My friend Kody, a backcountry park ranger for Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Park introduced me to REI garage sales. As an REI member you get invited to an exclusive sale of all returned merchandise at extremely reduced prices. This being my first garage sale I was a bit nervous and didn’t know what to expect, but I did have a mental list of a few things I could use for my upcoming trip to Patagonia. I wanted pants/shorts from Prana, a camelbak bladder, hiking boots, a pocket knife and some bug repellant. I ended up buying: Trekking poles, climbing shoes, a new belaying ATC and a Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Kit. Literally nothing on my list. The Goal Zero was a last minute find and an impulse buy. Normally priced at $170.00, I felt like it was a steal at $60 even though the tag denoting the reason for the return was that the product didn’t work.
I decided to test it out before I took it to Patagonia, so I brought it on a climbing trip in Alabama Hills the weekend prior to my departure. I tend to be the person who doesn’t read directions and likes to figure things out on my own, which in the past has resulted in me breaking stuff before I figure out the proper way of using my new toy. I thought for sure this was the case when I didn’t get a charge at all during my 48 hour trip. Instead of leaving the extra weight at home for a product I didn’t think worked, I instead packed it (with the instructions) and told Heather I had a solid way of charging our electronics on the trip. I figured she could read the instructions. She’s a reader.
Our first two days in Punta Arenas, I hooked the Nomad Solar panels off the back of my Cotopaxi day pack but to no avail. The thing just wasn’t working. Instead of admitting that I might have paid $60 for a solar panel that didn’t work and getting a different charging apparatus, I kept it to myself. We were still in civilization and had ways to charge our electronics. When we got to Torres Del Paine National Park, we met two Chileans (an adorable brother sister duo) who told us it was going to rain for the next 10 days. What the What?!?! Even if I did read the instructions and figure this bitch out, you can not charge a
SOLAR panel with NO SUN! Feeling oddly off the hook we went the next two days in extreme weather. Torrential downpours, hail and snow. On the third day though, there was light. Warm on the skin, sunshine. I pulled out the Goal Zero and used carabiners to fasten it to the top of my giant pack.
At the end of the 16 hour hiking day, Heather and I set up our tent in record time and were in our sleeping bags drifting to sleep when Heather whispers, “Hey we need to charge the water proof speakers.” Dreading the moment when I would finally have to own up to the fact that my purchase was a dud, I laid there a moment too long. Before I could grab the solar panel off my pack she was already doing it. She turned over the panel and unzipped the back where the charger cords were located. Handing me the charger after detaching it from the solar panel, I pressed the button on the front that lights up blue LED lights to denote how charged the pack is and to my astonishment the thing lit up blue! IT’S ALIVE!!! The next morning our Eco Gear waterproof speaker was charged and at some point in the night she charged her phone as well.
The next day I was stoked to charge the Goal Zero again, and set it up on the top of my pack. At some point, early on, it must have slipped off the top and dangled off the back because by 2pm, the thing hadn’t charged at all.
Quickly I realized my mistake. The solar panel had to be flat and pointing directly up to properly absorb the suns rays and harvest a charge. That simple! I could have read the directions or possibly even used common sense and resolved the issue earlier. I mean the gear only works if the consumer knows how to utilize it. After the realization about proper usage, I decided to browse the manual. Turns out you can charge the thing through a wall outlet too. Maybe the person who returned the product to REI and claimed it didn’t work, didn’t read the manual either. That’s the only explanation I can think of because this thing, when used as intended, worked like a charm!
I have to say, once I figured out how to use my Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Kit properly, it was one of my favorite pieces of equipment. Heather and I used it to charge our phones, lanterns, flashlights and speakers. The only thing we couldn’t charge was our cameras which required a wall plug. During our 14-16 hour hiking days, the Goal Zero could fully charge twice. It held its charge over night if we didn’t use it and we frequently used the LED light built into the charging pack. I took it with me on my most recent road trip to Oregon and absolutely love it. Solar energy in a light weight (less than 2 lbs) portable pack is exactly what I needed.
Lesson Learned: Read the manual. Just do it.
You can purchase the Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Kit here.
This weatherproof recharger kit comes with a solar panel to power up your portable electronic devices using the sun’s energy or any USB port. Its light, compact design is perfect for all your travels.
Charge time (hrs) USB: 5; solar: 8 – 16 hours
External charge USB / Wall
Battery Included Yes
Battery Type Lithium ion
Solar cell output capacity 7 watts
Battery Storage Capacity (mAh) 7800 mAh
Power output to device (mA) 2 x USB port: 5V, up to 2.4A (12W max)
Dimensions 9 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
Weight 1 lb. 5.6 oz.