Photo of Anne Marie Van Nest

Anne Marie Van Nest

Professional Gardening Expert

Best Rainfall Gauges & Best Weather Rain Gauge

Rain gauges are essential weather tools for professional and amateur meteorologists, but their usefulness goes far beyond weather buffs. Gardeners and farmers have an innate need to know how much rain has fallen from the skies in order to keep their plants and crops healthy. And there’s also those that are just plain curious about the amount of rain that falls. A simple rain gauge, sometimes called a pluviometer (in scientific terms from the Latin for rain and meter) or udometer (from the Latin for wet and meter) was first used by the ancient Greeks. Today these devices can be of three main designs: a single tube of 1-5” capacity, an inner cylinder that spills into a bigger outer reservoir when the inner one reaches capacity, or an unlimited self-tipping mechanism.

No matter what the design, all must be placed level in an unobstructed location away from houses, trees, and garages with no overhead obstacles. Many are secured to a stand on the top of a fence so they don’t blow away during a big storm. Place rain gauges at a distance that is at least 2 x the height of nearby objects. For example, rain gauges should be 20 feet away from a 10-foot tree.

Take rain gauge readings daily, preferably at the same time and empty the reservoir after reading. For many rain gauges, once the inner tube fills up with rain, then it automatically overflows into the larger reservoir. To measure the rain in the larger reservoir, empty the full inner tube, pour the water from larger reservoir into smaller tube and measure. Keep pouring out the inner tube when full and repeat the measuring. Calculate the total rainfall by adding the total rain poured into the inner tube + the initial amount.

When measuring rain in some gauges, a curve will form on top of the water and may cause some confusion about the true reading. This is normal, and the measurement should be from the bottom of curve (or meniscus) for the most accurate result.

If rain gauges are going to be used to measure the amount of melted snow in winter, check the durability of it to make sure it does withstand freezing temperatures. Some rain gauges recommend that the inner tube and funnel be removed for snow measuring. The snow is melted and decanted into the inner cylinder for a measurement.

Rain gauges that are manually checked often are available in over-size models that are easier to read from a distance. Others have designs that magnify the numbers when water is in the cylinder.

If squirrels are a problem chewing up plastic models, choose glass and brass ones.

Watch for leaves, pine needles, spider webs and other debris that could distort rain readings inside the cylinder.

Rain gauges are very useful features in the garden and can often be an attractive architectural accent, too.

The best rainfall gauges are important to more than farmers. These best weather rain gauge recommendations are essential for gardeners and amateur meteorologists who want to keep track of the weather.

Best Rain Gauges by Anne Marie Van Nest

The Best You Can Get

  • Conant Vermont Estate Rain Gauge

    Anne says: Solid brass and glass rain gauge is accurate and beautiful.

    Adjustable brackets and all the hardware needed to mount on a post or fence.

    Highly visible with high contrast black numerals that measures up to twelve inches of rain in 1/10” increments.

    Collection funnel has a brass screen to keep out leaves and bugs.

    Convex glass shape magnifies highly visible black numbers by 50% when filled with water.

    • Model VRG-8
    • Attractive design
    • Large, magnified display numbers
    • Solid brass drain valve
    • Large 12” capacity; 26” tall
  • Oregon Scientific Rain Gauge

    Anne says: Automatic self-emptying rain cup measures and then empties itself.

    Wireless transmission up to 300 feet for rain gauge (100 feet for thermometer).

    Displays daily, nine-day historical and total rainfall records right on your windowsill.

    Easy to set up and has a high daily rainfall alarm function.

    Requires two AA and two AAA batteries.

    • Wireless transmission up to 300 ft.
    • 10-day memory
    • Automatic self-emptying rain cup (measures and then empties)
    • Includes indoor and outdoor thermometer
    • Model RGR126/BLRGR-J
  • Stratus Long Term Professional Rain and Snow Gauge

    Anne says: Easy to install and read. Measuring tube magnifies result by a factor of 10 for easier reading.

    Graduated to 1/100th of an inch intervals in inner cylinder. After 1” of rain it flows into outer cylinder and the excess must be decanted for a total reading.

    Used by the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS).

    Remove inner cylinder and funnel for snow measure.

    • Uses inner and outer cylinders
    • Dual rain or snow measuring ability
    • Includes mounting bracket and screws
    • Easy to use and unobtrusive
    • Model RG202; 4” overflow capacity
  • RainWise Rainew Wireless Dual Counter Digital Rain Gauge

    Anne says: Handy wireless transmission from the collection cylinder to the indoor windowsill display (up to 300 feet away). Self-tipping collector never needs emptying. Each tip of the bucket shows one hundredth of an inch on the indoor display. Measures in 1/100th of an inch.

    Requires batteries for the transmitter and the receiver.

    Meets National Weather Service specifications.

    Dual record display shows current rainfall to 9.99 inches (in hundredths of an inch) and accumulation records of rainfall to 99.9 inches (in tenths of an inch).

    Equipped with four transmission codes to avoid interference.

    • Wireless transmission up to 300 ft.
    • 8” collector self-tips
    • Current rainfall to 10 inches
    • Battery operated
  • AM Leonard Jumbo Rain Gauge

    Anne says: Bright yellow inch numbers have high contrast for better visibility at a distance. Can be read from a distance of 50 feet.

    Red float rises with increased rain.

    Large funnel has strainer to keep out debris.

    Black mounting bracket for installation onto board or fence post.

    Molded high impact plastic is easy to install and empty.

    • Large capacity up to 5”
    • Visible up to 50 ft.
    • Float rises with rainfall; oversized tube
    • Over 26” tall
    • Model 1102RG

You will be happy with any of these

  • Conant Classic Vermont Rain Gauge

    Anne says: Durable brass and glass construction.

    Post or ground mounted with included hardware.

    Very attractive classic design and accurate, too.

    Easy to empty.

    • 5” capacity
    • Brass and glass
    • 6.5” tall
    • Unobtrusive size
    • Model VRG-1
  • T.M. Hoff Handmade Watermark Rain Gauge

    Anne says: Highly visible, blue polycarbonate construction with white number measuring tube rises out of the copper base to show water acumination. An innovative floating rain gauge design.

    The base is an elegant copper flute that will weather gracefully to a rich patina and is the only part visible when empty. Attractive steel spiral accents.

    A foam insert slows evaporation to give a more accurate multi-day reading.

    Practical and fun, attractive and functional.

    Easy to read even at a distance.

    Mounting stake is powder coated and won’t discolor.

    • Floating rain gauge
    • Blue polycarbonate measuring tube
    • Elegant copper flute
    • 5” capacity
    • 24” tall
  • Conant Vermont Free-Standing Rain Gauge

    Anne says: Accents of verdigris leaf patterns at the base of the glass tube will gracefully age to a mellow patina over time.

    Secure during excessively stormy weather with the provided solid brass hardware.

    Classic design.

    • Attractive design
    • Brass and glass
    • Free-standing design
    • 6.5” tall; 5” capacity
    • Model VRG-3
  • Conant Grande View Rain Gauge

    Anne says: Convex glass shape magnifies numerals by 50% when filled with water.

    Large collection funnel directs rain into the glass tube that measures to 1/10th of an inch increments.

    Attractive spiral design accents the rain gauge.

    Solid brass antique finish.

    • Large, visible numbers
    • Garden stake that can be placed anywhere
    • Brass and glass construction
    • 23” tall; 3” capacity
    • Model VRG-6
  • Conant Jeffersonian Rain Gauge

    Anne says: Innovative design that could have been done by Thomas Jefferson (if he had created a rain gauge). A marvel of form and function that measures rainfall mechanically.

    The Jeffersonian rain gauge uses a mechanical float and lever to measure up to five inches of rainwater.

    The gauge turns into the wind to accurately measure rain or can be fixed into position.

    Solid brass antique finish and stainless steel construction.

    • Novel design
    • 5” capacity
    • Very easy to read scale
    • 31” tall
    • Model VRG-7

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