There has been a lot of discussion about solar panels. For father's day my wife got me a Nomad 7 folding solar panel made by GoalZero www.goazero.com). This is not a full review of the product. Not sure I can see myself taking this backpacking, but perhaps when I retire... I will probably do some epic trips.
Mono-crystalline construction. This is the best you can get.
Output: 7 watts max.
Weight: 13 oz without any accessories.
Size: 6" X 9" X 1" (folded).
Size: 19" X 9" X .1" unfolded.
List Price: $99
Amazon.com Price: $79.99.
The panel (actually there are 2) is contained in a heavy nylon case. You cannot remove the panels. There is an included charge controller with a USB port, a 12 volt port, and a Guide 10 port for the GoalZero Guid 10 battery pack(s), which are not included. I did not receive any battery packs. The battery packs will charge AA or AAA batteries.
Guide 7 Folded.
Opening the flap, information about the panel is available.
USB output: 5V (5 watts max)
12V output: 13-15V (4 watts max)
Guide 10 output: 6-6.5V (7 watts max)
Quick check of voltage showed a steady 14.99 Volts open circuit(optimum sun in Palm Springs).
I did not bother to dig out my amp probe and calculate watts.
Panel open. Notice there are two elastic tie-outs on each side and the bottom. There is a larger on on the top.
Close up of charge connection block.
The panel includes a smaller pocket to store an electronic device or battery back while charging. Here is my iPhone, so you can get a feel for the size.
iPhone in charging mode.
The panel comes with a mini-USB cable and a 12 volt cable.
Close-up of the side and bottom loop.
Close-up of the top loop.
Nomad 7 on the scale.
My wife also got me the Rock Out external speaker system (2 speakers in one enclosure). I will never take it backpacking, but probably will use it when we camp in our tent trailer. It draws no extra juice from the iPhone or iPod, and the sound is pretty good. Has a battery life of about 20 hours and can be recharged with the panel. About 2.5 hours in good sun to charge.
Rock Out speaker in case.
Rock Out speaker connected to iPhone.
Rock Out speaker on scale.
Bottom line... does it work? Yes, under controlled circumstances. The past week I listed to music on my iPhone all day while working. Every afternoon I charged the phone from my office which receives ample sun. Remember I live in an optimum location for sunlight. Took about an hour to charge. The instructions says some iPhones may not work with it, but mine does (iPhone 4). The instructions also say that in real life on the trail to expect charging times to be at least double the specifications. I like their honesty. They also make many other accessories for the panel. Construction and workmanship look to be top notch.
Kudos to my wife on coming up with the idea and do doing the research to find something quality built. She knows I am interested in solar power, and I did not ask for something like this.
As a side note, she also got me a Sony HDR-CX160 HD mini-cam. Now, I have never taken a video camera backpacking... heck I rarely take my P&S camera. But she said that since she is never going on an overnight trip with me, it would be nice for me to take some movies. So I looked this up in "Nick's Guide to Feeding and Caring for Your Wife, with Language Translations," and it appears to me that this means I can go backpacking about anytime I want, free kitchen pass!