Survival Gear Review: The Goal Zero Charging Kit

Having your cell phone battery die on a long hunt or remote trip can leave your family feeling anxious, and leave you without a way to call for help. And what happens if you are navigating the backwoods and your GPS runs out of juice? With these needs in mind, solar power company Goal Zero has built a compact, ultra-light solar charging panel to power your phone and GPS from the sun.

There are two options for using this solar kit. The best way to go is to charge the Switch 8 battery, which requires about 5 hours of direct sunlight. This battery can then be plugged into a small device, such as a phone, charging the phone in about 1 hour. You can also plug gear directly into the panel to extend the battery life of the device. The panel has a USB port and 12-volt plug-ins. The kit comes with a USB cable, but you will need a special plug for your own devices if they are not USB-compatible.
My favorite thing about the Goal Zero Switch 8 Kit is that the battery can hold the electricity for days, and charge your devices anytime (not just when the sun is out). It also doesn't hurt that the kit is rain-resistant, and the solar panels are protected in a sturdy nylon case with eyelets that allow it to be lashed down.

Here are specs for the Switch 8 kit:
• Dimensions: 6" x 7" closed, 7" x 13" open
• Weight: 11 ounces, with battery and cable
• Charge time: 5 hours to fully charge the Switch 8 battery

The Switch 8 kit isn't just for your cell phone, either. It will fully charge (or at least add power to) MP3 players, GPS devices, most digital cameras, e-readers, tablets, gaming devices, and more.

The Switch 8 kit comes with the Nomad 3.5 solar panel, which generates a maximum of 3.5 volts. The whole kit retails for $120, and can make a great last-minute holiday gift for both survival fans and non-survivalists alike.