Jump to content


Photo

Best Light Weight Scope for Back Country

  • Please log in to reply
30 replies to this topic

#1 Moffss

Moffss

    Explorer 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 80
  • Joined: 23 Sep 2013
  • Loc: Drexel Hill, PA

Posted 12 November 2013 - 08:41 PM

Hi
My brother has been interested in astronomy from a young age as was I. He works 6 months a year out in Kings Canyon Nation Park building rock walls and stairs on trails. They pack in everything except food which is helicopter dropped. I want to get him a good light weight scope for a moderate price. Given that he will have really good skies what aperture is good enough? He likes the messier's but light weight is more important so I still think refractor is the best choice. Is the celestron travel scope any good? I don't mind spending more then that thing costs.
Thanks
moffss

#2 PowellAstro

PowellAstro

    Apollo

  • *****
  • Posts: 1094
  • Joined: 14 Oct 2009
  • Loc: Tennessee

Posted 12 November 2013 - 10:06 PM

I really like the Celestron c90 but it does not do widefield very good. It is razor sharp. The ST80 is a great little scope but is not great at real high power. Wide field it does really well and is not heavy.

#3 JJK

JJK

    Surveyor 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 1980
  • Joined: 27 Apr 2008

Posted 13 November 2013 - 06:51 AM

I'm not sure what moderate price means, so it's hard to suggest a particular scope.

However, small differences in aperture (e.g., 10 mm) in the small aperture range make big differences in DSO & planetary detail visibility. I've done a lot of visual work with small scopes, especially in the 80 mm to 130 mm aperture range, and have schlepped them all over the world.

IMO, 90 mm is the least aperture I'd suggest, but the views of the planets and DSOs get much more interesting in the 100 mm and larger aperture refractors. But if extreme portability is important, something like a Tak Sky 90-class scope, equipped with a good alt-az mount (e.g., Half-Hitch, Disc Mount, Tak Teegul, etc., which can be found used on AstroMart) and TeleVue 3 mm - 6 mm zoom EP & diagonal works well. A good tripod would be required. William Optics (especially with a LOMO triplet objective), StellarVue, or even a used TeleVue Genesis might work.

A Questar is a nice choice, but has a very narrow FOV and is pricey (but it has a built-in mount & table-top tripod).

#4 Stephen Strum

Stephen Strum

    Sputnik

  • -----
  • Posts: 38
  • Joined: 18 Apr 2009
  • Loc: Tulsa, OK

Posted 13 November 2013 - 08:27 AM

Reviews seem to suggest the optics of the celestron travel scope (70mm version) or similar orion version are ok but not great, with the tripod being too flimsy to work well. Since he is packing in 6 months of gear the biggest scope he is probably going to be able to take in is an orion ST 80 or smaller. The tripod will be the biggest problem and you will need to find a good photo tripod that can collapse down to less than 20" long and has a hook on the bottom side where you can hang a bag of dirt or rocks from a stuff sack or the like. That will give you enough stability even with a light weight tripod to use it with something like a 70 or 80 mm refractor. If you can swing the extra cost, something like an astro-tech 72ED would be a great scope for packing in though you will need to add a diagonal and eyepieces as well. A bit heavier than a ST80, though only a foot long. If you get a photo tripod that has a decent head on it, that will probably be adequate, otherwise a small mount head like the desert sky astro DSV-M mount that is 2.5 lbs would work really well.

If you go with something like the celestron or orion 70 mm travel scope and you picked up a better tripod then that might not be too bad a package. The included tripod in that package might be ok if it is kept at its lowest setting and then put up on a boulder or something with a bag of dirt weighing down the spreader bars, but a better tripod would make for a much better overall experience. You will want to keep to the total package of scope, mount and accessories under 10 lbs probably, and probably a couple pounds lighter than that if possible otherwise it will quickly become too difficult to pack in with all his other gear.

The other option, and perhaps a better one would be to go with a good pair of binoculars. I have a pair of 10x42 bushnell legend ED binoculars that are really great optically, very compact and are easy to take on all types of trips such as that. Binoculars such as that would also provide for great daytime wildlife viewing on the go.

#5 kenrenard

kenrenard

    Surveyor 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 1562
  • Joined: 13 Dec 2012
  • Loc: Dunmore, PA

Posted 13 November 2013 - 08:34 AM

Here is a review of my thoughts on the AT72. I have it with a small alt-az mount on a photo tripod.

http://www.cloudynig...6180492/page...

Good luck in your search. There should be quite a few options.

Ken

#6 Joe Aguiar

Joe Aguiar

    Vanguard

  • *****
  • Posts: 2145
  • Joined: 10 Feb 2007
  • Loc: none of your buss

Posted 13 November 2013 - 09:07 AM

ok so heres what iam thinking if hes camping in dark sites he may want to see the dimmer objects that cant be seen when hes in LP cities skies. So maybe looking at the planets with a long high power scope doesnt really matter when hes camping. Maybe a small light weight scope like the st80 even if it doesnt do high power that well which is fine cause the planets can be looked at anywhere.

So i would say the ST80 it came on a table top EQ1 mount and tripod ( ill see if i can get a pic soon). Its not the most stable EQ but its very portable and for low to medium powers, so it will be fine for this, and you can add a clock drive to it too.

Another scope thats smaller ( in length) is a meade mak 90mm (ota) version put that on the EQ1 table top and thats another light weight scope, altho geared for more power it can work, but i like the ST80mm better myself.

Attached Files



#7 Joe Aguiar

Joe Aguiar

    Vanguard

  • *****
  • Posts: 2145
  • Joined: 10 Feb 2007
  • Loc: none of your buss

Posted 13 November 2013 - 09:24 AM

it can carry a scope up to 7 lbs and it only weights 10 lbs ( including weight)

#8 munchmeister

munchmeister

    Ranger 4

  • *****
  • Posts: 318
  • Joined: 04 Apr 2012
  • Loc: Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

Posted 13 November 2013 - 11:42 AM

Messier objects in a nice dark sky are really fun to check out. Globulars are my favorites. If he must pack it in, and he wants to view M objects, I'd recommend a wide field refractor. The Celestron Travel Scope has only a 50mm objective but it does come as a package with eyepieces, finder scope, tripod and even a Barlow (doubles the mag of your eyepieces). So for a tidy package at the super low price point (~$40, I think) it is hard to beat. Astro Tech, Explore Scientific, Stellarvue, Televue all make small refractors of high quality in price range from $500 to $2500. Just for the scope. So if this is to be kept under, say, $150, your options are limited. The suggestions for a good set of binoculars are right on, but they, too, can quickly get to $200 to thousands very quickly. And for astro binoculars, with 60-80 mm objectives, you do need a tripod with a panning head, which adds to the cost.

You might also consider a spotting scope. These usually have very good optics, wide fields and are ready for the standard 1/4-20 tripod mount of most all camera tripods. And many have adjustable zooms, all built into one rugged, backpackable unit. The Zhumell 20-60x80mm Angled Spotting Scope is a pretty cool item for about $185 and would be great for wildlife as well as astronomy.

#9 Rich V.

Rich V.

    Skylab

  • *****
  • Posts: 4062
  • Joined: 02 Jan 2005
  • Loc: Lake Tahoe area, Nevada, USA

Posted 13 November 2013 - 04:03 PM

I know this is the refractor forum but a pair of binoculars sounds like it might be the ticket. What's wrong with two small refractors? ;)

Canon makes image stabilized binoculars that don't require a bulky, heavy mount; they're great for wide field views...

Rich

#10 *skyguy*

*skyguy*

    Surveyor 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 1982
  • Joined: 31 Dec 2008
  • Loc: Western New York

Posted 13 November 2013 - 04:40 PM

Is the celestron travel scope any good?



I've owned a Celestron 70mm Travel Scope for the past year and have found the optics be to very good. Certainly not in the ED refractor category "good", but for a fast, small achromatic refractor ... is supplies a very sharp high contrast view ... at least at low powers. However, if you want to view the sky at night, you'll need to buy a 1.25" 90º star diagonal to replace the included 45º Erect Image diagonal

You'd be better off buying the Orion GoScope 80mm refractor:

GoScope 80

Or, for more aperture in a reflector scope ... The Orion SkyScanner 100mm Table Top:

SkyScanner 100mm

Or, the Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro Reflector:

StarBlast 4.5

Out of the 4 scopes mentioned ... the StarBlast 4.5 is the best one to see some detail in the Messier objects ... unfortunately, it's also the most expensive and the largest.

Good Luck in your choice ...

#11 T1R2

T1R2

    Surveyor 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 1561
  • Joined: 11 Jun 2013
  • Loc: NeverWhere, 35*N

Posted 13 November 2013 - 06:03 PM

theres also the Bresser 102S comet addition telescope available from Explore Scientific.

It comes with a f/4.5 doublet, 20.25" ota length
built it 2" mirror diagonal/1.25" adpt.
20mm 70*ep =3*fov
wide angle 7x50 bino's & case
alt/az tripod

its not high power friendly but, nice

price: $449.95

#12 munchmeister

munchmeister

    Ranger 4

  • *****
  • Posts: 318
  • Joined: 04 Apr 2012
  • Loc: Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

Posted 13 November 2013 - 06:44 PM

As you can tell, we have no problem whatsoever, spending YOUR money :roflmao: :jump:

#13 T1R2

T1R2

    Surveyor 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 1561
  • Joined: 11 Jun 2013
  • Loc: NeverWhere, 35*N

Posted 13 November 2013 - 06:56 PM

lol.. that's we love these threads

#14 stevenf

stevenf

    Ranger 4

  • -----
  • Posts: 385
  • Joined: 11 Oct 2009
  • Loc: Vancouver, BC

Posted 08 July 2014 - 12:28 AM

I thought I would resurrect this thread instead of starting a new one, since I'm always on the quest for the best back country scope. I kayak more than I hike so I have a bit of space. I usually bring an 80mm Orion Goscope mounted on a dwarfstar on a decent photo tripod. I use the scope in daytime as much as at night and got tired of the reversed image in the 80mm, and Orion won't sell the 45 degree correct image diagonal for this scope (it takes a proprietary diagonal). So I decided to 'downgrade' to the 70 mm Goscope, for the following reasons:

It's light and small, so no excuse not to take it on every trip.

I have all the necessary pieces for it, better diagonals, and eyepieces, plus a better tripod.

In the photos it looked a bit chintzy and I like the celestron colours better, but in person it has the same nice finishing that I've come to expect from Orion.

It has the removable aperture cap, and I've already added a piece of solar film for checking out the sun.

I don't think going down 10mm will matter all that much in the very dark skies I'm often under.

It is what it is, a small short focal length scope with a lot of chromatic abberation best suited for scanning the milky way, which is exactly how I'll use at night. In the day it's a spotting scope.

The biggest drawback though is that horrible tripod. It's got to go but I do like the size of it. I already have a dwarf star mount but can anybody recommend some good solid and above all compact tripod legs?

Attached Files



#15 Ravenous

Ravenous

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 547
  • Joined: 14 Nov 2009
  • Loc: UK

Posted 08 July 2014 - 04:35 AM

The biggest drawback though is that horrible tripod. It's got to go but I do like the size of it. I already have a dwarf star mount but can anybody recommend some good solid and above all compact tripod legs?

Now that is an observing site :jump:

I gather that tripod is very compact - if you want one that fits in the same bag you might have to post the folded length/width and see if anyone knows of something...

I was looking for a compact photo tripod recently, and various ones are available down to 12-14 inches folded (note that's without a head!) but they all seem to be very expensive.

I eventually found an old, used Gitzo, which even then was right at the top of what I wanted to spend... I think it's around 16-18 inches long and barely reaches standing height. I'm sure you could find better if you can put up with something less compact though.

#16 kmparsons

kmparsons

    Explorer 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 60
  • Joined: 07 Jun 2007
  • Loc: Texas

Posted 08 July 2014 - 11:25 AM

For ultimate portability I use an the Orion 62mm f/8.4 refractor on one of their XHD tripods. The scope has a mounting shoe that fits neatly on the tripod, and the tripod is plenty robust enough for this small scope. It is not an ED scope, but its 4-element array produces a nice, flat field and a more generous focal length than is usual for such small refractors. With the moderate focal length it is good for both wide-field and higher power viewing. It has very little false color, and under dark skies, it will show a lot. I did some observing from a fairly dark site in North Georgia last March, and the views of open clusters were especially nice. The scope is $400 and the tripod is $150, BTW.

#17 munchmeister

munchmeister

    Ranger 4

  • *****
  • Posts: 318
  • Joined: 04 Apr 2012
  • Loc: Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

Posted 08 July 2014 - 06:00 PM

Check B&H photo online for SLIK tripods. Good quality & reasonable price & they have some small ones for not too much money

#18 Binojunky

Binojunky

    Mercury-Atlas

  • *****
  • Posts: 2794
  • Joined: 25 Dec 2010

Posted 09 July 2014 - 10:29 AM

The biggest drawback though is that horrible tripod. It's got to go but I do like the size of it. I already have a dwarf star mount but can anybody recommend some good solid and above all compact tripod legs?

Now that is an observing site :jump:

I gather that tripod is very compact - if you want one that fits in the same bag you might have to post the folded length/width and see if anyone knows of something...

I was looking for a compact photo tripod recently, and various ones are available down to 12-14 inches folded (note that's without a head!) but they all seem to be very expensive.

I eventually found an old, used Gitzo, which even then was right at the top of what I wanted to spend... I think it's around 16-18 inches long and barely reaches standing height. I'm sure you could find better if you can put up with something less compact though.



Maybe a nice site however looks like Grizzly country to me, could be tricky keeping an object in view while a big brown nasty thing is snacking on your legs or head or whatever
:crutch:DA.

#19 stevenf

stevenf

    Ranger 4

  • -----
  • Posts: 385
  • Joined: 11 Oct 2009
  • Loc: Vancouver, BC

Posted 09 July 2014 - 03:05 PM

Ravenous; Thanks! Sometimes the sky is even clear up here :)

Binojunky: This is in the gulf islands in southern British Columbia. No bears on this island! Maybe a cougar though...

#20 genethethird

genethethird

    Messenger

  • *****
  • Posts: 435
  • Joined: 05 Jan 2010
  • Loc: NC

Posted 09 July 2014 - 11:07 PM

I've backpacked with my 76mm and while it is not really small enough nor light enough to be considered ideal, carrying the tripod is inherently bulky and keeping it all dry is always going to be a critical concern. Given the criteria, I would myself be thinking about something like this fellow with his monopod... and with some ingenuity you could hook your brother up a small screw-down mount, and a nice pair of binoculars that fit in a dry bag and a new walking stick to deploy them on. Otherwise the SlIk tripods do seem to be really nice- they are very light indeed.

#21 stevenf

stevenf

    Ranger 4

  • -----
  • Posts: 385
  • Joined: 11 Oct 2009
  • Loc: Vancouver, BC

Posted 15 July 2014 - 06:31 PM

I picked up a Slik Compact 2 just before the weekend and it seems to work a lot better than the supplied tripod. It's a similar size but much better constructed. Found that the panning head worked fine in the daytime but not so great for astronomy. But the head just screws off, and using a 1/4 - 3/8 adapter screw I mounted my Dwarf Star on it, and what a difference. Nice and smooth motions, even up to zenith. It isn't the greatest tripod in the world but I'm pretty happy with how it performs with the Dwarf Star.

#22 Sarkikos

Sarkikos

    Hubble

  • *****
  • Posts: 16659
  • Joined: 18 Dec 2007
  • Loc: Per sylvam ad astra

Posted 16 July 2014 - 09:23 AM

My best scope for taking long distances on foot before setup is the C90 on a 501HDV head and Bogen tripod. I place the C90 in a small backpack and carry the folded tripod on a shoulder. I also take along a foldup camping stool across my shoulder. This load is very light to carry and sets up quickly.

I also have a C5 that I can carry with this same setup, instead of the C90. The problem with the C5, however, is that when pointed toward zenith the scope starts to fall back and I need to really clamp down on the 501HDV's altitude detents. The C90 is much lighter and isn't so bad when pointed toward the zenith.

The problem is that the OTA's are mounted on the top of the 501HDV head, instead of laterally on the side. I'm looking into acquiring a head that would hold the OTA laterally instead of on top. Maybe one of the Dwarf Stars or something similar. Then I'd be able to take the C5 on my long distance walking treks to observing sites. My C80 ED would be another option when I get a better mount.

Mike

#23 Ravenous

Ravenous

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 547
  • Joined: 14 Nov 2009
  • Loc: UK

Posted 16 July 2014 - 10:30 AM

The problem is that the OTA's are mounted on the top of the 501HDV head, instead of laterally on the side. I'm looking into acquiring a head that would hold the OTA laterally instead of on top.

What about this DIY solution? As long as the tube isn't too heavy, and you can stop the plate rotating...

#24 Ravenous

Ravenous

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 547
  • Joined: 14 Nov 2009
  • Loc: UK

Posted 16 July 2014 - 10:32 AM

I picked up a Slik Compact 2 just before the weekend and it seems to work a lot better than the supplied tripod.

Thanks for the update - interesting to see as I hadn't noticed that model before.

#25 D.N.

D.N.

    Lift Off

  • -----
  • Posts: 18
  • Joined: 12 Mar 2014

Posted 16 July 2014 - 11:29 AM

I made one of these plates for a Stellarvue Nighthawk and it worked beautifully. I used it at about 120x on a small Manfrotto camera tripod and simple video head with pretty good success. I made mine out of nice furniture ply and I saw no structural issues.






Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics