Altimeters are excellent tools for providing outdoor enthusiasts with interesting and sometimes essential altitude information. A handheld altimeter can not only provide you with a reading of your current altitude for navigation purposes, but many models will also offer a variety of useful and additional features.

Altimeters are available as single stand-alone units or can contain various collections of digital devices in one unit. Although the basic function of an altimeter is to indicate its vertical position relative to sea level, some will provide GPS, time, temperature, and barometer readings, in addition to having data storage capabilities. Most modern units are digital, although some analog products are also available for those who prefer them.

Regardless of what features you want in a portable altimeter, there are certain basic features that you should definitely consider. If you are considering buying one, a good place to start is to list the possible situations you may encounter and find a system that meets all the requirements you can anticipate.

A useful feature that can be found in some altimeters is temperature compensation. This will prevent temperature changes from affecting accurate readings and is imperative for adverse weather conditions. Less expensive units that do not have this attribute can be much less effective in many climates, or when simply transferred from a pocket outdoors.

A good altimeter will also have a good measurement range. A quality device will measure from about -1,371 feet, which is the lowest point of land on Earth, to around 29,000 feet, the height of Mount Everest. While you may never need these extremes, it never hurts to have the capacity. More importantly, you want to have the smallest possible increments of measure. Some of the best have a resolution of less than 10 feet.

If strict accuracy is an important consideration, the best option is to have one that uses a combination of barometric and GPS technology. These provide the most accurate readings in a wide variety of conditions.

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