Key Reel Red Light Keeper

Rod Nabholz


This article first appeared as a Tip of the Month in the March 2008 issue of Astronomy Technology Today - a fantastic new magazine for those interested in the latest in astronomy hardware and technology. Check them out!


A Reel is the Key to Tracking your Light


I don't think there is any more valuable space during a night out with my scope than that found in my pockets. It seems that there are endless items competing for space in jacket, shirt and pants pockets. Add in a little inevitable excitement that naturally occurs during observing, and it seems that all of those items that find their way into a pocket have a mystical way of jumping from one pocket to another so it is never found in the same place twice.


Of all of these pocket passengers, the one that was most frustrating for me was my red light. Probably because I used it more than almost any other accessory, and often needed it quickly, its constant game of hide and seek became exasperating. One night I thought to myself that I needed a leash to keep tabs on it.


The leash idea brought my mind to the retractable leashes so popular with pet owners – and from that my mind leapt to those retractable key reels that I have seen used by people charged with keeping track of what seemed to be enormous bundles of keys. The reel attaches to the belt and has a retractable cable, about thirty inches or so in length. The user pulls the on the keys, the cable plays out, when finished the spring loaded reel draws the cable and keys back. I thought it would work great to keep my red light right at my side.


For about $4 at my local hardware store, I picked up my key reel. The key ring attached quickly and easily to the lanyard loop on my mini right angle military style light. Clipped to my belt, the reel worked exactly like I had hoped. I could immediately lay my hands on the light throughout the night. The cable is long enough to bring the light all of the way up to eye level. When I am done using the light I can simply drop it and the reel pulls it right back to the ready position on my hip. Exactly the same place every time – no more pocket patting and searching – Fantastic.


I suppose I would look silly with 10 of these on my belt for all of the other stuff still left in my pockets…….Well, it is dark out there…..


I welcome your comments and questions at


2008 Rod Nabholz

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