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Author: Frank Ross
"What time is it?" is a question that is probably the most often asked query next to "How much farther to grandma's house?" As a society, we seem fixated on time. For sportsmen it's usually a more salient issue. How much longer until the season opens, or how much longer until sunrise?
A few weeks ago, my long serving and long suffering watch was beginning to show signs of giving up the ghost and I started looking around to see what I wanted to replace it with. I'll admit to a secret desire to have a watch with a two-way wrist radio like the one that cartoon character Dick Tracy had, but was willing to settle for some other neat features.
Selecting a timepiece today is a feature-oriented challenge if you get into the technical watches. Since I often find myself in the mountains, wondering, "just how high up are we?" I decided to give the new Casio Pathfinder a try. Casio makes several models designed specifically for outdoors enthusiasts, including one specifically for hunters and another for fishermen that calculate the optimum time to pursue those passions. Since I often don't have the liberty of doing either at the optimal time, I opted for the Triple Sensor model to give me information about my immediate situation.
With the Pathfinder Triple Sensor, there are several modes that include: barometric pressure, temperature, altitude, a stopwatch function, five alarms and a compass that is pretty cool in its own right. You'll also find the basic functions of day/date and time, and the obligatory hourly beeper. Another handy feature for outdoorsmen who often fumble in a dark tent, is the illuminated face. When you push the "light" button, at the bottom of the watches' face, a soft green light comes on for about two seconds to conserve battery life. Once I'd gone through the basic steps of setting it up, I found that the capabilities of this modern marvel are quite impressive.
Casio states that the values produced by sensors of this watch are not intended for taking measurements that require professional or industrial precision, and should be considered as reasonable representations only. Casio cautions that when using the compass in potentially life threatening situations, a second compass should be used to confirm direction. That said, I've found the compass to be accurate for my purposes, but how much of a compass does a guy who won't ask for directions need? There's a direction bezel that can be turned to align with the digital compass' graphical representation of north, so that you can properly orient yourself. The digital compass can be calibrated, but you'll need another compass to refer to.
Like other compasses, this watch features a magnetic bearing sensor that detects terrestrial magnetism. What this means is that north is indicated as magnetic north, which is somewhat different from true polar north. Since some maps indicate true north, instead of magnetic north, you should make allowances when using such maps with this watch.
Also keep in mind that compasses don't function well when used around large metal objects, high power lines, and certainly not inside a metal building.
In the barometric pressure/temperature mode, one of the neat features is a graph of the trend over the past 26 hours. By noting the trend indicated by the graph, you can make some pretty reasonable predictions of the weather. A rising scale on the graph indicates improving weather, and a falling scale indicates that it might be a better day to mow the lawn instead of going fishing. The flashing point on the right side of the graph indicates the latest reading. Note that pressure graph readings are relative to the newest measurement point. One dot above the newest point is plus 1hPa(mb)/0.05inHg, while one dot below is minus 1 unit. This function is also adjustable and easily calibrated.
Sudden and dramatic changes in the weather can cause the graph to run off the top or bottom of the display, which will cause the entire graph to disappear. Also, when the barometric reading falls outside of the unit's range limits (260 hPa/mb to 1100 hPa/mb or 7.65 inHg to 32.45 inHg) the graph will not display. Under either condition, the graph will become visible again when conditions stabilize.
You don't need a thermometer to know that you're sweating or shivering, but it's human nature to want to know the exact temperature. With the Triple Sensor Watch, you can quickly review the temperature on the same window as the barometric pressure, and you can also choose between two different modes (1hPa/mb or 0.05inHg) on the barometric pressure display as well as opting between Centigrade and Fahrenheit readings. Note that some countries refer to the barometric pressure unit hecto-pascal (hPa) as millibars (mb). You can choose either display option, but keep in mind that 1hPa = 1mb.
Both the temperature and barometric pressure calibration are adjustable by following step-by-step instructions included in the watch manual.
While you wouldn't want to use the watch to fly an airplane, it's adequate for knowing just how high you've climbed, or for measuring the height of any object such as a building or mountain peak. You simple have to set a base reference point and then note the reading when you reach the peak of your assent.
Keep in mind that closed environments will affect both the altitude and barometric pressure calculations. Don't try to calibrate the watch inside an air-conditioned building that has its own pressurized environment. Depending upon your own preferences for measurement, altitude readings can be displayed in either feet or meters.
The altitude measurements range up to 10,000 meters or 32,800 feet and are measured every five seconds for the first three minutes after entering the Altimeter Mode and every two minutes thereafter. You can also preset an alarm to sound when a pre-determined altitude is reached.
Beyond all of the neat gadgets this watch has going for it, a more practical feature for me is the large display. The display's time and date numbers are big enough for me to see without my glasses on.
If you're the kind of outdoorsman that likes information at his fingertips, you'll appreciate the Casio Pathfinder Triple Sensor Watch, and next time someone say's, "What time is it?" you'll be temped to provide it along with the altitude, barometric pressure, temperature and direction they happen to be facing.
Click this link for more information, or to purchase the Casio Pathfinder Triple Sensor Watch
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