Home / Awards / SectionHiker Gear of the Year Award: Casio PAG240-1CR Pathfinder Triple Sensor Multi-Function Sport Watch

SectionHiker Gear of the Year Award: Casio PAG240-1CR Pathfinder Triple Sensor Multi-Function Sport Watch

Casio Men's PAG240-1CR Pathfinder Triple Sensor Multi-Function Sport Watch
Casio  PAG240-1CR Pathfinder Triple Sensor Multi-Function Sport Watch

Every year, I like to recognize a piece of gear that has the biggest transformational impact on my hiking and backpacking experience by giving it the Section Hiker Gear of the Year Award. This year’s winner is the Casio PAG240-1CR Pathfinder Triple Sensor Multi-Function Sport Watch whose built-in barometric altimeter helped transform my off-trail navigation skills this year.

While the Casio Pathfinder PAG241-1CR is a fully featured sports watch and has many built-in functions, including a compass, barometer, thermometer, multiple times zones, sunset and sunrise times, various timers, alarms, data history storage, including a 110 page instruction manual,  I only use the watch to keep time and as an altimeter for hiking navigation. I bought it because it was reasonably priced, under $175, and because I refused to pay the premium charged by other altimeter watches like the Suunto Core, which ranges in price from $299 to $500.

Navigating in 3-D

The value of navigating with an altimeter and a compass is that it gives you the ability to pinpoint your location on a contour map in three dimensions using a compass bearing and an elevation so you know precisely where you are even if you can’t see any landmarks. This is extremely valuable when hiking off-trail through thick brush where it is difficult to guess your location-based on speed of travel because it’s so slow and varies significantly on the terrain, group strength, and weather conditions.

By reading an elevation off your watch and matching it to a contour line on a map, you can find your exact location during a long climb.
By reading an elevation off your watch and matching it to a contour line on a map, you can find your exact location during a long climb.

For example, by reading an elevation off your watch along a compass bearing and matching it to a contour line on a map, you can find your exact  location. This is invaluable when hiking off-trail, or bushwhacking as it’s called in the Northeastern United States. It’s the same information you’d get by using a GPS, but a compass and altimeter are more reliable tools because they don’t have the battery life or satellite connectivity issues that GPS devices experience. Besides using a map, compass, and altimeter is just more fun than using a GPS.

Being barometric, the altimeter has to be recalibrated once or twice a day at a known elevations to keep it in synch with changes in the weather and atmospheric air pressure. But as long as that is done, it’s usually accurate to within 20 feet of my actual elevation on a map.

Solar Battery

Another key feature of the Casio PAG240-1CR Pathfinder is that it’s solar-powered, which means you never need to change the battery. The watch just needs to be worn under a light source, be it outside or indoors, to keep the battery charged. This is a big value point for me: I’ve never successfully changed the battery on any pervious sports watch I’ve owned, and having a watch with a solar battery means I never have to replace a battery again. 

Off Trail with Compass and Casio Altimeter Watch
Off Trail with Compass and Casio Altimeter Watch

Navigational Skills

Being able to measure and track my elevation has enabled me to hike much more challenging off-trail routes and increased the accuracy and confidence I have in my off-trail navigational abilities. My navigational skills have taken a huge leap forward this year by using the Casio PAG240-1CR Pathfinder altimeter watch, and opened up all kinds of new avenues for adventure that I plan to pursue in the coming years. Things like scouting off-trail for trout streams in Northern New Hampshire or bushwhacking the border peaks along the US/Canadian border.

Let the adventures begin!

Previous Section Hiker Gear of the Year Award Winners, include:

Disclosure; Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) purchased this product with his own funds. This post contains affiliate links.

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  1. I recently bought a Casio Pathfinder PRG-270-1 ABC watch. It ran me about $118 on Amazon and has the new generation 3 sensor. (I also balked at spending $300 or so on the Suuntos…) So far, i’m very happy with it. The one thing I find is that the altimeter is all over the place. In their documentation, Casio does advise calibration to a known point at the start of the adventure and as often as one comes across a known elevation point while in the field. This makes sense, as the altimeter is based on barometric pressure and both changes and weather and changes in altitude affect the reading. (During the recent nor’easter, my kitchen table went from 150′ to 400′ and back down to 120′). I’m wondering how you keep yours calibrated while out on the trail to minimize the meteorological effects on the altitude reading.

    • You simply compare the elevation readout on your watch with the elevation on your map when you come to a location on your map that you can identify by sight, like a viewpoint or the top of a mountain, and add or delete elevation so that the two match. It’s the same with any barometric altimeter including the Suunto Core.

      When I plan a hike, I always write down the starting elevation and a list of the land features I expect to encounter along my planned route so I can quickly reference their elevation when I reach them and recalibrate as needed. I also plan my route so that I pass easy to identify land features to minimize the uncertainty of my off trail route.

  2. I have and have been using one of the Originals for some 20 years now. My ONLY complaint is that it eats Batteries and so I am very happy to see that the new one is Solar Powered and I will surely be taking a close look at it..I Paid in excess of $350. for the original and saved up my change to buy one, literally, that is true, I have an old Beer Tankard a girl friend gave me for my 16th Birthday which I throw my pocket Change into which is used exclusively for camping gear and financing hiking trips. The Watch has been very accurate and I have not experienced any problems with the Watch at all even having banged it up some, dropped it a couple of times and stepped on it and it froze on night in the high Sierra’s and dunked it many a time in the cold waters of Mountain lakes while retrieving a Trout or Bass… On mine which I do not see mentioned here..I have a readable graph in two windows at the bottom of the watch which my old eyes are now having a bit of trouble reading, for Elevation changes and Temperature changes and Barometer changes, it also has a Back light.. One of the most valuable instruments I have ever owned for Backpacking, Hunting and Day hiking as well as Truck trips and expeditions…I highly recommend every hiker buy one…and with a name like Casio, well, I have never heard of any one having a problem with it.and remember it is an instrument, not a toy….The Watch has also helped me catch a certain family member doing some sneaky business with our home Air Conditioning and Heating unit…We noticed over a period of time that right after the main family went to work, this family member either turned the Thermostate down or up depending on the season adding on avareage $20. a month to the Electric Bill when that person was around..We were able to stop and make that family member pay for there excessive use…..So it does have other uses as well…Or in my prior profession I was responsible for a lot of working people and Office temperature was always a problem for some..So I was able to dispel that issue as well…So it has a lot of uses..I wish it had a small wire which could be attached and unattached as needed to take the water temperature when Fishing… So with this watch and my Swiss Victorinox Work Champ Knife I always feel fully outfitted and prepared when I hit the trail…

  3. Every watch that isn’t mechanical automatic self winding (i.e. quartz or electronic movement) should be solar powered. I have a Citizen Eco-Drive watch that I absolutely love because it stays topped off all the time through the same solar technology. It can even run for up to 6 months in complete darkness. I’ve left it in a drawer for over a week and pulled it out and it is still ticking.

    I’ve heard that altimeter watches are imprecise when you check the altitude on your wrist due to the heat and humidity put off by your hand. Have you had this problem with this watch? I don’t know how prevalent this issue is or if it is a myth, or if it doesn’t make much of a difference, but I’ve heard of people taking these watches off their wrists and waiting a few minutes before taking a reading. Still, I love the idea of having an all-in-one gadget like this that is so useful.

  4. I happened to first buy a Casio PAW-1300 ( pretty sure the guts are the same for this and the PAG- 240). After reading many blog posts about the higher altimeter accuracy and configurability of the Suunto Core, I purchased one on sale ($150 for the light green and lava red models were widely available last year). I wore it for a while, as the readout is definitely more legible due to the larger format, but it now sits in the drawer. Neither altimeter are even reasonably accurate in New England, where barometric pressure ( which determines altitude readings) can swing quite a bit over the course of the day. Neither of them also are much use for temperature readings on the fly – you have to take both off your wrist for an extended time period to eliminate body temp from impacting the readout. The Barometric graphic scale is most useful for giving some advanced warning in weather changes – in this case , the Suunto has a small edge ( I am speaking as someone who needs to don reading glasses to type this post). All in all these are nice to have but I don’t consider either necessary pieces of equipment. I prefer the PAW-1300 because it is an attractive, MANLY looking watch, and the solar power plus linking nightly to the atomic clock is very cool.

    For those who want to try a Suunto Core, the Lava Red model with the better readout can be purchased now from Princeton Watch for $139 including shipping. At this price it is a good deal.

  5. If all you need is a clock, barometer, and altimeter you can save a ton of money by going with the Casio SGW300-1AV ($45 on Amazon). You lose the compass and it is not solar powered, but is a heck of a lot cheaper. Works great for me.

  6. The Casio SGW300-1AV is equipped with an old sensor. The new triple sensor which is in the Casio PAG240-1CR and the PRG-270-1 is supposed to be far superior.

  7. All those features are great, but will the alarm wake me up in the morning when i need to get an early start?

    • It does for me, especially when it’s hanging nearby. The only thing I dislike is the rather short interval it alarms for then it auto shuts off.

  8. I’ve used the PAG-240 for several years now, excellent watch. I find it very useful for everything but temperature. Plus never worrying about a battery great!

  9. No women’s version is available. I have tiny wrists, and even women’s watchbands are sometimes too big for me. I suppose I could turn it into a pocket watch on a chain…..

  10. Hi this looks a useful item – do you know of a good website that explains in more detail how to navigate using an altimeter? Thanks

  11. For anyone who wants the altimeter function and doesn’t need the compass, look around for the Casio Illuminator 3202 SGW-300H. I find the altimeter very useful here in Utah. If you know what drainage you are in, and you usually know that, its simple to match your elevation with the contour lines crossing the drainage to find your location on your topo. Not solar powered, but battery lasts for years. Also has the canvas strap, which doesn’t break in a year or two, like the standard casio rubber bracelet. Available on Amazon for $40-$50. I use it as my full time watch.

  12. Thanks for this review. Shopping around, I see that the 270 costs less than the 240. Do you have any experience with the 270? I’m wondering how much of an improvement the 270 is vs. the 240. On the surface, I like the appearance of the 240 better. Thoughts?

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