I have a lot of solar battery gear as my backpacking always includes a satellite texter and smart phone.
My favorite solar charger/battery used to be another product, that was submersible, practically bullet proof, and was an all-in-one unit. But it had three problems: It was cumbersome, it only had one port, and that port worked inconsistently.
Still, no other company really had what I wanted:
– Truly weatherproof and reliable (dust, dirt, rain, snow, temp)
– Submersion level waterproofing
– Highly ruggedized
– Usable when wet (don’t have to worry about drying it out
– Efficient solar panel (relatively)
The Venture 30 bundle is all these things and more.
Let’s start with the solar panel. The Nomad 7 is the smallest solar panel you can get from Goal Zero, and while it is not nearly as efficient as the Nomad 13, it is much lighter, and still much more efficient than many all-in-one designs. It’s smaller size also means that it fits onto small backpacks more easily, whereas the Nomad 13 dwarfs smaller backpacks (and adds weight). Many internal frame backpacks today have tie-outs on top at the corners. But they are not ideally located for the Nomad 13 loops. The Nomad 7’s tie-down loops are very close to the tie-outs on top of my Berghaus Centurio 45, Gregory Baltoro 75, Tatonka Lastenkraxe Packsack, and Twin Peaks Pocatello 75. With its lighter weight and tighter tie-downs, the solar panel doesn’t move much on the pack, which also means hiking with the nomad 7 is much easier than with the Nomad 13.
The battery itself is really a sign that Goal Zero has listened to backpackers and finally understands what backpackers really want.
I have both the Sherpa 50 and Sherpa 100, but I only take these camping when I’m sure the trail will be easy and the weather will be good. If there might be some rafting involved, possibly crossing water, I definitely won’t bring the Sherpa batteries as you never know how wet the pack might get. As great as the features of these units are, it’s just not worth the risk as the field ruggedness and waterproof just aren’t there. These units are also heavier. Understandable as there are many more features, physical ports for flexibility (along with an option for AC power, and a smarter display. But all those features pale in comparison to the importance of reliability in the field. I love the Sherpa batteries but really only use them on business trips, or days when I’m running around in the city all day.
The Venture 30 lacks many of the Sherpa battery features, but it takes into consideration what matters most to backpackers:
– Three USB ports (two std and one micro),
– A built in cable that won’t tangle up easily but is also removable.
(NOTE: the micro USB port goes in sideways, so won’t fit smart phones in a case)
– Minimal weight and size impact in a backpack
– Enough storage for about two smart phone charges
– Field reliable: highly ruggedized and waterproof (usable when wet)
There is really only one thing that I would want to add to this, and that’s is a slim belt clip on the back. This would allow the Venture 30 to clip to should straps or a belt to make the light easier to use, and also easier to leave hooked onto backpack or belt when charging for a more hands free environment. It’s true, you could put this in a “case” which has a belt clip, but it’s already ruggedized, so a case would just add unnecessary bulk. A slim belt clip on the Venture itself would make it considerably more convenient.
Of all the Solar panel/battery setups I have, this has become my new favorite for backpacking and I look forward to several trips with this unit.