I'm the kind of guy who likes to be outside. I like to ride my bike, camp, go on picnics with my girlfriend, all of that. But in the present day of smartphones, GPS devices, MP3 players and all the rest it's harder and harder to go out and not worry about where you're going to plug in.
Now, however, with the advent of portable solar chargers you can go be in those remote places we all love and charge your devices, too. All from the sun's (free) energy!
After using this kit on a couple trips over the summer I am finally ready to give it a complete review.
Where and How I used the kit: Overnight and four day long bike trips, canoeing, at the park for music.
GoalZero's Guide 10 Adventure Kit is actually a combination of a few of the company's products. The kit comes with the Nomad 7 solar charger, the Guide 10 battery pack, four rechargeable AA batteries, a car 'cigarette' adapter, a USB to mini USB cable and the 6 volt cable that connects the Nomad to the Guide 10 pack.
Out of the box I immediately noticed how rugged and durable the unit seemed, however, I was still skeptical. I have been fooled before, only to get out in the woods somewhere and have my new gear fall apart.
The Nomad 7 solar charger has eight loops which you can use to strap to a myriad of things – your bike's rack, a backpack, on top of a kayak, whatever! Having these attachment points truly helps make this system more versatile. Like I mentioned above I took this out on a couple of overnight bike trips, one being off road. I had it clipped to my Camelbak and was charging my light. The Guide 10 pack was already fully charged. It is nice to keep that as a back-up for when the sun goes down (gotta be able to listen to your tunes at night!). In use I was surprised at how fast my phone or light would charge when charging straight from the mono-chrystaline solar panels. It only takes about 1.5 hours!
But how durable are those panels? Well, like I said I had it strapped to the back of my Camelbak Charge and was riding some fairly technical off-road mountain bike trails. At one point (okay, more than once) I crashed and fell onto the side of my pack. The Nomad 7 hit the dirt at an angle, I was terrified that I had broken it, sure it couldn't have survived but when I got up and inspected the panels for scratches and breaks they were fine! Later I went to GoalZero's website and saw a video of their panels being blown up! It still worked.
Guide 10 Battery Pack:
The Guide 10 battery pack comes with four AA batteries. This is really the only gripe I have for this system, that to either charge the pack or have the pack charge a piece of gear you MUST have all four AA batteries in the pack. This is a little annoying because you could have the batteries in something – like a flashlight – and be unable to fully use the system without taking those batteries out.
I worked around this by ordering another set of batteries. GoalZero offers a set of rechargeable AAA batteries which they sent to me. This makes more sense, most devices these days use AAA's and you can then keep the AA's in the Guide 10 pack for maximum versatility. Unfortunately this means that you're carrying one more thing, something I don't always like to do.
A plus? The Guide 10 has an included LED light. This is great for when you're digging through your pack looking for your headlamp, etc.
Overall? I love this system. It's amazing to be able to throw the entire kit (only 6x9 inches when folded) in my bag. And it's even more amazing when I'm out somewhere, away from an outlet and my friends see me charge my phone. But is it only for camping? No! Now you can take the party to the beach and not have to worry about the music dying! They are also great to have in case of a storm or other disaster, read here about GoalZero's Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Team. And honestly, if I were to do it again, I would buy it because I like to be able to recharge my devices, even if I'm outside – off the grid.