Jump to content


Advice for Newbie ??

Recommended Posts

Hi, I was thinking about attending a starparty (I am based in the South). But currently have no camping experinece / gear. And I have no idea of what level of facilities are provided at your typical starparty.

Is there any advice out there ? Maybe a checklist of the kind of stuff needed (not directly astronomy related eg not eyepieces, scope)... plus other logistical / practical considerations?

Presumably the norm is to do your own cooking at the site, with some basic toilet, washing etc facilities provided. What about scope security ? Is it the norm to leave the site (eg for groceries/ day trips) with your gear set up ?



ps. are there any starparties that have accommodation provided ? This would seem more ideal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Star parties are great :) If you can hold out till spring, SGL will be holding one in Herefordshire that is ideal for newcomers.

Some things that will help:

Tent (maybe with an extra room for equipment)

Mains adaptor lead (gives you 240v sockets in the tent)

Comfortable seat

Comfortable bed + Warm sleeping bag

Warm clothes

Waterproof/windproof scope cover

Lamp that can be used with red cellophane, or a red lamp

Glow in the dark tent pegs (really useful)

Cooking equipment - can be as basic or advanced as you like, even a microwave :)

Melamine plates and mugs

The sites have excellent toilet/showering facilities generally. If you need to leave the site, we usually arrange with a neighbour to keep an eye on the kit. Most times the security is very good, and there is always someone on site.

You'll need to have a method in place that allows you to work without white light once it gets dark. This might include not using your car if the headlamps/blinkers light up when you open it up (I've made that mistake :))

There'll be lots more to think of, but that will help get you started :(

At Kelling Heath star party site there are static caravans available to hire, but they are a bit out of the action for my liking. Some attendees stay in them, but come over to the observing field at night.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tim, thanks for that, really useful. I am not a long way from Salisbury as well so that one may be suitable as well as SGL. Kind of restricted to Spring for this year.

Following your points:

Mains adaptor lead - is this to attach to car battery to get 240 v or a campsite power socket ?

Waterproof/windproof scope cover - I guess a toilet tent would be ideal ?

Re red lamp I have a red light head torch. I am in the process of turning my car boot lights to red ones with red acetate sheet, and could do the same to a battery powered lantern....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mains adaptor lead - you need a camping cable with RCD. Like this: 10m Camping RCD Electric Hook up YELLOW Cable Extension on eBay (end time 25-Nov-10 15:52:18 GMT)

In addition a fan heater is an incredibly useful piece of kit to go with it to warm up any bitingly cold air.

Scope cover - I use ultra heavy duty binliners from Tesco. Not ideal but will do until I can find something more appropriate. A toilet tent is great as it would serve to keep the ground a little drier if it rains.

Red lights - For £1 on eBay I bought some red fingernail polish. Works great as a red-light converter. Some red acetate works well placed into torches but it is well worth getting a head torch (that does red and white) for around £6-7 (on eBay again).

Me = newbie to astronomy who went to Salisbury and Kelling this year.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ahh, so you get mains voltage in the tent :-) I guess that opens the possibility of an electric cooker as well.

Does anyone know how to get details / sign up for forthcoming starparties eg at Salisbury and SGL ? Is it simply a matter of waiting till the announcement is made on this web forum ? My cutoff point is late spring.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pretty much a case of waiting until they are announced.

Logistcal stuff you will need;

Warm clothing - its gets COLD out there even in summer when you are standing around.

Small camping gas stove - £20 in Halfords. The site at Salisbury has a restuarant where you can feed - its ok and not too dear.

Tent (Obviously)

Sleeping bags - get decent ones - you wont regret it.

Red light torches.

Some basic camping cookware/cutlery for making tea/coffee and snacks.

Bucket to carry dirty crockery around in (optional depending on your cooking).

Mains lead for connection to camping supply - get one with a decent length of lead. YOu'll only need this if you need power to your kit/tent.

Tent heater (the Bluecat or Blackcat) are very good - keeps the tent toasty.

Thermos flasks - so you can make up your tea/coffee/soup/cocoa in advanve of the evenings observing.

Collapsibe chairs so you have something to sit on.

More warm clothing (you cant have too much of this stuff) make sure you get some super warm and comfortable footwear cos its the feet that suffer when you stood up on cold ground for ages.

Cant think fo anything else right now. Over the last 4 years I have slowly acquired more and more gear to make the whole camping experience a bit better.

People are very friendly at these events and someone will always lend you stuff or share with you mostly. I have done my share of supplying people with cups of tea, fags, sausage rolls, bacon sarnies etc.

Other people will keep an eye on your gear while you push off to the shops but I would always lock the small valuable stuff up in the car or put it out of sight. The big stuff like the scopes and mounts can be left outside witha coper over them. I use heavy duty bin bags with some bungee straps but more letely a large green garden table cover.

Dont be scared of coming along - you'll find everyone is really nice and helpful.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

thanks astrobaby thats a useful inventory of kit. Maybe also look out for some where you stay indoors if they exist. And what if it is cloudy/ rainy throughout ? Maybe ppl dont bother turning up if the forcast is too bad and cut their losses with the pitch fees etc.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don't underestimate army surplus as a way of picking up cheap kit when starting out camping. Ex-army items such as sleeping bags tend to be quite high quality. They also tend to be heavy and bulky, but this won't be an issue, as you'll be carrying everything in a car rather than on your back.

You might find this a good way to get started in camping without lashing out a fortune. If you decide camping is for you, you can upgrade items for lighter, less green, equivalents later, one at a time.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And what if it is cloudy/ rainy throughout ? Maybe ppl dont bother turning up if the forcast is too bad and cut their losses with the pitch fees etc.

Clouds are indeed a tragedy.

The only way to console yourself is to sink a few bevvies with some new friends and swap astro-stories.

It beats staying at home and watching Eastenders any day! :)

We just turn it into a jolly.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

...and for SGL6 we're planning a couple of marquees as places of refuge/for jollying if its cloudy or wet. And we always also have a tea tent too, so there's always somewhere for brewing a warm bevvie. Treat it as a social occasion, with loads of great advice freely on tap, and then any clear skies are just a great bonus!


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes - even if the forecast is duff you can stoill have a good time, get to look at kit, ask peoples opinions on it etc and see it as a social do.

Oh something I forgot from the list - a dewshield for the scope - you will absolutely need this.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

starting to make sense now, the stargazing is an extra that may or may not happen :-)

Some other practicalities:

Observing typically happens right next to your tent or in a separate area ? So you can pop in and out if needed. Or even leave some equipment in the tent....

Power for scope peripherals. I've had advice above on getting a mains RCD cable to hook up to campsite power. Can this be used for the scope ? Im planning a dew busting stratagy for my dob (12v hairdryer and dew heating strips for finderscope). Typically this would go from my car cigarette lighter or a big 12v battery. I already own a unit that converts 240v AC into 12V DC going to a car cigar ligher type socket. Could this be used to power peripherals at a star party instead of a battery ??

My type of scopes (dobs) can be lifted in 1 or 2 bits and set up quite simply. So there is actually no need for a separate scope cover right- I just store the scope in the tent if I get one that is big enough ?? That environment would be far dryer than leaving the scope in the field during the day under bin liners/ a cover/ or even in a toilet tent ? Leaving the scope set up in the field would only be desired for someting too big for a tent or that required lenghthy set up ? I guess storing in a heated tent means cool down time though......

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Jon,

Quick tip. Go camping first before adding the complexity of scopes and astro equipment to the mix. Take a weekend and pick a nice campsite and have at it :)

Also worth setting up your tent in your garden or friends garden first, just to get some confidence in using it if it's your first time.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

I bought our van to the 2010 SGL star party and plan to do so again in 2011. Having camped in 2009 (daughters pup tent !) it was so nice to have a base to thaw out from time to time this year. By the time I crashed out there was a thick layer of frost on everything outside - so again, no regrets on bringing the van !.

And the 2011 event is a little earlier in the year than this years was ..... :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We take the caravan, awning and a few scopes to Kelling once or twice a year for the equinox parties (it's the closest one to us). There's also the SGL star camps mentioned above (highly recommended), Kelder, Dunfires and Galloway, Peak District star camp, plus other ad hoc events organised by members here and astro socs around the country.

Facilities vary from camp to camp. Good showerblocks are usually provided and often you'll find anything from mobile chip shops to full supermarket, restaurants, and bars on site. I'd second the idea of spending a weekend camping first so you know what to expect and look for in a site :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would also advise trying out the tent before venturing off, as when we first bought our tent, we went to a local site and tried it out.

Good job we did, it chucked it down during the night, and we found out the tent had no proofing, we got soaked. The suppliers could not have been more apologetic, and received a replacement and free goodies as soon as, but if we had the full kit in the tent it would have been a disaster.

I would also suggest a scope cover, such as this one.

Cases, Bags and Covers for Telescopes and Other Optics

I have one for my Dob, and it stays outside the tent, leaving more room for you, and it's ready to go when the clouds part.

We had a great time at SGL5, our first one, and plan on two next year.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Try Kelling for your first star party. The facilities are exceptional. Bar, pub, supermarket all on site. Therefore if you miss things (you will!) they are easy to procure.

Try a night at your local campsite to get an idea of what it's like first. With everything, it gets easier with practice.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We've been to both the SGL star parties and Salisbury star party. Both campsites have their own websites which you can check out to assess the facilities and locations. I should think it's the same for the other star party locations. They are, by definition, large enough to host a rally field full of campers, so tend to have good facilities.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Dana,

We met at Salisbury star party earlier this year. I'm wondering how you rate the SGL star party compared with the Salisbury star party for facilities?

Have spoken to Darren who said that next year it's possible the Salisbury party will be held in the adjacent field, which I think had some pretty good views to the west (I took a few pictures if anyone is interested).


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue. By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.