Michael S. is a Sydney-born, Brisbane-based adventurer who enjoys hiking and camping, bushwalking in Australia and overseas, action adventure travel, trail running, mountain biking, paddling, and nearly any adventure pursuit he can round up mates for. Michael takes the new Suunto 5 GPS sports watch and puts it to the test on Aussie soil for his regular training as well as on an activity packed trip abroad to Central America. Let’s see what he thinks!

Firstly, some context. I am an engineer who is passionate about the outdoors and I enjoy my training. The new Suunto 5 GPS Sports Watch has been my adventure partner over the last few months during my regular activities as well as some overseas adventure travel. Many kudos to Suunto on this compact yet powerful device, as I have been very impressed by its functionality, adaptability and versatility. This awesome watch nails the balance of practicality and simplicity, without compromising on some great depth of function and accuracy – with at-your-fingertips information that can provide some serious insights, backed by data, to help you in achieving your training goals!

The Suunto five on a write being used to track progress when hiking up El Salvador's Volcanos

The Suunto 5 tracking our activity while hiking El Salvador’s volcanos.

Training Mode

To begin, the real focus behind the acquisition of any training sports watch: the training mode. For me, this exercise mode is the greatest function of the Suunto 5. Over the last few months I have taken this watch on regular runs, cycles, trail rides, swims and hikes… and even on surfs, kayaks and a few multi day hikes/rides. The power of this watch is realised in the specific choice of each activity, with the stats presented on the watch face changing accordingly to reflect those most suitable to the activity. This list of activities is endless (over 80 sport modes, to be precise) and for activities not in the initial list, you can even customise and create your own using the App. By using the watch in conjunction with the Suunto App (discussed below), one can gain the full workout experience of the Suunto 5 through the sports profiles to maximise the functionality of the watch during and post activity.

Settings on the Suunto 5

Examples of sport modes available on the Suunto 5 GPS Sports Watch

I probably used this watch the most on my regular runs. During the exercise, my lap times, average pace times, total times, distances and heart rates were presented on the face – offering the ability to get the most critical, real time information during my run, which helped me achieve my goals. Suunto 5 also allows you to set the ‘level’ of the workout (easy, hard, etc) – and will even set off a little ‘speed up’ notification if it catches you slacking (which I will admit, I did get once or twice!) One small nuisance I have found with the Suunto 5 is how long it takes to calibrate before starting a training session. I believe for me personally this often boils down to the watch trying to pin point my GPS location, and this is understandable. Considering the accuracy of the data (e.g. tracking my surfing, off trail hiking, and mountain bike riding to a tee – that was impressive!), I am happy to wait for this to calibrate. It has only really been apparent when I am training with another person with a different watch or tracking device and theirs has calibrated quicker (note: their devices have not been as sophisticated or as feature-dense as mine). During the activities, the watch face was responsive and easy to use. So, even if you’re not into analytics as an engineer like myself, it’s very easy to read on the go, the information is intuitive and it’s very user-friendly. Also, the watch face has a high readability even in direct sunlight – something that you take for granted until you are out under the Queensland sun and want to see it all with just a quick glance.

Suunto 5 on wrist showing the exercise mode selection

Exercise Mode Selection, hiking in Honduras

Training Guidance

Looking beyond the basic goal-oriented workouts (those built on distances, durations, speed, pace, etc), the Suunto 5 has this nifty capability called Adaptive Training Guidance. These essentially give those who don’t have complex training plans the option for the watch to develop a personalised training schedule based on three levels of progression: maintain, improve or boost. That’s right, your watch has the capacity to generate workouts for you based on your performance. Pretty intelligent, huh? These are used to guide you towards achieving your activity objectives – something I have never experienced before from a watch. This is awesome for those of us working towards smashing out our next run, ride, or fitness goals to improve our outdoor adventure abilities.

Stats and Insights

The real power of the stats (and lots of fun for any other nerds out there!) is found when you review your activities in the Suunto App. You can easily view the training course, with estimated VO2Max, estimated recovery period, total ascent/descent metres and times, cadence, average and max speeds and EPOC information associated with the activity. The app will also conveniently compare this data with your previous times on that route to let you know how you have performed. This comparison is a great way of measuring your performance between workouts and to track your improvement. The recording of all this information allowed me to understand my training performance at a deeper level and enabled me to make changes to get the most from my sessions. This capability of the watch really proved its worth!

Screen shots of the Suunto app

Shots from the Suunto App from a quick morning jog

Following this discussion of the training modes and analysis capacity of the Suunto 5, let me touch a few of the other key aspects that have shaped my Suunto experience thus far.

Battery Life

One of the biggest concerns with any training watch is the battery life. As with any tech, really! The performance of the watch in this respect is really impressive. Battery function for my regular activity was four days (several activities over the course of the battery life using the GPS and heart rate monitor functions). I went further and tested its performance across a few multi day adventures, where I was using the training function of upwards of 9-10 hours per day, and over the trip it did not run out of juice. A huge win for the Suunto 5’s reliability in my books. It’s obvious that the team over at Suunto have been working very diligently to ensure that battery life is a strong suit of the 5 model. Before commencing your training, you have the ability to prolong your battery life by switching off the GPS and heart rate functions (Performance and Endurance modes), a great option if you wish to adventure further with the confidence that you’ll have the battery life to keep up. Charge up time is also surprisingly fast – in roughly just over an hour, it is fully charged for your next round of activities. You also get a helpful alert when the battery is low to remind you to recharge your device which is great for those of us with busy lives who might easily forget.

Design

In addition to its battery capacity, physically, the Suunto 5 does not fall short of delivering the goods. As a regular wearer of watches, I was curious to see how bulky or heavy a training watch with these functions might be. It has proven to be professional enough to wear during my corporate 9-5, comfortable enough for my every day and robust enough to be the perfect training companion.

Suunto 5 being worn with business attire

Perfect All-Rounder…

Suunto five being worn in an office environment

From the office to trails…

The face itself has some great customisable features – you can choose to have the date, sunrise and sunset times, activity counts, and different time-zones all displayed on your wrist. This was wildly advantageous for me to have this at-a-glance information as I have family living overseas and often travel between time zones for work. Saved me plenty of times doing complicated hour calculations (cheers, Canadian time zone change) trying to make sure I wasn’t going to wake family when I called. Furthermore, when in adventuring throughout Australia or overseas I am commonly known to be running (usually late) to catch the sunrise or the sunset, so having this feature at the ready really upped my adventures knowing exactly how to time the best way to start or end a day.

The Suunto 5 GPS smart watch being worn by a mountainbiker

The Suunto 5 put to the test on my mountain bike

Durability

After having it on my wrist for some time now, the thickness of the face is unbelievably slender. The mineral glass face, set in its glass fibre reinforced polycarbonate housing is not bulky at all. The silicon band is practical and comfortable, although at times a bit tough to undo. That said, I have never thought about this watch coming off during activity and as such a band like this is necessary. For example, when I am surfing I have the confidence that even in the surf, I would never come head above water to find an empty wrist. In reference to its durability, during the months wearing this I am yet to see any scratches or damage…a good indicator of its heartiness in my opinion. Keep in mind I have taken it surfing, travelling, and mountain biking. When I take a tumble I have often looked up to see if any scratches appeared, but so far, so good!

 

Shots of the front and back view of the Suunto 5

The Front and Back of Suunto 5 for size

Sleep Tracking

In addition to the training functions, the Suunto 5 has a number of other key features that I have enjoyed incorporating into my everyday life and training. The sleep quality tracking follows your rest every night, measuring the time spent asleep, sleep quality, average heart rate, time awake and time in deep sleep. Sleep is a critical component of our recovery, and critical to both our performance and our health. The Suunto 5 also has the capacity to measure your stress level. This is one aspect of the watch I found to be inaccurate, as I constantly am “stressed” according to the Suunto 5 – even when on the beaches of El Salvador with a beer in hand watching the (well timed!) sunset. It is to note, I have not explored this function too much further, so I am keen to do some digging to see if I can get a more accurate personalised reading. Having never had access to this information before, from the data gathered I have been able to make some material changes to my lifestyle: finding ways to have better deep sleeps, relax when things might be building up, and get the right amount of sleep and relaxation for my daily pursuits.

Screen shots of the Suunto app showing sleep tracking

Sleep stats from the App – Great insight into my sleeping habits

Smartphone Connectivity

A really impressive function of this watch is the connectivity you can have with your smart phone. Suunto has the main app: Suunto, which is the app the Suunto 5 connects to (it does not connect with the Suunto Movescount app). Within the Suunto app you can sync and manage your stats, track the routes, manage your steps and calories, and of course share & compare your performance with friends, to name a few. It is great to connect with your friends after a hike to share the stats including average times, distances and elevations!

The Suunto 5 can also connect to your smartphone to provide you notifications when you are being contacted. Personally, this was a bit too much for me as I am someone who likes to put devices away when exercising and resting. However, for people with fast paced circumstances in which they do not want to miss a beat, this would be an awesome feature to ensure you never miss a call, text, or alert.

Fortunately, Suunto have nailed the syncing technology and I am yet to have any difficulties with getting the two devices to connect. That said, I have not tried to pair this with any external heart rate monitors or external sensors. Within the app you slowly build your diary, giving you insight into your performance across different activities and time periods. I have somehow spent hours in the app geeking over the information – something I hope to get over soon as I am falling behind on chores and life admin!

One thing the Suunto 5 does not have compared to some other training watches on the market is the ability to change routes, for example, among other things on the watch itself. You must have access to the app to create routes. This did not bother me at all, however, I can appreciate if you wanted this function on your wrist it may be different. I do think though for this kind of capability you have to be flexible on size and price, and considering the popularity of smartphones I no longer see this as a critical function.

So, the final verdict from a humble lover of the outdoors and regular trainer: The Suunto 5 is a high-performance time piece, training buddy, travel comrade, sleep doctor and all-round great adventure mate. It is the perfect answer to the everyday training watch that has the capability to provide some the serious information you need to further your training. The sleek design, durability, and impressive battery life make it the ultimate multi-purpose watch you never need to sub out, whether you’re getting your daily work done or crushing your outdoor adventure goals.

For anyone keen to improve and learn more about their training and recovering profiles, the Suunto 5 can assist in furthering the quality of your workouts and achieving those training goals.

 

Have you tried the Suunto 5? Let us know you thoughts below.

#ExperienceIsEverything | #PaddyPallin 

 

Suunto 5 Watch Review
Durability100%
Value For Money95%
Ease of Use90%
Comfort85%
Features100%
94%Overall Score

About The Author

admin

Some 80 years ago, a young bushwalker's dissatisfaction with the limited and heavy bushwalking equipment available prompted him to design and make his own. Before long, word spread, and Paddy Pallin's lightweight, functional designs were soon in demand among fellow bushwalkers. From its early days the company has concentrated on supplying bushwalkers, travellers and adventurers with the highest quality and most advanced products and knowledge. Since 1930 the company has grown to become Australia's leading supplier of specialist outdoor and travel gear. The company, still owned by the Pallin family, now has thirteen stores throughout Australia as well as online, mail order and corporate sales divisions. We are using our vast wealth of knowledge, and experience, to build an online community where we can share our stories, reviews and tech tips to help you research and plan your next adventure.

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