Friday, November 16, 2012

Adventure Tech: Goal Zero Switch 8 Solar Recharging Kit

It seems solar technology is finally coming of age and we're starting to get some viable options for using the suns rays to power our gear. Over the past couple of months I've reviewed some excellent solar lighting options from Energizer, tested a personal solar charger from Solio and put Goal Zero's excellent Guide 10 Plus Adventure Kit through its paces. GZ's system was particularly impressive, providing plenty of options for keeping our gadgets fully charged while traveling off the grid. That's why I'm especially excited about their new offering, the Switch 8 Solar Recharging Kit.

The Switch 8 is essentially a large battery inside a rugged tube that comes with a USB port in one end and a USB plug in the other. While Goal Zero touts the Switch 8's ability to fully recharge a smartphone in less than three hours, it can actually be used to recharge anything that accepts power via USB. That means cameras, iPods, GPS devices, headlamps and more. The kit comes with GZ's Nomad 3.5 solar panels, which are highly efficient and can manage to fill the battery in 5-10 hours depending on the amount of direct sunlight available.

On the Switch 8 website, Goal Zero says that the battery is capable of recharging an mp3 player or standard cell phone three times before it is depleted. It will also charge a smartphone once and add 50% more life to a typical e-reader such as the Kindle. Power hungry tablets can even get a 20% boost from the Switch 8, which comes in handy when you need to power your iPad for just a little longer.

The Switch 8 kit, including solar cells, is small and compact, and weighs just .2 pounds (.09kg). That makes it a great option for travel or trips into the backcountry where you won't need a lot of juice, but the need for a recharge will still be useful.

The Goal Zero Switch 8 is available now at REI.com for just $69.99.

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