Showing posts with label Weather. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Weather. Show all posts

Gear Closet: INO Weather Pro

As outdoor enthusiasts, one of the things we keep any eye on the most is the current weather conditions. The weather has a huge impact not only on our ability to do the things we love outside, but our safety as well. Which is why keeping tabs on current and future conditions is vitally important at times. Thankfully, smartphones have made this a lot easier to do than in the past, but those devices are only as good as the forecast that they are feeding us and aren't all that helpful in telling us exactly what the weather is like directly around us. On top of that, should you find yourself in the backcountry where a data network is not existent, a smartphone becomes all-but useless for tracking changing weather patterns.

Fortunately, there is a device that can fill that niche, and provide a wealth of weather data to help keep us safe wherever we go. It's called the INO Weather Pro from INO Technologies, and after putting it to the test extensively, I can attest to how handy it is to have in your pack.

Designed to fit in the palm of your hand, the Weather Pro is a gadget that comes packed with an array of sensors simply designed to monitor the conditions around us. As such, it can provide the current temperature, atmospheric pressure, relative humidity, heat index, dew point, and more. It can also use its onboard barometric sensor to detect your current altitude as well. But best of all, it can also detect lightning strikes within 40 miles of the device, and provide audio alerts if those strikes get too close.

If you spend a lot of time in the outdoors, you can probably already see how a gadget like this one would be nice to have at your disposal. Monitoring sudden shifts in atmospheric pressure and temperature could prove to be incredibly useful, if not life-saving, while knowing when lighting is moving into your area is something that anyone who is climbing or hiking in the mountains can appreciate.

While testing the Weather Pro I found it to be very accurate in most of its readings. Upon powering it up, it takes a few minutes for the device to acclimate itself to its current location, but once it does, temperature, barometric pressure, altitude, and other readings soon reflect the conditions around you. A simple touchscreen interface makes it a breeze to access that info, which is displayed on the screen in a large, easy to ready font. That screen can get a bit washed out in bright sunlight however, but the display offers solid performance without draining the rechargeable battery too quickly.

My test unit did on occasion register a few false positives when it came to lightning strikes however. It would often indicate that there had been two or three strikes near by, even though that wasn't the case. Those readings never set off any of the active alarms however, and I chalked it up to the device recording other atmospheric anomalies. Were a real thunderstorm taking place around me, it would not only indicate the number of lightning strikes in a given time period, but the Weather Pro would have also given off an alert tone indicating it was time to take shelter. That never happened, except when an actual lighting storm was taking place.

The technical specs on the Weather Pro indicate that it has a battery life of about 30 hours when fully charged, and I would say that from my testing that is fairly accurate. The rechargeable lithium-ion power cell can be powered up using a USB adapter, which is becoming a universal way of keeping most of our mobile gadgets charged these days. 30 hours may not seem like much battery life, but unless you're really keeping a close on the weather conditions, it is actually quite a bit of time. I found that I could power on the device, take a few readings, and then shut if off again until it was needed. In this way, that battery could go a very long time on a single charge.

The other limiting factor for the INO Weather Pro is its price. MSRP on the device is set at $497 (although it is currently on sale for $447), which makes it an expensive purchase for the casual user. However, this is a gadget that will likely prove indispensable for guides, as well as dedicated climbers and mountaineers. Basically, if you depend on accurate weather information to keep yourself, your friends, or your clients safe in the backcountry, this is a worthy investment indeed.

To find out more, and purchase your own INO Weather Pro, visit

Polar Bears Trap Russian Research Team Inside Arctic Base

Think your job is rough? Consider the challenges that a team of five Russian scientists have been facing as they conduct weather research on the remote island of Troynoy in the Arctic Ocean. According to a report from TASS the group had become trapped inside its meteorological observation center by a group of ten polar bears who have taken up residence just outside the base.

Normally, in order to keep the bears at bay, the scientists use flares and have dogs at the base to scare off the animals. But, the team had run out of flares, and according to Mashable the bears even killed one of the dogs. Because of this aggressive nature, the researchers have had to abandon some of their projects, and had been instructed to only leave the base when absolutely necessary.

It was originally reported that it would take weeks to deliver new flares and dogs to the station, but apparently relief came earlier today when a passing research vessel made a detour to lend a hand. The ship resupplied the team with flares, which were used immediately to scare off the bears. The next resupply ship wasn't scheduled to arrive for another month, but this should help buy the team some time.

Apparently, the bears gather near the base to wait for the Arctic Ocean to freeze. That typically occurs in late October or early November, at which time they'll depart the area and head north. Considering the current state of the arctic sea ice, it may take longer than usual before the bears begin their migration, and it is possible that they'll return to that location again in the days ahead.

In the past only about 4-6 bears have spent their summers on Troynoy, but apparently this year there are at least 10, including some large female with small cubs as well. One of the females has even been spending her nights just below one of the windows of the weather station, making it even more difficult for the team to sneak outside to record readings for their research.

Hopefully there will be some relief for these scientists soon. While watching polar bears up close sounds like an amazing experience, being locked inside and unable to go out doesn't seem like a lot of fun.

Gear Closet: The BloomSky Weather Station

As outdoor enthusiasts, the weather often plays a major role in determining when we can and can't go outside to enjoy the activities the we love so much. If you're like me, you probably spend an inordinate amount of time checking the forecast and current conditions to help to determine when is the best possible time to be outside, and just how you should dress for the occasion. At times, you might have even wished that you could own your own personal weather station that could provide updates and information on the conditions that exist right outside your door. Well, if that has ever been something you've dreamed of, than you're definitely going to want to take a look at BloomSky, a device designed to provide accurate weather information and a whole lot more.

Packed with a host of high-tech sensors, BloomSky is a device that you set up outside your home, office, or other location to record and share weather data. It can detect temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, the current level of UV radiation, and precipitation. That information is than shared directly with you via a smartphone app, which can also be configured to provide alerts based on changing conditions.

As if that wasn't enough, the BloomSky weather station also features a built-in camera, which can be accessed via the app as well. The camera can provide a wide-angle image of the sky or the area that surrounds the device at any given time during the day. Those images are even saved up as the hours pass, providing a nice time-lapse video of how things unfolded from dusk until dawn.

Setting up the BloomSky is a breeze, and takes just a matter of moments. Do to so, you must first download the app to your iPhone or Android phone, and create an account. Once you've done that, you'll be able to manage your devices, giving it its own unique name and configuring a few basic settings. The most important of those settings is granting it access to your WiFi network, which is how the weather station shares its data. That means that when you pick a spot outside, it also has to be within range of a wireless network, otherwise you won't be able to connect to it.

Fortunately, the BloomSky comes equipped with a high quality WiFi chip that seems to have solid range. I configured mine to my wireless router, than took it outside to set up in the yard. It immediately started broadcasting weather data and even some images of my ugly mug up close to the camera as I installed it. The entire process took less than five minutes, and before I knew it my personal weather station and camera system was in place, and broadcasting to the world.

The BloomSky device also features a built-in rechargeable battery that keeps it powered for up to two weeks at a time. But, there is also an optional solar panel that can be connected to the unit to provide a constant source of power. That's the method I've been using to keep my weather station operational, and it seems to be working like a charm. The BloomSky app provides an on-screen indicator of current battery life, and mine hasn't wavered a bit since installing it.

In addition to providing current weather conditions for yourself, there is also a bit of a social element to BloomSky. When you set up the device, you can opt to have its data shared publicly, or make it private so only you see it. Most users are sharing their data, and as a result there is a growing network of BloomSky weather stations across the globe. This gives you the option to search for different locations within the app, allowing you to check the weather in many parts of the world, complete with an image from the camera onboard those other BloomSky devices. To get a sense of where these weather stations are located, take a look at this real-time map that is constantly being updated with new locations. You can also get a sense of where the devices are installed by following the BloomSky Instagram account, which includes some great shots of cameras too.

The BloomSky app is a pretty easy to use, straight forward affair. When launched, it takes you straight to your own device, but also lists other that are nearby as well. Tapping on your personal weather station – or one of the other son the list – gives you more information, including an hourly forecast for the day, and the outlook for the rest of the week, for the place that the device is located. It also allows you to share data via social networking, and gives you the option to save other BloomSky devices to your favorites.

As much fun as having your very own weather station is, the BloomSky isn't without its faults. For instance, the data it provides to you comes in raw numbers, which out of context isn't always helpful. Sure, the temperature and humidity numbers are pretty self explanatory, but barometric pressure is more useful if you know whether or not it is rising, falling, or is stable. I would like to see that option added in the future. The UV radiation indicator was originally a number as well, which meant absolutely nothing to the layman. But now, it has been replaced with a much more useful low, medium, or high rating. Additionally, the app was a bit unstable when I first started using it, but a recent update to fix some bugs seems to have ironed out those issues.

I'd also like to see some kind of history added to the app as well. As it stands, the data is transitory, disappearing as the day goes by. But being able to keep the data and analyze it over time could prove helpful. BloomSky could even grow to the point that it is providing long-term analysis of weather and climate change from across its global network. At this point, that doesn't seem likely though. I also wish that the device had some kind of wind speed indicator and a rain gauge to know just how much precipitation you've had over a certain period of time.

The app also seems to only be available for smartphones at the moment. I'd really like to have it be an option on my iPad as well however. Better yet, I'd like to see a BloomSky app for the new Apple TV as well, allowing me to check conditions and watch the time-lapse videos on my big screen. I'm not sure how likely that is to happen, but it sure would be nice.

That said, there are some nice features about the BloomSky that I really like. I appreciate that it sends me a notification when it starts to rain for instance. I also love the time-lapse videos that it creates each day, and the ability to save them for future viewing should something truly interesting get caught on camera. On top of that, there i something quite satisfying about having your own weather station out in the backyard, providing you realtime data about what is happening around you.

If you have a weather-obsessed person on your holiday shopping list, this would be quite the gift to find under the tree this year. The BloomSky is sold in several different packages, including the basic model which features the weather station by itself. That unit typically sells for $199, but is currently on sale for $149. Additionally, the package that includes the solar panel to power the device typically goes for $337, but is now just $186. That's a heck of deal, and is the one that I would personally recommend, as once it is configured and installed, you can pretty much forget about it. You can see all of the holiday specials, as well as options for mounting the device on a deck, as well as buying the solar panel separately, on the BloomSky online shop.

The bottom line is that this is a unique and fun piece of technology that has a lot of potential. I already enjoy watching the weather from my device, and searching for other stations in different locations around the world. As the product and the app continue to be refined, I think we'll see even more functionality show up from BloomSky, but even now it is a nice option to have at your disposal.

Iceland Traverse Team Seeks Shelter From Storm Desmond

If you've been following the news over the past couple of days you probably already know about the powerful storm Desmond that has been ripping through the U.K. and the North Atlantic. That storm is now impacting Iceland as well, where a team of young adventurers is attempting to make an unsupported traverse of country in conditions that would have already been described as difficult.

The team, which consists of 19-year old explorers Charlie Smith, Angus Dowie, and Archie Wilson, as well as their 20-year old friend Stefan Rijnbeek, set out on their journey at the end of last week. They are calling their expedition The Coldest Crossing, which seems fitting considering they expect to routinely face temperatures of -25ºC (-13ºF). Their plan was to trek for 250 miles (402 km) in just 18 days, first crossing through Iceland's relatively flat interior before proceeding into a mountain range that rings the southern portion of the country. At that point, they expect to be crossing through a portion of Iceland that may not have ever been explored completely before.

In the early stages of the journey, the team will pull 40 kg (88 pound) pulks loaded with their gear and supplies. But once they reach the mountain stage, they'll switch to backpacks for the final push to the end. If they are able to complete the journey, they will be the youngest – and possibly the first – to have traversed Iceland along this route.

For a time, their expedition looked to be in serious jeopardy due to the storm named Desmond. The four young men were exposed to the elements, and the high winds and rain were bearing down on their position quickly. But, they found a place that could serve as a shelter from the storm, although they did have to complete a 14km (8.6 mile) trek to reach that point. According to the squad's Facebook page, Charlie, Angus, Archie, and Stefan have now reached the relative safety of the village of Kópasker, where they will wait out the storm. They expect to resume the expedition sometime tomorrow, provided Desmond has completely passed on at that point.

On a sad note, one member of the team – it has not been announced exactly who yet – will not continue once the storm abates. One of the lads is suffering from what is described as a pre-existing lung infection which was not brought on by the expedition, but was exasperated by the physical exertion in cold conditions. This team member will remain in Kópasker while the other resume the adventure when they can.

Since they're losing precious time while they wait out the storm, the three remaining members are also looking at alternate routes. Their three-week expedition was always on a tight schedule, but not it is even more so. The boys plan to announce any changes in the next couple of days.

So, just how bad have the weather conditions been for the Coldest Crossing Team? Reportedly it is a "Storm of the Century" type situation in Iceland right now, with hurricane force winds, heavy snows, and extreme temperatures. There have been reports from locals who describe it as the worst weather they have ever seen, making the remote areas of the country very dangerous. The boys on this expedition are currently safe however, and will resume their traverse once they can.

Thanks to my friend Louis-Philippe Loncke for keeping me updated on this situation.

Video: Mountain Biking Squamish

Located in the heart of British Columbia, Squamish is well known for being a spectacular outdoor playground that happens to get a fair amount of rain each year. In fact, it can get as much as 238 cm (94 inches) of rainfall, which can make for sloppy conditions at times. Those conditions are prominently on display in this video, which features mountain biker James Doerfling bombing down a wet trail near Squamish. The slick conditions add a level of challenge to the ride, which is through a spectacular forest worthy of exploration. If you want to check-out the world class mountain biking that is available in the region, give this clip a look. It is both beautiful and inspiring.

Fairweather - James Doerfling from OneUp Components on Vimeo.