Gadget Guru Review: GoalZero Portable Solar Power

Conservation
Gadget Guru Review: GoalZero Portable Solar Power

Nomad 27 hanging -5 Boro Bike Tour

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

Backpack-mounted Nomad 7

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.

Sherpa 50 Adventure Kit in Himalayas

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.

Nomad 13.5 & 27 in the Window

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:

Adam Sherlip


Combining a lot of random interests isn't easy, but Adam Sherlip seems to find a way to mix his passions for awesome gadgetry, hockey and tea into his life.  As the first "Gadget Guru" for Eastern Mountain Sports, Adam worked closely with product managers and vendors to ensure customers get the most appropriate tech tools for their global adventures.  As the Founder and Executive Director of The Hockey Foundation, Adam uses ice hockey to help empower youth, support community development and foster international understanding & cooperation in remote regions of the world, starting in the Himalayas.

78 Comments

  1. June 3, 2011, 9:19 am

    And I thoguht I was the sensible one. Thanks for setting me straight.

  2. Goal Zero
    May 27, 2011, 2:29 pm

    Costco is not selling GOAL ZERO product at 50% off. However, Costco is selling limited GOAL ZERO products at approx 35% off MSRP at select locations. They do not have Guide 10′s or Sherpa 50 products.

  3. Jim Darroch
    May 27, 2011, 11:48 am

    Congratulations to Jeanne Hayes – our randomly chosen winner! Jenne, please email your mailing address to jdarroch@ems.com. Thanks all!

  4. Chris
    May 27, 2011, 8:55 am

    I was looking for a product like this @ Solarfest last year. Thanks for the great review.

  5. Anne
    May 27, 2011, 8:42 am

    Solar rocks! Let the sun shine and keep the action rolling. :) Great product!!

  6. Dave
    May 27, 2011, 8:34 am

    Nice!

  7. Kevin M
    May 27, 2011, 8:31 am

    I cought an add on the EMS site about the goalO and did some research on it, very cool product, one I can see myself using.

  8. Sonya
    May 27, 2011, 8:27 am

    Great article. Thanks for the info. Have been looking at getting one for multi-day backcountry trips.

  9. josh
    May 27, 2011, 8:25 am

    Great piece of gear! Would like to put one to use!

  10. Andrew
    May 27, 2011, 7:38 am

    This would be great for those long backcountry trips.

  11. Jamesj
    May 27, 2011, 7:38 am

    I always have trouble with my iphone4 dying after it’s been tracking all day, this would be awesome to have! Shwing!

  12. bruce
    May 27, 2011, 7:22 am

    Awsome product, I could use one of these
    to recharge my almost always dead camera batteries.

  13. patrick simokonis
    May 27, 2011, 7:21 am

    very cool! i was skeptical of these. thanks for the review.

  14. Ellen
    May 27, 2011, 7:18 am

    Interesting product. One that I think many of us who travel would be interested in. I can see using it backpacking, on my annual sailing week on the rustic Schooner Summertime on the Maine coast. Car camping.

  15. Scott
    May 27, 2011, 7:14 am

    Great article! I have been looking at solar panel chargers for a while. Would love to win one!

  16. Betsy
    May 27, 2011, 7:10 am

    Great article and looks like a capable product. Would love to field test it myself!

  17. Irina
    May 27, 2011, 6:54 am

    I’ve been thinking about getting one, thanks for the info and reviews.

  18. Jennifer Cozzy
    May 27, 2011, 6:47 am

    The whole portable solar charger is such a great concept, I can’t wait to give one of these products a good field test someday!

  19. Colette
    May 27, 2011, 6:45 am

    I bet a device like this could very well save someone’s life.

  20. Matt
    May 27, 2011, 6:42 am

    Thanks for the info….I’ve been looking into different power solutions.

  21. Janet
    May 27, 2011, 6:41 am

    Wow, if it could re-power my Android in the woods, after the GPS has sucked all the power out, that would be awesome.

  22. Scotty
    May 27, 2011, 6:39 am

    Looks really cool, bet those come in handy.

  23. May 27, 2011, 6:34 am

    Me likie free stuff, and free solar stuff is even better!

  24. James Lee
    May 27, 2011, 6:28 am

    I was told we could win this awesome gear if we leave a comment here. :D

    Nice portable power solution!

  25. Jim Darroch
    May 27, 2011, 6:28 am

    Wow – we’ve received some GREAT questions about GoalZero products. So many, that Adam has cranked out another post with the technical specs so many of you have asked about.

    http://www.emsoutdoors.com/wordpress/goalzeroappendix/

    Thanks for all the interest and stay tuned for the winner announcement at NOON!

  26. Pat judge
    May 27, 2011, 6:27 am

    I’m gonna check it out this week!

  27. RODNEY GONYEA
    May 27, 2011, 6:27 am

    It would be great when I go off the grid instead of using electricity to charge my batteries.

  28. Cody
    May 27, 2011, 6:26 am

    Sweet! I’ve been looking at these and wondering if any of them actually work.

  29. Bill Wolverton
    May 27, 2011, 6:23 am

    These look great, thanks for the review. I could use these for backcountry hiking/camping trips, especially when taking the kids.

  30. May 27, 2011, 6:23 am

    Always losing battery power while working in the field. I would love to have one of these!

  31. David G
    May 27, 2011, 6:21 am

    Seems to be the ultimate versatility item. Would be useful charging my phone or camera during extended stays.

  32. Denise H.
    May 27, 2011, 6:19 am

    I have always been interested in solar power. Portable solar power is amazing! I love this idea and am going to investigate further. This would be terrific for those days when the camera batteries die unexpectedly. I can think of many reasons to carry one of these! Thanks!

  33. Bryan Maroney
    May 27, 2011, 6:17 am

    Wouldn’t mind one of those for the long weekends out.

  34. Jim Casey
    May 27, 2011, 6:16 am

    Gotta Love Gadgets!!!

  35. Jeanne Hayes
    May 27, 2011, 6:16 am

    Portable solar power is a great idea for our High Adventure scouting trips!

  36. Cari Lira
    May 27, 2011, 6:13 am

    This would be a very cool gadget to add to my equipment. I’d love to own one as it would make life easy when the battery on my phone runs out.

  37. Nick Boudreau
    May 27, 2011, 6:13 am

    All I can say is that the reduction in weight and compactness of this system is perfect. I’d love to give this sucker a spin ;)

  38. Marijo Player
    May 27, 2011, 6:11 am

    I like it, but I’d like to see it’s stats in cloud & nil visibility, and see how it’s performance is affected by cold etc.

  39. Christopher Schul
    May 27, 2011, 6:11 am

    Thanks for the info. This would be great for my motorcycle trips and setting up basecamps for backpacking.

  40. John Turner
    May 27, 2011, 6:08 am

    Nice to keep abreast of new innovations and developments.

  41. Paula K.
    May 27, 2011, 6:05 am

    This sounds like a great idea, it would keep my Droid powered!

  42. Michael L.
    May 27, 2011, 6:02 am

    Awesome product. I believe that solar power will be the energy of the future.

  43. Sarah
    May 27, 2011, 6:00 am

    Thank you for this review. I’m going on a hiking trip on the appalachian trail this summer, and it sounds like one of these would be great to bring along!

  44. Drew
    May 27, 2011, 4:32 am

    I just purchased the Nomad 7 with the Guide 10 battery pack. The Guide 10 didn’t work and the solar panels didn’t really work without optimal light.
    This is from a very limited test sample and have yet to really apply a verdict.
    They shipped out a new Guide 10 to me so I’m waiting for that to arrive.
    Crossing my fingers!!!

  45. Adam Magnani
    May 26, 2011, 7:45 pm

    Such a great idea. Only last week I was trying to devise a way to charge my iPad with the sun.

  46. gwf
    May 26, 2011, 6:52 pm

    awesomeness!

  47. Mark P
    May 26, 2011, 2:18 pm

    These are great for extended trips.

  48. ricardoPTM
    May 26, 2011, 1:29 pm

    I have same questions. I saw goal0 sales person at costco doing a 50percant special.

  49. James
    May 26, 2011, 1:22 pm

    Do you guys price match? Goal zero had a 50% off promotion I got in an email a few weeks back.

  50. May 26, 2011, 12:56 pm

    This may be good to have at out base operations on searches.

  51. May 26, 2011, 12:13 pm

    I will respond to your technical questions in a second post, as it can get a little wordy for a comment box. Please keep the questions and comments coming!

  52. Eileen
    May 26, 2011, 11:58 am

    Thought about a concentrator attachment? To collect more of the diffuse sunlight on a cloudy day?

    Also, on a sunny, “non-laboratory” day, how many hours of daylight does it take to charge the devices?

  53. Rory dela Paz
    May 26, 2011, 11:21 am

    I’ve always wondered about these. I agree with what Tom Stoll asked: charging time and weight.

  54. Erica
    May 26, 2011, 10:46 am

    Can’t wait to check them out today.

  55. Patrick Nolles
    May 26, 2011, 10:46 am

    Definitely a gadget worth some additional attention, with so many great products for the back country these days, having a single green alternative to reliance on fossil fuel or disposable batteries for fresh power is simply awesome.

  56. Hannah
    May 26, 2011, 10:29 am

    Count me in!

  57. William Eburn
    May 26, 2011, 10:26 am

    Awesome write up, and awesome looking product.

    I’ve been looking around for one of these things for a couple months (since I got my new Android). I use programs like Endomondo to track all the stuff I do outside, but my multiday hikes don’t work cause the battery runs out.

  58. Brent
    May 26, 2011, 10:25 am

    found out about this company last year and have seen them at a few venues. looking forward to seeing their reps at the Teva Mountain Games and seeing what new gear they got this year. wish that we utilized solar power more. maybe this is the first step to becoming a solar nation

  59. Bonnie Friedman
    May 26, 2011, 10:18 am

    I as about to make a comment, but realized Tom Stoll said exactly what I had been thinking.

  60. Patrick
    May 26, 2011, 10:13 am

    These look awesome! I’m joining the Peace Corps and I’m leaving for Africa in July and this would be perfect for the 2 years that I’m gone!

  61. nicole peterson
    May 26, 2011, 10:11 am

    You guys had an awesome booth at the New River Rendezvous. Our 14yr old son was with us and he was also very interested in your products. It is amazing how environmentally conscientious young people are when we took so much for granted when we were young. We are a family that spends much of our time outdoors but I can see my son trying to find a way to hang one of these in his window to power up anything he chooses:-)

  62. Dan
    May 26, 2011, 10:10 am

    Perfect idea for our back country camping trips!!!

  63. Dan
    May 26, 2011, 10:05 am

    Thanks for the review. I’ve wondered how well the goal0 stuff works on the trail.

  64. Eric
    May 26, 2011, 10:04 am

    These things look amazing. The solar cell I have now just has not kept up it’s end of the bargain, these sound much better!

  65. Drew Bragg
    May 26, 2011, 10:03 am

    Very cool! I’ll have to give these a try (once i find a job, damn lay-offs). Will be great to have on a longer hike while using GPS.

  66. Mel
    May 26, 2011, 9:54 am

    These look so interesting! It seems so techy and futuristic. I would be interested in trying one of these out while doing week trips with my campers this summer! We have issues with charging our walkie talkies and cell phones! We don’t have the budget to purchase “toys” like this, we just each carry 3 fully charged cellphones!

  67. May 26, 2011, 9:43 am

    So cool! I love the idea of being able to charge my devices while on extended trips, and always wondered how folks on extremely long trips were able to do it. Things like cameras and phones go through batteries so quickly! Thanks a ton for getting this giveaway together.

  68. Joni
    May 26, 2011, 9:41 am

    We have a place in the north Maine woods–would be great to be able to have this there!

  69. Jocelyn Vegter
    May 26, 2011, 9:40 am

    I think the Sherpa kit would be great as I am limited by my outdoor weekends due to on-call for work. How fantastic would it be to just be able to whip out the lap top for an emergency call from camp :) Still limited by enough cell signal for the call to get through… but it’s a step in the right direction!!

  70. JTibbs
    May 26, 2011, 9:40 am

    Those are really cool and so versatile.

  71. Leigh P
    May 26, 2011, 9:40 am

    This would be amazing when I go camping. I will go check it out at EMS!!

  72. Dee Decker
    May 26, 2011, 9:39 am

    I have been looking at these, it would be a great addition to my camera gear!

  73. May 26, 2011, 9:38 am

    Thanks for the helpful review, Adam. The Nomad 7/Guide 10 system sounds perfect for my needs on the trail.

  74. Tom Stoll
    May 26, 2011, 9:38 am

    interesting product, id be interested in seeing more information regarding battery charging time and weight of the device.

  75. May 26, 2011, 9:37 am

    That is awesome tech, environmentally friendly and highly useful all at once.

  76. eric marcoux
    May 26, 2011, 9:37 am

    cool stuff makes doing fun thing a bit easier it seams .

  77. Craig Hammersmith
    May 26, 2011, 9:36 am

    This tech would make my camera quite happy on a 2 day walk from Purg Flats.

  78. Jo Rowe
    May 26, 2011, 9:36 am

    I’m gonna go check them out right now!!

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