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Reviews > Electronic Devices > Watches > HighGear Axio Max Mulitfunction Watch > Test Report by Larry Kirschner

Highgear Axio Max Watch


Highgear Axio Max Steel watch
(Image courtesy of Highgear)

INITIAL REPORT - June 30, 2010
FIELD REPORT - September 13, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - November 9, 2010


NAME: Larry Kirschner
EMAIL: asklarry98 at hotmail dot com
AGE: 46
LOCATION: Columbus, Ohio
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 205 lb (92 kg)

I've been an intermittent camper/paddler since my teens, but now that my kids are avid Boy Scouts, I've caught the backpacking bug. I typically do 8-10 weekend hikes per year, and have spent time over the past few years backpacking the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico and canoeing the Atikaki wilderness of Canada and the Boundary Waters between the US and Canada. I like to travel "in comfort", but I've shrunk to medium weight, and continue to work toward going lighter and longer. With all of my investment into these ventures, I expect my wife and I will continue to trek long after the kids are gone…

June 30, 2010


Manufacturer: Highgear USA, Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Manufacturer's Website:
Model Tested: Axio Max Steel
MSRP: USD $210.00
Listed Weight: 71 g (2.5 oz)
Measured weight: 106.5 g (3.76 oz)

Dimensions (listed and confirmed by measurement):
   Case Diameter: 46 mm (1.81 in)
   Depth 15.8 mm (0.62 in)
   Visible LCD 26 mm (1.02 in)

Axio Max size comparison

Color: Black band/Steel casing/LCD face
Other model: Axio Max Black (Black band/Black nylon casing/LCD face, MSRP USD $150)


The Highgear Axio Max Steel watch is part of the Axio line of Highgear products, which are aimed "for consumers looking for a light-weight straight forward altimeter for their outdoor activities". In comparison to the altimeter/barometer functionality of the Axio and the Axio Mini, the Axio Max (or just "the Max") provides the additional functionality of a digital compass.

The Max is an awesome looking timepiece that is awash in features. It has so many features that it actually has 5 buttons, with the spot for the 6th button being the speaker. The buttons are labeled on the bezel as follows (clockwise starting from the upper right): Recall/+, View/-, Mode, Light, and Adjust.

Axio Max buttons

Because I seem to be hard on watches, I am testing the Steel version of the Max, which has a steel watch casing and a mineral glass lens. The fact that I am testing the watch with a steel watch case rather than the standard glass reinforced nylon case may explain why the watch is somewhat heavier than the listed weight. The band is plastic and fully adjustable with a brushed metal clasp that seems quite sturdy.

Axio Max band

It has typical features of a digital watch, including the following features:

  • 2 time zones
  • Automatic calendar
  • Day/month/weekday display
  • 100 hour chronograph
  • 2 daily alarms
  • Countdown timer (although this is called a "rest alarm")
In addition to these standard features, the Max has altimeter, barometer, and compass functions, which I will describe in some more detail.

The altimeter has resolution down to 1 foot or 1 meter, and it can display in either unit. In fact, tapping the "Recall/+" button briefly switches the display from one unit to the other, whereas holding the button makes the change permanent. The altimeter can be calibrated to a known reference using a fairly straightforward procedure. I think this should come in handy, as the watch displayed an elevation of -127 ft (-38 m) when I took it out of the box.(actual elevation 780 ft/ 238 m). I'm not sure I'll ever test its limits, but the altimeter is reported to have a working range from -2303 ft to 30045 ft (-702 m to 9158 m).

Axio Max Altimeter-barometer display

There is also a barometer, which can show either a local or a sea-level barometer. I am not exactly sure what is the difference between these two values, although they are quite close on the watch. As with the altitude, the Max can display results in either Imperial (inches Hg) or in metric (millibar/Hecto-Pascal, whatever that is) units. The barometer is also used to show a 12-hour weather forecast, which runs the gamut from "sunny" through "partly cloudy" and "cloudy" to "rain". The forecast icon is updated automatically every 12 hours, and is displayed on the watchface in time mode or in the altimeter-barometer mode.

As noted above, the Max comes with a digital compass. From a quick look, the compass looks reasonably accurate out of the box, despite the fact that I was using it next to my computer. In any event, the compass setting can be adjusted for magnetic declination, and the procedure for recalibrating the compass seems fairly straightforward. In the photo below, the North end of the compass is indicated with the single bar, whereas the South end is the 3 bars around the end of the watchface. Of note, Highgear recommends recalibrating the watch before taking it out to the backcountry. I will follow this advice and report on how it went in the Field Report.

Axio Max compass

The Max also has interesting alarm features. In addition to 2 daily alarms and a countdown timer, it has 2 altitude alarms, which can be set to notify me when I either reach certain milestones (I might set it at 10,000 feet/3050 m for example) or if I'm getting dangerously high or low. It also has a "hydration alarm", which is just an automatically resetting countdown timer that flashes "drink" on the display when it goes off. It's sort of like having my Mom there all the time on the trail reminding me to drink water before I get dehydrated!

In addition to these features, the Max comes with a Data mode, which stores information from 10 trips, including starting altitude, maximum altitude and total exercise time.

An additional feature of the Max is water resistance. It is rated to 5 atmospheres, equivalent to 164 ft/50 m.


The Max came with a 2 instruction booklets, one containing the instructions in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese, and the other in German, Italian, Dutch, and Swedish. Instructions for all the features are reasonably detailed, and the instructions run 27 pages in each language. Fortunately, most of the features are manipulated in a fairly common sense fashion. For example, the "Mode" button switches between features, the "Adjust" button allows me to adjust the values, and so on.

The instruction book comes with 2 pages of product care cautions, notes, and warnings. One of the warnings cautions against using the watch for snorkeling, which makes me wonder if the 5 atm depth rating has any meaning. Most of the cautions are reasonable, such as recommendations not to wear the watch in soapy water, in a hot tub or in an extremely hot shower or bath. The watch can be rinsed as needed in clean water, but solvents should be avoided.

The booklet also contains instructions for changing the battery, which appears to be a fairly easy procedure using a coin to open the back of the watch.


When I pulled the watch out of its packing, I was struck by how large the watch appears. It is quite a bit larger and heavier than other watches I have worn. However, when I compared it to another watch with an electronic compass, I was surprised to find that the watch casing is just about the same size. When I put in on for the first time, it was easy to tell that the Axio Max was heftier (i.e., weighed more) than my other watches, but this was not unexpected given the features and the steel case.

The watch itself is stylish with a shiny steel casing and black band, which is easily adjustable and fits comfortably. I also like the watch face itself. The light background with dark letters/numbers is highly visible and easy to read. Even the small numbers or letters at the top or bottom of the display are easily read. The light is good, providing a few seconds of illumination to the watchface.

I spent several minutes playing with the buttons, which work well. It was easy for me to adjust the timing and the altimeter to accurately reflect my current elevation. I like the fact that pushing the Recall/+ button changes the display units-very handy for!

I wore the watch around for 2 full days to see how I liked it. To be honest, I did not really notice the extra weight until I took the watch off at night. Of course, when I compared it to my other timepieces, the difference in weight was quite obvious.


I am really looking forward to testing this watch on the trail. It looks great and has a ton of features. I requested and received the steel watchcase because I am hoping for excellent durability, and I will see how it holds up during the test. The other question I will need to answer is if the extra weight of this A/B/C (Altimeter/barometer/compass) watch provides enough functionality to make it worthwhile. Stay tuned for my thoughts on that question

  • Excellent functionality
  • Easy to read display for all features
  • Watch is stylish and fits comfortably
  • Seems rather heavy for a watch--are the extra features worth it?

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September 13, 2010


I have worn the Highgear Axio Max about 30 days during the Field Report phase of the test. In terms of trail use, I wore it on a 2-day trip to the Twin Valley Backpacking Trail in Germantown, Ohio. That was a light hike, covering about 10 miles (16 km) over the 2 days. It was pleasant and sunny, with high temperatures around 82 F (28 C) and an overnight low of 60 F (15.5 C). Elevation was around 1400 ft (430 m), with elevation changes of about 300 ft (100 m).

yup, 1400 feet

I also wore the Axio Max during a 2-week stay at the Boy Scout National Jamboree at Fort AP Hill in Bowling Green, Virginia during the end of July-early August. It was very sunny for most of the week, with temperatures as high as 106 F (41 C) and as low as 65 F (18 C). I also wore the Axio Max during daily bicycle training during most of the rest of August, and on my 100-mile (161 km) charity bike ride at the end of the month. The rest of the use has just been wearing the watch during my normal daily activities


The issue that concerned me most about the Axio Max was whether or not the watch would feel too heavy to be comfortable. After wearing it a lot over the preceding 2 months, I can firmly say this is NOT the case. Although the watch remains notably heavier than other watches when I hold it in my hand, I don't notice it at all when wearing it on my wrist. It is just as comfortable to wear as anything else in my wristwatch repertoire. I will also point out that the watchband is quite comfortable. The fact that it is plastic means it does not absorb sweat or odor to any extent, which is a nice feature for a watch used in athletic activities.

In terms of functionality of the Axio Max, I have to say that I really like this timepiece. It is very easy to read the display, no matter the conditions. In the dark, it is quite easy to find the light button, since it is the middle button on the side with three. The only thing that I found a little distracting was the fact that the first time setting (T1) and the second time setting (T2) are not in any way synchronized. This is true of the date setting, as well as the time. I was somewhat confused when I inadvertently switched to T2 and found that I had lost a few days from my calendar! Anyway, I have manually synchronized everything, so that shouldn't happen again. Plus, if I should ever cross the International Date Line, I should be able to adjust.

The other feature of the time settings is the weather feature, which indicates sunny, cloudy, and so on. I'm not sure how accurate this is, but I do like to follow what the watch is predicting for weather. My sense is that it is a reasonable field surrogate for watching the weather channel.

When I took the Axio Max on the trail, I calibrated the compass before I started hiking. As it turns out, the calibration from the box was accurate, but I felt reassured. Calibrating the compass is a simple procedure that takes about 2 minutes. I didn't have the instructions with me when I was ready to calibrate, but the watch guided me through the procedure with instructions on the display. It worked like a charm.

I have actually used the altimeter settings quite a bit as I was hiking and/or riding. I haven't gotten up much past 1500 feet (457 m), but I will on future hikes. Most of my elevation change has been between 700 and 1500 feet, and the altimeter shows me changes as I hike. I have used it while biking to follow my elevation as I travel up and down hills. I'm not sure it changes as quickly as I ride, but it is pretty close. I also like the fact

I have also used the chronometer and data functions to track my training rides on my bike. I have also used the chronometer to time other events, and I really have liked the ability to track my training as it progressed. Storing and reviewing the data were both quite simple.

One feature that I also like quite a bit is the fact that both the altimeter screen and the chronograph display the time-of-day. Thus, I can use these features without getting disoriented with respect to the time. I have particularly found this useful when using the chronograph during training, since it is much easier to look at the dial than it is to try to remember what time I started!


In general, I am quite pleased with the sturdiness of the Axio Max. As can be seen in the photo below, I am pretty hard on watches. There is a small scratch in the lower left quadrant of the glass, and many nicks on the steel casing. The fact that the casing is sturdy has (I think) prevented these dings from being worse. Because I have sweated on this watch (a lot) I have rinsed in the sink quite a few times-no troubles noted.

Axio Max 2 months of wear and tear


Through the field portion of this test, I am really quite pleased with the Highgear Axio Max. I have found the watch comfortable and sturdy, and I have found the features to be really useful. I found it a great asset for training, and the features make it a valuable tool on the trail. I am definitely looking forward to being out with the watch more over the next 2 months.


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November 9, 2010


Over the LTR phase of testing, I wore the Axio Max on a 3-day/2-night hiking trip on the Wildcat Hollow Trail in Glouster, Ohio. We covered 15 miles (25 km) over the 2+ days of hiking. Elevations ranged from about 750 ft (230 m) to 1050 ft (320 m), and temperatures were quite pleasant, with daytime highs of 82 F (28 C) and overnight lows around 41 F (5 C). I also continued to wear the watch for training, which was sadly only another 10 days during the LTR phase of the test. This was all daytime activity with high cardiovascular activities (running, biking).

All told, I have worn the Axio Max for 20 days of hiking and camping, 20-25 days of athletic activities, and another 10-15 days of general wear.


Over the LTR phase of the report, I discovered a few new things about the Axio Max when I wore it on the Wildcat Hollow trail. First, I followed the altimeter fairly closely during the course of the hike. Altimeter readings changed rapidly over the course of 100 or 200 foot (33 to 66 m) ascents or descents. However, when I checked the altimeter against my topo map at the end of the first day of hiking, I noticed it was off by about 200 feet (66 m). I had set the altimeter during the Initial Report (as described above) to an altitude of 780 ft, and had set it down about 200 feet during the hike. Despite the fact that I am writing this from the same location when I initially set it to 780 ft, it now reads 896 ft. So, although it clearly works well for relative altitude on the trail, it does not keep its absolute calibration for long periods of time. I don't consider this a major drawback, though, as I will be more careful in the future to reset the reading before any hiking activities. In fact, other altimeter watches recommend frequent recalibration in order to compensate for fluctuations in barometric pressure. In the Axio Max instruction booklet, although frequent calibration of the compass is recommended, nothing is mentioned about recalibrating the altimeter. This information would have been useful to include.

In contrast to the altimeter, the compass seems to keep its bearing quite well. I have used the compass a number of times, and have recalibrated it twice during the test. Both times, the alignment did not change by a significant amount.

The other feature I used at Wildcat was the hydration alarm. This is a running alarm that beeps at pre-set time intervals. In my case, I set this to 30 minutes. It beeps until I hit the button, at which time it starts counting down again. This was more handy than I thought, as the temperature was not that hot on that trip, and the watch was a good reminder to sip from water bladder. I also used the regular countdown timer a number of times during the last two months. It worked flawlessly.

In terms of durability, the watch has held up quite well. The face has not suffered any more minor damage, and the band remains strong without any sign of wear.


Overall, I think the Highgear Axio Max Steel multifunction watch is a great piece of gear! It has all the functions I need when I am on the trail, and these are put together in a useful and user-friendly way. The visibility of the watch face is excellent, and I also like the big buttons. Although I think this timepiece is a bit much for everyday wear to the office, I will definitely continue to use it both when I'm on the trail, and when I'm training to get on the trail.

Things I liked about the Axio Max:
  • Great features, including the fact that the time is visible in most modes
  • Excellent visibility of watch readings
  • Sturdy construction, from watch face and crown down to the band.
  • Stylish enough to wear to the office if I want.
Things I disliked about the Axio Max:
  • Just a little too heavy for everyday wear

This concludes my report on the Highgear Axio Max Steel watch. My thanks once again to Highgear USA for providing this equipment for testing, and to for allowing me to participate in the evaluation process.

-larry kirschner

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