Goal Zero solar charger review

This guest post is by Warmongerel and entry in our non-fiction writing contest.

Stock Image.

I’ll admit it: I’m a “computer junkie”. I have a Kindle Fire, a regular Kindle, two laptops and my phone. I also have 4 regular “tower” computers. And that doesn’t include what my daughter has. All of that in a house with two people. Yeah, I’m a junkie. My girlfriend calls me a biker-geek. Love that.

I keep a lot of my Prep documents on the Kindles and the laptops, so they’re not (just) toys. Three-ring binders are nice, but I really doubt they’re going to travel well if I have to bug out. A couple of 1 pound (or less), novel-sized Kindles, on the other hand, barely take up any space or weight.

So one of my biggest fears in a SHTF situation is not having any of that available.

Enter the Goal Zero 19010 Guide 10 Plus Small Adventure Kit. It will will help to click the link – this thing is kind of hard to describe.

This package consists of two main parts: The Nomad 7 solar panel, and the Guide 10 Plus battery pack. The solar panel is actually two interconnected panels that fold together when not in use to save space. They are

very light (probably less than a pound) and very thin (maybe an inch or so when folded together). Although they’re not very flexible, they do seem pretty rugged. If it were to drop a few feet, I wouldn’t be worried about it breaking. Probably don’t want to run it over with the truck, though.

There are two outputs on the solar panel interface device which is attached to the solar panel. One is for a 12 volt “cigarette lighter” type cord, one is a USB output used to charge your Kindle, I-pad, cell phone, laptop, MP3 player – virtually anything that can be charged from a USB port can be charged using this thing. The last output is to connect the solar panel to the Guide 10 Plus battery pack. Cords are included, but the USB/universal cord is the old type with the larger plug. You’ll have to buy one for the new, smaller universal jacks, but they’re cheap.

There is a mesh, zippered bag on the outside of the unit that can carry the cords and other small items.

The second half of the package, the Guide 10 Plus battery pack, is just a very fancy battery charger. It has 2 inputs for charging the batteries: one for plugging in to the Nomad 7, and one for charging via USB port (such as from your laptop).

The Guide 10 plus charges 4 AA batteries (included) and also comes with an adapter to charge 4 AAA batteries (not included). It works with any AA or AAA rechargeable batteries. The Guide 10 Plus also has a USB output to charge devices like the ones mentioned above.

Devices can be charged in three ways: Either directly from the USB or 12 volt outputs on the Nomad 7 solar panel, or the Guide 10 Plus can be plugged into the Nomad 7 and then used as an interface to charge devices through it’s USB output. The second method is recommended for charging tablet computers and I-phones, as they need a steady voltage to charge, and the batteries provide that steady voltage even when they’re charging.

Devices can also be charged directly from the battery pack if there is no sun. A handy feature at night. Charging times are said to be 3 – 4 hours for most devices and for the batteries, but that is in direct sunlight.

I threw it on my dashboard while I was at work on a mostly cloudy day, and it charged 4 AAA batteries (drained) in about 6 hours. About the same with 4 AA batteries. Not bad considering the sun is very low in the sky up here at this time of year. In bright sunlight and turning it to face the sun every now and then, I can easily believe the 3 hour claim.

To charge my phone and my Kindle, I ran it through the battery pack and both charged in about 2 hours, although they weren’t completely drained when I started. Still impressive. It takes almost that long using 110 volt household voltage!

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get my daughter’s I-phone or I-Pad away from her long enough to try those out. If I ever do, I’ll update in the comments section. Don’t hold your breath.

The physical dimensions are: 6.5″ x 9.5″ x 1.8″ and weighs in at about 1.7 pounds. Small, thin and lightweight. Just what a prepper needs.

So far, I am extremely happy with it. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this thing to anyone. If there is a grid- down situation, I’d have a phone, my prep files, books to read, games to play, music and also alarms, calculator, etc. on my Kindles. Add to that a 12-volt source to charge my LED trouble lights and a way to charge AA and AAA batteries for flashlights, radios, etc. All with no fuel, no noise and a tiny footprint.

All of that would make this thing worth it’s weight in gold. (Note: they keep improving, updating this thing, so some of the reviews and pictures on the Amazon link are outdated. I think they’ve got it all worked out now, though 😉

This contest will end on December 16 2012 – prizes include:

Well what are you waiting for – email your entries today. But please read the rules first… Yes

Comments

  1. SurvivorDan says:

    Got the same before my last big trek in the White Mountains. Works great. Love it. Can’t say anything bad about it. Hung it on my pack while moving. Even had cooking/reading lighting at night with their led light stick. Nice article buddy.

  2. Thinking-g-g-g-g-g

    I like this on first perusal prolly w/LED light also. Thanks for your contribution.

  3. The Grey Wolf says:

    You can protect yourself and preserve your electronics from a devistating EMP outbreak by adding a solar charger and an older kindle containing your lot of survival books inside a sealed ammo can. Throw a headlamp in there and the rechargeable batteries and you’ll be covered even more! The hardest thing would be storing it in the ammo case the whole time and not using it, unless you got another one. That’s when prepping discipline might need tapping into…

  4. Thanks for the info. I keep a Toshiba tablet with 500 books on it and another 3 GB of PDF’s. I have several solar charging options for it and my MP3 player.

  5. Not sure about the Kindle fire but as for the regular Kindle I know there are videos on youtube on how to change the battery and just about any other part that may go bad on it. Parts are relatively cheap also and can be googled. This adds insurance that my SHTF files on my Kindle can always be accessed. Add the Goal Zero to the package I feel pretty confident I will always be able to access all these files.

  6. I wholeheartedly agree – love my Goal0!

  7. Warmongeral,

    Thank you for the review. I have been contemplating buying one of these for several weeks now. I need something that will charge my dh’s cell phone and my computer. I found your review so helpful that I ordered one. I will wrap it up and list it from Max, my GSD. LOL. Max gives the best presents.

    • Warmongerel says:

      You’re welcome Bam Bam (and all the rest). Just glad that I can contribute.

      I haven’t actually tried to charge my laptop with it yet, but it says that it will do it – and they haven’t been wrong yet.

  8. Good to see more product reviews …..thank you for breaking the doom and gloom chain .

  9. i’ve eyeballed set-ups like this for about a year, unsure whether to pull the trigger. i think this may be worth waaaaaay more than $125 and i’m happy it’s fit and finishe are rugged. i wonder if schematics are available to repair any shorts that work their way into the wiring.

    • I picked up a cheapy solar battery charger on ebay for backpacking , works like a charm . I bet for the extra money your going to spend on a good one , you will be glad you spent the money .

    • Warmongerel says:

      Ferndale: Doesn’t really seem to be much wiring to it. A couple of wires between the 2 solar panels. A couple of wires from the solar panels to the interface device. That’s it. If a wire breaks, shouldn’t be that hard to splice it back together.

      And, if something were to actually “short” to ground, it would probably take the whole thing down beyond repair.

      Don’t know what’s inside the interface but, with today’s microelectronics, probably not much you can fix in there, anyway. Especially in a grid-down situation.

      That’s the reason that we’re so vulnerable to an EMP strike: these ultra-miniaturized components (resistors, diodes, transistors) can be fried with tiny amounts of current. Anything over a couple of amps will let the factory-installed smoke out of them. And when you let the smoke out, they’re toast.

  10. PGCPrepper says:

    Their web site looks interesting. I would be interested in other’s input w/respect to their foray into solar without hijacking this blog post. They have a generator and other larger devices on their site that interests me for OPSEC reasons. THe only concern for me is events like Sandy, or for us last year Irene. We lost power for a week and the days following were somewhat cloudy which must make a delta w/respect to recharge. I suppose you would just be judicial in use until presented with sunny days or whatever. I am so ignorant of these things; pisses me off really.

    I’m going to buy this regardless. Time to get edumacated and stuff.

    • Warmongerel says:

      LOL PGC.

      Until about 2 weeks ago, I was completely ignorant about these things, too.

      And, like I said: With mostly cloud skies and the sun low in the southern sky, it completely charged the battery pack in 6 hours. If you need power in a hurry, it’s not great. But if you can wait awhile, it works just fine.

  11. PGCPrepper says:
  12. War Mongerel, thanks for the review. I have a two year old Goal Zero that came out before the battery packs were included.I have saw them at Bass Pro but didnt know if they were worth the money. I will purchase them now. I used mine in October in Colorado while elk hunting. I had it in direct sunlight charging my Droid that dies very quickly when searching for service. Cold weather makes it worse. It was barely charging the phone after two hours. I couldnt figure why until I reread the instructions that say its battery must be recharged periodically. After that it performed beautifully! When all else fails…read the instructions!

  13. Encourager says:

    Thanks for the review. We have been thinking about ordering something like this. Do you know if they offer a bigger one that would run a CPAP machine overnight?

  14. thanks for the review. I was thinking of getting this. Cabela’s had a good sale on them awhile back. I’ll watch for them to be on sale again.

  15. This gadget looks pretty nifty and I think I should get myself one as an early Christmas gift. Thanks for turning me on to this, Warmongerel.

  16. This one is 10 Watts instead of 7 Watts like the Nomad.
    It’s called: Instapark 10 Watt Solar Panel Portable Solar Charger

    Also costs less $!!!
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006ZRYU9O/ref=s9_simh_gw_p422_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=10TT6B96XA1YZXA8KFHY&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1389517282&pf_rd_i=507846

  17. I think Goal Zero solar charger is good device.

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