue to wear it on your wrist, but as this is really only needed when doing ultras then you'd normally be wearing a vest/backpack of some sort, so just put it in a pocket for half an hour whilst charging. That solution wouldn't work for an Ironman though, unless in a cycling jersey pocket ??

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