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Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 Gear Review

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Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7
Taking the Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 to extreme places and testing it against precision instruments.

Tackling high places with the Casio Pro Trek  PRW3500T-7.  With most people swapping out their watch for time keeping on a smart phone, we often forget that a timepiece is not only a way to make sure you make it to your next meeting, it is a tool to make sure you make it home.

I had my first experience with Casio watches in the early 90s while participating in an intensive wilderness leadership program.  My Seiko dive watch fogged over and was unreadable.  I asked a fellow student how he liked his Casio G-Shock.  The man took the watch off his wrist and threw it as hard as he could at a brick wall…not a scratch!  The man said it was bombproof, and it was (is).

So I was intrigued to test Casio’s latest foray into the outdoor expedition market and put the three sensor Casio Pro Trek PRW3500-7T to the test.  The Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 features tough solar power and three sensor technology.  This means that lifesaving and navigational features are more accurate and are continuously powered.  That’s right, you don’t have to worry about batteries or if your altimeter will lose power while peak-bagging.

The Test. To test the durability and functionality of the Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7, I took the watch on a recent climb on the nation’s premier alpine climbing test laboratory – Washington State’s Mount Rainier.  In the mountains, accuracy of navigation and decision making technology can mean the difference between life and death.  In addition, the tools you are using have to be robust to extended power challenges, extreme weather, and physical abuse.

Functionality.  The expedition features of the Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 include an altimeter, barometer, and compass.  To test the accuracy of the altimeter, I compared the Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 data on ascent and decent against a Garmin GPS and a German made climbing altimeter.  I indexed the Pro Trek and German altimeter to the surveyed benchmark at Paradise.  The GPS altitude was low by 60ft from the benchmark.  Over the next several hours and thousands of feet, I repeatedly check the altitude of all three instruments.  What I found was that the Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 had the least amount of swing in altitude readings than the other instruments, generally indicating more accurate functionality.  The other instruments would be either significantly high or low compared to the other two.

Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7
The Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 tracking elevation gain while glacier traveling on Mount Rainier.

The barometer function gives both a reading of barometric pressure and a graphic that tracks the barometric pressure over the period of your climb.  The barometer was checked against relevant weather data and found to be very accurate.  In addition, the tracking graphic was great for quickly seeing the weather trend and helping to make weather related climbing decisions.  The temperature reading was accurate within 10 degrees, but was often influenced by body temperature.

The compass function was checked against a military grade lensatic compass.  The Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 user manual alerts the user that the compass is only accurate to +/- 11 degrees.  I found this degree range unacceptable for wilderness navigation.  During the test, the watch displayed azimuth directions dramatically different from the lensatic compass.  The watch compass was also slow to react to changing directions of the user.  Where the compass feature could be helpful is as a back-up compass to indicate general direction.  I always believe in the redundancy rule when in wild country, I would trust the Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 to point me in the right cardinal direction if my primary compass became inoperable.

Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7
The Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 compass test.

The Band.  This model of Casio comes with a metal watch band similar to popular high-end dive watches.  A problem I encountered is that the watch needs to be uncovered to allow the sensors to operate properly and for the best accuracy.  However, if you adjust the band for your wrist, it is unlikely to fit over layered clothing (like a puffy or a parka) worn on expeditions.  The models with a rubber watch band don’t have this problem as these types of bands can be adjusted.  A recommendation to Casio is to make the metal bands with an extension, like dive watches do to adjust for wetsuits.

Expedition Features.  Need to know what time the sun is going to rise over a temple in Bhutan?  The Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7 will tell you; this watch is full of nice to have features for when you are adventuring across the globe or just across the country.  Other features include; water resistant to 200m, world time in 31 time zones, sunrise/sunset data, stopwatch, auto calendar through 2099, five daily alarms, battery power indicator,  and an incredible battery that will last for seven months on a single full charge.

Durability.  The durability of the watch was tested through first-rate abuse.  I conducted the throw test against volcanic rock – not a scratch or impairment of functionality.  I wore it rock climbing and it performed without a hitch.  Finally, I used the Casio Pro Trek PRW3500T-7  in extreme weather conditions while ice axing my way across a glacier and it performed like a champ…well, like a Casio.

Film Review – Everest

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everest movie bannerEverest is a movie of expanses. The most obvious ones are the expanses of the Himalayas, their peaks competing arrogantly with the sky for superiority, their snowfields competing perilously with gravity to see who’s stronger, their rocky faces competing stubbornly with the winds to see who will break first. If you see Everest in IMAX 3D as I did and as I suggest you try to do if it is playing in a true IMAX theater near you, these expanses will overwhelm you and haunt you long after the movie ends.

The other expanses central to the story are the expanses you see when you look into another person’s eyes. As often as the camera zooms out to take in the magnitude of the Himalayas, it also zooms in to peer into the eyes of the mountaineers, their irises like universes unto themselves, universes tested by the mountain. William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy’s smart script sketches Everest’s characters quickly to catch your interest and shades them in slowly so that as they all make their way up the mountain and the dangers increase, every victory, every close escape, and every loss matters immensely. When the screen is filled with the characters’ eyes, we see every dream being tried on the climb and everything at stake for each of them.

The other expanses central to the story are the expanses you see when you look into another person’s eyes. As often as the camera zooms out to take in the magnitude of the Himalayas, it also zooms in to peer into the eyes of the mountaineers,  their irises like universes unto themselves, universes tested by the mountain. William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy’s smart script sketches Everest’s characters quickly to catch your interest and shades them slowly so that as they all make their way up the mountain and the dangers increase, every victory, every close escape, and every loss matters immensely. When the screen is filled with the characters’ eyes, we see every dream being tried on the climb and everything at stake for each of them. Everest is epic and intimate at once.

everest movie hangYou are likely familiar with the details of the 1996 disaster chronicled in the film. This story has been told many times before, most famously in Jon Krakauer’s 1997 book Into Thin Air. If you don’t know the details of the story, don’t look them up prior to seeing Everest. Not knowing who will live, who will die, and how they will either survive or perish adds an extra layer of tension to the story. If you do know the details, Everest is still rife with tension. There are many theories and explanations about exactly what went wrong on that climb. The power of Everest is in seeing the egos and emotions behind the fateful decisions. The partially fictionalized Everest fills out the story in a way mere facts cannot and gets closer to the truth about “why we climb,” whether we’re climbing actual mountains or metaphorical ones.

The actual mountain, Everest, has never looked better. Portions of the film were shot on location in Nepal—Kathmandu, the Khumbu Valley, Everest Base Camp—and those portions grant the film a necessary sense of place. Most of the mountaineering sections were shot in Italy’s Dolomites, though essential, recognizable sections of the route up Everest—South Summit, Hillary’s Step, Camps 1 and 4, the Ice Fall, the Summit—have been so faithfully recreated, you think you’re seeing the actual route. The IMAX 3D print is so good that, as my friend who attended the screening with me said, “This is the first time watching a climbing movie where I felt like I was outside.” Some of the gear is obviously not from 1996—I suppose you have to get those product placement dollars somehow—but otherwise, this is the most realistic “Hollywood” climbing movie I’ve ever seen (though it’s not really a Hollywood production; it was independently financed).

To Everest’s great credit, the movie doesn’t give a simple answer to “why we climb.” It’s wise enough to know that everyone strives to summit the mountain for different reasons. Beyond the physical strain of climbing, it’s each person’s personal reasons for climbing that ultimately test the expedition. Whether or not they can make it to the top of Everest depends on whether or not they can find common ground. The disaster tests each person’s individual resolve and reveals the faults in their individual motivations. Everest isn’t an inspirational film. How could it be, given the historical facts? Everest is complicated. It’s a thinking man’s “men and women on a mission” movie with enough high alpine action to keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen all year. See it in IMAX 3D if you dare.

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