Packing for LCO

So you’ve bought your flights, done your “Terra Dotta” (for UA affiliates) and been authorized to travel, and filled in the LCO travel arrangements form. Now, you need to pack.

Here is the optimal packing list obtained by the grad student descent optimization algorithm.

Dress for telescope weather:

Las Campanas Observatory is dry and moderately high altitude, and can be pretty windy. We generally observe at the transition seasons (spring and fall) so the appropriate clothes are pretty similar whether it’s an A or B run: Long pants, closed-toe shoes, layers, warm jacket and hats (something with a bill or brim to keep sun off your face for daytime, something warm for nighttime).

No need for either parkas or swimsuits.

It is straightforward to do laundry at LCO, but you get a free checked bag on every intercontinental flight I’ve heard of, so no need to pack light.

To satisfy PIs:

  • flashlight, not phonelight. fancy astro kids make them red.
  • steel-toe (or safety-toe) boots if you’re putting things on telescopes or taking them off again
  • external hard drive
  • Ethernet adapter (to connect to the telescope LAN and to avoid certain PI ridicule)
  • gloves (very important)

Travel bag:

  • any medications you take — you may need a “vacation override” to fill the prescription early if you’d run out while you’re traveling, so make sure your pharmacy has a week’s notice
  • at least one spare change of clothes in your carry-on (if you’re checking a bag, and they lose that bag, you’re going to want these)
  • external battery / power banks (SCL does not have a lot of wall sockets)
  • outlet adapters (this is only necessary at the airports or if you travel outside the observatory, but the dorms have some non-American sockets too)
  • phone numbers for contacts at the observatory, who can help you in case of unexpected travel snafus (hint: look at the “Travel Arrangements Form” email)
  • credit card to pay for your stay (can’t use the departmental purchase card for it)

For quality of life:

  • travel buddy (these make the long travel days much, much better)
  • sunscreen & sunglasses
  • shampoo, conditioner, the body wash of your choosing (you will only get bar soap provided)
  • comfortable shoes for walking up and down mountains
  • aquaphor ointment (LCO is “dryer than Tucson” and that’s a threat)
  • melatonin because you will be sleeping weird
  • pain meds of choice
  • glasses if you normally wear contacts (again, it’s dry)
  • thermos / coffee mug
  • ear plugs and/or noise canceling headphones (dorms have thin walls)
  • feminine hygiene products (to be safe or to be a pal for one in need)
  • dental floss (surprisingly hard to get once you’re in Chile, and there are lots of stringy items at dinners)
  • water bottle (did we mention it is dry there?)

Bonus round:

  • salty / spicy snacks (many LCO offerings are just sweet)
  • hot sauce of choice
  • tripod for astrophotography
  • recent phones can use eSIM to get temporary data for not very many dollars (for example: TruPhone) if you need to Slack from the La Serena airport (which has no WiFi)
  • a quick skim of the latest Day 0 blog post for any new surprises

Revision History:

2023-02-08: Joseph Long — Converted to page, incorporated feedback
2023-01-30: Eden McEwen — Initial draft