I was recently sent several electronic devises by Omaha Knife for testing. While the store is my go to place for axes, they have expanded their inventory to include a large amount of backpacking, hunting and bushcraft gear. One of the items sent to me for testing was the Goal Zero Nomad 7 solar charger.
The Goal Zero Nomad 7 is a portable solar charger designed for backpacking and backwoods use. It retails at about $80.00. When closed, the Nomad 7 resembles a small notebook. Its detentions are 9 inches x 6.5 inches x 0.5 inches. On one of the corners there is a small box with a USB port. In that area, the folded pad is 1.5 inches thick. The Full devise weighs 14.9 oz, not counting any cables. Just like a notebook, the Nomad 7 opens to expose the solar panels which are otherwise protected by the casing.
Along the perimeter of the devise, there are loops which can be used to attach the panels to a backpack, or to be positioned on any other mode of transportation you may be using.
On the back of the devise, on the reverse side of one of the solar panels is a mesh pocket which contains the charging port.
The pocket is very handy, as it allows the devise you are charging to be stored securely while it is plugged in to the port. Also, when the charger is opened and the panels face the sun, the pocket ends up under the panel, protecting the devise you are charging from direct sun light. From searching online, I have seen the Nomad 7 with this pocket and charging port located on a flap next to one of the solar panels in several of the pictures I have seen. The one I have and you see in the pictures here appears to be the new model. I have to say, I prefer this design a lot more as it protects the devise from direct sun light, and cuts down on weight.
The Nomad 7 comes with several types of adaptors which fit into the charging port (USB, 12V and others). I didn’t have much use for them, as most electronic devises today come with their own USB compatible charger adapter. In the above picture, I am using the USB cord for my phone to plug directly into the Nomad 7.
As far as performance, I have been very impressed with what can be accomplished with these modestly sized solar panels. In good direct sunlight, the Nomad 7 charges my phone (Droid X) as fast as if it was plugged into an electrical outlet. I get about 10% charge every 10 minutes. This means that the Nomad 7 will fully charge my phone is 1 hour 40 minutes. I should note that I have not actually done that, i.e. charge my phone from fully empty to full using the Nomad 7. I am extrapolating based on the speed of charging I have seen during use. Obviously, performance will decrease if less sunlight is available. I should also point out that I tried using it behind a car window, and it did not appear to work well at all. For some reason the car windscreen does something to the sun’s rays that decreases the charging efficiency.
I have now used the Goal Zero Nomad 7 on several outings, and have each time been pleasantly surprised by the capability it offers in the woods. I’ll be the first to admit that electronics confuse me, but it is very assuring to just plug a devise into it, and see the charge light turn on.
Now, the reality is that I carry virtually no electronics into the woods other than the GPS that I use to record the trips for you guys. As such, I can’t justify caring the Nomad 7 on my trips from a purely practical stand point. My GPS receiver can record for about 24 hours on a set of AA batteries. I can bring a lot of AA batteries before I can justify the extra weight of the Nomad 7.
That being said however, there are certainly applications where this type of devise will be of great use. If you are a hunter, using a canoe or ATV to get to a base camp where a number of electronic devises will be maintained, then the Goal Zero Nomad 7 would be a great tool. Similarly, I think it would be very useful for a bugout bag where you may be contemplating being stranded for an unknown period of time without electricity, but still needing to run several electronic devises. I remember during the power outage in NYC about a decade ago, many of us were stranded in the city without any means to charge cell phones or other devises which we needed for communication. Had the Nomad 7 been in my school bag, it would have been put to very good use.
Now, I’m sure that there are people out there who can talk to you for hours about all the details and technology used here, and what could have been done better or differently. Unfortunately, I know very little about that. The only thing I can tell you is that I plug stuff in and it gets charged, which puts a smile on my face. And, if you decide to purchase the Nomad 7 at Omaha Knife, don’t forget your “woodtrekker” discount code.