Tag: Product Review

Suunto Traverse Outdoor Watch

My Overall Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

For some time I had been toying with the idea of purchasing a smartwatch as a useful tool for adventuring. All I really wanted from a watch was:

  • The time (obviously)
  • Mapping with tracking and grid referencing capabilities
  • Altimeter
  • GPS
  • Good battery life

After spending a ridiculous amount of time looking at ridiculous amounts of different watches, I discovered the Suunto Traverse and it ticked every one of my requirements plus a little extra.

Before I go straight into the review, let’s start with the basic specifications:

Measurements50 x 50 x 16.5 mm
Weight80g 
Bezel MaterialStainless steel & Mineral crystal glass
Case MaterialComposite
Strap MaterialSilicone
In The BoxSuunto Traverse Graphite, USB cable, quick guide, warranty booklet
PriceApprox. £175.00 (at time of purchase)
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Suunto

As mentioned already, I was after a fairly decent, mid range smart watch with mapping and GPS etc. to use as a useful backup tool for my usual navigation tools (map and compass) to avoid using various mapping software on my phone and the Suunto Traverse is just that.

This is the first time I’ve ever owned a smart watch, and I wouldn’t necessarily call it a smartwatch as it doesn’t do what I’ve seen others do like call people or send messages, but I’ve got a phone for doing that so it doesn’t bother me. The Traverse is described as an Outdoor Watch by Suunto, and I would say that makes sense. You can, of course, use it everywhere for whatever reason, but I would definitely say it’s suited best for the great outdoors as the name suggests, it’s brilliant to use whilst ‘traversing’.

I think it’ll be easier to break this review down into sections, based on what the watch can do and what I’ve used it for so far:

Initial Set-Up

As you open up the box, you’ll find those things listed above inside. The quick user guide is just that, don’t expect anything very in depth and particularly useful – it’s really only any good for your intial set-up.

Set-up is ridiculously easy. Turn it on, follow the instructions, plug it in, job done! You can get it set up in no more than 5 minutes.

You can change the formatting to metric or imperial. Mine is set to meters and kilometers and degrees Celsius.

Intial set-up – DONE

Telling the time

Does this watch tell the time? It sure does.

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Suunto

As far as I can tell, it’s digital only and it’s set by GPS so it’s more accurate than setting it by the clock on the cooker which was set by the clock on your wall which was set by the clock in the car which you set about 5 years ago and never changed to meet daylight saving, so it’s either an hour fast or slow, so who knows?

It also tells you the time for sunrise and sunset that day.

Telling the time – DONE

Mapping & GPS

The mapping is powered by the accompanying software used by Suunto called Movescount. Movescount is a whole other story and probably deserves a review for itself. Essentially, you create your route on Movescount then plug your phone into your laptop or desktop (whatever), and sync it up. The map moves across to your watch straight away.

There are two flaws to the mapping I have discovered so far.

  1. You cannot sync the Traverse in any other way. You must plug it into your laptop or desktop. It will not do this ‘wirelessly’.
  2. If you are used to all the very helpful features and symbols, contours etc. etc. on your OS Map, then forget it, you only get the line of your route and absolutely nothing else.

Despite these flaws, following the route is remarkably accurate thanks to the GPS. You can view your route in whole, so you can see where you are along the route, or you can have it zoomed into your current position allowing you to see the direction changes in more detail.

I would not rely on this as a main source of navigation (I would always use map and compass) but it is a very very handy back up tool and that’s exactly what I wanted.

Along the route you can add various POIs (Points of Interest) which you can then sync back up to Movescount when you next plug in. You can also add these POIs whilst creating your route in the first place, and depending on what the POI is, it has a different symbol – in that case you could add your useful symbols from an OS Map manually should you want to, but they aren’t the same. You can then set up alerts to make your watch beep when you are approaching each POI. As you move along the route, your own path is marked with a dotted line so you can see where you have been in comparison to your planned route. Your position is marked with a big triangle which points in the direction the watch is facing.

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Suunto

If, like me, you use Viewranger to plan all of your routes, you can upload your GPX file route into Movescount and it’ll map it out for you straight away, so you don’t have to use Movescount to plan your route. This will obviously work with any other mapping software where you can download routes as GPX files.

You do not have to use the route planning though. You can record your own route and add POIs as you go along then upload that to Movescount when you plug in next.

GPS is great. The Traverse also works with GLONASS which I understand to be the Russian version of GPS or something like that. It’s pretty quick to pick up a GPS signal (takes seconds) but, like all GPS devices, can be effected by the weather or built up surroundings.

When you complete your walk following the route on the Traverse, hit STOP and it will give you loads of stats like:

  • Time taken
  • Distance
  • Altitude differences
  • Steps taken
  • Plus more

There is also a built in compass which obviously points north and gives you your heading degrees.

The Traverse also provides grid references for, as far as I can tell, pretty much all over the world. Mine is obviously set to BNG (British National Grid) but you change it for wherever you are.

There is so much more yet to discover I think, but I hope that’s given you a good insight into the mapping capabilities etc. so far.

Mapping & GPS – DONE

Altimeter, Barometer, Thermometer

Does this watch tell you your current altitude above sea level? YES

I am sure it does more than that, and I am sure you can set alarms to go off when you hit a certain altitude too.

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Suunto

The barometer alludes me, I’m not going to lie. It tells you if the air pressure is going up or down but I’m not sure what that means for me. I haven’t played around with that bit so much yet, so I can’t comment on much more.

The thermometer does it’s job – it tells you the temperature. One issue, though, is the sensor is under the watch so it will detect your body heat too, so you will not get a 100% accurate temperature by a long way. You need to take the watch off and leave it for some time to measure the temperature accurately.

Altimeter, Barometer, Thermometer – DONE

Battery Life

The battery life isn’t terrible, as long as you are just on normal ‘telling the time’ mode. As I’ve said, this is my first smartwatch/outdoor watch so I don’t have anything to compare it with.

On normal sitting on the sofa mode, the battery will last well over a week.

Get GPS and maps, following routes etc. running and the battery will possibly last a couple of days at best.

It comes with a USB charger, so it’s not difficult to charge on the go if you have a power pack or a car or a house with electricity to go to.

Battery Life – DONE

So… why only 4 stars?

For somebody like me, who just wants some navigational aids and doesn’t necessarily need to read messages or answer phones on my watch like a spy, I can’t recommend the Suunto Traverse enough. It feels incredibly robust and I understand the glass is some special near indestructible stuff and that’s perfect for me as somebody who isn’t known for being particularly careful or gentle with things.

It can also go underwater as far as 100m, which I think is pretty far, I don’t know… It can handle the deep end in your local swimming pool and you can take it for a paddle in the sea for sure. I’m not too sure what happens to it when it hits 101m either, does it just dissolve? Explode?

For me the only thing letting this watch down is the detailed mapping, or lack of it. I would prefer to be able to see a proper OS style map on the watch or something close to it – but it is in no way a deal breaker. It’s still very handy.

It’s also quite pretty.

Review of the Suunto Traverse Outdoor Watch – DONE

For more info and probably a slightly better write up about it, head over to Suunto for more!

This is me wearing the Suunto Traverse, being lost in a field in the fog
This is me opening the box and going ‘oooh’

DD Travel Hammock and DD Tarp

DD Travel Hammock

Travel Hammock price: £52.00 (at time of purchase)

Colour: Green

DD Travel Hammock rating: 5/5

Why?

Honestly, I don’t know where to start with these other than proudly admitting that my hammock is my second home.

I absolutely love everything about my hammock, the size, the weight, materials, functions, everything. When I received my hammock and took it out of the stuff sack that is included, it was all perfectly folded and fitted wonderfully. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that trying to put these perfectly folded parcels back into the bags is an absolute bloody nightmare and bordering the most stressful and frustrating thing in the world. Well fear not! With no disrespect to the boys and girls at DD Hammocks who are incredibly helpful, it is very easy to do an even better job at packing your hammock away and making the whole thing so much smaller, saving that all important precious space in your pack. In fairness it doesn’t look as good, but every little helps.

Once packed away, the hammock weighs about 860g which isn’t super super light but is far from cumbersome and heavy and once you have your rucksack or day pack filled, you hardly notice it.

So, details, this isn’t instructional so just bare with me and use your imagination where I haven’t got specific things in photographs. The DD Travel has a built in mosquito net which is absolutely fantastic, with zips on both sides so you’re not restricted with getting in and out of the hammock from one side only. I would, however, say that, from my own laziness and lack of flexibility, the zips can be a bugger to do up when you’re laying down and a bit far and fiddly to reach when you leave them by your feet! So I just attached a little bit of paracord to each one so I can pull them up when they are down at my feet. Again, no criticism whatsoever to the hammock, just me being lazy. A fantastic feature inside the hammock is, at both ends, there are built in pockets. This may sound basic but you have no idea how helpful they are, especially in the middle of the night when you need to find a torch or your phone and they have vanished into the middle of the hammock somewhere. Very very useful! The mosquito net is held right up and away from your face with two poles (included) that slide into two compartments at each end and then tie up on the tree as well. What I tend to do though, to save a bit of space, is find a nice narrow stick from the ground and use that instead of the poles, works just as well, and you aren’t going to be short of sticks in the woods are you?

hammock.jpg
Dan Kemp Photography

Hammocks may seem to be something you’d use just in the summer when it’s nice and warm at night still as they seem fairly open to the elements and are typically seen hanging on a beach or between palm trees somewhere. Well, no. I have camped in all weathers and seasons in my hammock now and I haven’t suffered whatsoever with the cold. This is due to a few very simple but helpful features. Firstly, as soon as you lay in your hammock, the ‘walls’ come up above your whole body, immediately protecting you from the wind coming in contact with you directly. Then there is the double layer feature. The hammock is kind of like two slices of bread, but sewn together down one edge and fixed with Velcro on the other, allowing you to slide your sleeping mat or blankets, spare clothes and insulation inside. Not only does this help protect you getting cold underneath, it also makes it even more comfortable. Along with that, I have a second extremely basic hammock that I hang underneath my DD Travel, just to keep all of my kit and extras off the wet ground, but this almost acts as a thermal protection as well if I hang it at the right height below the DD. Although not quite as good as the DD Underblanket that I’m saving for to add to my kit in the future.  So that’s the DD Travel Hammock in a basic nutshell really, just an absolutely fantastic piece of kit, that I make sure I carry with me even on an afternoon stroll with my dog through the woods, giving me the option to throw it up quickly and get a brew on.


Hammock and tarp
Dan Kemp Photography

The DD Tarp

Size: 3m x 3m

DD Tarp price: £49.00 (at time of purchase

Colour: Green

DD 3m x 3m Tarp rating: 5/5

Why?

Another wonderful bit of kit in my rucksack. Clearly a bit more basic than the Travel Hammock but nonetheless vital and brilliant.

The tarp is extremely tough and versatile with endless ways to set up thanks to the 16 loops that line the edges and across the middle. I have even seen this tarp used as a raft on a river, boat sails and a tent with nothing but tent pegs (included) and walking poles (not included obviously), but of course, with all these hundreds of different uses, I generally go for the same set up every time, as pictured above. A basic open faced shelter for my hammock.

As mentioned, it comes with the pegs and also guy lines included in the stuff sack, and much like the hammock, can also be packed down far smaller than you originally get it. I found the pegs to be a little bit rubbish however and at this moment I am fairly certain all of them have bent, broken and been replaced, but this is no enormous problem because, after all, they are only tent pegs. Plus you can make your own from sticks too, saving space again. The guy lines are a great length, brilliant quality and haven’t disappointed me at all. I did also discover recently, through my own stupidity and nothing to do with DD at all, that neither the hammock or tarp are fire/ember proof, as I have found a few holes where sparks have come off my campfire and landed on them. But that’s just inevitable really if you’re silly enough to have your set up so close to the fire.

I have one of those rucksacks that have a separate lower compartment to it that you can zip off from the rest, and what is great is that, when I have the hammock and tarp folded away into their individual stuff bags, they both fit perfectly into the lower compartment, allowing easy access to them without routing through the bag and dropping everything all over the floor. Little things like that please me.

So to summarise, if you want a great camping hammock and a tarp to go with it, go to DD Hammocks. You will not be disappointed. Even my friends went and bought themselves their own DD Hammocks and Tarps after seeing mine. The quality of goods, the fantastic service and incredibly quick delivery times are all just bonuses and cherries on the top of the big hammock cake.

You will not be disappointed!

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Hultafors OK4 Outdoor knife

I was absolutely delighted to discover an email from Hultafors asking if they could send the OK4 Outdoor Knife to me for a bit of a review, how could I possibly say no to that? So here it is…

They’ve done it again, what a beauty. Hultafors still remain my go to brand for reliable knives.

You’ll probably realise it already, but just be warned that I am definitely not a knife expert, but that might make this review a bit more realistic if you also have little knife knowledge too.

But first off, compared to my HVK Craftman’s Knife, the OK4 is better in pretty much every way. So let’s break it down..

Price: £13.00 – £15.00 (approx)

Colour: Green handle/black blade

Blade length: 3.6 inches

Blade material: Japanese knife steel, 3.0 mm carbon steel hardened to 58–60 HRC

Handle: Super-durable PP plastic and rubber

Holster: Super durable PP plastic

Out of 5: (but a high 4)

Why?

Immediately it looks so much better than the HVK Craftman’s knife, but it would obviously look different anyway. They’re designed for different jobs. However, when a knife comes out with me into the forest, it’s used for all the jobs a knife could possibly handle from cutting and shaping wood to skinning animals and eating with. It may or may not be cleaned between jobs.

So already this knife has had an absolute thrashing, hammering and all kinds of abusing you couldn’t imagine. The blade is relatively soft, but extremely durable. After my initial thrashing, the blade became slightly blunt, but after a very short sharpening session, it was straight back up to razor sharp, shaving hairs with no hassle whatsoever and still looks absolutely superb. I’m sure there is a limit to how many times I can sharpen it and blunt it and sharpen it again, but until that day, it’s going to live on my belt.

Another brilliant use for the blade is lighting fires. The rigid top edge of the blade is designed perfectly to be used with a fire steel and creates a wonderful cluster of sparks to light your fire. With the belt loop having a small pocket built into it for sliding a fire steel into, what more could you need?

This brings me to the next point; the holster. The holster is more or less the same as the HVK’s. I still worry that the clip will break after a couple of uses, it’s still a worryingly thin plastic hinge that if twisted slightly, could snap. However, along with the holster, came a fabric belt loop that, with a metal clasp, slides perfectly into the button hole on the holster. This won me over completely. I use thicker leather belts, so the clip on the holster actually doesn’t fit it, with this belt loop however, I have absolutely zero concerns. It’s a brilliant piece of kit. Even better is that the holster can actually come out of the belt loop, leaving, as tried and tested by your’s truly, the perfect holder for an axe handle too. No complaints.

The knife has a wonderful, thick and well weighted handle which grips perfectly when carrying out any job and with a slip guard at the pointy end, definitely reduces the risk of sliding down the handle and cutting yourself. The only problem with it would be cleaning. As mentioned previously, this knife can be used for skinning small animals (rabbits etc.), even though it’s not designed as a skinning knife, it can do the job just fine. The problem comes when you end up with, excuse the gory details, a bit of blood and guts on the handle. If the handle was entirely plastic, it would be as easy as wiping it off with a bit of cloth but being rubber, it naturally wants to grip onto those little bits of dirt as much as it can. It can obviously be cleaned, but just not as easily. The holster is ideal for this, however as it is entirely plastic and with a drainage hole in the bottom, it doesn’t trap a lot of dirt at all.

So if you want a fantastic knife to take on your trips into the wild, a knife that would stand up against any job you throw at it and still take pride of place on your belt, the ‘Hultafors OK4 outdoors knife’ is the tool for you. As much as I still love my HVK, which remains in my rucksack on trips, the OK4 is always on my belt. I love it, my friends love it, you’ll love it.

I still haven’t quite figured out why you’ll need a small ruler type measuring line on it, but it looks great nonetheless!

For more information from Hultafors themselves, head over here.

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