Finding good editorial stories for Fallon’s Angler has taken us away from the usual beaten paths and ultimately to more remote places, last year we walked into Dartmoor staying over night and this year we camped in Snowdonia finding quieter places and catching wild brown trout. The down side is we have to carry everything, camping gear, food, cameras, tripods and fishing kit. Being away from power can be deliberating for the photographer, weight is always carefully monitored so carrying camera batteries has to be restricted; I carry eight LP-E6 for my two Canon 5D cameras, but these can be spent in under two days, so I decided to try out the Goal Zero Sherpa 100 power bank and Nomad 20 solar panel, they weigh 877 grams and 1132 grams respectively, so I decided to take a closer look and see how they could solve my off grid shooting problems.
Connecting of the Sherpa 100: The Sherpa 100 has two USB output ports, a 12v output and laptop output with various adaptors to fit most brands such as Asus, Dell, HP, IBM, Lenovo, Panasonic, Sony and Toshiba, but there is no adaptor to take a Mac PowerBook (the choice for the majority of photographers). There is a work around by screwing an inverter but I will come to this later. The Sherpa 100 comes with a 12v cigarette car output adaptors, one to connect the Sherpa 100 to any 12v cigarette lighter device. There is another useful 12v adaptor cable that allows the Sherpa 100 to be charged from any vehicle but this has to be purchased separately for £9.99. All of the male and female sockets are colour coded and neatly light up when connected; therefore no mistakes can be made when making a connection and you can see devices are charging in the dark. The single input-charging socket accommodates the 240v charger (supplied), the 12v car adaptor (sold separately) and any Goal Zero Nomad Solar Panel (sold separately)
Charging the Sherpa 100: Direct from the mains the Sherpa 100 took just over 3 hours to fully charge. To charge from a 12v vehicle adaptor it took a little over four hours. I charged the Sherpa using the Nomad 20 on a sunny autumn day in London, the sun was weak so the charge was slower but despite this I managed to achieve a 20% charge in around two to three hours, anyone who knows what an October day in London can be like will understand that the sun is far from it’s potential full strength.
Using the Nomad 20 solar panel: You can use the Nomad solar panel to charge the Sherpa 100 or plug the solar panel direct into a device via the female USB connector, obviously the panel does not store energy, that is the job of the Sherpa 100 but this is a neat solution to topping up devices. All of the cables and connectors pack into a built in mesh pouch at the rear of the solar panel keeping everything safe and tidy, the pouch will also accommodate the Sherpa 100, handy if you want to suspend the panel out of the way and leave it to charge.
I charged my IPhone 5 direct from the Nomad 20 again the sun was weak, the panel charged 30% of my phone in two hours. Mini karabiners are supplied to allow you to clip the panel on to a rucksack while in transit, and there is the option of daisy chaining the solar panels for added power. The trifold design measures 210mm x 330mm when closed and 630mm x 330mm when the three solar panels are unfolded.
Charging via the USB port: Canon – With the Sherpa 100 fully charged I found I could simultaneously charge two Canon batteries (LP-E6) via the USB port in two hours forty five minutes taking the Sherpa down to 80% charge, continuing to charge two more canon batteries it took two hours and thirty minutes with the 60% charge remaining. The variant was probably due to the condition of the LP-E6 batteries. Based on this I could potentially get ten LP-E6 batteries charged from the Sherpa 100 this could extend my shooting time to 2-3 days.
Go-Pro: The time for simultaneously charging two GoPro batteries was slight less at two hours.
iPhone: I charged by IPhone 5 six times with 50% remaining so in theory I could get ten charges from the Sherpa 100.
Using the Inverter: You screw this into the side of the Sherpa which offers you a two pin mains plug in option, purchase a standard UK three pin to two pin adaptor and you are once again in business offering more charging options, the inverter does add more bulk but only weighs an additional 184 grams. As I mentioned earlier there is a lack of direct connection to a Mac PowerBook (not Goal Zero’s fault, the Mac connections are licensed!) so an inverter is required (additional purchase required). My MacBook Pro 15” only received a 79% charge before the Sherpa ran out of juice after one hour and twenty-five minutes, the issue here I believe is the energy used to power the cooling motor inside the inverter but perhaps someone more electrically qualified may be able to throw some light onto this? I would conclude the Sherpa 100 with the inverter is not ideal for charging Mac books and perhaps you should look at some of the larger models like the Goal Zero Yeti.
Conclusion: At 2kg for both the Sherpa 100 and Nomad 20 this option is not too heavy nor bulky, the panel clips neatly onto the back of my LowePro ProTactic 350 back pack and can be folded out when trekking to gain some extra power. I must confess I haven’t had the opportunity to fully test the potential of the Nomad 20 panel but weather pending I will in the future. Saying this, even in the autumn sun of England I could top up both the Sherpa 100 and top up my IPhone directly. I would consider two solar panels and daisy chain them, they could easily be laid out on my kit bags while canoeing during the day or at base camp.
The Sherpa measures only 133mm x 150mm x 40mm making it easy to pack in a rucksack or dry bag. I would recommend buying the 12v car adaptor so that charging could take place while driving. Charging via the USB port seems to be the most efficient way to use the Sherpa 100 rather than using the inverter. There are loads of Goal Zero accessories to go with this set up including led lighting, lanterns, re-chargeable batteries and more, check www.goalzero.com for the full range and prices.
For the serious outdoor photographer who requires extra power, the Sherpa 100 at only 877grams gives the photographer freedom to roam, and with the Nomad 20 and some sunshine your power is potentially endless. The build is rugged but remember it is not waterproof, so I would recommend buying a small dry sack for photographers staying out in the elements. Taking more power with me has simply taken some anxiety out of shooting off grid, the power bank will certainly be on our future photography trips whether we hike, canoe, or set up a base camp, shooting off grid has become more appealing.