Garmin Instinct vs. Suunto 9: On the Sarstein, To Hallstatt

Mid-December, I wanted to see if I could get over the Sarstein to Hallstatt – and use that as a test for the Garmin Instinct and Suunto 9.

The experience was a special one. But then, so was the data I gathered…


Here I went overnight and recorded in two parts (not with only a pause, as I tried hiking over the Dachstein).

The Tracks

Night Hiking Up

Duration: 2 h 37 min

6.10 km per Suunto 9 Baro
6.55 km per Garmin Instinct

My original plan was to hike over the Sarstein. It became necessary to use the snowshoes very soon, other problems appeared – and as usual, the plan didn’t survive contact with reality.

GPS Performance

The GPS tracks recorded show oddities, but at least those make for an obvious conclusion:

On the first, easy, part of the tour, both Suunto 9 Baro and Garmin Instinct recorded very similar tracks.

At the highest point I got to, there were some issues with GPS reception. The Casio Rangeman showed no more GPS reception; the Garmin Instinct also seems to have lost GPS there.

My backtracking from there – right along the path I had come – and over to the Simonyi View, the Garmin Instinct shows me as having been somewhere quite different.

Altitude Profile

The altitude recording shows:
1168 m ascent and 274 m descent between 507 and 1138 m altitude per Suunto 9 Baro;
764 m ascent and 308 m descent between 524 and 1133 m altitude per Garmin Instinct.

Altitude Profiles from Suunto 9 Baro and Garmin Instinct

The altitude profile graph shows some oddities from the Suunto 9 Baro. It looks like FusedAlti became active once towards the beginning, as would be normal and good.

Altitude was also changed at (or just before) the highest point, from which point on the Suunto 9 showed me at a constant altitude. That is not impossible as I did stand there for a bit, but it was not that long.

The Garmin Instinct again shows spikes likely to come from a covered baro sensor (which clothes beat against).

Heart Rate (oHR)

This recording of oHR shows one thing beautifully: That it would be better to disable oHR when doing such activities.

An average heart rate of 118 bpm and a maximum of 181 bpm (according to the Suunto) is believable enough, but it’s better not to look at the HR graph (showing the Suunto 9 oHR recording in blue):

The Garmin Instinct’s oHR measurement – which shows an average of 135 bpm and a maximum of 179 bpm, by the way – is rather more believable.

The ups and downs that the Suunto 9 shows here are rather ridiculous.

Morning Hike towards Hallstatt

Other than planned (or let’s call that “as the new plan was”), next morning’s hike went back down, onto the hiking trail alongside the Hallstätter See lake to the Hallstatt railway station. (And by boat, over to snowy Hallstatt for a stroll through the town – but that’s a different story.)

Duration: 2 h 13 min

GPS Performance

Things continued the next morning as they had ended in the night:

Descent in the Morning

The Garmin Instinct again produced a major GPS positioning error towards the beginning. While I was still on the mountain, it continued with further, smaller errors.

Full Track (as recorded, as I went) of the Morning Hike

On the foot of the mountain, the Instinct began recording sensible tracks again. It had no more issues after that.

Still, the Suunto 9 Baro had no such issues the whole time; it was as reliable as a GPS watch can be – at least when it comes to the GPS.

11.11 km with 95 m ascent, 505 m descent per Suunto 9 Baro;
11.36 km with 121 m ascent, 524 m descent per Garmin Instinct.

Altitude Profile

The maximum/minimum altitude according to Suunto 9 Baro was 893 / 482 m, 888 / 484 m according to the Garmin Instinct.

Not only in that, but also with regards to the altitude profile, the two watches generally agreed:

Altitude Profiles on the Descent, from Suunto 9 Baro and Garmin Instinct

Heart Rate

The oHR recording also repeated the story from the night before, during the ascent:

Heart Rate on the Descent

The heart rate profile recorded by the Garmin Instinct is possible, at least; the heart rate recorded by the Suunto 9 Baro that morning again looks highly dubious.

All in All

The simplest conclusion: It’s just great. Looks like one could pick either a ridiculous oHR. Or a GPS that doesn’t look reliable.

As always, one has to consider that this is just one example, thus to be taken with a grain of salt.

Maybe everything would have looked very different if I had just worn the Suunto 9 Baro a bit tighter around my wrist. Or if the Garmin Instinct hadn’t had to share its spot on my wrist with a Casio Rangeman on the same arm, above my clothes. But of course, not hiding an oHR watch would mean having to deactivate oHR recording.

Such (sometimes bad) compromises can be, such questions of proper use certainly are issues. Only because technology is advanced and capable of a lot, it still takes learning its proper use.

But then, that’s why I’m getting back into creating manuals/how-to for the best use of such sports/outdoor technology!

One response

  1. […] If you’re interested in a discussion of the tracks/data recorded by the Suunto 9 and Garmin Instinct, you can find that here. […]

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