What is a Skinfold Caliper?

What is a Skinfold Caliper?

A skinfold caliper is an instrument or device that help measures body fat percentage.  It measures the thickness of a fold of your skin with its underlying layer of fat, and by doing this at the key locations can be a quite accurate representative of the total amount of fat that is on your body, it is also possible to estimate the total percent of body fat on your body.

Types of Skinfold Calipers

  • Disposable
  • Plastic
  • Digital
  • Professional
  • Scientific
Note that one these categories are not exclusive of each other.  For example, one digital caliper may also be plastic, while another digital caliper is also professional.

Skinfold Caliper Models and Cost

There are at least 20 different skinfold caliper models ranging in price from just a few dollars to over $500.  What's the difference?


A disposable skinfold caliper may only work one or two times, which totally defeats its purpose.  Skinfold measurement is valuable when you track changes over time, not just measuring it one time.  No two calipers or testers will give the same exact results, that's why it's important to use the same technique, tester, and equipment to track body fat measurement changes.

Students / Beginners

A midrange caliper ($20-50) typically gives accurate results and can last for years.  Typically they are made of plastic, so they  are not as durable as higher end models.   The Slim Guide caliper is the best caliper in this price range.  Typically these have a precision of +/- 1.0mm. 

Midrange / Professional

Professional models are typically very durable and can be calibrated.   They will also be more compact and professional looking that a beginner model.  We recommend the Lange skinfold caliper, for its price, reputation, compact size, accuracy, and durability.  Typically these have a precision of +/- 1.0mm.

High End / Research

High end calipers are expensive for two reasons.   The most famous is the Harpenden skinfold caliper, which has a precision of +/- 0.2mm.  Others high end digital models may not have the precision of the Harpenden, but have the benefit of quick automatic calculations.