A century ago, if you wanted to know which direction the wind was blowing, your only choice might be a creaky old weathervane. But today there are several types of wind speed and direction instruments available. In this article, we’ve rounded up the best wind direction and speed meters for your consideration. We’re going to list the least complicated and most simple wind direction meters first and then move on to progressively more complex and fully featured wind direction gauges. Let’s get started!
The Best Wind Direction Meters
This simple windsock is the most basic type of wind direction meter that exists. This airport-style windsock is a large easily visible wind gauge that will make the wind direction very obvious and to anyone looking at it. On the pro side, this sock needs very little setup and is pretty hard to misread and doesn’t require any batteries (though you will need to buy a wind sock pole separately if you don’t already have one). On the other hand, there is a small possibility that the sock might rip, and it doesn’t give you numeric measurements like some of the other wind speed meters in this article. And if the breeze is too light you might not be able to tell that there is a wind blowing at all, because it takes a certain minimum wind speed to elevate the windsock.
One step up from a simple windsock is a weathervane. When you think of weathervanes you might think of the traditional ornamental weathervanes that you may have seen on top of beautiful old farmhouses. Those weathervanes are wonderful decorations but they aren’t quite as functional because they’re often heavy and the surface area they offer to catch in the wind often isn’t very substantial.
This functional windmill-style weathervane stands 8 feet high (2.44 meters) and has a large and easily visible face with 12 blades and a rear paddle. The blades of the windmill are tipped with colored paint, further increasing their visibility even against gray skies. This windmill kit comes with everything you need to set it up in your yard. Available in green and yellow or gray and red. Pros: Easy to operate, easily visible from far away, doesn’t require batteries, looks nice (if you like the windmill tower look). Cons: Doesn’t give exact speed measurements, is quite large.
Ambient Weather WM-5 Handheld Weather Station
The Ambient Weather WM-5 handheld wind speed and direction meter is a great little device that you can carry with you in your pocket. It measures wind direction using a digital compass that can give you precise wind direction in degrees and compass points. And it does more than that: for this anemometer, wind direction is only the beginning. It also measures wind speed, temperature, dew point, crosswind and tailwind, and much more.
Pros: Offers precise digital measurements of wind direction, compact handheld form factor for travel anemometer use
Cons: Slight learning curve. Requires batteries, although the included replaceable battery often lasts for years at a time
Here is another instrument that measures wind speed and direction. This personal weather station can be mounted outdoors and collects several types of data. It’s a wind speed and direction meter for starters, but it also collects temperature information, dew point, humidity (allowing for the calculation of a “feels like” temperature) and much more. The weather station monitoring unit is solar-powered. It also comes with a backlit wireless readout screen unit that works up to 300 feet away from the actual outdoor instruments, and even includes a rain gauge. It can also be used as an alarm clock.
Pros: Solar-powered wireless weather station, affordable price, multi-featured instrument system
Cons: Not portable, must be mounted somewhere outside
Frequently asked questions about wind speed and direction instruments
What is an anemometer?
An anemometer is a wind speed meter. For more about anemometers, how they work and when they were invented, see our article: What is an Anemometer and What is it Used For?
What are wind direction meters used for?
There are many different uses for wind direction and speed meters. A person might want to know the precise wind direction before they fly a model aircraft or a farmer might use wind speed and direction instruments to figure out when it’s safe to spray pesticides. Or a person might want a mountable wind direction gauge for sailing.
What is an instrument that measures wind speed and direction called?
“Wind direction gauge” or “wind direction meter” are two common terms for these devices. More broadly speaking wind speed meters are called anemometers, and wind direction is often an extra function of sophisticated anemometers.
How do wind direction gauges work?
Very simple wind direction meters like windsocks or wind vanes rely on the wind moving the instrument physically in the direction of the gust. Anemometers that function as wind speed and direction meters (such as handheld wind speed and direction meters) will sometimes have a small flag or vane that rotates combined with a digital compass to read out exactly what the wind direction is.
Besides being a wind direction and speed meter, what else do anemometers measure?
Anemometers often measure much more than just wind speed and direction. Some sophisticated anemometers can also measure temperature, humidity, dewpoint, and even come up with forecasts for what the weather will be like. These complex instruments are sometimes called personal weather stations (they will sometimes be mounted in a person’s backyard because they live in a microclimate where official weather forecasts aren’t very accurate). Anemometers or wind speed meters also commonly will keep track of data like the maximum wind gust speed, and they may also be able to translate these speeds into various units of measurement such as miles per hour, meters per second, knots per hour, etc.