Skinfold Caliper Guide
Skinfold calipers are used in the measurement of skinfold thickness and the estimation of total body fat. As can be seen by the large list of calipers below, there are many types of skinfold calipers on the market, which vary greatly in price, quality, accuracy, reliability, ease of use and jaw pressures and surface areas, and price.
Some of the more common calipers are described below. Whatever caliper you use, it is also important to ensure the calipers have the correct calibration and standardized procedures are followed when taking measurements. Take the poll about what caliper do you use, and see which one is more popular. Follow the links below for more detailed information about each of these calipers.
The calipers range in price from a few dollars to $500. The prices listed below are approximate market prices at the time of writing, and are listed for your information as a comparison guide. Some of these skinfold calipers are available to purchase in the Fitness Testing Store. We do not personally stock these products, just provide links to other suppliers. If you have questions about a particular product, contact the supplier directly.
|Harpenden Caliper — the Harpenden Caliper is the gold standard caliper for skinfold measurement. They are capable of measuring accurately up to approx. 50 mm skinfold thickness. They are a very well made sturdy instrument, commonly used by professionals and in scientific research, and one of the most expensive skinfold calipers available. Cost ~$400. > more|
|Slim Guide Caliper — the slim guide caliper is highly reliable, and has the same jaw pressure as the Harpenden, and studies have shown it can produce almost identical readings, for a much cheaper price. Cost ~$20. > more|
Fat Track Calipers — the Fat Track Digital Skinfold Caliper come as a 'gold' or 'pro' model. These are relatively inexpensive electronic devices for determining percent bodyfat. The Fat Track has a digital display which show the results of each pinch, and allows you to take several samples at each measurement site. The caliper stores three measurements and then calculates and displays body fat percentage. It comes with instructions, and uses 2 AA batteries.
Cost $40-100 > more
|Lange Fat Caliper — the Lange Fat Calipers are sturdy and lightweight. They feature spring-loaded arms providing a constant standard pressure of 10 gm./sq.mm. over the operating range up to 60mm. Another feature of these calipers are floating (pivoted) tips that can adjust to enable parallel measurement of skinfolds. The product includes an instruction booklet and handy carry case. Cost ~$250. > more|
|Accu-Measure — The Accu-Measure skinfold caliper is a simple and inexpensive product that is surprisingly accurate and reliable. With these calipers it is easy to test yourself in the privacy of your own home, with only a small outlay. There is also a similar skinfold testing device the Fat Control, Inc. Caliper. Cost ~$10. > more|
|Personal Body Fat Tester — another budget caliper, that is still able to provide fairly reliable and accurate results. A simple one piece design with no springs, which fits easily in one hand. The unique thumb pressure device gives a consistent pressure at the tip for reliable measurements. Cost ~$10. > more|
Skyndex — There are two versions, the Skyndex I and II, the difference is essentially the presence of the built-in computer. The Skyndex I Body Fat Caliper is unique with a built in computer that calculates and displays percentage bodyfat directly on its digital readout, eliminating the necessity to add the readings and compute the percentage bodyfat from formulas or tables. This is Ideal for those who need to measure a lot of people quickly, and it also reduces the chance of transcription errors. There are three formulas available to calculate percentage bodyfat: the Durnin, Jackson-Pollock and Slaughter-Lohman formulas, and each is appropriate to a specific population. Cost ~$300-500. > more
Lafayette — There have been two major designs in the Lafayette range. The first was one of the first commercially available skinfold calipers and was widely used. It has been replaced with the uniquely designed and more affordable Lafayette Caliper II. This caliper has an easy to read scale up to 100mm (compared to many others only going up to 50-60mm), allowing you to accurately measure the skinfold thickness of a larger portion of the population. The caliper is lightweight, durable, and does not need calibration. (cost ~ $450 Lafayette Caliper 1127A, ~$90 Lafayette Caliper II) > more
Pooya Caliper — the Pooya caliper is a lightweight caliper, measuring to an accuracy of 0.5 mm. It has been compared with Harpenden and Slim Guide calipers, which found a similar caliper pressure as Harpenden, and lower than the Slim guide caliper. The smaller size of the Pooya caliper make it easier for normal hand size people. It is suitable for use in research, teaching, clinics and at home. Cost ~$15.
|Warrior Digital Body Mass Caliper - The Warrior Digital Body Mass Caliper is the first caliper to calculate Lean Body Mass and Body Fat%. It displays your last and current results for up to 4 users: Weight, Body Fat %, Lean Body Mass, Upper, Middle, and Lower Measurements. Cost ~$40. > more|
|Defender Body Fat Caliper - This caliper has a unique feature of a visual pressure indicator, to ensure you have the correct pressure - the indicator turns from red to green letting you know when to release the caliper and take your reading. It also comes with a body fat results wheel - no measurement charts or formulas required. Cost ~$16. > more|
|Digital Body Fat Caliper - these calipers are made in China and can be bought online for $10-30. Battery powered plastic calipers with digital display and measurement. Can measure up to 50mm. Able to hold measured values, which makes it suitable for self assessment.|
|Cescorf - a design similar to the Harpenden, made in Brazil. Measures to an accuracy of 0.1 mm, up to a jaw width of 88mm. Jaw pressure measured at 10g/mm2. Weight 260g. Dimensions: 286mm. x 165mm|
|Holtain - this instrument was developed in close collaboration with the London University Institute of Child Health. It provides a measuring range: 0 mm to 48 mm with 0.2 mm graduation, a constant pressure of 10 gms/sq. mm. Cost ~$500.|
|Body Caliper - a modern new design plastic caliper. Each unit is individually calibrated using the patented AccuSpring (TM) technology, said to give a lifetime of accurate readings. Product ships with a video describing its use. Cost ~$50.|
Sanny Professional Skinfold Caliper - a highly accurate professional skinfold caliper. The Sanny caliper has the same jaw area (90 sq. mm) jaw length and jaw pressure (900 gms) as the Harpenden caliper and features the world famous highly accurate Starrett dial gage which reads with a resolution of 0.1 mm up to 75 mm. It has a very comfortable grip and easy to work actuating lever.
|Fat-O-Meter - an economy skinfold caliper with a spring-loaded arm and 50mm scale. Cost ~$30.|
|Fat Gun Caliper Cost ~$70.|
There are many other types or brands of calipers around, but not as commonly used. Some of the other types available include:
- McGaw - cheaper type plastic calipers
- Ross - cheaper type plastic calipers
Other Body Fat Measuring Devices
- MyoTape - a specially designed tape measure suitable for measuring any body part
Sample studies comparing calipers
- Schmidt PK, Carter JE., Static and dynamic differences among five types of skinfold calipers. Hum Biol. 1990 Jun; 62(3):369-88.
- Five caliper types were compared: Harpenden (HRP), Lange (LNG), Slim Guide (SG), Skyndex (SKN), and Lafayette (LF) - in terms of dial accuracy, downscale force, and pressure at jaw openings of 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 mm, using measurements on four thicknesses of foam rubber.
- Jung E, Kaufman JJ, Narins DC, Kaufman GE., Skinfold measurements in children. A comparison of Lange and McGaw calipers. Clin Pediatr (Phila). 1984 Jan;23(1):25-8.
- This study compared Lange and McGaw calipers in a pediatric population. Biceps and triceps skinfold measurements were made in 240 pediatric patients ranging in age from 2 weeks to 18 years. Skinfold measurements McGaw calipers were 12.6% lower than with a Lange caliper. They concluded that McGaw and Ross plastic calipers would be an adequate substitute where cost prohibits the use of Lange calipers.