Solar “Toys”: Goal Zero Portable Panel

Recently,  I wrote about solar “toys” we have on the homestead (see Solar “Toys”: Night Light). One recent acquisition I’m still learning to use is a Goal Zero NOMAD 7 Plus Portable Solar Panel (paid link). (As with most of these items, we get no credit for promoting this item, although you can buy new through the link above to credit us through I found a new one on EBay for considerable savings over suggested retail price.

Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus

The Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus set to charge the portable speakers (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

The device offers USB charging from the panels. I added to it a set of USB adapters, so it should charge just about anything we can think to attach to it.

To be honest, we don’t charge a whole lot of stuff with this just yet. We don’t use phones as much as most people, and certainly don’t use them much in back country situations, so, while this panel set could charge a phone, I have used it mostly to charge a set of portable speakers for my iPod, also from Goal Zero (paid link). So far, results are good.

I chose the “7 Plus” over earlier versions because this model apparently tracks charging, so if charging gets disrupted by panel gets shading or other problems, it’ll pick up where it left off. It also has indicator lights that show the strength of the charge, which is handy for positioning the panels.

Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus

This angle shows the charging lights in blue (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

I’m still adapting it for use. I got a set of small bungees to help secure it and hold it open—it folds closed like a book for storage and packing, and doesn’t prop open very well for use. It comes with little carabiners to help, but I lack places in the sun that I can attach them to. The bungees make a difference.

Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus

The Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus shown closed (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

As time goes by, applications will expand. I like that it’s set up to hang off the back of a back pack, charging equipment on the go. One day, that might come in handy, or even prove life saving.

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6 Responses to Solar “Toys”: Goal Zero Portable Panel

  1. Ekij says:

    I don’t follow what you are suggesting by “this model apparently tracks charging, so if charging gets disrupted by panel gets shading or other problems, it’ll pick up where it left off. “?
    The panel simply provides power or doesn’t. The device under charger is responsible for charging and will do so provided the solar panel can provide ‘good’ power (enough current at the required Voltage).

    The only “smart” thing the solar panel can do is shut off if the device under charge draws more current than the solar panel can provide thus collapsing the Voltage, however most devices will simply stop charging when this happens anyway.

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Ekij, I’m not sure. I assume it’s the unit between the solar panel and the USB plug. It’s more than simply a panel and connector.

    But really, I’m merely passing along what the Goal Zero people say about their product, to wit: “The Nomad 7 Plus features an auto restart that’s smarter than anything else on the market. With the ability to track power flow history, it knows the difference between a device that has reached a fully charged state and one that disconnects due to environmental causes, i.e. lack of sunlight, shadow, solar eclipse, etc. When the latter is detected, it automatically reconnects the charging device, no extra work on your part is needed.”

    It may be circuitry similar to our Blu ray player, which can find where we stopped a disc and ask if we want to return to that place, even if we’ve viewed other discs between viewing the disc in question.

    In other words: magic.

  3. Ekij says:


    Sorry I think you’ve been suckered by marketing waffle.
    In your analogy you’d be crediting the power company (I know you run off batteries and an inverter but we’re taking analogy here) for your Blu-ray player picking up at the point in the movie where it left off. This is the responsibility of the final application, not the power supply!

    The panel can provide power or not provide power those are its only two abilities.

  4. Mark Zeiger says:

    Ekij, by that reasoning, I should throw out my main system’s charge controller. You’re right, a solar panel either charges or it doesn’t, but circuitry between the panels and the battery can effect how the charge is handled. I do have solar items around here that are simply the panel and the battery. Others add a bit of control to the incoming charge.

    Please note my choice of wording in the original post: “this model apparently tracks charging…” (emphasis mine). I’m not saying it does for sure. There are indications it might.

    In this particular instance, I had an opportunity to A/B the unit I ended up with and the unit it replaced as second generation. It wasn’t a totally scientific comparison, but I did see a difference. It could be the new panel simply charges more efficiently.

    You may be right, the little box between the panel and the charged item may not be doing anything at all, other than indicating the level of charge (which also makes it superior to the older model). My bottom line: the newer generation unit cost less than the older one. It’s smaller, lighter, and demonstrably charges better than the older model. It works for me.

  5. Ekij says:

    Yes a charger controller is vitally important to avoid damaging a battery.
    In a Lead Acid system the charge controller is a separate piece of equipment between the solar panels and the batteries.
    For any USB charged device (phone etc) the charge controller is an integral part of the final device.
    Having ‘another one’ as part of the solar panel is not helpful.
    But as you say of the new one is smaller, lighter and cheaper than the old one (typical given the advances in solar panel design) that’s good.
    In your last comment you state “The new panel simply charges more efficiently” once again the charging is the responsibility of the end device. The panel either provides power or it doesn’t.
    Without some actual Voltage and current comparisons we can’t see for certain what it going on. Both solar panels should be providing about 5V (USB standard) and as much current as the device under charge demands.

  6. Mark Zeiger says:

    Ekij, okay, perhaps it’s my fault for not communicating effectively. In my opinion, simply by providing indicator lights that show the level of charge going into the device to be charged, the newer design is more efficient–for me–because it lets me know that I’ve optimized the panel’s capabilities in the available light. And, it charges the same devices I’ve charged with the earlier design in less time. That, to me, is better efficiency. As I said in the previous comment, it wasn’t a scientific comparison, but I see noticeable difference through casual observation. I’m not trying to sell you one of these devices, I’m just expressing my own satisfaction with the one I have.

    I apologize if my language isn’t precise enough. Generally, I bang out the blog posts and replies to comments, then get back to work. No one should look for technical language in any of my writings. I was a technical writer in a past career, and I hated it, so I avoid it now that I’m my own boss.

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