Kestrel 2500 Pocket Weather Meter

Nov 19 2009

By Dave Wilkes (the turtle)

Kestrel 2500 Pocket Weather Meter
Image courtesy of Kestrel

When I received the Kestrel 2500 Pocket Weather Meter the first thing I noticed was how small and light it is. Now I had done a bit of research into the device and its features and expected it to be a bit larger and certainly heaver.

Despite its small size and lightweight the device feels like it is rugged and well made. First impressions left me quite impressed with the construction and design.

Upon turning it on I found the use of most of the functions to be quite obvious. There are only 3 buttons. The center one turns the device on/off and if pressed momentarily turns on the backlight. The left and right arrow buttons cycle through the various functions (wind speed current/max/average, temperature, wind chill, barometer, altitude, time). Pressing a combination of the buttons allows me to access the less used functions like calibrating the barometer/altimeter, choosing the scale used to display the measurements (e.g. mph, km/h, kt, m/s, ft/min or F/C or InHg, hPa or f,m etc).

The only thing about the device I don’t find entirely intuitive is calibration of the barometer / altimeter. The two functions are simply two representations of the same measurement (atmospheric pressure) and so are dependant upon each other. To obtain an accurate altitude measurement it is necessary to know the proper barometer setting, or to calibrate the barometer it is necessary to know the current altitude. For example, if I know my current altitude I can program that into the barometer, then using the result that number can be used to calibrate the altimeter. The other way to accomplish this is to obtain the correct barometer setting (from a nearby weather station). There is a very good description of how this is accomplished in the instructions that came with the Kestrel. In addition there are also some very good descriptions available on the internet.

I am not going to bore you with detailed specifications of the device, for that I recommend visiting the Kestrel web site where all of the details about each of their many weather devices are easily obtained. I will mention that I choose the 2500 version due to it having the combination of instruments I feel best suites my activities.

  • Wind Speed [instantaneous / max / average]
  • Temperature
  • Barometric pressure / altimeter

Initial testing:

I first tested the wind speed meter (anemometer), both by blowing into it and by taking it outdoors. It seems to work well and smoothly. Unfortunately, I have no way to measure its accuracy. The best I could do was hold the device out the window while driving on the freeway. The reading matched my speedometer within about 2mph (the high pitched whine it made at 70mph was kind of cool).

I tested the thermometer next. I compared the reading to other thermometers I have and found it to be as accurate as I am able to tell. I then placed it into the freezer to see how quickly it responded. From the documentation, I was expecting a very quick response, but found it to be no quicker than the other thermometers I have. Upon taking it out of the freezer I waved it in the air as per the instructions (to speed up the temperature measurement). While this did seem to help speed up the measurement, it was far from the instantaneous measurement I was hoping for (I think this is more of an issue with my expectations than a failure of the device). While this was not what I had expected, the temperature response seems quite quick enough to more than accommodate the conditions I expect to encounter.

I then looked up the altitude of my home using Google earth. I entered that value to calibrate the barometer, and then used the resulting pressure reading to calibrate the altimeter. The altitude was accurate within a few feet and seems stable.

I am excited to put the device to work, I have plans to do some hiking and kayaking while attending a wedding in Central California (Moro Bay) where I think the temperature and wind speed will be useful information. Check back in about one month when I expect to be posting my 2nd of 3 installments of this review.

In the meantime feel free to visit the Forums section of the site where you can post your comments and questions.

Update 1 Susan on the California coast

Jan 27 2010

Soon after receiving my Kestrel 2500 Pocket Weather Meter I had the opportunity to spend a long weekend in Central California (Morro Bay to be exact). While there, we did a bit of hiking, Geocaching, and got to go kayaking. I got some good use out of the wind speed meter and thermometer. During one hike in a state park the wind was blowing. I was able to measure winds of 18mph and used the meter to determine not only air temperature but wind chill as well. I found knowing the details to be quite interesting, and realized while it may not have been especially useful then and there, it did provide a good point of reference for the future. For example, my rain shell over a short sleeve shirt kept me quite comfortable, while the shirt alone left me shivering. More of this information will allow me to better plan attire for future outdoor adventures as well as compare the effectiveness of various garments (and garment combinations) to various conditions.

During our kayak trip the winds started to pick up again. I measured about 10mph. I was quite surprised to find how easy it was to maneuver the kayak in those winds, in addition to the very strong current that I had no way to measure (I wonder if I had held the Kestral in the water, would the anemometer have given an accurate measurement of the current, and if so could I use it in my canoe to get an accurate speed measurement? I will need to try this when summer returns.).

While I like the idea of having the cover attached to the lanyard, I am finding it kind of gets in the way. So what I did was remove the cover from the lanyard and put it on over the top of the unit rather than from the bottom. This allows me to completely remove the cover. When loosing the cover is not an issue I intend use it this way, but when loosing the cover could be a problem I plan to either not bring it at all or put it back on the lanyard.

I have used the Kestrel 2500 Pocket Weather Meter a number of times now. I am finding having almost instant access to accurate temperature and wind-chill quite useful in gauging appropriate attire. Recently the Cascadian’s along with the White Pass Ski area, put on a Ski/snowshoe jamboree to introduce cross-country skiing and snowshoeing to new people. Folks would come out of the warming hut wondering what attire they needed and I was able to tell them the exact temperature/wind-chill as well as let them know if the wind/temp was going up or down.

Me measuring the wind At this point I have not used the altimeter much. My primary use for this I expect will be to quickly verify my location on a known trail (should be far quicker than waiting for my GPS to acquire a lock, and not affected by tree cover) but that will be more of a summer use when I am following marked trails. I have also used the Kestrel on two short snowshoeing outings with my family, a day trip with the Cascadian’s, and an all day solo trip. I used the altitude information to measure the vertical gain. My primary use of the device besides simply satisfying my curiosity, is in evaluating the effectiveness of various clothing configurations. This is helping me judge with more confidence exactly what I need to wear/take when going on an outing and helps me avoid over packing.

I have two minor criticisms for the design of the product and they relate to the instantaneous measurements. The temperature measurement seems to take a bit longer to stabilize then I would like for a handheld product like this. Since I don’t like anything loose hanging around my neck I keep the device in a pocket, then when I want a temperature measurement I find I have to wave the device in the air for up to a minute before it gives a stable reading. The barometer/altimeter provides instantaneous measurements, and for a device that records data this would be good, but for viewing the altitude I find it fluctuates quite a bit making it difficult to get a reading I can be confident in. I also find it makes it difficult to calibrate the altimeter. My recommendation for a hand held device that does not record the data (or maybe even if it does) would be to utilize some type of averaging in the display of the data to make it easer to read.

So far I really like this product. It seems rugged and durable, light, and very user friendly (three items I find important)! As winter progresses and I extend my outdoor adventures, I expect accurate temperature and wind-chill will become more and more important/useful to me. I intend to update this review in about a month from now when I hope to have enjoyed at least one night in a snow cave up in the Cascades.

Update May3 2010

Over the last few months I have carried the Kestrel 2500 Pocket Weather Meter with me often. I have carried it for work as well as recreation and equipment testing. The temperature and wind speed are by far the most useful features for me. The barometer/altimeter has been far less useful. When outdoors it has been useful to have temperature and wind speed measurements and I fully expect this to become even more useful when I am testing temperature dependent gear (jacket, sleeping bag, tent, etc). My most recent, and to me most significant, use was during a school environmental trip I had the opportunity to assist with. We organized a hike to a nearby ridge to observe the sunrise. As luck would have it, it turned out to be a chilly and windy morning. We got the kids to the top of the rocks where I was able to give a short/simplified demonstration of wind-chill using the Kestrel (wind speeds up to 20mph & air temp of 44F).

My latest adventure with the Kestrel 2500 was a solo overnight trip to the top of the White Pass ski resort. I hiked up the ski runs and then found a sheltered spot for a snow cave. The it was snowing off and on with winds exceeding 30mpt making the wind chill in the single digits (F). Inside my poorly made snow cave (I am a bit out of practice) it was a consistent 34-36 F despite the 25 F just beyond the tarp I was using as a door. On this trip I had a bit of difficulty in getting the device to read temperatures correctly. A few times I found it to read a consistent 32 F when I know that was incorrect. In every case I found the temperature sensor to be covered in snow from being dropped/laid down or when I was holding it out in the blowing snow to take a measurement. I had to blow out the snow in order to get the device functioning again.

The altimeter has not been as useful to me as I expected. The primary issue is having to calibrate it for each use/trip. What I have used it for is to measure altitude deltas [changes], where I note the measured altitude at a given location and then again at a second location and calculate the difference, for this the actual altitude and hence calibration is irrelevant.

The device seems quite rugged and durable. I have made no effort to protect it in my pack or with my gear at home. As a result it has gotten banged and bumped by other gear and bounced while inside my pack, as well as being dropped in snow and dirt. For all I can tell the device operates as good as new, so I anticipate years of service out of it. The device is small and light enough that I have no trouble carrying it with me for most of my adventures.

I intend to continue to use this product for most of my outdoor activities for the foreseeable future, and would without a doubt recommend this product to friends and family.

I would like to thank and the folks at Kestrel for giving me the opportunity to test this fine product.

Dave (the turtle) Wilkes

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