Understanding the Different Types of Weather Instruments

Posted by  Friday, May 24 2013 7:00 am
expert

Outdoors enthusiasts always keep an eye on the weather. That's because they know that a hard rain, heavy snowfall or shift in wind direction or velocity can change everything. So, too, can sweltering hot days, blue skies or bone chilling cold. Indeed, weather can, and often does, influence the success or enjoyment of any hunting, fishing or camping outing — on occasion, it can even threaten survival. Obviously, the more you know about what's in store weather-wise, the better your chance of being prepared.

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Fortunately, gauging what's in store isn't nearly as uncertain as it used to be. Predictions from local news and weather channels, generated from satellite images and sophisticated measuring devices, are more often right than wrong these days, despite our occasional griping. And, should you be so inclined, there are a number of tools available to help you develop your own personal weather station at your home or hunt camp.    

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Weather radios are a must for campers, allowing them to tune into local or national weather channels for last-minute reports.

This article will focus on personal weather stations, radios and wind measuring devices. Each of these things has a definite place in the kit of every outdoors enthusiasts. The question is what's right for you?

Radios  

The first and most obvious weather prediction tool available is a radio. And for good reason, too. They've been providing vital information for more than a century.  

Weather radios are, in fact, indispensable to camp life. In a word, they allow you to tune into local or national weather channels so that you can receive up to the minute reports and plan your outdoors activity appropriately. Some are expressly tuned to NOAA stations of the National Weather Service; others are essentially AM/FM units that allow you to tune in to a variety of local and national stations as well.

Whether you boat, hunt, fish or camp, you ought to have at least one of these. If nothing else, they inform you of what's going on in the world around you. The first time you hear a radio announcement warning you of dangerous weather, you'll realize that the cost of that radio has been paid in full.

Before you purchase one, however, consider your needs. If you are packing in to a remote camp where the weight you carry in might be restricted, a lightweight, hand crank model might be just the ticket. These lightweight units require no batteries — instead they work by generating power by a simple hand crank. Most also have a flashlight feature — something you can never have too many of around camp.

If weight is not an issue, however, larger, more complex radios are also available, and, in many cases, these are better choices. These can sport useful features such as AC adapters, emergency flasher beacons, NOAA and Environment Canada weather and freeze alert sirens, USB cell phone charging plug ins, digital clocks, AC adapters, solar chargers or rechargeable batteries that can be recharged from a hand crank. Typically, these units are weather-resistant and surprisingly durable.

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Most weather stations measure minimum and maximum wind speed, temperature, barometric pressure and humidity.

DIY Weather  

Some folks are just natural do-it-yourselfers, even when it comes to weather prediction. If you'd rather keep on top of your own weather developments, a personal weather station might be just what you are looking for.

These sleek, high-tech receivers come in a variety of configurations but most have common features that measure minimum and maximum wind speed, temperature, barometric pressure and humidity. Some will also determine total precipitation, show moon phases, predict wind chill and speed, record weather data, serve as alarm clocks, and provide weather and wind alerts. Others even go so far as to suggest what to wear in current weather conditions or have weather forecasting ability. Some models can be programmed to send weather alerts to your computer or mobile phone. Lacrosse Technology, Oregon Scientific  and Bass Pro Shops are two companies that provide several models of weather stations with a variety of features to choose from.

Regardless of the options, you should be aware that these stations typically work in conjunction with wireless sensors that are placed outside. As such, they are best suited for the permanent camp or home but might also prove useful in base camps, too.

Because these rely on sensors, you should take a good look at the ranges and restrictions that accompany the sensors and also be aware if sensors come with the unit or need to be purchased separately.

Also know that though most are stand-alone units that utilize AA batteries, some require Internet connections to function, too. The key is to research the units within your price range, do a bit of comparison, and determine the features that are most useful to you.

Wind Measuring Devices  

Few things affect outdoors activity as much as wind. The wrong wind can make time on the water miserable or even dangerous; it can limit your options when hunting big game; and it can make an otherwise mild or wet day unbearable.

The weather stations, previously mentioned, all do a good job of providing information about wind. The down side is that they are not really designed to do this out in the field with you.

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Handheld devices make being alert when out in the field a bit more predictible.

One way of gauging wind in the field is with a hand held anemometer, which is essentially a GPS-sized tool that's designed to measure wind velocity, wind chill and temperature. These are of particular value to long-range rifle shooters. With one, you can measure crosswinds and determine wind speed; both of which are key variables in calculating bullet drift.

Portables  

The handheld anemometer and small crank-handled radios are devices that are useful out in the field. Other handheld weather radios are also available, and some like Midland's NOAA Handheld Weather Alert Radio can be set to monitor stations that are relevant to your area and have other features such as alarms clocks.

La Crosse Technology's Handheld NOAA Weather Radio is also an easy to carry unit that provides early warning on impending weather as well as AM/FM functions.

No Excuses  

Simply put, the days of gauging the weather based on aching joints, the way the birds sing, or the water hangs on a clothesline are long gone. Modern technology has taken away all the excuses for getting caught, unprepared out in inclement weather. With the right radio or weather station, it's easy for an outdoors enthusiast to meet any eventuality that Mother Nature is willing to throw at you. And that can translate into more fish and game or time enjoyed outside. That alone ought to make you feel warm all over.

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Last modified on Wednesday, May 21 2014 1:19 pm
Steve Galea
expert

Steve Galea makes his living as an assistant editor for Ontario Out of Doors magazine, where he is best known for My Outdoors, his back page humor column that has run continuously since 1996. He also writes columns for five weekly newspapers across Ontario and has contributed to several books on the outdoors. When not writing, Steve spends time fly fishing and tying. He also enjoys using bow, rifle or shotgun, depending on the hunting season. His English springer spaniel Callie is an eager grouse and woodcock dog and he values time afield with her.

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