The best rain gauge
Whether you're a keen gardener or an amateur meteorologist, the best way to know exactly how much rain falls in your area is by using a rain gauge. However, not all are equally accurate, so it's important to choose one that's right for you and your requirements.
In our guide, you'll find all the basic information you need to select the best rain gauge, plus a few of our top choices. Our favorite is the Stratus Precision Rain Gauge, which conforms to U.S. Weather Bureau standards and measures rain increments to 1/100th of an inch.
Considerations when choosing rain gauges
The volume of a rain gauge dictates how much rainwater it can hold. Some large models can hold 10 or 11 inches of rain, but volumes of five or six inches are more common. The volume you require will depend on how much rainfall you tend to receive in your area, plus the regularity with which you intend to check and empty your rain gauge.
Increments of measurement
Before buying, find out what increments of measurement your rain gauge uses. If you don't need a great deal of accuracy, just an estimate of the rainfall you've had, a rain gauge that measures in quarter-inch increments will suffice, but a model with increments of 1/10th of an inch is better. If you need true accuracy, look for a rain gauge that can measure in increments to 1/100th of an inch.
Your rain gauge should be positioned somewhere away from trees, buildings, overhangs, and anything else that might block rain and affect your readings. Simple rain gauges generally have spikes in the bottom, so you can stake them into the ground. Some models come with mounting kits, so you can attach them to a post or similar structure.
U.S. Weather Bureau standards
If you want or need extreme accuracy from your new rain gauge, choose a model that meets U.S. Weather Bureau standards.
Plastic is by far the most common material for rain gauges because it's durable, inexpensive, and can be made transparent to easily check the water level. Glass is another good option, but it's less popular because it's more fragile and more expensive.
Rain gauges can cost anywhere between $5 and $50 depending on the quality, material, and variety.
Q. Why are rain gauges useful for gardeners?
A. Even people who know next to nothing about plants will be aware that they need water, but it's important the plants receive the correct amount of water to thrive. Knowing how much rainfall your outdoor plants and lawn have received will tell you whether you should skip a day of watering or how much to reduce your watering by. Not only will this reduce your water bill and save time, but it could keep you from accidentally overwatering plants, too. Some varieties are as easily overwatered as underwatered and could wilt or die from a thorough watering after an ample rainfall.
Q. How often should I check my rain gauge?
A. This depends on what you're trying to achieve. Most people check after a period of rain or at a set time each day. If you don't need your results to be extremely accurate, you can check your rain gauge less frequently.
Rain gauges we recommend
Best of the best: Stratus' Precision Rain Gauge
Our take: A straightforward yet highly accurate rain gauge that can hold as much as 11 inches of rain.
What we like: Highly accurate to 1/100th of an inch, so it's great at measuring small showers. Includes mounting hardware to fix it to a post. Measures snowfall in addition to rainfall.
What we dislike: First inch measured in the inner tube, and subsequent 10 inches in the outer tube, which can be confusing.
Best bang for your buck: Springfield's Two-in-One Sprinkler Gauge and Rain Gauge
Our take: Part rain gauge and part sprinkler gauge, this is the perfect choice for tracking all the water your lawn or plants are receiving.
What we like: Can be mounted or staked into the ground. Durable plastic construction. Collects as much as five inches of water. Excellent value for money.
What we dislike: Measures increments to 1/10th of an inch, so not ideal if you need to be extremely precise.
Our take: Works in a slightly different way to the majority of other models, with a floating insert that rises as the water level does.
What we like: Attractive copper and steel design with a tough polycarbonate float. Measures as much as five inches of rainfall. Easy to read. Stakes into the ground.
What we dislike: Some complaints about accuracy.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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