If you love extreme sports and adventure, then you know the benefits of having an altimeter. This very useful tool gives you the ability to monitor altitude, and its variation, and is a very useful management tool for your next expedition. Plus, it also helps you to get to know the environment you are in.

Altimeters have a variety of uses, and are not solely for adventures and extreme sportspeople. Anyone who enjoys outdoor adventures, such as camping and hiking, can benefit from having one of these useful tools. These little gadgets can also have a variety of useful features, such as a compass, thermometer or barometer.

Key Facts

  • An altimeter or an altitude meter is an instrument that measures the altitude of an object above a fixed level
  • The two main types are the pressure altimeter (or aneroid barometer) which approximates altitude above sea level by measuring atmospheric pressure, and the radio altimeter, which measures absolute altitude (distance above land or water) based on the time required for a radio wave signal to travel
  • You don’t need to be a pilot or a mountaineer to get use out of an altimeter. Their various functions can be just as useful to you, for any outdoor activity

Our Selection: The Best Altimeters on the U.S. Market

To make it easy for you, we have created a list of the best altimeters on the U.S market. With this list, you are able to choose the best device for your needs. Keep in mind that each device will have its own set of features that are beneficial for different types of people and activities.

The Best Dashboard Altimeter for Cars and Trucks

If you’re looking for an altimeter to use with your car or truck, then this is a great product for you. This handy altimeter and barometer mounts easily to front or top of a dashboard. The removable hook-and-loop fastening system means you can easily remove from dashboard, and transfer either to pocket or a 2nd vehicle.

For $71.75, you also get two hook-and-loop attachments that to allow vehicle-to-vehicle movement. This altimeter measures the altitude in feet. The adjustable dial lets you account for high or low-pressure systems so that you get the most accurate reading possible.

The Best High Precision Altimeter

This is the most expensive option in our ranking. As you can gather from the price, it is designed for professionals. The ZIPLEVEL PRO-2000 high precision altimeter takes elevation measurement to the next level by allowing paper-thin precise measurements up to 0.005\” without the use of lasers. It is designed to save significant time and money on the job site.

ZIPLEVEL has been sold to tens of thousands of customers worldwide since 1996, making it a well proven, reliable technology company. If you are a professional looking for a reliable device on the job site, this is a great option for you.

The Best Mini Multifunctional Altimeter

This is a great device for those looking for an altimeter with plenty of extra functions. This gadget by Sunroad is an altimeter/barometer/thermometer/hygrometer /compass/ flashlight and weather forecast for indoor and outdoor activity.

It uses a built-in rechargeable battery and only needs a USB charging line, making it very convenient to use. Its lightweight and sports outlook are fitted for sports fan, while its digital interface is easy to read, and it is a great product for the outdoor fan.

The Best Multi-Function Digital Sport Watch Altimeter

This is a great option for someone looking to have an altimeter integrated into their everyday sports gear. This device allows you to keep track of the time and climate conditions while you’re playing your favorite sport or on an outdoor adventure.

This sturdy resin men’s wrist watch boasts easy-to-read, digital time, date, and day-of-the-week displays, as well as precise quartz movement; a stopwatch feature; five alarms; world time access; water resistance to 330 feet; and altimeter, barometer, and thermometer functions.  This watch is also water resistant to 100 m (330 ft), but not suitable for scuba diving.

The Best Device for Flying Objects

Jolly Logic AltimeterOne.

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Jolly Logic AltimeterOne.

$49.95

This altimeter is perfect for anyone in the aviation industry. Tiny and rugged, the AltimeterOne uses a state-of-the-art pressure sensor to measure the peak altitude of flight for rockets, planes, falcons, quadcopters, and kites. Its small and durable design and convenient tether point make this the only altimeter that can be mounted just about anywhere, including the tiniest rockets and the legs of hunting falcons and hawks.

This is a great option for those looking for a device to use with flying objects (not hiking). One user commented that it was used it to survey a water system for a remote village in a third world country and took measurements while there. So if you are planning a similar excursion, this could be the perfect device for you.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Altimeters

When looking to purchase an altimeter, there are some things to consider. There are several different types available on the market, each with their own unique set of features. Some are higher quality than others, and like any electronics, you get what you pay for. If you have never used one of these devices before, we are here to answer some of the most frequently asked questions.

What are altimeters exactly ?

If you have ever wondered how a pilot knows the exact altitude a plane has reached, you now know they use a a handy gadget called an altimeter. Altimeters were invented in the 1920s by German-born engineer, with the purpose of pioneering “instrument flight.” These devices have expanded outside the aviation world, and outdoor adventures across the globe now use them.

Altimeters are instruments used to measure the difference in altitude between two locations.
(Source: lzflzf: 71763064/ 123rf.com)

What are the advantages and disadvantages of altimeters?

An altimeter is a very simple device to use. It does not have any complex commands, and can easily be programmed to suit the environment it is being used in. They are great options over cell phones, as they will not lose connection and leave you stranded atop a mountain. These devices will travel with you, and always ensure you can clearly view your location.

Altimeters also have the ability to be synced to mobile phones. Of course, as with any electronic device, there are a few disadvantages. Their functionality can be affected by the climate, they most commonly do not have touchscreens and often not designed for use in extreme conditions.

Advantages
  • They allow you to know the altitude with respect to the sea level
  • Very easy to use
  • They can be synced with other electronic devices, such as mobile phones
  • A useful device for orienteering
Disadvantages
  • They most commonly do not have touchscreens
  • Their functionality can be affected by the climate
  • The most basic models are not designed for use in extreme conditions

Is it really worth buying an altimeter?

An altimeter is a great device for those in specific situations. If you partake in extreme sports, such as skydiving, altimeters are an indispensable tool to help you determine your current altitude and position. However you do not need to jump out of a plane to benefit from the uses of altimeters. As mentioned, they can be used by anyone who enjoys outdoor activities, as they prevent the risk of getting lost in unfamiliar environments.

Friedrich NietzscheGerman Philosopher and Poet

“The higher we soar, the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.”

What type of altimeters are available?

There are two main types of altimeters: radioelectric and barometric. Keep in mind, a barometric altimeter is not the same as a barometer. While a barometer and an altimeter both measure pressure, an altimeter compares barometric (atmospheric pressure) levels and represent the changes as a change in altitude. Here are the different characteristics between the two types of altimeters:

Type Characteristics Principle Uses
Barometric It functions by calculating the relation between atmospheric pressure and the altitude Parachuting, hiking and flying aircraft
Radioelectric It uses electromagnetic waves to measure distances Mainly for flying aircraft, although can be used for lots of other activities if required

How does an altimeter work?

The most common type of altimeters these days are multifunction digital models. These types of altimeters display all the information on a screen, and can perform many other functions other than measure the altitude. These handy tools incorporate an inbuilt barometer, and a mix of other measuring instruments (like GPS), which gather their readings from the exterior and display the results on the screen.

Conventional aircraft altimeters work by measuring the atmospheric pressure at the airplane’s flight altitude and comparing it to a preset pressure value. Air pressure decreases by about one-inch mercury for each 1,000-foot altitude increase.

For certain extreme sports, such as skydiving, altimeters are an indispensable tool.
(Source: Aliaksandr Alin: 50413999/ 123rf.com)

How does a barometric altimeter calculate the altitude?

As we have mentioned, the process for calculating the altitude is done by measuring the relation between atmospheric pressure and the altitude. Altitude can be determined based on the measurement of atmospheric pressure. The greater the altitude, the lower the pressure. When a barometer is supplied with a nonlinear calibration so as to indicate altitude, the instrument is called a pressure altimeter or barometric altimeter.

How does a radioelectric altimeter calculate the altitude?

Radioelectric altimeters (or radar altimeters) function differently. They measure altitude above the surface beneath an aircraft or spacecraft by timing how long it takes a beam of radio waves from the ground to the aircraft. As you can probably imagine, the aviation world mainly takes advantage of these devices.

Shopping Criteria

If you are convinced that you need an altimeter, thats great! As you have seen, there are a few different aspects to consider when purchasing one of these gadgets, and they are not all the same. With this shopping guide, we will go through the aspects you should look into. We hope that this buying guide gets you the best value for money possible when making your purchase.

Use

The way you plan to use it will determine the type of altimeter you purchase. If you are looking for a device to use for aviation purposes, you will need a radio electric altimeter. On the other hand, you may need an altimeter designed to work with vehicles such as cars. If you are simply looking for one to use on our outdoor adventures, you could go for a barometric altimeter.

If you’re an avid mountaineer or into skydiving, you might be interested in instruments designed for professionals. For parachuting, radar altimeters are definitely the best choice. For aviation, pressure altimeters or sensitive analogs are the way to go. However, if you’re usually making flights at low altitude, you would be better off with a radar altimeter.

Functionality

One of the main questions people have has to do with the type of altimeter you need. As we have mentioned, you can either buy a barometric or radioelectric model. It is also important to note whether or not you need GPS capabilities for your device, as this will make a difference in the price.

Functions

Traditional altimeter watches use atmospheric pressure as a gauge to measure and track changes in the altitude – similar to a barometer. The atmospheric pressure is greatest near the earth’s surface because gravity pulls everything, even air molecules, toward it. Some models will also respond differently to changes in weather patterns, and will alert the user. You can also fine altimeters that include things like calendars, chronometers and alarms.

Design

The common design has a face marked from 0 to 4000 m (or 0 to 12000 ft, mimicking the clock face), on which an arrow points to the current altitude. The face plate sports sections prominently marked with yellow and red, signifying the recommended deployment altitude, as well as emergency procedure decision altitude (commonly known as “hard deck”).

Most importantly, if you plan to use the altimeter outdoors, it is vital that it offers adequate protection from water and dust. Of course, it is equally important that it is nice and easy to use at the same time. In most cases, altimeters have a functional design ranging from wristwatches, to a more classic shape similar to a small pocket radio.

Battery

One thing you need to be aware of when purchasing an altimeter is the power source. Is it battery powered, and is it rechargeable? These devices usually do not include batteries. Generally speaking, altimeters need long-life batteries, but it is always recommended to have a spare on hand just in case.

Extras

Some high end devices will offer Bluetooth connectivity, to synchronise an altimeter with a mobile phone. You will also find some that include a very handy flashlight that will get you out of trouble if night falls suddenly. Altimeters designed for cars have an adhesive surface.

Summary

Altimeters are great tools, and very handy in several situations. Wether you are an avid mountaineer, a pilot, or just enjoy outdoor activities, an altimeter can provide you will many useful benefits.

Choosing the correct altimeter for your needs requires considering various criteria, and you should consider how you will be using it. This will help you to decide between a barometric or radioelectric model. The next thing to decide is if you want any of the extra features such as inbuilt battery, a particular design or Bluetooth connectivity.

If you have found this guide to be useful in helping you make your choice, please leave us a comment or share it on social media.

(Source of featured image: lzflzf: 71763064/ 123rf.com)

Why you can trust me?

Aubrey is a flight attendant and travels the world a lot. She likes to work long shifts because she is usually allowed to stay a little longer on the spot. Her favourite city: New York. Her adventures all over the world have inspired her so much that she now writes articles about traveling.