• Michael Thornton

My chase setup

Hey everyone today I will be talking about what kind of vehicle and equipment that I use to chase storms. First and foremost everyone who chases has a different setup. My setup may look different to what you have or what you want to have. The main purpose of this post is to help people who do not know where to start with their setup.

ChasingTheMeso.com chase truck

The first thing that I would like to cover is the vehicle that I chase in. I chase severe storms all across the Southern half of the United States in a 2000 F250. You heard me right, I chase severe storms in a 19 year old truck. Some people might find that crazy, but I do not. I purchased this truck back in February of 2015. At the time of the purchase I was still in High school, and I hadn't began chasing yet. The truck had roughly 130,000 miles on it at the time. Since then I have put 95,000 miles on this truck and driven across 10 different states. This truck does have a brush guard on the front end which protects the truck from being damaged in front end collisions, and gives me the ability to push people if need be. I decided to have 35" NITTO Terra Grapplers installed onto the truck back in 2016 because I chased a lot of storms on muddy roads. I would definitely recommend chasers to get NITTO Terra Grapplers for their vehicle as these tires do great in mud, have little road noise, and also work great on pavement when it is wet. When it comes to shocks this truck has a regular set of Rancho shocks which perform pretty good while off road.


The engine

One month after I purchased my F250 the original 5.4L engine was replaced with a brand new re-manufactured 5.4L engine. This engine has roughly 95,000 miles on it right now.


Exterior


Let's talk about some of the most important items that are located on the outside of my truck. I have a 32" LED Off road Light bar that I only use if I am chasing a Severe Thunderstorm at night and can not see the road. This LED Off road light bar was installed in December of 2015. It has been used multiple of times since, including once when I intercepted an extremely heavy Thunderstorm at night outside of Dodge City, KS in 2017. Surprisingly even though I have driven through a ton of heavy rainfall this light bar hasn't had any condensation build up inside of it until just recently.


For the past 3 years I had used a HAM Radio to listen to other chasers and spotters. But then I sold my HAM Radio unit and bought a GMRS unit. So I switched out my COMET CA-2x4SR antenna for this Browning Antenna because it's main purpose is for GMRS use whereas the COMET is mainly supposed to be used for HAM. However COMET does say that GMRS frequencies can be picked up on their CA-2X4SR antenna, and I have tested this and that statement is true. So I might be switching out antennas soon as I like the COMET CA-2x4SR more.


Interior

Chase day setup

Well, we have reached the fun part of the blog! In this section of the blog I will be talking about every single item that I use inside of my truck when I chase storms.

Center console being built/finished product - 2016

In October of 2016 I began drawing up designs to have a custom center console made for my F250. The main purpose for this center console was for me to be able to place my scanner and HAM radio into a secure spot where I could easily reach them. I also had cup holders and more storage space added to this center console. Two things that Ford did not offer with their stock center console. 3 years have passed and this console has definitely earned it's keep in my truck. It could definitely use a re skin as the amount of use the console has had over the years is beginning to show.


Now a days we have phones that offer radar apps that can show us in High Definition what a storm is doing. So why do I have a laptop mount in my truck? To put it short I have been using a laptop for radar while I chase ever since I began chasing in 2015. I personally like using a laptop when I am chasing rather than a phone because I am not distracted as easily by a laptop as I would be with a phone. So in 2017 I bought this Mobotron heavy duty laptop mount. I decided not to go with a RAM mount because the laptop that I use only weighs 2 pounds and is 11 inches wide. However, I wouldn't recommend getting this laptop mount if you have a heavy laptop as these are made for lightweight laptops.


Monopod drilled into the center console

This next piece of equipment is actually brand new to the truck. Earlier this year towards the end of May I decided to install two monopods onto my center console. These monopods hold my DSLR and camcorder while I chase. This is one of my most favorite ideas that I have ever come up with for two reasons. Installing these monopods to my custom center console completely eliminated the shakiness that I use to have in my videos while I drove. The second reason as to why this is the best thing I have ever thought of is because of the location in which both of these monopods are at. I no longer have to reach over to be able to turn a camera from one side to the other, which eliminates the possibility of me becoming distracted while driving.



My Canon Rebel T6/Sony Handycam

Since we are on the topic of cameras, I might as well talk about what I use to film and photograph weather. In August of 2017 I purchased a Canon Rebel T6, this camera was my first DSLR and I still use it to this day. If you want to see the review I did on this camera click here. I originally purchased the Canon Rebel T6 to photograph Thunderstorms, however that changed when my Canon camcorder died while chasing on October 21st, 2017 in Southwestern Oklahoma. Since then I have been mainly using my Canon Rebel T6 to film Severe Thunderstorms. Then in November of 2018 I bought a Sony Handycam as a backup to shoot footage on. Surprisingly this little Sony Handycam does quite well shooting footage of Severe Weather, but it's not as good as the Canon Rebel T6. If you are looking for a beginner DSLR to purchase I would highly recommend getting a Canon Rebel T6. Yes this camera is a few years old by now, but you can still capture great weather photography and footage with it.


Remember earlier how I said I had switched from HAM to GMRS? Well, this is my GMRS unit. It is a Midland MXT-115. With a repeater I was able to reach up to 126 miles away, which is pretty amazing for such a small GMRS radio. Along with being able to communicate with other people on GMRS frequencies this GMRS radio comes with 10 NOAA weather stations, which is awesome because for me it eliminates the need for a scanner. I would highly recommend getting a GMRS mobile radio, but only if other chasers in your area have them. GMRS is not as popular as HAM. Also GMRS is more popular in some states than others. I decided to get a GMRS license over a HAM license simply because some chasers in Oklahoma have GMRS radios and because I only had to pay $70 for a 10 year license rather than having to pay $25 for a test and study for something that I wasn't really that interested in.


Here is another brand new item that I added to the chase vehicle this year. Back in March I began searching for something that would be able to power my phone and my laptop without having to use my vehicles battery. Before I bought this power bank I had been using an inverter that ran to my vehicles battery. This power bank has been used on every single chase this year. I have used it on chases that were 14 hours long and I still had a strong battery life on the power bank at the end of the day. I would highly recommend buying a power bank that comes with a port to charge your computer as well as your phone, because by doing that it will take a ton of stress off of your vehicles battery.


The next thing that I use while I am chasing is a GPS Puck. I specifically use GlobalSat GPS Pucks because they are compatible with radar products such as GRLevel3, and at the same time you are not having to worry about going broke just to buy it. I have been using a GPS puck for the past 3 years, this awesome device paired with a road network shapefile on GRLevel3 eliminates the need to have a Garmin GPS or any other GPS in your vehicle while chasing.


I always carry light medical gear in my truck in the event that I come across injured civilians. You can read more about what I have in this bag by clicking here.


Last but not least I use a Kestrel handheld weather instrument to be able to tell what is going on in the atmosphere at any moment. This great tool has allowed me to be able to tell what the atmosphere was doing in States where they do not publicly share atmospheric data on websites. Kestrel handhelds might be a bit expensive but they are very accurate and I would highly recommend any chaser, spotter, or anyone who loves weather to buy one! I hope that I have been able to help you think about what you might want to get for your storm chase vehicle. Please feel free to comment below with any suggestions on what else people should add to their chase setup. Thank you so much for reading another one of my blogs, and I hope that you have a great day!



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