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Hiking Altimeters

While the vast majority of hang glider pilots choose to fly with a vario, some choose to enjoy the sound of the wind and nature during flight, along with the satisfaction of finding lift without interacting with technology. That being said, knowing your altitude and the general trend of lift or sink can be an important safety issue, particularly at high altitude where there is no visual reference, and the possibility of inescapable lift (cloudsuck) or accidently climbing to an unsafe height is very real. A hiking altimeter is an inexpensive way to keep track of your altitude with relative certainty. Unlike a vario, it will not indicate your rate of ascent or descent and is not nearly as responsive, so the pilot must still fly be feel, but will be aware of his/her overall trend. Both analog and digital models are available, and of particular interest to the hang glider pilot is a digital altimiter that is integrated into a wristwatch which can be strapped to the basetube. Altimeters almost never have the advanced features of a higher end vario, such as flight recording, climb/sink alarm, or GPS tracking, but even an expensive wristwatch altimeter will cost roughly 1/4 the price of a new vario.