From The Mag

Reader Question: Analog or Digital?

When it comes to knowing how low you are, what’s your preference – analog or digital display? And the real question – Why?

We’re not talking about the guts of the thing (the mechanism) here, just how it reads.

Secondary question: do you log digitally or with old-fashioned pen and paper?

PD New Beginning

Personally I’m a digital girl with a paper logbook because it takes me way too long to process an analog display, but I like writing. How about you?

Answers will be published in the February issue of Blue Skies Mag with your name as you enter it in the comments. You can also email your answer to me at

Update 1/14: Wow, you guys have a lot of feelings about altimeters! We’ve received so many responses, we can only print some of our favorites. We’ll compile the rest into a website post next month though, so the discussion isn’t over yet!


    • Altimeter – using analogue display. Why? On analogue display i can SEE the altitude. On digital display i have to READ the altitude.

      Logbook – old fashioned pen & paper. Why? It works without batteries or any other kind of power supply ;)

  • I jump a Altitrack for tandem jumps. Sasier to read in free fall, and sits perfect on the side of my hand, under my Handy Cam. For video, and fun jumps I use a VisoII, because its easier to read under canopy. I have pen and paper log book..

  • Digital because I can’t waste precious seconds of my skydive reading my altimeter when I could be impressing chicks.

  • I prefer to use a digital alti as I find it easier to quickly process. I’ve tried both a Viso II and N3, but don’t mind which one I end up using.

    I stick to logging with pen and paper however.

  • I jump an analog on my hand with a Viso II on my wrist facing in. On student training jumps I will reference the analog to get a general idea of where we are, then the digital for more accuracy. The analog is also in frame of my video often, so that it can be used to teach the student further about how much time it is taking them to perform a task.

    The digital is also facing me when I am under canopy, especially for swoop set up, so that is the main reason I run a digital: for the last bit of the skydive.

    And I also have an audible in all of my helmets.

  • I use a digital because its what I’m used to. On my very first student jump my instructor gave me one to use and now I have my own so the only jumps I’ve ever had an analog on were my tandems. I love having all the statistics such as freefall time, jump altitude, deployment altitude etc. (although occasionally the readings are obviously funky!) I do record everything in a paper logbook.

  • Analog on the mud flap and digital on the wrist (and in both ears, of course). I log digitally, add the best picture or frame grab plus additional info about the jump on the PC and print it out in log book format to get signed (later).

  • I prefer a digital altimeter. I use an Alti N3 visual as well as an Optima II audible for extra information. I download the N3 into Paralog but I still keep a paper log of every jump. I use the Paralog to get jump details such as total FF time per jump, jump FF time, exit altitude, etc. I also scan my paper log and upload it to the web for reference from anywhere.

  • One or the other. Actually more analog than digital. More visual for altitude estimates. Learning to use my Viso for more accurate performance entry points

  • Did my AFF on a analog one, right after that i got a N3 and N3Audio and feel i am much more aware of my altitude, the N3Audio talks me “down” to the Pull Altitude – love it

  • Definitely analog on the altimeter. A needle on a gauge is simpler for my brain to process than taking a number and converting that to useful information.

    I started with a paper logbook and at one point put together an Excel spreadsheet to better organize the information. I love being able to instantly pull up any totals in any category. “How many naked Otter jumps in the month of June?” No problem. Got it right here. I still keep the paper going, I just can’t bring myself to give up on something I’ve been doing for 19 years.

    Jeff. Dawson
    SANS 0001

  • I too carry multiple altimeters. I prefer digital. When I was a student, taking “delay” jumps in my static line progression, I had to repeat a jump for “going low.” I realized that it was happening, because my brain just didn’t live in the analog world. I switched to a Neptune, and, have not had an altitude awareness issue since.

    I now use an N3 for visual, and my old Neptune 2 for my primary audible. I use a chestmount to help out my friends in big-way and tracking.

    I have to admit, I still use a paper log, but it backs up my logging electronically with Paralog software.

  • Analog, I have a high strength specs, if I was to loose my specs in freefall, I could still figure were the needle was without having to waste time trying read numbers.

  • I prefer analog on my mudflap and digital wrist mount for backup and an accurate readout for under canopy. Also, I wear both on my wrists for tandem jumps, tricked my TI I/E with that one when he tried to grab one arm to make me pull early. Redundancy bitches!

    • Also a paper log. Mostly because I like the fact that I can get real signatures and hand written comments from people. Years later it’s fun to read the things that people snuck into your book.

  • I personally prefer analog, because it’s easier for me to make quick visual glances with my altimeter, especially with the color indication of yellow and red line. I prefer old fashion pen and paper for my log book It’s feels more personal to whip out a dusty log book and re-live cherished memories page by page.

  • Digital. N3 on my wrist for canopy alarms & visual, N3 in my helmet for audible, Solo II audible for backup. Still have my Galaxy III though. I log my jumps with Paralog.

  • Analog wrist (Viplo) and digital/audible (n3) at my ear. The analog because I like have a simple color coded visual. The digital because it’s more precise for judging my landing, and because my analog needle has a tendency to stick when I least expect it. :-\

  • Analog! I don’t have time to dick around with digital settings I’m already distracted as it is in the plane with my 8 gopros. Also I used a pen and logbook so I can lie about my jump numbers :-)

  • I’m all about the digital display these days, though I flew analog for 10 years (both are now LB). The second question is where the gold is though, in my humble opinion. My first audible was a Pro-track and had the digital logging (as they all do these days) but they had available a software which showed graphs of fall rate and times, etc. The problem is it’s not convenient and it shows a bunch of stuff nobody cares about these days. Something easier is needed (and I’d pay for it). I won’t switch from pen/paper logging until I can walk in and my phone already (wirelessly) has my jump information on it. Then I want to quickly add number of peeps on the jump, points turned, and maybe a quick note. I know it’s different for others who make a living in the sport. They just want/need a count of jumps for each discipline but for a fun jumper it goes one of three ways; I don’t log, I log the numbers and points (or the equivalent for a free-flier), or I log every detail. I’d LOVE to see some progress in this area (maybe even an app or two for my phone).

  • In free fall I am using my altitrack because it is easier to read,plus I like the needle…
    Under canopy I have my viso 2 because of the accurancy and it is easier to see the exact altitude..
    About logbook….I am using both ways…My altitrack logs the jumps and at the end of the day I write them on my logbook.

  • I prefer analog to digital because it was all that was available at the time I started skydiving (73), though I think it much easier for the brain to process a needle than a set of numbers. These days, analog on my wrist or chest strap & an audible in my helmet. I must confess though that I jumped for several years without an altimeter, confident that I could read the alti’s of my fellow skydivers….I don’t recommend this though :-)

  • Digital. I’m a numbers kinda guy and I like the precision under canopy.

    Pen and paper logbook. Makes me think about the jump and if I achieved both in freefall and under canopy what I wanted to.

  • For it’s specific purpose (offering a easy to read snapshot of current altitude) Analog all the way.

    Under canopy however we often benefit from information more suitable for processing (we all learn math using integers so it’s easier for most of us to process digital indicators faster than analog). Our rate of descent can be quickly calculated or how exactly much height was lost during a maneuver? Have we the height to safely perform the maneuver should we need to (when you really don’t want to be wondering if the needle is on the 2nd or 3rd little line) for this a digital model is the preferred choice.

    For now I am happy jumping my Analog altimeter with it’s large easy to read dial, but there is most certainly a place for digital devices and the access to new information they provide

  • Analog.

    At-a-glance recognition of the altitude simply by the needle position, like the hands on a clock. Important ranges are color-coded.

    Doesn’t matter if the numbers represent feet or meters, needle position is the same.

    With digital, if you’re used to meters but it was unwittingly changed to feet, you could be in trouble if you aren’t paying attention to the ground quickly coming up at you…

    No settings, other than simply zeroing it.

    May last forever if taken care of.

    No batteries required!

    • Also, a spiral-bound paper logbook. I have a stack of them.

      I do use two audibles in my helmet. But, the ultimate altimeter is your eyes. Device dependency is a danger in our sport. Getting “talked down” to pull time, as someone else posted?!? C’mon!

      The downside to analog, though, is that I don’t look like one of the cool kids who walk around with their color-coordinated L&B wrist mount when they’re not jumping…you know who you are…lol…

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