Portable solar charging technology has improved greatly over the past few years making it a viable option for remote camping and keeping your favorite bluetooth speaker charged poolside. We’ve tested the Nomad 7 Plus in a variety of conditions and have determined that it’s a solid charger for stationary charging in emergency situations.
There are a ton of solar panel options on the market
If you’ve ever looked for a solar charger, you’ve probably found that there are a dizzying number of options. From portable power banks with built-in solar cells to panels of all shapes, sizes, and outputs, there are a lot of options. A year ago, we set out to find the most versatile panel that would stand up to the conditions we often find while camping, hiking, and hanging near water. While we still haven’t found the perfect panel, the Nomad 7 Plus is a solid bet when it comes to getting a bump of energy in a real emergency (charging a sat or cellular phone) or a party emergency (charging a bluetooth speaker or iPod).
The Nomad 7 Plus, and our requirements
Here’s a list of our requirements, and how the Nomad 7 Plus by Goal Zero stacks up.
Weather resistance (7/10)
The Nomad 7 plus has ‘weatherproof layering’ but as far as we could tell, it doesn’t have an official iPX rating. After a year of heavy use in not-so-dry conditions, there is some slight superficial separation of the layering in the corner of the panel, but the panel continues to perform at 100%. In short, this panel is mostly weatherproof, but isn’t recommended for high moisture environments such as river floating.
After using the panel in a variety of conditions, it’s clear that the panel itself can take a beating. The panels are solidly embedded in a thick heavy-duty plastic folder and while we wouldn’t run this panel over with a car, it will definitely hold up in rugged conditions. The back of the panel is equipped with a magnetised kickstand and phone / battery pocket. In our experience, the four magnets holding this kickstand needed to be re-glued after a year.
Weight / pack readiness (6/10)
This panel is best used at a backyard BBQ or while car camping. We don’t advise making this a part of your ultralight gear. At a little over a pound (17oz with kickstand), the Nomad 7 plus is just too bulky and rigid to throw on a pack.
We were impressed with some of the usability features of the Nomad 7 plus, especially the light meter. Not sure if it’s angled correctly? Use the inline light meter (attached to the USB plug) to determine whether you’re in an ideal lighting situation. Need to catch some extra rays? Use the kickstand to help angle the panel correctly.
A great setup would be to prop the panel to catch as much sun as possible, and attach a long USB cord to locate your device away from the heat of the sun. In direct sunlight we found that the pocket on the back of the panel contributed heat to the charging device which sometimes activated heat protection mode and interrupted charging.
Charging capabilities (6/10)
While the panel is rated for a 7w output, it’s probably best suited for charging portable battery packs and smaller electronics such as cameras and speakers. We’ve never been able to fully charge a Samsung Galaxy or iPhone.
The final word on the Nomad 7 Plus
Overall the Nomad 7 Plus is a solid choice for emergency charging, but isn’t well positioned as a daily driver for backpacking. That’s our take, what’s yours? Throw your comments below and let us know!