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Carry-on Grab and Go

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#1 TomR2

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Posted 22 March 2019 - 04:00 PM

I am obsessed with developing the perfect quality carry-on Grab and Go telescope kit for my travels to dark skies. My solution has been a Stellarvue 80 mm APO triplet, which I love, with the dedicated Stellarvue carry-on bag.  The Stellarvue bag is big enough to hold the scope, diagonal, eyepieces, finder, multiple accessories and even a pair of binoculars.  I have flown domestically to Arizona, Maine, and Utah (for the eclipse) and had no problems with TSA or the airlines.  However, the tripod (a Berlebach wooden one) and the Vixen Porta II mount are heavy and don’t fit in a carry-on.  So, I have been checking an oversized suitcase – aptly named the Kelty Zeppelin– where I put the tripod, mount, and my clothes. Because I have plans to fly internationally, and don’t like risking the Stellarvue 80, I have wanted a more compact kit, understanding that it will sacrifice some optical performance. My goal is a reasonably good quality, portable observatory in a carry-on.

 

My solution has been to buy a Skywatcher Skymax 102 mm Maksutov with an AZ-GTi mount. Both the OTA and the mount are remarkably compact and the package sells for the mid $500s. The AZ-GTi is a cool mount controllable by your smartphone. The only negative in terms of size in the package is the tripod, which I replaced with a Manfrotto Element Big Aluminum Traveler Tripod, which collapses to under 17 inches and has over 17 lbs in capacity. For eyepieces, I have chosen a Televue 32 mm Plossl and a Baader Hyperion 8-24 mm. I also have upgraded to a Williams star diagonal and bought a Celestron f/6.3 reducer and Celestron back to reduce focal length as needed.  Finally, for a bag, I have bought a Tenba Cineluxe 21, a camera bag designed for larger video-cameras instead of DSLRs, which makes a great telescope bag. The 20.5 x 10.00 x 13.75 inch carry-on bag fits all my telescope gear plus a pair of 10x42 binoculars, laser pointer and flashlights, notebook and field guide. (The bag probably would fit a Skymax 127, but I prefer using the weight and capacity for the binoculars. Something like an AWB OneSky also would work as an OTA.) The total package weighs in at about 30 lbs, but the Tenba Cineluxe works well with a collapsible plastic dolly to navigate the airports. (The Tenba Cineluxe 21 also comes in a wheeled version.) My total carry-on telescope kit (without binoculars) costs approximately $1500, so it is not cheap.  But neither is air travel to dark skies. Overall, my carry-on kit is not perfect, but I believe I am getting close. I will see how it works in the field.

 

Tenba21
Skymax102AZ GTi

 


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#2 Hesiod

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Posted 22 March 2019 - 04:49 PM

Nice setup!

I am working into something similar, and like you the biggest issue was to manage the tripod.

In the end opted for this one

gallery_215679_8115_2457024.jpg

 

Had to face some hard trades (max height in my case is 70cm or so with the mount head, and at maximum height stability is far from "rock solid") but the largest piece is 30cm long, and it is under 1kg.


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#3 havasman

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Posted 22 March 2019 - 05:10 PM

Nice setup!

I am working into something similar, and like you the biggest issue was to manage the tripod.

In the end opted for this one

What is that? It looks pretty good for the task.



#4 Cometeer

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Posted 23 March 2019 - 12:50 AM

Neat setup. I too began with an 80mm apo, but the short focal length and small aperture didn’t cut it in the terribly light polluted skies I was observing in. My current air travel setup looks very similar to what you have. The main difference is that the scope and its accesories go as my under-the-seat personal item and the tripod/mount go in my carry-on suitcase. 

 

B4D7F4A2-6C4B-4888-BA4E-50693366FB86.jpeg

 

Top Bag:
C5
1.25" dielectric diagonal
Baader 8-24mm Zoom
ES 24mm 68*
TV 4mm Radian
3 Orion Sirius plossls (for outreach)
f/6.3 Focal reducer
OIII, NPB, Skyglow filters
Rigel finder
Red flash light

Bahtinov Mask

 

Bottom Bag:
AZ-GTI Tripod, pier, mount head
C5 dewshield
Color filters
6000mah Talentcell battery
8" Kindle Fire tablet (mount controller)

 

I’m planning on replacing the tripod with something sturdier and more compact. The only thing holding me back is the price of one of those tripods. 


Edited by Cometeer, 23 March 2019 - 02:54 PM.

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#5 Noah4x4

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Posted 23 March 2019 - 03:30 AM

I take a Nexstar SE4 in a rucksack, then put tripod in suitcase in the hold with my clothes.

 

My 2 cents is a heads up about battery capacity. The aircraft limit in Europe (possibly global) is 100 watt- hours. My Tracer 8Ah is therefore the largest permissible (12v x 8 Ah). 



#6 TomR2

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Posted 23 March 2019 - 09:05 AM

Tripods are the issue. Hesiod has gone small. Cometeer has gone larger with a separate tripod bag, and I am in the middle. Cometeer - Is your tripod bag under 24"? Looks close to the limit.

 

The other tripod problem is that there is some variation among airlines on the carry-on length restriction - from 21" to 24". Aircraft overhead bins vary, so generally, I avoid the small regional jets.

 

Some carry-on camera bags have pockets or straps to carry tripods externally.  I wonder if anyone has experience with those.  I would think there are two risks: (1) damage to the tripods; (2) a specific airline saying it exceeds their size restrictions.


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#7 Hesiod

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Posted 23 March 2019 - 10:11 AM



What is that? It looks pretty good for the task.

NovoFlex BasicBall, it is originally a tabletop tripod for macro, but the legs can be raised through optional rods.

 

This is what will likely fly to Lanzarote at the end of May; under the tripod can see the bag, 15x30x40cm, which would be the "personal item". While it could place everything here, likely will keep just the "core" (refractor, tracker, wedge, ballhead, optical accessories) and place harder components such as the upgraded mounting block, extension rods, and the dovetail bar, in the checked luggage toghether with a second, full-sized light tripod.

gallery_215679_8115_3555397.jpg

 

My setup is the result of a compromise between the ability to take widefield pictures of deep sky, and stargazing, so it is less effective than yours


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#8 Cometeer

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Posted 23 March 2019 - 12:49 PM

Tripods are the issue. Hesiod has gone small. Cometeer has gone larger with a separate tripod bag, and I am in the middle. Cometeer - Is your tripod bag under 24"? Looks close to the limit.

The other tripod problem is that there is some variation among airlines on the carry-on length restriction - from 21" to 24". Aircraft overhead bins vary, so generally, I avoid the small regional jets.

Some carry-on camera bags have pockets or straps to carry tripods externally. I wonder if anyone has experience with those. I would think there are two risks: (1) damage to the tripods; (2) a specific airline saying it exceeds their size restrictions.


That bag is much larger than 24”. I usually take out the tripod and mount head and put it into a suitcase. Once I get to my destination, I transfer it back into that tripod bag to make it more convenient to travel with locally.

#9 bobhen

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Posted 23 March 2019 - 12:56 PM

For air travel and to use for deep sky viewing under a dark sky, I use an inexpensive 102mm F5 achromat. Sky Watcher and Celestron (Synta) have marketed these scopes.

 

The 102mm F5 refractor isn’t the best on the planets but that is not why one travels to a dark sky. The 102mm F5 refractor delivers great wide field views, gathers more light than the 80mm versions, is lightweight, compact, inexpensive (in case its damaged/lost) makes a nice daytime spotter and fits in an overhead bin suitcase along with a tripod and a week’s worth of clothes.

 

Below is a photo of my 102mm F5 refractor on a Bogen tripod and a small Universal Astronomics alt/az mount head and a Night Vision Image Intensifier in the diagonal.

 

Bob

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Edited by bobhen, 23 March 2019 - 01:38 PM.

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#10 Simon B

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Posted 23 March 2019 - 01:27 PM

Tripods are the issue. 

 

That's exactly what I've found when trying to come up with my own travel kit - I opted for the tiny Velbon 655 - it's hardly any longer than the OTA itself when folded. It can even transform into a 'dob' style mount for tabletop use : )

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#11 tony_spina

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Posted 23 March 2019 - 02:30 PM

Neat setup. I too began with an 80mm apo, but the short focal length and small aperture didn’t cut it in the terribly light polluted skies I was observing in. My current air travel setup looks very similar to what you have. The main difference is that the scope and its accesories go as my under-the-seat personal item and the tripod/mount go in my carry-on suitcase. 

 

attachicon.gif B4D7F4A2-6C4B-4888-BA4E-50693366FB86.jpeg

 

Top Bag:
C5
1.25" dielectric diagonal
Baader 8-24mm Zoom
ES 24mm 82*
TV 4mm Radian
3 Orion Sirius plossls (for outreach)
f/6.3 Focal reducer
OIII, NPB, Skyglow filters
Rigel finder
Red flash light

Bahtinov Mask

 

Bottom Bag:
AZ-GTI Tripod, pier, mount head
C5 dewshield
Color filters
6000mah Talentcell battery
8" Kindle Fire tablet (mount controller)

 

I’m planning on replacing the tripod with something sturdier and more compact. The only thing holding me back is the price of one of those tripods. 

What bag/case are you using in the top and bottom bags



#12 Cometeer

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Posted 23 March 2019 - 02:47 PM

What bag/case are you using in the top and bottom bags

 

The top bag is the official Celestron bag which comes with their newer C5 spotters. I got a hold of one through a wanted ad. I heavily modified the interior foam to fit more things.  It's well padded and water resistant (not water-proof). The zipper feels cheap, so I put a strap on the outside to keep the case closed as an extra measure.

Here's a close up:

IMG_0504-2.jpg

 

 

The bottom bag is this: https://www.amazon.c...=gateway&sr=8-8

It is cheap and has very thin padding, but it works for my purposes. 


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