Gadget Guru Review: GoalZero Portable Solar Power
I’ve spent a lot of time with GoalZero lately. Between my recent trip to the Himalayas, the Five Boro Bike Tour & our Eastern Mountain Sports Camping & Climbing Convergence, I’ve had a great chance to put GoalZero portable solar products through an amazing amount of wear and tear, and apparently I’m the tired one, as these rugged solar products can keep on going.
Solar power is one of those things that people are equally impressed and skeptical of. Either way, GoalZero is impressive.
On the panel side, the Nomad series gives a variety of output (as well as size) options that coincide with a battery power pack (Guide 10 & Sherpa batteries):
- Nomad 7/Guide 10 – perfect for most handheld devices
- Nomad 13.5/Sherpa 50 – suitable for more handheld devices, especially the more powerful ones, as well as tablets/netbooks
- Nomad 27/Sherpa 120 – great for giving your laptop a few extra hours of battery life
The Nomad panels are all mono-crystalline panels that are packaged in a clever, book-like design. The number represents the Watts that the panel would put out per hour in laboratory lighting conditions. Each panel is between 3-4 Watts of power, which means the Nomad 7 has 2 panels, the Nomad 13.5 doubles that at 4 panels, and the Nomad 27 doubles that to have 8 panels. Although laboratory conditions are optimal, as are sunny days, we’ve used these panels in overcast, shady, rainy, muddy conditions, and still the Nomad 13.5 and Nomad 27 worked (not at the same level of collection, of course).
The Guide 10 battery is a reasonably new battery pack to complement the Nomad 7. This ingenious product is only as good as the batteries within it. It can charge 4 NiMH AA or AAA batteries when connected to the panel or a USB source, and can use those batteries to combine into a small but powerful battery pack. While some versions of the Guide 10 come with four 2000 mAh AA batteries, you can add your own rechargeable NiMH, or even non-rechargeable Lithium or Alkaline batteries, if all you need is a boost to a handheld device, including iPhones and other powerful smart-phones.
In regards to the Sherpa power packs, these are 50 Watt-hour & 120 Watt-hour Lithium-Iron-Phosphate batteries, respectively, that can handle extreme conditions and thousands of charge cycles to provide larger devices, such as laptops, SLR cameras and pretty much anything that uses a standard wall plug alive for a few hours. In order to do this, you need to use a Sherpa AC Inverter to take the DC power of the battery and up the voltage for an AC device that runs on 110 or 220 Volts. No matter the plug you use, whether from US, UK or Asia, you can plug into the inverter and be confident that your device will charge without fail.
GoalZero also makes larger (heavier), but more affordable lead-acid batteries for car camping or expeditions, but the Sherpa kits are great for those of you doing work on the road, can’t separate from your technology in remote areas and/or just want to reduce your reliance on industrial energy.
Moore’s Law (the observation & prediction that technology doubles in speed & capacity every couple of years) does not apply to solar technology, as it doesn’t work like a computer. Collection of the sun’s power advances slowly in comparison to hard drives and processors, but GoalZero is highly efficient compared to other brands, as mono-crystalline collects between 11-22% of the sun’s UV energy, which is a huge difference compared to Poly-crystalline (max 15%) and amorphous (max 6%), the latter of which is used in Brunton’s SolarRolls, like the SolarRoll 4.5 that puts out 4.5 W at 15V at 3 times the cost of the Nomad 7.
Now that you’ve been inundated with numbers, it’s important to note that Watts = Volts X Amps. I can write a whole post just about what this means and how it affects you, so for now let’s call it a day.
Most of our stores are currently stocking the Nomad 7 and Guide 10, which will soon come packaged together at a slightly better price of $119.95 instead of $79.99 and $49.95, respectively. Certain stores carry a large assortment that includes the aforementioned Sherpa 50 ($229.95) & Sherpa 120 ($349.95), and the complementary Nomad 13.5 ($189.95) & Nomad 27 (299.95), which are also available on the EMS website. SoHo in NYC is the only store to carry the Escape 150 battery, as well as the only store to display the Extreme 350 battery. These are the sealed lead-acid units mentioned above. All GoalZero products are available through your local store, whether they currently have it in stock or not, and if you’re in New York, come stop by our station and feel free to charge up your devices. Either way, these items are fantastic, the brand is quickly improving an already great product, and portable solar power is the way of the future, so check it out!
Check out this video from GoalZero users in the wild: