Gardening is a test of our ability to work alongside nature. That includes everything from the soil we plant into, to the rain that falls on it. Planning ahead is all well and good, but knowing exactly what to do, when you do it, is possibly even more crucial.
Rain gauges help us to measure the rainfall in our garden over a period of weeks, days, or even hours, and help prevent that fateful mistake of underwatering or, God forbid, overwatering.
So, stick with us through this guide to finding the best rain gauges, and choose one that’s right for how you work.
Best Rain Gauges Product Ratings
1. ECOWITT Digital Wireless Rain Gauge
2. Netatmo NRG01-WW Rain Gauge Weather Statio
3. Gardena ClickUp! Rain Gauge
4. Hoselink Rain Gauge
5. Outback Blue Rain Gauge
Rain Gauge Australian Buyers' Guide
What is a Rain Gauge and Why is it Useful?
Rain gauges do what they say on the tin, they gauge rain. Rainfall is typically measured in mm per square metre, but one mm of rain per square cm is just as true a measure. More rudimentary rain gauges simply fill a container with an accurately measured mouth to give an indication of how much rainfall there has been since it was last emptied.
Modern rain gauges track rain all in minutes, hours, or days, sending accurate information to your phone. While that might seem like unnecessary information, every garden has its own unique climate.
Overhanging trees will prevent rain from falling on your veggies, and high winds, channelled by road layouts can also have an effect. So, what you see on the forecast is never quite exact for you and your garden.
Rain gauges allow you to track rainfall, so that you can water plants accurately, without worrying about over or underdoing it.
What to Look for When Buying a Rain Gauge
With a fairly varied market, it can be hard to know what to look for when buying a rain gauge, but it really comes down to three simple checks:
The accuracy of your rain gauge can vary, but most trusted manufacturers produce gauges that are manufactured to precision, so give perfect results. Open-mouthed rain gauges can splash out, or be rocked by wind, which may give inaccurate results, but on the whole, they are just as reliable as smart rain gauges.
Readability is as much about user preference as it is about the tool itself. If you prefer to see things with your own eye, analogue rain gauges are for you. If you’re not turned off by technology, then smart or digital rain gauges could be the key to your gardening success.
And finally, durability is key. How easy is the rain gauge to install? Are the fittings well produced? Or, perhaps more importantly, where are you going to install it?
Most rain gauges attached to a house will cope in most conditions, but some, particularly if you attach them to trees or fences can be clambered over by birds and wildlife, and need to be made of tougher stuff.
Different Types of Rain Gauge
There are, fundamentally, two types of rain gauges, but within each, there are dozens of design variations. Choosing between the two key types is pretty simple though.
Analogue Rain Gauge
Analogue rain gauges are either funnels or tubes, with accurate measurements on a transparent or translucent case. They fill up with rain and are emptied manually, or via a hose attachment.
Digital Rain Gauge
Digital rain gauges send information to your phone, or to purpose-fitted screens that connect wirelessly to the measuring unit. They are generally easy to install but check whether they need batteries or wired installation before purchasing, as wired rain gauges do take a bit of skill to install safely.
Rain Gauge Product Reviews
1. ECOWITT Digital Wireless Rain Gauge with Indoor Thermometer and Hygrometer
ECOWITT’s digital rain gauge comes with an indoor thermometer and hygrometer to measure rainfall, as well as indoor humidity and temperature, so you can care for your houseplants with just as much precision as your garden.
The free mounted screen is easy to use, and portable too, while the rain gauge comes with a secure mounting bracket for fences or timber posts.
2. Netatmo NRG01-WW Rain Gauge Weather Station
Netamo’s smart rain gauge can be used in conjunction with their weather station range, or independently and comes with a simple app that allows you to read live rainfall from the comfort of the sofa.
The simple design can be used on a tabletop, or with a mounting bracket to place around the garden for more localised readings.
3. Gardena ClickUp! White Rain Gauge
Gardena’s ClickUp range is extraordinary as it is, but this rain gauge tops the lot. The whole system is built around a basic fitting mechanism, so any tool can sit on top of a ground spike, with a basic hose fitting on the end.
The range includes bird feeders, bug hotels, and even garden lights, with little space needed for a beautiful and practical addition to the garden. Their rain gauge provides accurate localised readings and is a great way to get into weather watching as part of your garden routine.
4. Hoselink Rain Gauge
Hoselink’s ground-spike rain gauge is a handy tool for gardeners who want their tools to be subtle. It spikes easily into any bed or pot and provides exact readings of rainfall in that part of the garden.
While reading rainfall at ground level comes with some potential challenges (wildlife drinking from the gauge, or wind and rain splashing out from full tubes) it’s a useful way to get a basic idea of how and when to water the garden.
5. Outback Blue Rain Gauge
One of the best all round rain gauges is this wall-mountable rain gauge from Outback Blue. Its large capacity cup is easy to read, simple to empty, and even more of a breeze to mount.
It can be fitted to brickwork, timber fences, or posts, or just left sitting on a tabletop and moved around the garden to measure differences in rainfall throughout the season.
Best Rain Gauges for 2023 - Our Top Picks
Our Top Pick Rain Gauge
ECOWITT’s wireless rain gauge provides peace of mind through its accuracy and easy-to-use interface, providing up to the minute readings to rainfall in your garden.
As well as accurate readings and incredible ease of installation on various surfaces, it’s also self-emptying, so if you forget about it one day, the next day's readings will still be accurate and true.
Premium Choice Rain Gauge
For those who want the most up-to-date garden kit, check out this smart rain gauge from Netatmo, which connects directly to a smartphone app, so you can read your rainfall on the go.
Best Value Rain Gauge
Because rain gauges are basically just cups and rulers, finding something that's easy to install, and simple to read without the bells and whistles or wireless digital readings is often the easiest option for many gardeners.
If that’s you, then have a look at the Gardena ClickUp rain gauge. It works with their own range of ClikUp posts to free-standing installation and can be easily moved around the garden.
Rain Gauge Frequently Asked Questions
Is 1mm of rain a lot?
If your rain gauge is picking up an average of 1 mm of rain per hour, that is a lot. Typically 10 mm of rainfall in a week is considered heavy rainfall, so 1mm of rain per hour continually is more than double that.
Where is the best place to put a rain gauge?
The best place to put a rain gauge is exactly where you are measuring for. If you are measuring for the sake of measuring weather conditions, then choose an open location with shelter from the wind.
If you are measuring rainfall for a specific bed, or for one part of the garden, place the rain gauge above that bed for an accurate and localised reading.
Does the diameter of a rain gauge matter?
The wider the mouth of a rain gauge, the more reliable your reading will be. This is because wide-mouthed gauges reduce wind interference, and potential blockages or temporary shades (like birds landing). They also give a better average read than narrow-mouthed gauges.
Are cheap rain gauges accurate?
Generally speaking, all rain gauges are accurate if you set them up properly. All they do is catch water and provide a measurement, so provided they are correctly marked they will give an accurate reading regardless of price.
Does the shape of a rain gauge matter?
Funnel-shaped rain gauges were all the rage for a while, but they are actually a little less accurate than tube-shaped rain gauges. The funnel shape catches the wind and allows rain to splash or even blow out.
Can a rain gauge be wrong?
Rain gauges are generally pretty accurate, but some factors, including high winds and excessively high temperatures during summer rainfall, will cause incorrect readings.
However, if you are measuring for actual ground-level rainfall, these factors can often provide a more realistic representation of rain in your garden anyway.
Can you use any container as a rain gauge?
You can use pretty much any container as a rain gauge, provided it has vertical sides and doesn’t bow out. Simply place it somewhere off the ground, on a stable surface, and empty it after each rainfall. To measure, hold a ruler in the water (it sounds simple because it is!).
Choose from the Best Rain Gauges for 2023
Rain gauges are a great way to turn your gardening up a notch, and move from guesswork to precise and considered plant care. Whether you’re an ornamental gardener or a keen veggie parent, rain gauges give you the tools to treat your plants right.
Finding the best rain gauge, as we’ve said, is more about you than it. Decide how you plan to use your rain gauge, and the sort of interface you’re comfortable with. If you just want something simple, save a few dollars and stick with analogue gauges, but for the very best, I’d always choose a digital rain gauge.