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Reviews > Electronic Devices > Watches > Freestyle Nomad Watch > Test Report by Edwin L. Morse

FREESTYLE NOMAD WATCH
TEST SERIES BY EDWIN MORSE
LONG-TERM REPORT
March 07, 2009

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Edwin Morse
EMAIL: ed dot morse at charter dot net
AGE: 71
LOCATION: Grawn, Michigan USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 145 lb (65.80 kg)

I started backpacking in 1979 with two weeks in northern Michigan along the Lake Superior shore. My gear was cheap, heavy and sometimes painful. My starting pack weight was 70 lbs (32 kg) with food but no water. Since that first time I have made one and two week trips in Michigan, Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Late last summer I did a 2 week hike on Isle Royale. My starting pack weight was 32 lbs (14.5 kg), including 10 days of food and 3 qt (2.8 l) of water. I am slowly learning what lighter gear works for me.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Freestyle
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.freestyleusa.com
MSRP: US$160.00
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 2.5 oz (71 g)

Other details: The watch is big, measuring 2 inches by 2.3 inches (51 mm by 58 mm) outside dimensions.

There are three color choices; Black/Yellow with a gray band, Black/silver with a black band and white with a white band.
I selected the Black/Silver with the black band.

Around the outside of the watch face and inside the crystal are eight compass designations; 360, 030, 090, 150, 180, 210, 270 and 330.

On the same, almost vertical surface, are the designations for the mode or function buttons. SPLIT/START under the S1 button, RESET/STOP under the S2 Button, MODE under the S3 button and ADJUST under the S4 button. The placement of these designations prevented the correct placement of the more usual 45, 135, 225 and 315 that I expected.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The watch came buckled to a standard plastic display case in a strongly made cardboard Freestyle box. My first impression was "good grief, it's a big watch!".
watch box
watch box
watch out of box
watch out of box

This is going to be a long and rewarding learning experience. The watch looks even bigger on my undersized wrist. I have never used a watch with all the functions available on the Nomad.
on my wrist
on my wrist
A row of dots on the outside of the watch face count down the seconds. On odd minutes the dots appear adding one at each second, starting at the 12 o'clock position. On even minutes the dots disappear in the same order.
watch side view
watch side view


In the Time mode the day of the week is at the top of the watch face, below this is the time of day in hour, minutes and seconds( in very large numbers), Below the time is a row of small rectangles. An abbreviated form of the function appears in the appropriate rectangle, that is TM in the first space, if I change to compass mode COM appears in the second space, if I select Altimeter mode ALT appears in the third space, in Barometer mode BAR appears in the fourth space, in chronograph mode CH appears in the fifth space, when I change to timer mode TMR appears in the sixth space, timer mode AL appears in the seventh space and when changing to temperature mode TMP appears in the eighth and last rectangular space.

The watch appears to be made of a combination of metal and plastic. The watch band that came on the watch is a polyurethane material. I've had leather and nylon bands fall apart from getting sweat soaked too many times. I don't expect the polyurethane to deteriorate from getting sweaty.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The instruction sheet measuring 8.25 in (210 mm) by 10.75 (273 mm) in was folded inside a small compartment in the bottom of the plastic display case.
instructions under watch
instructions under watch

There are eight display modes; TIME, COMPASS (COMP), ALTIMETER (ALT), BAROMETER (BARO), CHRONOGRAPH (CHRO), TIMER, ALARM and TEMPERATURE (TEMP).
There are four control buttons which are used to choose the different display modes. In the third image, with the watch on my wrist, these are the black rectangles on the four quadrants of the watch. Starting in the upper right these are; S1 - Start/split Button, S2 - Stop/reset Button, S3 - Mode Button and S4 - Light/adjust Button. I will have the watch set in time mode most of the time so pressing the S3 button once gets me to the compass mode, a second time to the Altimeter mode, a third time to the barometer, a fourth press of the S3 button changes to the chronograph mode (which I think of as the lap timer), a fifth time changes the display to the timer (I think of this as the countdown timer), a sixth time changes to the alarm mode, the seventh time to the temperature display and the eighth back to the time and date display.

There was a second sheet the same size folded in with the instruction sheet. This second sheet provides information about the limited life time warranty. There are also instructions, prices and a form to purchase parts if the watch is no longer under warranty


TRYING IT OUT

When I got the small package inside I immediately cut open the shipping box and pulled out the smaller Freestyle box. It took just a minute to get this box open to find the watch. The clear plastic oval on which the watch band was buckled was easy to remove to I could get the watch off. The letter that was in the shipping box told me that the "Directions for the Nomad are enclosed in the trap door of the watch's casing." At first I thought this meant the casing of the watch until I saw the note on the front bottom of what I think of as the display case; "Care and instructions inside". It took me almost as long to get the instruction and warranty sheets out as it did to get the watch out of the shipping box. The instructions to set the time were easy to follow and easy to do.

The most complicated watch I've had before was a runner's watch with the chronograph that gave me elapsed times and lap times as well as time and date. Eight different functions is a big step up. So far, I've learned to set the time, which was very easy. I push and hold the S4 button until I see the message "SET-TIME".When I press the S3 button once the hour digits start to blink. Pressing the S1/S2 button changes the hour. Then pressing the S3 button displays the blinking minute. Again, pressing the S1 or S2 button will change the minute. The same precess is followed to set or change the second, day, date and hour format. There are at least three button pushes for each item (hour, minute, second, day, date, and hour format) that is to be changes. The watch was correctly set for west coast time when it arrived so all I had to do was change the hour.

I've also calibrated the compass. To calibrate the compass I used the S3 button to go to compass mode. Then I pushed and held the S4 button for about 4 seconds until the message "CALIB" was displayed. I pressed the S3 button to start the calibration. The watch soon displayed the message "2-TURN" With the watch on my wrist and held level I turned in a complete circle. It should have displayed the message "1-TURN" but nothing happened. I took the watch off and started again. When I got to the message "2-TURN" I rotated the watch in a counter clock wise direction while keeping the watch horizontal on just rotating it in place. When I had it back to the original direction it soon displayed the message "1-TURN" and I rotated the watch in place one 1 turn counter clock wise. Soon the message "DONE" was displayed and the mode shifted back to compass mode.
The compass is at least as accurate as the other compasses I frequently carry for hiking. I can check the temperature but I still have to learn to set it correctly. Now I'm working on learning all the other functions. I think I will be carrying the instruction sheet with me for some time. If I counted correctly there are only 3 buttons to be pushed to calibrate the compass and return to compass mode.

I had been wondering about how to tell with a watch face for a compass what direction I'm traveling. If I hold the watch in front of me the numbers and letters do indicate my direction of travel (or the direction the 12 o'clock point on the watch is facing). When I tried to use the compass while driving in town the numbers were way off, perhaps reversed. This was probably caused by all the electronics in the vehicle. I will experiment more with this idea.

I've found answers to some of my questions for this test. It is very easy to move from one mode or function to another. The compass is easy to calibrate, but I have not had a chance to test the accuracy while hiking, with one degree readings the precision is better than most hiking compasses. The "electroluminescent backlight" and the large size of the watch face and numbers make the watch easy for my aging eyes to read the time at night.

SUMMARY

The Freestyle Nomad watch is going to be a very interesting piece of gear to test. When I learn how to use all the functions it can replace two other pieces of gear and give me another way to play while I'm hiking. Most of my backpacking has been in the relatively flat state of Michigan so I haven't felt much need for an altimeter. I will to a little attitude adjustment and see what I can learn about elevation changes. I will be doing some research to learn how to get the most I can from both the barometer and altimeter.

There are always good and bad things or positive and negatives about any piece of gear. What those are will often vary with each different person's point of view.

On the negative side; the watch is big - this time of year I wear a jacket and gloves when I go outside. Getting both the jacket sleeve and glove over the watch adds to the 'hassle factor.

On the positive side of the ledger; the polyurethane band is comfortable and easily tightens down to my smaller wrist size, perhaps the size is not a total negative since I can easily read the time at night with the backlight.

This concludes my Initial Report.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

The weather has varied from cool to fairly cold for most of my hikes during the last two months. The high temperature while I was hiking was 70 F (21 C) one sunny afternoon, while the low temperature was 16 F (-9 C) when I was snowshoeing one morning. There have been a few rainy days, a few bright sunny days and a few weeks of snow. Mostly the terrain has been rolling hard wood and pine forests.

I've been on at least ten day hikes while carrying the Freestyle Nomad watch. Day hikes were in the MNF, the Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Pere Marquette State Forest. I've carried the Freestyle Nomad watch for all hikes I've done in the last two months.

I've also done two over-night hikes. The first of the backpacking hikes was in the Manistee National Forest (MNF) in northwest Lower Michigan. The second overnight was in the Ocala National Forest (ONF) in Florida. The weather was cooler than I expected in Florida but not much different than late summer in Michigan. The high temperature for this hike the first two days of December was 64 F (18 C) with a low in the morning of 38 F (3 C). Michigan is relatively flat compared with New England or the western states but Florida is really flat.



PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I've been carrying a combination compass and digital thermometer clipped to a pack strap since shortly after I started gear testing. I still carried this combination, as well as a standard compass for most of the day hikes and the first of the two over-nights while testing the Freestyle Nomad watch. I carry the Freestyle Nomad watch buckled on a pack strap or on a loop on a fanny pack while on a day hike or backpacking. When not wearing a pack I always have the watch buckled on my wrist. The Freestyle Nomad watch is bigger and heavier than any watch I've used, which has caused a bit of a problem when I'm not hiking. The big watch case pushes against the bony protrusion on my skinny wrist. At first it made a sore spot, now the spot is just red and feels more like a callus.

I compared the thermometer of the Freestyle Nomad watch with the digital thermometer I've been carrying as well as three thermometers we keep in the house and two I have set up outside. The Freestyle Nomad watch thermometer was very close to the same as everything with which I compared it as long as I laid it on the same surface or attached to a pack strap. If I have the watch buckled on my wrist it shows a temperature obviously not correct. The only real negative I can see about the Freestyle Nomad watch thermometer function is that it is much slower to adjust to temperature changes than my other digital thermometer. Just to check how long it did take, I had the watch lying on my desk and it showed a temperature of 70 F (21 C). I then buckled the watch on my wrist, with my sleeve pushed up, at 12:42 at about 1:02 it showed a temperature of 79 F (26 C). This was a much longer time than I expected. Here is are pictures of the functions I find useful.
time mode
Nomad time mode
compass mode
Nomad compass mode




altimeter mode
Nomad altimeter mode


barometer mode
Nomad barometer mode



chronometer mode
Nomad chronometer mode
thermometer mode
Nomad thermometer mode



There are two other modes that I don't (or can't) use. I don't use the timer mode because I prefer the chronograph and find the timer redundant. I can't use the alarm mode because I just can't hear it unless the watch is very close to my ear. The alarm mode has five settings, one of which is altitude or I've somehow set it to altitude. The four time alarms are easy to set but useless to me. I can hear the alarm across the room if I'm wearing hearing aids but I don't sleep with them.

I mostly keep the watch set on the time mode except when I'm hiking. One push on the MODE button changes to the compass mode, the second push changes to the altitude mode, a fourth time changes to the barometer mode, a fifth push changes to the chronograph mode, the sixth changes to the timer mode, the seventh changes to the alarm mode, the eighth push on the MODE button changes to the temperature mode. One more push returns to the time mode.

I also compared the compass function of the Freestyle Nomad watch with three other compasses I frequently use. The Freestyle Nomad watch always closely matched the standard hiking compasses. I learned to trust the Nomad for both temperatures and bearings. I have not yet learned to set the declination or to set a "mark angle" of the Nomad compass function. While I was on one night hike I walked about 200 ft (61 m) off the trail to check out a light source. I was carrying both the combination compass/digital thermometer and the Freestyle Nomad watch. When I started to return to the trail Nomad gave me a different direction than the combination compass. I followed the Nomad compass direction and got back to the point I had left the trail. Now that I have gained some confidence in the Freestyle Nomad watch thermometer and compass features I no longer carry my previous watch or the combination compass/digital thermometer. I will still carry a backup hikers compass when I will be bushwhacking in an unfamiliar or difficult area.

It is very easy to calibrate the compass after I finally learned how to do so. I have to take the watch off and hold it level in my hand. I just press and hold the "adjust" button for about 4 seconds, then when it blinks the word calib, I follow the directions; "2 turn" is 2 turns slowly to the right, when this is done the directions change to "one turn" and I slowly turn it one more revolution while holding it level. Quite soon it states "done" and changes back to the compass function. It has gotten so easy for me to calibrate the compass that I do so at the start of each hike.

I have never previously used an altimeter and I had some trouble even following the directions at first. I had set it first for sea level. While I was hiking in the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore along Lake Michigan I "knew" the elevation should be about 600 ft (183 m). The Freestyle Nomad watch altimeter function showed elevations of 550 ft (158 m) and 640 ft (195 m) along the shoreline.

My second overnight hike was in the ONF in early December. I started hiking at Juniper Springs and stopped for lunch at Hidden Pond. There are several rather secluded campsites in this area. I talked with another backpacker who was camped in the area. He seemed very knowledgeable about the general area so I asked about the elevation and explained that I was testing several gear items. The elevation shown on the Freestyle watch was within 10 ft (3 m) of what he thought the elevation should be. This was with the altimeter calibrated to "sea level", which in Florida is always close.

I used a hammock for the first time while backpacking in the Ocala NF. During the night I buckled the Freestyle Nomad watch to the spreader bar at the end of the hammock. I set the watch to the Temperature mode. When I woke up (first for the rain and wind storm then later for a nature call) I could press the ADJUST button for the backlight and read both temperature and time. This is the first watch I've had in over 20 years that I could actually read the numbers with just the backlight. This is probably due to both the size of the watch and the brightness of the light. The backlight stays on for about 4 seconds which seems to be enough for me to read the time and temperature. I have always kept a small light handy to check the time and temperature at night. My aging eyes just can't read small numbers in dim light. Even with all the advantages (pump, tables, fire pits and outhouses), I decided again that I prefer not to camp in established campgrounds.

We flew to Arizona for Christmas with three granddaughters. I had used the temp and compass modes while walking around the Phoenix Zoo. While flying back to Michigan I remembered the altimeter mode and watched the changing altitude as we descended from about 25000 feet (7620 m) down to about 1100 feet (335 m) on the runway in Detroit. I doubt if the actual numbers were accurate both because the watch altimeter had not been calibrated at all in over two weeks and I was inside a pressurized aircraft. I also remember from helping survey that part of the airport that the elevation of the ground was closer to 700 ft (213 m). I would guess the differences in altitude were close to correct.

I finally learned to calibrate the altimeter to a known elevation. After our New Years company left I printed descriptions of several nearby National Geodetic Survey (NGS) bench marks. I went to the one easiest to locate with over 2 feet (0.6 M) of snow on the ground and calibrated the Nomad altimeter. Then I drove 20 miles (32 km) west to the Sleeping Bear Dunes along Lake Michigan. I had intended to use snowshoes but, as is often the situation, there was very little snow along the lake and nearby dunes. I walked down to the shoreline and recorded an elevation of 531 ft (162 m). I had "known" for a long time that the elevation of Lake Michigan is about 600 ft (183 m). I hiked up the nearest dune and read an elevation of 603 ft (184 m), which looked reasonable. I continued to hike up and over dunes for another 4 miles (6 km) until it started to get dark. After I got home I got out a topo map and checked the nearest contour to the water edge to be 580 ft (177 m).

I've been on several snowshoe hikes since we got home. Here is a picture that shows how I carry the Nomad watch when hiking.
this is where I carry the Nomad watch
the watch while I'm hiking

I can see here the temperature was 24 F (-4 C) when this picture was taken.
Here is the same picture at longer range.
snowshoe hike
winter water wonderland

This Winter Water Wonderland is why I like the north country in the winter. I carry the watch set on the temperature mode when hiking. The temperature is in big numbers in the center and the time is displayed in smaller numbers at the bottom. If I need the compass it takes two pushes on the MODE button and the bearing is displayed. If I lift the watch so I can read the numbers it is in position to show my correct heading. When hiking in cold weather I wear OR Snowline mittens over OR Stormtracker gloves. When I need to change watch modes I pull off a mitten and the gloves are flexible enough I can leave them on to push all the buttons.

SUMMARY

This summary completed January 14, 2009

It is interesting and challenging to be testing the Freestyle Nomad watch. Since Michigan is relatively flat compared with western states or New England states I've never been concerned with elevations or altimeters when hiking. While the Freestyle Nomad watch is bigger and heavier than any watch I've previously used, it is lighter and less bulk than the separate watch, compass and thermometer I had been carrying. It is also convenient when hiking in cooler weather not to push up my jacket sleeve to check the time. All my information and navigation tools are on my pack strap. I am learning to watch the barometer for indications of weather changes.
Likes;
all the different functions are fun to learn,
the functions I've learned to use are mostly useful,
information I need while hiking is all in one place,
the watch is easy for me to read at night.

Dislikes;
the watch is heavy and bulky to wear,
the watch has first made a sore and then a callus on my wrist,
not a big thing but it does take some time for the thermometer mode to adjust to temperature changes,
I will be carrying the directions for some time both for learning and for reference,
when the Nomad finally quits working someday I will have to buy another one or something similar.

This concludes my Field Report on the Freestyle Nomad watch.




LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Most of my use of the Freestyle Nomad watch has been in northwest Lower Michigan. We've had good snow cover from about 6 inches (15 cm) in areas of strong wind to well over 30 inches (76 cm) in some more protected areas. This has made for some good skiing and snowshoeing. The weather near home has varied from cold to very cold with temperatures of 22 F (-6 C) down to -4 F (-20 C). The day the temperature dropped so much I was snowshoeing along a high ridge and the snow was coming more sideways than down. We have had some sunny days and at least as many days when it was cloudy or snowing hard. Now we are getting close to spring and warmer temperatures. The last two times I was out it got up to 38 F (3 C).

The terrain where I was skiing and snowshoeing was rolling to steep dunes mostly covered with oak and pine trees. I was out skiing 6 times and snowshoeing at least 10 times. These day trips were either in the Manistee National Forest or the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. I've also found a system of hilly trails on the west side of Traverse City, Michigan that get very heavy use.

I also did a five nights and five day backpacking trip through the Ocala National Forest in central Florida. The terrain in the Ocala National Forest is what I consider flat with a few dips and a few small hills. The vegetation seems to be mostly short, thinly spread sand scrub pine and red oak. There are areas of long leaf pine and live oak both the latter often include heavy understory of brush and palmetto. I just happened to pick the coldest spell Florida has had in six years. The first three mornings the low temperature was 22 F (-6 C), 22 F (-6 C), and 29 F (-2 C). Then it started to warm up and the low temperature the last two mornings were 39 F (4 C) and 43 F (6 C). The high temperatures were 62 F (17 C), 68 F (20 C), 72 F (22 C), 72 F (22 C) and 74 F (23 C) while I was hiking.

During the test period I've worn the watch on my wrist constantly except when skiing, snowshoeing or backpacking (the fun stuff). When I hike, ski or snowshoe I buckle the watch to a loop on my belt pack. When I'm back packing I buckle the watch on a pack strap or the map pocket zipper.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I will briefly describe a few outings

January 22, 2009
This trip was to a very hilly area on the west side of Traverse City, Michigan. It was also one of four day "hikes" when the temperature was too low for the watch thermometer to work. Since the watch thermometer wouldn't work I switched to the altimeter mode. The elevation, according to the Nomad watch, was 540 ft (165 m) where I parked. I thought this was relatively (within 100 ft (30 m)) close to the true elevation since the location is only a little above Grand Traverse Bay. When I got to the top of the first hill the Nomad showed an elevation of 755 (230 m). I continued on uphill, mostly making my own path. I got up to an elevation of 835 (255 m) on the next hill. There were hills around that looked higher but I was getting tired. I finally used the GPS to get a direct course back to the Jeep. I calibrated the Nomad compass then I got out the compass I've carried for years for comparison. Then I followed the bearing back to the trail head using the Nomad watch. I was out 'hiking' a combination of skiing, walking and snowshoeing for a total of 4 hours, according to the Nomad chronograph.

January 25, 2009
This was a group snowshoe hike in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The temperature was 12 F (-11 C) when we started. The Nomad watch would not register a temperature since it was colder than the low range of the watch. This was the fourth time I had been out using the Nomad watch and the temperature was below the lower limit of the watch. After we finished the first hike, it was decided to go to Pyramid Point, another trail in Sleeping Bear Dunes, for more snowshoeing. The temperature was 14 F (-10 C) when we started hiking but the Nomad watch soon quit showing the temperature. We got to a high bluff over the Lake with a great view of North Manitou Island.
Sleeping Bear Dunes hike
Sleeping Bear Dunes hike

I took a few pictures at this location. According to the Nomad watch and group agreement that Lake Michigan is about 600 ft (183 m) we were about 400 feet (122 m) above Lake Michigan. I carry the watch buckled on a loop on my belt pack while snowshoeing or skiing, as shown in the above picture. This allows me to read an accurate temperature, easily read the watch and change to different functions.

In early February my wife and I drove from Michigan to Florida so I could backpack through the Ocala National Forest. I found it interesting with the watch set on altimeter mode to watch the elevation change from less than 800 ft (244 m) to over 1400 ft (427 m) and then down to sea level on the drive south.

I had a careful plan worked out for my hike in Florida, planning to walk an average of 12 miles (19 km) each day for six days. My neat plan was ruined the first day since the first place I planned to camp had no reasonable access to water. The campground I had planned on as a backup had been changed to day use only so I got water and walked seven miles (11 km) more than I had planned. I started the chronometer each morning when I started hiking and stopped it when I got to a place to camp. I had hiked 19 miles (31 km) in nine hours the first day, including a break for lunch and to dry the tarp. The Nomad watch gave me the total time from start to finish each day while I recorded the distance from my GPS.

This was the first multi-day trip for me to use a hammock. The JRB hammock uses spreader bars at each end. At night I buckled the Nomad watch on the spreader bar above my head. The following picture on the left was taken at Hidden Pond where I camped the second night. My headlamp (the reflective headband is the bright shiny spot) is hung on the spreader bar. When it started to get dark each night I would buckle the Nomad watch in place of the headlamp. Then I set the watch on temperature mode.This way I could look up and press the "adjust" button and read the temperature and time without turning on a light.
Ocala National Forest, Hidden Pond and l
end of hike

The picture above on the right shows where I carried the Nomad watch while hiking - on the zipper of my map pocket. Since I was mostly hiking north the watch was nearly always in the shade while I was hiking. This let me check the time and temperature just by lifting the watch so I could see the face. If I needed to use the compass I just had to twist the watch so it was oriented to my direction of travel, then press the adjust button twice. The compass is very sensitive to slight changes in direction.

The Freestyle Nomad watch was the only item I carried for watch, thermometer and compass. I checked the barometer each morning and night and the pressure stayed high and the sky stayed clear and cloudless. This is a new application for me, a tool that gives me an indication of what the weather might do.

March 3, 2009
I stopped at a bench mark in Interlochen, Michigan and calibrated the altimeter function of the Freestyle Nomad watch to the published elevation. Then I drove to the trail head in the Commons area on the west side of Traverse City, Michigan. This is a very hilly area with several marked trails, only one of which is relatively level. The trails were wide and packed hard from constant use. My purpose was to get exercise and to get a more precise check on elevation differences. The temperature was 25 F (-5 C) when I left the Jeep and got up to 29 F (-2 C) by the time I got to the highest hill. The elevation, according to the Nomad watch, was 644 ft (196 m) where I parked. When I got to the top of the first good hill the Nomad showed an elevation of 715 feet (218 m). I continued on uphill, mostly making my own path. I got up to an elevation of 835 ft (255 m) on the next hill. There is a Department of Natural Resources radio relay tower on what appears to be the highest hill. The elevation near the tower is 995 ft (303 m). I hiked down and up several more hills just to make my legs work to prepare for spring hikes. I was out hiking for a total of just over 4 miles (6 km) in 3 hours. I used three functions of the watch while I was hiking; the altimeter for elevations, the thermometer to read the temperature, and the chronograph so I would know how long I was out hiking.

I've become comfortable using all eight modes of the Freestyle Nomad watch. Now that I've learned to use the different functions I think the performance is great considering the limitations of the different features. I've learned that both the compass and the altimeter must be calibrated frequently. If not calibrated the altimeter may give an elevation that is wrong by over 100 ft (30 m). I have not found a good way to calibrate the altimeter on a long hike. I usually calibrate the compass each morning when hiking. When calibrated frequently the compass matches the other three compasses I frequently carry. The Nomad watch is the only digital compass I've used as well as the only one that shows azimuths in single degrees. I prefer to calibrate the altimeter to a known elevation. I believe from my experiments that this is much more accurate than calibrating to sea level. There are 3 published USGS bench marks I've found within three miles (5 km) of my home that I use often to calibrate the watch altimeter. When I was in Florida I calibrated the altimeter to sea level the first morning when I started hiking. Two days later I checked the elevation where I was camped at Hidden Pond and discovered I was 146 feet (44 m) below sea level. Florida is low but I was on dry land. I don't think much of Florida dry land is below sea level. This obvious discrepancy might have been at least a little due to the high barometric pressure each day but I think more likely the altimeter needs frequent calibration.

While I'm sitting at my computer working on this report the altimeter shows an elevation of 643 ft (196 m). It has been four days since I calibrated the altimeter. I know from several experiments with both the Nomad watch and my GPS that the actual elevation is much closer to 875 ft (276 m). The barometer is showing a very low pressure. It has been raining all day and the weather report indicates rain changing to snow tonight.

I've also found that thermometer has both Fahrenheit and Celsius readings and is easily switched between the two scales. I first discovered this while hiking and I thought the Celsius reading was very wrong. I had accidentally pressed the number one (start) button. I thought at first that the 38 F converted to 33 C when I pressed the start button. I knew this wasn't right. Fortunately, I was wearing glasses with variable focus (bifocals). When I looked more carefully I could see the small decimal and then the 33 C became 3.3 C.

I think having both chronograph and timer functions is somewhat redundant. I used the timer for indoor exercises with a rowing machine and another machine that simulates walking or running. I set the timer on 10 minutes and started exercising. It counted down to zero then back up. If there is some kind of alarm or signal I did not hear the noise. There are probably ways to set the timer that I haven't discovered yet.

I frequently use the chronograph for several activities, not all related to backpacking. I time how long I hike both for day hikes and backpacking. I also use it to time how long my dinner rehydrates when backpacking. I use the chronograph for several activities at home. I use it to time indoor exercises when it is raining or sleeting outside. I use it for cooking times and for checking dehydrating times. I have often used the chronograph for timing 2 different activities at the same time.

The second function I've used very little is the alarm. First, I always wake up in the morning when (or earlier than) I want. Second, I can't hear the alarm unless I'm wearing my hearing aids. The first time I tried the alarm my wife woke me up to shut it off and I had the watch on my wrist. The second time I used it when dehydrating soup. My wife was watching TV while I was in the kitchen. She had to tell me the alarm was ringing.

If I move quickly through the modes and miss the one I want I have to continue on until I get back to the mode I wanted. It can be a little irritating when I get in a hurry and cycle past the mode I want more than once.

SUMMARY

The Freestyle Nomad watch was a very challenging test for me at the beginning. Very slowly I've learned to use all the functions, even though there are two I choose not to use. There are probably still a few things I will learn as I continue to use the watch. Overall, I now consider the Nomad watch a very useful tool. That brings me to the only sour note. If (or when) it quits functioning I will have to get it fixed or replaced, since I've come to value and depend on many functions of the watch.

Good thoughts:
* Most of the functions are useful to me
* Since I've learned to use the barometer I use it daily
* One of the most used items of multiuse gear I have
* Easy to switch from one mode to another
* It is easy for me to read the big numbers
* The Nomad watch has replaced three items with one item and added functions I didn't have



Bad thoughts:
* The Freestyle Nomad watch is big
* If I'm moving quickly through the modes and miss the one I want I have to keep pushing the mode button until it goes clear around
* I like it too much - when it quits I will have to get another one

This concludes my Long Term Report on the Freestyle Nomad watch.

I would like to thank Backpackgeartesters and Freestyle for the opportunity to test the Freestyle Nomad watch.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of Freestyle gear
Read more gear reviews by Edwin L. Morse

Reviews > Electronic Devices > Watches > Freestyle Nomad Watch > Test Report by Edwin L. Morse



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