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Goal Zero Nomad 7 Review

   

Solar Chargers

  • Currently 3.0/5
Overall avg rating 3.0 of 5 based on 5 reviews. Most recent review: November 22, 2013
Street Price:   Varies from $62 - $80 | Compare prices at 7 resellers
Pros:  Light, inexpensive, simple, can charge two devices at once.
Cons:  Can't charge multiple iPhones, can't charge iPad, iPhone charging issues.
Best Uses:  Backpacking, sailing, hiking, car camping.
User Rating:     
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 (2.3 of 5) based on 4 reviews
Recommendations:  0% of reviewers (0/4) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Goal Zero
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ May 8, 2013  
Overview
This solar panel was our Best Buy winner in 2011 and 2012. In 2013 there is much stiffer competition. Our new best buy winner is the InstaPark Mercury 10 which is more powerful, charges a tablet and and iphone at once, is less expensive and is far less likely to have the charge interrupted. The Nomad 7 is still a great panel, there are just a lot of other options out there now. How does this panel compare to others? Check out our complete Portable Solar Panel Review

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Likes
This panel has a rare combination of being light, affordable, self-contained, and actually performing well. Few panels are this simple: you can plug most USB devices directly into the panel to charge them. In fact, few other Goal Zero panel let you plug a USB device directly to the panel (one notable exception is the Goal Zero Nomad 13. In addition, you can attach the included 12 volt cigarette adapter to the panel and charge a second device. Some other panels let you charge two devices at once but usually it is just two usb devices.

It comes with a very useful pocket that allows you to store chargers, cords or the Guide 10 Battery Pack. This feature is not to be underestimated one of the most annoying things about many solar panels is it is hard to keep all the necessary adapters and cords with the panel. This feature also allows you to keep the device you are charging in the pocket, which comes in handy if you need to hang the panel up off the ground. If your panel does not have a pocket you will need to have an extra stuff sack.

This is one of the few panels with an abundance of built-in nylon loops for hanging the panel. Most other panels just have a grommet in the corner which you then need to tie string to or bring a carabiner if you plan to hang the panel. The Nomad 7 has many little loops that will go over a hook or small tree limb.

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Nomad 7 on a bike trip.
Credit: Mike Meo

The fact that the panel is so self-contained is awesome. You just buy it and use it. With most other panels, we had to buy string to hang the panel with, find a little stuff sack to keep track of key cords, and buy a 12 volt cigarette splitter adapter (the previous link goes to our favorite model) if we wanted to charge more than once device at once.

This is one of the lightest panels we tested and generally we found that any panel that was lighter had far less power and functionality.

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Goal Zero Nomad 7 attached to the Hilleberg Nammatj.
Credit: Max Neale
Dislikes
This panel does a great job of charging small devices. However, it won't charge an iPad or larger devices. It charged one iPhone 4 and 5 but did not have enough power to charge two iPhone 4s at once. The main dis-advantage is that iPhone charging is very cranky (see below).

Problems Charging iPhone 4, 5 and iPad Mini
This device has a serious issue when charging an Apple iPhone 4 (Goal Zero acknowledges this on their website). If you pass your hand or just about anything between the panel and sun for even a half a second, it stops the charging process. The only way to get the iPhone charging again is to unplug it and plug it back in. This also happens if a small cloud passes over. This is really annoying because it means you constantly have to monitor your phone if you want to be sure it is charging. While testing on a five-day sailing trip and while climbing El Capitan in Yosemite, we found that if we tried to leave the panel un-attended for an hour, usually it would have stopped charging because someone walked in front of it or a small cloud passed over. There is a solution: buy the Goal Zero Guide 10 for $50, plug the panel into the pack and plug the pack into the phone. If something passes over the panel, the Guide 10 pack will not stop the iPhone from charging.

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The Goal Zero Nomad 7 often gave us this error message when charging an iPhone 4 or 5. You need bright and un-interrupted sun to charge an iPhone from the Nomad 7.
Credit: Chris McNamara

The issue described above is fairly specific to the iPhone 4 and 5. We tested the iPhone 3, iPods and other cell phones and rarely had the same problem.

Guide 10 Battery Pack Accessory
The Goal Zero Guide 10 allows you to store extra power in a package that a little heavier and bigger than a smart phone. You can charge it off the Nomad 7 or just about any USB power source (computer, car charger). Should you buy it? It depends.

It allows to you to charge AA rechargeable batteries. It also lets you store power for usage at night, when it gets cloudy or during a storm. That said, it does not charge that much power. Goal Zero says it lets you recharge your cell phone three times. Maybe with some cell phones, but it only charged our iPhone 4 half way in repeated tests. It won't charge an iPad. But, it does resolve the iPhone 4 charging issue described above and does allow you to charge it while simultaneously charging another device. It is ideal for winter travel or travel in bad weather where exposure to the sun will be spotty. Its $60 price tag is steep considering the Nomad 7 by itself is not much more. However, you can often get this for $30 if you buy it in the Goal Zero Nomad 7 Adventure Kit, for $130. Beware that sometimes this is sold with batteries and sometimes without. It is useless without batteries unless you have your own compatible rechargeable ones handy.

Goal Zero Rockout Speaker
The Rockout Speaker is a speaker with a battery to store a charge from your Nomad 7 or a USB power source (your computer, a car charger, etc). It is great for its size, weight, price, and incredible durable. But overall the sound quality is not awesome. We put this in head-to-head tests with the Altec Lansing iM600 and found the Altec to have about the double the power and sound quality. For most car camping and outdoor situations, we would recommend something like the Altec Lansing setup. For backpacking or a situation where weight and durability are at a premium, we would take the Rockout Speaker.

Other Versions and Accessories
If you're looking for something lightweight (and that will fit in your pocket) to power your smartphone or other USB devices, check out the Switch 8, for $40. Be sure to purchase a solar panel, which is sold separately.

The next size up is the Goal Zero Nomad 13, $160, which can charge a number of devices at once. Or, you can opt for the Nomad 20 Kit, $400, which includes a Nomad 20 Solar Panel and a Goal Zero Yeti 150 Solar Generator.

Chris McNamara

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: November 22, 2013
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (2.3)

0% of 4 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
5 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 20%  (1)
3 star: 20%  (1)
2 star: 60%  (3)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 4 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Nov 22, 2013 - 07:16pm
The Suntactics S-Charger-5, charges phones and tablets better than Goal Zero Nomad 7 or 13 panels. It's considerably smaller, lighter and outputs 2000mA via the USB approximately double what the Goal Zero panels output. That means: faster more reliable charging of small hand held electronics and iPhones.

Goal Zero acknowledge their Nomad 7 panels have limitations--the solution buy more accessories, such as their own propriety rechargeable batteries. Why not fix the problem--output more power via USB? It can't be that hard, Instapark panels cost far less and output 2000mA via the USB and charge two devices at once, including those pesky iPhones.

Conclusion: if you want to charge electronic small gadgets directly from the sun try Suntactics, or even cheaper Instapark M10. Both these units easily charge USB battery chargers as well, storing power for cloudy days or evening use.

TWO STARS, the Nomad 7 needs improvement.


Regards,

Cody.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jun 4, 2013 - 11:30am
speedy · Hunter · Manitowoc, WI
Well, this is another product that I will have to agree is only good at best. I do not bring a cell phone with me on my hunting/hiking trips and I mainly use this panel to keep my headlamp/mini mag batteries charged and it works fine for that, but plan on only that if you purchase this product. Next, it will help maintain your phone charge. So I recommend hanging it from your pack w/ your device plugged in or your going to run the risk of going dead. I believe, the newer models won't back drain your device? Or you can charge the batteries and then charge your device from the guide 10 plus. But, if this is the case keep at least 4AAA and 4AA batteries w/ you and if your like me you hate bringing extra weight. Most of the time this product gets left out of my gear. 9AAA 4AA is more than enough! Cold weather will drain batteries fast and Northern WI in fall can be lonly and cold w/ no light.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Mar 16, 2013 - 01:33pm
Macster · Camper · Brandon
I recieved the Goal Zero Nomad 7 adventure kit, as a Christmas present. I was very excited when it came. Thinking that this was the answer to my charging challenges on an AT hike. So, I began to experiment with the system, and became dissapointed very quickly. It was my intention to recharge my phone, and a digital camera. All regular run of the mill gear. Nothing extreme. My phone is a Motorola trac phone, and the digital camera is just a little generic brand, inexpensive camera, small and portable. Both of which I carry on the trail with me. The panel would not charge either divice. I live in Florida, there is plenty of sun! But it simply would not charge any deice I have. Then I tried charging the phone and camera, from the battery pack, still not working. I called the company and explained the dilemma. I was told by the "tech" that I needed the Guide 10 plus battery pack instead of the standard Guide 10. It produces more battery output. So, I ordered that on their advice. It did not make a differance. The best thing about this kit is the lunar light that you can order with the battery pack. It is light weight and produces alot light. The Nomad 7 will recharge the battery pack, but that is the only thing so far, that I have found, that it will charge. That adds up to alot of money for just a battery charger.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 7, 2013 - 05:46pm
richo · Hiker · melbourne, australia
This product based on the packaging held great promise. It did not come with any warnings whatsoever to suggest it would be unable to charge particular models or brands of smartphones. Unfortunately despite my best efforts I have been unable to have my IPhone 4 recognise the Nomad 7 Solar Panel as a power source to be charged from. However my sons IPhone 4s is recognised by the device and was fully charged over a 8 hour period.

I have subsequently learnt that there are charging issues for IPhone 4. In fairness to the consumer, the packaging should include a list of smartphones it can charge and those it cannot or has issue with.

If anyone has found a straight foward solution to the Iphone 4 charging issue it would be great to hear about it.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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Goal Zero Nomad 7
Credit: Goal0
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