Backpacking With A Thermometer

Forum Posting

A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!

Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Backpacking With A Thermometer

  • This topic is empty.
Viewing 24 posts - 1 through 24 (of 24 total)
  • Author
  • #1309272
    Stephanie Jordan


    Locale: Rocky Mountains

    Companion forum thread to:

    Backpacking With A Thermometer

    Nick Gatel
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern California

    Contrarian view again…

    Many years ago I bought a thermometer that screwed into an aluminum case. It was an interesting toy, but really had no real use. After a few trips I left it home. Extra weight, you know.

    If you are cold, or if you are hot, a thermometer isn't going to change that. With good planning you should bring the proper gear for the trip. If you didn't, hopefully you will live and readjust your kit for the next time.

    As for slide rules…

    Old gear 2

    The only things I bring with me backpacking these days are the compass and map.

    Regarding tie bars, tie pins, tie clips, tie tacks and similar ilk. Most gentlemen don't wear them, but if you must — become properly trained in the proper use, appropriate accessories and how to accessorize of your suit.

    Monty Montana
    BPL Member


    Locale: Rocky Mountains

    A long, long time ago, in a land far, far away, there was this place called REI. They used to sell mountaineering and hiking items. One of the items was a minimum registering alcohol thermometer that screwed into an aluminum case. They also carried a companion regular thermometer, and both were of fairly nominal weight. Over time REI lost its way and now cater to the urban fashionista, no longer bothering to carry such useful items. Such items were indispensable in getting your boards properly waxed, and could even be life-saving here in the Rocky Mtns and PNW (life in S. Cal. is much more genteel, I'm told).

    Since this relic of mountaineering of yore is seemingly irreplaceable, I use it with extreme care, and if companions need to borrow a thermometer for their waxing, I'll loan them the aquarium thermometer that I bought at the pet store, which is quite light (12 g) and deadly accurate, but, unfortunately, not nearly as sturdy.

    Not only that, it's just plain cool to say, "dang, it got down to -17F last night!"

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    Nick, you were/are so set for Y2K, EMF pulses, or a repeat of the the "Carrington Solar Flare" of 1859.

    Monty, yes, I remember an aluminum-cased, minimum-registering thermometer in the REI catalog. Back, as you say, when REI carried some of the most useful gear for serious climbers / backpackers.

    Daryl and Daryl
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth


    Thanks for the article. I agree with everything you said.

    I currently carry an REI zipper pull thermometer and an Acurite (in bag without case for weight reduction). Have carried the others mentioned in the past.

    I find inside/outside tent temps during the night to be particularly useful. Lets me know how much warmth I'm getting from my tent, sleeping bag, clothing, etc. One time, with some time on my hands during a storm, I measured the incremental temperature differences outside tent, under vestibule, inside tent unzipped, inside tent zipped, inside sleeping bag, inside clothes. I found it to be a fun way to kill time.

    Comparing objective and subjective temperatures can be helpful and interesting. I asked a novice snowshoer to guess the temperature on a Mountaineer trip one time. We were going up hill and working hard. He figured it was about 60 degrees F. It was in the mid 20s. If one is warm and thinking it is 60F he/she might not realize how difficult it will be to keep warm once stopped. Knowing the actual temps helps one prepare.

    I also carry a fever thermometer. One's perceived body temperature can often be off from actual temperature. Two examples:

    (1)My brother figured his body temperature had returned to normal after a bout with pneumonia. His thoughtful wife took his temperature, found it was 104.5 and took him to the emergency room.

    (2)I felt lousy on a backpacking trip. My fever thermometer showed my that my temperature was rising quickly. I stopped, set up camp, got into my warmest clothes and bag, drank fluids, took aspirin, etc. Fever broke in the middle of the night. Walked out and got to a hospital. Turned out I had blood poisoning from something that bit me. Red stripe up my leg, terminating in the lymph nodes of my groin. Without the objective info about the rising body temps I might have just pushed on hoping to walk it off.

    Kevin Holt
    BPL Member


    I recently picked up a Brunton ADC Pro, initially for the altimeter, though on trails I've gotten a lot more use out of the thermometer (and the clock). Listed at 2.4 oz, it's fairly "heavy" but it gives time, temperature, wind speed, barometer, and altitude, and has a decent logger.

    The logging feature is fairly painless to use, and holds a few thousand records – I set it up to take a full set of measurements every 10 minutes for the duration of my recent 5 day hike. You can also change the interval, so you could set it up to take a reading every hour or two if you're going on a longer trip. My issue with min/max measurements is you don't really know if the extreme min/max were sustained or just achieved for a brief period, say where it was really windy, or where you left your bag on a hot rock under the sun. Maybe it's not a big concern, but on the Brunton it's actually surprisingly easy to scroll back through the logs, so you can tell whether that 16 degree minimum was sustained for most of the night, or a relatively brief drop from 4 to 4:30 am. The logging feature isn't at all why I bought the device, but in retrospect it was actually pretty informative.

    – As Jerry mentioned, the thermometer is somewhat slow to respond.
    – The logger beeps every time it takes a measurement, and I couldn't figure out how to turn that off. It's faint and I got used to it, but it still takes away from the nature experience. Also when you're sleeping you'll want to stick it somewhere where you can't hear it.
    – I believe the altitude is based off of the barometer. So for the altitude measurement to be useful, you probably need to be vigilant about recalibrating when you're at known altitudes. (I didn't, so it wasn't).
    – It's also heavy and expensive.

    As for experience with it: On this last trip I planned ahead of time for overall night-time temps from 20 to 50 degrees, but on any given night I did find myself slightly changing my sleep prep based on the actual measured temperature (and windiness). Below ~40 I'd probably sleep in my down jacket and spend a little longer looking for a site that was well shielded from wind. Below ~30 and I'd zip things tighter and wear a winter hat inside my mummy bag. And the colder it was, the more likely I'd be to opt for a fattier dinner if possible. If I was contemplating a summit near dusk that might leave me camping high and exposed, I'd be more likely to put it off until the next day if I saw that the temperature was dropping.

    I don't know if I'd bring the ADC Pro on every trip with me, but for calibrating myself — how I react to different conditions — I'm pretty happy to have it. My guess is after a handful of more trips with the Brunton I'll probably switch to something lighter when I'll be in familiar conditions.

    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    I guess I could ditch my REI thermometer for a $450. Horus/Kestrel ballistic calculator & weather station. (Same size as all other Kestrel hand-helds but weather is integrated into a custom ballistic chart for the best firing solution for your specific load.)

    In January I'll be getting one of those bad boys but for competitive long range shooting out beyond 500 meters. Definitely I won't carry one for backpacking.

    But for backcountry skiing I do carry a good thermometer in my avalanche snow study kit which I use for air temps too. I didn't get to be this old by being foolish about backcountry safety and avy safety is of utmost importance in winter mountain travel.

    And then, speaking of thermometers for winter, there is my SUB-NORMAL body thermometer… used anally for hypothermia victims. Yes, gentle readers, it measures body temps into the 80s F. I always carried it in my Nordic ski patrol 1st aid fanny pack (and fortunately never had to use it). :o)

    Steven McAllister
    BPL Member


    Locale: Arizona, US

    I work in IT.

    I always had this big old slide rule hanging on the wall of my cubicle.
    It's always amazing how many IT people point at it and say "What's that?"

    Nick Gatel
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern California

    I got that slide rule in 1969. In college all calculations had to be accurate to 4 decimal points. No programming was needed for it to remain accurate due to Y2K. I never had to replace a battery and no USB port is required.

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    >"Yes, gentle readers, it measures body temps into the 80s F."

    I remember those being recommended for hypothermia victims who would be below the scale of a standard fever thermometer.

    I assess hypothermia victims like I cook salmon fillets: Poke 'em and if stiff, they're done.

    USA Duane Hall
    BPL Member


    Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada

    One of my uncles used to make his living selling slide rules in Florida in the '60's and beyond a little bit.

    Nick Gatel
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern California

    Early 70's brought electronic calculators. Around 1972 I remember the Corvus 4 function calculator which sold for about $50.

    Let me put that into perspective. In 1972 $50 would buy around 150 gallons of gasoline.

    Jim Milstein


    Locale: New Uraniborg CO

    I have the best backpacking slide rule, David. It is a Faber-Castell model 67/87R, 14cm slide rule on one side and pascal style adder on the other, with stylus to operate the "Addiator". It is probaby close to 100 years old, but good as new.

    Don't leave home without one!



    Locale: The Cascades

    "I also carry a fever thermometer."

    Rectal, I assume. Doubles as a coffee stirrer because instant tastes like …. oh, never mind….

    Leigh Baker
    BPL Member


    Locale: Northeast Texas Pineywoods


    Hugo Matte
    BPL Member


    Nice read, thanks for the article.

    One complaint:

    It doesn't seem that any of the thermometer mentioned in this article cover temperature lower then -20 degree celcius!

    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member


    It doesn't seem that any of the thermometer mentioned in this article cover temperature lower then -20 degree celcius!

    Two reasons:

    – Most thermometers suitable for lightweight backpacking don't go lower than -20° C.

    – I rarely go backpacking in temperatures lower than -7° C, 20° F.

    If you find a thermometer you like that goes lower than -20° C, let us know!

    — Rex

    Bob Gross
    BPL Member


    Locale: Silicon Valley

    "If you find a thermometer you like that goes lower than -20° C, let us know!"

    You could start with a brass monkey.


    Paul Hatfield
    BPL Member


    The thermometer that John mentioned goes down to -50C:

    Range is -58.0 to 158.0°F or -50 to 70°C
    Resolution is 0.1°
    Accuracy is ±1°C
    Sensor is 0.2 inch in diameter
    Submersible cable length is 3 feet
    Size is 4-1/4 x 1 x 5/8 inches
    Weight is 1 ounce

    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member


    Got to compare my Acurite Digital Window Thermometer laying on a Pelican Box just outside my tent, to an official weather station 3/4 mile away at the same elevation, one ridge over: RAWS Cordoza Ridge, during the 6th Annual GGG.

    Saturday, January 25, 2014
    47 F – Low recorded by Acurite at tent
    54 F – Low at RAWS Cordoza Ridge

    Sunday, January 26, 2014
    44 F – Low recorded by Acurite at tent
    50 F – Low at RAWS Cordoza Ridge

    Could be many causes for the difference. My tent was in an open meadow, on a gentle slope near the top of a knoll. The Pelican Box is yellow and about 6 inches tall.

    — Rex

    Alok Karnik
    BPL Member


    don't know if this was mentioned, but you could also keep a log of how you felt each day and compare it to the weather history of you location. you actually won't lose any precision (in the scientific sense of the term) because you will most likely use the same weather forecaster to determine the gear selection for your next trip!

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Doubtful that the Acurite would be that far wrong. I think the difference in temps was real – you did say you were on an open meadow?

    That the weather station was at the same altitude means very little – I can get 10 C differences over 200 m (HORIZONTAL) sometimes. Bottom of a 'frost hollow' valley vs in a sheltered woodland up the side of a hill. You can SEE the top of the frost layer at the edge of the trees!


    BPL Member


    I bought an Accurite thanks to this thread and it comes with me on every trip. The only thing I've found that'll throw it off dramatically is when it's exposed to direct sunlight.

    I take my Casio Pathfinder off at night and have tried comparing the temperatures between the two every morning. I find that they are within a degree of each other. I now hang the accurite outside and keep the casio inside to see how much warmer my shelter keeps me.

    Neither one would be called a precision instrument by any means but good enough for me.

    Bob Moulder
    BPL Member


    Locale: Westchester County, NY

    >>>If you find a thermometer you like that goes lower than -20° C, let us know!

    Cooper Atkins #330, alcohol column, goes to -40F/C, 6.3 grams. I checked it against a pretty good digital and it was pretty good.

    (F and C cross paths at -40)

    9/5C + 32 and 5/9F – 32 and all that… who remembers conversion formulas anyway?

Viewing 24 posts - 1 through 24 (of 24 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Forum Posting

A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!