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How to navigate || Part 3: Watch, compass, altimeter & GPS device

By Andrew Skurka / August 28, 2019 /

Using just a topographic map, I can competently navigate in areas like the High Sierra and Colorado Rockies, which generally have distinct landforms and open views. Even so, for added accuracy and unusual circumstances, I also carry select navigational tools, personally a GPS watch, magnetic compass, and smartphone with GPS app. These instruments become more…

How to navigate || Part 2: Maps & resources

By Andrew Skurka / August 23, 2019 /

For my earliest hikes, I utilized whatever resources were conveniently available and that seemed sufficient. Before thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2002, for example, I purchased the ATC Data Book and downloaded the ALDHA Thru-Hikers Companion. And to explore Colorado’s Front Range the following summer, I bought a few National Geographic Trails Illustrated maps that…

How to navigate || Part 1: Navigator’s Toolkit + Navigation Mastery

By Andrew Skurka / August 22, 2019 /

Navigation is one of the most important backpacking skills, and certainly the most liberating. It allows you to drive your own adventure, rather than being a passenger. As a new backpacker with only rudimentary know-how, I was confined to backcountry thruways like the Appalachian Trail and high-use areas like Rocky Mountain National Park, where I…

Just released: CalTopo app for Android

By Andrew Skurka / December 22, 2018 /

The website CalTopo has been my go-to mapping platform for four over years. I primarily use it to make and print topographic maps, including for all of my guided trips and high route guides. It has come a long way since I began to use it, with regular improvements to the user-interface and imagery database.…

Long-term review: Suunto 9 Baro || Legit flagship watch, needs firmware fix

By Andrew Skurka / November 29, 2018 /

For five months I’ve been using the Suunto 9 Baro GPS Sport Watch on a near daily basis, mostly while trail and road running, and occasionally backpacking. With few exceptions, it has supplanted my trusted Suunto Ambit3 Peak (long-term review). It’s the nicest Suunto watch that I’ve used yet, but has one significant blemish that…

Garmin inReach deep dive: Default & downloadable maps & imagery

By Andrew Skurka / March 28, 2018 /

Overnight I received this question from reader Bob B.: This question — and just about any other that you can imagine — has been answered previously in my previous posts about the Garmin inReach SE+ and Explorer+: Preview: New Garmin inReach SE+ and Explorer+ 12 FAQ’s: inReach SE+ & Explorer+ || Incl, Will old devices…

Heart rate monitor troubleshooting: Suunto Smart Sensor & Ambit3 Peak

By Andrew Skurka / March 16, 2018 /

Last November my heart rate monitor was not working properly. Readings were regularly inconsistent and inaccurate during training runs. I use the Suunto Smart Sensor and Suunto Ambit3 Peak (long-term review), which I purchased together in August and used together without incident for the first 150 hours. Here is an example of its behavior: The readings are…

Accuracy of Suunto Ambit3 Peak at Okay/60-second GPS pings (200-hr)

By Andrew Skurka / February 24, 2018 /

Following my long-term review of the Suunto Ambit3 Peak, friend and fellow guide Alan Dixon sent me an email with the title, “Suunto 200 hr mode not cutting it,” and shared that on a recent 8.2-mile hike his Ambit3 shortchanged him by 1.5 miles (18 percent). He had set the GPS accuracy of the Ambit at “Okay”…

Long-term review: Suunto Ambit3 Peak || Unmatched performance for the price

By Andrew Skurka / February 13, 2018 /

Last August I upgraded to the Suunto Ambit3 Peak, after using for four years the previous iteration, the Suunto Ambit2 (read my long-term review). Since I train regularly based on heart rate, I bought the HR package, which includes the Smart Sensor Belt. To date I have worn the Suunto Ambit3 Peak for more than 150 runs or…

Suunto Ambit3 vs. Garmin Fenix 5 || Core differences + ideal uses

By Andrew Skurka / January 24, 2018 /

For a week I have been wearing a borrowed Garmin Fenix 5X, which is Garmin’s flagship multi-sport GPS sport watch. I’m a longtime user of the Suunto Ambit3 Peak (and, before that, the Ambit2), and this first-hand experience with a competing brand and product has been informative. I’ve always been curious how the Ambit3 compares to the…