The Best Portable Solar Panel – Goal Zero Nomad 7 Review

Let’s face it - most of us can’t (or just simply don’t want) to live without all of our various devices. From iPhones to cameras to portable speakers, our lives are full of gadgets that need charging, so when we see that dreaded low battery notification, we instantly rush toward an outlet. But, in the backcountry and in disaster situations, charging a phone to make an emergency call just won’t happen without some special gear.

Luckily, the smart folks at Goal Zero designed the amazing Goal Zero Nomad 7 solar panel to keep your devices charged wherever life takes you. To help you decide if the Nomad 7 is the solar panel for your needs, we’ve put together this thorough review that digs into the nitty gritty of this sun-powered charging source.

Why the Goal Zero Nomad 7 is the Best Solar Panel for any Prepper!

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    Small Size (9 x 1.5 x 6.5 in folded)
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    Respectable Output (7 Watts)
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    Light Weight (16.2 oz)
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What to look for in a solar panel

Whether you’re a seasoned backpacker or a dedicated prepper, a good portable solar panel can provide the reliable source of energy you need to keep your devices charged and ready to go. In today’s market, however, it can be incredibly difficult to choose a solar panel that’s perfect for your needs. To make this decision easier, we’ve identified a number of key features you should look for in a solar panel like the Goal Zero Nomad 7.

Wattage: The more watts a solar panel can produce, the more power output you get. This can increase the speed with which a solar panel charges your devices, so it’s an important consideration.

Size: The best solar panels for backpacking are small and light because they’re easily transportable on foot. However, smaller size often means a lower energy output, so there is some trade-off here.

Weatherproofing: A survival solar panel needs to be able to withstand any conditions. Therefore, any prepper solar panel you buy should be completely weatherproof to keep your devices happy, whatever the conditions might bring.

Chainability: If you’re looking to charge larger devices, such as laptops or tablets, you’ll want a solar panel that can chain together with other panels to create more energy output. This capability allows you all the benefits of a smaller panel with the wattage of a larger panel.

Now that you know what to look for, let’s discuss the Goal Zero Nomad 7. This solar panel is our personal favorite for its lightweight and durable, yet intelligent, design. We think it’s the best solar panel for backpackers and Preppers alike, and coming up, we’ll show you why.

The Goal Zero Nomad 7 - Key Features

The Goal Zero Nomad 7 is a nifty little solar panel that packs quite the punch. Goal Zero really revolutionized the portable solar panel world by creating compact and powerful solar panels that extract as much energy as possible from the sun without sacrificing practicality. The Nomad 7 is no exception, and Goal Zero is committed to consistently researching and updating this product to best meet our needs.

A sleek, 7 Watt (8-9V) foldable, weatherproof device, the Nomad 7 is Goal Zero’s flagship portable solar panel. The Nomad line of solar panels includes a variety of different sized panels to meet all needs. While the Nomad 7 is the smallest panel that Goal Zero currently makes, its compact size and affordable price make it more suitable for backpackers and survivalists who need to be able to pick up the device and move at a moment’s notice.

But, is the Goal Zero Nomad 7 really the best solar panel for you? We’re here to help you decide, so, to start our review of the Nomad 7, let’s outline some of its key tech specs:

  • 7 Watt (8-9V) power output
  • Dimensions: 9 x 1.5 x 17in (open)
  • Dimensions: 9 x 1.5 x 6.5in (folded)
  • Weight: 16.2oz
  • Monocrystalline solar cell
  • Built-in USB port
  • Fully weatherproof
  • 12-month warranty

As we can see, the Goal Zero Nomad 7 is incredibly light and is just slightly bigger than a piece of US Legal Size paper. This means it's easy to pack into a backpack or survival kit for mobile use. The weatherproofing is ideal for even the harshest conditions and the 12-month warranty means that if something does go wrong, you can be sure that Goal Zero has your back.

Even though it’s small, this solar panel sure is mighty. The Nomad 7 can be quickly and easily chained together with up to 4 other Goal Zero solar panels to increase wattage for whatever you’re charging. Chaining is particularly important for Preppers who might need to power larger devices, such as tablets and laptops, in disaster scenarios, so this feature shouldn’t be overlooked.

Backpackers, on the other hand, need a solar panel that can charge a device on the go. Luckily, the Nomad 7 has eight attachment points so you can strap it onto a backpack and charge while you hike. It’s also great when you’re stationary as you can quickly lay it out at camp on a sunny afternoon while you go for a refreshing dip in the lake.

We love the Nomad 7 because of these great features. Portable, yet rugged and powerful, the Nomad 7 is ready to keep your devices charged so you’re ready for whatever life throws at you. But, how well does the Nomad 7 actually charge these devices?

Charging devices with the Goal Zero Nomad 7

The main reason we buy solar panels is to charge our devices, so now it’s time to look at how well the Goal Zero Nomad 7 performs in this task.

Perhaps the most important part of this solar panel is its built-in USB port. This feature allows the Nomad 7 to charge any USB-capable device, so most of your gadgets should be compatible with this solar panel. While this means you can plug your phone into the solar panel while you enjoy a sunny afternoon in camp, we highly recommend that you don't directly charge devices from the Nomad 7 itself.

This is not because of a design flaw with the Nomad 7, but rather an inherent issue with all solar panels. Since the sun (even on the brightest of days) provides intermittent power, the Nomad 7 just simply isn’t capable of directly providing enough consistent voltage for electronic devices. Personal experience tells us that plugging an iPhone directly into the Nomad 7 causes the device to flip back and forth between charging and not charging as the sun’s rays come and go. This means that the device takes excruciatingly long to charge and that your phone isn’t receiving a consistent voltage supply.

The best way to combat this issue is to use a solar panel power bank, which mediates the flow of energy from the Nomad 7 to your device. Goal Zero manufactures a nice selection of these rechargeable power banks that are specifically designed to handle the intermittent energy that comes with a solar panel. If you plug a portable power bank into one of these solar panels, it'll charge in just a handful of hours. We recommend charging the power bank throughout the day so that you can use it to charge your devices at night in your tent.  See the Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus Recharger.

Although you can use any USB-capable power bank with this solar panel, we recommend the Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus Recharger because it is incredibly small and can fully charge from the Nomad 7 in about 3 hours. It has enough juice to power one smartphone 3 times. Whichever power bank you choose, you can be sure that the Nomad 7 will keep your devices charged and ready to go. It's just about finding the power bank that's right for your needs.

The Verdict

The Goal Zero Nomad 7 is a great solar panel for backpackers and Preppers. It combines fantastic performance and high quality with an affordable price, so it makes a great piece of gear for anyone who needs to keep their devices charged wherever life might take them.

If you need a solar panel with a bit more umph, we recommend the Goal Zero Nomad 13 or Goal Zero Nomad 20 as they can supply more wattage for larger devices. These larger solar panels are great for survivalists but are likely too cumbersome for backpackers. The Nomad 7 strikes a nice middle ground between size, price, and performance, which makes it ideal for most solar panel users. This well designed, functional, and easy-to-use solar panel is our go-to for backpacking and prepping so you can keep your devices charged and ready to go.

The Simple Prepper