Personal Equipment

Remember that the most important piece of observing equipment you own is your own eyes. Keeping yourself comfortable in the field is critically important. If you are uncomfortable while you are observing then you will not be fully focused on what it is you are doing. For winter operations it is critical to keep warm without being too badly bogged down by heavy clothing and the like. Light down jackets keep one toasty warm without being bulky. If you must wear gloves (and sometimes you must) find gloves that are tight fitting and allow you a good feel while you are manipulating tiny eyepieces or other components. It would be a tragedy to drop that brand-new Nagler eyepiece and shatter it before it ever got into your telescope's drawtube because your were wearing thick bulky gloves. But at least your hands are warm! Remember that more than 90% of your body's heat is radiated away through your head. Keep it covered. A wool ski cap is excellent protection and keeps you comfortable. Down at the other end, keep those feet warm too. My grandmother once said that if your feet are cold, then everything is cold no matter what. Since your feet don't handle anything, use the heaviest sock you can possibly fit into your shoe and keep those tootsies nice and toasty. Personal heat packs are also an excellent idea. A little Hot Pocket can keep your hands and fingers comfortable for several hours not to mention prevent frostbite on the coldest nights.

Warm nights of course require light clothing such as shorts and t-shirts. Remember that there is one hazard associated with observing at night that is not present during the day... insects! The flying kind in particular can make life absolutely miserable for everyone and they seem to have more of an affinity for some people than for others. Personally once temperatures get above room temperature, I start sweating something awful so I usually carry a sweat towel. Mosquito repellant is an absolute must for summertime work. And don't forget a jacket. On a crystal clear night, if it is 80 degrees Fahrenheit at sundown, the temperature might be in the upper 50s by the onset of morning twilight if you've been out all night.

Don't forget food either. Carry plenty of liquids on a warm night to keep properly hydrated. Snacks are also good. A deli sandwich or something that can be kept cool will prevent hunger pangs from ruining an observing session. Stop at a Subway on the way out and grab something that will keep in the car for several hours in case you need it. Light juices are also good for refreshment and a bit of a sugar boost. Avoid sodas or other beverages with caffeine. Caffeine is a diuretic that will cause frequent trips to the bathroom, a major inconvenience when there is no bathroom available. Beer will do much the same in addition to the damaging effects of alcohol on your cognitive abilities and the physical functioning of your eyes (remember histotoxic hypoxia).

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