The Goal Zero Guide Ten PLUS Adventure Kit has been a life saver on more than one occassion for me.
There are two versions of this kit - so be very careful as to which product you purchase: the initial Goal Zero Guide Ten kit; and the Goal Zero Guide 10 PLUS kit. The Guide 10 battery pack was good enough to power my mobile phone / smartphone but couldn't charge my iPad. The Guide 10 PLUS battery pack can charge my iPad2 (not fully, but it CAN make a dead iPad functional (or keep an iPad nearing the end of battery life from dying completely).
Essentially, the system is a solar panel (the Nomad 7) and the Guide10 Plus power pack. The power pack consists of 4 AA 2400 mA Nickel Metal Hydride batteries. You can get AAA batteries, sold seperately, with an adapter. You can use the power pack as one solid brick, or you can use the four batteries as AA batteries (for camera flashes, flashlights, or other outdoor products you might need when there is no plug and outlet around).
What's really great about this product, is the weight. The Nomad 7 solar panel and the Goal 10 PLUS battery pack weighs less than 600 g. I simply attach the Nomad 7 solar panel to my backpack when I'm hiking / outside of my tent when I'm at base camp / or I position it (directions included) at a good angle towards the sun on the ground, or a tree, or some other surface where I can prop it to receive maximum light. The Nomad 7 panels fold up nicely, and are approximately the size of the iPad when closed. I keep them with me whenever I go out - for work, or for play.
The directions are very clear - but the web site purchasing information isn't always super clear. If your goal is to buy a portable, lightweight solar panel to charge your tablet (iPad, or other) - understand this: You MUST charge the tablet from the batter pack once that has been charged by the sun. You can't plug the iPad directly into the solar pannel. I can charge my cell phone and smart phone directly from the pannel, but in order to get the 1.0 A push - you need to use the power you stored in the base unit.
You can PRE-charge the Goal 10 Plus battery / storage pack before you embark upon your outdoor activities - so it's a good way to have instantaneous power, and then use the sun/solar panels to supplement the charge.
I bought the luna light as an optional add on - and it comes in handy. Reading books, finding a place for a latrine at night, and just last night - my friend cut open her head on a branch - and we used the light as a way to really check out the depth and severity of her wound.
BEFORE you go camping or hiking, I recommend you figure out how to use the charger and solar panel in advance. You need to learn how to read the LED lights, and when the switch for the USB power needs to be on or off. Just remember to store the Guide 10 Plus in the OFF position - or you won't have any of the precious power you stored when you need it.
Also - I recommend labelling your cables. I use duct tape or a label maker. There is a dedicated wire used to charge from the solar panels to the Guide10Plus unit. There is also a USB port for charging batteries from a USB power source (computer, ipad power brick, etc.) There is also a 12V car charger adapter that I have never used - but it's good to tell you about it, in case this is important for you.
Two things to note: 1. DO NOT let the Goal 10 Plus power pack BAKE directly in the sun. Place it behind the solar panel - there is a pocket in the panel and that has been sufficient for me. 2. There were, apparently, some wiring issues in the old model of the Goal 10 (the one that wouldn't power an iPad) - if you have any issues - Google the problem and there are several web sites that explain how you can tell if you have one of the old models, or one of the new. They replaced my co-workers' since he was an early adopter of this device.
I enjoyed this product of Goal Zero so much, that I recently just ordered a larger solar pannel and one of their large batteries. They are due to arrive in the next week, or so, and I look forward to putting them through their paces.
The sun is a great way to feel better about hauling my gadgets when I go camping. At least I'm charging them up using natural resources.
I used this set during a fortnight off-grid in southern England in April.
The Nomad 7 solar panel is sturdy, I have no concerns about stuffing it in my backpack. The whole set folds up to the size of a book. It has loops all around, but really needs a hook for hanging, so I attached a carabineer.
I'd leave it on a table outside in the morning, propped up by a branch to point roughly at the sun. On a bright day, the panel really did charge the battery pack in 3 hours, which is exactly what Goal Zero claim, and makes me inclined to believe their other figures. As such, it was almost unnecessarily fast, and I think maybe I would have preferred to get the smaller Nomad 3.5 panel and leave it out for 6 hours. However, the larger panel meant I didn't have to worry about repositioning it over the day because it had finished before then sun had moved far, and it gives me the option to charge the battery twice per day if I needed to.
I put the panel out on a cloudy overcast morning and by the afternoon the battery pack was fully charged. I also tried pre-charging the battery pack from a wall socket and noted that it charges much more slowly than from the sun. This is surprising but the instructions do say that it will take 8 hours from a wall socket. Once charged, the battery pack fully charges my 2100mAh Nexus 4 smartphone in two hours, at a rate of about 1% per minute. The Guide 10 Plus battery is then empty. Bear in mind that I don't use 100% of my phone battery every day, so I only needed to put the panel out on alternating days.
One rainy day I didn't put the panel outside, so instead I put four previously-charged Sanyo Eneloop AA 1900mAh NiMH batteries in the Guide 10 Plus and it happily used them to charge my phone as normal, though not to 100% because their capacity was less than the Guide Zero 2300mAh batteries.
My main criticism of the set is the choice of cables. To charge the battery from USB requires a mini USB cable, when micro USB is the standard now and would have meant one less cable to carry. Similarly, the cable that connects the panel to the battery is a power jack which isn't flimsy but at a slim 2mm x 10mm is the bit I'm most worried about damaging since I was constantly pulling it out so I could take the battery pack and charge my phone in my pocket.
Also, it was annoying that once I'd connected my phone to the battery, I needed to flick a switch to activate charging, and remember to flick it off again afterwards. Why not just charge when a device is connected? (It looks like the more recent `Switch 8' battery pack does this, but it's capacity is smaller so would only charge my phone about 80%.) Sometimes I wanted to charge my phone from 50% to 100% overnight while I slept, but leaving the charger switched on would have drained the entire charger by morning. Furthermore, the sliding switch is tiny so requires fingernails to move and instead of being a toggle has three states, off/on/flashlight, so to turn it on, you have to move it to the fiddly middle state. I think the built-in LED flashlight is an unnecessary feature and should at least have a separate switch.
By the way, one common mistake I've seen other reviewers make is to plug their phone in to the wall-charging mini USB input socket of the battery pack, so the Guide actually sucks the power out of their phone to charge itself.
Overall the product works more effectively than I was expecting, and I'd recommend checking Goal Zero's other products to get exactly the correct panel size and battery pack capacity for your needs.
I had it in africa, and was charging iphone in 2 hours (rarely on 100% but 90%) problem was to charge power bank on 100% but always managed to get some power in there, i read all kind of other reviews before on other products and it was suppose to be one of the best so i can't imagine cheaper ones. I saw fellow traveller running his laptop on one of the nomads! (different model) He looked happy.
I have been intrigued by solar power as a source for tent lighting and phone charging as well as recharging GPS batteries whilst on expeditions. This seems to fit the bill! The USB outlet from the power pack is what makes it so versatile, you can charge 4 AA batteries in a good days sun, but then you can plug your phone or MP3 player into the power pack and utilise the power for recharging. Or remove the batteries and pop them into a GPS unit or torch. The pocket is useful as it keeps everything neatly.
It just the cost!! How many batteries and portable power packs can you buy for the same money? If you are away from a source of power for a long time it will be invaluable, but you will have to wait a long time before it repays you!!
Great product but to be honest, although I bought it with great intentions to use it loads, it's spent most of it's life so far in a box in the spare room. Have a serious think about how often you'll actually use it before buying. Despite the fact that it's done a great job of taking up space in the spare room, I feel it is really better suited to a life out in the sun.