For the wired generation, access to power, no matter where we are, is a great enabler. Whether it's for charging our cameras, our phones, our tablets, or our mp3 players, being able to plug in and keep on going can help us to capture and share our experiences with the world, as well as to access the wealth of information on the web. And there's no better way to do that than with solar power and a portable power pack.
I've covered and/or reviewed a number of solar gadgets that can make life off the grid a little easier, including some other Goal Zero products, but this combination of the Nomad 20 solar panel and Sherpa 100 power pack is by far my current favorite.
The Sherpa 100 integrates a lot of features, and plenty of power, into a relatively small size. Measuring just 5.8" x 1.5" x 5.25", and weighing a bit under two pounds, this portable power pack offers 8,800mAh of battery capacity for charging smartphones, headlamps, cameras, GPS devices, tablets, and even laptops. According to Goal Zero, this power pack will supply up to 14 smartphone charges, up to 4 tablet charges, and up to 2 laptop charges (depending on the battery capacity in the devices).
It has two standard 5V USB ports for charging most mobile devices, plus a 12V port that fits a car adapter (included), as well as a 19V laptop port and a built-in LED task light. An optional 100W AC inverter attaches to the side port of the Sherpa 100 for powering devices through a standard AC wall plug, which extends the usefulness of the device.
With the included AC cord, the Sherpa 100 can be charged from a standard wall outlet in about 3 hours, via a car 12V plug in about 4 hours, or it can be charged using a solar panel, such as the Nomad 20, which will fully recharge it in about 10 hours. Once charged, the Sherpa 100 can be used to charge devices with the included 12V adapter, or with the included laptop charging cord (with a set of the most common laptop power tips), as well as the standard USB ports. A sturdy cable on the rear of the unit can be used to secure or hang the device while charging or while traveling, and the Sherpa 100 is capable of being chained to additional units to extend the capacity.
The Nomad 20 is a portable, foldable, 20W solar panel that goes perfectly with the Sherpa 100, as it can charge the unit in just 10 hours, or it can be used as a standalone solar charger to directly charge mobile devices (or something like the Lighthouse 250 LED lantern). This solar device, the largest foldable unit that Goal Zero makes, folds up to about 8.5" x 13" x 1", and unfolds to its full size of 30.5" x 13" x 1" for charging. It's slim enough to go into a pack, and at just 2.5 pounds, is light enough to go just about anywhere you do for portable solar power.
The Nomad 20 has several cords built into it, along with the solar port for charging the Sherpa 100 or other power pack, the power hub also has a USB port and an additional solar port for chaining two or more of the panels together to optimize the power output. The cords are all contained in a mesh zipper pocket on the rear of the device, a magnetic clasp holds the panel together while folded, and a series of webbing loops around the outside of the panels can be used to strap it open or hang it up while in use.
In my opinion, both of these devices would make a great addition to an emergency preparedness kit, camping gear collection, or offgrid expedition, and are available from Goal Zero or select retail stores.
[Disclosure: Goal Zero sent me review units of both of these devices, but all opinions about them are mine, as are any factual errors.]