By Mike Kimmel: Mike works as the Department Head for English Language at the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy, a public high school that works exclusively with competitive skiers and snowboarders (ranging from Alpine skiing, freeride, all forms of snowboarding competition, and nordic). He is also a climbing coach and primary routesetter for the Vail Athletic Club, and a guide for Adventure Travel Guides. He’s worked as a setter and coach for 10+ years, and has sent many young climbers to USA Nationals, and a few kids to Continental Championships.
I like having music when I travel and climb. However, I’ve also learned that the durability of many portable speakers is much lower than I’d like; I’ve probably gone through five in the last two years. After one of the nicer ones I purchased broke down I was pretty wary about picking anything up that cost more than $50, feeling that it would fall apart right after the warranty expired (as all the other ones had). I talked with my friends at Outdoor Prolink to see if they had any suggestions for a small speaker that wouldn’t quit on me, and they directed me towards the Goal Zero Rock-Out 2. I’ve been beating this one up for the last few months, and have been generally pleasantly surprised.
- From a USB, it charges incredibly fast. I can plug it in while cleaning the house and it will be totally charged within a couple of hours. Even if it is dead and I can only plug it in for 15-30 minutes before leaving, it fills up rapidly enough to be useful for an afternoon.
- Great connections off anything Bluetooth, especially for music. The Rock Out 2 links up really quickly with my phone or iPad, and it’s great to be able to control a playlist and volume without needing to actually be that close to the speaker. I’ve even used it as an external booster speaker with my laptop when traveling, and it’s actually pretty cool to get a little theater-style sound going when watching a movie off a small screen. There is occasionally a slight lag with the sound, which is totally unimportant when listening to music, but was a little noticeable when using it as an external speaker for video.
- The casing is super protective, both of the speaker and whatever contents you choose to have inside. Even if I’m not actively using the speaker, I still use it as protective casing for my phone and any smaller or delicate electronics while traveling. It definitely can sustain a fall and has some mesh pocketing inside that can keep the gear inside of it quite snug. On top of that, it’s moderately water-resistant, and kept everything inside of it dry (and continued to play music well) while hiking and climbing through cloud forests in Guatemala.
- The sound quality is on par or above most of the small speakers I’ve used. It does get a little distorted when ramped up to full volume, depending on the kind of music being played (which in my case, is usually some obscure rap – old school Aesop Rock, anyone?).
The only aspect of the Rock Out that hasn’t been my favorite is the solar charging time. While it is awesome that it can charge off purely solar power, solar charging takes a long time. For camping/backpacking trips where no USB charging is available, it takes a good 8-10 hours of direct sunlight to fully recharge. Obviously compared to any other speaker than simply cannot charge off sunlight, that’s still an immense advantage. However, I’m impatient, and overwhelmingly opt to charge the speaker through the USB port.
Regardless, the pros well outweigh my occasional impatience, it the Goal Zero Rock Out 2 is fulfilling my #1 criteria of not dying – aside from being super lightweight and taking up almost no space in my pack. Not expecting to need to buy another external little speaker for a while with this one around.