Few things compare to the tranquility of gazing up at the night sky and seeing nothing but twinkling stars. If you’ve ever glanced up while walking home late or taking the trash out, you probably felt an instant sense of calm and wonderment. Just imagine what stargazing in the countryside could do for your soul!
Stargazing is one of the most unique (and in our humble opinion, best) camping activities. These stargazing tips will help you get the most out of the experience, whether you’re a first-timer or you’re a regular night sky observer.
Best Time of Year for Stargazing
Generally speaking, the best times of year for stargazing are fall and winter. Reduced daylight hours create longer, darker nights — ideal conditions for stargazing.
That’s not to say you can’t enjoy stargazing during other times of year. In fact, July is prime time for viewing and photographing the Milky Way.
10 Essential Stargazing Tips for Campers
We’ve put together 10 important stargazing tips for every type of camper. Novices, full-time RVers, families, photographers — everyone!
1. Study moon phases
One of our top stargazing tips is to invest time into studying before really diving in. Understanding moon phases greatly enhances the entire experience. For example, you should avoid stargazing during a full moon and the days immediately after because the sky is much too bright. Conversely, the best time to stargaze is the days leading up to the full moon. To help you plan, check out the Almanac lunar calendar.
2. Get out of town
Cities, towns, and other densely-populated areas have light pollution that makes it difficult to see stars. This is why another important stargazing tip is to travel away from congested areas, to more remote settings with darker skies. Thankfully, you don’t have to go far. State parks and nature preserves are good options, but if you’re short on time, simply drive to the outskirts of town to get away from the city core.
3. Make a note of meteor events
Meteor events are phenomenal to witness and they elevate your prospects for shooting star sightings. That bright flare that you see from the earth is not actually the rock itself but the hot air as the meteor travels through the atmosphere. The American Meteor Society publishes details about current and forthcoming meteor showers.
4. Seek remote camping spots
Once you get a flavor for stargazing, you might want to get further off the beaten track. Staying in offgrid locations such as those listed on Boondockers Welcome is the best way to enhance your stargazing experience. See which hosts offer parking spots in stargazing hot spots and do reach out and ask if they have any stargazing tips.
Remember to read what previous campers have to say about their experience and to leave your own stargazing experience. *great place to mention host locations
5. Consult a sky map
Familiarize yourself with the night sky by paying attention to when the stars near you appear at their brightest. You can undertake further steps by checking astronomy books out of your local library and referring to star charts. Sky Maps is the perfect place to start your education.
6. Check the weather forecast
Cloudy nights lessen your chances of seeing stars. Monitor the weather forecast in the days leading up to your stargazing trip and consider rescheduling if rain or fog is expected.
7. Prep for your stargazing trip
One thing’s for sure, you don’t want lack of preparation to put a damper on your stargazing experience. Be sure to pack appropriate clothing and enough food and essential supplies to ensure you remain warm and as snug as a bug while you take in the night sky.
In this regard, stargazing tips are actually quite comparable to general RV and camping tips. One thing ultra-specific to stargazing: remember to add a red flashlight to your packing list. Standard white flashlights are harsher, often causing light sensitivity and making it more difficult to see the stars.
8. Book your campsite in advance
As fall and winter see an uptick in the number of campers heading out to stargaze, we recommend booking your campsite well in advance, whether it’s a Boondockers Welcome location or somewhere else. This way you can secure the best spot and stargaze right from your RV’s “backyard!”
The Orionids, Southern Taurids, and Northern Taurids meteor showers are all coming up in fall and winter 2022, ideal times to be out camping and looking up at the night sky!
3 Boondockers Welcome Campsites with Epic Stargazing
Effie’s Paradise, Finland MN – In far northern Minnesota, this 30-acre property has four-season recreation and some of the clearest skies in the Lower 48. You may even spot the Northern Lights!
Casa Rodriguez, Live Oak FL – This host location in rural northern Florida has front-row views of spectacular night skies and plenty of space to accommodate big rigs.
9. Attend a star party
If you want to connect with other stargazers as well as astronomy pros, consider attending a “star party” or other local events. Star parties bring together novice, intermediate, and established stargazers to view the night sky together.
This is a fun way to pick up stargazing tips on the ground ahead of your next RV getaway. Plus, it’s a great way to make new friends to share your new hobby with.
Start your search with Go Astronomy and keep an eye peeled for ads in grocery stores and public libraries.
10. Enjoy the experience
Last but not least, savor the experience of stargazing. Even if the skies cloud over unexpectedly, camping is an activity that will stay with you long after you return home.
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