Our two Goal Zero Extreme 350 power packs have been essential companions on this trip. We had a bracket made for them so that they sit side by side on top of our safe, which also places them right next to our Waeco fridge.
Our only real criticism of the Extreme 350 power packs is that the inverter which latches onto the side of the packs is a little fragile, particularly in our setup as the inverter hangs out a bit. The connection between the power pack and the inverter needs to be improved upon to make it more rugged and secure in offroad environments, or where luggage might bash against it. We have returned to the car a few times only to find the connection to have been faulty and the fridge therefore off. Not so happy if you are trying to keep the contents cold when the car is parked.
This is not an issue with the Yeti 1250 pack, as the inverter is integrated into the power pack. However, at 46 kg / 103 lbs, this model is four times the weight of the Extreme 350 and therefore not really fit for heavy duty off-roading. We could imagine that on an extended overland trip, if you have the space to mount it securely in a pop up camper or truck bed, it would be pretty useful. Since you would likely not remove it you would need to ensure that you can keep it charged via permanent roof mounted solar panels and via a 12 volt connection to the car whilst driving. An AC wall charger is also available for the Yeti 1250 power pack, so it is perfectly feasible to give it a boost when you are parked up somewhere with mains power.
Recharging all Goal Zero packs is made easy by using the 12 volt car plug, a regular AC plug when a mains power source is available, or via simple plug connections to solar panels. The agent in the UAE recommended that we recharge the power packs and keep them plugged in whenever possible and as long as possible. Hence, when we are in a house or not using the packs for a longer period, we have them permanently plugged to an AC current. We can’t say if this helps keep up the life span, but we’ve had no issues to date on that front.
It is, however, a great option to be able to charge the batteries while on the road and driving, using the 12 volt plug. We have noticed, that when a single pack is near empty, it takes a good 10 hours of 12 volt power to recharge it completely. This is in line with the Goal Zero user guide which states that an empty Extreme 350 power pack takes 12 hours to charge from 12 volt plug. That means for us nearly two days of driving, but since we have two Extreme 350 power packs at hand, this has never been a problem, ie we have not had any power shortages.
The one problem with the 12 volt cable is its length – it is far too short. If we had a longer cable, the pack would be able to stay in its bracket on top of the safe. Now, every time we want to recharge, which is nearly daily when on the road, we actually have to place the charging pack either in the foot well of the passenger seat or behind the front seat on the floor, taking up valuable space. There is no other way, as the packs are heavy and need a good footing not to be a danger in any off-roading situation. This scenario also meant, in our case, that we needed to devise a filler for the bracket space when one pack is removed, otherwise the pack in the bracket is also a liability.
The Extreme 350 power packs are chainable using a thick power cable which goes into the inverter connection. Each power pack has an an inverter / chaining cable plug on both the front and back of the pack which means you can chain the packs and use the inverter at the same time. This is useful if you need to use a large amount of power in a short time, but is also great when charging the packs via solar panels, as you don’t need to worry about swapping the packs over for charging once one is done.
We soon stopped using the chaining cable during car charging, as not only did we fear it was getting excessively bent in the bracket space we had provided for the packs, but more importantly, we wanted to separate the packs power from one another so as to have a better overview of our power consumption. As we didn’t stay in one place for more than a day or two, our appliances never used up both packs, and we also had power on a daily basis either through driving or an from an AC connection if we were at an organised camp site. We therefore preferred to run down one pack fully before using the next.
We noticed the following power consumption for our main usages, albeit, as was confirmed by a friend who had purchased an Extreme 350 power pack too, that after a couple of uses, the initial high output was somewhat reduced. Maybe that is the nature of the lead acid batteries, but something you might notice when buying them new, but not a longer term problem.
WAECO fridge at lowest level in a European climate when the car is not in use (ie no AC running to help the fridge cool): 16-24 hours
Laptop charging and running at the same time: 3-5 hours
GoalZero Light-A-Life lights: near no consumption!
We also had the fortune to be a given a Nomad 7 solar panel for charging small gadgets, such as mobile phones or iPods (not suitable for iPads!), and we were also given the Guide 10 Battery Pack which can charge 4 AA or AAA rechargeable batteries. We used the Nomad 7 – Guide 10 combo for our initial ten thousand kilometers in Iran and Turkey, as the sun was strong enough to have the Nomad 7 panels recharge the batteries when placed underneath the windscreen. It took about 2-3 full days to recharge 4 AA batteries. This was about the right timing as we had then usually gone through the second set of 4 AA batteries, and could swap in the freshly charged ones.
The weather turned very grey when we entered Bulgaria (it has been one of the rainiest summers on record in much of Europe) but thankfully the Guide 10 battery pack also has a USB input socket, and this works excellently too.
There is very little to say about the GoalZero Light-A-Life lights, except that they are awesome. We love their ease of use, their bright light with low energy consumption and the way they can be chained but still turned on individually. This is a top notch product.
Since one of our laptops is particularly ancient and has a battery life of about 2 nanoseconds, next time we would also pack a Sherpa 50 or Sherpa 120 power pack as these are highly portable and great for laptop / iPad use in an Internet cafe or while waiting for ferries or border crossings.
Overall we feel that the Goal Zero products are well designed, easy to use and worth their weight in gold – the last thing you want when you are packed up and ready to hit the road is to find that your laptop / fridge / lights / iPad / music system have drained your car battery overnight.
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- Theresa & David on Special report! Ukraine, Russia and Georgia via Port Kerch, the Vladikavkaz / Verkhiny Lars and Kazbegi / Stepantsminda border
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