Ramble On

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tech Watch Geek: The Pathfinder

Santa was good to the Tech-watch geek in 2009. The Casio Pathfinder was secretly placed in my stocking where I found it on Christmas morning - now to make my way carefully through the 92 page (English) user guide. While that sounds daunting, I was prepared for this challenge from the product research I did – which included the data sheet on altimeter watches from REI:

“A wrist altimeter is a fairly complex tool that requires time and practice to master. Before you attempt using it in the wilderness, you must devote some time to reading the manual in order to fully comprehend its operations. The payoff: greater confidence in navigation.”

I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the progression of Casio watches I’ve bought over the last twelve years – shown here with the user guide.

First is the small “data bank” watch – I bought this before I started routinely carrying a cell phone; the attractive feature here was the ability to store 30 phone numbers in the watch. My friend Mark in Santa Barbara was building a house at the time (in fact, he’s designed and build a few – check his portfolio at http://markwienke.com/ ) and he used this watch to keep track of his contractors – so I picked up one from a jeweler there on State Street as a souvenir. The battery has apparently just died, it was still working when I last wore the watch in September.

Next is my G-Shock watch. I can wear this watch when I am shooting the old Uzi and not have to worry about the vibrations screwing up the watch works. The beta-punk guy that bought my DC condo from me had on a G-Shock during the closing and I've wanted one since. I saw this model when I was on another trip to the west coast (this time, the garden spots of Rosemead and Irwindale) – Mary was very kind when I came home with it on my wrist.

Finally, the altimeter watch – the Pathfinder. It is, for now, the ultimate in the progression of big watches. I’ve been wearing it for two or three days now to get used to the size, and to work my way through some of the settings. I’ll post some of these lessons learned as I have them ready. (I’ve also included a product navigation link at the bottom of the blog’s right hand column, if you want to check out the Pathfinder I got on Amazon.)

I had the Pathfinder with me for a test run when I walked around the Panorama lot at Shenandoah National Park on Sunday. I planned to take and record a couple of manual readings, since the watch can store up to 50 of these. Among the features, it wants to keep track of the highest and lowest altitudes it experiences – I haven’t learned how to use this one yet, but there was data in the watch that I deleted.

I thought I had made three readings during my short expedition on the mountain – but when I got back to Hawksbill Cabin, found that only one had been recorded, and it was a metric reading – 780 meters, or roughly translated, about 2,418 feet. That sounds about right for the altitude near Thornton Gap; according to Google Earth the altitude at the Mary’s Rock trailhead is 2,302 feet (the photo here is at the AT junction on the Mary's Rock trail). Still some refinement to be made for these processes, including setting a base reading before setting out, but I’d consider that baby step a successful one.