In 2014, I bought my first Suunto: the Ambit 2. After using that watch for two years and putting it through some serious mountain abuse, I never had a single issue with its performance, but when Suunto released its new hunting-specific watch—the Traverse Alpha—I knew I had to get it.
After using the Traverse Alpha during all of last season and up to this point this year, it’s stood up to everything I’ve put it through. It’s built like a rock and it’s packed full of very useful features for hunters and anglers alike. In this article I’m going to highlight some of my favorite features.
“Will this be durable enough to withstand anything the backcountry can throw at it?” That is one of the first things I ask myself when I’m looking for new gear. After wearing this watch nearly every day for the past year and a half, I have nothing but good things to say about it. I’ve worn it in everything from rain to snow, in temperatures from 10 degrees up to 120 degrees, and have yet to have any problems. The stainless steel bezel and scratch resistant sapphire glass have no signs a wear or damage. The Suunto Traverse Alpha will stand up to anything you can throw at it. The nylon strap is also very durable; however, my only complaint with the nylon strap is that it tends to get very stinky if you wear it for long periods of time. I would recommend upgrading to a silicon strap to avoid that problem.
One of my favorite features of the Traverse Alpha are the hunting and fishing-specific POIs (aka “waypoints”). On every GPS devices I’ve used, you can mark locations but you are unable to specify exactly what you’re marking. If you’re trying to mark a trail camera location, you mark it as a waypoint. When you’re trying to mark a waterhole, you mark it as a waypoint. Every location is marked the same.
On the Traverse Alpha, you can mark hunting and fishing-specific POIs. If you found a good bedding area, you can mark it as a “bedding area.” Found a good trail? Mark it as “trail.” If you just set up a new trail camera you can mark the location as “trail camera.” This makes it much easier to identify what each location is when you look at them later on your watch or on Google Earth, which brings us to the next feature.
Most hunters use Google Earth to scout for new areas. When I scout on Google Earth I will search for water sources, possible bedding areas, meadows, etc., but when I actually hike into the area those places are usually very hard to locate. If it’s possible to take away the guessing game, why not do it? The Traverse Alpha allows you to use Google Earth to mark those locations. Doing this has saved me hours and hours of scouting.
On the other hand, maybe I’m out scouting and hiking around a new area and I find a good spot to set up a trail camera. I can mark that location as a POI with the name “trail camera 1” and then I can easily transfer those coordinates over to Google Earth when I get home. This can be very useful when I’m hiking on a new trail in a new area. I can upload that trail route to my computer so I can see exactly where I was, along with the distance and elevation gain/loss.
Instead of trying to explain how to export/import those coordinates and routes in this article, I’ve made these videos to show you all the steps:
*Use this website to convert the Google Earth GPS coordinates into the format that your Suunto will understand
I will also soon post a video on how to upload a hiking route from your Suunto onto Google Earth. Stay tuned.
The GPS on the Traverse Alpha is very accurate. I can mark the location of a water source on my watch and, when I upload that info to Google Earth, the location is always within a few feet. You never have worry if your watch is accurately marking your POIs or routes.
This feature might not seem as important, but I find myself using it almost every time I go to the mountains. During hunting season, I’m constantly travelling back and forth from Nevada to Utah, Colorado to Arizona, etc. The timezones are always changing and it’s really easy to forget when the sun rises and when the sun sets. Luckily, the Traverse Alpha has a built in sunrise/sunset table feature so you never lose track of what time you need to wake up in the morning. The times will automatically update when you move into a new state and change time zones.
One other useful feature that I haven’t used much yet is the automatic shot detection. The Traverse Alpha can automatically detect when you shoot your rifle (using the recoil) and it will mark the location and time of the shot. Be aware that you must be currently recording a route; otherwise, it will not detect a shot.
This watch also has a flashlight mode, which comes in handy when you are unable to find your flashlight/headlamp in the middle of the night. Other useful features include: altimeter, barometer, alarm, moon phases, incognito backlight, thermometer, and more. If you would like to learn more about these features check out Suunto’s website.
The Suunto Traverse Alpha goes with me every time I hit the trail. I consider it one of the most important pieces of equipment that I own. I believe it plays a crucial part in my success on every hunt. Most backcountry hunters carry GPSs these days, so why not get one that is very reliable and small enough to fit on your wrist?
For additional information on what the guys at Team Backcountry up to and different promotions they are offering, you can check them out on their website at TeamBackcountry.com.