An altimeter is an instrument to measure altitude; the vertical distance between the altimeter and mean sea level (above sea level). Please remember that altitude, elevation, and height are different.
Altitude awareness is important in some cases, for example, extreme outdoor activity. Mountaineer (hiker) and skydiver need the altitude information to find their position and location on the ground or in the sky.
The classic and conventional barometric altimeter is built by comparing the atmospheric pressure of present location height and the sea level pressure. Therefore, the more the altitude (higher places) increases, the thinner the air density, the lower the air pressure to be.
As the technology expands and advances, the altimeters vary in some types based on how they measure altitude. They are radio altimeter, GNSS (GPS, Galileo) altimeter, laser altimeter, and altimeter app.
If you are going to buy a new altimeter, you need to know some models available currently on the market. This post will let you know the models and give reviews over the best ones.
Top 10 Best Altimeter Reviews 2021
1. Garmin Instinct [Best Overall Altimeter]
If looking for an altimeter watch, then this Garmin Instinct should be your first consideration. This altimeter watch is also our best overall altimeter.
The strongest point of this Garmin Instinct outdoor watch is the combination of its bunch of functionalities and great long battery life. It can last for 2 weeks (14 days) in smartwatch mode. While in GPS mode, it can last for up to 16 hours.
There are sensors in it: GPS, Glonass, GALILEO, Wrist heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, 3-axis compass, accelerometer, thermometer.
It shows the elevation data in numbers and visual altimeter reading (elevation profile), time, heart rate, and a lot of other functionalities.
The durability of this altimeter watch is no doubt; confirmed with the construction that passes Military grade 810G for thermal, shock, and water resistance (100m).
For positioning, it does not only using GPS but also Glonass and Galileo network. Therefore, this GPS watch lets you able to go back using the same route with its trackback feature and other functions.
This altimeter watch also comes with a fitness monitoring system for those who enjoy outdoor sports.
Smartphone connectivity is possible by pairing the watch with the smartphone in the 10m range.
How to calibrate:
Go to menu, choose settings -> sensors & accessories -> altimeter. Choose one of the available options.
- calibrate: manually calibrate
- auto cal: self-calibrate
- elevation: set the measurement unit
- Military-grade 810G
- Fitness monitoring system
- smartphone connectivity
- GPS and trackback feature
- the battery needs to be recharged every 2 weeks approximately.
2. Garmin GPSMAP 64sx Altimeter [Best Handheld GPS with Altimeter]
It comes with preloaded TopoActive maps (the US and Australia), which include access roads. Equipped with a quad-helix antenna, multi-GNSS support (GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo), and a 3-axis compass with barometric altimeter make it possible to know your location with a high-sensitivity receiver.
For connectivity, you could connect it to another device via Bluetooth. As a result, it enables you to stay connected with the paired compatible devices. Moreover, sharing is also possible to do with others. You could do it by just press “send” to share your track, routes, and waypoints with your loved ones.
How to calibrate:
Go to a place with known barometric pressure or elevation. Choose PAGE->Eleveation Plot -> MENU-> Calibrate Altimeter
- Multi-GNSS support
- TopoActive maps preloaded
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Only the US and Australia maps
- Old Interface
3. AltiLINQ 205-M Altimeter [For Cars & Trucks]
Sun Company has been known as one of the respected manufacturers who produced many outdoor instrument activities. Their motto is to manufacture in small-batch quality and maintain its production close to home. One proof of their dedication is AltiLINQ 205-M.
AltiLINQ comes with a measurement range from 0 to 15,000 feet. It is originally an altimeter for cars and trucks. However, it is easy to mount and detach. Thus, it is also eligible for other outdoor activities such as hiking, roading, and traveling. There is no need to use a battery because it does not work by using battery power.
It also has an adjustable dial, so you may adjust the altitude and barometric pressure just in case you really have to do that. The housing provided (Sturdy ABS Housing) can protect the instrument well for daily use and extreme area. Aside from all of those features, it is lightweight as it only weighs 84g.
Last but not least, it is pretty cheap for an altimeter with those features. So, AltiLINQ 205-M comes as the best overall altimeter we can suggest to you.
How to calibrate:
Go to its back till you slide out the round-shaped part from the plastic holder. That is where the extra calibration adjustment is.
- portable and lightweight
- free of battery
- can be used for hiking, mountaineering, and roading.
- may need to set or adjust the barometer in a few cases
4. L&B Solo2 Parachute Skydiving Audible [Best Skydiving Altimeter]
Skydiving is one of the outdoor activities that some of us really enjoy despite extreme sport. Thus, it requires some devices to ensure the safety of the skydivers. An altimeter is a must to have and wear when doing skydiving. L&B Solo2 Parachute skydiving audible altimeter can be the best choice for you as it has features that are really useful for skydiving.
Solo2 is an automatic device. Still, you can set some things up by pressing the buttons included. It has a broad operating altitude from 0 to 40,000 feet with an accuracy of 100 feet more or less. By the factory settings, it will give you warnings about three times. They are the first warning for 4,500 ft, the second warning for 3,000 ft, and the third warning for 1,500 ft with the loudest beeps. It is designed ergonomically and super-thin with dimensions of 55x40x11 mm and weighs about 24 grams. Another essential feature is that Solo2 is water-resistant. It has a round part on the unit side called the Air Filter.
How to calibrate:
Normally, Solo2 continuously sets itself to the local elevation. Calibration is shown by the beeps, and it means that it is ready to jump.
- 3 altitude warning choices
- water resistant
- ergonomic design
- a bit expensive
5. ZIPLEVEL PRO 2000 [Best Altimeter for Construction]
The use of altimeter has been widespread in various work fields. The world of construction is changed significantly when Ziplevel PRO 2000 is invented. The labor work requiring less manpower is one of the drastic changes of Ziplevel Pro 2000.
It is a high-precision altimeter that can measure in a range of 200’ (60m) in the circular horizontal area and 20’ (6m) vertical area. The high precision comes from its ability to measure level within 0.1” (2mm) or 0.01” (0.2mm). The device does not need factory calibration. However, it does require factory servicing, which means a factory recharge of hydro-pneumatics it has for every 2-3 years with a lower cost than the other instruments’ annual calibration.
How to calibrate:
Calibration is needed for vertical measurement accuracy by using CAL functions. Basically, the device does not require factory calibration. However, it may needs factory servicing every three years.
- high precision
- factory calibration is unnecessary
- no error of distance and line of sight
- direct displays of level or elevation
- needs factory servicing every three years
6. Jolly Logic AltimeterOne [Best Altimeter for Rocketry]
The world of the hobby is not excluded from altimeter influences and advancement. Flying models such as rockets, helicopters, drones, kites, and quadcopters would be very cool if they are equipped with an altimeter. It will let the hobbyists know how high their models can fly. Jolly logic “altimeterone” is the right choice for you.
It comes with the ability to measure altitude to 29,500 feet (9000 m). While it measures, it also stores up to 100 flights. The battery is a lithium polymer, which can be rechargeable via USB. To start using it, go to the menu and choose “launch”. The ground level is where the launching point you start, not the sea level. Through the menu, you can switch the unit of measurement from feet to meter or vice versa.
In order to get the best reading of altitude, make sure a hole is there to allow air flows. That is because AltimeterOne measures altitude by using an atmospheric pressure sensor. Thus, it needs exposure to outside air pressure. Its construction is rugged ABS to overcome such crashes. The parts are replaceable and can be purchased from the official Jolly Logic store.
How to calibrate:
The altitude measurement here starts from the launching point. Not the sea level as the reference. So, when you choose Realtime or Launch, the device will consider it as the ground level.
- best for rocketry and other flying models
- tiny size of 1.89×0.63×0.47 inches
- very lightweight, only 9.9g
- rechargeable via USB port
- fairly cheap
- the reference point is the launching point, not the sea level.
7. Kestrel 3500 Altimeter [Best for Hiking]
Outdoor activities such as hiking indeed require a test instrument to handle and survive the most challenging environment. It should overcome wet, dust, or even crashes because of being dropped. Then, Kestrel 3500 will be the best instrument to accompany you in hiking.
The instrument is tiny in size. It is constructed in a handheld model so that it will fit in your pant pocket. Despite small, it has incredible abilities that you need in hiking. Here are the readings that you can see on the clear LCD screen:
- measure barometric pressure and trend,
- wet bulb temperature,
- heat stress index,
- dew point temperature,
- relative humidity,
- wind chill,
- air/water/snow temperature,
- current/average/maximum wind speeds
It is the best for hiking because it has IP-67, which means it is water-resistant. The second point is it is drop tested to military-grade level as known as MIL 810G. With this small device, you can experience hiking more comfortably without worrying about weight.
For altitude measurement, the range it has is great. Ranging from -1500 ft (500 m) to 30,000 ft (9000 m) will surely leave you without a doubt to bring it while hiking. The accuracy for altitude is about 30m, and the resolution is 1m.
How to calibrate:
The device is calibrated by the factory. In case you need to recalibrate, you can return it to the factory, Nielsen-Kellerman, for factory calibration.
- wide range of measurement : -1500 ft (-500 m ) to 30,000 ft (9000 m)
- altitude measurement accuracy: +- 30m
- IP67 (water-resistant)
- military-grade tested (MIL 810G)
- replaceable impeller
- not recommended for Night Vision
8. AltiTILT [Best Altimeter for Car & Off-Road Vehicles]
Driving 4-wheel drive vehicles in the wilderness already becomes a hobby for some people. Some preparations require to do thoroughly beforehand. Since off-road vehicles travel on extreme roads, to survive the harsh and dangerous terrains, AltiTilt can be the best choice to help off-roaders to know about the altitude and tilt of their vehicles.
The device is free of battery, which means it does not require any electricity. It functions as:
- and liquid-filled inclinometer (to monitor your vehicle’s tilt).
The altimeter can measure the altitude ranging from 0 to 15,000 feet. Meanwhile, the barometer measures in the unit of inches of Hg. For the inclinometer, it will tell you the tilt from -45 to +45 degrees.
For durability, the company constructs it in high-quality durable hard-side fasteners and housing. The full instruction is available to follow. It will guide the users the easy step-by-step instructions so that the users can learn about how to set and adjust their Sun altimeter.
- Easy mounting will be the first because it will allow you to equip it in the top or front of your vehicle dashboard. You can also detach and bring it with you for hiking.
- The second will be accurate readings. The adjustable dial will allow you to get that kind of reading.
- An easy reading inclinometer is a next benefit you get because the display is manually painted numbers and engraved.
- Last but not least is that the device will adjust itself to the surrounding barometric pressure. Aside from off-roading, AltiTilt can be your partner too for hiking or RV Travel without having a bit of worry about replacing or purchasing a battery.
- measurement range: up to 15,000 ft (9000 m)
- easy reading inclinometer
- the dial is small
9. My Altitude Altimeter App [Best iOS Altimeter App]
As technology advances, the altimeter also gets developed into an app form. Devices such as smartphones are commonly equipped with a built-in GPS sensor. By using GPS, we can make a smartphone app that is able to measure altitude. Surely, this is not the barometric model. If you are an Iphone’s user or another apple product, then My Altitude is the best altimeter app for you.
This app does best for the outdoors, and internet connection is unnecessary. The working principle is basically it access the data from the device sensor to determine the altitude. On the other hand, an option to access NOAA data files to show the altitude of where you are is also available. The newer the device is, the more accurate the sensor is. Another feature offered is it allows you to take picture with geolocation details.
How to calibrate:
You could do it with auto-reload. In case reload does not work, you could do it by restarting the device.
- internet connection is unnecessary
- able to access NOAA datafiles
- able to take pictures with geolocation details
- Reload may not work sometimes.
10. Accurate Altimeter [Best Android Altimeter App]
iPhone has an apple store, while the Android smartphone has a google play store. If you are using android, then the best altimeter app we can recommend for Android is Accurate Altimeter.
Nicely, it can work without an internet connection. It has three methods to measure altitude. They are satellites triangulation, ground elevation at the current position, and utilizing the device pressure sensor.
Other features offered are historical charts where you can check your elevation gain, maps with details such as peaks name and contour lines, and taking pictures with geolocation details. If you would like the PRO version, you will get more benefits such as pressure sensor error compensation, larger map area, an altitude record (without the app being opened), and surely no ads.
How to calibrate:
Auto-calibration can be done with the nearest airport, and you can do it manually too. However, you need to pay for the finest sensor calibration.
- easy to use
- three methods to measure altitude
- historical charts of elevation gain
- peaks and contour lines maps
- pictures with geolocation details
- need to pay for the finest sensor calibration
A Little History of Altimeter
The very first man who invented the altimeter was Louis Paul Cailletet, a French physicist. His inspiration came from his father’s ironworks. Then, his high interest in aeronautics gave him the path to develop an altimeter to measure an airplane’s altitude.
Paul Kollsman, a German civil engineer, made such a drastic change for the aviation world by inventing the first accurate altimeter in 1928. It is also known as the “Kollsman Window.” It compared the air pressure to sea level pressure in the feet unit. The radio altimeter was then invented by Lloyd Espenschied, an electrical engineer who graduated from the Pratt Institute in 1924. This type works by monitoring the return time of transmitted radio waves after reflected by the ground to get the altitude information above the ground. The clear difference between radio altimeter and barometric is the radio type measures the altitude above the ground. In contrast, the barometric type measures it above sea level.
Things to Considering Buying Altimeter
In some crucial moments such as in outdoor activity, a misleading altitude reading can cause harm to you. Altitude can increase dehydration. If you are dehydrated in an unwanted place, your life is at risk. Therefore, you need an altimeter that gives an accurate measurement of the altitude.
Simply, if you are a skydiver or aircraft pilot or hiker, the accuracy of this instrument is very vital.
One simple and independent way you could do to verify your altimeter accuracy is by calibrating it yourself. Go to a known altitude place, then see what your altimeter shows. If it is matching, it’s accurate. You could calculate the error and consider it when taking readings on the other unknown places.
2. Measurement Range
The second specification you must keep in mind is the measurement range. It determines how high the place, mountain, or flight you can go to. If the location you are standing in is out of the measurement range, then your device may mislead you.
On an important or even dangerous event that might happen, you will likely be at a huge disadvantage. So, make sure the altimeter watch or another altimeter model you buy can cover the location altitude you will be at.
3. Construction Quality
In most cases, the use of an altimeter will be needed in extreme places or locations. The quality of altimeter construction is critical because it is related to durability and functionality.
4. Portability and Size
Nowadays, altimeter comes in various sizes and portability. The old ones had a larger dimension and mostly applied in the aviation world. The modern altimeter does not only present in a smaller size but also wider portability. It has even developed in the application form so we can use it right using our smartphones. In this case, we reduce the amount of devices to carry.
5. Battery Life
Another vital thing you have to never forget to consider when concluding your choice is battery life, especially when you narrow your need to an altimeter watch model. Since you will carry it outdoor, the chance to replace the battery is almost impossible. Bringing the battery backup may be optionable but it’s better to have an altimeter watch that long last so that you are not disturbed on the way.
Altimeter is often available in a bundle with another barometer and compass. These three things unite into one instrument and they are called ABC type.
But it’s not weird that modern altimeters provide more features than the simple ABC type such as GPS, thermometer, maps, weather, and even social media upload.
Some altimeters come in a watch. For hiking watch, having audible altimeters may be really useful for safety. The heart rate reading feature may also come with it; it is a pretty impressive feature for health purposes.
However, prioritizing your needs must come first aside from the rich features provided.
An altimeter is used to measure the distance from sea level to the altimeter. Knowing your altitude is important for safety purposes. Therefore, it’s not weird we carry this tool when doing extreme outdoor activity.
The above are our findings of the best altimeter options on the market that you can pick. If you are still confused, our advice is to use the altimeter watch model. This model is easy to carry since it’s wrapped around our wrist. The watch model is also considered suitable for most uses.