Quick Tip: Estimating amount of daylight left

It is late Fall or even Winter.

You want to setup up your camp while there is still some daylight. And perhaps even get dinner going.  The day is getting late. And the sun is setting.

You wonder how much daylight you have left.  If only there was a way to eyeball approximately the amount of time you have before the sun sets and you need to set up camp by headlamp. Or even walk in the dark.

Well, there is such a way. Very low tech, inexpensive, easy to use, and every outdoor person already this “gear”:  Your fingers!

Simply extend your arm,  hold your hand up to the horizon, place the hand between the sun and where it will set.  Each finger is roughly fifteen minutes of time before the sunsets. A full-hand is about an hour.  Easy-Peasy. Mac n’ Cheesy.

Looks like I have about 45 minutes before the sun sets behind the ridge.

This technique is of course not accurate to the minute. But it does give a good ballpark figure so you know how much time you have left. The time needed to make a camp that fits your comfort level for the amount of daylight you would enjoy for camp chores, cooking dinner, or just taking in the scene from your campsite.

And when there seems to be an app, a gadget, and more money to spend for every aspect of the outdoors, it is nice to be able to do something simple that only requires you hands, a small bit of knowledge, and some easy math. No credit card needed!

Disclosure: These hands were provided by my parents. And many generations of Magnanti have perfected the fine art using said hands to not only guess the time, but to communicate in an effective manner. Or something…

PCO Joe W.


7 Replies to “Quick Tip: Estimating amount of daylight left”

  1. I do this, too! Use it all the time. Yesterday even. It’s handy for those of us that like to make it back to the car before dark.

  2. This is just perfect coming from a guy who is an unapologetic dirtbagger and follows a long Italian tradition of vehement hand gestures. I’ll be taking this trick to the mountains to test it out.

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