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DarkSkies Apparel Hooded Observers Vest Review

Posted by John Kramer   03/15/2012 10:03AM

I must admit, I have never seen Dark Skies Apparel Observing Vests for myself, whether at a club event or star-party outing. After receiving one for the purpose of doing a review however, I have to say that I'm now surprised that I haven't seen them before, because they are a unique and quite benefitial astronomy accessory for every backyard stargazer.

So what is a hooded observing vest anyway?

The hooded observing vest is a piece of apparel that you wear when your at the eyepiece of your favorite telescope when your observing the night sky. It is especially made for amateur astronomers, with plenty of pockets to fit a variety of eyepieces and accessories. The hood is also unique, not just a traditional hood, but one that they describe as a "monk" style. Indeed, this over sized hood serves a very special purpose - to block stray light for the observer so that they can tease all of the detail possible from those faint fuzzies we all know and love, thus preserving your night vision So did the Dark Skies Apparel's Hooded Observing Vest deliver on those promises? You bet!

Quality and Craftsmanship

What a quality piece of apparel this is! The vest and materials that are used in its construction are really top notch, I was really surprised by that, I mean I didn't know what to expect, and was impressed that Dark Skies Apparel put the effort into selecting such quality denim. The thick black denim will no doubt hold up for a lifetime, and the sowing job, well whoever puts this material together knows what they are doing for sure, just fantastic. The test apparel that I received had no loose strings, no frays, just in mint condition, I can't imagine anyone not appreciating the quality of this vest. The interior of the vest is made up of a comfortable, softer material then the outside denim, a nice touch highlighting the thoughtfulness of the designers.

Physical Characteristics

The vest incorporates a number of pockets to accommodate a variety of accessories. On the left side of the vest (Figure A), your supplied with two large pockets at the bottom which are perfect sized for your large 2" eyepieces, or in my case, my editions of Pocket Sky Atlas and Objects in the Heavens. These deep pockets will ensure you books and/or eyepieces don't fall out either. Next, mid-way on the vest, are two more pockets that nicely accommodate items such as your smaller eyepieces, iPod, lens pens, and eye caps. I can tell you, I have lost plenty of eye caps in my day, and with this vest, those are a thing of the past. Your last pocket, now about check high, is specifically designed to hold your pens and pencils, and even your green laser pointer.

Figure A - Left Side

The right side of the vest (Figure B)has the same pockets, just slightly different. You still have the same large pockets at the bottom of the vest, but where the left middle pockets were split down the middle, the right as one large pocket, again large enough to hold standard eyepieces, filters, etc. The breast pocket on the right is perfectly sized to hold my digital voice recorder, something I use almost every observing session when I prefer to dictate my observing sessions rather then write them down scope-side.

Figure B - Right Side

Field Use

I observe almost exclusively from my backyard, in rural Murfreesboro TN. My neighborhood is typical - a densely populated, single family community with rather small yards. I do not yet have a observatory, and my setup is simply a blanket for scope or tripod, chair, and sometimes table and PC. I'm lucky I guess that only a few of my immediate neighbors keep their back porch lights on, it could be far worse! For the few observing sessions that I used to evaluate the Hooded Observers Vest, I was greeted by a not so typical couple of nights that my neighbor, who is usually very nice to put out their porch lights when I request, was out of the evening and left the porch light on. This light is about 25 feet or so from where I setup my telescope, so it can easily destroy any possibility of seeing all but a handful of the very brightest of deep-sky objects with any degree of marginal success, so I thought it would be great to test the effectiveness of the hood at blocking stray light. With the vest on and hood up, besides making me look like a Sith Lord at a Star Wars convention, its quite effective at blocking out bright lights, a real world test that I'm sure many of us backyard stargazers would prefer never to have to deal with.

The rest of the evening I enjoyed keeping my digital voice recorder set to voice activation mode and dictating my observing report as I jammed on my iPod; swapped out my 2" 30mm numerous times with my 1 1/4 14mm UWA eyepieces as I studied some winter open clusters; tried my OIII filter on some planetary nebulae; referenced my now truly pocket editions of the Pocket Sky Atlas and Objects in the Heavens. I did all this with no fumbling in the dark for my accessories, no stacking of items on my LS8 mount that inevitably get knocked to the ground, and viewing deep-sky targets with little concern for the lights of my surrounding neighbors.


Dark Skies Apparel recognized a need and filled it - supplying the astronomical community with a unique offering that every amateur astronomer can use while observing from their backyard, in their own personal observatory, or even during an outreach event. These high quality vests come in two sizes, regular and XL, and in two different offerings of hood or non-hooded editions. I'm glad that I requested the XL version, since I'm a large fellow I'm happy to report that the XL version fits perfectly, even with the extra layer of cloths we commonly have on during these cold winter nights. The Hooded Observing vest does exactly what it is intended to do - a unique piece of apparel that keeps a variety of accessories conveniently accessible for amateur astronomers while also blocking stray light from effecting your night vision. The Hooded Observers Vest will undoubtedly add to a more pleasurable experience the next time your out at the eyepiece.

For pricing and additional information on this unique line of apparel, please visit Dark Skies Apparel.