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Best Kit for Full-Time RV Use

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#1 doc_cj

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Posted 27 September 2021 - 02:31 PM

My wife and I have decided to move into a motorhome full time for a few years. There's lots of great places to see in the US and Canada, so being on the road will be a new adventure. Unfortunately, space is very limited in a 29' motorhome, so I can't bring along my Meade 12" with all the cool gadgets I normally use. It's been a bit since I've looked at smaller units, so I thought I'd get from insight here. Hopefully, there are some of you who are doing the full-time RV thing as well, and you can give me some pointers on carrying/using a telescope or astro-binocs while on the road. I will have only a space that will be about 4ft x 2ft. So far here's some of my thoughts. 

 

Item 1) Binoculars

 

Clearly, the most logical choice, especially given space restrictions, would be a pair of decent binoculars with a parallelogram mount. The prices seem to range from $400 to over $1000. The problem is I have no experience with using binos for stargazing or astronomy. Those who have experience going between a pair of say 20x80 or 25x100 astro-binocs can hopefully give me some insight. 

 

As for a telescope, there are likely good solutions in the three major ranges of 'scopes. In the Newtonian, I'm thinking a 6" astrograph with decent computer tracking mount (around $1200) would work well. The idea is that I can then use my DSLR camera without losing too much by way of quality imaging and observing. In the SCT types, I'm a fan of the original Clestron C-8 and the related line. I can still these for around $1000, especially with Christmas specials coming up, so that might be an option. Just not sure of the size and how much trouble it would be in an RV.

 

Finally, I don't have a lot of experience with refractors, except the 60mm Sears model I had when I was a kid in the '60s, so I'd especially like some insight on why a refractor over a Newtonian or SCT. I've only paid part attention to refractor discussions on here, so I would appreciate any special insight about using a refractor under the RV scenario. 

 

Thanks in advance for entertaining my post and questions. As always, I look forward to the shared input from the community. 


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#2 Pauls72

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Posted 27 September 2021 - 03:40 PM

We have a 23' travel trailer, towed by a Dodge Durango or RAM 1500 pickup. We only do vacations and side trips.

I have a Celestron C11 SCT and a Lunt solar scope on an Orion Atlas (aka Skywatcher EQ-6) mount for visual use. For AP i have a William Optics 98mm Triplet APO on a second Atlas mount with a Orion ST80 as a guide scope. I have used the triplet for visual, but prefer the SCT. I also have a pair of binoculars in the trailer. My friends Meade 16" Light Bridge DOB will fit in the trailer, but at times it becomes an obstacle.  It really comes down to how much space are you willing to allocate to a scope and what you are willing to tolerate setting up and taking down. Due to the vibration of travel, some things like thumb screws will come loose or just disappear. For binoculars get your self a comfortable camping chair or chaise lounge lawn chair and a good star atlas.

 

Most private campgrounds have way to much light to do any real observation. At some of the larger state parks or national parks you can get away from the other campers to get in a dark area. The popular national parks are extremely full, so don't count on them.

 

If you are a senior, get yourself a national park lifetime senior pass. If you are active duty military, veteran or a gold star family, you have free admittance.

https://www.nps.gov/...isit/passes.htm


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#3 Astro-Master

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Posted 27 September 2021 - 03:50 PM

I have a smaller 21.5' Toyota motorhome that my wife and I use for month long trips, and use either my C8 on a CG5 GOTO mount or my ES 6" Mak Newt F/4.8 Comet Hunter, for wide field viewing.  I think the C8 is a good travel scope its small and compact, but large enough for some nice DSO viewing from a dark site.

 

Usually in August I'll take a 7 day trip to a high altitude Bortle 2 mountain and take my 18" Obsession, it just barley fits through the door, but with all the other telescope gear, ladders, observing chairs, wheelbarrow handles, etc, there's no room for my wife, but she's very understanding, and we will usually take a 3 week trip to her favorite place the next month.


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#4 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 27 September 2021 - 04:04 PM

Full time is a different story.. Our longest trips are about 2 weeks.  We have a 26 foot Class C for the two of us.  The scopes and most of the stuff goes on the bed in the overhead.  I take either the 12.5 inch or the 16 inch Dob plus my NP-101...

 

motorhome Dob in overhead.jpg
 
Jon

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#5 tsbikes

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Posted 27 September 2021 - 05:25 PM

I have a 31' Arctic Fox towed by a Ram 2500. Point is the pickup can carry as much gear as I want and leave the tow behind for living. I have used my Meade 10" with a cart mount and presently use a Celestron 8" on a AVX mount. No problems storing or setup. Last trip was 4 months in Portal, so AZ. I do remote operation with SharpCap and VNC. 

Lots of fun when the virus isn't spoiling things.

 

Jim


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#6 ngatel

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Posted 28 September 2021 - 01:01 AM

Are you just interested in visual observing, imaging, or both?

 

I just got back from a 2 month trip towing our 26' travel trailer. I brought 2 refractors, a C8, two mounts, and all kinds of accessories. I could have put in the trailer for transport, but there is lots of room in the back of our pick-up truck. Getting ready to leave again for a couple of weeks. We go to dark spots, usually off the beaten path. I image every night, weather permitting. Do some visual when my wife is interesting in joining me. Imaging is pretty much automated so lots of time to spend with her once I get the image sequence going, I can simply ignore the equipment until the next morning.

 

If you are only interested in visual, I would look into SCTs: something like a NexStar 8se or 6se. There are insulated carry bags to put the tube in. If you are interested in imaging, a small refractor on a equatorial mount. If you want to do both, an equatorial mount, a SCT for visual, and a small refractor for visual using the same mount. Of course you can only use ons scope at a time. Something like a WO ZenithStar 61 comes in a very small case. My Esprit 100 refractor came is a HUGE case.

 

For visual a SCT (8" or less) provides the best bang for the buck when it comes to aperture, view in the scope, portability, and cost. 


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#7 justfred

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Posted 28 September 2021 - 03:26 AM

I’m about to head to OkieTex towing a 17 foot Casita with a 2004 F150 Standard cab topped off with an Undercover hard tonneau. I’ll have an old Starmaster 11 EL and a Questar 3.5 with Tristand.  SM Rocker box and mirror box up front with me in the cab and the Q and upper cage for the SM nestled in the bed of the Casita. 
 

The wife and I spent 5 weeks out west earlier this year in the Casita and I took only the Q. Wow - what dark skies can do to modest apertures!
 

Consider a 6 or 8 inch dob for your travel scope. Small footprint and big views. I am very impressed with the Orion push-to Intelliscope series. I am about to gift an Orion Starblast 6i to a friend and it has the most straight forward user interface I have used so far - with the SM’s ArgoNavis being a close second. Include room for a good observing chair.

 

+1 for the Lifetime Senior Pass.

Let us know.

 

Fred


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#8 pbmazda32

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Posted 28 September 2021 - 07:13 AM

I full time in a 41ft 5th wheel with my wife and son. Sounds big, but space is still limited due to it being a family endeavor. I use a small 71mm refractor on an EQ mount for astrophotography.

The camera can see more than your eyes can. Maybe look into setting up for EAA. You could use smaller equipment and still get good views. Small equipment is easy to pack, and move, and setup again.
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#9 doc_cj

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Posted 28 September 2021 - 10:02 AM

We have a 23' travel trailer, towed by a Dodge Durango or RAM 1500 pickup. We only do vacations and side trips.

I have a Celestron C11 SCT and a Lunt solar scope on an Orion Atlas (aka Skywatcher EQ-6) mount for visual use. For AP i have a William Optics 98mm Triplet APO on a second Atlas mount with a Orion ST80 as a guide scope. I have used the triplet for visual, but prefer the SCT. I also have a pair of binoculars in the trailer. My friends Meade 16" Light Bridge DOB will fit in the trailer, but at times it becomes an obstacle.  It really comes down to how much space are you willing to allocate to a scope and what you are willing to tolerate setting up and taking down. Due to the vibration of travel, some things like thumb screws will come loose or just disappear. For binoculars get your self a comfortable camping chair or chaise lounge lawn chair and a good star atlas.

 

Most private campgrounds have way to much light to do any real observation. At some of the larger state parks or national parks you can get away from the other campers to get in a dark area. The popular national parks are extremely full, so don't count on them.

 

If you are a senior, get yourself a national park lifetime senior pass. If you are active duty military, veteran or a gold star family, you have free admittance.

https://www.nps.gov/...isit/passes.htm

 

Some very good points. Yes, I am a senior (and a disabled one at that), so I have the national parks passes along with several state passes. I also agree that as a rule the national parks and the tourist spots are often terrible with light pollution. That's one reason we stay so often in the rural areas instead of larger communities. I use both Harvest Host (https://harvesthosts.com/) and Boondockers Welcome (https://www.boondockerswelcome.com/) to find these spots. Harvest Host is especially useful since many of the sites for the night are in rural area, often farms and wineries, where light pollution is less of a problem. You will also find that a lot of these places are in or near open fields, so there's plenty of good ground to setup on and get a wide open sky. 

 

One problem that we encounter when staying in RV parks is that most of the time the units are relatively close together. You've got room for the RV and maybe a few things scattered around you. But you don't usually have room to setup your telescope, at least not without it being in the roadway or hauled to a nearby clear site. So hauling 75 or 90 pounds of large aperture equipment with all the requisite astrophotography equipment creates not only a problem of storage in the RV but then in how you setup or use it. The below picture illustrates the room often found in many parks between RVs. If the park has added a picnic table, firepit, or other amenities, then they will take up more room. And if you are pulling a trailer or in a motorhome pulling your car, there will need to space to park. That often means little really useful space for the telescope.

 

crowded-park-.jpeg

 

One thing most full-time folks now is that there is a lot of opportunity for socializing, if you are interested, and this means you can find lots of chances for the space to be used for small gatherings such as this ... 

 

fe6bd6e6-3be3-42df-aa77-26f0ba84f7a7.jpg

 

Anyway, I appreciate your comments and you've been a lot of help. 


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#10 doc_cj

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Posted 28 September 2021 - 10:11 AM

I have a smaller 21.5' Toyota motorhome that my wife and I use for month long trips, and use either my C8 on a CG5 GOTO mount or my ES 6" Mak Newt F/4.8 Comet Hunter, for wide field viewing.  I think the C8 is a good travel scope its small and compact, but large enough for some nice DSO viewing from a dark site.

 

Usually in August I'll take a 7 day trip to a high altitude Bortle 2 mountain and take my 18" Obsession, it just barley fits through the door, but with all the other telescope gear, ladders, observing chairs, wheelbarrow handles, etc, there's no room for my wife, but she's very understanding, and we will usually take a 3 week trip to her favorite place the next month.

One reason we are going full-time now is so that I can take advantage of going to all these different sites around the country. Our plan is to travel throughout the USA and Canada. Each region will have new places that will offer great options for observing. Though we've only been full-time for a short time, I'm finding some wonderful places all throughout the Rockies of the northern US. We started here because we have moved out from Windsor, CO, which is right along the northern end of the state's front range, and we wanted to work our way eventually down the spine of the US toward either a winter site in Arizona, New Mexico, or Texas. (NOTE: The wife surprised me last night with the suggestion we also consider central Florida where lot rent is relatively cheap and there's lots to do during the winter). 

 

We recently moved from near Mt Rushmore area (we stayed a few weeks in Hill City at Larsson's Crooked Creek, which I would recommend, and I was able to get to some sites that were not only Earth-side beautiful but that had some of the most open sky that I've ever seen. Reminded me of what the night sky looked like in rural Oklahoma back in the 60s, long before we had so much pollution from lights and industry. 

 

As for the 18" Obsession .... WOW .... I can't even imagine how I would convince my wife to surrender her closet space for that monster. And I have to say fitting it through my RV door would be a miracle. I would probably need to cut a hole in the roof of the RV to make a small observatory.  

 

F70DB21AC88D48E69C5AF2C1367FAB95.jpg


Edited by doc_cj, 28 September 2021 - 10:12 AM.

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#11 doc_cj

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Posted 28 September 2021 - 10:24 AM

I full time in a 41ft 5th wheel with my wife and son. Sounds big, but space is still limited due to it being a family endeavor. I use a small 71mm refractor on an EQ mount for astrophotography.

The camera can see more than your eyes can. Maybe look into setting up for EAA. You could use smaller equipment and still get good views. Small equipment is easy to pack, and move, and setup again.

 

I think you are on the right track. Switching to an EAA setup may be just the thing. A bit more expensive in the sense that I'd need for technology, but in the end it might be a good way to go for what I want to do. As I noted in a couple other posts, being in an RV park is not always ideal for observing or astrophotography. It can be done, but why travel all that way just to be cramped because of space conditions in the park or be thwarted by too many lights around you? That's one reason I commented on Harvest Host and Boondockers Welcome; each provide a way to get into sites that are often free or no cost and which are away from the bustle of the larger cities. 



#12 Pauls72

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Posted 28 September 2021 - 12:03 PM

We have a hard tonneau cover on the pickup, so it limits how tall things can be.

My buddy has on order an Obsession 22"UC, the rocker box is actually shorter than his 16"  Light Bridge and will now fit in the bed of the pickup under the tonneau cover.

But unfortunately he won't be getting hid 22UC in time for this years Okie-Tex.

 

Yes, I'm a disabled senior too, but I am still working for a few more months. I bought a Revolution Imager R2 for EAA, but more to keep people away from the eyepiece/scope when doing outreach events.

Camp grounds that star parties are held at are usually good for observing and AP.

Merritt Reservoir - Valentine, NE

Green River state Wildlife Area - Harmon, IL

Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area - Chandlerville, IL

 

 

Lake Hudson Recreation Area - Clayton, MI. The have a field setup for observing.

Badlands National Park - Interior, SD was actually pretty good. They have an astronomy program on weekends.

 

Merritt Reservoir - Snake River campgrounds

20180806_122133s.jpg

 

 

 


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#13 Pauls72

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Posted 28 September 2021 - 12:05 PM

Green River - Harmon, IL

IMG_20200916_181650387_HDRs.jpg


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#14 ngatel

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Posted 28 September 2021 - 12:19 PM

Typical locations for us are free sites in dispersed camping locations. We'll go to NPS, BLM, and USFS campgrounds if they are sparsely used.  On our last trip we spent more our time in Bortle 1 and 2 sites at altitudes between 7,500 - 8,000 feet (three different locations).

 

gallery_20979_17102_7641732.jpg

 

 

gallery_20979_17102_16881572.jpg

 

Glass-Creek_4.jpg

 

 

 

Some images from our last trip

 

Sadr

gallery_20979_17102_2530935.jpg

 

Iris Nebula

gallery_20979_17102_1446127.jpg

 

 

Description not needed

gallery_20979_17102_721923.jpg

 

All images taken with Esprit 100ED, ZWO ASI071MC Pro, CGX mount.


Edited by ngatel, 28 September 2021 - 02:37 PM.

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#15 Astro-Master

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Posted 28 September 2021 - 02:57 PM

As for the 18" Obsession .... WOW .... I can't even imagine how I would convince my wife to surrender her closet space for that monster. And I have to say fitting it through my RV door would be a miracle. I would probably need to cut a hole in the roof of the RV to make a small observatory.  

 

F70DB21AC88D48E69C5AF2C1367FAB95.jpg

The 18" Obsession comes apart in three sections, the mirror box is the largest part and just fits through the 21" door, the other parts fit easily.

 

As you travel out west, make sure you check out scenic highway 12 in Utah, between Capital Reef National Park, and Bryce Canyon, just east of Boulder at 9,500 feet is the darkest skies I've seen in a long time.  I could not detect a sky glow in any direction, SQM gave a reading of 21.95 MPSAS with the Milky Way overhead which was casting a shadow on the ground.

 

I like that guy's observatory trailer, maybe you could tow something like that with your rig.


Edited by Astro-Master, 28 September 2021 - 03:05 PM.

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#16 edwincjones

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Posted 29 September 2021 - 04:40 AM

so many options,  so many compromises

i think my ideal choices would be

 

- large spotting scope

- canon IS 10x42 or 15x50

-smaller 8x32s for general use

 

but a larger dob or SCT would be nice for those dark skies you will find

 

sounds like an exciting period

 

edj


Edited by edwincjones, 29 September 2021 - 04:56 AM.

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#17 Seaquel47

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Posted 29 September 2021 - 01:25 PM

Because you are going full time, I'm going to assume that you will be towing a vehicle.  If you plan to use your scopes a lot, you should consider storing them in the vehicle.  As you have noted, campgrounds are often not a great place to set up and digging gear out of the 'basement' is not the easiest to do.  We tow a Grand Cherokee which can haul a lot of gear and it is a convenient height to work out of.  Also it makes it easy to drive out a ways to a better observing site.  With regard to equipment, I quickly became bored with just observing (that's me) and switched to EAA that I found to be a fun challenge and it opened up so much more to see and enjoy.  Another benefit is when you do set up in a campground, other folks enjoy coming over to see what is going on.  Also with some adjustments and additions you can also do astro-photography.  I like to use an ASIAIR Pro with refractors like the Redcat 41, Williams Optics 61 and my Televue 85.  These rigs are relatively compact and with the ASIAIR you can do EAA and AP at the same time using an iPad.  These setups work well for nebulas, Andromeda and the moon.  Also don't forget that a dslr and a tripod can get great milky way shots.  Safe travels!


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#18 davidparks

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Posted 29 September 2021 - 02:50 PM

A small refractor, many makes/models mentioned here, is fantastic for widefield.  If you want more focal length, than a small SCT or Mak works well.    I currently use a Redcat 51, anxiously waiting the 71 to become available.  An 80mm would probably be the largest I would consider.  C5's and Mak 127's can be real performers for the size/weight.

 

You have some range, and several options to choose from by way of telescopes...  pick what you like, in a weight/size class that you can handle  (SCT's may need constant collimation if getting bounced around).

 

I think the real trick is what mount you get, there seem to be far less options to truly travel friendly mounts, when size and weight are considerations.  The best mount I know for travel friendly RV use is the Rainbow Astro 135 (with or without encoders).  No counterweight goes a long way.

 

I fit the mount and Redcat into one case, and use a very stable carbon tripod to set it all on.  Viewing EAA style on the iPad around the campfire is great fun waytogo.gif

 

CA9985AC 89AB 4E29 BF3A 12C1D4BC2D16
RST-135 / Redcat 51 / ASIAIR Pro / ASI2600MC


#19 rhetfield

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Posted 29 September 2021 - 06:04 PM

Take a look at the skywatcher flextube dobs. Also look at the ultralights. Some of them fold up tiny. Tracking for a larger scope might be a challenge in the limited space. Do consider towing a vehicle. Anytime a motorhome moves, everything needs to be packed up. Also, it can't make it into the deep, dark wilderness at the end of the two track.

#20 kfiscus

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Posted 29 September 2021 - 06:10 PM

I'd take my 12" collapsible dob.




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