Back in the day, tracking your fitness meant using a stopwatch and charting on a graph paper. Nowadays, you can easily use your smartphone to track your steps and heart rate.
If you are really serious about tracking your fitness levels and activities, getting a GPS tracker watch is one of the best ways to do it.
For this post, we’re going to take an in-depth look at one of the most popular GPS watches in the market, the Suunto Traverse. Is this computer on a wrist worth the investment? Is it even a good GPS watch?
Let’s find out!
What is the Suunto Traverse?
The Traverse is a GPS-enabled altimeter watch which can be used to get climb and descent metrics. From the official Suunto website:
Suunto Traverse is your ideal companion on treks in the wild. Plan your route in Suunto Movescount with topographic maps and stay on course with the GPS navigation. The powerful battery of Suunto Traverse keeps you exploring hour after hour.
Then, let’s take a look at the nitty gritty details about this GPS watch.
Number of Routes
Number of Waypoints
Visual Map Display
Average Battery Life
100 hrs. (GPS mode) / 14 days (Watch mode)
Smart Device Notifications
- Up to 100 hours battery life with GPS recording on
- Altimeter; barometer; compass
- Free topographic maps in Suunto Movescount app show trails and detailed elevation information
- Breadcrumb of the track is always visible—no need to separately activate track-back feature
- Location or point-of-interest can be stored anytime with 1-button press from any view
- Flashlight / backlight automatically boosted to full power
- Vibration alerts when it's too noisy to hear alarm sound
- Tracks steps and calories
- Mobile notifications
The Traverse feels high-quality and sturdy in hand. The watch itself looks good but it does have a bit of bulk to it. When strapped on, the watch does look bulky but it’s not as bad as let’s say, the Ambit 3 Peak with GPS-hump.
I was fairly disappointed with the screen of the watch. It’s not super high-resolution which is not a good thing in this day and age. Also, it seems that the glass is not resistant to scratches. I’ve been looking in the packaging and I’ve yet to find the information whether it’s scratch resistant or not. This seems like a grave oversight especially when this watch is designed for outdoor use.
Upon further investigation, it seems that Suunto has released the Traverse Alpha which features a scratch resistant sapphire crystal glass.
The screen does have a backlight which looks appropriately bright.
The Traverse packs plenty of altitude and barometric features. On top of the usual bells and whistles that come with an altimeter watch, it offers many GPS-enabled options as well.
Those with active lifestyles will have a lot to like about the Traverse. You can track fitness patterns, set waypoints and points of interests, navigate to selected points, and many others.
Below are some of the most noteworthy features of the Traverse.
Altimeter and barometer
these two features are tied together. There are three profiles that you can choose from: automatic, altimeter, and barometer. Automatic will have the watch flip between altimeter and barometer based on your motion. For example, if you are moving up or down, the watch will switch to altimeter mode. If you’re not on the move, it will flip to the barometric pressure graph. There is also a trip summary which shows information like ascent and descent, speed, and more.
the Traverse is equipped with a digital compass that is tilt-compensated. You could manually calibrate the declination and it even comes with a bearing lock.
the Traverse features many classic timekeeping options including daily alarm, stopwatch, countdown timer, GPS time, and DST settings. My only complaint is that you can only set one daily alarm.
Navigation and GPS
the Traverse is primarily designed to be a fitness tracker but it didn’t stop Suunto to include some handy navigational features as well. The watch features both GPS and GLONASS networks which significantly improves accuracy.
on top of the fitness features, the Traverse also has Smart Notifications. However, it’s quite disappointing that it doesn’t come with additional features like a heart rate monitor.
Ease of Use
The Traverse is a cinch to configure, thanks to its user-friendly interface. Navigating from feature to feature feels seamless. You can find a handy online manual which includes video tutorials. I say it’s even easier to use than the Suunto Ambit3 Peak but only because it has fewer features.
However, the buttons do require some getting used to. The buttons aren’t that easy to press when compared with other GPS watches I’ve used. This is mainly due to the fact that the buttons are flat instead of convex ones. With that said, the buttons are still fairly easy to use even with gloves.
For the most part, the large mineral glass display is easy to see. The interface uses large fonts so legibility is not an issue. If you want, the color display can be inverted and the contrast can be adjusted as well. Used the Traverse for both day and night and it works fine.
The flashlight mode feature is worth mentioning as it kept the display on max brightness until you decide to disable it. This is a welcome feature for instances where a headlamp is needed. Overall, the display quality is serviceable but the resolution is not that great.
Comfort and Fit
The watch comes with a slim watch face and silicon watch band. The band fits nicely around the wrist but for some reason, I didn’t enjoy wearing it during hotter temperatures. The band only has holes on one side which hampers the breathability of the watch.
The lack of holes made my wrist itchy due to the buildup of sweat. The band also lacks an ergonomic insert which in turn made it floppy.
On a positive note, the whole watch feels light on the wrist and it still feels nice to wear outside of warmer weather temperatures.
Suunto claims that the Traverse’s battery life can last up to 100 hours but that’s only when using the No GPS mode. However, turning off the GPS will seriously gut the functionality of the watch. At this point, why even bother?
Based on our tests, the Traverse only lasted 8 hours with GPS enabled. This is hardly ideal especially when comparable units like the Garmin Fenix 5 lasts almost twice as long. With such a short battery life, I’d be wary to use this watch when hiking or camping.
Pricing and Value
The Suunto Traverse Black is available around $270. If you are going for other models, it will cost you approximately $350 to $400.
In general, this GPS Watch offers a decent value, especially if you can manage to find a sale or deal. However, at this price point, you might want to check out the Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR Running GPS Unit. It has more features when compared to the Traverse and has a longer battery life.
Again, the Traverse is not by any means a bad GPS watch but it just doesn’t have that many features and there are some glaring issues that are hard to overlook.
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How It Compares
If the Traverse has failed to get your interest, here are some other GPS watch models that might just be worthy of your time and money.
Well, we mentioned that Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR Running GPS Unit earlier but it bears repeating.
The Suunto Ambit3 Peak works great and it delivers stable and accurate altitude and weather information. In fact, its accuracy is one of its best qualities. Battery life is about 200 hours (easily twice longer than Traverse) with 1 minute accuracy.
It might be a bit big and bulky but it gets the job done. The watch has an amazing level of customization and it boasts a plethora of features. However, you will need to link your smartphone to bring out the versatility of this watch
For almost the same price as the Traverse, the Ambit3 Peak is an alternative GPS watch that is hard to ignore.
The Garmin Fenix 5 is a GPS watch that is better than Traverse in almost every way.
The Fenix 5 is loaded with tons of great features. This watch is almost like a fitness trainer but still packs the functions of an altimeter watch. It is accurate when it comes to collecting exercise metrics and it provides the best ascent and descent metrics information out of any altimeter that we have tested.
This is a very good looking watch with a big and beautiful display. The interface is very easy to learn and use, thanks to the colorful and easy-to-see fonts. Plus, this watch has the longest GPS battery life out of all the units that we have tested.
It’s not exactly cheap when compared to the Traverse but the price tag is more than justified.
The Suunto Core Alu is yet another great alternative for Traverse coming from the same company.
This is about as classic as you can get when it comes to altimeter watches. This is basically the aluminum version of the Suunto Core lineup (hence the name). This gives the Core the much-needed durability and becomes more resistant to dings and scratches.
The watch only comes with basic features but they are all done so well. The accuracy of the altimeter never fails to impress. Unlike most GPS watches, you will not have to worry about battery life with the Core Alu. This is because it is powered by traditional watch batteries that you can replace one they run out.
The Core Alu is the ultimate GPS-enabled watch when it comes to value and accuracy. It doesn’t hurt that it looks quite stylish as well.
What We Think
The Suunto Traverse offers good value for what it sets out to do.
It’s an easy-to-use GPS watch and features decent accuracy as well. The features are not that many but most of the essentials for outdoor enthusiasts and athletes are here. You can load routes and create waypoints easily with this watch. It’s also a good-looking watch so you can wear this gadget casually if you want.
However, the short battery life along with other issues prevent the Traverse from becoming a must-have. For the money, there are other better options in the market.
The Traverse gets an above average score of 6.5 out of 10.
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