Recently I wrote a bit about my new toys, a varied set of Goal0 solar and battery products. One of the key pieces that I bought was their 7m folding solar panels. This well-designed kit provided 7-watts of peak solar power in a tiny kit that could easily strap on to my backpack and provide charging throughout the day for small devices. The kit I bought also included their ‘rockbox’ speaker set, a small set of speakers that that have a built in battery, but easily charge from this small panel.
As handy as the device is, there were some shortcomings. First off, the device I most wanted to use on it is extremely finicky with what it allows to charge (yeah, it’s an iPhone), and the variability of solar electricity meant that the iPhone didn’t like accepting the charge. Secondly, some of my devices simply take AA or AAA batteries, and I didn’t have a good charger that would run off the USB adaptor that the 7m provides.
Thankfully there is a relatively new product that addresses these shortcomings, their Goal0 Guide 10. In short, it’s a battery charger, that doubles as a combined power pack for those devices you would most likely charge from the panel.
The Guide 10 is a very simple device, that makes lightweight solar usage possible for a backpacker. It starts as a simple AA or AAA charger. It just plugs in to your 7m (or other panel) through their simple adaptor, and you can lay it out in the sun. If you are hiking, the 7m already has loops to tie on to your pack, and the Guide 10 has a nice metal cable so you can attach with a carabiner. The Guide 10 is operated via simple three way switch. On allows you to charge devices from the rechargeable batteries, Off allows you to stop providing power to external devices to stop phantom power drains and recharge the batteries at a faster rate through your solar panel. The third position turns on an integrated LED light. Simple and handy, this proved quite functional when using my kit. Charging may also come via a standard USB Mini-B adaptor, which plugs into a standard usb in case you wanted to charge from a computer or other device. Using the device means simply either taking out the batteries to use them, or plugging into the full-size USB port and flipping the switch to run in ‘power pack’ mode.
For devices like my phone that don’t like the variables associated with solar charging, the Guide 10 really helps provide a clean power source. If I simply plug in the phone to the pack, and the pack to the panel, I get the correct amount of power to my phone even if a cloud decides to get in the way. Even if your electronics are too finicky, it’s a lot easier on them to be treated this way!
Storing For Later
Sure, a power pack of four AA batteries isn’t going to power my laptop, but I have a lot of devices that work quite well on that much electricity. While I could provide a lot of light with one of Goal0’s Light-a-Life’s, they are rather large and too bright for backpacking.
Using a small USB powered light stick though works extremely well. During my last campout I would plug in one of the Luna Lights into a battery pack, and have just an amazing flood of light for our group. Best of all it barely sipped the power even from these AA batteries. Using the light for several hours during the night, I still only needed a small charge during the day to get back to full power. I could have easily still gone to charge a phone or other devices along with my lights, which I think is the critical test I needed to prove this was the right size for my needs.
According to the product site, the 7m panel takes approximately 3 hours to charge the Guide 10 while a 3.5 watt panel takes approximately 6 hours.
When looking online, I noticed them using AA and AAA batteries. However in the package, it doesn’t have the plastic insert you need if you want to charge the AAA batteries, unless you buy that specific model. This was my one strike against the product. You get the insert supposedly by purchasing a pack of their Goal0 branded rechargeable batteries (you can use any NiMH rechargeable though). Personally I’d suggest just getting the one pack of their batteries for the adaptor, and then using your preferred brand. Nothing wrong with theirs, which are a nice modern battery, but there are plenty of options in that space.
Apparently though, James bought the full Adventure kit, and that did come with the AAA piece. It seems it doesn’t come with just the standalone Guide 10 (in the two that I purchased).
To me, the Guide 10 pack is what really makes the Adventure Kit worthwhile. While the set with the speakers and panel is nifty, the real usefulness exists only when you add this into the mix. If you haven’t already bought one, they now sell it with the batteries and charger instead of the speaker as the Goal0 Guide 10 Adventure Kit. If you are building any kind of Get Home Bag, BOB, or similar emergency kit where you want to be able to maintain a charge on some small communications or light devices, this is the best product on the market for lightweight solar charging. It’s extremely simple to use, doesn’t have unnecessary pieces, and will easily attach to your pack.