Goal Zero encourages outdoor enthusiasts to "Live Life Untethered". The Goal Zero Nomad 7 allows you to recharge small handheld devices like a GPS, digital cameras, mp3 players, and cellphones from the sun's powerful rays. The panel produces 7 watts of power when placed in direct sunlight. The Nomad 7 has two outputs, USB and a 12 volt DC charging port. Goal Zero touts that the Nomad 7 is 30% smaller and 14 times more powerful than comparable panels. The panel utilizes mono-crystaline solar technology which has a lifespan of 10-30 years and is efficient even in low light conditions.
I used the Nomad 7 on a 4-day backpacking trip in Dolly Sods Wilderness located in West Virginia. The panel was used to recharge my iPhone (which I was using for its GPS and camera features) as well as my Goal Zero Rock Out speaker. By recommendation, I would open up the panel so that it could "warm-up" prior to plugging in my device. Immediately after plugging in, I'd recieve signs of a positive charge on the phone, both on clear and partially cloudy days. Goal Zero says that the Nomad 7 will charge a cell phone in 1-2 hours, I found this to be consistent with my experince by gaining 10% of battery life for every 10-15 minutes sitting directly in the sun.
I found that proper alignment to the sun was critical to the efficiency of the panel. Setting the panel at a 45 degree angle allowed for optimal power absorption. I found this could be achieved by utilizing a dry bag or stuffed sack (seen below). I found myself charging our devices both in the morning and evening. The first oppurtunity I had to charge from the sun was after a few showers had moved throughout the region. Complete cloud cover had me worried that I'd have to conserve battery life, but alas! As soon as I plugged in I starting drawing a positive charge into my device.
The panel features a rugged, protective case that is also water resistent. During use the panel's dimensions are 17 x 9 x 0.1 inch and when in storage it is 6 x 9 x 1 inch. When folded this panel disappears into your pack unnoticed. This is definitely worth adding to your pack with minimal loss of space. Also, weighing .8 lbs (12.8 ounces for those counting), the Nomad 7 panel adds little weight to your pack.
Below you can see the panel compared to a average magazine.
The Nomad 7 features eight attachment loops which allows you to hang the panel from your pack. Having this feature enables you to collect solar power on the go. I found the Nite-Ize #1 S-Biner to be a great carabiner for attaching the panel to my pack, allowing for a multiple hanging options. This feature takes away the extra time needed in camp and at breaks to fuss with charging your devices. That being said, where we were backpacking didn't have any long stretches of canopy cover. We were mainly running along the Alleghany Plateau, which granted us a lot of sky and sun, perfect for snagging the sun's energy.
The Nomad 7 is perfect for anyone who wants to stay somewhat connected to the outside world. As an individual who typically couldn't stand having any "techy" items in my pack, I found it enjoyable to edit photos prior to bed or access PDF files that contained maps and local beta. Pick up the panel and begin living life untethered! The Nomad 7 is available on-line & in-store. MSRP $79.99