How to Use a Clinometer

A clinometer or inclinometer is a device used to measure angles of inclination, slope, or elevation of an object.

Clinometers will measure inclines of positive slopes: the slope as it appears when it is being observed from a lower position looking upwards. It will also measure declines or negative slopes: the slope as it appears when observed from a higher position looking downwards.

Clinometers are regularly used in forestry for determining the height of trees and other plants. It may also be used in other areas to measure buildings, poles, towers, and other structures which are near impossible to measure with other physical methods of measurement.

The measurements are displayed clearly on the lens of the clinometer with a scale that can be represented by various units dependent on the clinometer that is being used.

The technique used for measuring with a clinometer will be similar for all types. The instructions that follow will provide a brief description of how to use a clinometer to obtain accurate measurements.

Things You Will Need

  • A clinometer
  • An object to Measure
  • A calculator (optional)


  1. First, locate the most suitable area for measuring the object. The distance from this area which is commonly referred to as the baseline distance, should be within the range for effective measurement. The baseline distance used will be dependent on the type of clinometer you are using for measuring. For some types, the distance may be, for example: 10 meters for accurate measurement. Try to maintain the required baseline distance whenever you are using the clinometer.
  2. While holding the clinometer ensure it is right-side up. The lens information will only provide the correct information when held in the right-side-up position. The proper position is displayed on the casing of the clinometer.
  3. Close one eye and look through the lens of the clinometer at the object currently being measured. You will be able to see the scale while looking through the lens of the clinometer.
  4. Align the object so that it is exactly against the scale that is presently viewable through the lens. Observe the values on the scale as they relate to the bottom and top of the object. It may be observed while using a metric clinometer that the bottom of a structure may be in line with the number 4 on the lens’s scale while the top is in line with the number 8.
  5. To deduce the height of the object obtain the difference of the bottom value from the top value. Therefore if the top value = 10m and the bottom value = 2m then (10m-2m = 8m (height)). This is a fairly straightforward process that will yield accurate results if done correctly. You may also use a calculator to increase accuracy.

Do’s and Dont’s

  • Always determine the recommended distance needed to use the clinometer to ascertain accurate measurements.
  • Store the clinometer in a protective case to avoid any damage to the lens.