Types of Altimeter for Climbers and Extreme Sports at High Altitude




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Are you a climber and want to understand more about the different types of Altimeters?
Let’s talk about these useful and popular gadgets!

Garmin watch Altimeter

An altimeter is a very useful gadget that helps the Climbers and extreme sports Athletes to know their Altitude. It was invented by an American-German Inventor Paul Kollsman in 1928.

Kollsman’s version of the Altimeter was pressure Altimeter but we have made a lot of advancement since then and now we have a variety of Altimeters available in the market.

In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss the different types of Altimeters for Climbers and Extreme Sports at High Altitude. Let’s get into it.

Why Altitude Matters for Climbers & Extreme Sports at High Altitude?

When it comes to Mountain Climbers, Altitude is very crucial for them. When you go to the High Altitude, the amount of oxygen decreases due to lower air pressure. Also, climbers need the proper oxygen supply to ensure their survival at High Altitudes.

When it comes to mountaineering, many decisions taken by the climbers depend on factors such as weather and conditions of the route.

When you go on the expedition of popular mountains such as K2 or Mount Everest, it requires a complete team of professionals that continuously monitor the weather conditions and other possible threats.

There is also a team of professionals that provide the oxygen cylinders on your route so that you have a sufficient supply of Oxygen.

When it comes to extreme sports such as Wingsuit flying, Base jumping, and skydiving, the athletes need an Altimeter to know when to open their parachutes.

The Altimeter allows the athletes to know their exact Altitude and then use this information to open their parachutes at a certain height to ensure their safety.

The Altimeter is also used by the casual hikers and climbers. It is not considered a must-have instrument for the hikers but you can surely use it to determine your Altitude.

Many sports watches come with the Altimeter functionality which helps them know their Altitude and other relevant details.

Types of Altimeters for Climbers and Extreme Sports at High Altitude?

Suunto Altimeter

When it comes to Climbers and Extreme Sports at High Altitudes, there are two types of Altimeters available in the market.

  • Pressure Altimeter or barometric Altimeters
  • GPS Altimeters

Pressure Altimeters

Pressure Altimeter is the oldest type of Altimeter available out there and it is the version of Altimeter, invented by Paul Kollsman. In this Altimeter, you will be using the atmospheric pressure to determine the Altitude. The atmospheric near the earth is greater and as you go higher than atmospheric pressure decreases.

Once your Altimeter gets the Atmospheric pressure reading then it compares it with the preset pressure value and determines the Altitude. When it comes to the accuracy of Pressure Altimeters, factors such as weather and inaccurate calibration can affect its accuracy.

Pressure Altimeters are considered very accurate as they provide almost accurate readings in extreme conditions. However, if you are the beginner and you get the manual Altimeter then it will be difficult for you to read it.

If you are new to the Altimeters and want to know how they work then you can check our complete guide where we have explained the complete working of Altimeters in detail.

GPS Altimeters

Modern Smartwatches and Altimeters uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) to accurately measure your altitude level.

GPS is the navigation system that was once classified military project and only American Armed forces and authorized personnel were allowed to use it.

However, America opened it for the general public and now it is used by our smartphones and other gadgets for positioning.

The GPS Altimeters comes with the GPS chip which uses the triangulation process to determine your accurate position. The triangulation process uses the 3 GPS Satellite to accurately find your position.

Then the GPS Altimeter uses the further 4 GPS Satellites to find your elevation. In this way, GPS Altimeters uses modern technology to find your Altitude.

Just like pressure Altimeters, GPS Altimeters are also not perfect. Weather is the most important factor which can compromise the accuracy of the GPS Altimeter. Moreover, if you are in the Jungle, tunnel or near buildings then GPS Signals can be affected.

Other Types of Altimeters

Pressure Altimeters and GPS Altimeters are not the only types of Altimeter. There are other types of Altimeters available which are designed for Aircraft and satellites.

Radio Altimeters

Radio Altimeters are more advanced types of Altimeters and these are ones that are used by the Military and Commercial Aircrafts out there. As the name suggests, Radio Altimeters uses Radio technology to determine your Altitude.

As the radio waves travel at the speed of light, it only takes a few moments to determine the accurate Altitude. The sound waves travel at the speed of 300,000K Km per second or 186,000 miles per second.

It works by throwing the radio beam towards the earth and then the reflected radio waves are captured by the receiver.

The radio altimeter doesn’t suffer from problems such as weather or weak signals and that’s why they are used by the Jet Fighters, Commercial Aircrafts and other types of aircraft.

Laser Altimeters

Laser Altimeters works very similarly to the radio Altimeters but in the case of Laser Altimeters, we use the Infrared light.

It works by throwing the infrared beam toward the ground and then mirrors and lenses collected the reflected beam and focus it on the photocell detector which is sensitive to infrared light.

The Laser altimeters systemically throw the beam during flight and measures the altitude and plots the topographical map. This technique is known as “Laser altimetry” or “Light Detection and ranging (LIDAR).

This technique is used by space probes to determine the surface features of other planets. NASA uses similar technology on its Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) and their version of Laser Altimeter known as Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA).

Bottom Line

That’s all folks. These are the different types of Altimeters available out there but the ones which you can commercially get are Pressure Altimeters and GPS Altimeters.

If you are interested in getting one for yourself then you can check our guide where we have shared the best Altimeters for Climbers.

Also, if you want to know how the Altimeters work then you can check our guide where we have explained everything you need to know about the working of Altimeters in great detail.

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