Goal0 (Zero) Elite Sherpa 120 Explorer Kit Review
The Goal0 Elite Sherpa 120 Explorer Kit (Oct 2010 MSRP $829.95) is a no-nonsense solar power and battery kit for those venturing into the backcountry. It includes everything you need to store power, collect solar power, and provide power to most electronic devices. The kit consists of 3 main parts: the Sherpa 120 Power Pack, the Nomad 27M Solar Panel and the Sherpa UI Universal Inverter. I will discuss my experience with each of these.
Sherpa 120 Power Pack and Sherpa UI Universal Inverter:
The size is definitely acceptable for the amount of battery you get but the unit is fairly heavy so you should account for this when packing. The unit is about the size of a short and wide hardcover book. Build quality is first-rate and can clearly take the abuse of active use in the outdoors. No flimsy moving parts to break and I didn’t worry about the durability of it while in use or transport. The pack is simple to use, even with gloves on. I wanted to see how easily I could operate it in cold weather so I threw on my big ski gloves and played around with it and had no issues. There is only one button on the battery unit and it turns the unit off or on. The display gives a clear readout of the amount of power left in 20% increments. However, 10% increments would be nice, especially when you get down to the lower end of power left. The unit can be daisy chained with multiple batteries and includes a short cable for doing so that cleverly stores in the back of the unit. You can see that a lot of thought and testing went into the design. A great feature of the unit is that you don’t have to rely solely on solar power to charge it. If you are near an outlet, the battery can be speedily charged with an included power adapter.
There are multiple methods of power output from the unit to cover almost any application. A powered USB port allows you to plugin small electronics like cell phones and ipods directly. The unit did a great job of charging my Motorola smartphone in an hour or so without lowering the power meter. However, charging times will vary based on the type of device. Another form of power output is through the 110/220v Universal Inverter unit, which includes a standard grounded outlet that will work with devices from many countries. This is smaller and much lighter then the battery pack and can put out 100watts maximum. I tried testing it with one of photography studio flashes and it could not provide enough juice to fire the flash. This was not really the intended purpose, so it is hard to fault the unit. The unit powered my laptop flawlessly and gave it a full charge fairly quick. I also wanted to see if it would work with a power strip and it was able to power my laptop, printer, and camera battery charger all at once, which was impressive. I can see this being a great way to power a mobile base station when I am on a photography shoot.
Nomad 27M Solar panel:
In the picture above, I have used my camera tripod as a means of angling the panel towards the sun. The battery pack is on the ground and my cell phone is on top of the pack.
Again, the build quality is very high for a piece of electronics and is weather resistant. This is perfect for one of those days where weather is changing but you still need to add power to the battery. You can keep the panel out without worry. This model folds up nicely into about the size of a thin hard cover book for storage and transport and includes a caddy for its cable on the inside. The rivet holes on both ends of the unit make it easy to attach to a pack, as I tried doing. It can be attached towards the top of your pack and unrolled down the back, collecting solar energy as you move. It took about 8 hours of direct sunlight to fully charge the battery unit; this is pretty close to the manufacturer’s estimates. It is important to note that the angle of the panel in relationship to the sun can have a huge impact on charging time. There really weren’t any surprises with the solar panel to mention.
Overall, I would definitely recommend the Sherpa 120 Explorer Kit to anyone with a serious need of power in extreme conditions. While it may not power the most demanding of electronics, it is sure to satisfy most needs.