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Home > Reviews > Accessories > Other > SustainableChoice Scope Mat

SustainableChoice Scope Mat
By Dave Bonandrini - 2/28/2011

Tom Reichel of SustainableChoice.net fame, is an interesting astronomer who sells Green products during the daylight hours. Of course, nowadays everything is supposedly "Green" but I'm talking about products like a Composting Toilet - now that's hardcore Green.

His latest product is a thick rubber Scope Mat. How on earth is a piece of petrochemical rubber "green"? Because it is made of RECYCLED rubber! Why on earth do you need one? Read on...
You can't hurt it.


The Scope Mat comes in two sizes; a 48x48x 3/8" (1219x1219x9.5 mm) heavy weight for $45, and a smaller, lighter 36x40x1/4" (914x1016x6.4mm) for $40. There are also 36x12" (914x304mm) strips available to cover electrical cords running to and from the scope (only a true, star party veteran would be inspired to invent something like these strips).

It is heavy, so it easily holds the grass out of the drive gears. Photo: Riechel.


If you have been in the astronomy hobby more than a month or so, you have learned that you don't want to set up on concrete or blacktop for observing. Concrete holds the heat of the day long into the night. What you want is to get onto the cool grass for the best observing.
Of course being on the grass has its own set of drawbacks. Dew, dust and the height of the grass are well know problems.

Some telescopes are made from Particle Board and can swell or flake apart when they get wet from the grass. Painted metal telescopes of steel or aluminum can corrode or peel if constantly exposed to moisture.

Dusty locations can coat the scope with abrasive dust, shortening the life of the bearings. Every time you shuffle your feet, clouds of dust rise up coating the scope and its optics.

And finally, today's premium Dobsonians have a drive system that can get full of grass blades if the glass is too tall. When you see that guy at the star party using a cordless weedwacker to clear his plot, you can be reasonably sure he has a GOTO Dob.

In the past, many observers had tried a bunch of DIY solutions; but most had drawbacks that almost equaled the original problem. They tried a piece of plywood, but found that the whole scope rocked on the uneven ground. They tried a plastic tarp, and found it bunched up and provided a great trip hazard. They tried a piece of Astroturf, only to find it was too light in weight to keep the grass down. They have even tried an old piece of living room carpet, but found that after it got wet, it grew mold and often smelled like the cat had been soiling it (which he probably was while it was still in the living room).

Scope Mat to the Rescue.


Textured on one side. Nice and thick.


I tested the larger 48x48" mat. It is just large enough to hold a 40" Dob, but I suspect most observers will be using it with smaller instruments.

Observations:

1. First off, this thing is good and heavy. At 30 pounds (13 kg) it is going to hold the grass back. Step on it a few times to mash the grass down and throw your scope upon it.

2. It is practically indestructible. Tarps are going to get holes, the foam padding on the back of Astroturf is going to tear, carpet is going to rot.

Short of throwing it into a burning house, you are not going to hurt this mat.

3. Needless to say, the mat will not soak up water or support mold growth. If it ever gets dirty, soap it up and hose it off.

4. The mat is solar powered. We have been having the worst winter on record where I live. I threw the mat on top of the snow, and even without any actual sunshine, it melted the snow beneath itself; all the way down to the grass.

5. Being made of black rubber, it left just the tiniest amount of black on my fingers. Another user who has had the mat longer than me said that this no longer happens once the mat is a few months old. I'll give it a good washing when the weather warms up.

6. Eyepiece caps are always made from black plastic so you lose them in the grass. Using the mat, you have a 50/50 chance that the caps will be dropped on the mat rather than buried in the grass somewhere.

7. The rubber strips to guard the power cables from being kicked off of the battery is a great idea. Even if you run a length of red LED lights along your power cable, people at star parties do the only reasonable thing: trip over the cable and disconnect power from your battery.

8. One side of the Mat has a diamond grip pattern and the other is smooth. Neither side is slippery in the least, so I paid no attention to what side faced up.

9. Custom sizes are available by special order; up to 8x8 feet!

It is solar powered, even when there is no sun for months.


Summation:

The Scope Mat is probably the best under $50 scope accessory available right now. I really could not find any fault with it (how often does that happen in one of my reviews?). It's Green, it's indestructible, it's inexpensive and it's needed by many. You might even find other uses for it around the house.

Highly recommended.

Scope Mats: $40 and $45
www.SustainableChoice.net
Tom Reichel
(248)-844-7148



Clear Dark Skies,

Dave Bonandrini
2/27/2011

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