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.

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