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The Best Travel Telescopes Of 2018 (Reviews & Guide) - Armchair Empire

The Best Travel Telescopes Of 2018 (Reviews & Guide)

For the aspiring astronomers and outdoor lovers, having a telescope is basically a must. There are several types of stationary, expensive telescopes you can use to help navigate the stars from your home, but what about stargazing while travelling? Fortunately, there are portable telescopes that offer high quality magnification at a more compact size. Lets take a look at the best portable telescopes available today.

Our Pick: The Celestron 21035 70mm Travel Scope

7 Best Travel Telescopes Of 2017

Celestron 21035 70mm Travel Scope

Pros

  • Portable – comes with a backpack and weighs only 3 lbs
  • Price – one of the best value telescopes around
  • Rugged – won’t fall apart during travel

Cons

  • Tripod is a bit light – works best on even surfaces
  • Plastic parts – the telescope itself is rugged, but the finder and focuser are made of plastic
  • May not cut it for pro stargazers

BARSKA Starwatcher 400x70mm Refractor Telescope

Pros

  • Tripod has fine motor controls for horizontal and vertical movement
  • Images are crystal clear, both near and far
  • Fantastic starter telescope

Cons

  • Tripod is a bit small overall
  • Plastic construction
  • Stock eyepieces may be underpowered for advanced users

Orion 10013 GoScope 80mm TableTop Refractor Telescope

Pros

  • 80mm aperture = fantastic image quality
  • Price point is insanely affordable for an Orion telecope
  • Included eyepieces provide more than enough viewing power

Cons

  • No tripod included
  • Not great in the field without a tripod
  • Advanced users may dislike the alt-azimuth mount

Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker Telescope

Pros

  • 127mm aperture for awesome images
  • Assembly is super easy
  • Perfect blend of size, power, and portability

Cons

  • Newtonian reflector telescopes require collimation (aligning) – may be hard for beginners
  • Intermediate users may want to upgrade the eyepieces down the road
  • Aluminum tripod may be too light for some

Celestron 52306 Regal M2 100ED Spotting Scope

Pros

  • Durable – magnesium alloy body
  • 20mm eye relief + adjustable rubber eye cup
  • Angled view is pretty cool

Cons

  • Meant more as a spotting scope – not ideal for celestial viewing
  • Hefty price tag
  • Tripod not included

Orion 10149 StarBlast 62mm Compact Travel Refractor Telescope

Pros

  • All-metal build – very high quality telescope
  • Extremely compact with a 30cm / 12 inch tube
  • Incredibly easy to set up and use

Cons

  • 25 foot close focus may put some off
  • Not a great beginner scope

Celestron NexStar 4SE Telescope

Pros

  • 102mm aperture for great viewing
  • Catadioptric telescope – best of both refractor and reflector models.
  • 1,325 mm focal length

Cons

  • No fine motor controls – only adjustable via the remote
  • Lack of included accessories
  • Awkward price range in between beginner and intermediate/advanced

Portable Telescope Buying Guide

Before heading out to buy your own portable telescope it’s best to first arm yourself with some knowledge. There are several types of telescopes you can get and each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Understanding each one can help you better decide what to get. So, let’s first go through the various types of telescopes, shall we?

Types of travel telescopes

Refractor Telescope

This is the standard and most common type and what comes to mind for most people when they think about telescopes. As the name suggests, refractors gather ambient light and from one end and focus it all into the eyepiece at the other side. The refractor telescopes were almost phased out at one point but with the introduction of the man-made crystal known as fluorite, refractor telescopes have once again grown in popularity. This type of telescope can offer the highest quality images. The downside here is that it is susceptible to chromatic aberration except for the best and most expensive ones in the market.

Newtonian Reflector Telescope

You can probably tell that it is named after a well-known scientist. Actually, this type of telescope was invented by Sir Isaac Newton, hence the name. This one is probably the most affordable type of telescope and uses a parabolic mirror to focus light from the front end to the eyepiece at the back. It has no issues with chromatic aberration and is one of the more portable type of telescope. However, it does need to be calibrated constantly so I can’t say it’s the most user-friendly one available.

Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope

Commonly referred to as SCTs, this type of telescope is the most compact type you can get. It utilizes both mirrors at both end of the telescope in order to fold the optical path which in turn gives it a more compact and portable design. This is probably the most popular type today and comes with a variety of after-market accessories. This type of telescope is at the mid-range price. The downside here is that image quality may not be as good as the other two types of telescopes.

Essential Tips when Buying a Travel Telescope

Now that we got the types of telescopes covered, it’s now time to learn what to look for in terms of buying the right telescope. Below is a list of essential factors you need to remember when buying your telescope.

1. The Aperture of the Telescope is Important

The aperture describes the telescope’s optical component diameter. The level of light your telescope can capture all boils down to the size of the aperture. This means that the aperture directly affects the level of clarity your telescope can deliver. Now, if you are going to be bringing your telescope on a cross country trip then you have to take its size into account. While the bigger the aperture means the better the imaging, this also results in a larger telescope.

If you plan on using this around your home, like the backyard or roof, then by all means the bigger the better. But for those who will be bringing it outdoors it is important to find the best balance between aperture and size of the telescope. You can choose a 6” and above telescope as it offers solid clarity while still being compact.

2. Magnification is NOT the Deciding Factor

You can be forgiven for thinking that magnification is the most important factor in a telescope’s design. While it is vital, deciding on whether to buy a telescope should not be based around its magnification capabilities. The reason for this is that magnification in a telescope is based on the eyepiece equipped. Basically, you can easily change the level of magnification by swapping a different, more powerful eyepiece. Also, if the aperture of the telescope is not that large then having high magnification will only result in a blurred image.

3. Get a Good Mount

The mount is an often-ignored aspect of the telescope but it is just as important to the overall experience. There are basically two types of mount you can choose: equatorial and altazimuth mount.

Equatorial Mount – This mount is designed to follow the rotation of the sky. While expensive, this type of mouth is extremely handy when you’re navigating the stars as it makes it easier to follow the map.

Altazimuth Mount – This one is pretty much your standard mount. It can move up, down, left and right. It does not automatically track the sky so you need to adjust your telescope regularly if you are using this mount. It’s far more affordable and compact.

Final Thoughts

Now, deciding on what telescope to buy rests entirely on you. This guide will help point you towards the right direction. Take everything into account before committing to a purchase as telescopes are rather expensive, especially the high-quality ones. Check your budget and think about how often you will be using this equipment. Will you be mostly bringing it outdoors on camping trips? Then get a portable telescope that has a well-balanced aperture and magnification.

Prepare to spend up to $800 for a starter travel telescope depending on your needs and level of experience. You will find one that delivers solid quality imagery with a user-friendly design within this price range. Don’t be afraid to spend a little extra as it’s better to invest in an expensive, high quality and durable telescope rather than a cheap one with a short lifespan.