Digital and analog altimeters

Okay… altimeters. How high are you? How do you know? Well, your altimeter, duh. That’s the name of the page, right? We’re going to talk about a few different kinds of altimeters. The main categories of altimeters are analog, digital, smart, and audible. I’ll give you the basics, some recommendations, and links where you can learn more at the bottom of the page.

I am a representative of Freefall Data Systems, and personally have flow several different FDS altimeters. You’ll see a preference for this USA based company on this page. It’s not to say that the other altimeters I mention are not excellent – there are a lot of great options on the market today. FDS just happens to be my personal favorite.

Analog Altimeters

It used to be almost every DZ started their students on an analog altimeter. It’s got a dial like a watch face with a needle that rotates to show how high you are. These are less expensive than digital altimeters, but they’re less accurate. It’s pretty hard to glance at your altimeter and see if you’re 300 feet up or 450 feet up. This doesn’t help students or newer jumpers dial in their landings. The best thing I can say about analog altimeters is that they don’t use batteries, so they will always work. I own one, but I think it may be time to sell it.

My personal recommendation is to skip the analog altimeters, but one of my mentors disagrees. His go-to setup is to wear both a digital and an analog, and he has frequently loaned his analog altimeter to another skydiver on the plane whose digital just ran out of batteries. I own both types myself, but at the end of the day, the analog altimeter is larger and less useful under canopy (the markings are too close to each other). I keep it for night jumps because it has a glow-in-the-dark face. If you ARE going to buy an analog, I can’t recommend that feature highly enough.

Digital Altimeters

There are several digital altimeters that are available out there. These will give you your altitude to the nearest ten feet when you’re under canopy, which can be a game changer when you’re trying to dial in your accuracy. Digital altimeters add log-book functionality to your altimeter, meaning you can verify your exit altitude and freefall time after the fact.

Here’s a list of digital altimeters I endorse:

DigiAlti by Freefall Data Systems – $389 – This is my favorite wrist or hand mounted altimeter. Small, rechargeable, and it boasts a bright row of LEDs that can be programmed to different colors and patterns, with optional alerts for in the plane, in freefall, and under canopy. You can program up to five sets of alerts using the free app (it connects to your phone via Bluetooth), and you choose what the names for the alerts are. It’s super easy to change between the settings on the way to altitude. I use all five setting groups, and they’re based on break-off altitude.

There’s an optional subscription to an online log-book, and that’s free for the first year. I like the log book a lot, it keeps all the important data you need. If you’re so inclined, you can actually take signatures in the digital log-book, and use it as your official log-book.

The altimeter is rechargeable via a USB port, and lasts for a very long time on a single charge. I wear one of these on each arm for most of my skydives. The mounting options include elastice (forearm or wrist), hand mount for the back of your hand, and velcro strap (wrist only). I use the latter of these two mounts. Cannot endorse strongly enough.

Atlas by Alti-2 – $399 – A small, rugged, aluminum case altimeter that is waterproof… and if you decide you’d rather use it as an audible, it does that too. When I owned an Atlas, I bought the corresponding PC log software that is available, and had a heck of a time getting it to work. The display is simple, easy to read, and the battery lasts a long time. It’s rechargeable via USB.

Viso II+ by L&B – $320 – L&B’s entry lower price boasts good battery life, ease of use and visibility, and good service from the manufacturer. This one uses two coin batteries.

Ares II by L&B – $399 – Larger and more rugged than the Viso II, the Ares II has a thicker glass screen and aluminum case.

AltiX by Parasport – $199 – At this price point, the on-board log book only retains your most recent jump. Good budget option if you don’t mind sacrificing that functionality. Me, I don’t always have time to update my book after each jump so not ideal for me.

Smart Altimeters

The difference between digital and smart? GPS. And yes, some other features. Google “dekunu vs. aon” for the full run down, but these altimeters are the ones with the most features and information you can find today.

X2 by Aon2 – $649 – If you can find one… this thing is routinely out of stock. Prices have gone up substantially as the supply chain has done its nasty thing this past year.

One by Dekunu – As of this writing, the only way to buy a Dekunu One is on the used market. The company has mostly ceased to exist after a rough go on getting components after the pandemic. The Dekunu One has so much data after the fact, your inner nerd is going to geek out. Want to see your flight path, from aircraft, to freefall, to under canopy, mapped out with velocity and elevation, all at your fingertips? This is your altimeter. Downside? Its battery life SUCKS. When I was flying this altimeter, I carried an external battery and USB cord so I could recharge it on the go if I need to. Typical battery life is one day of jumping.

Audible Altimeters

I have links to a lot of audibles here, and there are many differences in terms of how many alarms you can set (what altitude the altimeter beeps at), for both freefall and while under canopy, whether it’s waterproof or not, how easy it is to reset, etc. I’m not going to try to break all that down for you. Instead, I’m going to tell you to buy a FDS SonoAlti 3V and forget about it.

That said, my friend Ed would ask you to note that the service provided by LB and their dealers is second to none. There are four LB options mentioned below, and all are worth your consideration.

Freefall Data Systems offers multiple options in this space; but the SonoAlti 3V ($379) is where it’s at. It has a small onboard speaker that talks to you, giving you the most altitude awareness you can get from any device. It comes with two standard presets, and the option to program three of your own. I have mine set to do things like remind me when to turn my camera on (12,500) and to give myself a gear check on the way up, then it tells me the altitude at regular intervals on the way down. I don’t ever want to hear it say “approaching hard deck” while I’m in freefall, but it’s programmed to do just that just in case. The altimeter ships with dozens of spoken text that you can program on one of the user presets, and if what you want isn’t there, you can add your own sound files. If you’d like to purchase any FDS altimeter, let me know and I’ll get it set up.

Another reliable and amazing altimeter from FDS is the ColorAlti G2 ($379), which offers different ways to put LED lights into your field of vision, which is awfully handy if you don’t want to be glancing at your wrist for altitude awareness. I fly a ColorAlti G2 for my AFFI jumps and really enjoy that extra little bit of awareness it gives me.

VOG – $400 – I believe this is a Russian company masquerading as an eastern European company, but they’ve removed all reference to location from their website so I can’t verify if this memory is accurate or not. This is another altimeter that speaks to you. When you exit the plane, it starts counting down, telling you you’re at 13,000 feet, then 12, 11, etc. When you’re under canopy, it starts whispering in your ear again at 1,500 feet, then 1,400, 1,300… all the way down to 200. And if you find that much talking to be too much, use the app to change how much it talks to you. This used to be my go-to altimeter before I got the SonoAlti 3V. Rechargeable via USB cable, the charge lasts a good 60 jumps or so. You never turn it on or off… it just works when you need it. And when the charge drops to 15%, it starts reminding you to charge it. The major downside of the VOG is they’ve been notoriously slow to fulfill orders, often taking 3-4 months.

LB offers four audibles with varying feature levels, the Solo II ($246), the Optima II ($342), the Quattro ($299), and the Protrack II ($373). Check out the Skydive Vibes video to learn the differences, or check out Catherin’s comparison chart.

Brilliant Pebbles by Aon2 – $143 – the budget audible. You interact with this altimeter via the Android or iPhone app, or on your computer. Cheap and cheerful.

Learn More

Chuting Star’s audible altimeter survey results and feature comparison page

Chuting Star’s digital altimeter survey results and feature comparison page





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