Great but slow ultra-light charger
I picked this great little charger up at REI after spending 6 weeks backpacking through the Himalayas and constantly struggling to keep my electronics charged (Camera, ipod, headlamp, GoPro). With sporadic access to unreliable electricity, and with extreme cold temperatures that kill your batteries quickly, this would have been the PERFECT piece of gear for that situation. (I also plan to use it on my cross country motorcycle trips, where I don't have a cigarette lighter charger available).
I chose this particular charger because it seemed to be quite a bit lighter weight than its larger siblings, while still charging at an acceptable rate. (The larger the panels, the faster the fuel cell will charge, but then when you plug your electronics into the fuel cell, it charges at the same rate as the larger panels). I have only been testing it for a couple days now on mostly sunny days and it seems like it takes a good 10-12 hours to charge the Switch 8 (the fuel cell), which in turn gives my smart phone (or camera, ipod, headlamp) a good full charge in just a couple hours. So, this is pretty much the perfect solar recharging gadget for excursions when you are looking to recharge your electronics every few days on long excursions or travles. Small, light weight,sleek and cool. But if you are going to need to charge multiple gadgets a day, then this isn't the one for you. You'll need bigger, heavier, faster charging solar panels.
Lastly, it's pretty awesome that you can charge the Switch 8 before you hit the road or trail simply by plugging it into your wall or any USB charger to give it a nice full charge in just a couple hours.
Good for backpacking
Upon the recommendation of an in-store staffer, I purchased this kit for my most recent backpacking trip. I pre-charged the Switch 8 at home and topped it off on the drive to the trailhead. I used the solar panels to charge the Switch 8 and charge my phone in the mornings as I got ready and when I took long breaks (over 30 mins).
I noticed, like others, that the Switch 8 is a bit slow to charge using the panels (7-8 hours as indicated on the instructions), but I'm OK with that since I also charged my phone while charging the Switch 8. My smartphone (which is also my camera and notetaking device when traveling and backpacking) charged quickly from the Switch 8, and I was able to get a full day's use from the phone in airplane mode with only 45-60 mins of charge time.
I found the loops for attaching the panels to my backpack to be too small, so I didn't charge the Switch 8 that way. My clips for my pack are about 1" wide, and the loops don't expand that far, so I would have had to attach caribeeners or velcro loops to make this work, which I was not inclined to do this time around.
I like that the kit is self-contained with a zipper panel for the Switch 8 and my cables. I recommend keeping all the cables plugged into the ports since I ended up accidentally denting my USB port for my phone connector and had to try to straighten it out in the backcountry with my pocketknife (not perfect, but it connects now).
Very good all around
Im in the Army and bought this so that I could charge my phone, ipod, and my gopro while I was training away from the comforts of my room.
I bought this off of a suggestion from one of the people working at REI. I needed something light weight and small. And this is exactly that. The solar pannel it self is small and the battery pack is even smaller and very versitle. If there is not enough sun outside, I could charge the battery pack from any usb charger.
The solar pannel itself folds up nice and neat. It also has little loops around the solar pannel so its easy to hang it or attach it to a backpack. Another nice thing about the solar pannel is that theres a small zipper pocket on the back side of the solar pannel. It can fit the battery pack and the usb cable to charge the battery pack along with 2 more cables.
The battery pack holds a very good charge and for a good amount of time. Its also very small.
The only con that I have is I'm affraid that I'm going to break the solar pannel. I'm in the Army so I do a lot of rough training compared to the average civilian camper or hiker.
Bottome line, I would reccomend this to my friends if they every wanted something like this.
Got me through the John Muir Trail
I took this on the John Muir Trail, 220 miles and more than three weeks. It kept my smart phone charged the whole way, with enough left over for an occasional charge for companions' phones and for my rechargeable SteriPen.
To be fair, though I never turned it off, my phone was in Airplane Mode the whole time except for occasional GPS readings. I did use it to read books at night in my tent. I would estimate that on an average day I used 20 - 30% of the phone charge.
At the beginning of the hike there were clouds in the sky and we were often in the forest. On those days I got barely enough to charge my phone. But on later days with full sun, hiking above the tree line I got plenty of charge.
The solar panel comes with strings on each corner. I used those strings to tie the panel to the top of my backpack. Two of the strings tore loose while I was hiking and I had to tie to different ones. That was the only defect I encountered.
Kept my devices going all week
I have another Goal Zero kit but it's quite a bit bigger and heavier. This one is small enough that I could take it on a weeklong backpacking trip without feeling like I was bringing on a ton of extra weight and bulk - I just lashed it to the top/rear of my pack and had it charge the included battery stick while also plugged into my phone to keep it charging.
It took a good 6-7 hours of sunlight each day to keep my headlamp and phone charged (I had my phone in airplane mode most of the time as I just used it as a camera, e-reader, spare light, music player and not for calls/texting). I'm giving it 4 stars just because it takes so long to charge, but really that long time is probably due to a combination of my absurdly large phone (Galaxy Note 2) and the limits of current solar tech more than anything.
I enjoy using my iPhone for taking photos and video on adventures into the mountains when weight and space is an issue. iPhones take amazing pictures, but the camera seems to zap the phones batteries quick. The Switch 8 is so small and powerful it's a no brainer to bring it along. Aside from taking photos, I use the iPhone as a GPS . This also runs down the battery insanely fast if you keep it running. It's a good feeling knowing you can recharge in the field and keep your cameras rolling, and keep the GPS running to help guide you home!
Keep the Switch 8 plugged into the GZ solar panel and strap to your pack when not in use to always stay topped up! Utilize the strong power of the sun!
Have had prob finding a solar charger which my Blackberry Bold is happy with. This one is. But, when I try and charge iPad Mini, I get a note on Mini saying 'this device may not be compatible'. If I unplug and plug in again, I do get a charging display on iPad. Charger will not charge unit if display is on. Probly not enough juice coming in. Looks like is charging, slowly as expected, if iPad display is off. This unit seems to be quite good overall. Simple, which is good. Not sure if I can charge the battery from wall plug or not. I am supposing so. Have not tried yet. Good question for tech reps there at Cabelas.
Does what it is supposed to do
I bought the switch 8 for backpacking and canoe tripping to charge small devices like cell phones/kindle/mp3. Portable size and ease of use makes it ideal for this application.
It charges my smart phone fully in about 1 3/4 hours off of the battery pack. No issues charging the basic cell phone, kindle, and MP3.
The only problem I initially encountered was getting the smart phone to charge off of the battery. It would not charge using the phone's USB cable. The solution is to use a "charge only" USB cable (no sync/data capability).
Overall, well thought out and well designed product.
Backpackers Score Again
I purchased the Switch 8 to take on the JMT for a backpacking trip. I purchased a couple Nite Ize Gear Ties (at REI) to attach the panel to my backpack so I could hike and charge at the same time. The panel charged even in indirect light. I was able to keep my phone charged for the entire trip.
So I charged the battery pack during the day while hiking and the battery charged my phone pretty quickly at night.
I plan on using this on all future camping, backpacking, and road trips.
Simply the best one out there
I have tried a bunch of other solar chargers, and this is just the best one. It has the best combination of features that others seem to miss:
1. Large, efficient panel
2. Separate battery, so they can be swapped
3. Lots of ways to attach it to a backpack or whatever
4. Storage compartment for battery and charging cords
5. USB output
Just get it!