Most of our readers likely come to our site looking for information on weather stations they can install at home. That’s why we’ve spent a lot of time reviewing stations from a variety of manufacturers. But what if you need to know the weather conditions no matter where you are? Then a handheld weather station or handheld anemometer is a gadget you might want to consider.
As its name suggests, these devices are portable weather stations and can be operated using only one hand. While traditionally handheld anemometers (also referred to as wind meters) are the most common, some manufacturers have produced handheld weather stations, measuring not only wind but also temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, and other features like dew point, wind chill, heat index, wet bulb temperature, and altitude. Most devices offer a backlit display making them perfect for low light conditions and are drop-tested by the manufacturer to ensure durability.
Many models are also waterproof, making them perfect for use in the elements. It’s like a high-end weather station in the palm of your hand — and some cost as much money as those high-end weather stations. For more details on some of the best models, keep reading.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most often-asked questions by readers.
How does a handheld anemometer work?
Handheld anemometers are actually a fairly simple device: a small turbine, some electrical components, a screen, and a case. To use the device, you face the wind and hold up the device with one hand in the air. The turbine spins and is converted to either miles per hour or km/h and reported on the device’s screen. Some offer software so you can connect to the device and download weather data for later review.
How does a handheld weather station work?
The handheld weather station is like a souped-up version of the handheld anemometer. In addition to wind speed, these devices can report on temperature, relative humidity, and barometric pressure. While they look almost identical, the handheld weather station will also have an additional visible sensor where the temperature and relative humidity are measured.
Are handheld anemometers and weather stations accurate?
Generally yes, and some to within +/-2% of the actual reading. However, how you use them is key. For accurate wind readings, you must face directly into the wind, and for the handheld weather station, it’s a good idea to give it some time in the open air to “acclimate” the sensor. You will get more accurate temperature and relative humidity readings as a result.
Choosing a handheld anemometer
There are a lot of options when it comes to handheld anemometers, believe it or not. We were overwhelmed by the sheer number we found on Amazon from a variety of manufacturers. However, two names rise to the top, namely Kestrel and Ambient Weather. But there are some other great options out there as well from other manufacturers.
So what should you look for in a handheld wind meter? Read on for a few tips.
Obviously, accuracy is a key variable to consider. Generally, as you increase in price, accuracy will improve. Some models may have accuracy down to +/-2%, but these handheld anemometers are among the most expensive. Keep in mind that these devices require you to stand facing the wind head-on, and that might not be easy to do when wind speeds are high.
A less accurate wind meter will only compound that error. We always recommend considering accuracy first before price, even if you’re looking for a budget model.
Handheld anemometers are meant to be used outdoors, so device construction is important. If you are using the device in harsher environments, ensure it is built well, which most higher-end devices are. For those using their devices casually, durability is far less of a concern. Many of them are waterproof.
While most handheld wind meters are all built the same, some may offer different functionality. One common feature added to these devices is temperature. Some, like those used in firefighting, might also include a humidity sensor too.
Do I need a handheld weather station instead?
A handheld weather station might be a better choice for those not only concerned with the wind but other weather conditions as well. They’re all but miniature versions of home weather stations, just in a tiny package. We think portable weather stations make the most sense for weather enthusiasts and commercial interests over casual observers, though. Most will be happy with a basic wind meter.
What is the best handheld anemometer?
We’ve combed through the dozens of options out there and came up with these options that we think you should check out.
The Kestrel 2000 measures:
- Maximum Wind Gust
- Average Wind Speed
- Temperature (Air, Water, & Snow)
- Wind Chill
The Kestrel 2000 Pocket Wind and Temperature Meter is Kestrel’s higher-end handheld anemometer before you get into their “weather meters,” which is a majority of their line. Running on just a CR2032 watch battery, like all Kestrel meters the Kestrel 2000 is waterproof and tested to military standards and is made right here in the U.S. at its suburban Philadelphia factory.
In addition to wind speed readings, the Kestrel 2000 wind meter also includes a digital thermometer, which adds the capability to measure temperature and wind chill. This is a great pick for those looking for a higher-end handheld wind meter without all the bells and whistles of a handheld weather station.
The entry-level Kestrel 1000 measures wind speeds only and is perfect for budget-conscious weather watchers.
If you don’t need any bells and whistles and just need a great handheld anemometer, consider the Kestrel 1000 wind meter. It’s built the same way as the Kestrel 2000, just without the temperature sensor. Since it’s of similar construction, the accuracy is the same too — as it shares the same turbine that the more expensive models do.
If accuracy is a concern for you, we don’t think a budget wind meter will serve you well. The Kestrel 1000 is more expensive than most other wind meters we’ve seen, but we think the added cost is worth it. Overall, we’re very impressed with Kestrel’s lineup, and it’s the reason why you’ll see their devices quite a bit in this list.
- Measures wind speed, temperature, and wind chill
- Max wind speed 67 mph (+/- 5% accuracy)
- Tripod hole for mounting
- Includes case
If your budget is super tight, the BTMETER BT-100 is a popular seller on Amazon (as well as a popular alternative among TWSE readers, too). For casual use, the BT-100 is perfect as it retails for under $40, and measures all of the commonly included variables like temperature, wind, and wind chill.
But the BT-100 isn’t necessarily built for this use: instead, it (and other copycat models on Amazon) are for technicians to test the performance of HVAC units. But buyers are using it for weather, and with a good degree of success too. Keep in mind that wind readings max out at 67mph, and the margin of error is a rather large 5% — far bigger than any of our previous recommendations.
What is the best handheld weather station?
While there are significantly fewer options for handheld weather stations, there are still enough for us to pick out three that we think will suit our readers best.
In terms of price, the Kestrel 5500 Weather Meter is as expensive (if not more) as some of the weather stations we’ve reviewed. But there’s a reason for this: all those instruments are packed into this beast of a handheld weather station. In addition to temperature and wind speed, the Kestrel 5500 can measure humidity and barometric pressure. An internal compass can also tell you wind direction and calculate headwind, tailwind, and crosswind when the Kestrel 5500 is used with an optional vane mount.
Another cool feature of the 5500 is LiNK, Kestrel’s connectivity platform. Using a mobile phone and Kestrel’s app, you can view data up to 100 feet away from the device.
The Kestrel 3500 can measure:
- Altitude (Barometric)
- Barometric Pressure
- Dew Point Temperature
- Heat Stress Index
- Relative Humidity
- Temperature (air and water)
- Wet Bulb Temperature (Psychrometric)
- Wind Chill
- Wind Speed/Air Speed
We understand that many might find the Kestrel 5500 to be a bit of overkill — after all, it’s Kestrel’s top-of-the-line weather meter. If you’re looking for something a bit simpler that’s also much friendlier on the pocketbook, then we’d suggest the Kestrel 3500 weather meter instead. It has all of the functionality of the 5500 but lacks the internal compass and data-logging functionality.
For most of us, that’s not going to be that big of an issue. Also, the Kestrel 3500 is a little more compact than the 5500, as it uses the same CR2032 battery as some of Kestrel’s cheaper models (the 5500 uses AA batteries). If you’re sticking this in your pocket when it’s not in use, that might matter.
Once again Ambient Weather makes our list, this time for the WM-5 Handheld Weather Meter. The feature set of the WM-5 is much like the 3500, although the WM-5 is only water-resistant and not waterproof. If you’re not using your handheld weather station in harsh conditions or near water, that might not be that big of an issue.
Reviews of the device are surprisingly good, with most users reporting that the readings are accurate and the device easy to use. One big complaint however is the battery life, which users report is far less than other similar weather meters. That said, the company does get high marks for its customer support if anything goes wrong.
For the price, the Ambient Weather meters are a good deal. However, we’d recommend considering the Kestrel Weather Meter, as they have more functionality and are more durable (and waterproof). We’ve created a post summarizing those recommendations, which you can find here.
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