Wednesday, May 01, 2013

The Bucket Solution

One of the biggest challenges facing me whenever I'm doing a little stargazing is, well, my big tuckus. Hours at the telescope get tedious, and for us heavy, older guys, the legs start to ache. Add to that the fact that a few of my favorite telescopes sit low, and you can see how this can be a bother.
The solution is obvious; you need a seat. There are all sorts of folding chairs, and carrying them in your vehicle and unloading them where you plan to set up is easy enough. But what if you are not going to be viewing near where you park? Easy, right? Folding chairs or stools. Now, you've just added another item to carry. 
Let's consider. You are already carrying your telescope, its mount, eyepieces, other assorted odds and ends like repellent, gadgets (possibly a smart phone, tablet or e-reader), laser pointer. Now, we add in a portable seat of some sort. This is becoming a lot to lug. 
There are solutions, such as dollies and other devices with wheels. These aren't perfect either. If the soil is soft, it becomes even more tedious trying to move all of this stuff. 
What we need to do is reduce the number of items to a bare minimum and reduce the number of trips, preferably to one.
This solution might not apply to larger instruments, but for smaller and so called "backpack" telescopes it should suffice. 
The answer is the humble bucket. Five gallon sized.
My initial tests haven't been with one of those readily available buckets but with recycled cat litter buckets. 

The larger ones have a similar capacity to the five gallon bucket that anyone can pick up at the local hardware store. The bucket serves the dual purpose of being a container for lugging most of your stuff to the field and providing you a handy place to sit. You can use the bucket inverted to do just that, or you can buy special "lids" that turn a five gallon bucket into a stool. Or you can make your own; this is DIY astronomy at its finest!

My little experiment with the recycled cat litter buckets proved how easy a concept this is. For most back packer type instruments, two buckets should be the maximum, with one inverted bucket serving as the platform upon which the telescope could sit (they generally have a 10"/25cm diameter). The one that will serve as a stand can carry the cargo bucket, as they are normally designed to fit inside one another. For larger instruments, a single bucket would simply serve the humble task of reducing the number of trips needed to set up. 
Regardless, the bucket solution seems to me to be a great one, especially given my fondness for smaller telescopes. Give it a try.
As for me, just waiting for the next clear night. Anytime now. 

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