When I was planning a hunt last winter in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, one of the considerations I had to take into account was how to keep all of my gear charged up. I was going to be camping for 8 days at a rustic campsite, but was planning on bringing video and audio recording gear. I stocked up on as many extra camera batteries as possible, but at almost $100 each, there’s only so many you can buy. Between my Sony 4k camcorder and my GoPro, I needed a way to recharge the batteries at the campsite. The Yeti Goal Zero line of portable chargers came up as an option. After a bit of research, I settled on the Yeti Goal Zero 150 portable power station and the Yeti Goal Zero Boulder 50 Solar panel.
What It Is
The Yeti Goal Zero 150 is pricey. It retails for $200 and the 50-watt solar panel is another $150. It is also heavy. The power station weighs 12 lbs. and the solar panel is another 12 lbs. This is not something you are going to use for backpacking unless you are part of a film crew and carrying the gear between several people. The power box is 8 X 6 X 6 inches and the panel is 22 x 26 x 2 inches, approximately. The power station is basically a box that contains a battery and features 2 USB ports, 1 standard 3-prong 110-volt plug, an AC input, and a car charger input. The car charger is going to be another $40 if you need it (you do).
The power station takes about 6 hours to charge via the AC wall adapter or car charger input. Charging via the 50-watt solar panel takes between 5-10 hours, depending on how direct the sunlight is. Yeti says that the power station can charge any one of the following items off one full charge for the unit:
- Smartphone – 9-12 Recharges
- Tablet – 6 Recharges
- Laptop – 1-2 Recharges
- Action Camera – 25 Recharges
The power station and Solar Panel both feel somewhat rugged, though they are not waterproof and would probably not hold up to being dropped on a hard surface. The power station includes a digital display with remaining battery life and can charge multiple inputs at once (2 USB devices, and one standard power plug). The solar panel features a kickstand on the back which can help angle it towards the sun.
At first glance, the power station and solar panel seem like niche items. They serve a very specific purpose and do it well. After using them for over a week I was impressed by how well the system works and have since come up with other uses for it: Keeping phones charged during a power outage, powering a stereo at BBQ, and charging and powering items during road trips in the car. While camping, I would hook up my camera charger, GPS, and Phone to charge overnight inside my tent. The next day, I would set up the solar panel and let the battery on the main unit recharge while I was out hunting. If I had to drive anywhere, I always had the power station plugged into the car to charge as I drove. With this system, I never ran out of power on the battery. The solar panel even charged the unit consistently despite only having 3 out of 7 days with good sunlight. I was even able to charge my Macbook Pro one day only depleting the battery on the power station by 50%.
Like I said, this is an expensive product, However, like most products with the Yeti name, it is very well made and works. By increasing your budget you could increase the size of your power station or solar panel as Goal Zero has many different options. Some of the units are very large and could likely serve as a backup generator for appliances in your home. Personally, I like the size and portability of the Goal Zero 150 and the Boulder 50 solar panel. They do not take up too much room in a packed car and are easy to move back and forth from a tent to the car.
If you just need to charge a cell phone on a camping trip Id look for a smaller and more portable power bank. That being said, if you need more power to charge larger devices the Goal Zero 150 and Boulder 50 solar panel are great choices.