Recommended Chaser Equipment List

Apr 16, 2004
1,613
12
11
Austin, Tx
www.TornadoXtreme.com
From my website I often get the request from newbie chasers / spotters to give them information about what equipment they need to get started. Alternatively they may ask what training they need. I'd like to post one such reply I created so that other startup chasers / spotters can have quick access to a list. Additionally I create this as a thread so that other chasers can add things I left out, or give their opinion of what is needed. Chasers please add your thoughts. Moderators please 'Sticky' and move to Equipment, or the Beginning Education Forum if you think it is more appropriate there. Following is my comments / list:
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This is a bit long
and what is required is always a debate amongst the chase
community. Some chasers like to go barebones and some like to have all the equipment, bells, and
whistles. I am somewhere in between the two but admit I like access to data. Here is a quick
breakdown off the top of my head:

Vehicle - You need something up to the task that is reliable, has decent ground clearance, possible
off road ability, mud tires a plus, AWD / 4WD recommended, can be serviced easily with local parts,
reliable, can hold and mount your equipment the way you want it set up, decent gas mileage (if that
is important to you), and can carry your chase buddies and their equipment (if you need this
ability). Also you might want a vehicle that you don't mind getting dinged with hail. If you heavily chase it isn't a matter of if you will encounter hail. It is a matter of WHEN you will encounter hail.

Tow Rope- Even the best trail ratted vehicle can find its self getting stuck when chasing. For this reason you will need tow ropes. Even if you do not travel on dirt roads it is still a good idea to have tow ropes in case you slide off or are forced off a paved road and into a ditch.

Laptop, or suitable modified desktop and monitor that is securely mounted to avoid airbags. Note: m
all equipment must avoid airbag deployment zones

Laptop Stand - such as Jotto Desk. I forget the brand I use. It seems to work...I could look it up.
Ram mounts also makes similar devices.

Cameras and Camcorders if you wish to document

Dashcam mount - if you wish to mount and use a dashcam while you chase. Stickypod is one... Ram
mounts are another.

Cell phone - for calling in reports, getting help, talking to buddies, nowcasters, etc. Gps enable
phone with various features such as IPhone is even better. Some folks tether the cell phone to their
notebook for internet data whereas others use a separate USB or slot aircard for data.

Cell Power Booster - optional but some chasers swear you have to have this for consistent data by
wireless internet

Cables/connectors - for all connections such as phones, aircards, antennas.

Weatherband radio / scanner - for picking up NWS Warnings. This is somewhat optional
if you have other means of getting this information (ex satellite, or cell data) but is a good
redundant backup as well.

Paper maps and Atlas (as primary or backup navigation) - Roads of Series are nice. Delorme also has
a decent series along with their Road Atlas

Internet connection - via cell, or wifi or USB wireless modem / aircard

Flashlight


Work Gloves- These can come in very, especially if you have to help move debris ff the road or are assisting with search and rescue in heavily damaged areas.

Hail Goggles - in case you get caught in a core of large hail you must protect your eyes

Helmet - in case you have to run in the hail. (This is optional - but nice to know you have)

ANSI reflective traffic vest- This is a must have if you chase at night or in areas with poor visibility. It is also highly recommended if you have a vest when chasing in high traffic areas or roads that may have a lot of curves and blind hills.

Emergency equipment / First Aid kit - to help others and yourself. All the general stuff is good
such as spare tires, fix a flat, air pump, road flares, - some people carry defibrilators for
lightning strike victims, and a mouth apparatus in case of need for emergency respiration - if you
are into all that.

Various antennas for your scanner, and cell phone(s)

Power invertor - and I also like to use a power strip with it.

Power Strip- with surge protection

Rain X- Anti fog and water repel treatments are both highly suggested.

Clear plastic film and tape in case your window gets broken and you need to repair so you can drive
the vehicle and keep the rain out.

Cig lighter splitter accessory - For plugging in devices for power, but you may wish to plug
everything via AC into the power strip that is plugged into the invertor.

Mobile Threatnet - also known as Wx Worx by Baron. This provides satellite full time radar and other
products. Different service levels available. (This is another option, but is a reliable data source for
radar).

Streaming video account - via Severestreaming, or ChaserTv, or Tornadovideos.net, etc

Meteorological software - such as Digital Atmosphere, GR3 (by Allisonhouse/Gibson Ridge).

Navigational software - such as Street Atlas

GPS - used for navigation, and broadcasting your position to others, and as input to your
Navigational software such as Street Atlas above.

GPS Splitter software - such as GPSGate that allows you to split your gps signal to be used by
multiple software applications at the same time.

Paper maps/ Atlus- It is always good to have a a paper back up to your GPS device in the event something goes wrong with your laptop or stand alone GPS unit.

Internet Data Sources - They are numerous. This includes sites like the Storm Prediction Center,
NWS, Weathertap, UCAR forecast models, etc.

Emergency lights / Lightbars - I don't really believe in it, but some chasers / spotters fully
believe in the need for all the lights so others can avoid them when driving in low visibility
conditions. Also fog lights, etc. This is a debate in the chaser community.

Full size spare tire- This is not a must have but is highly recommend, especially if you are on long distance chases. A donut is NOT a long term substitution for replacing a full sized tire.

Slime (or other flat repair kits)/ Small air compressor- This can be a good quick fix if you happen to damage more than one tire and only have one spare. Most jump boxes that you can buy will also have a little air compressor in it. If you can afford one of these I would get it as the jump box is also a good piece of equipment to carry with you (see bellow).

Empty gas can- Better safe than sorry. It is always a good idea to carry a small gas can you can have filled in case you misjudge distances between gas stations.

Cash- Some gas stations in rural areas may not take cards and checks. There are also some times when you will find a station that normally can take a card but the storms in the area have brought down their card machines.

Jump box/ jumper cables- For those times you forget to turn off your inverters or other car powered electronics.

GMRS Radios - If you wish to convoy with other chasers or buddies then it's good to be able to talk
without using a cell phone.

Spotting / Chasing - knowledge to keep you safe and to help you find the right storm and the right
place on the storm. (I know - not equipment but thought I'd throw it in). We chasers are always
in classroom mode..we are always learning. Learn to fully understand storm structure, types, and
behavior. Your life in the field will depend on it particularly as you become more skilled at finding
that which you seek.

Severe Weather Forecasting - Not equipment, but you may wish to learn to forecast severe weather for
yourself. I really enjoy this aspect of chasing as it makes it a bigger puzzle to solve.

The list I have (I probably left out some things). It seems like a lot, but there are lots more
details, options, choices between each. Also not all of these things are necessarily required. It
based on what you desire, and are comfortable with as well as how you want to chase and possibly how
close you want to get.

Note: Earlier this year I chased with just my Iphone and my notebook running Delorme Street Atlas.
It was successful, but a bit tough. When I started back in '93 I only chased with a paper road map,
my NOAA Weather radio, and a camera / camcorder.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Hail Goggles - in case you get caught in a core of large hail you must protect your eyes

Helmet - in case you have to run in the hail. (This is optional - but nice to know you have)
Those two are a bit much. Some of the others I might disagree with are simply personal choice.

But I don't see any need for hail goggles or a helmet unless you drive the Dominator.
 
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I think the helmet might be a bit much, but I've seen a number of chase videos where the windshield cracks or a side window busts out. Safety glasses are pretty cheap and simple to store. Of course, we don't have to really worry about hail in my chase territory... Biggest I have seen is quarter size, and it was pretty mushy.
 

Jason Boggs

Hail goggles saves your eyes from shattered glass from large hail. I can see a use for that.

A helmet might become useful if you're in large hail and have to get out of your vehicle to get to shelter.

Personally, I don't carry either one.
 
Hail goggles would only save your eyes from shattered glass *IF* you wear them all the time you are chasing. That isn't going to happen.

Carrying hail goggles and not wearing them isnt going to help you much :)

I did think of one. Should have an ANSI reflective traffic vest of some kind.
 
Hail goggles saves your eyes from shattered glass from large hail. I can see a use for that.

A helmet might become useful if you're in large hail and have to get out of your vehicle to get to shelter.

Personally, I don't carry either one.
It really depends on your style of chasing. I have a pair of safety glasses and a helmet that I keep with me when chasing but I will seek out large hail on purpose when I see the tornadic potential of the storm is not very high. If you are going to actively seek out larger hail and core punch it might not be a bad idea. I know the glasses saved my eyes last year in Texas when I lost part of my windshield.

On the other hand if you really are going to work at staying out of the hail I would not worry about carrying either. Also as Tyler mentioned if you do not wear them they wont do much for you. I do not typically wear mine while chasing but will throw them on quickly before pushing into a hail shaft.

Another great piece of equipment is the reflective vest. I have one and will always wear it after dark and will put on when chasing in high traffic areas and large convergence chases.
 
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Jason Boggs

Hail goggles would only save your eyes from shattered glass *IF* you wear them all the time you are chasing. That isn't going to happen.
.
I don't agree with that. Like Bart said, put them on before you venture into a hail core and that will do the trick. They don't have to be on all the time to be of good use.
 
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Dec 18, 2003
4,138
39
11
Lubbock, TX
daviddrummond.com
I have to agree on having some sort of safety glasses on board as well. You never know when you might need them. In a repair shop, according to OSHA your supposed to wear them even when changing a tire.

+1 on the reflective vest. I started carrying (and using) one this year.
 
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Jason Boggs

A reflective vest is something I need to get, but haven't done it yet.
 
May 1, 2004
3,383
473
21
Springfield, IL
www.skip.cc
I like to have safety goggles just in case I need to do some work on the car outside in the field. You don't want a battery blowing up in your face, or have crap falling into your eyes when you are underneath a car. I never really thought about wearing them when I get into a hail core, but its a good idea if you think the windows are going to go.

That list is a good one and very thorough, but its also very specific and may not suit every chaser. Not every chaser is going to need an inverter, or a power strip, or a dashcam mount. I was always a fan of breaking required equipment down into categories and then filling each with whatever option you prefer:

Communications: Radio, cell, internet
Data: wx-radio, internet, satellite
Navigation: paper maps, GPS
Documentation: Still and video cameras

A good additional category would be Safety: first aid, flash light, some way to call for help.
 
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M Patterson

I always carry safety goggles now. I clipped a deer with my drivers side mirror once which broke out the side window. Driving with a missing window and broken glass would have been less disconcerting with goggles.
 

Robert Keller

Gloves make sense, leather that you can work with a lens cap or a tripod socket. Protecting your hands when the windshield shatters. Chaser knowledge, as having to choose between storms north or south of Interstate 90 and choosing the right one when both look identical to the untrained eye when using satellite weather. I would like to know if it is cheaper to use XM's full coverage or use the Master Mariner at half the cost and an internet connection which I don't see reliable in some areas to get mesoscale discussions and the latest convective outlooks.
 

Jesse Risley

Staff member
Apr 12, 2006
1,955
248
11
39
Macomb, IL
www.tornadoguys.com
AAA has some excellent paper maps for each state. Everyone should either carry these, or the DeLorme (paperback) Street Atlas maps that include all of the secondary roads. Like any GPS program, they can be inaccurate, but they're a good backup for any tool kit.

After an incident last year near Hiawatha Kansas on the day of the Aurora, NE tornado, I always carry a full spare tire, besides the generic "donut" tire that comes standard with most sedans. You don't have to necessarily have the rim on the spare, but you should have a full-sized tire that can be swapped on in place of the donut in case you ever blow out the tire; it can save you the cost of having to get an entirely new tire right on the spot.

For heaven's sake, every chaser needs at least and full $1,000 array of amber lights (portable, dash mount and even full sized LEDs for the roof of the vehicle) to assert your superordinate status on the highways and byways. Sorry, I couldn't resist.:D
 

Dann Cianca

For heaven's sake, every chaser needs at least and full $1,000 array of amber lights (portable, dash mount and even full sized LEDs for the roof of the vehicle) to assert your superordinate status on the highways and byways. Sorry, I couldn't resist.:D

One can't forget a full billboard of storm chasing bumper stickers! I mean, what's the point of storm chasing if you can't get all the celebrity-like attention that comes with it!? ;)
 
Apr 1, 2009
124
1
0
Indialantic, FL
I didn't see "a quality jack" on the list anywhere. I am amazed at how many people I see changing their flat with a scissor jack :eek:
Agreed... add a full size spare and a 4 way if you have the space. It's nice to be able to change a tire in just a few minutes instead of fooling with the the scissor jack for 15 minutes.

I'm surprised to see probe launching air cannons aren't on the list yet. :D
 
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Jesse Risley

Staff member
Apr 12, 2006
1,955
248
11
39
Macomb, IL
www.tornadoguys.com
Description/picture needed. I don't consider myself ignorant about things car related..but never heard of anything referred to as a "4 way".
I presume Mike is talking about a 4-Way Lug Wrench. Remind me to never again do a Google image search for "4-way" when other people are near my computer screen. ;)

[Broken External Image]:http://lh4.googleusercontent.com/public/QSYFpP57mg7cp4rzqokBEloPiItpROFkQ8oVkaonaf8OSLwXmpr8OYsJ0FIYqoNdvVDWh2L_Coytlxg0q9bcFMPJRgYIVjN10GP_nLilSTh37jbYofeB0aMMiG8muWxSmxZaTgoFvQ
 
Apr 16, 2004
1,613
12
11
Austin, Tx
www.TornadoXtreme.com
I agree anything to repair a tire quick could be important particularly if you get a flat in the path.

Also, Tools, may be a good idea. The question is which? But often I've broken down in the past. Potentially tools could come in handy.

Additionally, vehicle spare parts and fluid for the vehicle. This could include belts, hoses, transmission fluid, brake fluid, washer fluid, etc.
 

Rich Gudmunsen

Enthusiast
Apr 11, 2006
2
0
0
Hail Goggles - in case you get caught in a core of large hail you must protect your eyes
Safety glasses work great for this. Not only do they give you eye protection, but the UV lenses let you see structure that may not stand out otherwise. They're also cheap and nice enough to be used as daily sunglasses. I always have a couple pair in the truck.

http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/NTESearch?storeId=6970&N=0&Ntk=All&Ntt=safety+glasses&Nty=1&D=safety+glasses&Ntx=mode+matchallpartial&Dx=mode+matchallpartial
 
Jun 2, 2010
69
4
11
Napoleon Ohio
A good (sharp) pocket knife or multi tool like a Gerber or Leatherman. Do not skimp and buy a cheap one, this is one area where quality counts.

Road flares or reflective triangles if a vehicle is stranded on the roadside in poor visiblity conditions.

If you are using two way radios (handheld) spare batteries are a must.
 
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