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The Ambient Weather Keychain Weather Station includes an altimeter, barometer (relative and absolute with sea level correction), digital clock, digital compass, thermometer, and a weather forecaster. It is full of features and functions in a lightweight low cost package. Features a convenient carabiner clip for simple carrying and quick access and includes a blue LED backlight for low light operation. Great for hiking, camping, skiing/snowboarding, mountaineering, climbing, and other outdoor activities. The Ambient Weather Keychain Weather Station is a perfect backup to your GPS.
Size: 2.5 x 2.0 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 1.2 ounces
Battery: 1 x CR2032
Altimeter: -2,296 to 29,500 feet (or meters)
Thermometer: 14 to 140 deg F (or Celsius)
Barometer: Relative & sea level
Digital Compass: +/- 3 degrees
Weather Forecast: 12 to 24 hours in advance
I had been looking at keychain type altimeters like the Timex Expedition WS4 and Highgear ATF8 when I came across the Ambient Weather WS-108 Keychain Weather Station with altimeter. At less than 20% the cost of more expensive units, the WS-108 is a steal. Out of the box, the Ambient Weather altimeter does not feel like an ultra-durable piece of outdoor equipment. It feels sturdy enough to bang around attached to a backpack, but probably won't take a five foot drop.
Setup is straightforward, but keep in mind the altimeter needs to be re-calibrated before each trip at a known elevation (common to all pressure-based altimeters). The one hang-up I had was calibration of the digital compass. The instructions list a multiple step procedure involving slowly rotating the compass and stopping for three seconds every 90 degrees. I was never able to get through the entire process before the screen changed. I incorrectly assumed this meant I needed to go faster. After about a dozen attempts, I gave up and emailed the manufacturer. Ambient Weather responded within 24 hours and informed me as soon as the "CAL" logo disappears, the unit is calibrated. I was informed that one often does not need to go through all the steps in order to calibrate the digital compass. Clearer instructions regarding calibration would have been helpful.
After calibration, the Ambient Weather WS-108 appears to be very accurate. The altimeter registered the difference from the ground to my head. The thermometer matches my other digital thermometers (remember to keep it away from your body). The compass is accurate and features declination adjustment. Barometric pressure is correct and the weather forecaster is mostly right (as much as my other forecasters). So far the WS-108 altimeter weather station seems to be a great piece of equipment.
In The Field:
My first and only adventure using the Ambient Weather Keychain Weather/Altimeter/Barometer/Thermometer/Compass started off okay, but ended with a crash. The WS-108 required multiple calibrations during the first mile of a mountaineering trip before it stayed in sync with other altimeters and GPS units. After that, it functioned flawlessly. The thermometer worked well and the weather forecast was accurate. The mode and altimeter buttons are easy to operate with bare hands or a liner glove, but become difficult to press with thicker gloves. The unit held up fine while bouncing around on my backpack. I found the LED back light very handy for checking the time or temperature in the middle of the night.
All of the great features of the Ambient Weather WS-108 came to a grinding halt on my climb down from Mount Adams. The weather had been poor most of the trip with rain showers, hail, fog, and wind. I kept the WS-108 out of most of the rain, but the generally cold, moist conditions were too much for it. As we descended, I noticed condensation building up on the screen. I touched it to determine if it was on the outside or inside. Unfortunately it was on the inside and a few minutes later the screen went blank. When I got home, I pulled the back cover and battery out and let it dry for a few hours. After that, it started working again.
See Mount Adams adventure where the Ambient Weather Keychain Weather Station was used.
I do not recommend the Ambient Weather WS-108 for mountaineering or other adventures subject to wet or damp conditions. The altimeter and other functions work great, but the unit is not reliable due to is susceptibility to moisture. The WS-108 is better suited to completely dry adventures. Available from amazon.com.