Best Lightning Detector 2020: Buying Guide & Reviews
Lightning detectors pick up on the electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) that lightning strikes give off. They are able to detect and measure them to estimate the distance the lightning is away from you. In some cases, they can even extrapolate from many strikes to determine if the storm is moving towards you, away from you, or in parallel with you so you can determine if you need to take shelter.
There are different levels of lightning detectors depending on what you need it for. The focus for our audience is going to be based on the best handheld personal lightning detection devices. These are commonly used by campers, golfers, fishermen, and for other outdoor activities. They are also important to have near sports fields where kids play soccer, baseball, softball, etc. Lightning is dangerous and the best way to plan is through early detection.
Here are our Lightning Detector Reviews:
Best Personal Lightning Detector 2020
Xtreme Research Skyscan Lighthing/Storm Detector
The Skyscan has a rugged design and can detect lightning strikes up to 40 miles away. It offers alerts in four distance ranges: 0-3 miles, 3-8 miles, 8-20 miles, and 20-40 miles. In addition, it’s accurage within 1-2 miles 97% of the time. Lastly, one of the best features of the Skyscan is that it can track if the storm is moving towards you, away from you, or parallel to your position.
Best Lightning Detector: Runner-Ups
StrikeAlert HD Lightning Detector
The StrikeAlert HD Lightning Detector is very accurate, water-resistant, and a great choice if the Skyscan isn’t available. With its graphical display and its 40-mile range, it’s very popular among outdoorsmen. It includes 1 hour storm trend and intensity readings. Additionally, it offers both audtible and vibratory alarms when a strike is detected. Last, this model does include 360 degree detection, but does not tell you which direction the lightning strike comes from. Battery life is up to 80hrs.
Strike Alert II Personal Lightning Detector Pager
The Strike Alert (or Strike Alert II) is a very portable, inexpensive mid-range lightning detector. Its range is up to 40 miles like the others in this category. It can also tell if the lightning storm is approaching or departing your location. The battery life is up to 100hrs and there is an indicator on the pager itself so you’re aware before it runs out. For its size and price, the Strike Alert II presents a good value.
Best Lightning Detector: Our Upgrade Pick
INO Weather Pro Monitor
If you have a bit more in your budget and would like to get more than just lightning detection, look no further. The INO Weather Pro Monitor w/ lighting detection has 7 weather functions. They include: temperature, relative humidity, pressure, heat index, dew point, altitude, and lightning strikes. The INO Weather Pro can detect lighting strikes up to 40 miles away. It’s small & portable, rugged, and highly water-resistant. It also features a color touch screen display that makes it easy to interface with, enen for newbies. This is a very comprehensive personal lightning detector that can do so much more.
Best Lightning Detector: Our Budget Pick
AcuRite 02020 Portable Lightning Detector
The AcuRite 02020 model is perfect for those that are looking for something very inexpensive. This portable unit has a detection range of up to 25 miles and gives both audible and visual alerts. In addition, it counts lightning strikes and estimates their distance from your location. It’s a small, portable, handheld device and is great for sporting events, hiking, boating, and other outdoor activities. It does lack the ability to offer the direction of the strike and the movement of the storm. We also heard mixed reviews on its reliability during our research for this model.
Personal Lightning Detector Buying Guide
Let’s discuss what you should be concerned with if you’re in the market to purchase your own personal lightning detector. First, not all lightning detection devices are created equal. And, they certainly aren’t all priced the same. It really depends on what you’re looking for and how much portable lightning detector reliability matters for your needs. Detectors can range in price from about $20 up to $10,000 plus for some large lab equipment. None of the personal lightning detector options above are near that expensive, but keep in mind that they aren’t as accurate either.
First, let’s cover what options are common on handheld lightning detectors. In many cases, this is going to be limited to detection range (how far away it can detect strikes, direction (general area of the strike), and distance the strike is from the user. Lightning detection devices DO NOT predict lightning, they merely provide early warning and some details in an effort to save lives.
Personal lightning detectors have various detection ranges. Many of them specify distances of somewhere between 25 – 50 miles. Keep in mind that distance can equal time, meaning, the sooner you know about the lightning, the more time you have to react and vacate the area if necessary. The higher-end models typically have a longer range. The range you need will depend on how quickly, or how many people, you can move.
There are two types of directional information that can be offered by lightning detectors. The first is the direction the detected lightning strike is from your location. This is of course nice to know so you can keep a visual eye on the storm itself. The other piece of directional information that can be helpful is whether the storm is approaching, departing, or moving parallel to your location. These features are not usually offered on the less expensive models.
Another feature of lightning detectors is estimating the distance a strike is a way from you. Most models are able to actually offer this estimation based on the strength of the EMP signal that it detects.
Why spend money on the higher-end lightning detectors? Well, there are a several reasons, but some of them include:
- Longer Detection Range
- Lightning Direction Included
- Increased Accuracy
- Durable, Water-Resistant Design
- Other weather data available (i.e. temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, heat index, etc)
The National Lightning Safety Institute recommends that you have a written lightning safety policy and designate a primary safety person in addition to a detection device. This is great advice! In addition, it would probably be a good idea to have a NOAA weather radio on hand.
Whether you run a sports park, sponsor a fishing tournament, or just want to make sure you don’t get caught in your tent at the wrong time, everyone should avoid being outside during a lightning storm. As the saying goes, “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors.”
Looking for Lightning Detection at Home?
If you’re looking for lightning detection while on the go for camping, work, or sporting events, the list above is what you need. If you’re looking to detect lightning at home on the other hand, consider a home weather station instead. Some of them, like the AcuRite Atlas pictured here, have built-in lightning detection, but also have several other sensors for temperature, humidity, pressure, and more. In addition to that, you can also view data remotely through your mobile phone and there is a nice touchscreen monitor as well.