GOAL ZERO NOMAD 7
BY JUSTIN POTTS
April 04, 2012
5' 8" (1.73 m)
180 lb (81.60 kg)
Just recently have I been introduced to the backpacking community in 2011, but I fell in love with it, and I fell hard! Not a weekend goes by that I am not out in the wilderness somewhere. I have roughly 2,000 mi (3220 km) of hiking/backpacking experience mostly in Oklahoma's Wichita Wildlife Refuge. I like to pack light, with a base weight of 15 lbs (6.8 kg) but I also like to be comfortable. I hike hard and fast to reach a destination, and explore after I make camp. I shall see what this turns into as I keep backpacking.
Manufacturer: GOAL ZERO
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.goalzero.com
MSRP: $99.99 USD
Listed Weight: 0.8 lb (0.36 kg)
Measured Weight: 0.8 lb (0.36 kg)
Dimensions (folded): 6 x 9 x 1 in (15 x 23 x 2.5 cm)
Dimensions (unfolded):17 x 9 x 0.1 in (43 x 23 x 0.25 cm)
Optimal Operating Temperature: 0-120 F (-17-48 C)
These are the technical specifications from the manufacturer's website:
Solar Panel - Rated Wattage: 7W
Cell Type - Monocrystalline
Open-circuit voltage - 6.5-7V
Converting Efficiency - 17-18%
Cell Area - 0.0394 m² (0.424098 ft²)
USB Port - 5V, 0.5A max (2.5W), linear regulated
12V Port - 13-15V, 0.2A max (3W), boost regulated
Solar Port (for Guide 10) - 6-6.5V, 1.0A max (6W), not regulated
Warranty - 12 Months
Certifications - FCC and CE
The Break Down
The GOAL ZERO Nomad 7 (hereafter referred to as 'Nomad' or 'panel') is a portable solar panel used to charge smaller electronics (i.e. cell phones, mp3 players, digital cameras etc...). The exterior is covered with a really rugged and sturdy nylon blend fabric.
Inside the box is the solar panel unit, and a converter for cigarette lighter type plugs.
From the open position 17 x 9 x 0.1 in (43 x 23 x 0.25 cm), the panel folds three times to the closed position 6 x 9 x 1 in (15 x 23 x 2.5 cm). While it is in the closed position there are three loops for attaching the panel to the exterior of my pack (which is where I keep it most of the time). The Nomad is held in the folded position with a hook and loop closure under the first flap.
After unfolding this first flap, exposed underneath is a small pocket for storing the cigarette lighter attachment, and a small box with the three different outputs. On the top of the second flap there is printed information including; specifications for the different outputs, a risk of shock caution, the website, model, and number.
Finally after opening the second flap the two 6 x 9 in (15 x 26 cm) solar panels are exposed. Around the perimeter of the solar panels, there are 7 loops for attachment. The individual panels have a thick plastic covering which provides stability and protection from abrasion, as well as weather such as light snow and mist.
Besides playing around with this solar panel around the house to get used to it I have only taken it on three trips including:
1) Five day hike/climb in the Wichita Wildlife Refuge. Distance traveled per day undetermined because it is a hike into a destination with several hours of climbing at each destination.
2) A three night backpacking trip in the Wichita Wildlife Refuge in early fall. Covering 15-20 mi (24-32 km) per day. It was still fairly warm, so packs were light. The terrain was relatively flat in the backpacking area compared to other parts of the Wildlife Refuge.
3) Finally, a two night hiking/climbing trip to the Wichita Wildlife Refuge. Distance traveled per day undetermined.
I use the GOAL ZERO Nomad 7 primarily for charging smaller electronic devices such as my satellite phone (when I go on extended trips), my iPhone (for weekend trips) and my GPS.
My favorite way to use the Nomad is to set it up when we reach a destination so that it can sit in good direct sunlight. In my experiences with this solar panel, this provides a better, fuller charge. However, on occasion I will use the attachment loops to strap it onto the top of my pack and stow the device I am charging in the small pocket.
I like how the Nomad will directly charge most devices as soon as I open it up and set it in the sun. I have found that I can get a 100% charge every time this way. I prefer this method over some other solar panels I have had that charge a capacitor, which can take an hour or more, and then a device is plugged in to take a charge from the capacitor, which also takes at least an hour.
With good sunlight the charging times have been at the lower end of the manufacturer's specifications range. While the manufacturer claims that my phone can be charged in 1-3 hours and my GPS in 2-4 hours, I have found that it takes an average of one hour to charge my iPhone 4 from 10% to 100%, and my Garmin GPSMAP 62 takes about one hour and thirty minutes to fully charge from being dead.
Regarding the issue of weight carrying a solar panel versus carrying extra batteries. I had to consider several things: 1) how many gadgets will I be bringing, 2) how many batteries each one takes, and 3) how often the batteries will need to be replaced. All of my devices used to take AAA batteries, so to replace the batteries one time in my headlamp, gps, mp3, and camera, I would need to take something like 12 AAA batteries. This is not counting any extra backup batteries. With this in mind, 3 AAA weigh 50 g (1.76 oz), so that's 200 g (7.05 oz) in batteries. The solar panel weighs 363 g (12.80 oz). So the direct exchange of batteries versus this solar panel does not save weight.
Now, looking at the indirect exchange, my GPS, mp3, headlamp, and camera are now all models that have built in rechargeable batteries, and are lighter models because of the battery packs. The weight of all 4 old gadgets, batteries included, came in at roughly 1.3 kg (2.87 lb, or 1300 g), not including extra batteries. The combined weight of the new rechargeable gadgets and the solar panel is 763 g (1.68 lb). So that nets 537 g (1.18 lb) that I'm no longer carrying in my pack. To put that weight into perspective, 2 mountain house dehydrated meals average about the same at 570 g (1.25 lb).
The best part is that it also allows me to charge things I cannot just swap out old batteries in, like my phone, sat phone, and iPod.
Weather resistance is another big issue to me since I do carry some electronic devices. So far, I have had a light shower roll in and start raining before I could get the solar panel put away, but the Nomad held up well. Everything still functions properly and I have not had an issue with it since then.
I have noticed that the Nomad is a bit finicky. I had it set up on a boulder with a tree near by, and when the wind blew a small branch would briefly cast a shadow over the solar panels. Even though it was only a split second of a shadow, my iPhone stopped charging for about one second.
Also with power-intensive items like my iPhone, I have noticed that the solar panels need to prime before plugging in my phone. Prime meaning that I set it in direct sunlight for 10-15 seconds to get the charge flowing before connecting the device.
The Nomad is a good all around solar panel. It may not be the lightest, or the most compact, but it stows well, and feels sturdy enough that I do not worry about accidentally breaking it. The weight of the panel becomes a non-issue to me when I take into account that there is no need to tote around any extra batteries. All in all, it is a good product that I will continue to use. It has its pros and cons, but all things do.
Time to get back off the beaten path,
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.
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