Total Solar Eclipse Survival Kit
(Image courtesy of NASA)
On August 21, a total eclipse will occur in North America for the first time in 38 years. Naturally, this has created a great deal of excitement and anticipation around the event, with tens of thousands of people already staking out campsites, booking hotel rooms, and finalizing travel plans to ensure that they are in an optimal place to enjoy the show.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of equipment that you should take with you when heading out into the field. Consider this your Eclipse Survival Kit, with all of the gear you’ll need to enjoy this rare celestial event in all of its glory.
If your plans involve skipping work and heading out somewhere to watch the eclipse, here’s what you’ll want to have with you for a full, fun day in the outdoors.
REI Co-op Camp X Chair
While the actual totality for the eclipse will last just 2-3 minutes, it will take a couple of hours for the moon to pass completely in front of the sun. That means you’ll want a comfortable chair to sit in throughout the experience. The REI Co-op Camp X chair is comfortable, compact, and easy to carry. It also comes with built-in cup holders and a pocket to hold your smartphone. ($39.50)
Yeti Hopper Two 20 Cooler
Chances are you'll be spending a lot of time outdoors before, during, and after the eclipse. That means you'll want to have plenty of food and drinks with you for the duration of the day and you'll need a good cooler to keep everything fresh and cold. The Yeti Hopper Two 20 is leakproof, durable enough to survive in harsh environments, and has room to carry up to 18 cans while still having enough space for ice too. ($299.99)
MyCharge AdventureUltra Portable Power Bank
August 21 is going to be a long day and its hard to keep all of your mobile devices charged when your outdoors for hours at a time, particularly when your snapping photos, listening to music, and checking in on social media. But, you can keep your smartphone, tablet, and other gadgets fully functional with the AdventureUltra from MyCharge. This rugged USB battery pack features a 13,400-mAh battery, two USB-A ports, a USB-C port, and a standard AC power outlet that is powerful enough to run a small LCD TV or other household applainces.. ($129.99)
Solar Eclipse Glasses
In order to safely watch the solar eclipse you'll need a special pair of glasses designed to prevent the sun's rays from burning your retina. Normal sunglasses won't offer the protection you need, but a pair of welding goggles will do the trick. If you don't happen to be a welder however you can still snag some glasses that will work for you at a relatively inexpensive price. Amazon sells packs of 10 for as low as $35 for example.
According to some reports, hotel rooms in the path of totality for the eclipse are about 95% booked in many areas, which means that if you're traveling to watch the eclipse, there is a good chance you'll be camping out for a day or two before and after the event. If so, here are a few things you'll want to bring along to make the outing a bit more enjoyable.
Slumberjack Daybreak 3 Tent
This three-season, three-person tent is easy to set up, offers plenty of room, and is relatively lightweight as well. It ships with a rain fly for protection from the elements, but leave it off for an unfettered view of the sky overhead. After all, the eclipse isn't the only thing worth watching and this tent is perfect for stargazing too. ($119.95)
Big Agnes Pin Ears SL 20 Sleeping Bag
Lightweight, warm, and comfortable, the Big Agnes Pin Ears is a zipperless sleeping bag designed for any camping excursion. Packed with 650-fill, hydrophobic DownTek down, the bag includes a vaulted footbox and an integrated sleeve to accommodate a sleeping pad. It also packs down incredibly small, making it easy to carry with you into the field. ($269.95)
Klymit Static V2 Sleeping Pad
A good sleeping pad is essential for a proper night’s sleep on any camp outing, and Klymit’s Static V2 will help you achieve just that. The pad features a body-mapped design that provides excellent comfort and cushioning, making it a must have for eclipse campers who might spend a night or two sleeping on the ground. ($64.95)
Goal Zero Yeti 400 Portable Power Station
Longer camp outings require more power to keep our electronic devices running. Goal Zero’s Yeti 400 is a great compromise between size and features, offering plenty of juice in a compact package. Not only will the Yeti 400 keep mobile devices functioning, but it can also power items like laptops, small television sets, and refrigerators too. Pair it with a Boulder 30 solar panel ($112.50) to keep it charged indefinitely, but remember, it won't charge much during the eclipse itself. ($459.99)
Eureka Spire LX Camp Stove
Just because you’re camping out for a few days doesn’t mean you have to settle for bland food options. With Eureka’s Spire LX camp stove you can cook full meals for your entire crew with ease. This two-burner stove provides plenty of room for larger pots and pans, has a windscreen to help increase efficiency, and is capable of putting out as much as 10,000 BTU’s of power. ($149.95)
BioLite BaseLantern XL
Not only will the BioLite BaseLantern XL provide up to 500 lumens of light, it can also pair with your smartphone for a host of other features. For instance, the lamp can auto-detect when you approach the campsite and automatically turn itself on. A special app allows for remote on/off, brightness selection, the setting of timers, and even changing the color of the light itself. The 12,000-mAh battery offers up to 78 hours of burn time and can be used to recharge small devices or power BioLite’s SiteLights ($29.95) too. ($129.95)
If you plan on taking photos of the eclipse as it unfolds, you’ll want to have the proper camera gear with you too. Here’s what we recommend you bring along.
Most cameras are capable of capturing images of the total eclipse, although some are better equipped than others. For instance, smartphones and point and shoot models aren’t likely to do the image justice, so pack a mirrorless camera or DSLR instead. If you’re seriously considering taking photos of the eclipse, chances are you already have one of these types of cameras at your disposal. Before you begin shooting however, be sure to turn off the flash and take some practice shots of the sun ahead of time to get a feel for your subject.
Remember, the powerful rays from the sun can still damage your eye, even when looking through a standard viewfinder. Stay focused on the LCD screen instead and continue to wear your eclipse glasses throughout, as you're likely to be pointing the camera upwards anyway. Similarly, the sun can also damage the optics of a camera too, so be sure you have the proper filter (see below) in place before you start taking photos. The filter can be removed for optimal effect during the totality.
Which lens you use to shoot the eclipse depends on the type of image you want. But, if you're looking for a shot of the sun that fills most of the photo you'll want to use a lens with at least a 300mm focal length. Ideally it would be between 500mm and 1000mm to get the best possible shot. Since it will be nearly pitch dark during the totality, you'll also want to adjust the exposure on your camera for night photography. Set your ISO to 200 or 400 and possibly even under expose by -1 or -1.5 to avoid washing out the image.
Throughout the eclipse, the light from the sun can overwhelm most cameras and cause permanent damage to the optical sensors, while possibly damaging the retina of the human eye. But, a solar filter (such as the DayStar 50mm universal filter), can help photographers safely capture images of the eclipse, creating top-notch photos of this amazing experience. Don’t attempt to take photos of the eclipse without this type of filter in place throughout the build up to totality. But, as mentioned above, it can be removed during totality to capture the best possible images. Just don't forget to put it back in place during the waning hours of eclipse. ($22.95)
Manfrotto Compact Advanced Aluminum Tripod
A tripod is an absolute must for snapping photos of the eclipse as it unfolds, not only because it will hold your camera steady, but it will allow you to enjoy the event as well. Remember, capturing photos by hand in low light conditions can be tough because of the longer exposures. A tripod eliminates that issue, delivering crisp, clear photos with ease. Manfrooto’s Compact Advanced aluminum model folds down incredibly small, is versatile and easy to set up, and is durable enough for use in the outdoors. ($99.95)
Remote Shutter Release
A remote shutter release allows you to snap photos without actually touching your camera. Using one of these devices helps to prevent camera shake, which in turn leads to blurred images, particularly in lowlight conditions like those found during the eclipse. Vello makes a number of remotes that can be used with a variety of different cameras. Chances are, they have one that works with your DSLR and mirrorless model too. (prices vary)
Going to a remote place to catch the eclipse? Leave the laptop behind and take the Gnarbox instead. This portable photo and video editing system includes 128 GB of storage for backing up images, built-in slots to read memory cards, and wireless connectivity to smartphones and tablets. It’s like having a whole photo studio right in the palm of your hand. ($299)
In addition to packing the proper gear for your eclipse excursion, you’ll also want to get your smartphone properly prepared for the adventure to. Add these apps prior to setting out from home, as they’ll likely prove handy later.
Google Maps/Apple Maps
Most of us probably already have some type of mapping app already installed on our phones, but if not you’ll want to add one before setting out on August 21. Many cities, towns, and even national parks are expecting heavy traffic that day, and these apps can help you see where the snarls are located and possibly even assist you in navigating around them. Apple Maps is iOS only of course, but Google Maps is available for both iPhone and Android. There is even a custom map available that overlays the path of the eclipse with traffic patterns as well. This will come in very handy when searching for alternate routes to your viewing spot.
It would be tragic if you set out to watch the eclipse unfold on August 21 only to discover that the sky will be clouded over at your intended camping spot. Again, most smartphones come with a weather app pre-installed, and you’ll want to consult it throughout the day to ensure that you’ll have a clear sky to witness the proceedings. Weather Underground (iOS/Android) offers detailed forecasts, live radar, satellite images, and alerts that can keep you up to date on potential issues. Also, keep in mind that just because it is cloudy in one area, that doesn't mean you can't drive to another location nearby where the skies might be clear.
Want to put all of the important info you should know about the eclipse right in the palm of your hand? Download the free Eclipse Safari app (iOS/Android) and you’ll get a countdown timer, shadow tracker, an interactive map showing the progress of the eclipse across the globe, and a live stream of the event as it happens.
Good luck and have fun!