The world’s most famous climber reveals the gadgets he takes on his adventures
We often talk about wearable tech in the context of the best running watches or best sleep trackers, but what gadgets are helping out the rock climbers of the world?
The popularity of rock climbing and its sister sport, bouldering, has sky-rocketed in recent years, thanks in no small part to the success of Nat Geo’s Oscar-winning climbing documentary Free Solo. At the center of that heart-stopping film is Alex Honnold – a now 38-year-old climber who, in 2017, became the first person to successfully summit California’s legendary El Capitan rock face without ropes.
Now, Honnold is returning to screens in Arctic Ascent with Alex Honnold – a three-part Disney Plus series in which he and a group of scientists attempt to conquer Greenland’s 4,000-foot Ingmikortilaq sea cliff. TechRadar spoke to Honnold ahead of the show’s February 4 premiere, and we took the opportunity to ask its star about the wearable tech he uses when embarking on his death-defying climbs.
“Personally, I wear Whoop,” Honnold tells us, “because I’m sponsored by Whoop and I’ve used them for a bit. I also use a Coros watch sometimes for tracking specific activities, as well as for the GPS, for navigating stuff.
“I’m also using the Levels app right now, the continuous glucose monitor. I’ve been using that for like a month, just to try it out, and see what it’s all about. And I actually have learned a bit about diet [from using Levels]. I’ve obviously tracked my diet in different ways throughout my whole life, I’ve tried to learn different things, and using a glucose monitor has definitely proven another helpful tool.
“But now I kind of feel like a freak,” Honnold laughs, “because I’ve had to sync all of those different things – the Whoop, the Coros, the Levels app, and so on – through Apple Health so that the Levels app will automatically import activities. It’s all a bit too much, so I’m pretty sure that in about a month or two I’ll go back in the other direction and drop all of it. I’ll just keep a general sense of how much activity I do each day using a timer. The whole quantified self thing? I’m into it, and I think it’s a useful tool, and it’s fun. But at a certain point, I’m like, ‘Do I care that much?’ But it definitely all helps, and there’s a place for it.”
We hear you, Alex. It can be hard to know where to start – and stop – with health monitoring apps and wearable tech in general, but Honnold’s recommendations make for a strong quartet of climbing gadgets.
In our Whoop 4 review, we described Whoop’s latest fitness tracker as an “excellent tool” for anyone interested in seriously optimizing their training and sleep routines. The display-less device presents all manner of health-related data, and the Whoop algorithm takes a range of factors into account before making its calculations, including where you’re at in your menstrual cycle, how well you slept last night, your heart-rate variability, your temperature, and much more.
As Honnold notes, though, tracking all of those metrics can sometimes feel like overkill, so we’d only recommend Whoop if you’re a bona fide fitness fanatic looking to perform at your peak.
The story is a little different for Coros watches, which can be thought of as stripped-back alternatives to pricier Garmin and Apple Watch models. Honnold doesn’t mention which Coros watch he uses, specifically, but in our Coros Apex 2 review, Coros Apex 2 Pro review and Coros Pace 3 review, we found that all three of Coros’ latest models offer strong GPS accuracy, plenty of usable battery life and impressively lightweight designs.
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As for the Apple Health app, this easily-overlooked personal data library pulls useful information from almost everything you do on your iPhone, including screen time, activity, sleep data, and even heart rate data if you have an Apple Watch connected. We’ve detailed why the iOS Health app is more important than you realize elsewhere on TechRadar, but we’d wager that if it’s good enough for record-breaking climber Alex Honnold, then it’s good enough for you, too!
Arctic Ascent with Alex Honnold premieres on National Geographic on February 4. All episodes will be available to stream on Hulu and Disney Plus from February 5.
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