From the mountains to the seaside, we can’t resist stopping to admire breathtaking scenery! Yet there’s one awe-inspiring view right over our heads each night that gets often overlooked: the beautiful night sky. While you can appreciate it from just about anywhere, you’ll get a much better look by planning a stargazing outing. This is a fun, low-cost activity that doesn’t require any special skills—just the ability to sit back and relax! If you’ve never done it before, keep reading to learn what to bring for stargazing and other tips for planning a successful night.
You can pack light for a night of stargazing! Opt for a chair with a built-in table, like the Big Surf with Slide Table, and there’s even less to carry.
First: Why Choose Spring for Stargazing?
Before you start packing, think about when to go stargazing, as different seasons offer different benefits. We love spring stargazing because the temperatures are warming up, and the budding trees allow for less obstructed views.
There are also several active meteor showers in the spring—the Lyrids peaks around April 21, while the Eta Aquariids peaks in early May. For the best chance at glimpsing these, pick a clear night with little or no moonlight. The sky is darkest after midnight, so being patient may pay off in spectacular sights!
Stargazing is not strenuous, but a little advance planning can go a long way toward keeping you comfortable. Number one on our list, of course, is a comfortable chair! Some may prefer to lie on the ground, but this makes it more likely that you’ll get chilly, damp, or very, very sleepy. Instead, our pick is the Freeform Zero Gravity Lounger™, which is comfortable enough for even a long night. The chair reclines completely back so that you can find the optimal position—for stargazing, you should aim for a 30° angle, although this recliner can go even further, until you’re in a “weightless” position.
The Freeform Zero Gravity Lounger™ lets you lean back and gaze at the sky—with no neck strain!
Check the weather before heading out—even in spring, the nights can get cold! You may want to bring an extra sweater as well as a hat, mittens, and hand warmers. With a cozy blanket or sleeping bag, a chilly night can last even longer. On warm nights, however, you’ll probably be more concerned with having an extra layer of bug spray on.
Finally, no stargazing evening would be complete without snacks! Bring your favorite ready-to-eat bites, and load up a cooler with ice packs and drinks. Just remember to also bring a trash bag, because anything you carry in should also be carried out.
Getting a Good View
Luckily, you won’t need to invest in expensive equipment to get started stargazing. Most importantly, you’ll want a printed star map, which can be downloaded for free online. While there are also apps you can download, the white light from your device can impact your night vision—after looking at the screen, your eyes will have to “adjust” to the dark all over again, a process which can take 30-45 minutes! To avoid this, cover your screen with a layer of red cellophane, or just stick with paper maps.
To get a closer look at the sky, bring a pair of binoculars. Having a telescope is not necessary for stargazing—although it helps, of course! Check with your local library, as many have portable telescopes that you can borrow.
Believe it or not, you don’t need any other equipment! However, if you’re wondering what to do while stargazing, consider bringing along some pencils and paper so that you can sketch what you see. Start by drawing a large circle (this is the horizon all the way around you), marking the very top of it as north. Add in any landmarks you can see—mountains, large trees, buildings, etc.—to help orient your sketch. Then, as you look up at the night sky, you can add in dots to show the stars you find.
Relaxed and ready for the show in the FirePit Rocker™.
Safety precautions should be taken anytime you head out into the wilderness, and even an evening of stargazing is no exception. Of course, there’s always safety in numbers—so while stargazing can be a relaxing activity to do on your own, consider making it a family outing or asking some friends to tag along.
Finding the perfect spot to stargaze—as far away from civilization and light pollution as possible—means it will be completely, totally dark. While this is great for viewing constellations, it can make the walk from and back to your car a bit tricky. To spot tripping hazards like rocks and roots, bring along a flashlight (with fresh batteries). You may find it more useful to go hands-free with a headlamp, especially if you’ll be setting up a telescope. For minor bumps and scrapes, there should always be a first aid kit stashed in your car; if you don’t have one, this is a great excuse to put one together. And if you’re in an area where dangerous wildlife may be a concern, bring the same safety supplies you’d take on a day hike or camping trip, such as bear spray and a whistle.
The darkness can also make it easy to get lost, so stick to the trail (if there is one) and don’t wander around. Fully charge your cell phone before heading out, or bring along a satellite phone if you’re worried about losing cell coverage.