July 23, 2017

Review: The Hooded Observing Vest from Dark Sky Apparel.

The Hooded Observing Vest in Action!

Looking for the perfect gift for that astronomy-obsessed someone in your life this Xmas? (OK… we don’t call ourselves obsessed, but you know…)

No doubt you’ve heard that same someone complain about the neighbor’s million candle-watt power floodlights, or accompanied them in a 100 mile quest for truly dark skies… if only there was a way to bring the dark skies to you…

Well thanks to the folks at Dark Skies Apparel, there is. The hooded observing vest gives you access to your own personal dark sky site, will the flip of a hood. Monk-like in appearance, this also gives you the uber-cool appearance of a Jedi Knight (anybody ever thought as using this to complete their Dragon-Con costume?) The Observing Hood also comes with copious pocket space, handy in the field or at public star parties, especially when you want to keep potentially law-suit inducing laser pointers out of curious child (and often adult!) hands. The folks at Dark Sky Apparel definitely came up with a winner on this one… at 6’1” and 190lbs, I’m generally an extra-large kind of guy, but found the “large” was more than big enough for my frame. In fact, sizing is the most frequent question they get at Dark Sky Apparel… personal experience suggests you’re pretty safe in going down a size from your usual fitting. The outfit “breathed” well in the sultry Florida humidity, and would easily fit over several layers of winter clothing.

I wore it in a variety of situations to good effect; it also elicited positive feedback at the local monthly Starkey Park public stargazing outings as well as the 2011 Necronomicon, but again, perhaps I was thought to be just another Jedi Knight…

How does it work at the eyepiece? Well, it came in handy tracking both Comet Garradd and asteroid 2005 YU55 in broad moonlight. I found it was often useful to use my hands to “pinch-up” the hood around my face to make the darkness complete… this may make you look a little bit like Kenny from South Park, but it’s an effective technique.  Of course, this then blinds you to controlling the scope, but we’re pretty used to “operating in the dark…” in this case, knowing your equipment is crucial.

Dark Skies apparel also make “hoodless” versions of the vest for those only interested in its storage utility. Another interesting product in their line is the solar-viewing vest, a white and thus cooler alternative for use at a solar scope such as the hydrogen-alpha PST. Trust me, this could be a valuable asset; not only are solar images comparatively dim in the broad daylight, but we’ve nearly courted heat-stroke while observing the transit of Mercury in 2006! Perhaps in this situation, the vest would be indispensible for touting a cool metal water bottle or two…

The vest is of sturdy construction, and laundering it is a relatively straight-forward affair…  the material is 100% brushed cotton with a sturdy 10oz denim exterior and a cotton-poly blend lining. The material is not pre-shrunk, and thus will need to be washed in cold water only and then hung up to dry.

Ample storage space for all of your astro-goodies!

In short, we would highly recommend the Dark Sky observing vest for the perfect astronomical gift this Black Friday, for that special someone who has it all, or as a deserved gift to yourself in an effort to battle the onslaught that is light pollution!

Next Week: December means yearly roundups and a look ahead as we kick off the month with a look at the astronomical calendars on tap for 2012!

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