Apple Watch Ultra for Backpacking

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Viewing 21 posts - 1 through 21 (of 21 total)
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    Ryan Jordan


    Locale: Central Rockies

    The new Apple Watch Ultra was announced today.

    (So was the new Apple iPhone 14 – which now offers emergency satellite communications)

    The highlights that I gleaned as potentially most valuable vs. the old Apple Watches is a much longer battery life (36 to 60 hours) between charges, dual-band GPS for better accuracy in complex terrain, titanium housing + sapphire crystal glass for better durability, and what will undoubtedly be the most usable (and highest resolution) display on the market for packing tons of info onto one screen and adaptable to a wide range of lighting conditions.

    • designed for endurance sports
    • L1 + L5 GPS dual frequency for increased GPS accuracy (catching up here to Garmin & Coros, which finally gives Apple a watch you can actually use in canyons and complex steep terrain)
    • titanium housing, 49mm case size (compare to 40-45 for other Watch versions)
    • durability: MIL-STD-810H (altitude, extreme high and low temperatures, temperature shock, immersion, freeze/thaw, shock, vibration – similar now to Garmin Enduro/Fenix models)
    • multi-sport transitions in single workouts using a new “Action button” (which is also customizable)
    • buttons/crowns can be used with gloves
    • 36-hour continuous use battery, 60 hours extended (low power setting)
    • extreme heat and cold resistance
    • precision compass with waypoint radar view
    • 86 dB siren for sound alert – can be heard up to 600 ft away
    • water-resistance to 100m (EN13319)
    • 2000 nits display (edge to edge), sapphire crystal
    • $799
    • Available Sep 23
    • the usual health stats – heart rate, HRV, pulseOx, ECG, irregular rhythm notifications, new optical HR sensor
    • the usual GPS watch features – GPS, backtrack, route recording, always-on altimeter (even in low-power GPS mode), etc.
    • night mode reduces blue light towards a red face just by turning a crown dial
    • 3-mic triangulation to isolate voice from loud background noise (river, storm)
    • 2 speakers (vs 1 in other models), that might make alerts easier to hear in wind/storm/under gloves
    • fall detection – the watch knows if you took a hard fall and will prompt you if you need to signal SOS
    • 61 grams (2.2 oz)

    Press release about the Apple Watch Ultra.

    Staging for mass-market satellite comms, which is probably the next Big Thing around our corner…

    The S-hook “alpine” band looks nice – should allow for layering outside of clothing if HR isn’t critical:

    There’s a ton of info packed on this screen, it will be interesting to see how hikers and climbers customize it:

    Joey G
    BPL Member


    I ordered one. I also work for Apple so I’m kind of partial.

    Jason McGrath
    BPL Member


    On the “layering outside of clothing,” this currently requires you enter the pin every time you attempt to do anything. For ski instructing I wish there was a better solution.

    Philip Tschersich
    BPL Member


    Locale: Kodiak Alaska

    It’s a beautiful piece of kit. As someone who’s been buying Apple products for a good portion of his life, I’m largely acclimated and don’t normally blanch at their prices, but geez.

    Still, I can’t help but sit back and admire the technology.

    Jason G
    BPL Member


    Locale: iceberg lake

    I’ve never looked at or considered a watch for BP..


    What do you all ACTUALLY use your watch for while backpacking? (not just what it CAN do..)

    Alex V
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Cascades

    Jason – I never used a watch either. This summer I tried using an old timed just to avoid checking my phone for the time. I found it surprisingly useful. Helped me stay on track and update mental models for how far I could go etc

    Matthew / BPL


    @jason Speaking generically about watches rather than specifically about an Apple Watch…

    I have used ABC watches when hiking and backpacking. I particularly like having an altimeter on my wrist. It’s useful for navigation. I find climbing to be my limiting factor rather than distance, particularly at altitude.

    I also like having a record of my average speed for the day. I’m not trying to turn backpacking into an athletic event but it helps me make choices about whether I want to push over another climb or to a distant water source. I’m not at peak hiking form right now so I need to be a little more careful about my choices since I have less reserve.

    I don’t record tracks. I don’t navigate with a watch.

    I do record running workouts when I run (I don’t enjoy running but I go through phases where I try to run a few times per week until I remember how much I don’t enjoy it after a couple weeks). It’s nice to see the progression over a repeated course. I’m not sophisticated in my analysis but I can see that I went too fast and then suffered on one run whereas I do better if I moderate my pace to a reasonable level.

    Please forgive the rambling response. I’m trying to address your question about why one might wear a watch.

    BPL Member


    I’ll be curious to see how well third party app makers like Gaia and WorkOutDoors make use of the bigger screen and Action Button.

    Murali C
    BPL Member


    can you do waypoints?

    BPL Member


    I got one, but I also have a Fenix 7x Sapphire Solar. I may keep that in my ditty bag. I hope it’s good as it appears to be.

    Chris K
    BPL Member


    86 dB siren for sound alert – can be heard up to 600 ft away

    Interesting. I once read a story of someone who scared away a mountain lion using loud music played from their phone. 86 decibels sounds like a lot!

    BPL Member


    Murali, Apple showed off some waypoint functionality but it’s not clear how useful it will be.

    Kevin Babione
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pennsylvania

    @BreauGaia already has a pretty useful Apple Watch app.  Here’s a link showing how to use it.  The map is, obviously small (and will be a little bigger on the new watch), but it’s useful to let you know if you’re on or off course.

    Jason G
    BPL Member


    Locale: iceberg lake

    thx MK. Makes sense

    Jason McGrath
    BPL Member


    I’ve loved and used the Apple Watch from the beginning. But do I bring an Apple Watch charging cable into the backcountry on multi-night trips with its inefficient charging drain on my battery bank? Do I need to bring a larger and heavier battery bank? Another device to charge, more weight in my pack, and less battery bank capacity for the phone and headlamp. With a Fenix there would be no downsides in the backcountry. But the Apple Watch is so great for everyday use. So, we’re still compromising one way or the other. I may still get the Apple Watch and put up with the backcountry headaches. Or I’ll get a Fenix, live with my old Apple Watch, and have a $900 watch that I only use for hiking. Or wear the Fenix all the time and curse when I can’t find my iPhone without the ping feature. Decisions.

    Carrie S
    BPL Member


    @Jason: I laughed right out loud with that last line..’curse when I cannot find my iPhone without the ping feature.’
    That feature is among my favorites too, just ask my family. :)

    BPL Member


    @kbabione How stable is Gaia’s watch app? I sometimes use their iPhone app, but it’s not the most stable or reliable, especially when it comes to routing.

    Kevin Babione
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pennsylvania

    @Breau – Using the Gaia watch app is a “process” – you define your route on your phone or computer (I always use the computer) and save it.  You then go into the phone, select your route, and “Send to Apple Watch.”  It can take a few minutes to send the route.  Once it’s on the watch it seems to be pretty stable.  You have to scroll to the right a few screens to see the map, but it’s there and it shows if you’re following your route or not.  Most of my hikes are on pretty clearly marked trails so I use it more for fun than for staying on course, but it seems to work and I haven’t had any issues.

    Paul S
    BPL Member


    My wife and I use a watch while backpacking, mostly to know when to awaken in the AM, and when to go to sleep.


    We also use an old style altimeter (i.e., not electronic), map and compass, and my wife’s cell phone for GPS from time to time (that’s for when we need to know our location and map and compass can’t do it).

    Ricardo M
    BPL Member


    The watch is beautiful, but hardware alone is not enough. To make me ditch my Phoenix it needs an app that has routable offline topo 24K maps, work without the phone and have a configurable interface with a good selection of metrics to show in the UI. Gaia (as of now) is not close, any other good options?

    Markus C
    BPL Member


    @Jason, @Carrie, when the Connect app is running in the background on your iPhone, you can find your phone with your Fenix or Epix. I use that feature every day. Even indicates distance to the iPhone.

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