Goal Zero’s Guide 10 Plus with Nomad 3.5 solar recharging panel is a compact, solidly built and ergonomically designed unit that shows promise. We put ours through its paces to see if it performs as well as advertised. First, some features:
Weigh: 2.3lbs with Nomad 3.5 solar cell
Input: Charges via sunlight, USB cord, DC adapter.
Output: USB cord, 4 recharged AA or AAA NiMH batteries, LED flashlight.
Features: Charges AA or AAA NiMH batteries, single LED flashlight, 10Wh battery capacity that can charge hundreds of cycles, charges from USB cable or sunlight, 12 month battery shelf-life, “Hang It” wire on top of unit.
The Guide 10 is not a plastic toy. It has a sturdy, durable feel to it. It’s lightweight and extremely compact making it a pleasure on any trip. It comes with fully charged AA NiMH batteries but will apparently accommodate AAA batteries as well – a nice feature. Remember, the USB cable is not the only energy output here. The Guide 10’s batteries can be removed from the unit and used in any device you desire then recharged with the Guide 10 later.
We fully charged our batteries by attaching the Guide 10 to a USB cable for 8 hours then put it to work. Our first test was charging an iPad II. After about 3.5 hours our iPad received a 35% power increase, something we feel is consistent with the manufacturer’s claim of “5 hours of iPad use per charge.” Good job, Goal Zero!
Next we took it out in the sun for some solar fun. It’s difficult to tell when the unit is fully charged or discharged as the only real indicator of capacity is an LED light that is red when the batteries are nearly empty, orange when low and green when roughly 50-100% full. The unit is said to take 6-8 hours to charge with the Nomad 3.5 solar panel which is about 2 hours less than it takes via USB, interestingly enough. We left our panels facing south for 9.25 hours on a sunny day and were pleased to find a green LED light on our unit when we returned.
A full Guide 10 is supposed to provide 2 -3 full charges for cell phones according to the manufacturer and after mixed Amazon.com reviews we were anxious to see its performance for ourselves. It did indeed take my iphone 4S from empty to fully charged in about 3.75 hours but left the LED battery indicator on the Guide 10 red. Ruh-roh. After discharging my phone all day I reattached it to the Guide 10 to find it provided an estimated 10% charge to the iPhone.
The manufacturer claims 2-3 smartphone charges. Our unit provided only 1.1 charges which is consistent with other internet reviews leaving me in an emotional quagmire. On the one hand it only delivered 1/2 the energy promised and questions arise whether the function of the batteries might degrade quickly over time. On the other hand this thing is packed with nice features, very well built and at the end of one day can charge 4 AA or AAA batteries or a smartphone in the wild which is enough to keep up with most people’s needs under such conditions. With an upgrade to the Nomad 7 solar panels and one could fully charge the Guide 10 several times a day (2-4 hours per charge). Pretty cool.
Assuming the battery capacity on my unit doesn’t drop much more over the next hiking season (four Goal Zero AA batteries cost about $16) I’ll be content with the Guide 10 . But consumers may expect more from generation 2 when it arrives.