Solar power has gained significant traction in recent years and solar technology has improved immensely. However, on a small and practical scale I am finding few products that live up to their hype. In the field it would be very nice to have an off-grid way to charge devices. I searched the Internet for a portable and rugged device that included a solar panel and battery. The ideal device could be hung on a backpack and charge the internal battery while on the trail or at a campsite.
I wanted to find a small solar panel with internal battery. The idea is to have a small device that could be charged from the sun and then recharge devices such as phones. I found many such devices but in reading the reviews I could not find any that would charge the battery quickly or reliably. Even good reviews would comment about the battery capacity but would say that it would take multiple days of direct sunlight to charge the battery.
As of 2017 I could not find any solar battery device that works well. I decided to widen my search and find another solution that meets these requirements:
- Charge AA and AAA batteries
- Charge battery pack from the sun in a reasonable amount of time
- Portable and lightweight
- Durable and able to survive being packed and used in the field
- Reasonable cost
- Charge devices from battery pack
I purchased a Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus solar panel and a Goal Zero Guide 10 charger/battery pack. I am very pleased with the quality, price, and performance of these products. My solar charging kit includes:
- Goal Zero Guide 10 to charge AA and AAA batteries and provide power to my USB devices
- Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus solar panel can charge most devices directly or connect to a charger and/or power block such as the Guide 10
- Spare Batteries: Be sure to have at least two sets of rechargeable NiHD batteries for use with the Nomad 7+ and Guide 10
My Solar Plan
The Nomad 7+ solar panel works in tandem with the Guide 10. The panel is small, rugged, water resistant, and it has a smart USB port. You can charge devices directly from the Nomad 7+ or use the Nomad to charge the Guide 10 and then charge your devices from the Guide 10. The Nomad 7+ will full charge all batteries in the Guide 10 in 2-3 hours under ideal sunlight conditions. The 7+ panel is a significant upgrade to the Nomad 7. The 7+ includes a smart charging circuit that allows phones to be charged directly from the panel. The Nomad 7 had trouble charging certain smart phones directly. The 7+ is also smaller, lighter, and more durable than the Nomad 7.
In the field I will need light, communications, and a way to store power. My most important devices are headlamp, small lantern, flashlights, and phone. All of these devices use AA/AAA batteries or a USB. The Nomad 7+ solar panel will charge the Guide 10 in 2-3 hours. My phone can be charged directly from the Nomad 7+ or by plugging it into the Guide 10. The Guide 10 will charge the AA and AAA batteries for the lights and my main flashflight (Streamlight 1L-1AA) can use either a CR-123 battery or a AA battery.
Carry devices that use either AA or AAA batteries or charge through a USB connector. This way a Nomad 7+ with Guide 10 combination can provide power when you are off-grid.