Suunto GPS pod review

I wouldn’t class myself as a sophisticated user of training aids like HR monitors and GPS.

I know what I’m looking for in HR zones, and I like to see elevation profiles and distances covered. But I’d be lying if I said I was a slave to my watch.

One of the things that I enjoy about running long distances is running to the feedback my body is giving me. I find occasionally that when I run to a watch I’m looking at the pace constantly, and that sometimes takes away my enjoyment.

I’ve had a Garmin Forerunner 305 for a long time, and I love being able to switch it easily between a bike and my wrist; but it has a relatively short battery life for multi day races. I’ve also had a Suunto Vector for over a decade, and I love navigating with this.

I had assumed I wouldn’t be logging my Marathon des Sables run because the run time is likely to be around 30 hours.

Suunto GPS pod
Suunto GPS pod

Enter the Suunto GPS pod.

At 55.5mm in diameter, 18mm thick and weighing in at just 35g this is my kind of size technology!

Add to this one button and a battery life of either 100 hours or 24 hours depending on how often it takes a position fix and this looks like a serious tool for tracking movements outdoors.

Supplied with an elastic armband, it can also be attached to any strap by removing the ‘ring’ and reattaching it with the material trapped. Or, as I have tried just dropping into a pocket that has a good view of the sky.

The Suunto interface, Moveslink is easy to use and changing settings on the pod really easy to do. There are only a few variables- how often a fix is taken (1 second or 1 minute) and whether the GPS automatically starts taking a fix when it’s turned on, or whether you start it with the big red triangle button. There is also the ability to turn the audible notifications on and off, but the little beeps are so quiet I don’t know why you’d switch them off.

Two lights tell you whether there is a GPS fix and how the battery is doing, and that’s it really for the unit.

Recharging is taken care of by a crocodile clip style USB lead that also attaches it for data transfer. A nice touch is knowing the state of battery charge to 1% through Moveslink. First charge took about 3 hours and keeping it topped up now is easy every two or three runs.

Turn it on and track your position. It integrates with other Suunto watches, but I can’t comment on pairing as I haven’t tried it. I expect it too is a very simple process.

As a committed Strava user I wanted to compare Movescount. There are lots of things that are good about both platforms. Categorising is easier on Movescount, and I think the uploading process is a little easier than my wired technology on Strava. Graphically I prefer Strava, and as I’ve said in previous blogs, the Strava segments are a great motivation and performance check. 

1 minute fixes
1 minute fixes

Exporting moves from Movescount is easy, with a variety of format types available. Exporting as a .GPX means that Strava can be easily uploaded too. This is what I do.

I wanted to see the effect of 1 minute fixes, and whilst the tracklog is good, the effect of uploading a .GPX to Strava seems to confuse it. Looking at Strava and Movescount side by side with a 1 minute fix shows that Strava thinks you’re stationary for a lot of the time between taking fixes and this means that the pace data is flawed. This example shows a session time of 2 hrs 16 minutes on Movescount, where Strava shows 49 minutes. Interestingly Movescount shows a much greater elevation, and Strava is correct on this one.

1 second fix
1 second fix

Switching the fix time to 1 second makes the two agree much more closely on elevation.

The moving time discrepancy seems to large to me for opening and closing gates. Digging a bit deeper in the .GPX file it seems to be where in deep woodland there are a couple of minutes here and there where fixes didn’t happen. This would happen with most receivers.

As with all electronics there is a wide spread of prices available on the web. The RRP is £100 and at this price the unit is an excellent way to store any of your adventures. Because the unit doesn’t give any data on position, I can see on Navigation events, such as the OMM it is a realistic way to log your track without gaining an unfair and rule breaking advantage.

If you want to accurately log your position for long days, or multi days this has to be the bit of kit to take.

I’ll be taking this little unit to the Sahara to log Marathon des Sables. You’ll see the results by the end of April.

Packing it in

March training is going well, apart from this really cold weather. I’m trying to build my mileage slowly and steadily to get my leg better. That means cross training on a bike and all this snow is meaning I’m not getting as much time training as I’d like.

For my birthday I got a key bit of equipment for Marathon des Sable – my pack. I wanted to get this early on as it is the key bit of equipment, other than footwear, that can make the trip comfortable, or not. Bedding in time with this is really important.

Aarn Mountain Magic 33
Aarn Mountain Magic 33

I’d done a bit of research, I have a long back and I wanted something with easy access to front pockets so I can keep feeding easily. This is quite a unique set of requirements. The pack needs to be lightish, able to take 7 days of food, all the cooking and sleeping gear, mandatory kit (venom pump, first aid) and a few luxury items.

I’d tried a few packs from the normal contenders and one way or another there was something niggling. In the end I tried on an Aarn pack, and despite it having a fantastically complicated strap system it was really comfortable.

I’m a big fan of simplicity, especially when things can break. The idea of having to stitch, or bodge something back together in the middle of the desert isn’t massively appealing. However, being made in New Zealand I’m pretty confident that the kit will work really well, I haven’t had heaps of time with the pack yet, nor have I taken it out loaded up, but that will come pretty soon and I’ll write more.

I’ve settled for a Mountain Magic 33, probably a little bigger than I actually need, but the strapping system means that whether the sac is full or empty it carries just the same. So as I eat most of what I’m carrying I can reduce the pack size and stay comfortable.

I am a little worried about some of the cording on the front pockets, but I’ve got some time to hack it better, and that will probably involve some Sugru too. Mountain Marathon events will give me a chance, to load for multiday, run, camp, repack and generally get the pack to fit me well. I’m interested to see how the ventilation works-going to save me a really zitty back if it does!

To read more about some of the unique features of Aarn packs it’s worth having a read on their website.

Salomon XR Crossmax neutral

In two other posts (here and here) I've written about the problems I've been having with my trail shoes and damage to my feet. Choosing shoes for Marathon des Sable is something that is making me think carefully about what I need. I need a comfortable shoe, that is something I can forget about. About 12 years ago I had a pair of Salomon trail shoes that I used for an approach shoe, but never as a running shoe. I remember the last being really comfortable. I had a few reservations about the width of the heel before buying as I'm used to a narrow fell shoe and the Crossmax is more like a road shoe. I picked a mixed 8 miles for my first run in the neutral version of the shoe. About 3 miles of tarmac, 2 miles of forest track and about 3 miles of singletrack. It was wet, really wet. So wet that the area made the news for evacuations due to flooding. The quicklace system tighten the sensifit system, is a quick system, There is quite a lot of lace on the system, but it all tucks away nicely into the lace pocket. I'd say on the sizing that this shoe comes up a bit smaller than I'm used to, but not to a point of being uncomfortable. I think I'd pick a metric size up next time round. Out the door and into a slow warm up on the road. The shoes feel exactly like a road shoe, Good cushining and light and it wasn't wrong before I wasn't thinking about the shoe at all. After a little climb up to the start of the fire trails, nothing really changed, the sole unit has enough protection that big rocks don;t penetrate at all, making for a comfy ride. The singletrack starts with a downhill that loses about 100m in 500m, and here I was thinking about the shoe again. The reason is that trail shoes always have a lower profile tread pattern and I was expecting to slip and slide a bit on the really wet top surface on the singletrack. Pretty quickly I built confidence in the sole and it was biting nice through and finding loads of grip. I quickly got back to picking lines and not thinking about the shoe. So first impressions- the Salomon XR Crossmax Neutral trail shoe is pretty forgetable, and that is a massive compliment! I've added the shoe into my miCoach so I'll be able to keep an accurate log of the distance I do with the shoe.           
In two other posts (here and here) I’ve written about the problems I’ve been having with my trail shoes and damage to my feet. Choosing shoes for Marathon des Sable is something that is making me think carefully about what I need. I need a comfortable shoe, that is something I can forget about. About 12 years ago I had a pair of Salomon trail shoes that I used for an approach shoe, but never as a running shoe. I remember the last being really comfortable. I had a few reservations about the width of the heel before buying as I’m used to a narrow fell shoe and the Crossmax is more like a road shoe. I picked a mixed 8 miles for my first run in the neutral version of the shoe. About 3 miles of tarmac, 2 miles of forest track and about 3 miles of singletrack. It was wet, really wet. So wet that the area made the news for evacuations due to flooding. The quicklace system tighten the sensifit system, is a quick system, There is quite a lot of lace on the system, but it all tucks away nicely into the lace pocket. I’d say on the sizing that this shoe comes up a bit smaller than I’m used to, but not to a point of being uncomfortable. I think I’d pick a metric size up next time round. Out the door and into a slow warm up on the road. The shoes feel exactly like a road shoe, Good cushining and light and it wasn’t wrong before I wasn’t thinking about the shoe at all. After a little climb up to the start of the fire trails, nothing really changed, the sole unit has enough protection that big rocks don;t penetrate at all, making for a comfy ride. The singletrack starts with a downhill that loses about 100m in 500m, and here I was thinking about the shoe again. The reason is that trail shoes always have a lower profile tread pattern and I was expecting to slip and slide a bit on the really wet top surface on the singletrack. Pretty quickly I built confidence in the sole and it was biting nice through and finding loads of grip. I quickly got back to picking lines and not thinking about the shoe. So first impressions- the Salomon XR Crossmax Neutral trail shoe is pretty forgetable, and that is a massive compliment! I’ve added the shoe into my miCoach so I’ll be able to keep an accurate log of the distance I do with the shoe.