Review: Goal Zero Sherpa 100 Solar Kit

By Stephen Haynes

The Sherpa 100 Solar Kit is a robust system in a small, portable package. Consisting of a 98Wh power pack (Sherpa 100),20 W solar panel (Nomad 20) and a detachable AC inverter, the kit has everything you need to set out on an adventure and keep your devices charged.

Think of the Sherpa 100 power pack as the command center; it stores energy and it’s where you plug in all of your stuff. The face of the Sherpa 100 sports an array of output and input ports and buttons including: USB to charge phones, tablets, etc.; a 6 mm port used mostly for proprietary extras like Goal Zero lights and a regulated port for direct charging of laptops.

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The Sherpa 100 Solar Kit also comes with an AC inverter, attached to the left side of the power pack, which provides you with a traditional 3 prong plug and a steady 110 volt stream.

You charge the Sherpa 100 in one of three ways: plugging it into a wall outlet which takes about three hours from fully drained, charging it up while you drive, which takes about four hours, or with solar panels, which takes between 12 and 20+ hours depending on how direct the sun exposure is. All three of these functions are ridiculously easy to operate thanks to Goal Zero’s deliberate color coding ports and cables.

The Nomad 20 solar panel charges the Sherpa 100 power pack via the sun and is super user friendly. Simply plug the foldable, three-panel Nomad into the power pack and expose it to sunlight. Done. A light on the panel illuminates when it is receiving power. The panel will glean energy from even the slightest sun exposure (though it will take much longer to charge the power supply of course) and is more or less element-proof (I inadvertently left it out in the rain for a full 13 hours and it works just as well now as it did before). The panels can also be daisy-chained, so you can cut your charge time in half by purchasing a second Nomad 20.

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My family and I took the Goal Zero Sherpa 100 Solar Kit along on a three week camping trip to Maine over the summer and used it to keep our phones, laptops and devices charged. We would charge the power pack during the day while we were out adventuring, then recharged our phones and devices at night while we slept.

This system works really well if you have a constant stream of sunny days, but the inevitable rainy day (or rest day) comes along and you have to be more conservative with your power usage. Unfortunately, when it rains, the devices come out, so subsequently, the want for power becomes more pronounced. My wife and I were also trying to keep up on our inboxes and do a bit of work while we were on the road, and rainy days presented us with the ability to head into town and plug in at a cafe guilt free.

Because we stayed at campsites that didn’t have electrical hookups, and because we brought along nine different electronic devices (!), the Sherpa was one outlet for our charging needs, as was our truck and the occasional restaurant or cafe. It wouldn’t have kept all of our electronics charged all the time if it was our only source of power, but if we cut down our devices from nine to two, it would have been plenty, even with the infrequent rain-out.

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At $550 the Sherpa 100 Solar Kit is not a product that most of us would buy on a whim. There are cheaper alternatives out there that boast similar output and hook-ups (you can get a gasoline generator for less than $200). The difference here is weight (the Sherpa 100 kit weighs less than 10 pounds), footprint (the Nomad 20 folds down to 8.5 x 13 x 1 inches, and the Sherpa 100 power pack measures in at 5.8 x 1.5 x 5.25 inches), ease of use (color coding and no-hassle hook ups) and silence (gas generators, while effective, are noisy). Add to that the array of extras you can get from Goal Zero, like lights and speakers, and the value of the system starts looking pretty good.

Whether you find yourself daydreaming about the possibilities of a life lived on the road (#vanlife), or simply want an easy backup power supply for your electronics in case of power failure, Goal Zero has a sun-powered solution for you. Check out their range of products at goalzero.com.

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