Take a moment and think about it: how often do you rely on a battery-powered piece of technology in your day-to-day life?
My smartphone has become so deeply integrated into my everyday life that it’s almost an extension of my body, so much so that it would be hard for me to imagine going back to the "dark ages” of my pre-smartphone days. The tricky thing about all this technology, though, is you don’t realize just how much of a role it plays in your everyday life until you’re left without it.
In recent years, more and more of us have also been embracing technology in the backcountry instead of leaving it behind at the trailhead. In all likelihood, you would be hard pressed to find someone headed up the mountain without at least a handful of small, battery powered electronic devices stashed in their pack: smartphone, GPS unit, GoPro, LED headlamps, etc. The only issue and the one that keeps a lot of guys from giving up on the analog world, is the fact that an electrical outlet is hard to come by in the backcountry.
Enter the Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus Kit: "Go-anywhere, rechargeable battery pack keeps your handheld gear going strong. Charge AA/AAA batteries from the sun or any USB port, then power your phone, MP3, GPS, or perk up your tablet in a pinch.” (goalzero.com). The Guide 10 Plus Kit consists of two pieces: the Nomad 7 "ultralight” solar panel and the Guide 10 Plus battery pack.
The Nomad 7 is a self contained solar panel system: two solar panels built into a rugged enclosure comprised of heavy duty material that easily folds up for compact storage while providing protection while not in use. The Guide 10 Plus battery pack holds four rechargeable AA batteries and provides connections to charge the batteries via the Nomad 7 or mini USB. Once charged, you can use the batteries in any device that accepts them, or leave them in the Guide 10 Plus and charge any device through the standard USB connection. The Guide 10 Plus also features a built in LED light that’s perfect for those times when you need a little extra light.
After spending some time with the Guide 10 Plus Kit, it has become quite clear that the folks at Goal Zero have really thought things through. The folding panel design is extremely convenient, yet feels like it is built to stand up to abuse. One of my favorite features of this unit is the zippered mesh compartment on the backside of the panel that covers the terminal connections (USB, 12v), providing a convenient place to stash cables, as well as whatever device you are charging at the time – without even having to run a cable outside of the pouch (provided that whatever it is will fit in the pouch). This streamlines the setup: unfold the panel, unzip the mesh pouch, connect the device to the panel with the proper cable, zip the pouch back up and hang the entire system up utilizing one of the seven paracord loops sewn into the enclosure, and let it go to work.
Another great feature of this system is that it is extremely versatile: use the Nomad 7 and Guide 10 Plus together, or each as a standalone charging solution. The weather resistant material and paracord loops allow you to attach the Nomad 7 directly to the outside of your pack, meaning that can charge on the go. Connect your phone directly to the Nomad 7 panel while you charge another device from the batteries in the Guide 10 Plus. For everyday urban use, charge the Guide 10 Plus directly from any USB wall charger, and now you’ve got a compact, convenient battery backup for any device that charges from a USB connection.
When you take into consideration the vast improvements of electronics/battery efficiency/technology in recent years (think about the cell phone currently residing in your pocket, then compare to the one you carried in the late nineties), an efficient solar energy system doesn’t seem quite as far-fetched. All in all, I have been pleasantly surprised by the Guide 10 Plus Kit’s ability to efficiently convert sunlight into battery power. In our testing, we found that the Nomad 7 panel takes about an hour to reach full charge when connected to an iPhone 5 in direct sunlight. That’s pretty darn quick if you ask me. In fact, it’s fast enough that I’ll likely be making space in my pack for one more piece of technology this fall.