“Oh yeah, it was easily blowing 100mph plus up there”
The hillwalker’s equivalent of ‘the one that got away’, it’s actually really difficult to accurately judge windspeed, with wild exaggerations commonplace, particularly if you’ve had to retreat from the hill to the comfort of the pub. An anemometer removes the uncertainty (and is usually enlightening).
“This sleeping bag is rubbish – it’s rated at -5ºC but I was shivering all night”
Disregarding variables like metabolism and sleeping mat insulation, being able to record overnight temperatures is a huge advantage when putting together wild camping kit – knowing how your kit (and body) responds at various temperatures allows you to pack the right combination of equipment based on the forecast (but don’t cut it too fine).
“Ooh, I don’t like the look of those isobars…”
As well as enabling you to sound like a salty sea dog, monitoring of barometric pressure is a great way to anticipate changes in the weather and act accordingly. There’s no need to take that decorative wooden barometer off your wall though.
“It must be just over the next rise”
A knowledge of your altitude is a real aid to navigation, perhaps when the exact summit is unclear but especially in poor visibility. Combined with a watch the rate of ascent can be monitored to ensure adequate progress and flag-up any potential timing issues.
These are all nice supplements to your day in the hills, but probably not essential to most hill-goers, especially if carried as individual devices. This is where the Kestrel range of weather instruments comes in. At just over 100g and capable of measuring a huge range of atmospheric conditions it’s a brilliant tool to carry in the outdoors. The 4500 model is one of the high-end models, measuring: Wind Speed, Wind direction, Crosswind, Headwind / tailwind, Heading (true and magnetic), Temperature, Wind Chill, Relative humidity, Heat index, Dew point, Wet bulb temperature, Barometric pressure, Altitude, Density altitude and Time & Date. Of course, these measurements aren’t all of use to the average hill walker, but I’m sure the geekier members of the Walkhighlands community will appreciate them…
In my role as Gear Editor for Walkhighlands it’s particularly useful for me to know how equipment performs in all conditions, and being able to quantify just how windy it is, how cosy that down jacket keeps me and how long I’ve got before the weather gets really bad is brilliant. The Kestrel 4500 enables me to do that. It’s a compact device with a backlit LCD screen above rubberised, easy to use buttons and an impeller protected by a flip-open cover. There’s a wrist/neck lanyard, soft protective pouch and importantly it’s water resistant to IP67 and floats!
Despite the bewildering range of measurements that can be obtained, it’s easy to flick through the screens, each offering Max, Min and Average readings, a graph and real-time measurement. For example, the minimum barometric pressure I’ve experience during my testing is 932.6mb, with a maximum of 1009.3mb, giving an average of 986.8mb. The realtime reading is 1000mb which corresponds exactly with the Met Office observation. The graph enables me to observe any trends – for example a drop in pressure over a short time suggests strong winds on the way. Logged altitude readings over the course of a Munro ascent should result in a nice gradient profile, and temperature readings overnight should correspond to that moment you woke up shivering.
As well as the preset screens, it’s possible to set up three personalised screens displaying the information most useful to youas a snapshot – perhaps a screen displaying realtime altitude, compass bearing and wind speed, and another with temperature, humidity and windchill.
It’s possible to get extremely indepth – connect the device to a PC via an additional interface, mount on a tripod with a removable wind vane and submit the acquired data to indepth analysis. But for most hillwalkers this is overkill, in which case it may be prudent to consider a less advanced – and cheaper – model from the range. At upwards of £300 this isn’t a cheap toy.