The technology that we carry with us into the field today continues to get more powerful, sophisticated and useful, enabling us to be more productive and stay in contact where ever we go. Whether its smartphones, GPS devices, tablets, mp3 players or some other gadget, keeping those devices powered can still be a real challenge. After all, all of that technology is simply dead weight without a way to refill the battery. That’s where Goal Zero can offer some assistance. The company makes some of the lightest, most versatile solar panels available today and after putting their Guide 10 Plus Adventure Kit to the test, I now understand where GZ’s reputation for making quality products comes from.
The Adventure Kit comes with everything you need to keep all of your devices well charged while on the go. it includes the Guide 10 battery pack with USB port for storing a charge, a 12V cigarette adapter, a 4-pack of AA rechargeable batteries, a rechargeable LED flashlight and all the cables you need to power up your gizmos. But the heart of the kit is Goal Zero’s Nomad 7 Solar Panel, which is capable of generating up to 7 watts of power. That makes it a more powerful option than GZ’s competitors while still remaining compact and lightweight enough to carry anywhere.
When fully opened, the Nomad 7 provides two surprisingly large panels for collecting energy from the sun and it can put that energy to good use. Goal Zero says that the average smartphone, GPS device or digital camera will take between 2 and 4 hours to charge and in my testing of the kit I found that to be accurate. My iPhone 4S was fully topped out in a little more than 2 hours and my point and shoot digital cameras varied from 2-4 depending on battery size. My DSLR took a bit longer, closer to 4 hours, but it still did the job nicely. The Guide 10 will even charge an iPad, although it does take considerably longer, particularly for the iPad 3 with its larger battery. An iPad 1 or 2 requires more than a full cycle from the battery pack to completely charge, which I did overnight. I found it more efficient to top off the third generation iPad more regularly however, not letting it run completely down.
Thin and lightweight, the Goal Zero solar panels are surprisingly rugged. GZ understands that we not only need to have something that can generate plenty of power for our gadgets but it also must be able to withstand lots of punishment too. The Nomad 7 panels are built to be taken on anything from a weekend camping trip to a months long expedition to the remote corners of the planet. Top to bottom, this is a solid kit that can be used where ever we travel and with just about any device that we take along with us.
While testing the Guide 10 Plus Adventure Kit I used the system in two ways. First, I connected to my backpack and allowed it to collect sunlight while hiking all day. The other way I test it was in a permanent campsite where I simply laid it out flat to collect sunlight all day long. Not surprisingly, the kit performed the best while stationary, as it was exposed to a consistent amount of sun throughout the day. But that isn’t always an option and I found that the Nomad 7 worked efficiently even while dangling from my pack, although it did take longer to top off the charge in the Guide 10 battery pack.
Anyone who ventures off the beaten path but still needs to be able to power their gadgets will find the Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus a fantastic option. It isn’t the most compact of solar kits in this price range and class, but it is easily the most powerful that I’ve used. The Adventure Kit costs $159.99 and includes a handy carrying case to keep the entire system organized. Personally, I feel this is a great bargain considering all that is included with this kit and how versatile it actually is. If you consistently need power while off the grid, this is by far your best option.
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