Does what it is intended to do
I've had 2 of these units for over a year. This little battery pack does what it is intended to do. I tend to think that people expect it to charge items that it wasn't designed for, and are therefore disappointed by its performance. I bought this to fulfill my needs, and did a fair amount of research to make sure of that requirement. I need a way to charge my cell phone while out in the field, and I also wanted a way to re-charge batteries to use in my various devices like headlamps, flashlights and a handheld GPS. It handles these requirements without question. I have both AA and AAA batteries for this unit, and typically carry 2 sets of each while in the field. 1 set charging and 1 set in my devices.
I work in the field quite a bit, and I have used the battery pack to charge my smartphone from a 25%-35% charge to full, at least 2 times on 1 unit charge. This will vary depending on the phone and the level of charge, but one could expect at least 1.5 phone charges. It also charges about twice as fast as compared to a 110v wall outlet.
The LED light on the Guide 10 is great, although I rarely use it. I purchased the silicone sleeves for each of my 2 units. Those seem to help with shock absorption and help protect against rainy or snowy weather. They are NOT waterproof. The Guide 10 fits perfectly in the pouch on the Nomad 7, with room to spare for the power cord.
I have also used the batteries alone, on several occasions, and they function just like a new set of batteries. Being able to recharge them with the Nomad 7 is worth its weight in gold. I have had no problems with the Nomad 7. Again, it does what it is designed to do, and that is to charge the Guide 10 battery pack. It will charge other items, but it's efficiency shines with the Guide 10. I also have the Nomad 3.5, and have had no problems with that unit either. I use the smaller Nomad 3.5 when space is an issue. Of course, it has half the power, so it takes twice as long to charge.
The solar panels are very tough (check out the torture test video on the Goal Zero website), and provide moderate power even in cloud cover. They fold up nice and compact, and are easy to lash to your pack with the loops on the panels, so you can charge while hiking. I have used the loops and some small tree branches to set up a frame to expose my panel to direct sunlight, while sitting on the ground. That system worked great.
I would suggest analyzing your power requirements, and compare with the capabilities of this unit. The Goal Zero website provides all the information you would need. If it's not in the specs, check the question & answer section. The batteries are pretty self-explanatory, but if you want to charge something other than the Guide 10 directly from the solar panel, do some research first. You might require a different cord or adapter, or an entirely different power pack. I also have the Escape 150, which provides a solution to some higher power requirements. I have had no problems with that unit either.
This is a great system (for what it is designed to do), and I would highly recommend it if you need a way to power up your electronics in the field. I have actually bought several as gifts, for fellow outdoor nuts, and have had nothing but positive comments. Again, do a little research first, and you will be happy with your purchase.
Good solar panel
This is not the smallest or the lightest solar panel but it may be one of the fastest to recharge 4 AA or AAA batteries. It's well built with strong materials and a very handy zippered pouch to store the battery pack and cables.
I needed a way to recharge the batteries of my GPS and smart phone while camping. I am happy with the performance of the solar panel. It puts out quite a bit of power in full sun. The battery pack, in therory, should contain enought power to charge my smart phone (samsung S3) more than a few times over. But I can only get at best 2 full recharges out of the 4 AA batterys. But since the solar panel can recharge 4 AA or AAA batteries in a few hours it's not a problem. I also tried to recharge my Nikon camera (cool pix 540) from the batteries but the camera will not accept the power from the USB output. I have not tried to recharge the camera straight from the solar panels where more power (current) is available at full sun.
I like the design of the solar panels. They fold up to where it is managable to pack in a backpack.
It would be very nice if they were flexible (wish list).
The LED on the battery pack is a little confusing.
If the batteries are charging from the solar panel it blinks red or green depending on the status of the batteries. Although it goes from green to red with sun output, so if it's cloudy it may show a red LED even though the batteries are near fully charged. In this case you really don't know the status of the batteries.
The same LED is used to display the status when you are charging devices. Green means it's charging well, red means it's nearing the limit of the batteries to charge. Which is backwards if you think of it from the charging device point of view. Sometimes the LED blinks fast or slow, I can't remember the modes, so I have to check the manual to figure out what it's telling me.
This is GREAT!
This is amazing! The picture shown is not exactly the same as I bought. I have the newer addition. I have tested this today while being completely overcast in Massachusetts in September, and the output via 12V was 15.22V and 180mA! For being overcast, that is incredible! I do a lot of primitive camping and spend quite a bit of time outdoors! I like taking my phone with me for the use of pictures, and to track the distance I have covered by use of GPS. Problem was my phone always died while running this stuff, but now I dont need to worry about this! The power pack alone will keep my phone alive all day! I also have two other sets of AA batteries I can swap out if my pack were to become dead. I'm not sure which I love more, the ability to charge batteries out in the middle of nowhere with the solar panel, or having the Guide 10 to keep everything working longer!
The durability? Well, lets just say it is structurally sound! The fabric used to case this is rugged. I havent stepped on the panel, but I have dropped it from a 3-foot height, and no damage. I have not tested it around water for the simple fact that water and electric don't like each other much. I try to keep them separated.
Overall, my conclusion is to buy this! OH, this can also be daisy chained with other panels for more power. This is my first panel, and is now making me think about buying more of these in many varieties. If you pay an electric bill, you will start thinking as well! Not to mention the Yeti 1250 they offer for emergency backup instead of running a generator!
Good design, well performing product
I bought this product at an REI used gear sale to use on occasional camping trips and extended sailing trips. I have no idea how long the product was used before I bought it, but there were several scratches and dings on the panels that lead me to believe that the batteries have been cycled more than a few times. So far I have not had to rely on this item in the outdoors, but just for the fun of it I ran some tests and thought I should offer up some specific numbers for potential buyers.
-I charged the battery pack from a USB wall charger over night until the pack was fully charged. With full power the pack charged my iPhone 5 from 46% to 100% and then my iPad from 84% to 97% until the pack was too depleted to continue.
-Today I let the Nomad 7 panel charge the battery pack on the dashboard of my car from 9AM to 4:30PM. The LED indicator was blinking slow red every time I checked, indicating 0-50% charge. Afterwards the pack charged my phone from 34% to 78%.
Keep in mind: I have no idea how old the batteries are and all rechargeable batteries get worse with age. The full day of charging was through glass in New England in mid October with mostly sunny skies. It will likely work better in direct sunlight when the sun is higher in the sky.
CONCLUSION: if you want to be on Facebook for the duration of your camping trip, this may not be the product for you. If you want a product to keep your phone alive for occasional use, the Guide 10 Plus kit will be more than adequate.
Goal Ten is very good, with caviat
I have used this unit twice while backpacking. It works very well. I used it primarily to run my GPS full time while I was mapping a trackless route. Normally, my Triton GPS' AA batteries are only good for about 8 hours in tracking mode. Plugged into the battery pack and the charger, I could run it for ten hours a day. In camp, the panel would recharge to battery pack in a couple of hours.
Now the problens. I had to exchange the unit because of problems with the solar panel. The model I first had had a plug-in cable from the battery pack to the panel. The connector in the panel broke during the first trip. I did a very difficult field repair that worked. The replacement has intergral cables that solve that problem.
The other problem was that at the end of 4 days on the trail in 90 degree weather most of the attacment loops came loose. The unit was hanging vertically on the back of my pack. It turns out they were glued and not stitched into the seams. When I got the replacement home, I sewed all the loops ends into the seams.
Even though this unit is heavy it is great for my needs. I can run and charge batteries for my GPS which uses 2 AAs, my head lamp with uses 3 AAAs, my camera, my MP3 player and my smart phone.
Does the job on a sunny day
I bought this product for a trip next week. With no clouds the solar panel charges my Samsung Galaxy s3 (2100 mAh battery) and Nook Tablet (4000mAH battery); didn't test time for full charge but read 100-250+ mAh on a sunny day. It's weight and size savings are somewhat negated by the bulky 4xAA/AAA Guide 10 (2300 NiMH) battery pack (compared to external phone lithium batterypack alternatives). The included Guide 10 battery pack (fully charged, unhooked from solar or wall power source) will charge my Galaxy S3 from 11% to 92% overnight when the phone is turned off. I did not test charging capability when hanging off a backpack, but it is small enough and has holes for doing this... I suggest using the Guide 10 battery pack as a bridge between device and panel if using it this way.
Thoughts: For my beachcombing purposes it works well. I have not tested using a different external battery charger with the solar panels, but if you don't need AA or AAA, a different external battery source which charges through a USB cable might be the way to go to save weight and add power. This is a minimalist backup combo, so I would get a larger solar kit and battery if using for a dedicated camping power source. Lastly, GZ states that the Nomad 7 can only be daisy chained as the "caboose" if using other solar panels.
Useful when sunny but fragile
I use this device to keep GPS, headlamp and other devices charged when hiking for several days. The actual use ratio vs time packed is very low but it is very reassuring to know that if your GPS dies or anything with a battery needs a boost it is there.
It is great to leave the trail head knowing that you can already have a 4 AA batteries charged.
On a recent trip (4 days in north cascades in WA) I forgot the GPS and only had a android phone for pictures and GPS... Well we had rain almost 24/7 and during the limited break from the pouring water there was not enough sun to not only charge the AA batteries or the phone.
This works mainly when you are under full sun without shadows. I guess this is why it is called a solar charger, right?!
So if you don't forget the limitations of the product it is a great product. Just don't expect a charge wherever / whenever.
Do not have it out when bushwhacking. Not only you are likely to be in the shade but the solar side get scratched easily.
I will still pack it despite the weight as it is, in my opinion, a safety device.
Great for added security!
This product is great. I spent days looking at various solar devices to power my iphone 4s while I go backpacking and this one seemed to top the charts. It is a little more expensive and a couple ounces heavier then some other solar chargers but it makes up for it with a fast charge time. In full sun this baby can charge the battery pack from empty to full in about 3 hours, most other solar products take 6-8 hours (if you plug the battery pack into the wall it takes 8 hours! solar is faster!). It comes with straps to hook it straight to my backpack so I can have constant power while hiking. The battery pack has enough juice in one charge to power my iphone fully at least two times. It also charges in shade! (slower but still it charges when others wouldn't) If you are an ultralight backpacker then you can leave the battery pack at home and charge any device with a USB cable straight from the sun! I not only bring this device while hiking but I sit it in the window sill at home or in the dashboard of my car and charge my iphone without any carbon foot print. Great device, I love it.
Excellent Solar Charger, Great Support
I originally bought this for emergency use, but emergencies don't happen often so I take the opportunity to play with...I mean to test it when I can. It works well, and the solar panels coupled with the Power Pack is what really makes it shine (no pun intended). The solar panels by themselves can be inconsistent because of changing weather conditions, a problem where I live. The rechargeable batteries in the Power Pack solves that issue since the panels charge the batteries, then the batteries provide a consistent charge to my dumbphone, iPod Touch, and really anything that is USB powered.
I recommend replacing the included batteries from Sanyo Eneloops since I get the best performance from them after years of use and they retain their charge very well.
Finally, I have to applaud Goal Zero's customer support. They alerted me that my Power Pack could potentially overhead when being charged by the solar panels and offered a free replacement. I never experienced overheating, but I wasn't going to say no to the offer. The replacement Power Pack got lost in the mail, and I myself forgot about it. One year later I finally remembered so I emailed them again, and they immediately sent another replacement!
Better then my previous solar charger
I got the Goal Zero Guild 10 plus to replace my Solio Classic Solar Charger. I found that it took a bit longer to charge the battery pack then advertised but it charged a lot faster then my old set up. It was how ever able to charge up my smart phone far better then the Solio. I put the two side by side outside in a partly sunny day with rolling clouds and even when a cloud passed in front of the sun, the Goal Zero unit was able to keep charging the battery pack while the Solio sat there waiting for a stronger source. The added LED light on the battery pack is a nice bonus for a quick in tent use but is of little worth for night time path finding. I also bought the AAA size batteries from the Goal Zero company to maintain my head lamp while on the trail. Haven't had to use them yet but if the quality of the AA is anything to go by I should be pleased. I will probably buy another unit some time soon for my wife who was impressed by its light weight and charging power.