How To Estimate Time Using Your Hand

Picture this. You’ve forgotten to wear your watch and you find yourself in a remote location where battery life and an internet connection are completely alien concepts. Time is still very much of the essence; you need to head back before sunset. Luckily sophisticated gadgets don’t need to be your saviour, we all have something which can help us in a situation such as this- our hand.

Get back to basics by using your hand as a time telling device- here’s how.

 Estimating remaining daylight with your hand   Imgur


  1. Look to the sun on horizon to determine its position in the sky without staring straight at it. If there are trees use them to your advantage and consider the top of the trees as your horizon.
  2. Next, hold your arm stretched fully out, with the palm side of your hand facing you- similar to if you were shading your eyes from the sun. Make sure that your fingers are parallel to the ground.
  3. Count the number of times you have to flip your hand upwards before your hand is sitting just beneath the sun. Each finger should represent around 15 minutes, meaning that each hand width should equate to just over an hour. The technique uses the four fingers and doesn’t include the thumb.
  4. When the sun dips low enough that only two hands fit, it’s recommended to head back or start searching for a suitable campsite, giving you two hours to set up camp before the sun goes down.
  5. Use your fingers if there is less than one hour of sunshine left until sunset and count the amount of finger widths between the sun and the horizon.
  6. You can use a similar method to work out how long ago sunrise took place. Measure the finger widths between the sun and the eastern and western horizons where you can estimate how many total hours of sunshine you will have at your location. Half of this measure will show you the approximate number of hours between midday and daybreak or sunrise.

As you can imagine this technique varies greatly so always underestimate to give yourself enough time to get home before dark. This method will provide you with a level of accuracy in the majority of latitudes you would commonly find yourself, however if you go above 50 degrees latitude, closer to the North or South Poles, the sun will appear for longer near the horizon. This means levels of accuracy are diminished.

Whether you find yourself in rural surroundings of the lakes or a forest or alternatively in the hustle and bustle of a busy city, this trick can work well as a vital tool in getting you home safely. Failing that, it is always an impressive party trick to share with your family and friends.

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