Page Type Gear Review
Object Title Vector
Manufacturer Suunto
Page By John
Page Type Feb 14, 2002 / Feb 14, 2002
Object ID 130
Hits 9915
The Vector is ergonomically designed with a large, easy-to-read display, plus control buttons conveniently sized and positioned so they're easy to operate even with gloves on, yet cannot be pressed accidentally. Choose either metric or imperial units for each separate function. Displays month/day date, day of the week and time in 12 or 24 hour format; calendar is pre-programmed to the year 2089; features 3 daily alarms, stopwatch with split times and countdown timer. Engineered with the highest quality components and durably constructed with a tough plastic case and extra-hard plastic lens to stand up to the extreme conditions of the great outdoors. Operates on an easy-to-replace, 3-volt lithium cell and features a low-battery warning when 10% - 15% of battery capacity remains. Maximum battery life is approximately 18 months, depending on use.

  • Altimeter function, displayed in either meters or feet, ranges up to 9,000 m (or 29,500 ft.) in 5 m (or 10 ft.) increments
  • Altimeter features vertical ascent/descent rate of climbs/ski runs, automatic 24-hour memory, logbook memory, reference altitude and altitude alarm
  • Barometer with automatic 4-day memory helps you see weather trends; ranges from 8.90 - 32.40 inHg (300 - 1100 mbar) with 0.05 inHg (1 mbar) accuracy
  • Barometer provides data in 1 hour intervals for the first 6 hours, then in 6 hour intervals for up to 4 days; temperature compensated
  • Compass displays bearing and direction of travel; bubble indicates level compass position for reading accuracy within 3 degrees or better
  • Compass can be set to track a bearing, indicating the difference between the given bearing and actual bearing, redirecting you to stay on course
  • Declination adjustment function corrects the difference between magnetic north and true north
  • Thermometer function displays temperature in either Celsius or Fahrenheit
  • AAI Guides Choice
  • Cathy Sassin, 4th place Eco-Challenge Patagonia: "The Suunto Vector is an indispensable piece of Adventure Racing gear."
Similar Products: Casio Pathfinder PAG40B-2V, Casio Pathfinder II, Freestyle Altimeter, Nike ACG Ascent, Suunto X6, Victorinox StarTech 3000



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scot'teryx - Feb 19, 2002 9:59 am - Voted 4/5

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Sold my GPS unit (Etrek) and bought this instead. The altimeter is a great thin to have, and someday I'll learn to use the other features, but the battery lasts forever in cold temps, and the face is east to read, even at night. THe only bad thing is that the alarm aint worth a crap for me as I sleep past it, when I do sleep that is. One star demotion just for that, otherwise it rocks!!

John - Feb 19, 2002 10:53 pm - Voted 4/5

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A great multi-function tool. First, why do I like this so much? I've only needed this to finish a hike once and that was on my King's Peak loop hike - but it's far enough of a drive that it would take me a long time to get up to those parts again ;-) At 10:30pm in the dark, I lost the trail in the woods but with the digital compass and altimeter I was able to guess my location on the topo map and press forward bushwacking a bit until I found the trail again. This saved my trip since I wanted to hike a stretch of the Lost Coast Trail the next day and waiting till morning was not an option since the trail on the beach is submerged during high tide which would have prevented an on-time finish. That one trip was enough to make me a believer, but my Kili trip has recently raised some doubts in my head about how accurate this really is.

Here are some specifics:

  • Altimeter: I've heard that this gives a consistently low elevation reading at altitude. This is because Suunto supposedly uses a simplistic single co-efficient altitude-barometric pressure conversion formula which is approximately correct at sea level but decreases in accuracy at altitude. I haven't read the material myself, but it was discussed on the email list a while ago I've been told. I've recently picked up an Garmin eTrex Legend GPS which is supposed to give more accurate elevation readings at altitude based on GPS. The same discussion supposedly raised some issues about Garmin's barometric altimeters in the eTrex Summit and Vista models. If I have the inclication, I'll look into this a bit but I will definately compare the readings on my Suunto and Garmin GPS in the future. GPS elevation readings are more accurate when you are high on a mountain and can see satellites on the horizon. And afterall, they measure the height of mountains with GPS so it can't be that bad. The problem with GPS is when you can't get enough satellites due to trees, etc.
  • Thermometer: Don't rely on this as you would a normal thermometer, unless you want prematurely short battery life. The thermometer is primarily designed to aid the barometer. The altitude is calculated from the barometric reading which in turn is calculated with aid of the temperature reading. That's why it's there - not to really tell you what the temp is. I've found that when I attach it to my pack to check the air temp (as well as attaching it to my kayak's tow line and dropping it in the water), the low battery indicator comes on more often. When you wear the watch on your wrist, the battery life is longer, but you also get an incorrect temp reading based, in part, on your skin temp ;-) From my Kili trip, I also found out that simply putting it on your pack's shoulder strap probably is not far enough away for a truly accurate temperature reading. I've since purchased one of those REI thermometer / compass zipper-pull things to attach to my pack.
  • Compass: This is an excellent feature. I consider the bubble-level feature an absolute must because the readings fluctuate wildly depending on what angle you hold the watch at. This means I won't get the X-Lander or Observer versions. I use it for driving around in foreign cities and kayaking almost more than hiking / climbing. For kayaking it's very useful since your head is only several feet above the water and it's hard to get a bearing. The ability to program in the declination is awesome though you need to remember to reset this when you travel. Also, after you change the battery, the compass needs to be recalibrated. After I changed the battery the first time, I was getting all kinds of wacko compass readings before I found out a recalibration was needed.
  • Battery Replacement: The self-service battery replacement (opening the back using a nickel) is very important for some people, however, when I was recently at REI having my 200m diving watch's battery replaced by the manufacturer both the REI service desk guy and the guy behind me in line told me that they also recommend and get their Suunto Vector batteries changed by the manufacturer for a better watertight seal. I thought this was weird, but it's good to know about. Instead of just purchasing a replacement battery, you can also purchase a Suunto Replacement Battery Kit that includes: (1) a battery, (2) a new back cover plate, and (3) a new waterproof O-ring. This is probably the way to go if you want to go self-service. It's interesting to note that the original battery cover that came with my watch said "WATER RESISTANT 30M/100FT" while the self-service replacement says "WATER RESISTANT" only without a depth. This could be because they use pressurized machines to seal watches at the factory similar to diving watches.
  • Alarm: I agree with scot'teryx that the alarm is pretty weak and I never wake up to it though I still set it when I go to sleep - not sure why I bother ;-)
Overall, a nice product and probably the best in its category. This is a very complex product and I still haven't mastered it (just switching units from imperial to metric is a challenge!). For a long time, I loved this product because this was all I carried, though now I don't trust the altimeter or thermometer as much so I have the GPS and the REI thermometer / compass zipper-pull to provide secondary readings. Having a GPS is good high up since you can use that to periodically recalibrate the Suunto Vector. Overall, this is probably good enough to get one through the woods or a tough spot, but probably not good enough for reference readings.

William Marler - Mar 25, 2002 9:02 am - Voted 4/5

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This is a great piece of equipment. Previous altimiter watchs I have owned only went up to 18,000 feet. The large numbers are a help. You wouldn’t believe the instruction book. I couldn’t learn all the functions in this lifetim. But for the ones I use this is great and reliable. Now if I can only get the alarm to shut off... I’ll ask my son.

tbnelson - Apr 1, 2002 6:07 pm - Voted 5/5

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Great piece of equipment. Easy to use and great battery life. Compass less useful than the altimeter and barometer. It is very easy to update the appropriate magnetic decination.

The three alarm clocks and altitude alarms are nice. Battery lasted over a year and was easily replaced using the replacement kit I picked up at REI for $10.

Luidger - Apr 22, 2002 12:58 am - Voted 4/5

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I have a vector which does not calculate the sea level pressure correctly. Meanwhile they aknowledged the problem, but I never botheres to send it in for replacement.

Besides this, I am content with the functions and reliability of the altimeter.

miztflip - Jun 7, 2002 4:03 pm - Voted 4/5

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I have really enjoyed the multi-functions of the watch. I agree that the compass is not very useful except for general directions. The altimeter is great once it is calibrated although I have had some unexpected miscalculations with the altimeter. While climbing Rainier it was almost 600 feet off leading us to believe we still had some climbing left. The battery life is great although I have had some problems with the battery in extreme cold as with any battery.

Jerry L - Jun 30, 2002 5:36 pm - Voted 4/5

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I noticed on my trip to Aconcagua that quite a few climbers had it. I enjoyed the altimeter and when I got home I purchased one prior to my next climb. I'm not very good with the settings but my climbing partner set the alarm and adjusted the time for me. We climbed Rainier and it worked well. It has large digits which help in bad weather. It is easy to see at night with the light. I plan on trying it for scuba diving.

ScottyS - Aug 14, 2002 10:32 am - Voted 4/5

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I've used this instrument for about 6 months and about 12 dayhikes. I wear it all the time as well, and find that it does not really get in the way.

The consistant low readings mentioned elswhere here are true for me, as I find it necessary to update the altitude every couple thousand feet (if possible). This seems to be more of a problem when going up rather than when coming down. However, the error is never more than two hundred feet at most if I never touch it all day.

The compass is the most accurate feature on this watch! There is no question that if I used finer sighting notches than the ones on the bezel that it would be right in line with a Brunton pocket transit. (I've used the Suunto in a pinch or two when taking tree samples out in the field)

All of the logging features are great and simple to use, if you like that kind of stuff.

The durability so far has been excellent, with the face not scratching up as quickly as I thought it would! Buy the premium parts kit too --- it is totally worth the money to have all those replacements handy.

Some folks say they can't read the LCD correctly unless they are looking straight down at it. I noticed the LCD "ghosting" effect as well, and it seems to be most prominent with a fresh battery (higher voltage); but it is a non-issue unless the viewing angle is less than 45 degrees or so.

crirwin - Oct 23, 2002 1:34 pm - Voted 5/5

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I've had mine for two seasons now and think its a great piece of equipment. The LCD features large numbers that are easy to read except that I agree that they disappear when held at less than about a 45 degree angle. I've had similar problems with consistently low readings on the altimeter. But, still it hasn't been off by too much. My last two ventures to about 10,000 feet it came up about 80 feet short each time. However, on a one-day round trip climb I have found that it is accurate to about 10-20 feet by the time I return to my starting altitude.

I haven't bothered to learn all of the logbook functions of the unit but have found the rate of vertical ascent/descent feature of the altimeter mode helpful in pacing and planning.

The mode buttons on the side are good sized and easy to use even with heavy gloves on. However, I wear the unit on my left wrist and have found on occasion that if my wrist is flexed back toward 90 degrees (like pushing off a rock or reaching back to put on a backpack) that the back of my hand will hit the "mode" button on the right hand side and change the unit from one mode to another.

So far it has held up well with no major scratches on the lens or plastic casing. I recently changed my battery after about 18 months using the $10 replacement kit (including the new back and o-ring). It was an easy task and only took a couple of minutes.

All-in-all I've found it to be a useful "essential" for me that I always wear be it a simple day hike or a multi-day trek or climb into the mountains.

mpyle - Oct 30, 2002 2:16 pm - Voted 4/5

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Have had mine for several years, and love it. A bit bulky on the wrist, but a useful tool and a lot of fun.

Want to point out that its inability to give perfect altitudes is not necessarily a flaw in the unit. It really is a barometer (measures atmospheric pressure), and there is no unique relationship between pressure and altitude. It does the best it can, but is limited by assumptions about the thermal structure of the atmosphere. All you can do is calibrate to known elevations as frequently as possible and accept that errors will creep in as you get away from this fixed datapoint.

My only gripe with it is that the temperature sensor is made useless by body heat if you wear it on the wrist.

Alan Ellis - Nov 24, 2002 10:51 am - Voted 4/5

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Several years ago I saw Alex Lowe on TV with one of these on and I knew I had bought the right altimeter watch. I have had nothing but good experiences with the Vector. I've changed the batteries (myself) twice with no problems. Mine's getting a bit scratched up from the mountains, so now I strap it to my climb pack shoulder strap. My only gripe is the low volume alarm which has caused me at least one late start on summit day.

marcminish - Jun 30, 2003 8:36 pm - Voted 4/5

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Some of the best money I ever spent. The altimeter and compass is very accurate. The face is easy to read and adjusting for declination is a snap. The big face is very easy to read and, because of the size, you get interesting looks from non-climbers.

Only three drawbacks that I can see: It's pricey, the alarm is not very loud and it's size. It is so big that it looked like an aberant growth on my girlfriend's wrist when she tried to wear it.

Alan Arnette - Jul 6, 2003 8:10 pm - Voted 4/5

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I have had my Vector for 3 years, replaced the battery twice. On Everest, I found it inacurate thus having to reset the altitude daily. However, a friend had a Nike and it was not much better. I love the log feature but wish the alarm was louder!

dennyhead - Nov 21, 2003 11:54 am - Voted 4/5

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I love this watch. I've used it for the past two years in all 4 seasons. The alarm is a little low (unless you are in a hostel by yourself you probably won't hear it) and the temp gauge is about worthless (you need to stop what you were doing take the watch off and hold it out to get a reading...) but other than that this watch is the best. I know some owners do not like the size of this thing, but I have a pretty good sized wrist and it seems to work for me. I noticed that mine was gettin a lil scratched up, so i got one of suunto's face protectors and that seems to have done the trick - a plus to that is it is also a magnifying glass so you can see the information clearer and if you really get into trouble you could start a fire with it.

All in all this watch has proven itself to me time after time. Suunto's motto of replacing luck is a definite with this watch.

Reiksgib - Jan 25, 2004 4:56 pm - Voted 5/5

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Love it, Love it, Love it! Best gadget purchase ever! I wear the thing on every trip and it accuarately log my progress(as long as you take the time to adjust the calibration to the current weather conditions). The watch is very durable as well. I've smashed it against rocks while climbing, coming away with only a few scratches on the face. Only thing I would change is the INDIGLO is very dim, and is difficult to read the display at night.

doctorpeakbagger - Jun 19, 2004 8:48 pm - Voted 4/5

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Just bought this watch and will never look back. The log feature is nice to keep track of each peak and there's a cummulative log running in the background I use for my year's total. Alarm wakes me up fine except in thick sleeping bag- better alarm than some other Suunto watches secondary to it's lighter casing. Altimeter is more accurate the more consistent the weather, and it's awesome to know your vertical ascent rate when you start to feel the burn on steep hikes.

Crux105 - Feb 27, 2005 2:52 pm - Voted 2/5

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Work at a gear shop and saw all the positive reviews, and I thought that I should add my buyer beware post.

Pro: It is a good watch, and provides all the basic feature that most people need. In all honesty most people don't even need the higher in features found on the X-6 etc.

Cons: But! This is by far the most returned watch that my shop carries. Two major flaws or issues are as follows. Suunto uses a cheap malible plastic for the backing. Make sure you read the instructions before buying, many ill fainted attempts of changing the battery have ended in destroying the watch.

Secondly, I don't know the reason, but many of the vectors (and not the higher end watches) get returned because of excessive condensation on the inside of the face.

The Defiant One - Mar 30, 2005 4:22 am - Voted 5/5

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I bought this two years ago, in yellow, and have used it extensively. Wow there are a ton of features i don't use ever, and don't know how to. Some of the logbook features are useful, the barometric pressure history and diagram has likely saved my life by showing a drastic drop in the pressure overnight keeping me in my tent instead of up on the mountain after an alpine start. The altimiter is useful if you set it frequently. no altimiter watch is going to be perfect, this one is pretty good. The thermometer is useful if the watch is off your wrist.

I really like this tool, the alarm wakes me up though others have complained, so it might be too quiet for some.

A well made product, i expect i'll have 1 for life.

Livelife4Summits - Nov 6, 2005 7:30 pm - Voted 2/5

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Great concept watch done by Suunto with an impressive list of functions that unfortunately failed to deliver.

More often than less, the watch was inaccurate and had to be constantly calibrated. Altitude was always off by at least 500 ft. Its temperature function is as accurate as sticking my hand out of the tent to see if it freezes.

It is ergonomic and has a decent battery life, but cheap construction makes it prone to damage.

fdoctor - Dec 5, 2005 3:09 pm - Voted 4/5

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Bought this two years ago and found the main functions very easy to pick up. (Time, Altitude, Barometer, ) but still can't work out the compass. This year on a Himalayan trip finally started to use the Logbook function in Altitude mode, what a brilliant thing it is to see all the ups and down of a day.

Finally, dont wear it if you spray yourself with mosquito repellant, it plays havoc with the rubber casing!

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