Choosing a reliable and accurate lightning detector is no easy task. There’s a number of brands on the market right now, with differing technology, sensitivity range, and features.
To help narrow down the options we have selected 5 top-rated detectors across a range of type (personal and professional use), strike distance ability, alert systems and more. Our aim is to bring you the definitive low down on what lightning detection device you should buy in 2020.
For our findings at a glance, just head to the table below. For detailed reviews of each of our picks, plus a comprehensive buyer’s guide, keep on reading.
Top 5 Best Lightning Detectors
40 Mile Range
1hr Storm Trend
40 Mile Range
Robic, Strike Alert
40 Mile Range
25 Mile Range
Skyscan EWS PRO
40 Mile Range
Lightning Detector Reviews
The following detectors have been selected based on build quality, accuracy, features and price point.
Our testing method involves a combination of the above criteria, plus recent customer reviews and feedback on performance, as well as analysis of how each product fares against others on the market.
1. TOP PICK: StrikeAlert HD Personal Lightning Detector Pager
Our top pick personal lightning detector for 2020 is the excellent HD pager for the ever-reliable StrikeAlert.
These guys have a released a whole host of lightning detection products and in our opinion, the pager is one of the best, (hence getting our top pick for 2020)
When you’re out on the golf course or walking in the wilderness, you want a detector that is small, reliable and easy to use. Good battery life is a priority too.
Well the StrikeAlert HD Pager fulfills all of the above and more.
The color graphic display is easy to understand and doesn’t require a degree in meteorology to read.
The unit is able to display strike distances from 0 to 40 miles away. This also provides 360-degree lightning detection from your location.
Storm trend data is displayed with a full 1hr history, and whether you are using the detector or not, it will begin working as soon as you have powered up the unit.
This means that even if the StrikeAlert is hidden away in your backpack if you have switched it on, it will alert you to any potential problems via both the audible and vibration warning system.
A full 80hrs of operation is available from just two AA batteries.
The StrikeAlert HD Pager provides everything you need in a personal lightning detector. Small, easy to use with reliable detection technology built-in.
If you’re an outdoors person and require a lightening alert system to remain safe, this is the unit to buy in 2020.
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2. Xtreme Research Skyscan Lightning/Storm Detector
For individuals looking for more detailed data from their lightening detection system, the Xtreme Research may well be a preferred pick over the top pick StrikeAlert.
Similarly, the unit can detect lightening up to 40 miles away.
The SkyScan features patented technology that is able to determine the approach of a problematic storm, with the display indicator providing 4 ranges:
- 0-3 miles;
- 3-8 miles;
- 8-20 miles;
- and 20-40 miles.
Each time the unit detects a lightning strike within 40 miles it will emit a warning and then the appropriate distance indicator will be illuminated.
There’s also a severe storm warning alert system built in that will create a 15-second alarm alert should a particularly ferocious weather system be on the approach.
The manufacturers state that the Skyscan Lightning/Storm Detector is accurate to within 1 to 2 miles 97 percent of the time. This is impressive by the standard of today’s personal detection systems.
One issue that buyers should be made aware of is that the SkyScan is designed to operate in a vertical position.
In other words unlike the page that can be worn and will operate easily while on the move, the Skyscan case should be placed on a flat, stable surface in order to detect properly.
This makes the unit more appropriate for Little League teams, golf courses, and recreational organizations that require an alert system rather than individual hikers, etc.
The machine is powered by two 9V batteries. In order to save power, the Skyscan will automatically shut-off after five hours of continuous operation.
If you’re looking for a reliable detection system for little league games or as a lightening warning alert for a golf course, the Xtreme Research Skyscan Lightning/Storm Detector is a recommended choice.
However, due to its lack of true portability it is not suitable as a individual, personal lightening detector.
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3. BEST BUDGET: Robic, Strike Alert Personal Lightning Detector
If you are looking for an ultra budget solution to your detection needs, Robic have come up trumps with this mini, portable lightening alert system.
This palm-sized device can detect lightning strikes within the same range as the previous 2 units reviewed above, a useful 40 mile’s distance.
However, the data is less specific than what you will enjoy from a more premium unit. That being said, you will be made aware whether the strike has occurred within six miles, six-to-12 miles, 12-to-24 miles, and 24-to-40 miles.
All of which gives you plenty of time to react if you need to clear the golf course, and start retreating to safety during your hike.
The device delivers the warning via an audible alarm and the LED indicator alerting you to the distance range that the strike falls into.
The unit is extremely portable and can clip to your belt, golf bag or backpack with little fuss.
Power consumption is okay with the two AAA batteries providing 100hrs of battery life, (this is debatable however as some users have suggested that the unit is good for a day on the golf course, but requires a change of batteries afterward).
Ease of operation is a benefit with the Robic too. Simply depress the power button in order to check the lightning strike distance. This button will also provide you with data on storm direction and current battery life.
To add to this top pick budget option, the manufacturers also include a 1-year warranty.
If you are looking for an easy to use, ultra-portable and affordable lightning detection solution the Robic personal lightning detector is the unit to buy.
However, for more detailed data plus higher quality overall design and accuracy we would recommend the StrikeAlert HD pager over this.
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4. AcuRite 02020 Portable Lightning Detector
The AcuRite 02020 Portable Lightning Detector is another good unit and a worthy addition to our top 5.
However, for those that prefer a longer range system, (the detection capability is only 25 miles with this device); they may find that the unit does not provide sufficient warning.
That being said, the AcuRite 02020 is a versatile, portable little machine that provides data on cloud-to-ground, cloud-to-cloud and intra-cloud lightning strikes.
As with the other detectors in this review roundup, a flashing LED and audible alert will notify you when a lightning strike is within range.
The unit will also provide a tally of the running total of lightning strikes that have been detected.
For low light operation, the display features a momentary backlight. An estimated distance to the storm is also provided.
The detector has a handy feature in the way of an enhanced interference rejection system. This is designed to prevent false positives.
For those that wish to use the AcuRite indoors there’s also a specific indoor operational function. Finally, the device comes with a no-slip clip for portability and a 1-year limited warranty.
The AcuRite 02020 Portable Lightning Detector is a compact, portable device that gets the job done.
However, with only a 25 mile detection sensitivity, those looking for a longer range alert should look to one of the other choices reviewed here.
BEST PREMIUM: Skyscan EWS PRO Professional Lightning Detector
Users looking for a professional level device should look no further than the Skyscan EWS PRO.
This lightning detector, the early warning system has a host of features that places it above the other units to make our top 5. The price tag is also indicative of that, however.
That being said, with its accurate digital microprocessor (complete with patented dual antenna receiving system); this machine can detect lightning strikes up to 40 miles away and will provide a loud 95 dB alert horn to ensure that everyone in the vicinity is made aware of the approaching front.
The antenna receiver and alert system do require more power to function. To keep the Skyscan EWS PRO online, requires an in-built 12 volt rechargeable power source.
The good news is that a single charge will allow the unit to run for up to 7 days.
Should you be leaving the device outside against the elements, the robust, weather-resistant case will help keep everything safe, intact and running as it should.
The EWS PRO has an LED warning alert too, depicting 4 distance ranges that strikes fall into, as well as data on whether the storm is moving towards, away, or parallel to your current position.
Overall, the Skyscan EWS PRO is a well built and accurate, early storm detection system.
If you have individuals under your care where lightening and storm protection is an issue, the Skyscan EWS PRO is our recommended choice for 2020.
What to consider when buying a lightning detector
Whether you are looking for a lightning detector to take fishing or hiking, or you’re in charge of a little league club or golf course and need to ensure that members stay safe, a reliable and accurate device is a must.
However, there’s a number of issues you will need to think about in order to purchase the correct detector for your needs.
Let’s take a look at some of them now.
Personal or Pro Use?
The first, most relevant question to ask yourself is for what purpose are you going to be using the detector.
In fact, we alluded to this in the introduction of the buyer’s guide. If you are looking to stay safe while fishing, hiking or some other outdoor pursuit where a severe storm could put you at risk; a small, personal lightning detector is the most appropriate.
These are more affordable than pro use units and in most cases can be easily stored in your backpack or even clipped to your belt.
These ultra-portable devices work by detecting the electromagnetic pulse emitted from a lightning strike. The detected EMP strength provides information on how far the strike is away from the location of the detector.
The disadvantage of this technology is that they can be prone to interference, and on cheaper models (as expressed in the reviews above) can give you false positives or inaccurate readings in terms of strike distance.
The pro use lightning detector will offer better performance and accuracy, however, these are bulkier in design.
As with the top premium pick above, a 12V battery is required and the unit comes in a large, robust carry case.
The pro use storm detector is best used in scenarios where an early warning system is vital; i.e where a number of people will be reliant on knowing when and where a storm is approaching so that a safe evacuation can be made.
Golf courses and other types of recreational sports grounds would be a good example of where a professional lightning detector could be necessary.
The advantage here is the advanced features such as enhanced sensitivity, improved Intracloud lightning detection, early warning alerts, and storm approach tracking.
As you will have seen from the above reviews, the standard range across the majority of available detectors is 40 miles.
This is a more than adequate distance in order to provide safe early warning.
Avoid any device that does not provide data on just how far the strike is away from your location.
All the units in our top 5 and some form of indicator to at least inform of you of the possible range, (0 – 10, 10 – 20 miles etc).
Devices that provide this information will also tell you if the storm is approaching or moving further away based on which range the strike falls within.
All the lightning detection accuracy in the world is no good if the alert system is not up to scratch.
An audible alarm system is a must. An additional vibration system on personal devices is also preferred as in situations where the device might be buried in your rucksack, or there’s a lot of ambient sounds, you will be able to feel the alert instead.
Most units will also have an LED flash, and this same indicator will reveal data such as distance and frequency.
On professional detectors, you may also have a high DB alert system, and in some cases extended audible alerts (up to 15 seconds in duration), to bring your attention to severe storm fronts.
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Design, Build Quality & Portability
As you will be using your lightning detector while out in the field it clearly needs to have a robust build quality.
Even a unit designed for personal use should have a sturdy case and be water-resistant.
For professional units that may need to be exposed to the elements, strong and durable case design is vital.
Portability for both personal and pro devices is also important. Look for belt and bag clips on the former, and an easy to carry the design on the larger, bulkier professional detectors.
Beyond that, user-friendliness should be a factor in your buying decision; a clear display and easy to operate buttons all help in this regard.
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Battery life is another important consideration. Many of the portable devices require only a couple of AA batteries in order to provide several trips to the golf course or an extended fishing session.
The last thing you want is a unit that requires new batteries every time you set out.
Look to user reviews on how a particular device holds up from a battery life perspective. You can not always rely on what the manufacturers state.
Professional units will have larger batteries (usually chargeable) that will provide several days worth of operation.
A reliable indicator of battery power levels is a must on the larger detectors.
Price Point & Warranty
It is important to have a budget in mind when looking for a lightning detector. That along with details of your specific use scenario will help narrow down your buying options.
For personal units it is possible to buy a device for less than $100, however spending a little more will place you in the budget range of buying something a lot more accurate.
When buying a professional detector you should expect to spend between $1000 and $5000, (in some cases even more).
On any device, you buy, read the small print for details of the warranty. A generous level of support from the manufacturer demonstrates confidence in the devices they sell.
It will also provide peace of mind for you.