Thursday, July 19, 2012

Casio Outgear SGW-300H-1AV simple review

More than 10 years without a watch, then came the Casio Outgear SGW-300H-1AV… 

UPDATE: -  April 2014 - This watch DIED after about just 2 years during a recent trip to New Zealand. Actually before that, the buttons had stopped working within a year of purchase and the dealer would not honour warranty (ignored all my emails, the dealer is GPeople at, avoid at all costs!) but I eventually managed to get another Casio dealer to do a reset and it was working like normal but then water got inside (it lost its water resistance after it was opened by a service technician for resetting). Then the strap also broke off (seems to get brittle too soon).

Right at home: Casio Outgear SGW-300 in the great outdoors!
Just got a new watch but believe it or not, I had not bought nor worn a watch regularly for more than 10 years before I got this new one! Probably the last time I wore one was back in 1999, or 1998. It was a Casio. One day, while visiting some friends, I took it off and their dog found it and chewed up the wrist straps. I’ve not had a watch on my wrist (not regularly anyway) since then!

That’s not to say I hate wearing watches, I just never felt the need to have one. So how did I tell the time? Ask the time from strangers and passers-by? No. I carry two phones that provide me with accurate time and date info. And back when I used a Fuji F10, I’d simply switch on the camera while hiking and the time would be displayed briefly. Not as convenient as a quick glance at a wrist watch but never bothered me. 

Then, a couple of years ago, on a trip to Mount Murud, some of my outdoor friends introduced me to durable outdoor watches also by Casio. G-Shock and Protrek. I especially liked the Protrek models which had a lot of useful features for an outdoors person like me. Built-in compass, altimeter, barometer, thermometer and accurate timekeeping. 

So I hit the net and searched for a model I really liked, the choices were quite overwhelming! There were so many to choose from and although the prices were quite steep, I thought the watches were well worth the investment. But I never got around to buying one, mainly because I had a Garmin Vista Hcx outdoor GPS unit which served me so well. It provided me with all the information I wanted or could ever need except for temperature readings. But that I got from a keychain thermometer, not very accurate but good enough to get a rough idea of the current ambient temp. So while I did like the Casio outdoor watches, I never really felt they were justified.

Until one day, while browsing an online shopping site, I came across a watch called “Casio Outgear SGW-100-1AVDF” which had a thermometer as well as an electronic compass. I clicked on it and listed under the related products section were more “outgear” models. What caught my curiosity was the amazingly low prices compared to the more expensive Protrek models. 

At first, I thought they were fake knockoffs, but a quick search revealed that the Outgear line is sort of a budget “Protrek” - they’ve got the usual sensors like barometer, altimeter and thermometer but are without advanced functions such as the ability to record pressure changes etc. The Outgear models are also without solar power and the watch glass is made of resin glass (I suppose “resin” is what Casio calls plastic) instead of mineral glass. 

None of the missing features bothered me, I can get all that from my GPS unit (far more convenient too to look at lots of information on a relatively large GPS screen than on a watch face!).
Well that was a lengthy introduction, wasn’t it?! :P

Altimeter-mode. 45m elevation, temp 32.9 degrees Celsius, time 2:11pm. Note that the time is always displayed in all modes, a big plus!

Anyway, here’s my quick review of the Casio Outgear SGW-300. I took these photos while out birding last week, check the date on the watch!

There are a few Outgear models, each one has different features. The SGW-400 is the top of the range model, and costs only a tiny bit more than the SGW-300. Interestingly, at time of purchase, the SGW-100 was slightly dearer than the 300. The 100 is water resistant to 200m, lacks both barometer and altimeter but has an electronic compass.

I went with the SGW-300 because it had everything I wanted and nothing I didn’t want. It came in a small box with a display stand in a plastic display case. In the box was a 1-year Casio warranty card and a tiny but multi-language thick manual.

It’s a good looking watch with a battery that lasts for about 3 years. However, I suspect I’d have to replace the batt sooner than that since that figure is probably quoted for brand new batts newly popped into the unit. I also use the backlight quite a fair bit which drains the battery faster. Backlighting is provided by two amber-coloured LEDs. The duration of illumination can be set to either 1 or 3 seconds.

Setting up the watch was a fairly straight forward affair, but you may still need to consult the manual to find out what certain abbreviations mean and to find out what buttons to press to get to certain modes. The watch measures temps from -10C to 60C. Time accuracy according to the manual is +/- 30 seconds per month which isn’t so good compared to some top of the range models; but it means at worst, I’d only have to adjust the time by a minute every two months (or adjust it by 5 minutes every 10 months, worst case scenario).

Barometer mode. Atmospheric pressure can be displayed in either inHG or hPa units. 

When entering barometer mode, the watch automatically takes readings every few seconds for the first few minutes then it’s every hour or so. It has the ability to compare the current reading with that taken when the barometer was last activated. A drop or rise in pressure will indicate whether the weather is turning cloudy or fine. I’ll get a chance to put that barometer to good use when I go mountain climbing in a week’s time!

I do have a minor complaint here, instead of pressing one single button to return to timekeeping mode, one has to press the “mode” button 5 times. But at least the time is displayed in all modes.

When it’s time to have the battery replaced, get a qualified Casio service technician to do it. Avoid doing it yourself or you may end up with a watch that is no longer water resistant!

The usual standard functions of an outdoor watch are all there: stopwatch (with two time stops/records), world time (48 cities, 31 time zones), countdown timer, and 5 alarms! The beeps emitted by the watch aren’t that loud however, so not too sure how effective this will be as an alarm. I found that the alarms beeps also go off a bit too soon. Still, a nice function to have.

The SGW-300 does not have a built-in compass, analogue or electronic. This isn’t a big deal as I much prefer an old fashioned analogue compass for outdoor use. The one on my GPS is also very good.

I’m also quite impressed with the build quality given its low price (relative to a Protrek). I had searched for reviews of the product before making my final decision. Although reviews were scarce, there was one very good one done by a watch fan in a watch forum complete with detailed photos which boosted my confidence. The watch really looked good and well built in all those photos and now that I own it, I can testify that it does have the look and feel of good quality product. It’s not too plasticky as one would expect.

However, I expect the plastic or “resin” glass to scratch far more easily compared to mineral glass. So who knows what it would look like after a few trips to the jungle. :)
Oh by the way, that watch forum… that one really surprised me! I mean I get camera and photography forums, or computer hardware forums, but watch fans buying multiple watches and reviewing them and talking about buying a few more different models… I guess for someone who doesn’t “get” photography or cameras, camera forums are weird too. =)

The whole watch with its strap weighs in at only 47g, which is more than 30 grams lighter than a Protrek model I looked at.

What else is there to say about this watch? I really like it so far. Am very happy I got this model. Why spend on features I neither want nor need in a watch? All the functions it has I find useful and whatever it doesn’t have such as pressure or elevation plots, I can get off my Garmin Vista Hcx which follows me on all my major outdoor trips.

And the best thing is, for about 1/5th the price of the Protrek model I had been eyeing, I now have an outdoor watch to take with me up mountains and into the jungle. With it on my wrist, I no longer have to rely on my GPS, mobile phone or camera for the time. ;)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Crested serpent eagle (Spilornis cheela)

Spotted this beautiful bird of prey while driving. Had to stop to take some photos! Luckily I had my camera and lens with me since I was going birding with a friend (a new hobby I very recently acquired).

This bird was about 50 meters away and high up a dead tree out in the open. I’ve seen this bird in forested areas as well, where it often searches for reptiles such as lizards and snakes. And just a few days ago I believe I saw one flew by the back of my home!

The crested serpent eagle (Spilornis cheela) is a medium sized bird with a crest that reminds me of the head dress of some native American tribes. This one ruffled its feathers in the wind and I scrambled to get some shots of it with its crest feathers raised but pity those turned out soft or blurry.

The photos below are cropped down to about 15% of the original frame. Beautiful bird!

When we first saw it, it was facing us…

crested_serpent_eagle sarawak borneo 2
After preening for a bit, it turned around and moments later flew off into the jungle.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Return to Gunung Jagoi - part 3 (June 2012)

Here are the rest of the photos, this is the third and final part. Be sure to check out parts 1 and 2 and also my 2009 post.

One section of the small abandoned village of Bung Jagoi.

Hand rails being constructed as part of the Jagoi development project.

As long as one’s relatively fit, it should be an easy walk up the small mountain.

The trail is clean and quite well maintained.

Bung Jagoi - abandoned village near the summit. There aren’t a lot of houses here, many have been abandoned and some are in a state of disrepair. But the clean surroundings and some planted vegetables suggested the owners still come up here from time to time to check on their properties.

There is one family still staying in this village. The lady whom we met said most visitors were local who walked up the mountain as a form of exercise.

It’s been about 2.5 years since I was last here, good to visit this village again.

That concrete building is new, not sure what it is.

Summit marker

View from the summit

The mountain is a popular with students who sometimes camp at the top.

Nearby villages as seen from viewpoint

View of a nearby kampung (village) as seen from the main viewpoint

View of Mount Moi, Mount Singai, and the mountains of Kubah National Park in the far distance. It was a little hazy when we were there.

Scenic panorama

Hope you enjoyed this series!


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Return to Gunung Jagoi - part 2 (June 2012)

Here are more photos as promised! Halfway up the mountain it appeared as if it would rain and we actually thought about turning around but decided to carry on since we were already so close to the abandoned village.

The sky cleared up by the time we got there, giving us a pretty nice view at the northern view point. But halfway down, rain approached from the south and we were stuck for a while in one of the newly built shelters! If it wasn’t for that rest hut, we would have been drenched.

Click here for part 1. 

The last set of photos will be posted in part 3 (15 photos each part). Also, be sure to check out my 2009 Mount Jagoi post here (click). 

There’s a herbal garden here? I’ve been down this trail before and it led to someone’s farm. We wondered what they meant by “herbal garden” cause there were plenty of herbs all along the trail. Is this a new garden where herbs of all kinds are planted in one spot for educational purposes or? Wish they indicated how far the garden was from this signboard, or is that shady patch of forest supposed to be it? We found nothing of interest there, just more of the same herbs and plants found elsewhere along the trail.

This is the third rest hut along the trail. The concrete stairs that lead up to the abandoned village begin here.

“Ayak Bikubu” - No idea what it means.

Concrete steps that lead up to the abandoned village near the summit.

Look what I found on one of the concrete stairs!

The stairs are not that steep but there are many steps!

And here’s one section of the abandoned village, nothing much has changed since my 2009 visit. But it’s apparent the place is cleaned up from time to time.

“Terung pipit” - Solanum species. I’ve got one plant in my backyard but I’ve never tried the fruits which are very small.

I’ve got a picture of this section taken from the same spot in my 2009 post. Try compare the two pictures…

“Belimbing asam” - sour starfruit. Used in sweet and sour dishes such as “ikan asam”.

We met a lady who sitting outside her home while passing through the village. She said she and her sibling were the only ones still staying in the village. She grows her own vegetables and tends to the livestock she keeps (we heard pigs grunting). I asked her about the belimbing asam fruits seen in the above picture, laid out to dry. She said it wasn’t normal practice, she just did it “suka suka” - just for fun, just to see what she can do with them, since she thought it was a pity to let the fruits fall to the ground and go to waste (they’re pretty sour, you can’t just pluck one off the tree and eat it!). It was nice to chat with her for a while, but since it was nearly noon, we bade goodbye and went on our way.

The Bidayuh baruk has been upgraded with a new roof and new walls! Looks really nice now. Compare this photo to the one taken in my 2009 post.


Take the right trail to the summit and northern viewpoint.

Just a few more steps to the highest point on this small mountain…

To be continued in part 3.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Return to Gunung Jagoi - part 1 (June 2012)

Mount Jagoi is a mountain located near Kampung Duyoh, close to the Serikin border market about 20 minutes by car from the town of Bau, Sarawak.

It’s not very tall, only about 300m asl. I’ve not been here for quite a while so it was good to walk up the mountain and check out what’s changed since my last visit.

Click here for my 2009 “Gunung Jagoi Revisited” post

Compared to about 2 years ago, there are now a number of improvements and new additions such as sturdy rest shelters, wooden railings, signboards and plant/tree identification posts, all for the added comfort of visitors. I particularly like the tree species identification posts with both botanic and vernacular names (common name is in Bidayuh).

Good job by the Jagoi Development Committee, Ministry of Tourism and Heritage and all others involved in the improvement project.

Visitors are now required to sign in at the “Visitor information centre” which is actually someone’s home. There is a donation/collection box here and a token fee can be dropped into it.

Gunung Jagoi is an easy mountain to hike up. The trail is fairly wide and it takes only about 1 hour (or less if you’re really fast!) to reach the summit. To get to the summit, you’ll have to pass through an abandoned village near the top. We met a lady here who told us her sibling and herself were the only people still staying in that village.

Here are some photos I took during my recent walk up the small mountain. More photos will be added in part 2.

Welcome to Bung Jagoi. Bung in Bidayuh means summit, peak or the top of a hill.

Not sure what happened to this sign! Work of vandals??

Unchanging landscape. Compare this shot with the ones taken in my earlier Jagoi posts.

Sandy trail

Limestone hills of Bau in the distance. Bungo Range in the far distance.


I really like these new additions. Plant names! The common name is given in Bidayuh (for eg. Sikuk is the Bidayuh name for Manggis or Mangosteen). There are many trees both big and small with ID posts like this one. Makes the walk all the more fun and educational especially for nature lovers.

“Botak” trees

Tree with hive of funnel bees

Entrance to the funnel-bee hive. Note the structure resembles a funnel.

Rest shelter and signboards, all new additions

Sign posted halfway up the mountain.

The trail is mostly gentle, only a few short stretches are steep.

I think this old tree is a cempedak tree. Or some kind of Artocarpus.

Love this shady part of the trail, very calming to walk through here, lots of trees!

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