Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus Review

A lot of places sell the Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus solar recharger. MEC sells it. Costco often sells it. Modern Outpost sells it. Is it worth the money? This is a Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus review to help make sense of the product, and its use in solar charging small USB devices.
In this brief article, I’ll tell you what you need to know about the Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus so you can make an informed decision before buying this or one of its competitor products.

What’s In The Box?

When you purchase a Guide 10 Plus solar kit, you are getting a Nomad 7 solar panel, and a Guide 10 AA/AAA USB power bank.

Brief Specifications Overview

Nomad 7 Solar Panel
Solar Cell Type : Crystalline
Rated Power : 7 Watts
Actual Power : Up to 5 Watts (from the USB port, or the 12V socket), Up to 7 Watts on the proprietary Guide 10+ connector port (Guide 10 only).

Guide 10+ AA/AAA Power Bank
Maximum Output Power : 5 Watts (that’s 1A @ 5V on the USB Port)

Kit Weight : 1.2 lbs / 545g
We put the kit on our scale and found it to actually be 1.5lbs (668g).

Analysis

The Guide 10 Plus Kit is a well-built solar charger, but like any tool, it is designed for specific applications, and may not be appropriate for your use.

Power…

The Nomad 7 specifications are not always clearly stated on websites. Although this is technically a 7 Watt solar panel, you will only get a maximum of 5 Watts from it unless you use the Guide 10 Plus’ proprietary solar port cable.
This solar port cable is only 8″ long, which means the Guide 10 can only be packed in the Nomad’s mesh pocket, and not in the safer, and more weather-resistant confines of your backpack or tent.

Performance…

As a crystalline solar panel, the Nomad 7 was designed with strong, direct sunshine in mind. Africa, Nepal, the Southwest US are all places this panel will perform well. Summers in Canada are fine too.
Crystalline solar panels do not perform well in low light, overcast, & partial shade conditions. In fact, shade as little as 10% of the Nomad panel, and you will get no power from it at all.
Rating for tropical & mid-latitude destinations : Excellent
Rating for northern latitudes & variable weather : OK to Poor (depending on time of year)
The Guide 10 Plus AA/AAA power bank is very handy if you have AAA or AA batteries to charge for headlamps or radios. We recommend using Imedion brand NiMh rechargeables with the Guide 10, as they will not self-discharge like regular NiMh cells will.
However, if you don’t have AA or AAA battery devices, then the Guide 10 is not the most efficient power storage option. Lithium battery packs offering the same capacity are 60g (or 30%) lighter, and will not have the same self-discharge problem as the Guide 10 (when used with standard NiMh cells).

Weight…

Compared to other options in its power class, this is a heavy kit. If you are carrying it yourself, you will notice the 1.5 lbs (668g) of extra weight.

Weather Considerations…

Overcast? : No
Partial Shade? : No
Direct Sunshine? : Yes
Rain? : Not going to charge, so stow it… the panel won’t charge, & the Guide 10 battery is typically stored in the back pocket of the panel, and should NOT be exposed to rain or excessive moisture
Waterproof? : No (not appropriate for kayaking, canoeing, or other water sports)

Works With…

Small USB Devices?Yes (ie iPhones, iPods, eReaders, p/s cameras)
Large USB Devices? : No (ie iPads & tablets)
dSLR Cameras? : No (unless using a universal USB charger, but performance is slow)
Laptops? : No

Conclusions…

If you are looking for a lightweight solar charging solution for backpacking, the Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus is NOT your best choice. It was designed around African humanitarian aid projects, and remains best suited to such applications.
There are UltraLight solar kits available using the same crystalline solar cells that are half the weight for the same power output.
The fact that the Guide 10 Plus solar kit will not charge dSLR camera batteries is a definite drawback. A typical dSLR will need a 5W solar panel, but operating in the 12V range, not USB.

Lastly, this is not the best solar kit for Canadians who plan to use the kit primarily in Canada.
During summer months, at Canada’s lower latitudes, the Goal Zero Nomad 7 solar panel will perform very well, provided it can be exposed to direct sunshine for as many hours of the day as possible.
At higher Canadian latitudes, the panel’s solar cells are not sensitive enough to generate power that would justify carrying the weight of the kit. Thin Film solar panel kits are a much better choice for Canada in general, as their sensitivity, and tolerance of low-light & partial shade conditions, generates more power in less-than-ideal conditions.

Tropics, Deserts, High Altitude : Yes
Canada & Northern Latitudes : No

Out here, things have to be a little tougher,
a little smarter,
and a little more responsible.
Welcome to the Modern Outpost.

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