Over the last few decades, the world of storm chasing has changed dramatically. In the old days, a chaser might head out into a storm with nothing more than a Brownie camera. These days, you’ll see vehicles decked out with every type of electronic gadget under the sun.
So how much of this gear do you actually need to become a storm chaser?
It may come as a surprise that I recommend packing light. The reality is that you are driving your car directly into dangerous conditions, and the more you have with you, the more you stand to lose.
Tornadoes are only predictable to a certain extent, and there’s still much to be learned about their behavior, which is part of the reason we’re out in the field in the first place. One unexpected shift in the storm path can put yourself and all of your equipment in danger of being destroyed. Bring only what you need to get the job done.
Storm chasing essentials include:
- Cell phone
- Sling psychrometer or a GLX Probe
- Digital video camcorder
- DSLR or 35mm still camera
- Two tripods
- Dual band ham radio
Use the sling psychrometer and thermometer to be alerted of any significant changes in temperature or dew point while driving. Your laptop is needed to stay up to date on forecasts on chase days, and a phone can help you navigate on the road as well as report tornadoes to the National Weather Service.
Having more than you need in your vehicle can create more problems than it solves. Multiple radios, computers and other screens making noise at once is distracting and counterproductive. Your knowledge of storms and experience out in the field will better inform you than any gadget you own.
Additionally, a car full of electronics is a surefire target for theft, especially when you are parked in a hotel lot overnight. If you know you need a certain gadget to help you in the field, then certainly go for it, but keep your gear list as modest as possible.