Endurance athletes need their watches to go the distance. Too often, they don’t.
One of my biggest frustrations with fitness technology has been having to charge up accessories like a watch or headphones several times per week because when I forget I then miss out on why I’ve invested in attaining and learning the technology. In hopes of finding a solution to those frustrations, I tested the Suunto 9 Baro throughout the summer of 2019, mostly on long hikes, runs, and mountain bikes, along with indoor fitness sessions like yoga, cycling, and cross-training. There are so many features to explore with this watch, and it takes all those hours training on the trail to fully discover its capabilities.
I was familiar with Suunto after testing the Spartan Trainer Wrist HR model for about a year and was looking forward to checking out Suunto’s fifth-generation GPS watch series with the Suunto 9 (it was launched in June 2018). Suunto expanded this family in September 2018 with the Suunto 9 Baro, and it’s still at the top of their sports watch offerings.
I was most excited about the intelligent battery mode of the Suunto 9 Baro, and my expectations were upheld as I was able to use the watch for a week of outdoor activity in and around Jackson, Wyoming, only having to recharge it once. This feature allows users to select a battery mode that will work best – performance mode offers about 24 hours of battery life, endurance mode allows for about 50-hour training, and ultra-mode gives you about 120 hours.
This multisport GPS watch is ideal for the athlete who wants it all and needs a watch that can keep up. The Suunto 9 Baro general fitness tracking capabilities make the watch perfect for daily wear, tracking steps and sleep while also keeping tabs on your resting heart rate when desired.
The intelligent battery modes can also detect recurring long training sessions and trigger charge reminders well in time before your next long session. If the watch notices you are running low on battery during an exercise, it will automatically suggest changing to a different battery mode.
I have never enjoyed having to wear a chest strap for heart rate tracking, and this watch has integrated wrist-based heart rate tracking that eliminates the need for a chest strap. You can use one, and I’ve heard some people think it’s more accurate and it helps to save battery power, but I love being able to just wear the watch. It’s a Valencell PerformTek optical heart rate sensor and while sometimes it seems to take a few seconds to calibrate to my heart rate, I find the accuracy to be as on-point as I need it.
Before every workout or adventure, I select what activity I’m about to start on the watch. It supports more than 80 activities, using GPS data and the barometric altimeter to track time, distance, pace, elevation and ascent/descent. My first mountain bike with the watch, I enjoyed its display of the upcoming sunset times, and the Baro model of the Suunto 9 gives storm alarms when a sudden drop in air pressure occurs. Another benefit of the Baro version is its FusedTrack technology that combines GPS and barometric data with movement sensors to improve the track and distance accuracy while conserving battery life for ultra-distance activities.
Activity-specific heatmaps on the Suunto App – Suunto’s activity community that can also help you create and stick to training plans – can be used to find trails that can be traced into routes and then downloaded to the watch for navigation on the go. And while I haven’t used it in the water yet, the watch can handle 100 meters of water resistance so you can wear it in the pool and in open water.
You can turn on notifications too, so if it’s in the middle of a workday and you need to see who is calling or texting from a glance at your wrist, you can, or you can turn off notifications to focus on your training time. The Suunto 9 Baro is compatible with apps like the Suunto App, Strava, TrainingPeaks, MapMyFitness and more, so you can stay connected with fitness friends.
Lastly, one of my favorite features is the scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass on the face of this watch. I hate scratching watches, and this alleviated that problem even as I really put the Suunto 9 Baro to the test. $599. Buy now.
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