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Packing and Traveling a Large Mount

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#1 Spacetravelerx

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 11:35 AM

Ok fellow CNers (is that what we are called??)

I am about to go on my first road trip with the LX850 mount.

I have the original packaging for this mount, but it is quite large to travel with even though I do have a cargo trailer and a Ford Expedition. My thought is to purchase a few large bins and add LOTS of padding, a cart/hand truck combo will be included in the scheme. The LX850 will travel almost 5,000 miles over the next 4 weeks.

So, how do you folks package and travel with your big mount?

As a side note I was hoping to have the 10" f/8 ACF in time for the road trip, however that looks like it is not happening. Thus I may have to travel with the 14" f/8 ACF. I am not big on this at all.

I am also debating replacing for the trip the entire LX850 combo with my 22 year old 10" LX200 Ol' Reliable because it has a full up case (yes, in the olden days they sold LX200's with cases!) and 90% of the work is public outreach. Reasons for taking the LX850 - precise gotos every time, very quick and easy setup (computer wise), and I want to do some astrophotography in Oregon and Utah. Originally I was going to do some fun AP with the LXD75/130mm ED APO combo, but guiding does not work on it and I have no time dealing with patches and fixes. (The Orion SSAG has proven to be worthless, but I will see if it works on my OLD LX200). Still, I will be taking the LXD75 for the SMII and relegate myself to 1 minute unguided exposures, and bring the ETX125 for added entertainment.

The irony of it all is I will be hosting up to 1000 people at a star party -- with up to 22 year old Optics (which work fine), but what a hoot!

So how do you folks travel with your big beast mounts?

#2 Whichwayisnorth

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 12:47 PM

I have a cargo trailer that I used for the longest time but since I alway go alone when I go out telescoping I have found that the best solution was to have the 14" ridding shotgun with a seat belt around it and some foam padding. The mount sat with clutches loose on top of a 3 inch thick foam pad back in the rear of the suv. Back seats folded down to accommodate ice chests, tents, chairs, ladders, eye piece case, camera cases etc. Then I crammed sleeping bags, pillows, blankets around everything so nothing moved or rubbed. The tripod went in a duffle bag and was tied to the roof rack. Never needed the trailer again.

Are you going to end up in Southern California on your adventures?

#3 Spacetravelerx

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 11:20 PM

The 14" riding shotgun…now that is a great travel buddy!

I like your strategy! This trip I have family with me and a few extras items (50" display for the MallinCam, display booth goodies for the Small Sat conference), so the trailer is necessary this go around. But it sounds doable when I am going alone! I really do not want to use that gigantic box the mount came in. Did you keep yours or did you chuck it?

For this stretch I won't be in Southern California, but I might be back there in the November/December time frame. And if Michigan or Michigan State make it to the Rose Bowl I will be down there. ;)

#4 jrbarnett

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Posted 17 July 2014 - 07:45 PM

I put the components of large mounts in rolling Pelican containers. It keeps them clean and dust and moisture free during transport and storage.

- Jim

#5 CharlesW

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Posted 17 July 2014 - 08:31 PM

I bought two large Home Depot Husky rolling storage boxes. C14 goes in one, the MX in another. Padding is from Costco, it was a $99 memory foam mattress, cut to size and covered. All that goes in the back of the pickup.

#6 frolinmod

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Posted 17 July 2014 - 08:57 PM

Who made the memory foam covers?

#7 bicparker

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Posted 17 July 2014 - 10:11 PM

First, think in terms of what you are trying to do. Also think in terms of what this is all going to look like after about 10 unpackings and packings or more in various rough conditions with dust, rain, and people trying to be "helpful" (I'm not trying to slam people offering to help, but they often get in the way and cause problems when you are packing or unpacking technical gear).

Case everything you can. It is using the right tool for the right job. Cases are made to do exactly what you are trying to do... Protect your equipment while traveling. This means protecting the equipment from movement, banging around, dust, dirt, water, and people who want to go, "what's in here?". They also can make it incredibly easier to get equipment in and out of moveable storage if you are going to be packing and unpacking often (which it sounds like will be the case). This is what they are designed to do.

Don't scrimp on cases. Get good quality cases. You are trying to protect several thousands of dollars of equipment and this isn't the time to be penny wise and pound foolish.

I have never regretted spending that extra dime on a good quality case. I have regretted buying a cheap case or using a poor substitute for a case (or a box).

Boxes wear out and become undependable very quickly. If you are outside and it rains, your box becomes worthless very quickly.

Bins are okay for things that aren't as delicate such as books, clipboards, hardware (nuts/bolts), cables, etc. However, make certain that they have lids that stay on firmly.

One other thing to consider with cases and bins: They need to be in sizes and/or configurations you can handle. Don't buy a one larger case or bin to hold several things and it ends up being hard for you to handle. This is how accidents happen. Additionally, it is easier to change your packing configuration and make it more efficient if you use smaller cases or bins.

#8 Spacetravelerx

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Posted 17 July 2014 - 11:48 PM

All very good pointers and comments!

Regarding the M14 OTA - it is huge! Some quick measurements show it will barely fit in the containers from Lowes and Home Depot - but doable. I was almost thinking of getting a professional size crate with wheels and handles used for concerts. Alternatively I am thinking this beast is simply best for the home observatory and not the road. I wish I had the 10" f/8 ACF in time, but alas it will not happen.

Regarding the LX850 mount. It only breaks down so much, and it is too huge for the pelican cases. Starlock and the extras though do go in pelican cases.

I keep waffling on this, but I am thinking the LX850 may have to stay home. It will be on a 5000 mile trip for 3 days of use. That may be too brutal for it and a waste of time. It may handle the trip, but a huge production for 3 days.

Thoughts keep moving back to taking the 22 year old LX200. It has is original case (still going strong), super wedge and tripod are doing great. It does transport very easily. Negatives - I have no clue if I can guide this puppy with the SSAG for ap. The software has never been updated and it has the old square box controller (which I love shape wise BTW). Plus the video views from the 14" f/8 (at f/4) are far more impressive than the views of the 10" old optics at f/5 (for video). What to do…what to do...

I will be putting all the components of the LXD75 in Pelican Cases. I just wish the **** thing could guide…just cannot get it to work.

I might just stick with the 130mm APO and the LX850 for the road for any hope of decent astrophotography. I may take the 10" LX200 for the video and fun views. I am getting more and more leary traveling with the 14" OTA.

Of course the weather could suck and it was useless bringing all this equipment, lol.

What to do, what to do...

#9 bicparker

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Posted 18 July 2014 - 11:44 PM

I think you are answering your own questions, Andrew. It also sounds like the concerns here go well beyond just what to pack stuff in.

I never make a trip like that (or say a trip to a major star party) without a shakedown run. Often at a star party like TSP, you are in a remote enough area that you have, and will only ever have, what you bring with you. Lowes or HD is not nearby, nor Fry's, or any other store with really handy stuff.

Shakedown runs let me check the completeness of my packing, that my cases and other containers still function well, that my tools are complete, and how I can plan B stuff, if necessary. Obviously, those runs also take out a lot of the guesswork of setting up in the field and verify the functions of the equipment after a move.

In one shakedown run, for instance, I found that a bolt on a newer piece of equipment was loosening itself during the ride in the vehicle. The road trip for the run was short enough that I caught the loose bolt during set up at the destination. But if I had gone on a longer trip, the bolt would have likely come out during the ride. If it had, a mirror would have likely been damaged. But in this case, a bit of Locktite solved the immediate problem (and added checking bolts like that to my regular checklist of things to do during a trip and at the destination).

I use these runs to rehearse my set ups and take downs, and I generally do everything in the same order every time, so I will be able to identify if something is wrong more easily. This is where good casing of equipment is helpful, because a good case should feed and support the setups and take downs. A bad case or case setup will just get in the way and make things more difficult. A good case will let you know immediately if you are missing a part or a step. A bad case just sits there, stares at you, and defies you to do things correctly.

Another lesson I have learned... pack as few scopes as possible. There are several reasons for this, but essentially, the more you pack, the more unnecessary junk you will create that you have to move around and concern yourself with during the whole trip, much of which will not get used. This exponential growth of junk gets even more hairy if you are traveling with a GEM mounted scope (as opposed to a Dob).

Pack one telescope and a pair of binoculars. That is it. If you are seriously going to do solar viewing, pack that scope, too. But no more. Pack one regular mount, and a camera tripod. No more than that, either. If you are doing astrophotography, pack only for that and do your visual observing with the binoculars. if you are doing visual, don't throw in a few imaging tools, because you will never really get around to them (especially if you are only going to be set up for 3 days).

#10 Spacetravelerx

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 12:26 AM

I think you are answering your own questions, Andrew. It also sounds like the concerns here go well beyond just what to pack stuff in.

I never make a trip like that (or say a trip to a major star party) without a shakedown run. Often at a star party like TSP, you are in a remote enough area that you have, and will only ever have, what you bring with you. Lowes or HD is not nearby, nor Fry's, or any other store with really handy stuff.

Shakedown runs let me check the completeness of my packing, that my cases and other containers still function well, that my tools are complete, and how I can plan B stuff, if necessary. Obviously, those runs also take out a lot of the guesswork of setting up in the field and verify the functions of the equipment after a move.

In one shakedown run, for instance, I found that a bolt on a newer piece of equipment was loosening itself during the ride in the vehicle. The road trip for the run was short enough that I caught the loose bolt during set up at the destination. But if I had gone on a longer trip, the bolt would have likely come out during the ride. If it had, a mirror would have likely been damaged. But in this case, a bit of Locktite solved the immediate problem (and added checking bolts like that to my regular checklist of things to do during a trip and at the destination).

I use these runs to rehearse my set ups and take downs, and I generally do everything in the same order every time, so I will be able to identify if something is wrong more easily. This is where good casing of equipment is helpful, because a good case should feed and support the setups and take downs. A bad case or case setup will just get in the way and make things more difficult. A good case will let you know immediately if you are missing a part or a step. A bad case just sits there, stares at you, and defies you to do things correctly.

Another lesson I have learned... pack as few scopes as possible. There are several reasons for this, but essentially, the more you pack, the more unnecessary junk you will create that you have to move around and concern yourself with during the whole trip, much of which will not get used. This exponential growth of junk gets even more hairy if you are traveling with a GEM mounted scope (as opposed to a Dob).

Pack one telescope and a pair of binoculars. That is it. If you are seriously going to do solar viewing, pack that scope, too. But no more. Pack one regular mount, and a camera tripod. No more than that, either. If you are doing astrophotography, pack only for that and do your visual observing with the binoculars. if you are doing visual, don't throw in a few imaging tools, because you will never really get around to them (especially if you are only going to be set up for 3 days).



Yep, you hit the nail on the head!

I have traveled all over creation with my LX200. I have the travel process with that unit down pat. Hence why I keep gravitating back to it. BTW, it is pretty heavy to travel with, however I have a nice cart/hand truck that works really well with it.

I have also become familiar and traveled a bit with the LXD75. I have become quite comfortable with it too. It sets up quick and easy.

The LX850 - it sets up real easy around the home and is an amazing unit, but then I leave it setup for months and I do not have to tinker with it. I have NOT traveled with it yet. The thought of traveling with a +200 lb instrument and likely not using it due to weather issues and with the fires going on in the Pacific Northwest, I have become convinced it may not be wise to bring it along. BTW, if I was camped out at Chaco Canyon for a week or two, I would bring the LX850...but I am not doing that. In reality we will be on the go most of the time.

BTW, I did travel with the LX80 one time. Great tripod, but a massive and heavy mount for a light payload. I found the LXD75 travels way better than the LX80, has a better payload, and I am getting good images from it. LX80 is staying home.

Here is the new travel list (and I am agreeing mostly with you):
* LXD75
* 130mm ED APO
* 90mm SolarMax II - FYI this has now garnered the most traffic, use and interest where ever I go. Folks are always stunned and blown away at the views of the Sun.
* Manfrotto 055XPRO tripod with 460MG Magnesium camera head. I simply love this rig.
* Canon 60Da is going - night sky AND family shots.
* MallinCam X2
* Eyepieces
* Tool kit of emergency gear and such.

That is it.

Good idea on the binocs, but they are on the sail boat right now, 1400 miles away.

LX200 - staying home. ETX125 - staying home (BUT very tempting to take). LX850 - I need a long stay somewhere to justify bringing it. Plus we have a big design review in New Mexico now in Mid-August, so we are planning a big star party with the LX850 then - bonus points for no need to travel with it.

One side note…two of my more recent road trips were with the little ol' 80mm ED APO. Believe it or not this got a lot of use by guests and spectators. Jupiter, the Moon and Saturn can be quite entertaining for 99.9% of the population. Still, I found myself wanting more.

I think the optimal fun evening combo for guests will be the MallinCam X2 and the 130mm - it will bring those faint fuzzies to life and in full color. BUT…BUT…that bright monitor might tick off the other Astronomers in the area. It will be fine for the Utah event, but I don't think I will be able to use it at Oregon Observatory; I will have to ask them on the etiquette.

Very good write up bicparker!

#11 Spacetravelerx

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 12:37 AM

BTW - I am also gravitating to an even more light weight travel rig in the future, and when I am really limited in space and weight:

* Questar 3.5" Duplex
* Tri-Stand Short pier for Questar
* Coronado PST
* Manfrotto 055XPRO tripod with 460MG Magnesium camera head.
* Canon 60Da
* MallinCam X2

…All tools and support gear are in the cases of these units.

The big stuff is fine for long stays, semi permanent setups and observatories. My 130mm rig listed in my other post, is my "maximum travel rig".

Oh, when camping in the wilderness or mountain climbing - I just use my eyes.

Maybe my age is showing...

#12 Phil Sherman

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 12:53 PM

My Orion 8" Newtonian and Atlas mount have travelled over 40k miles with no damage while packed in my RV. The scope is in a padded bag while the mount is mounted in a wood travel box. Accessories and eyepieces are stored in a bunch of plastic boxes that are consolidated into a large plastic bin. Everything except the astro cameras is stored in under the floor compartments. Cameras are carried in a Harbor Freight padded aluminum case and stored under a bench seat inside the RV.

#13 WadeH237

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 06:07 PM

I travel to several star parties a year with a number of scopes. I've downsized a bit this year, to three scopes:

An Orion XX14i dobsonian for visually sweeping and star hopping.

A CGE 1400 for tracking visual and long focal length visual.

An imaging setup. The OTA varies, but it's always on a large AP1600 mount. Depending on the length of my stay, I may take a Kendrick Observer tent to house the imaging setup.

For Table Mountain Star Party, the equipment list looks like this:

1) Celestron C14 in a JMI case, packed in the basement of my motorhome.

2) Celestron CGE mount in the original shipping box, packed in the trunk of the car I two behind the motorhome. The tripod for the CGE is stored under the bed in the motorhome, along with the counterweights.

3) The dobsonian base for the XX14i breaks down into nearly flat pieces that are stored under the bed in the motorhome.

4) The secondary cage and poles for the XX14i are stored under the bed in the motorhome.

5) The primary mirror box for the XX14i just sits on the carpeted floor by the bed. Any jolt sufficient to move it would mean that the motorhome was in an accident serious enough to make the scope not my main concern.

6) The pier for the AP1600 rides in the trunk of the tow car.

7) The AP1600 breaks down into the RA housing and declination housing. The RA sits seat belted in one back seat in the tow car. The dec sits seat belted in the other back seat of the tow car. The counterweight shaft, top plate and counterweights ride on the floor of the back of the tow car. Anything not belted or strapped in is wrapped in towels and packed so it doesn't move.

8) The OTA for imaging rides seat belted in the passenger seat of the tow car.

I have original Pelican cases or Storm cases for the following equipment. Each of the cases rides in the basement of the motorhome:

- SBIG ST-10XME camera

- Case of imaging accessories (extension tubes, serial ports, Telrad for the imaging OTA, miscellaneous electrical components, etc.)

- Case of visual accessories (visual backs, diagonals, Telrads for visual scopes, etc.)

- Case of eyepieces for visual use.

- Dew heater controller and straps.

- Electric focuser controller and cables.

- PST Solar Telescope.

- Control box, cables, etc. for AP1600

- Control box, cables, laser collimator and Telrad for XX14i.

I've not yet picked up a Storm case for my camera rotator and off-axis guider, so they go into a cardboard box for now and ride in the basement.

I have a generic storage box for miscellaneous stuff like a dovetail adapter, random spares like extra wire, power connectors, etc. so that I can make field repairs (to my stuff - or more frequently, other peoples' stuff at the dark sky site).

I've also got a number of gel cell batteries that ride in the basement of the motorhome.

It sounds like a lot, but it all packs up pretty well. In some years, where we've had guest families at the star party, I've also added two CG-5 mount with a 4" refractor and a C8 so that we have scopes for everyone to use. There's also enough room in the motorhome that if I don't take the tow car, I can move all the stuff from the tow car into the motorhome - again, I use seat belts to secure the stuff that needs it.

I've also taken my truck to events. With good cases for everything and a canopy on the truck, it's quick and easy to pack as much stuff as I want to bring.

Usually, when I'm packing up at the end of a star party, I swear that I'm going to bring less stuff next time :)

I'd like to get down to one visual scope and one imaging scope. I almost got there this year, but I want the one visual scope to be the C14 and my wife wants to use the 14" dob.

#14 bicparker

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 08:52 PM

Andrew,
I actually think your packing list for the trip is good. And yes, the ETX125 would be tempting and should be left at home... or take in instead of, but not along with the 130 (I would take the 130, however, for several reasons, even though it probably has a larger storage footprint).

I have a couple of different 80's (actually, I just realized I also have a 3rd one that I don't use.. sigh), and they do get a lot of views by the crowd, but if you are under dark skies and want that little bit of extra "grab", aperture makes all of the difference.

Your packing list does show a bit of the angst I have between taking my truss dob and taking a large GEM mounted scope. The dob is as heavy as the GEM, but is a much easier set up with far more aperture (my largest OTA on my CI700 is a 10", though I sometimes do a side by side config with the 10" and a 5" or 4" refractor). The GEM scope also tracks, has a Gemini goto, and can be fitted up for astroimaging, if I am so inclined. But the GEM also has several more component parts, hardware (bolts, fittings, etc.), and alignment procedures (both physical polar alignment and tracking computer alignment) involved with its setup and operation.

In both cases, I am less concerned about the set up as I am the take down, especially if I am taking down the same night or in a big hurry the next morning. Dob wins here hands down. Plus, if it is only one night, doing any serious imaging (except the MallinCam for public consumption) really won't happen. So, dob still wins.

Anyhow, it sounds as if you have it worked out. Travel safely.

#15 Spacetravelerx

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 02:10 AM

Andrew,
I actually think your packing list for the trip is good. And yes, the ETX125 would be tempting and should be left at home... or take in instead of, but not along with the 130 (I would take the 130, however, for several reasons, even though it probably has a larger storage footprint).

I have a couple of different 80's (actually, I just realized I also have a 3rd one that I don't use.. sigh), and they do get a lot of views by the crowd, but if you are under dark skies and want that little bit of extra "grab", aperture makes all of the difference.

Your packing list does show a bit of the angst I have between taking my truss dob and taking a large GEM mounted scope. The dob is as heavy as the GEM, but is a much easier set up with far more aperture (my largest OTA on my CI700 is a 10", though I sometimes do a side by side config with the 10" and a 5" or 4" refractor). The GEM scope also tracks, has a Gemini goto, and can be fitted up for astroimaging, if I am so inclined. But the GEM also has several more component parts, hardware (bolts, fittings, etc.), and alignment procedures (both physical polar alignment and tracking computer alignment) involved with its setup and operation.

In both cases, I am less concerned about the set up as I am the take down, especially if I am taking down the same night or in a big hurry the next morning. Dob wins here hands down. Plus, if it is only one night, doing any serious imaging (except the MallinCam for public consumption) really won't happen. So, dob still wins.

Anyhow, it sounds as if you have it worked out. Travel safely.


bicparker,

My family has praised Hosannas I have reduced the equipment list, lol.

I might get up to three nights in Oregon, but I am thinking the AP chances might be grim due to all the fires there.

I do agree going with the 130mm vs. 80mm. Though I do have fun with the 80mm, love the ultimate grab and go nature of it, and I love the wide field astrophotography from the 80mm, I still prefer the extra light grasp of the 130mm when on the road.

Yes, tear down at the end of a session can be painful, especially when the family wants to get back to the camp site…NOW! The do rush my ap sessions. The love the pictures, but they hate that it takes too long. Sometimes I feel I need to travel with like minded astronomers, lol.

I have found the Dob tempting for some events, however I think I am hitting critical mass on the telescope front. Yes that is true. Depending on the travel distance and how tired I am, I find the LX200 is good for local events, 130mm for a broad range, and for quick one day events far away the 80mm is the bomb. Still, it all depends on the event. BTW, for my trip to Huntington Beach the 80mm did really well in the urban location for the MSU Lacrosse team (Jupiter, Saturn and Moon). They were more than thrilled. The only downer - lugging the LX80 mount from the truck to the beach and back. Thank goodness I had some strapping young lads help me move it. Last time I bring the LX80 anywhere long distance.

Thank-you on the safe travels! I will report how it all works on along the way.

#16 Spacetravelerx

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 02:30 AM

Phil and Wade,

I can totally imagine the benefits of traveling with an RV with one's telescopes. We keep debating getting one though, but between the cars and sailboats we have hit our vehicle limit I think. ;)

When it was just me traveling alone with the Expedition I was quite surprised how much I loaded it up with astronomical gear. The main fear was when stopping at hotels is that it would get stolen. So when checking in, I would bring in all the astro gear too, even if it was for one night. I know, painful. I can see the benefit here for an RV.

Now, even though I am talking of going light weight, after my project up in space I am looking at hanging at some remote sites (like Chaco Canyon or Moab) for 1-2 weeks. Then I will travel with the big beast telescope and mount. Again, it seems like the RV is a good compromise on many fronts. I can see the added benefits of an RV for Star Parties. I have been active in Astronomy for 46 years and I have yet to attend a single star party. This is on my to do list starting next year.

Based on all the comments it is also interesting to hear how car seats and seat belts are put to use. ;) With most of my kids out of the nest this may now be possible.

Wade - what do you think of the Kendrick Observer tent? Is it functional? Any issues? Is it worth getting? I can see it being used on some of my camping trips.

Phil and Wade - what kind of RV do you have?

#17 WadeH237

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 09:04 AM

We bought the RV specifically for attending star parties. We decided to do it after a Table Mountain event where we spent two nights huddling in our tent through 48 hours of non-stop rain. After the second night, we packed up and went home. Later, we heard that it cleared up on the 3rd night and was great observing. Now, with the RV, we don't care about the weather. We'll take any observing that the skies give us and relax and do general "we're on vacation" stuff if the skies are cloudy or if it rains (or hails, or gives us a spectacular lightning show, which is something that we rarely get in Seattle, but frequently get at remote observing sites).

The RV itself is a 34' class A Georgie Boy with two slides. It's on a Ford chassis with a V10 gas engine. We bought it new in 2002 and have used it a bunch, mostly for star parties. We also take it to the Reno Air Races every year. In the first few years we had it, we took it all over the western US. At some point, it became lots cheaper to fly or drive and use hotels (as compared to gasoline at 6.5 mpg). So now we just use it when we want to stay where there are no hotels. I log all of our nights out, and we average around 25 nights per year.

Since we bought the motorhome specifically for star parties, we've made some changes to support the activity. When I bought it, I bought extra lens covers for the interior lighting and painted them a deep red. I put the red lenses on a number of the ceiling lights, so we have star party friendly interior lighting. With the blackout shades closed and red lighting in use, there is virtually no detectable light emission from outside the motorhome (at least what's visible is dimmer than ambient light from the sky).

I also replaced the stock house batteries with a bank of 6 volt golf cart batteries wired in serial/parallel to give me 440ah of power at 12 volts. To this, I added 390 watts of solar panels on the roof. At summertime events, my kids use their laptops during the day for movies, I use my laptop during the day for image processing, and I run the imaging stuff all night long - and the solar panels are capable of bringing us back to a full charge before dusk. If we get into late August or September, the days get short enough that it won't quite get back to full charge, but we can still run all the astro stuff for over a week without starting the generator.

As for the Kendrick tent, it is awesome. I easily give it 5 stars. I generally set it up if I'm going to be camped for a week or more. Once I get it going, it provides plenty of space for my working desk with laptop to run everything, plus storage for all of the cases. To use the scope at night, just unzip the top and open it up. In the morning, just zip the top closed. If you get sudden inclement weather at night (which happens in some of the sites we use), just zip up and pull the rain fly over. I've had the tent set up through some nasty storms with 50mph+ winds. It's never failed and never leaked.

The biggest problem with them is availability. My existing tent is a first generation. Kendrick discontinued them many years ago and replaced it with a much larger second generation (that is equally functional, but I don't like the size as much). Then they discontinued those and said that they wouldn't be making any more. Earlier this year, they said that they were considering a new tent that was essentially an improved version of the first generation that I have. They were taking pre-orders with a deposit, and if they received enough, they said that they would make the tent. I like mine so much that I want a second one, in case something ever happens to the one that I have, so I pre-ordered. About two weeks ago, I got an email that they were going into production and plan to ship sometime in August. If you want one, I would suggest contacting Kendrick and getting your order in. Who knows how long they will be producing this one.

#18 GJJim

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 10:07 AM

I had one of the original Kendrick tents in 1997 and used it at a several star parties. It worked well enough and had plenty of room for an imaging setup. The zippered bug screen over the roof of the observing area was a thoughtful addition that made a big difference on one trip. One person can set up the tent, but two make the job much easier. Pack something to protect the floor because heavy tripods will puncture it easily.

Even though the Kendrick is well-designed, in the end it is just a nylon tent. I would never think of leaving a lot of valuable gear stored inside at a regular campground. Winds from a pop-up thunderstorm might send it flying as well.

Now that I have an observatory I don't attend as many star parties, and sold the Kendrick tent a couple of years ago. I did attend the RMSS last month (slept in a hotel) and one trend I noticed was the growing number of people using "toy" trailers to haul astro and camping gear. These ranged from a 5x8 rented U-Haul to some elaborate custom trailers with gaucho beds and the works inside.

#19 Starhawk

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 11:17 AM

Observations on star parties:

Little kids love smaller scopes, especially if you're willing to let them touch them. I had a new experience this year when I did a star party at my kids' school this year where I didn't bring the big gear, but brought a C5 on a NexStar GT mount. This was after work, so it needed to be light for me to put it together. It turned out I was the only parent at the event. The other observers were volunteers from the local astronomy club, who had brought really nice scopes.

Afterwards, the people who run the school wanted to tell me I was the only one who was calm when the kids came by and wasn't constantly telling the kids to keep back. And that was because I had gear which wasn't especially valuable or fragile. It's height meant kids could get to it easily.

Getting feedback from non-astronomers who are professional observers of human behavior was enlightening. I would have said the star party had just gone well, and there was nothing remarkable other than everyone else had brought their nicest gear. I did notice I was busy, but it was nowhere near as stressful as an event with a really high end scope.

I do remember bringing a nice scope means you're there looking after it, and it's a full time job. Having more than one scope is more tasking on the observer, and just walking around the event is out of the question.

Food for thought...

-Rich

#20 Raginar

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 11:28 AM

I think if I was going to travel with my full setup, I'd just break down and buy the boxes. There is just too much room for breaking something otherwise :/.

#21 Phil Sherman

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 11:54 AM

Phil and Wade,
.......
Phil and Wade - what kind of RV do you have?


We have a 33' class A Georgetown. One of its great features is the oversized, pass through, basement storage compartment underneath the queen bed at the rear of the RV. The only part of the astro gear that's not carried in the RV is the 100AH wet cell battery. That goes in the towed Yaris.

#22 Spacetravelerx

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 12:48 PM

Observations on star parties:

Little kids love smaller scopes, especially if you're willing to let them touch them. I had a new experience this year when I did a star party at my kids' school this year where I didn't bring the big gear, but brought a C5 on a NexStar GT mount. This was after work, so it needed to be light for me to put it together. It turned out I was the only parent at the event. The other observers were volunteers from the local astronomy club, who had brought really nice scopes.

Afterwards, the people who run the school wanted to tell me I was the only one who was calm when the kids came by and wasn't constantly telling the kids to keep back. And that was because I had gear which wasn't especially valuable or fragile. It's height meant kids could get to it easily.

Getting feedback from non-astronomers who are professional observers of human behavior was enlightening. I would have said the star party had just gone well, and there was nothing remarkable other than everyone else had brought their nicest gear. I did notice I was busy, but it was nowhere near as stressful as an event with a really high end scope.

I do remember bringing a nice scope means you're there looking after it, and it's a full time job. Having more than one scope is more tasking on the observer, and just walking around the event is out of the question.

Food for thought...

-Rich


Rich,

I 100% agree with this observation. Though I have to admit even with my more expensive equipment I am fine with people (including kids) touching it. I think touching and knowing about the equipment without fear brings more to the experience.

I will also have my daughter help. She is not an astro-expert (yet), but she is good with helping people look into the telescope and making sure they don't bump into something while I am explaining the sky to others. When I went to Oregon Observatory last year I was shocked to see they get up to 300 people A NIGHT up there in the middle of no where! Actually at the local elementary school for an event we had over 400 kids and family members show up. It gives me faith that there are people interested in Astronomy beyond the usual suspects. In light of this I welcome people getting to know and touch the equipment (within reason of course!). Something about the sharing and the exploration nature of it all.

The plan for now is to use the SolarMax in the daytime and then swap over to the 130mm at night - one mount and two OTAs. This will hold for both Oregon and Utah.

Side note - the most amazing thing about outreach and sharing the sky with "non-Astronomers" and "non-Hobbists"? Almost all the time people thank me over and over for giving them the chance to see sky through a telescope. I was never expecting this. Even more epic experience: watching someone so moved by the experience that they want to get into the sciences and/or it motivates them to the next level. I saw one college freshman look at Saturn and it was a transformational event.

#23 Spacetravelerx

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 12:57 PM

On the topic of batteries…

I have to admit I have traveled with them in the past, however now I tend to find camp sites, even remote ones, with power hook ups.

I take it for some of these Star Parties there is a limited supply of outlets or none at all. Should I get it in my mind set to start bringing batteries with me? I can see using a rig similar to a sailboat - a bank of marine batteries with inverter, and some sort of recharging mechanism including solar panels, generator, or another outlet (at home).

Wade and Phil - it looks like you have your battery scheme down pat.

And I can see a two days of rain driving me to an RV ;)

#24 Whichwayisnorth

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 05:59 PM

After traveling with my LX850 several times I think you can see now why I opted to go with a lighter and more portable system.

#25 WadeH237

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 07:31 PM

Andrew,

If you are going to frequent star parties, it's a good idea to arrange for your own power. We go to 3 major star parties each summer. Of the three, Table Mountain and Oregon Star Parties don't have any charging facilities. You are on your own. I believe that Golden State Star Party has a recharging station, but I've never needed to use it. Also, Oregon is a bit unique in that it's in an area that is prone to extreme fire prevention measures. When that happens, the forest service bans generator usage, which is where solar is really useful. I would estimate that about 30% of the time, this is the case at Oregon.

Regarding outreach, all of my equipment is working gear. By that, I mean that I keep it in top working order, but it gets dusty and dirty. I haul it many miles down forest service roads that are all dirt and mostly washboard. Sometimes I don't get the covers on quickly enough and it gets a little rain. It all cleans up.

I love to share what I do and am happy to let anyone young or old get hands on with it - even the expensive stuff. If the Televue eyepieces get a little bit greasy, or someone bumps a small scope so that it needs to be realigned, it's no big deal. (If someone bumps one of my large setups, the equipment wins.)

We've home schooled our kids for the last 12 years. As a part of this, we are members of a co-op of about 450 home schooled kids. Since we're the astronomy enthusiasts, we've hosted a number of star parties for groups of kids. Some of the parents are apprehensive about letting their kids touch things, but I explain to them that it's not fragile. On a few occasions, I've done a lesson where we disassemble a telescope to see all of its parts and pieces. After they've all had a chance to get a good look (and feel) of things, I show them how I put it back together.

It's lots of fun!






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