Talk about an impulse purchase. When we spotted the Vaavud digital wind meter for smartphones in the Sporty’s catalog, the marketing photos made it easy to justify dropping $49.95 plus shipping on the thing. Turns out it didn’t provide the level of utility we anticipated, at least for our flying missions.
It’s not that the device doesn’t deliver enough gee-whiz factor for weather geeks, or provide at least some utility for a number of outdoor activities—including watersports (we used it on a boat where it was helpful for docking). It’s also accurate, in comparison with the airport ATIS broadcast.
Vaavud is a company in Denmark that’s led by a group of outdoor sports enthusiasts, engineers and software designers. The product is distributed by Sporty’s, as well as some marine product distributors in the U.S.
Vaavud says the plastic two-cup anemometer design was inspired by professional models (those models often use a three-cup design), but the Vaavud device is designed with two cups to make it easy to stash in a pocket. The wind cups sit on a one-piece molded rotor with a low-friction Teflon bearing. The sensor tuned out to be extremely durable. It got stepped on accidentally and it didn’t crack or bend. It’s also designed to be rinsed clean with water should dirt or any other debris get inside the assembly. The anemometer, which doesn’t have any electronics, simply plugs into the headphone jack.
The Vaavud smartphone app uses the magnetic field sensor that’s built into the phone, which measures the speed of the anemometer’s spinning magnets. The app’s main screen is easy to interpret at a glance and measures average, current and maximum wind velocity, in addition to displaying a trend graph. The app is free and is compatible with iOS and Android, plus it works with a variety of devices. We used the device with an Apple iPhone 5 that’s covered with an Otterbox Defender case. That turned out to be problematic because the Otter has an attached retractable protective cover for the input jack. When the cover is removed, it still gets in the way of the rotor, hindering its rotation. A compromise is to tuck the cover inside the case or snip it off, but we weren’t about to trash a $65 case.
While we think this is a nifty product, we also think—for the price—it could offer more utility if its app could somehow measure wind direction, but it’s simply not that sophisticated.