If you’re considering using a good heart rate monitor—for example, the HeartQ—to up your fitness or competition game, you’ll have no shortage of great options. For instance, you can get HRMs with calorie tracking, GPS, sleep monitoring, sports profiles and more. Before you explore these choices, however, you first need to narrow down the products you consider by asking yourself whether you need a water-resistant or waterproof heart rate monitor.
What does “water resistant” and “waterproof” even mean?
Any heart rate monitor you buy should be able to handle water to some degree, as working out, playing sports or getting into a competition is sweaty business and can take place in humid environment. From the technical standpoint, though, no heart rate monitor or other watch is completely waterproof—every device can leak under the right circumstances. Where devices differ, however, is the amount of water pressure they can handle before a leak occurs.
Heart rate monitors labeled as water resistant (the bulk of monitors out there) typically can handle significant splashes or being worn in the shower. They don’t handle a lot of water pressure well, however, so depth ratings are lower. Waterproof heart rate monitor can stand splashes and showering just like water-resistant models can. Unlike water-resistant devices, though, they generally have different design features, such as smaller openings, heavier gaskets and a reduced number of screw-down points. All these elements increase the amount of water pressure the device can take and decrease the odds that moisture can find its way into the monitor. You thus can take these devices to greater depths.
How do I pick between a water-resistant or waterproof heart rate monitor?
As you explore HRMs, the most important consideration is which type of water sports you’re going to be involved in. Remember, “waterproofness” is merely a measure of how much pressure the device can take—it’ not necessarily related to a ton of depth. For instance, in sports such as waterskiing or surfing, you might consider most of your work to be on or above the water. If you let go of the ropes or fall off your board, however, the amount of force you hit the water with can be pretty significant. The same principle applies for sports such as white water rafting or diving. Waterproof HRMs thus are better for these types of water activities. If you’re just looking for something that won’t die out on you even when you sweat buckets, or if you’re doing something such as water aerobics or traditional laps around the pool, a water-resistant model might suffice, provided you do not press any buttons on the device while submerged in the water. A general rule of thumb is that a rating between 30 and 50 meters is the minimum for using a heart rate monitor for these types of regular swimming.
Next, think about the type of feedback you’re after. Devices that are designed specifically for water sports, have significant depth ratings and are labeled as waterproof often will provide you with statistics such as stroke rate or lap time, whereas more general models labeled as water-resistant usually can give you heart rate or calorie information but not swim-specific data. If you’re serious about your water activity and need the metrics a waterproof model can provide, you might want to shell out a little more cash for a better depth rating. If you do most of your training out of the water with only occasional swims, it might not be worth it to get a more expensive waterproof model.
There’s really no such thing as a waterproof heart rate monitor, as any device can leak. Even so, manufacturers often apply the label to devices that have superior water pressure resistance and therefore can handle significant depths. When deciding between a water-resistant and waterproof heart rate monitor, the most important factor is the type of water sport you’ll do, as that determines how much water pressure you’ll expose the device to. After that, look at the feedback the device can provide for you. If you need good, highly specific, water-related metrics, go ahead and spend a little more for a waterproof, swim-oriented model, ideally one that has a rating to at least 100 meters. Otherwise, you probably can get by with a general HRM that’s labeled as water resistant to at least 30/50 meters.