Close your eyes and imagine a scenario with me. You are traveling to your dream destination, it can be anywhere in the world. For some it's a small town in Europe, for others it's the ski slopes of Colorado or anything in between. In this scenario the destination really doesn't matter because the end result is going to be the same. You aren't going to make it there.
Yes this is a tragic story of mishap. This is the rare occurrence where the plane you are flying on crashes in the middle of nowhere, where the boat begins to sink just offshore of an uncharted island or when you run out of gas in the middle of the desert. You've seen the shows on Discovery Channel and may even think you're prepared after a few episodes.
In truth, this is about to be the hardest experience of your life. In our imaginary scenario you have been blessed with the four survival essentials: food, water, fire and shelter. Problem is, you are still in the middle of nowhere and unless you intend on living out your days alone, you'll need to find your way back to civilization.
How best to accomplish this? Lucky for you, in our story we have given you the option to prepare by packing one extra item for the trip. Hold on though, you still don't know where you'll be stranded. Should you pack a compass or an altimeter? Maybe a barometer or a thermometer. As you wrangle the possibilities in your mind, we'll propose a solution. Bring all of them.
Meet the Casio Pathfinder. Billed as the solution to nearly everything an outdoor enthusiast (or stranded traveler) would run into, this watch comes packed with features everyone should want. In the interest of making sure you're prepared for whatever your next vacation throws at you, we've spent the last few weeks testing the Pro Trek PRW2500T.
One of the most important features of the Pathfinder family of watches is their ability to remove the burden of changing watch batteries. They are completely powered by the sun and when you are outside they are constantly recharging a secondary battery that will last for months without exposure to sunlight. How long the battery lasts will vary by model but unless you plan on living near the North Pole with six months of darkness this shouldn't be a deciding feature.
The Casio Pathfinder comes with an integrated compass, altimeter, barometer, thermometer and tide graph as well as atomic time if you opt for the more expensive models. There are also standard features like a backlight and water resistance that should be expected, although Casio has upped the ante a bit with an automatic light that senses when you tilt the watch face towards you in darkness and up to 200M of water resistance for recreational scuba divers.
You'll need to decide which type of band you prefer as well. Casio offers a cloth option, a resin band and the titanium option that we tested in the PRW2500T. Resin will likely be the most durable for anyone who plans to spend extensive time outdoors but for those concerned with appearances you might opt for the titanium band and/or face. A word of caution with titanium though, as you can see in our pictures below, this type of band scratches very easily. We're not talking about banging it against rocks either, it scratches during normal everyday use indoors.
When you first receive your watch the band will likely be too large for your wrist. While many inexpensive bands can be shortened easily at home, the Casio Pathfinder requires special tools and you'll need to seek out a jeweler to size the band to your wrist. You can expect to pay around $10 USD for this service so factor that into the price of the watch as well as the time necessary to do it. In truth though, if you are spending this much on a watch you want it to fit perfectly.
For initial setup we recommend you devote between 30 minutes and an hour depending on how technically proficient you are. It only took us 30 minutes but we've setup numerous watches before and we only had the consult the manual a couple times. Once setup you'll likely never need to change much again provided you stay in the same time zone as when you started.
Our first and all repeated attempts at using the atomic timekeeping feature failed. We're located in Florida and assumed that the watch was trying to pickup the signal from Fort Collins in Colorado as the manual describes but we could not get it to work. The manual mentions being away from interference such as tall buildings and what we can only assume is other radio signals but we tested it in the middle of nowhere, while camping and while in state parks with no excuse for failure or blockage of the signal. In fact, the watch claimed we had an excellent reception at 'L3' and even though it indicated it was receiving the signal, the watch always displayed an ERR result and failed to update the time.
In our testing, the tide charts were accurate with our location here on the east coast of Florida. They matched up almost exactly with what was reported by local authorities and it was a great feature to have. The barometer also appeared to be accurate when comparing it to weather reports and data from our smartphones. Thermometer data was accurate every time we checked, as was altitude although it is important to mention that altitude is measured by your location and not by how high the watch is itself at the exact position.
One other issue surfaced during the last two weeks of our testing that we cannot determine a cause for. Overnight, when the watch is not exposed to daylight, the face shuts itself off the conserve the battery. Upon checking the watch the next day, we found three separate instances (including an ongoing one as we write this article) where the time remained accurate but the day of the week and the date were incorrect and displayed the day and date from yesterday. While this issue appears to automatically resolve itself eventually, it is incredibly frustrating to have the wrong information on such an expensive watch.
We reached out to our contact at Casio for answers to our issues including the atomic timekeeping, the dozens of scratches all over the titanium band as well as the incorrect day and date issue but despite waiting for over two weeks we have still not received an answer so we have no way of knowing if we have a defective watch or if these issues can be expected by anyone who purchases a Casio Pathfinder.
When it comes down to it the entire line of Casio Pathfinder watches offer some very impressive features. Having them all at your fingertips allows you to navigate almost anywhere. Unfortunately you can't rely on the atomic timekeeping and that is a serious flaw that needs resolved. In the meantime we don't see a need to purchase the more expensive models with this feature as it doesn't work properly. We'd also opt for the resin band and hope that performs better than its titanium counterpart that collects scratches.
Finally, the inaccurate day and date issue that cropped up at least three separate times during our testing is the most serious flaw of this watch and remains unresolved by Casio. Until that issue is fixed (we'll update the article if Casio responds) we cannot recommend you purchase this watch for MSRP. The features absolutely make it worthwhile and if you find a great deal for it and really need it then go ahead and take the plunge but spending more than $200 USD, let alone $400 USD for a watch that has these glaring issues is just not worth it for us.
Full Disclosure: Casio provided the Pro Trek PRW2500T on a loaner basis to Insider Perks for the purposes of testing it and writing this review.