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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Prudent Prepping: Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus Solar Recharger test

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Now we concentrate  on what to do in, and how to plan for, the long term via Prudent Prepping. 

The Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus is the second solar charger I have been able to test. This model is borrowed from a friend, as his camping trips are over for the year due to his kids being back in school. As several commenters on the blog and Facebook have said, "Why use a short run-time novelty battery (see my previous post here) when a standard rechargeable NiMH AA cell has a longer base run-time and is readily available?"

Why, indeed?


Goal Zero has a full line of solar powered devices, from camp lights, reading lights and flashlights to large solar powered chargers that can be used to reliably back up critical medical equipment, small freezers and refrigerators.  The products are well-described and sorted by both type and intended use. The specifications are clearly marked, linked, and very easy to read and understand. I was also impressed with what would have been labeled with the boring 'FAQ' header seen most places on the Internet, with Goal Zero now calling it, simply, 'Learn'.




This package from Goal Zero has several very good things going for it:
  • Light weight- the solar panel weighs under 13 oz and 4 AA batteries and charger pack add less than 7 oz more.
  • Direct charging to your devices.*
  • Ability to 'chain connect' several panels for faster charging.
  • Multiple output leads for charging a wide variety of devices .

Pictured is the back of the Nomad 7 solar panel (top) and (L to R) the 12v car adapter, Guide Plus Recharger and four AA batteries, and AAA battery adapter for the Guide Plus Recharger.

If you look closely, the two output leads can be seen coming out of the distribution block, next to the green 'Zero' on the lower left. These two leads are a mini USB (male) and the line-out from the solar panel to the charging pack. Also on the power block mounted on the panel is a standard USB (female) port, for all other devices that will accept this connection for charging.

Barely seen is the black mesh flap that zips over all the accessories, making a pouch that easily holds everything with room to spare.








Front view of the solar panel.






View of the panels with the magnetic flap holding them closed.









The Test

As in the first test, I started with drained cells, which was easy since the AA batteries were dead when I got the kit. In my experience, NiMH batteries are more susceptible to to battery death from being allowed to discharge all the way down than  comparable Li-Ion cells. For best life and results, I recommend charging your batteries on a schedule or as you see that they are running down.

The 4 AA batteries were installed in the Guide 10 Plus, connected to the panel and placed in the afternoon sun. After approximately 4.5 hours**the cells were charged.

From Goal Zero's website:
Recharge times for the Guide 10

Charging From

  • USB 6-10 hours
  • Nomad 7 solar panel 3-6 hours
So my recharge time fell right in the mid-range of expected results. The company states that a fully charged Guide 10 (please see link for detailed specs) will charge three MP3/iPods, two smart phones, or one GPS or e-reader, but as always, your mileage may vary.

Since I only have access to one phone (iPhone 4S), e-reader (Nook) and MP3 player (iPod Nano) there was no chance to see how many of the same small items were actually able to be recharged from the battery pack. I did try to see how far the stored charge would go by charging my iPhone up from 25% to Full, the Nano from Dead to Full, and then try to charge the B&N Nook as much as was left, which wasn't much (10%).

I would expect run-times to increase every recharge with new cells (it could take 5-10 times to reach the max) but since this kit is 6-9 months old with an unknown number of charges and no idea on my part how often these batteries were allowed to run dead, I would guess this is typical.

As a bonus, there is a small LED light on the face of the Guide 10 Plus which is rated at 100 mW, about what you get with those keychain fob LED's. I'm not sure of the run time of just the light, but it should be a long time!


Charging Direct-to-Device

Goal Zero states that charging is possible directly from the panel to your device, but the time required will be much longer than using the Guide 10 Plus Recharger. I attempted to do this, but failed. The weather has been typical for North California this time of year -- temps in the 70's to high 80's and very clear.  This made the recharge test easy overall, but not so easy when testing charge times with my phone. Even in the shade, the surface of the table was too hot for my iPhone, and the Over Temperature warning came on after about an hour.** In that time the phone did get charged 10% .This is much less than expected for an hour's direct connection to the panel, and I take full responsibility for not getting a good, repeatable test with this system.


Recap

Good:
  • Light weight, less than 1.25 lbs, batteries included
  • Small size, 1 1/2" x 6" x 9"
  • Easy on-board storage
  • AAA adapter included 
  • Ability to recharge direct for the panel or from the battery pack

Not So Good:
Nothing to speak of, except the price. At the Amazon linked price of $119, it is out of my price range at the moment -- and, I expect, out of the price range of many Blue Collar Preppers.


Rating

I have to give the Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus kit 4 1/2 stars!  With more time to play I might have given it 5 stars. If your budget can handle it, this is something worth consideration if you need a solar charger and battery kit.


Footnotes

* Check with your device manufacturer's instructions. All items may not be compatible with the output of this panel (direct connection) or battery pack.

**All charging and fail times listed are approximate to within 15 minutes. I have a life and didn't watch constantly.



As always, if you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!


 
NOTE: All items tested were purchased be me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

The Fine Print


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License


Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.