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Brunton Sherpa Owner Review--Wheiler

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  • Michael Wheiler
    Dear OR Editor: What follows is my OR of the Brunton Sherpa. The HTML version has been uploaded to the test site where it can be viewed with pictures and
    Message 1 of 3 , Oct 2, 2005
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      Dear OR Editor:

      What follows is my OR of the Brunton Sherpa. The HTML version has been uploaded to the test site where it can be viewed with pictures and without the normal Yahooisms. Currently, I believe the Sherpa is no longer available through Brunton but can still be purchased through various retail outlets. Thank you for your help.

      Mike Wheiler

      Owner Review by Michael Wheiler
      October 2, 2005

      Manufacturer Information:

      Company Name: Brunton
      Product: Sherpa (Atmospheric Data Center)
      Company Web Site: http://www.brunton.com

      Owner Biographical Information:

      Name: Michael Wheiler
      Gender: Male
      Age: 49 years old
      Height: 5' 10" (1.8 m)
      Weight: 175 lb (80 kg)
      Location: Southeastern Idaho
      E-mail: jmwlaw@...

      Product Information:

      3' (1 m) resolution up to 30,000' (9,000 m).

      Displays air pressure in hPa or in inHg resolution; displays trends within past 16 hours.

      -4° to 131° F (-20° to 55° C); displays Fahrenheit or Celsius; +/- 2° accuracy.

      Wind speed:
      0.1 to 40 m/s resolution measured in knots, miles per hour, Beaufort, kilometers per hour or meters per second; average wind speed programmable from 5 to 60 seconds; +/- 4% accuracy; uses plastic impeller.

      Calculates windchill by combining current temperature and current wind speed.

      A.M./P.M. settings.

      Floating, water-resistant ABS casing with detachable lanyard.


      Two button operation.

      Power: One 3-volt lithium battery (CR2032) that can last up to 1 year depending on use; low battery indicator.

      4" (10 cm) long; 1.5" (4 cm) wide; 0.7" (2 cm) thick.

      1.6 oz (45 g).

      Colors: Orange or blue.
      Warranty: 2 years.
      MSRP: Unavailable at this time.


      This is one piece of equipment I can honestly say I would not own but for my involvement with BackpackGearTest. While preparing my test reports on gear I had used in various weather conditions, I found myself wishing I could report on wind speed, altitude, and temperature. I noted with interest references by BGT members (in particular Jerry) to various hand-held weather instruments. After doing a little on-line research, I bought a Brunton Sherpa and then gave it to my wife to give to me for Christmas! I have been using the Brunton Sherpa since December 2001. I carry it with me on almost all of my outings and I have only had to replace the battery one time.

      Changing settings on the Sherpa is easy. First, the user briefly presses the down arrow key or menu key to select the function he or she desires. There are four function screens: (1) Barometric, (2) Altitude, (3) Wind speed, and (4) Temperature. By pressing and holding the down arrow or menu key for 3 seconds, the user obtains the Set/re-set mode from which the settings can be changed. Likewise, once the function screen is selected, the user can briefly press the up arrow or unit key to change the units (from feet to meters, etc.). By pressing and holding the up arrow or unit key for 8 seconds, the user obtains the Option mode. From the Option mode, the user can change the time, change the temperature, re-calibrate the pressure sensor (not recommended) and make other changes.

      The Sherpa operates on a single 3-volt lithium battery which is always switched on. Brunton claims the battery life can be as much as one year depending on use. The Sherpa uses a greater amount of battery power when it is in either the Speed mode or Temperature mode. As such, after using either of those modes, the user should switch manually to the Altitude or Barometric modes. However, the Sherpa will switch to the Barometric mode after approximately 15 minutes.

      The Sherpa's manual is brief (17 pages in English) and generally easy to read. I am not a weather expert and some of the terminology in the manual was beyond my limited understanding. The manual is also written in five other languages (pages 17-97).

      My first field use of the Sherpa was during a fall cam pout at Henry's Lake near West Yellowstone, Montana. The Sherpa reported the elevation to be 6,949' (2,118 m). The temperature at bed time was reported by the Sherpa to be 42° F (5.5° C). I used the Sherpa on a backpack trip into the Jedediah Smith Wilderness area in September of 2003. According to the Sherpa, the elevation at our camp was 8,115' (2,500 m) and the temperatures ranged from 27° F (-3° C) to 33° F (0.6° C). In March of 2004, during an outing to Black's Canyon on the banks of the Snake River (southeast of Ririe, Idaho), the Sherpa provided an elevation reading of 5,800' (1,768 m) and temperature readings from 33° F (0.6° C) to 44° F (7° C). On each of these trips I checked the temperature reading against the thermometer reading in my pickup truck and found the Sherpa's reading was within 1-2 degrees. I also checked the elevation readings against the readings on topographical maps of the area.

      The Sherpa comes from Brunton calibrated at sea level and the manual suggests re-calibrating the Sherpa at the user's location. This is done after opening the Altitude function screen by pressing and holding the down arrow for 3 seconds to bring up the set/re-set mode. The altitude begins to flash on the LCD and the current elevation is then entered by pressing either the up arrow or down arrow keys. This can be done one increment at a time by repeatedly pressing the arrow key or the user can hold in the arrow key for faster increment changes. Once the correct elevation is entered, the user can save the new entry by either pressing both arrow keys simultaneously or waiting 8 seconds. Initially, I found the Sherpa was in need of an elevation calibration as it was off by a significant difference. In order to ensure accurate barometric readings, the manual emphasizes the necessity of re-entering the current altitude each time the user's location changes significantly.

      I have also tracked barometric pressure. The 16 hour bar graph style readings on the LCD make it easy to track the history and it is easy to see when the pressure is falling signaling a pending storm or rising indicating improving weather. One bar height is equal to 2 hPa or the corresponding value in inHg. Generally, the "forecast" from the Sherpa has been as good as or better than most of the weather reports I received from the local news stations. In fact, in the midst of preparing this report, I observed the barometric pressure readings over a 16 hour period dropping dramatically. I commented to one of my daughters that this signified an impending storm. During the very early morning hours the following day, the wind picked up and it began to rain. The barometric history feature has been especially helpful when climbing peaks such as Table Mountain (11,106'/3,385 m); Diamond Peak (12,167'/3,718 m), and Mt. Borah (12,662'/3,859 m) . I climbed all of those peaks this year and carried the Sherpa with me on each of those climbs. On Table Mountain and Diamond Peak, the altimeter readings were off by about 400' (122 m) from my topographical map and my GPS. As such, I re-calibrated the Sherpa while at the summit on Diamond Peak. I have not had an opportunity to use it since that time.

      I have also used the Sherpa's rotating impeller to determine wind speed. The impeller is housed in what is called the wind-vane ball which rotates to open and close exposure of the impeller. This feature provides protection to the impeller when not being used. Care must be taken when opening the wind-vane ball to ensure that the impeller is in alignment with the case. Incomplete opening of the ball will provide a false wind measurement. Once the impeller is properly exposed, the user simply holds the Sherpa in one hand and with outstretched arm points the impeller in the direction of the wind. The Sherpa provides three different readings: (1) peak wind speed (maximum speed); (2) mean value (average speed measured over a certain time period which is adjustable from 5 to 60 seconds); and (3) current speed. The peak and mean values are displayed at the top of the screen while the current speed is displayed on the main portion of the screen. The peak and mean values can be re-set to zero by pressing and holding the down arrow key for 3 seconds.

      Windchill is registered on the LCD in the Temperature function screen. After opening the Temperature function screen and properly adjusting the impeller, the user obtains a current wind speed reading. The Sherpa then shows the windchill calculation in the upper left hand corner of the LCD screen and the actual temperature in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Holding down the re-set key for 3 seconds will reset the windchill display. When all of the LCD segments are displayed, the user just releases the key and the display returns to the main menu.

      This past summer, I used the Sherpa while climbing Mt. Borah. The winds near the top of Mt. Borah were constant with some extremely high gusts (we were having a hard time standing) and I was getting erratic readings. As such, I was never sure if I was getting correct readings. However, most of my experiences with using the wind speed function have occurred during less dramatic winds and have been relatively close to the speeds later reported in the news.

      In summary, I have enjoyed using the Sherpa especially in light of my involvement with BGT. Having current temperature, windchill, and wind speed has been helpful during my evaluation of certain products such as tents, clothing and sleeping bags. From an outdoor enthusiast's viewpoint, it is very nice to be able to track weather through the barometric history available on the Sherpa. It is light weight, small and easy to carry and use. Given my limited background, I'm sure I don't use the Sherpa to its full potential but for anyone considering purchasing a handheld weather instrument, I would recommend the Sherpa.

      Additional Biographical Information:

      Experience: I have about 38 years experience hiking, camping, and backpacking. As a child my father, who was a professional Scouter, took us camping and backpacking frequently. I became active in the Boy Scout program as a youth and as an adult leader. I was a Scoutmaster for seven years (1997-2004) and our troop would camp, hike, canoe, and/or backpack at least monthly--usually more frequently. Since being retired from that position, I don't get out as much but I try to go at least every other month and it really helps to have cool stuff that I have to go out and test!

      Current Area of Outdoor Activity: Most of my camping, hiking and backpacking occurs in the southeastern Idaho area but spills over into western Wyoming (Grand Teton National Park) and western Montana. I occasionally get into the mountains of central Idaho as well. I have plans to spend some time on the CDT and in the Wind River Range this coming summer. The areas I frequent generally range from 5,500' (1,600 m) to 8,500' (2,600 m). However, this past summer I was able to climb Mt. Borah in the Lost River Range (12,662'/3,859 m) and Diamond Peak in the Lemhi Range (12,197'/3,718 m). The weather in southeastern Idaho is fairly typical of a high desert plain. Winters are usually cold with temperatures at times reaching -20° F (-29° C). Snow depths vary widely but are generally over 10-12 feet (3-4 m) in the high country. Spring can be moderately wet and cold. The summer months are typically dry and warm with temperatures ranging from 80-90° F (27-32° C) though occasionally we see thunderstorms and temperatures around 100° F (38° C). Fall weather is actually the best--crisp mornings, warm afternoons, and cool evenings with little moisture.

      *This product has been discontinued by Brunton. However as of this writing, the Sherpa can be purchased at several retail outlets.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Graham Blamey
      ... ### Interesting review of a great bit of kit Mike (I ve sometimes smelt a rat, I ve heard an elastic band, but I ve never seen a cam pout :) Graham
      Message 2 of 3 , Oct 2, 2005
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        --- In BackpackGearTest@yahoogroups.com, "Michael Wheiler"
        <jmwlaw@i...> wrote:
        > My first field use of the Sherpa was during a fall cam pout at

        ### Interesting review of a great bit of kit Mike
        (I've sometimes smelt a rat, I've heard an elastic band, but I've never
        seen a cam pout :)
      • chcoa
        PLEASE READ THIS EMAIL IN FULL. IT IS MOST IMPORTANT! Thanks for your Owner s Review. It has been added to the Owner Review Queue and will be picked up by an
        Message 3 of 3 , Oct 3, 2005
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          Thanks for your Owner's Review. It has been added to the Owner
          Review Queue and will be picked up by an Edit Moderator soon. Do
          not worry if nothing happens with it for several days. All our
          Editors are volunteers and your report will be subject to an
          official edit within fourteen days. If you have not had a response
          from an Edit Moderator via the Yahoo Groups list within this
          timeframe, please let me know directly at jdeben@....

          To assist in this process, if this is your first Owner Review we ask
          that you post only ONE Owner Review for edit at a time. Our
          experience is that it is more efficient for both the Editors and
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          and uploaded before you post your second and subsequent reviews.
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          Edit Administration Officer
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