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When you’re out in the backcountry, knowing where you are and how the environment may be about to change is paramount to having a good experience. It’s even more essential when you’re a guide, responsible for clients whose wilderness experience could be minimal to none. But thanks to smartwatches like the Casio Pro Trek WSD-F21HR, the days of navigating with just a map and compass are far behind us. It’s a lot easier now.
We talked to a couple of guides who’ve brought Casio Pro Trek Smartwatches out on backcountry trips with clients to find out what features best help them do their jobs. David Torres, marketing manager for Latin Travel Collection, used a Casio Pro Trek watch for years guiding hiking, mountain biking, and climbing trips in South America. And Katie Burns, mountain guide for Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides in Oakhurst, California, guides trips in Yosemite’s most hidden corners. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Heart Rate Monitor and VO2 Max Reading
The Pro Trek Smart WSD-F21HR tracks your VO2 Max, which measures your aerobic capacity by tracking the optimum rate at which your body can consume oxygen. As an ultrarunner, Burns loves this feature, which helps her make sure she’s not going too hard at any given time. She also felt the heart rate monitor was extremely accurate and liked being able to see a readout of her heart rate during the course of the hike at the end of the trail. “It’s fun, as a guide, to know how hard you’re pushing,” she says.
“It’s helpful to be able to map out the time you’ve been on the mountain and the altitude difference,” Torres says. He has used the altimeter to record data on the exact locations of campsites he frequents with guests, to keep his trip itinerary as up-to-date and accurate as possible.
3. Weather Forecasts
The weather app on the Pro Trek Smart WSD-F21HR automatically identifies where you are and gives you the best forecast from the closest station. Having that information at her fingertips, handsfree, is useful so Burns can keep her phone buried in her pack. “I’m impressed that it can pull that information up in the middle of Yosemite, even when cell service is spotty,” she says. Torres loved using the barometer to predict weather changes based on how atmospheric pressure changed right where he was.
4. Navigation and Mapping
The Pro Trek Smart WSD-F21HR comes integrated with Google Maps and Mapbox, and is also compatible with other navigation apps like ViewRanger. “I’ve hiked those trails [in Yosemite] hundreds of times, but it’s pretty cool to be able to show guests exactly where we are,” she says. She also recommends the watch for intermediate hikers and backpackers who need a bit of extra assistance navigating. “It’s good peace of mind to know you’re not totally off track,” she says—not to mention helpful to be able to see that you’ve got, say, just one more mile to go.
“When I’m not with clients, I’m moving around really fast,” Torres shares. “Having a compass [so accessible] is helpful to keep the objective clear.” He also uses it to track the stars at night, to sneak away for night photography when he can catch a break. “I really like taking pictures of the stars moving around in the sky, so it’s helpful to know the directions,” he says.
When you’re out in the backcountry, you don’t want a fragile watch that will shatter if you drop it on a rock or accidentally smack it while scrambling. “I’ve managed to drop it accidentally,” Burns says. “It’s a pretty durable little watch.”