Last month I had the privilege of going on two expeditions of very different nature.
The first was a small team, low budget, physically and mentally demanding one where myself, my partner Tim and one of our best friends Matt, crossed the High Sierras by ski mountaineering. The second, was a large scale, big budget and basecamp orientated expedition on the Greenland icecap where I joined 11 men from USA, Latvia and Russia (I was filming out there for the mission).
That’s about all I can write about the second one for now but the first one crossing the Sierras.. Wow, what can I say?! It unexpectedly became the best trip I have ever embarked on. I thought it was just going to be a mini adventure and that’s how I would describe it when people asked what I was doing out there but it was anything but mini. It was epically magical if that’s even a description.
Before I go into what went on during our Sierra adventure, I wanted to take the time to write about some of the that gear I took.
I was testing this watch for its smart abilities, durability and general function.
I’d never had a smart watch before and previously have got by on expeditions with my little Casio that felt smart enough for me : A light to see the time at night, an alarm and a stop watch (plus the fact the battery has so far been going since my first ever expedition in 2011!) So the smart nature of the F30 was new for me but I was excited to give it a go!
The First Impressions
Now it looks cool doesn’t it?! It really does!
But I have to be honest, it definitely felt like a ‘male’ watch straight out the box and onto my wrist. Not the design, I really like its’ outdoorsy and extreme look, but it did feel very big and bulky for my wrist and a big ‘statement’. I have thin wrists and so I was down to the tightest notch on the strap which meant that the end of the strap stuck out a little and would catch on clothing. This was not a deal breaker of course, but something that was immediately obvious.
The Set Up
It is really straightforward to set up. A simple google login, bluetooth connection to my phone and wallah! It was strange as a virgin smart watch owner to have the watch buzz every time my phone got a notification.. I switched this function off pretty quickly (useful sure, but I’m not a fan of being a slave to my phone!)
As I was going to be using it on expedition, I was advised to download a more detailed app for the maps. The watch has its own GPS but this doesn’t work without signal so you must download the maps before heading out. More on maps later.
It has three buttons on the outside so that you can avoid using the touch screen most of the time. For me this is really important because so much of the time I’m wearing gloves and for the key functions like atmospheric pressure and altitude meter, I wouldn’t want to be taking my gloves off.
The button that I found myself using the most was the ‘tool’ button. The Casio Pro Trek WSD F30 offers a set of tools; compass, altimeter, air pressure, tide times and sunrise and sunset (surprisingly very handy and I referenced these frequently.) The other buttons take you to the on-watch maps but as I was using a separate app, I didn’t use this on location. The inbuilt map did not have the topographical detail of the remote Sierras however the ViewRanger App was a different story.
As I said before, the inbuilt maps is great if you’re in signal and connected with your phone but on expedition this just isn’t realistic. I downloaded maps using the ViewRanger App (there’s 4GB of storage) and inputted my rough GPX route onto it too so always had a route to try to stick to. Now this was an AWESOME feature. I could look at the watch and it would point to the direction of the route. Now I didn’t use this as a bible but more of a reference with the map and compass when getting an idea of which mountain pass to climb. (Always take a map and compass!) Admittedly this did suck the battery fairly quickly but for this expedition that wasn’t too much of a problem as I took a battery pack.
Don’t worry, I wasn’t expecting the same 10 year battery like my old Casio!
The F30 has a lithium ion battery that has three battery modes.
Normal, extend mode, and multi-timepiece mode.
Normal: 1.5 days of charge. This is because this mode has all the features of the watch, including all apps that use consistent GPS. This drains battery because you’ve also got the bluetooth, and Wi-Fi on with the brightest screen setting.
Extend mode: 3 days because it removes the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and the screen dims. The GPS still works as well as maps. I used this mode in the Sierras, one thing I did find annoying in this mode was that it was hard to see the dimmed screen wearing sunglasses.
Multi-timepiece mode: 30 days (apparently although I did not test this) Multi-timepiece is the F30 at its most basic. Only the time and sensor data on a monochrome LCD.
The charger is an elegant magnetic connection however for outdoors/in tent charging or indeed in rucksack charging, it just doesn’t work well. The magnetic connection is too weak and I found that it would disconnect itself which was rather frustrating. However, wonderfully Casio realised this and have a special clip that can be bought to keep the watch charging when out and about. You can find it HERE. I’d definitely recommend this option.
It’s waterproof - pretty good to know with all the river crossings that went on! (Yes I did slip and dunk it on occasion!)
The alarm could be louder! It would definitely wake you up if you were wearing it (it vibrates when the alarm goes off) but the alarm doesn’t last long nor is it very loud so when I strapped it to the top of the tent I wouldn’t hear it go off on those 4am wake ups.
It syncs up with your training apps on the phone - I liked this for the lead up to the expedition. Running and cycling etc and getting the steps recorded however it’s worth noting that there’s no heart rate monitor.
It’s tough! I was scraping it on rocks, covering it in snow and dust - it’s a beast and will handle physical abuse! Just what it’s made for!
Find more information about this hardcore watch at HERE.