Published on April 23rd, 2011 | by Greg0
Goal Zero: Serious Solar Power
Most solar powered devices are wimpy. They are rechargeable lights, or Bluetooth headsets, or more recently, computer keyboards. This might be because larger devices would require huge solar panels and quite a bit of time under the sun, making our portable devices much less portable. Which is a downside if you are a camper, even if you camp by RV, as inexpensive and rugged solar equipment capable of powering your laptop or other mid-sized electronics are hard to come by. They often required custom solutions, which were pricey. Also, those who might be preparing for the inevitable vampire scourge, zombie outbreak, or run-of-the-mill apocalyptic scenario should definitely have a capable solar powered system.
That’s where the Goal Zero Escape 150 Adventure Kit comes in. It makes a very good addition for any planned outing where electricity is not readily available. Well built, compact, rugged, water resistant and easy to use and handle the Kit consists of two major pieces: the hefty battery and the Boulder 15 watt solar panel. The battery pack can be easily and completely charged from an ordinary outlet before leaving the house and it can be easily recharged in the field by using the 18×11 inch solar panel. It can also be charged using the car adapter provided. Unlike many solar products, an inverter is built-in, and provides surge protection as well to regular outlet-powered devices.
The Escape 150 comes with enough power to run your cellphones, radio’s, lights, camera’s, portable DVD players, laptops, and more. It won’t, say, power a microwave or refrigerator. But most any small electronics should be fine. Charging the device fully from a regular outlet took about 5 hours, which was reassuring. But charging the pack completely by solar power took 14 hours under clear skies and a bright shining sun. Times can vary of course, but they suggest 10-15 on their site. We should note that the solar panels can also be connected to other solar panels to increase the amount of energy collected and thereby decrease your charging time. Smaller battery packs are also available that offer support for less-powerful devices and can recharge them less often. The name comes from the 150 watt hours that you can expect from a full, and reasonably new, battery. And the
The Escape 150 comes with a 1 year warranty on the device and solar panels with a 6 month warranty on the battery, and are built to withstand light showers and normal outdoor use. We dropped the battery to no harm, but did notice the solar panels are definitely easy to get dirty or dusty. For use at, say, Burning Man, regular cleaning would be necessary or the solar yield drops quickly. Weight is the only real issue we had- at 15 pounds, twelve of which are for the battery, this is a back breaker and definitely won’t work for a light hike. It’s hard to get the battery smaller and keep the power output high, but it’s still a bit hard to lug around despite the nice solid handle. The battery technology appears to be pretty old school- absorbed glass mat or AGM, which is actually just a type of lead acid rechargeable.
Though available separately, they work best together, at a fairly reasonable price of $360. Goal Zero has a pretty good history, and we strongly support new adventures like this one, which we saw originally at the Consumer Electronics Show. It’s great to see solar hitting the price point and power that we hope for a fairly portable and durable system.