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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Gear Closet: Goal Zero Venture 70 USB Battery Pack

My recent trip to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia in the Southern Ocean were a perfect testing grounds for new gear. While in those wild and beautiful places, I had the chance to put a bunch of new products to the test, and in the coming days I'll be sharing my thoughts on a number of new products that you'll want to have on your radar. That starts today with a look at the new Venture 70 battery pack from Goal Zero, a rugged USB charger with plenty of power and features to help keep your gadgets powered up while on the go.

As most of you probably already know, Goal Zero is one of the leaders in the field of portable power for use in the outdoors. The company has been making lightweight and efficient solar panels for years, and its line of Yeti power stations have been a mainstay in base camps for along time now. Of course, it was only natural that GZ would also get into smaller USB power packs as well, which are more convenient for the average traveler. That led to a line of lightweight chargers that have been in the company's catalog for several years as well, including the Venture 30, a ruggedized USB battery pack that features a 7800 mAh lithium-ion power cell, that is also dust and waterproof too. The Venture 70 is the evolution of that product, sharing many of the same features along with a much larger battery.

Much like its predecessor, the Venture 70 is also ruggedized for use in the outdoors. It's outer casing functions much like an armored shell, protecting it from accidental drops, while also keeping water and dust at bay. For those who want the technical specs, the battery pack is IPX67 rated, which makes it a great option for those of us who venture into remote and challenging places on a regular basis. On top of that, it functions well in cold weather, which I learned on South Georgia. Batteries often take a significant hit in the cold, but this one managed to continue to provide power, even when the temperature took a plunge.


The Venture 70 is equipped with a 17,700 mAh lithium-ion cell, which is about 2.5 times that of the Venture 30. This high capacity battery allows the device to recharge most mobile phones as many as 5 or 6 times, and it can even recharge a tablet twice. And since it comes with two USB ports built right in, you can keep multiple gadgets powered up at all times. Those ports feature 2.4A of power each, which means they can charge as quickly as plugging into a wall outlet. And since the power isn't shared between them, they can also provide a steady stream of energy to your headlamp, GoPro camera, GPS device, or anything else you might want to plug into it. While traveling, I even used it to charge a Nintendo Switch, which is a device that requires a lot of power to keep running.

Goal Zero has included "smart" circuitry in the Venture 70 that is designed to help keep our gadgets safe from overcharging, which can potentially damage the battery. When you plug a device into its USB ports, the battery pack automatically detects the highest amount of current that the device can handle and only feeds it that much power. The result is enough energy to provide a fast recharge, but not so much that it fries any of the important electronics inside or the battery itself.

As you would expect from a battery pack from Goal Zero, the Venture 70 is solar ready and can be charged using the company's various solar panels. This allows you to continue to recharge the device while in the field and have plenty of power stored up to top off your gadgets when the need arises. With such a large battery inside, it can take awhile to recharge the Venture 70 however, so a little patience is required. GZ says that it will take about 8 hours to complete that process using a Nomad 20 solar panel, and roughly the same time using a wall outlet. I found that plugging the battery pack into the wall was the surest and most reliable way to fill it up before hitting the road. A solar panel works fine, but if conditions are less than optimal it can take much longer to recharge the battery.

I've used the Venture 70 on a number of different trips over the past month or so, and have come to rely on it heavily. Its large battery is godsend in terms of keeping your electronic devices charged when you wander far from an outlet. It also provides a steady current when ever you need one, and wasn't nearly as finicky as some of the other portable USB batteries that I've used in the past. That's made it a welcome addition to my travel gear and has earned it a spot on future adventures for sure.

There are a couple of important caveats to point out with the Venture 70. First, because it is built for use in the outdoors, and has a large internal battery, it isn't the lightest charger that you'll come across.  In fact, it is a bit hefty, weighing in at 1 pound (454 g). That's a lot of additional weight to your pack, especially when there are smaller and lighter options available. That's the price you pay for such a ruggedized battery pack however. Increased weight for a device that can survive the rigors of the outdoors.

Speaking of price, the Venture 70 sells for $149.99, which is also on the higher end of the cost for a battery pack of this capacity. Once again, there are less expensive options out there, some of which even have larger batteries. Most of those aren't made for use in the outdoors, nor do they all come with two fully powered USB ports and the auto-power sensing features that this battery pack has. If you're simply looking for a high capacity charger at a bargain price, those other options will probably do just fine. But if you need a higher level of performance out of your gear, the Venture 70 is worth the asking price in my opinion.

Find out more at GoalZero.com.

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