The Pocket-lint team recently completed the Three Peaks Challenge within a 24 hour period, climbing the three highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales over the weekend of 11-12 July.
It was a tough challenge, with the weather very much against us when we arrived at Scafell Pike, the middle mountain that we were climbing in the dark, but despite this we finished in exactly 24 hours to the minute. You can read all about our experience in our tale of three mountains feature.
Along with all the gear we had on including Under Armour compression kit, Berghaus boots and Berghaus jackets, we also took it upon ourselves to test out a few activity trackers to see how they performed over the course of the 24 hours.
We had the Apple Watch, the Asus VivoWatch, the Fitbit Charge HR, the Fitbit Surge, the Jawbone UP3, the Misfit Shine, the Sony Smartband and the Withings Activité on our arms. Another member of the team was also wearing the Garmin Forerunner 610. Unfortunately the Jawbone UP3 unfastened somewhere on Ben Nevis and is now part of the beautiful scenery, while the Sony Smartband appears to have had an issue collecting any data, but here are how the others fared.
There was a huge disparity between the six devices when it came to steps taken. The highest recorded came from the Fitbit Charge HR that measured 54,046 steps for the Saturday, which included Ben Nevis and the majority of Scafell Pike, and 25,818 steps for the Sunday, which was the remainder of Scafell Pike and the entirety of Snowdon. In total, the Fitbit Charge HR calculated a total of 79,864 for the 24-hour challenge.
The lowest calculated came from the Misfit Shine which recorded 33,630 for the Saturday, 18,448 for the Sunday, meaning a total of 52,078.
In terms of the other devices, the Fitbit Surge measured 52,613 and 25,119 for a total of 77,732, the Withings Activité measured 47,010 and 20,873 for a total of 67,883, the Asus VivoWatch measured 43,623 and 20,698 for a total of 64,321 and the Apple Watch measured 43,252 and 20,155 for a total of 63,407.
The average number of steps for the Saturday would be 45,696, while the Sunday would be 21,852, equalling a total average of 67,548. In the past we have found the Fitbit Charge HR to be the most accurate in terms of actual steps walked and the steps recorded, although a 20,000 step difference between the highest recorded and lowest recorded is quite substantial.
Distance travelled is a little easier to measure the accuracy of the six devices as the Garmin Forerunner 610 we were wearing had GPS built in so we have something to compare the recordings to. The total distance measured by the Garmin was 41.76km.
The Fitbit Surge measured the longest distance travelled at 39.18km for the Saturday and 18.66km for the Sunday, equalling a total of 57.84km. Next in line was the Apple Watch that measured 37.58km and 18.35km for a total of 55.93km.
The Apple Watch was followed by the Fitbit Charge HR that calculated 37.51km and 17.92km for a total of 55.43km so these two devices were almost neck-in-neck and the Withings Activité followed closely behind at 37.55km and 16.46km for a total of 54.01km.
The Asus VivoWatch doesn't measure distance unfortunately but the Misfit Shine does, although it recorded significantly less than the others. The Shine recorded 19.47km for the Saturday and 10.78km for the Sunday, totalling 30.25km, which while less, is closer to the Garmin distance than any of the others.
The Garmin is the closest the the calculated distance of the routes we took (38km) but it is worth mentioning that exercise was paused at the bottom of each mountain and set at the start of each mountain on the Garmin, whereas we wore all the other trackers for the duration of the 24 hours and therefore they would have picked up activities such as walking to the bathrooms to change clothing.
We also tagged an activity on the Fitbit Charge HR for both Ben Nevis and Scafell, and on the Asus VivoWatch for Snowdon. Based on these results, the Fitbit Charge HR calculated 19.14km for Ben Nevis, which is 2km further than it should be and 11.34km for Scafell, which is again 2km further.
The Asus VivoWatch doesn't calculate distance, but it measured 17,922 steps for Snowdon. This was less than the average we calculated on our test walk when we took several other trackers with us, the results of which can be found here.
Calories burned is a funny one as it is virtually impossible to determine the accuracy of. There was quite a big discrepancy between each device here too, but the lowest recorded calories burned came from the two devices without heart rate monitors.
The Withings Activité recorded 2473 calories burned for the Saturday and 1496 for the Sunday, for a total of just 3969, while the Misfit Shine calculated 2975 and 2613, which resulted in a total of a few more at 5588.
The Asus VivoWatch, which offers continuous heart rate monitoring, calculated 3673 and 2340 for a total of 6013, while the Fitbit Charge HR, also offering continuous heart rate monitoring measured 4620 and 3020 for a total of 7640. The Fitbit Surge and its continuous heart rate monitoring calculated 5647 and 3019 for a total of 8666.
The Apple Watch has a heart rate sensor too, although it doesn't continuously track it unless you have selected a workout, which we wouldn't advise for a long period as it drains the battery. Apple's device measured 5242 and 4215 calories burned for the two days, meaning a total of 9639, which was consequently the highest recorded so naturally, we'd love for this to be the most accurate.
The variation here will not only be down to some having heart rate monitors and others not, but also where they were positioned on our arm. The Apple Watch and Fitbit Charge HR were in prime positions for reading our heart rate. The Asus VivoWatch was slightly higher than our pulse and therefore this may explain why it seemed to read a much lower heart rate than we expected, as well as the lower calculation of calories burned.
Elevation gained is one of the easier ones to determine the accuracy of, although only two of the six devices we had on our arm feature an altimeter. The Fitbit Charge HR and the Fitbit Surge therefore are capable of measuring elevation, while the others are not.
According to the Garmin Forerunner 610, our total elevation gained across all three mountains was 3148m. It recorded our highest point on Nevis as 1333m, Scafell at 953m and Snowdon at 1045m. The summit of Ben Nevis is recorded as 1344m, Scafell Pike as 978m and Snowdon as 1085m so the Garmin measures slightly lower than the actual height but it is still a good foundation for comparison as it offers more information than the other trackers.
Fitbit measures elevation in floors, with each floor representing 10ft. The Fitbit Charge HR measured a total of 1197 floors, which is equal to 3648m, while the Fitbit Surge measured 2356 floors, equal to 7181m. Bit of a difference there hey!
Our actual elevation gained was 3935m given than the starting point for Ben Nevis is 15m above sea level, Scafell Pike starting point is 76m above sea level but we turned around 20m from the summit due to the weather conditions and Snowdon is 360m above sea level.
This suggests that while the Fitbit Charge HR doesn't offer as useful information when it comes to elevation as the Garmin, such as the highest measured point, it was the most accurate tracker for elevation gain calculation at just 287m out.
Once again we come to the question of which is the most reliable or the best activity tracker, and once again we will struggle to come to a definitive answer.
The Fitbit Charge HR performed well on our training walk up Snowdon and it did so again during the 24-hour challenge. It may have measured a lot more steps than the others but we normally walk 10,000 steps in around an hour and a half. We did 14 hours of walking for this challenge altogether, which would work out around 93,000. Given that it was the majority uphill, we would say 80,000 wouldn't be an unfair estimate, meaning the Charge HR did ok, but it isn't possible to say for sure.
In terms of distance, four of the five trackers that measured distance were pretty equal and measured within 3km of each other. The Fitbit Charge HR proved itself reasonably accurate when we tagged two of the mountains as an activity, meaning both the Apple Watch and Withings Activité proved themselves here too.
When it comes to elevation gained, the Fitbit Charge HR appeared to be the winner, the Fitbit Surge the loser and the Garmin Forerunner 610 the most useful. Which is the most accurate in terms of calories is hard to tell but as the Fitbit Charge HR was monitoring our heart rate consistently and displayed a heart rate on par with how we felt when we were checking, we would be placing our bets on this device to be in the right ballpark.
Overall, we would say the Fitbit Charge HR is still one of the best and most reliable activity trackers out there from our time with it. Others performed well too, with the Apple Watch and Withings Activité both doing well with distance. The Fitbit Charge HR offers just that little bit more information than its competitors such as elevation gain, so for now, the Charge HR would be our winner.
We will be reviewing the activity element of the Apple Watch in full, as well as the Asus VivoWatch so keep an eye out as we suspect both will prove themselves worthy of attention.