Once upon a time, when you wanted to find that unique weather gadget, the best website to check out was Ambient Weather based in the U.S. While it still stocks what I consider the best assortment of weather instruments, either high or low tech, it no longer ships internationally. So, unless you have some kind of setup to deal with this type of situation, ordering from them is not really an option. That said, if you are really interested in what is available when it comes to weather-related items, do check them out… and no, I am not associated with them in any way.
When it comes to purchasing a weather-related gift for that special person in your life, then I personally think the sky is the limit. OK, maybe not, but it should work that way! For fun I thought I’d begin our look at holiday weather gift ideas by taking a page from some of the stars and look at the ridiculous amount of money you could spend if money were no object. I spent some time trying to find super-expensive weather gadgets all blinged out in gold or diamonds, but interestingly enough, I couldn’t find any. Go figure. Maybe people who are into weather aren’t that strange after all. If you think spending $500 or so on computerized weather stations is crazy, you could buy a complete Weather Hawk station for the low price of about $6,000! Not sure what makes these stations so special, but if I had one, it better not ever break down!
On the low-tech side of things, the most expensive item I could find was a barograph that came in around $2,500. A barograph is basically a piece of graph paper attached to a slowly revolving drum, which, through a pen attached to an analog barometer, keeps track of the atmospheric pressure. This type of instrument is fairly old in design and thus has an antique look and quality to it. Would I like to have something like this? Sure! Would I spend that kind of money? No way!
Now on to the more reasonable items. I’m going to start with the least expensive items I found available at different Canadian stores and websites. One of the best is the La Crosse wireless thermometer. Its regular price is around $25, but you can usually find it on sale at Canadian Tire for about $10. This little gadget will tell you the time, indoor temperature and outdoor temperature, all without having to run a wire. As long as you don’t place the temperature sensor too far away from the receiver, it works fine. The batteries seem to last forever. I’ve had two of these over the last five or so years and even though I have a complete weather station at home, I find this great to take with me when we are away from home camping, at the cottage or what have you.
Now, if you want to step it up a notch and get a full-blown weather station, I personally would not recommend spending the money on a hardware store version, even if it is on sale. If you want to invest in a weather station that will work well, be easy to install and last for years and years then, at least in my opinion, your best bet is to get a Davis Weather station. There are several models available, but for simple ease of use your best bet is the Davis Vantage Vue. This station pretty much does it all. Temperature both inside and out, humidity, wind speed and direction, air pressure and rainfall — all in one nice little bundle. Add in a data logger and then you are good to go with backing up data, looking at it on your computer, and even sharing it. All for less than $500 including tax, if you look around a little bit.
If that price tag is a little high and you still want a full-blown weather station, then your next best bet is a higher-end La Crosse station or an Oregon Scientific station. Now, with these stations you have to be careful as they put out a number of different units, some of which might leave you wanting more. If you are interested in a low-cost full weather station, then I would be leery of spending less than $200, unless it’s on sale.
If you are looking for something more modest or unique, then consider a Galileo thermometer or a Stormglass. They both work using the same basic principle: changes in pressure of an encapsulated liquid due to either changes in temperature or pressure. The Galileo thermometer is relatively inexpensive at between $10 and $20, and will show you the temperature based on the buoyancy of different glass balls floating in a liquid. The Stormglass works off of changes in pressure, which in turn causes crystals to grow or shrink in a contained unit. This one is a little more expensive at around $150 and I’ll have to admit, I’ve never actually seen one in person, but they are really cool!
One of the best gifts for someone interested in weather is a rain gauge. They come in both digital form and your good old basic cylinder. Oregon Scientific makes several different digital rain gauges that work fairly well and can be found for around $50. If you’re looking for a good old-fashioned cylinder rain gauge, the best one I have come across is the one provided by CoCoRaHS. It’s just that simple. Looking around, I’ve seen equivalent rain gauges and the cheapest I found was the Stratus Long Term Professional Rain and Snow Gauge, which sells for about $75 before tax. While there are plenty of other cylinder-style gauges out there, these large gauges work remarkably well and can handle large rainfalls and record rainfall over long periods of time without losing much to evaporation.
Well, I know this might not have been too much help, but I do hope you have a great time looking for that perfect gift this holiday season.