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Backpacking With A Thermometer
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Maia Jordan
(maia) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Backpacking With A Thermometer on 10/29/2013 22:34:56 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Backpacking With A Thermometer

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Backpacking With A Thermometer on 10/29/2013 23:04:08 MDT Print View

Good article Rex.

I have one of those thermometers/compass on the outside of my pack also. Cheap, light. I measure the temperature of ice water bath and write down the freezing temperature on it's side to calibrate because they're not real accurate.

I have an ADC Wind that also measures wind speed, except I ran over it with my car so the wind speed doesn't work anymore. I like that it also has date, day of week,...

The only problem with ADC wind, is the sensor is buried in it somewhere so it takes a long time for the temperature to stabilize.

I bought some cheap unnamed temperature/wind speed meter from It's temperature sensor is visible inside a hole so it's protected, but stabilizes pretty quick.

I stole my wife's kitchen thermometer (don't tell her). Similar to yours. Quick to achieve temperature. You can put it in water. It's off by 1 degree F so I just wrote the freezing temp (31 F) on the outside.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Backpacking With A Thermometer on 10/30/2013 06:31:58 MDT Print View

Here is one that is accurate and stores information. Data loggers for the food industry. Pocket sized. Those mercury/alcohol ones some times don't go low enough. A bunch of the electronic ones seems to stop at -18 F

Edited by kthompson on 10/30/2013 06:49:01 MDT.

Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
Re: Re: Backpacking With A Thermometer on 10/30/2013 07:47:27 MDT Print View

I question laying the thermometer on the ground could that not effect the reading if the ground temp is different from the air temp

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Re: Backpacking With A Thermometer on 10/30/2013 08:17:48 MDT Print View

"This year I started carrying an Acurite Digital Window Thermometer which is 34 grams without the suction cup. This battery-powered thermometer records the minimum and maximum temperature, resetting every 24 hours after powering on. At camp, I set the thermometer on the ground just outside the tent. In the morning, I note the overnight low temperature on my voice recorder. The maximum temperature is almost useless for backpacking. One day the thermometer recorded a high temperature of 94 F (34 C) inside my white cuben fiber backpack, when a nearby weather station recorded a high temperature of 64 F (18 C)."

I like the advertised features of this thermometer but why do you still carry it if it is off by 30* for daytime highs?

David Gardner
(GearMaker) - M

Locale: Northern California
Re: Backpacking With A Thermometer on 10/30/2013 10:18:11 MDT Print View

I carry an old REI zipper thermometer (no compass), which I use to measure water and air temperature so I can estimate the right amount of alcohol for boiling water.

Joe S
Re: Backpacking With A Thermometer on 10/30/2013 10:37:35 MDT Print View

I have the Acurite and like it; someone else on the forum suggeted removing the clear plastic case and placing the thermometer unit in a small plastic bag. I think that would drop the weight considerably. I've found it to be pretty accurate.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: Backpacking With A Thermometer on 10/30/2013 10:41:59 MDT Print View

Most of those carrying therms only want to record the overnight lows.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Backpacking With A Thermometer on 10/30/2013 11:03:50 MDT Print View

> I like the advertised features of this thermometer but why do you still carry it if it is off by 30* for daytime highs?

The temp inside his pack was artificially inflated because of sunlight even though the pack is white.

I use the Coghlan's Digital Dangler. It's known for being about 3* off so I just adjust accordingly. I try keeping it in the mesh pocket away from the sun and seemed to do OK. Sometimes my water bottle would throw it off.

I'd agree that laying it on the ground would skew the results.

I also learned it's much hotter in the car itself than the trunk! Now any electronics we're not taking get stowed there instead of the glovebox.

Michael Gonzales
(dynomo01) - MLife

Locale: Southeast
Wouldn't leave home without it. on 10/30/2013 11:14:01 MDT Print View

Good to see that I am not the only one who packs a thermometer. I have a trip diary in which I record all my backpacking trips. A key piece of data I record is the temperature. I utilize this data to evaluated my gear and fine tune my gear based on the predicted temperature on my excursions. The Accu-rite thermometer that I use has a long battery life and the min/max temperature feature has been very useful. I removed the suction cup and store the battery in a separate clear round case when not in use. In my value system the benefits I get from my Accu-rite outweighs the nominal weight penalty.

Alex H
(abhitt) - MLife

Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW
Re: Wouldn't leave home without it. on 10/30/2013 11:46:53 MDT Print View

I have also carried one for decades and it has helped in fine tuning the system especially as I am almost always out in the shoulder and winter seasons. If I just did summer trips I probably would not bring one.

Official temperature records are taken at 5 feet above ground in a ventilated box out in an open area with the thermometer in the shade of the box. I do check the highs several times each day just to see but make sure the thermometer is in a shady place above ground. I too have had wild readings when hung on the side of the pack, even in a mesh pocket.

At night I usually hang it suspended from one of my poles to get a bit more accurate reading as it relates to temperatures recorded at nearby stations rather than just laying it on the ground. Of course we are laying on the ground so who is to say what is more relevant?

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Wouldn't leave home without it. on 10/30/2013 11:49:12 MDT Print View

I'm interested in one for the same reasons Michael mentioned; it's nice to be able to know the limits of your gear.

I follow Shug's videos on YouTube. From what I can tell, he uses a dual sensor thermometer which will read the highs/lows from under his tarp and outside of his shelter.

One feature of the Garmin Fenix that really appeals to me is the temperature sensor but I'm concerned about the battery's life span and cost to replace when it no longer holds a charge. I'll check out the accurite in the meantime.

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
Re: Backpacking With A Thermometer on 10/30/2013 11:49:47 MDT Print View

nice write up .

in my walks i have found that there can be as much as a 6° night time differential inside to outside even with a mostly netting inner tent. and that my feet go numb at 56° temp inside the boots.
having a thermometer with an additional remote sensor makes finding our such valuable trivia more fun !


David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Radiant heat loss effects on 10/30/2013 12:00:48 MDT Print View

Thanks for the article Rex. Voice recorders, now thermometers. . . I feel like I should out-geek you with an article on the best backpacking slide rules.

>"I felt colder on some nights that were several degrees F warmer than others, according to the max-min thermometer. I think the difference was a slight breeze, despite using the same sleep system."

I notice I feel a lot colder despite the same dry-bulb temperature when in a creek drainage. Cold air can be falling downslope, generating a breeze near a moderately-sloped stream.

The other big variable I find is cloud cover versus clear skies. That makes a 5F, even 8F difference for the same air temperature. We are close to equilibrium with clouds - we radiant away infrared heat, the ground, trees, and clouds radiant infrared heat back at us. But on cloudless night, grass, trees, tents, and people are radiating infrared heat away into space while getting almost nothing back. (Overly technical point: while deep space is 3.2K (-453F), and clear air is mostly transparent to IR, the water vapor in the atmosphere does radiant a little. I've measured sky temps by IR of 30F on a 70F clear day and -45F on a cool, 30F winter day.)

>"I question laying the thermometer on the ground could that not effect the reading if the ground temp is different from the air temp"

You can tweak what you are measuring by how you place the thermometer. If you wanted a good air temperature, I'd place the thermometer in a tree, a few feet off the ground. That avoid the radiant losses discussed above. If you want to include those radiant losses on a clear night (so the thermometer reports what your tent or bivy is experiencing), then place it in the open. Rarely would the thermometer be in good thermal contact with the ground, so the big factors are if it is in the wind it will record close to air temperature. If it sees open, clear skies, it will record low due to those radiant losses. Putting under a tree or "shading it" from the clear sky with a branch, stone, or pot lid would get it back to recording close to air temperature.

Bringing two thermometers (or playing at home as I do) and placing one on top of your car while another is under your car, for instance, and you'll see the magnitude of the radiant heat loss on different nights. Windy and cloudy - little effect. Still air and clear skies - huge difference.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Backpacking With A Thermometer on 10/30/2013 12:23:38 MDT Print View

Multiple use, right?

I have a small digital alarm clock, and I use it because it is much louder than a wristwatch alarm. I hang it on the front pole of my tarp shelter where it is about two feet off the ground, but it is subject to most of the weather blowing by. The second feature on it is a digital thermometer. So, when I wake up from cold in the middle of the night, I only have to raise up on one elbow to see the temperature.

Being a proper geek, I keep it on the Celsius scale so that I can compare notes with David.


John Klinepeter
(johnzotk) - MLife

Locale: Northern Rockies, USA
thermometers on 10/30/2013 12:26:38 MDT Print View

For several years I also used a Digital Dangler. It performed well but eventually some of the LCD segments became "wonky" so I retired it. For the last few years I have used a two channel min/max thermometer which weighs 1.2 oz. with the battery.

The two channels allow one to measure in-tent and outside temps simultaneously. I have seen some very interesting outside minimum temps and don't know how to interpret them. As a consequence I trust the in-tent readings more than the exterior readings. Exposure to the naked sky on clear nights would seem to be the culprit. The readings have been taken on the ground or with the sensors perched a couple inches off the ground in tufts of grass using floorless shelters. I don't worry much about air vs. ground temp differences after reading one of R. Nisley's graph presentations several years ago that showed little difference between the two at least down to several degrees C below freezing (see

Edit: to add link to two channel thermometer here
Note that the device is available in degree F and degree C configurations as separate model numbers.

Edited by johnzotk on 10/30/2013 19:26:15 MDT.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Kestrel on 10/30/2013 12:36:43 MDT Print View

My weapon of choice is a Kestrel 2500 Weather station, I like that the wet bulb thermometer gets a pop reading stright away, the coldest it has seen it -13F, I use the aenometer and altimeter on it a lot.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Thermometer watch as a zipper pull? on 10/30/2013 13:11:02 MDT Print View

>"Multiple use, right?"

+1, Bob.

I'm thinking a digital watch, with thermometer (which might record high/low, and/or graph the data) could be converted to a zipper pull, thereby saving the weight of the strap and eliminating the falsely high readings from being on your wrist.

-watch (and therefore a compass if the sun is up)
-alarm (beat the sun to the snow field, make your return flight)
-hygrometer (a few have that)
-altimeter/barometer (rarer and more expensive) but really handy for route finding and weather prediction.

I haven't done an extensive survey, but when I think "thermo-alti-barometer watch", I imagine a big, honking men's watch. I've always preferred a women's sport watch because they do all the same (basic) things at 1/2 or 1/3 the weight and fit my dainty wrist just fine.

I did just now find a ladies watch with thermometer: -10 to 60 C (14 to 140 F), 100M Water Resistant, Digital Compass, Displays sunrise time and sunset time, LED Backlight, analog (nice for use as a compass) and digital (nice for timing or alarms), $79.

Here's one already on a clip: $41, digital UV detector, a digital tide function and a digital thermometer sensor. Electro Luminescence.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Thermometer watch as a zipper pull? on 10/30/2013 13:18:11 MDT Print View

"Thermometer watch as a zipper pull"

I can't use a thermometer on the zipper pull, because that is where the slide rule hangs.


David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Thermometer watch as a zipper pull? on 10/30/2013 13:26:00 MDT Print View

So use the slide rule as a tie bar or hair clip and free up the zipper for the thermo/watch.Slide rule