Stargazing has grown in popularity over the past couple of years due to its accessibility; the outdoor passtime can be done wherever there’s an absence of city light and is one of the easiest activities to do while socially distanced. All you really need is some patience and perhaps the right guidebook or telescope if you really want to get to know the night sky.
“To begin stargazing the most essential piece of equipment are your eyes,” shares Shawn Richards, expedition coordinator at Ultimate Kilimanjaro. “Your eyes begin to adjust to the dark after 15 minutes but are not fully adjusted to embrace the sky’s beauty in its entirety until 40 minutes. During this time it’s important not to disturb your vision, so avoid looking at any bright phone screens or using a torch to find your marshmallows.”
As a beginner there’s no need for expensive equipment — especially once your eyes have correctly adjusted as much of the sky can be appreciated with the naked eye. However, if you want to ensure you’re getting the most out of your stargazing expedition, there are a handful of items out there that will help take your experience to the next level.
Below, we spoke to outdoor travel experts to get their insights on the gear that’ll take you the farthest while gazing into the depths of the night sky. Read on if you want to ensure you get the most out of your next date with the stars.
Tech and gear
“Stargazing is a meditative activity that can help us keep paradoxically grounded,” says Michelle Halpern, founding editor and novice stargazer at “Live Like It’s the Weekend.” “When starting this awe-inspiring hobby, learning the cosmic landmarks with the unaided eye can be the perfect stepping-stone — but having some extra gear on hand will help make the experience much more fruitful.
Gosky 10x42 Roof Prism Binoculars ($129.98; amazon.ca)
If you would like to upgrade your stargazing experience and get the most out of the starry night, a simple pair of binoculars with 10x magnification will let you view moon craters and even visible comets, says Richards. The Gosky 10x42 Roof Prism Binoculars are going to be an excellent budget-friendly option — they’re compact enough to store in your backpack or pocket and very intuitive to use. The binoculars also come equipped with a tripod interface so you can set them up on a tripod if you’re worried about having stability issues.
Celestron 21049 PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope ($220; amazon.ca)
“With a small telescope with at least 25 magnification you can even admire the rings of Saturn, so there’s no need to invest in expensive equipment that won’t be used more than a couple of times a year,” explains Richards. The Celestron 21049 PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope is a great option for beginners, thanks to its slow motion controls for smooth tracking, super-easy setup and built-in tripod that can be packed up and put away if you don’t have the space or desire to leave your telescope on display in your home.
Prime-Lite 2-Pack LED Headlamp Flashlight With Batteries ($20.99; amazon.ca)
No, you don’t necessarily need headlamps to better see the night sky, but if you’re heading out to a spot with no light pollution you’re going to want to prepare for the darkness. An LED headlamp is going to work much more efficiently than your smartphone flashlight should you need a light to walk back to the car or to be able to see wildlife that might be nearby.
Brteyes Long Range Pointer ($24.89; amazon.ca)
If you’re thinking about making stargazing your next family activity, you’ll want to come equipped with a long-range laser pointer, which will allow for anyone in the group to point out constellations and other night sky objects with ease and precision.
Cosmoing High Power Red LED Flashlight ($27.49; amazon.ca)
During your stargazing experience, you’ll likely need a source of light at one point or another — whether it’s to find your snacks and water or to move your telescope to another location — but using a bright white light will make it much harder to readjust your eyes to the darkness. A red LED flashlight, on the other hand, will offer enough light to get you by without disrupting your vision.
Books and guides
If you’d prefer to get acquainted with the night sky without the use of a telescope or binoculars right away, opting for a book or a guide to astronomy is going to be your best bet for a budget-friendly approach to successful stargazing.
‘The Stars: A New Way to See Them’ by Hans Augustus Rey ($21.77; amazon.ca)
“If you want to learn to stargaze, you must get the book ‘The Stars’ by Hans Augustus Rey (of Curious George fame),” explains Steve Silberberg, founder of Fatpacking.com. “While most star books represent constellations the same way, Rey instead makes it easy to look at the sky and see exactly what each constellation really looks like.”
According to Silberberg, Rey treats each constellation this way, so that you can actually visualize every grouping and after only a few nights commit them to memory and dispense with the star charts. (Note: You’ll have to repeat this for other parts of the sky later in the year.)
Star Gazing Log Book ($8.69; amazon.ca)
Looking for an easy way to track all the different constellations and night sky objects you’ve come across since starting your stargazing hobby? Consider picking up the Star Gazing Log Book. This compact journal includes prompts for everything you’d want to record in terms of astronomical observations, including the date, time, location, GPS coordinates and more key details. There’s even room to sketch out what you saw for future reference.
Astronomy Stargazing Pamphlet ($8.71; amazon.ca)
The Astronomy Stargazing Pamphlet will become your best resource if you’re hoping to pack light. This double-sided reference chart details all the reference points, constellations and even binocular and telescope functionality tips you could possibly need while stargazing in the wilderness (or in your own backyard!).
‘Collins Stargazing: Beginners Guide to Astronomy’ ($10.58; amazon.ca)
Author and astronomy expert Tom Kerss takes readers through everything they could possibly need to know about amateur stargazing — but also why studying the night sky is an important part of scientific discovery and research. The comprehensive guide also notes every important date and time to watch out for (think supermoons and other phenomena) throughout the calendar year.
“Finding the perfect location and timing for your new hobby is essential,” Halpern says. “Alongside investing in binoculars and a telescope, you might want to consider finding a warm sweater, some gloves and a blanket for spending cooler nights gazing at the sky.”
Arctix Women’s River Rain Jacket (starting at $45.66; amazon.ca)
No matter the climate or season you’re working with, you’ll want to pack a jacket or sweater in case of inclement weather. The Arctix Women’s River Rain Jacket is not only extremely warm but also totally waterproof, which will come as a saving grace if you’re stuck in the middle of a dark field as a rainstorm starts to roll in.
Nike Women’s Thermal Tech Running Gloves ($34.76; amazon.ca)
You’d be surprised by how quickly the temperature can drop as the night falls, but being well equipped will make the nighttime temperatures more manageable. The Nike Women’s Thermal Tech Running Gloves will keep your fingertips toasty, but the conductive thumb and fingertips and lightweight therma fit fabric will allow you to continue using your tech and devices with ease and precision.
Leisure Co Large Outdoor Blanket ($34.99; amazon.ca)
Packing an outdoor blanket might seem like a hassle, but it’s well worth it. Whether you throw it over the grass and stare up at the stars from the ground or wrap it around your shoulders on a particularly chilly evening, you’ll always be grateful for a cozy extra layer. The Leisure Co Large Outdoor Blanket is particularly great for bringing on your stargazing expedition, thanks to its compact waterproof bag with shoulder strap and handle.
Natrapel 6-Hour Mosquito, Tick and Insect Repellent Pump Spray ($6.49; amazon.ca)
Whether you’re heading out into your backyard or you’re venturing into the wilderness in search of minimal light pollution, you’ll want to ensure you’ve packed a reliable bug spray — especially if you live in an area that’s known for ticks. The Natrapel 6-Hour Insect Repellent will do the trick and all without nasties like DEET and other harsh chemicals.