Tools such as rain slickers, warm boots and shady hats will help us do all these things, but technology has moved us beyond those essentials. We now have weather tools that help forecast outdoor conditions, do compass navigation and boost our shooting skills. If you're a precision or long-range shooter, they are a necessity to squeeze every bit of performance from yourself and your rifle.
I'm often found carrying around a sample of this technology in the form of a Kestrel 4500 Pocket Weather Tracker. It's an electronic wonder capable of measuring and calculating 14 different environmental conditions. There's more available from this instrument than I regularly use, but if I ever do need them, those functions are accessible.
The ones I do use regularly include the compass feature—which tells me which direction my truck is—and the measurements for wind velocity, altitude, temperature, barometric pressure and humidity—all of which get plugged into the ballistics program that resides in my smartphone. Get all the data right, dial it into a scope properly and, when paired with a good trigger squeeze, it has a high potential of producing a positive outcome.
However, the usefulness of the Kestrel in the field is limited by the quality of the data you input at the range when sighting in your rifle. Entering accurate field data is good, but if you haven’t set an accurate baseline when sighting in, you’re not using your system to its full potential. Therefore, the Kestrel regularly sits on the shooting bench beside me, recording data whenever I am chronographing handloads or sighting in a rifle.
The Kestrel 4500 runs on two AAA batteries, and I change mine once a year. The unit comes with a 5-year warranty. and Kestrel even offers a customer care program, which provides a generous trade-in on an old unit when another model is purchased to replace it. This is something I might take them up on soon because there are several models that now include a built-in ballistics program and thus eliminate the data entry chore. These are top-end models that cost up to $600, but entry level models for as little as $100 are available as well.
I've found Kestrel's to be high-quality instruments that are compact and lightweight enough to be unnoticeable in a pocket or pouch. And of course, the Kestrel is the ultimate authority when you’re telling a story and relating just how cold, hot or windy it really was out there.
Temperature, wind chill and wind speeds are all there for the reading and retelling. Although hard scientific data isn't as colorful, with a Kestrel there's no need to make reference to brass monkeys or hell when describing conditions.
Okay, I'll admit to still doing that, but at least now I've got the numbers to back it up.