Kestrel Pocket Weather Tracker 4500

Trailhead in Colorado
Trailhead in Colorado

Life has gotten a bit crazy for me recently, as it often does for many of us.  Between increased responsibilities at work, an upcoming move, and a baby on the way, I have had to work hard to create opportunities to get out and test the Kestrel Pocket Weather Tracker 4500.  As much as I look forward to the challenges that life brings, it’s nice to have an excuse to get outside and leave the hectic pace behind for an afternoon:  “Sorry, honey, we’ll have to pick out colors for the baby’s room tomorrow.  I have to go for a hike to test this cool piece of gear today!”

Between biking, hiking, and skiing outings, I’ve used the device roughly a dozen times in the field.  While I am having fun playing with it in various settings and activities, the most practical application for me is recording accurate environmental data for the purpose of testing other gear.  Don’t get me wrong… this piece of equipment is capable of measuring more than I’ll likely ever need to measure in a day (altitude, density altitude, barometric pressure, temperature, wind chill, relative humidity, dew point, wind speed, wind direction, crosswind, headwind, tailwind and more), but it excels at what is important to me:  accurate measurements in a format that is simple to read and record.

This serious piece of equipment retails for $409, though several other Kestrel models are available from the manufacturer (Nielsen-Kellerman) that perform many of the same basic functions for a lower price.  What sets the 4500 model apart from others in theKestrel line is the built-in digital compass to track wind direction.  The 4000 and 4500 also have the ability to record data over time and upload it to a computer for analysis.  This functionality requires the purchase of a computer interface accessory for $89, but for the serious data hounds, it would be well worth the cost.  (I’m tempted to pick one up for myself!)

Though small and lightweight for the punch it packs (5″ x 2″ x 1″ and < 4 oz), it is still bigger and bulkier than my altimeter watch.  I have found that for quick reference while on the move, I prefer to glance at a watch on my wrist rather than have the Kestreldevice on a cord around my neck or have to pull it out of a pocket.  However, when accuracy or more sophisticated measurements are important — the Kestrel is my go-to tool!

Even after a dozen uses in the field and more than that many again while “playing” with the device on airplanes and around the house over the past few months, the two AAA batteries still have 78% capacity remaining, according to the reading on the screen of the device.  An adjustable setting allows the user to determine how long the screen should remain on before automatically turning off.  I have mine set for 10 minutes, because when using it, I tend to check it frequently.  I’m impressed at the battery life so far!

Field Use
I have not yet had the opportunity to test the limits of the device (other than while holding it out the window of my car while traveling at freeway speeds and hearing the high-pitched “whir” of the impeller).  (Which was fun, by the way!)  Each year, I typically take at least one extreme cold weather camping trip to the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota.  I am looking forward to testing the temperature limits of the device up there!

In the meantime, below are a few snapshots of the device in use:

Altitude Graph
The altitude graph after a hike in the central Cascade Mountains of Washington
Trailhead in Colorado
The trailhead elevation for a fun hike to a partially frozen-over lake on a chilly day in Colorado
Product testing a lightweight stove on a day hike in Washington

Many thanks to the good folks at Nielsen-Kellerman for allowing me to play with this cool piece of equipment!  I am excited to continue using it!

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