Each year around this time I like to take a look at weather-related gift ideas. I’m a little bit behind this year, but there is still plenty of time to order something weather related for that special person on your gift list. Personally, I think that Ambient Weather (www.ambientweather.com) has probably the most complete list of weather instruments available anywhere, so it is a good place to start looking. Where you end up buying from is totally up to you; I am in no way connected to Ambient Weather or any other supplier of weather-related equipment.
Two things have been happening over the last five to 10 years that have helped to make weather instruments very affordable, and when you think about it, they both go hand in hand. The price of computer parts continues to get cheaper and cheaper. This has allowed companies that make computer-based weather instruments to not only make better products, but to make better products that are fairly inexpensive. The second driving force behind the lower prices is the increasing demand for these instruments. With home-based weather instruments and weather stations becoming more and more popular, there has been a significant increase in the number of instruments and stations available. More competition almost always leads to better prices. That said, let’s take a look at what’s available this year.
If all you are looking for is a simple weather station that will give you the outdoor temperature, humidity and barometric pressure, you have plenty to choose from. The majority of these units comes with fairly impressive indoor consoles that easily display all the weather information. They will usually automatically record daily maximum and minimum temperatures and most will store and display around five days of weather history. They all come with a minimum of one wireless outdoor sensor that can usually be placed upward of 100 feet from the indoor console, but what kind of distance you get all depends on which structures are between the indoor unit and the outdoor sensor. These stations typically cost anywhere from $25 to $50.
For those of you who are looking for a full-blown weather station that records temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, and precipitation, I’m happy to say prices for these stations have probably come down the most. You can now get a decent starter station that offers all of this and also allows you to connect the station to your computer, for around $100. If you want to take it up a notch and get what is considered a high-end home weather station, then you would be looking at purchasing a Davis or Oregon Scientific station.
Both of these companies make good weather stations. My personal preference is Davis. I have been using its weather stations for nearly 15 years now and have had very few problems. These higher-end weather stations are built better, record data more precisely, and download the data more often. They start in price at around $250 and can go all the way up to nearly $1,000. My personal recommendation for a weather station in this price range is to go with either a Davis Vantage Vue station or a Davis Vantage Pro2 station.
If a backyard weather station isn’t what you’re looking for, then maybe you might be interested in a portable handheld weather station. These stations start around $30 and go up to over $100. These handheld units will give you, at a minimum, temperature, wind speed and wind chill. The higher-end units will also give you humidity, dew point and heat index.
For those of you who like the more traditional weather instruments, there are still plenty of those available, ranging in price from around $30 up. I personally really like the brass-like instruments, such as the porthole-style barometers, thermometers and clocks. These instruments are designed to be used inside or out and can offer that touch of antique class.
Finally, what I think might be one of the neatest weather instruments being offered at an affordable price: for around $50 you can get a watch that not only gives you the temperature, but will also tell you altitude, barometric pressure, sunrise and sunset, moon phases and tidal information, and has a built-in electronic compass along with a stopwatch. Now that is one heck of a watch!