A few equipment questions from a newbie chaser


Current equip:
Vehicle, laptop, hand held GPS, weather radio.

Chasing range: Upper midwest. All of Iowa into central to northern Illinois, Southern Minnesota, Northern Missouri and Eastern Nebraska.

As I understand it, the remaining essentials are 1) wireless access wherever I roam, 2) a good radar program, 3) possibly linking GPS to the said radar program with my laptop.

On wireless access: Seems to me my main options are verizon wireless as well as cingular. Both around 60 per month for unlimited bandwidth. Questions: Any experiences with these two in my range -- good coverage? Any experiences with one being better than the other? Any other suggestions for affordable wireless coverage?

On a good radar/weather data program: Haven't researched this as much, but have heard good things about GRLevel3. There is another popular model that has a name escaping me at the moment. Suggestions here? I assume such rada/data programs offer detailed maps going down to street level and what not.(as well as detailed storm information) What is everybody using? (appreciate prices and links -- although I'll continue to try and search this forum and the net for more information, just like to hear from folks who have used the programs)

Linking GPS to radar/data: Can this be done with a GPS card for your laptop? Does any of the software for the radar/data integrate with GPS tracking? It *seemed* as though I've seen this before, but haven't been able to find exactly what setup gives you this. (if not, I suppose seperate map for your position would work as well)

I suppose there are some other pieces of equipment that would be handy, and if I'm forgetting anything you consider essential, please do remind me. I just listed what I think is essential.

Any feedback is appreciated.

Thank you.
Hi Derek,

Having wireless access is always good-I've had excellent luck with Verizon, but never tried Cingular. As far as GPS goes, My suggestion would be Delorme mapping software, and a GPS unit of your choice.

To put your location on a radar map, there are several options. I believe that GRLevelX can do it, along with SwiftWX, and I believe Storm Alert (not 100% positive).

To use the same GPS unit for both programs, there is a piece of software that you can use that will create a 'virtual port'. Perhaps others can jump in to discuss more.

Sounds like you're relatively new to chasing. A couple of important pointers if I may. Please don't overlook the maintenance of your vehicle. This is far more important than all of your gear that you carry. Ensure that your brakes, hoses, oil, transmission, rear end, radiator, A/C, wipers, headlights, engine, etc., are all in top shape. This should be your #1 focus.

Also, on a rather poorly discussed subject...be VERY careful on the use of your laptop as you drive. Its very easy to start surfin' for data as you drive...a VERY dangerous mix.

Best of luck out there this year!

Tim Samaras

The program you're looking for is GPSGate. At least that's the one I use. it allows you to have your GPS unit output its data into your favorite mapping software as well as StormLab or any other radar program that supports GPS, all at the same time. It's inexpensive and does its sole purpose pretty well.

Franson is like 19.95 and well worth it...

Reflecting on what others have said.

Whats important if you have this technology available is mapping software and radar software. Utilizing your laptop and equipment finding your position in relation to the storm is a good tool to have to maximize success.

Back in the day when i started i had a map and a weather radio. I chased the 28th in Kansas this year with only a map and weather radio and seen the action. ( right place, right time )

The jist is with good mapping software, a target and live radar in the vehicle will greatly improve your odds of witnessing the anomlous weather you drove 500 miles to chase.

Mapping and radar with gps coordinates are the standard to achieve this edge IMO.
Tim brings up a good point... your vehicle is the single most important piece of gear you'll have with you. Without it, you're nothing! LOL
I agree with what Tim and Tony said about the importance of your vehicle. A fancy laptop with GPS is an expensive paperweight if your car is dead on the side of the road. Your video camera and still camera is useless if your having car trouble and can't make it to that photogenic classic supercell. I have always said and believed that a chasers most important chase tool is their vehicle. I got my timing belt and water pump replaced on my vehicle today which set me back $400. Yes, that is a lot of money, but for a vehicle that has 104,100 miles on it, I have to keep it in tip top shape in order to make it to that photogenic supercell.

Derek, I do like the fact that you listed your vehicle first in your equipment list.
Thank you very much for the replies everyone.

Tim - that's good advice that I've read before, but thanks for the reminder. I certainly had been more focused on 'neato' equipment than vehicle maintenance. (btw -- very much enjoyed the chase video I order from you this past winter)

After having investigated some of the radar/data solutions mentioned in this thread I've found I like the GRL3 program the best.

However, will it offer my fastest data solution? As I understand it, we're getting radar from the NWS whenever it updates... every 3, 4 or 5 minutes. (whatever the exact time is -- seems to vary from my experience)

Is this the best any radar/data solution is going to get for radar updates?
(I had thought that the allisonhouse solution offered up faster times, but according to their support forum, they offer more reliable data, not any faster than the public/NWS radars)

Do we have any faster radar solutions? (outside of the free NWS solution, apparently)

Thank you.
In my experience Allisonhouse is well fast enough. I do keep it just because the service won't slow or break down on major weather outbreak (NWS's get so much usage itslows down a bit and can stop working).
Thanks for everyones comments on GPSGate, if no one had mentioned the program it may have been a while before I heard about it else where. Instead I now have the WX WORX and my mapping software both working with my GPS. Anything to help decrease the number of tasks durring storm chasing is certainly helpful.