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Gear Review: Suunto Vertical GPS Watch ($629)

By Brian Metzler

When it comes to a GPS running watch, I typically want more bang for my buck than most typical running watches. That’s partly because, aside from logging a log of miles as a trail runner, I also do a lot of backcountry skiing, mountain biking and high-alpine hiking. In other words, I want a watch that can track my runs, but also give me data about everything else I do, too.


Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I used numerous Suunto adventure watch models, but as technology improved and functionality increased, I wound up buying a Garmin Forerunner 965 for its multi-colored display and touchscreen functionality and a Coros Apex Pro for the lightweight design and exceptional battery life. But those watches were mostly good for running and not a range of other activities, and I’ve always done a lot more than just running.


Enter the new Suunto Vertical, a lightweight watch with multisport functionality, a large 49mm display with a bright, easy-to-read screen, Wi-Fi connectivity, colorful off-grid mapping, extremely long battery life and solar charging capabilities. (Solar charging is available only in the high-end titanium model of the Vertical.)


From my initial wear-testing during trail runs and backcountry skiing outings, it’s been a hyper-function and extremely accurate do-everything adventure watch in a compact and comfortable package. It’s rugged and functional enough for all of the sports I do, plus it’s sleek and classy enough to wear in more formal settings. The bottom line? It’s everything I need and want in a GPS watch and much more. And for me, it means I’m back to my brand of choice dating back to the 1990s only with modern, best-in-class technology.


Key Features: First, the Vertical has an extremely long battery life, roughly 85 hours of continuous exercise tracking. In the less active tour mode, it can offer 500 hours of continuous exercise tracking. In the basic daily mode, Suunto Vertical can remain powered up for 60 days without needing a charge. If you combine the solar charging option of the titanium-level watch—which can boost charging by 30 percent on sunny days—it could, in theory, last for several months without charging.


The Suunto Vertical doesn’t sacrifice accuracy for longer battery life, though. It communicates with all five major satellite systems—GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, BEIDOU, QZSS and up to 32 individual satellites simultaneously—via its dual frequency functionality, which means it can connect faster and maintain a connection with more consistency and reliability. That’s important, especially when running, skiing or hiking for long hours in mountainous terrain with deep canyons (or running or riding in a city between tall buildings).


In addition to basic daily activity tracking—steps, heart rate, sleep, calories, stress—it smoothly and accurately tracks running data, elevation and run-tracking data that syncs directly with Strava and other apps. Plus, it offers more than 90 training modes that cover a wide range of sport disciplines, including road running, trail running, cycling, mountain biking, swimming, hiking and even more far-afield activities like sail racing and mermaiding. It can provide weather forecasts, compass and barometer-based altitude readings and even storm alarms on days when I’m backcountry skiing or peak-bagging on 14ers. Heck, there is also a screen-based flashlight option.


Suunto Vertical, $629

-Weight: 2.6 oz (titanium model), 3 oz. (stainless steel)

-Battery life: 60 hours to 500 hours (actively training with GPS) -Waterproof : 100 meters


Why You’ll Love It: The Suunto Vertical comes with a wide range of free outdoor offline maps (downloadable fairly quickly via a fast WiFi connection) with Outdoor/High Contrast/Dark map types. The new maps add to Suunto’s already advanced route navigation built into the Suunto app. The colorful maps show paths, contour lines, water, landmarks and provide navigation features like bread crumb trails, POIs and bearings. Discovering and creating routes is easy with the heatmaps, 3D maps and road surface-type layers of the Suunto app, and syncing them to the watch is a simple and intuitive process. It’s easy to dig into those offline maps to navigate terrain or plan your next move, no matter where you are.


Pro: The Suunto Vertical is made in Finland in Suunto’s own factory with 100 percent renewable energy and fully compensated with verified carbon units. During its whole lifespan the titanium solar variant creates only 6.59 kg of CO2e—which Suunto estimates is the equivalent of driving a combustion engine car or truck for about 24 miles.


Con: OK, the price is a bit steep at $629 and a big investment for someone who’s also investing in $300 marathon racing shoes and a variety of other trail running, mountain bike and backcountry ski gear. But that actually compares well to other high-end watches in the same category like the Garmin Fenix 7 ($700-$950) or the Coros Vertix 2 ($700). And for all that it offers, there is a lot packed into the Suunto Vertical.

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