Gear Review: Timex Ironman One GPS+ Watch


The Timex One GPS watch is the company’s most advanced multi-function watch, with its color touchscreen it certainly provides a level of usability beyond most GPS watches on the market at the time of writing. It utilizes 3G-cell service (provided free for the first year by AT&T) and as well as GPS function it has a messaging, emergency alert and music capability. This means, as a communication capability device it can replace some functions of a smart phone. Weighting a mere 2.8oz it can replace a handheld GPS IF you are wanting to collect data rather than use its mapping function.

The watch exterior is constructed of a rubber strap and case, which despite being bulky wasn’t uncomfortable to wear, however one concern I would have is the strap is integrated into the watch casing. So if the strap was damaged and broke it could not be replaced easily. An advantage of the rubber is it is easy to clean and tolerates being wiped with chemical wipes such as peroxide. I did not go over any rough terrain requiring scrambles so do not know how durable the watch face is, there is no additional protective cover for the face.

This is the first GPS watch I have tried out and I actually thought it would map where I was. I mean there would be a map on the screen to show location like a handheld GPS device. But clearly my understanding of technology is very lacking in this area. Being a baby boomer (only just) I imagine that is an acceptable flaw but one I soon realized I had. Having realized the watch is more for data collection I decided to use it to monitor speed/distance and elevation gain.

I found the touch screen can take a little getting used to. It is not as responsive as a typical smartphone. But as the screen is only 1 1/4″ x 1″ (approximately) it can be understood why. The screen is clear and easy to see, even in bright sunlight, it features a back-light function for nighttime or low light use. The icons are clear and color so easy to see even on the move. Screens are selected by swiping left or right and the individual screens can be customized through the settings function.

I setup my data screen to show, distance hiked, pace, accent gain and mile increments. This allowed an easy visual of hiking data and when used with a trail guide book/map it gave accurate location status ability.

I setup a free “Map My Hike” account which offered a lot of data collection from the watch. Although Timex One GPS does have its own website account its functionality is rather limit. The “Map My Hike” site offers some really interesting and detailed data reporting. This includes the ability to overlay your tracks on a satellite map as well as hybrid and terrain. The profile is a very useful addition to the data collection which includes a timeline so you can track pace at any point along the hike based on assent and decent.

Terrain Data Screen

Satellite Mapping Version of Data

One thing to remember is to save your track and upload it once completed. I did lose some data, most likely operator error, but it is frustrating to open a report and see half the hike is missing. It would be nice if, for none tech people like me, the watch would automatically backup often.

One feature I did like, although more a luxury than a need, was an alarm every mile hiked. I had the alarm set to vibrate mode and the notification of each mile marker made reading the trail guide book a lot more accurate. I used the watch on a hike between Tinker Cliffs and McAfee’s Knob, there is a 5 mile section without water source and not much in the way of mileage markers. So being able to accurately know how far it is to the water source was a really bonus. (AWOL’s guide between Tinker and McAfee’s has very few markers to assist you judge distance.)

The watch has the capability to hold 4Gb of music, it does need a Bluetooth earpiece as there is no jack connection. I did not try this function as it does draw the battery considerably faster and the need for Bluetooth earpiece is not something I relish. Its another item requiring charging while on the trail.

The biggest drawback is the battery life. At most I managed 8 hours (2/3rds of a thru-hiking day), this was just in GPS mode. I never used the additional features of IPod, text messages. For a long distance hiker this means carrying a significant power source to maintain the required battery life. I test a power charge from dead to full using a 24000h power pack and it took 20mins. If you don’t mind carrying the additional weight then this is an option and for a hike of up to a week I would certainly consider it. Not sure I would maintain motivation to do this for several months. The other drawback with this is that shortly after lunch you would need to attach your power pack or the watch will be dead. The risk is if you don’t get it in time you will lose the data collected to that point (happened to me once). In the end I just carried the watch in my pack brain with the power attached permanently after lunch. The charging clip does not lock into place so a couple of times it popped off the watch and meant charging didn’t occur. Unfortunately the charging clip is proprietary and not something you will easily find as a replacement if needed. It would be much better if the watch utilized a mini USB connection so it can be shared with typical hiker devices like GoPro’s.

Another neat feature is that you can assign an “Angel” who can track your position via the smartphone app. This saves the need for a Spot type device and means if you are stationary and not responding they could activate an alert procedure. The watch sends a message to assigned angels and informs them when you are starting a hike and also once completed. The same app means the angel will receive an SOS message on their phone that also includes location co-ordinates if activated. The messages are not in a text form, they are emails, so for delivery to a smart phone as a text you would need to configure the messages to be forwarded as texts.

I sent three messages as a test throughout the three days of trialing the watch. Two arrived with one taking 12 hours to get to the recipient. My assumption is than the end user did not set the emails to be forwarded as texts, you would probably need a convenient tween to setup this function effectively, I certainly do. I had not setup the emergency alert button as a short cut and when it came to testing it I couldn’t find it. I scrolled every option on the watch but never located it and I feel as an “emergency” feature this should, by default, be a lot easier to find. In future I will have a shortcut assigned so that if ever needed its immediately available.

The Timex website reports that the watch can be used overseas at no extra cost. The AT&T service, it reports, will connect to a roaming service provider without the need of an agreement. Fortunately I was headed to the UK for some hiking and this gave me an opportunity to test it out there. I used the watch on the first days hiking in the UK. Weather was terrible with heavy rain and winds. This resulted in the watch being wet constantly, the only issue this caused was, same as a smartphone, I could not use the touch screen function when water was on it (or my fingers were wet). I assume the roaming service was an issue but the full battery lasted 4 hours and I only managed to record 1 mile of the 15 miles hiked.

Pros

  • Emergency messaging function
  • Ability for someone to track you live
  • Ability to send and receive messages
  • 4Gb of music storage
  • Easy to see even in bright light
  • The data collected is great to track your hike:
    Speed/pace
    Mile marker alert
    Distance
    Accent
    Decent
    Profile
    Google maps: Hybrid, Satellite,
    Overall distance
    Overall accent

Cons

  • Battery life
  • Proprietary charging cable
  • Intermittent track download

In conclusion, I would say this is a great tool for day hikers or 2-3 days if you are prepared to carry a power supply and want to collect data of your trip. Bloggers especially would find the post hike data useful for trip reports. As a thru-hiker tool I really see this limited by the power usage although it would of been nice to record our AT hike, the practicalities of charging the device make that impossible. With a $199 price tag this is perhaps suited more to the serious trail runner set.

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