Rob Gowler has been guiding full-time since the mid-nineties and is considered one of the best, mainly working for the Alaska Mountaineering School and Jackson Hole Mountain Guides. He also consults for outdoor gear companies, rigs equipment for TV shows and rescues, counsels other guide services, trains and runs mountain teams, all while embarking on his own personal adventures. He has helped many up-and-coming leaders in the backcountry advance their careers and is well-known in the industry.
First off, I like electronics! Always have. Here are my electronics/power needs: satellite phone, Delorme In-reach, cell phone, GPS, GPS watch (Garmin Fenix), iPad, iPad nano, bluetooth speaker, Kindle, variometer (for paragliding), Petzl Nao headlamp and a Steripen Freedom for treating water. Obviously I don’t always have all of this stuff with me…
For the last ten years or so I have used a variety of “mini” solar panels/batteries. For the past four years I have been using a Goal Zero Nomad 7 with a Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus battery pack. The Nomad 7 panel has worked flawlessly on several Denali expeditions, lots of surf trips to Mexico and around the world working on adventure TV shows. The Nomad 7 panel is great! Depending on your energy needs you might not be able to use it on its own because power from solar panels is not constant and a lot of devices don’t like that, so with a battery pack you get the constant energy that sensitive electronics need.
However, directly from the Nomad 7 Panel (without running through the Venture 30 Battery) I can charge my sat phone (Iridium 9505), Bluetooth speaker, Kindle (Paper White – it won’t charge a Kindle Fire), and iPod Nano. From the Venture 30 I can charge everything else I mentioned. When I have the sun, and the time, I plug devices into the Venture 30 and charge the Venture 30 at the same time from the panel. On short trips I usually don’t bring the panel with me since the Venture 30 holds enough charge on its own. On a 4-day trip, where I am keeping my phone, In-reach and iPad topped off, I have had plenty of leftover power to charge client’s cell phones.
The Nomad 7 hasn’t had any trouble charging the Venture 30. The Venture 30 does get charged faster plugged directly into a 12 volt source, but the Nomad 7 will charge it up just fine given you have some sun and some time. I will be using the panel to charge the Venture 30 on Denali and on other multi-week trips in the near future. If I’m only out for a few days the Venture 30 is sufficient on its own and I won’t need to recharge it with the panel.
I have also been using the Venture 30 in my Paragliding flight deck to keep my phone charged. I use my phone with the Flyskyhy app (similar to Gaia) so my cell gets drained quickly. With the Venture 30 I can plug in my phone and not even dent my phone battery. I can plug in my GPS and/or my In-reach as well, which is crucial on long cross-country flights. I also like to use the iPhone app, Gaia, but it too drains my cell phone battery. With the Venture 30 I don’t worry about my cell battery anymore.
I travel on planes a lot as well and the Venture 30 is a no brainer for airplane travel!
I like the Guide 10 Plus battery pack for charging my rechargeable AA’s for my GPS’s and battery packs (AA) for my 2-way radios. I do wish my radios were capable of being charged with a 5v USB plug. The 12vdc plug directly from the Nomad 7 isn’t enough to charge my radios.
For some reason the Venture 30 Kit didn’t come with the female 12vdc adaptor. The Nomad 7 I had did come with a 12vdc connector. The panel and the Venture 30 battery are the perfect size. They easily fit into the lid of my pack or in the pocket under my paragliding flight deck. Both the Nomad 7 and the Venture 30 are very durable. The “built in” charging cable with the Venture 30 is USB to Micro USB, which is perfect for me as many of my devices are micro USB.
I will be recommending this setup for all of my clients on Denali. I think this is the ultimate charging setup when you are concerned about weight, but you still want to have the luxury of electronics.