Solar Batteries 101 with Goal Zero

Written & published on Solar Batteries by Goal Zero on their Off The Grid blog

Solar Batteries 101
Photo Credit: Goal Zero

Not a Solar Scientist? That’s OK. We’re going back to the basics of keeping your batteries healthy and your solar panels hot!

SOLAR BATTERIES 101

GOAL ZERO utilizes the latest and greatest in battery technology to accompany you on all life’s adventures. From versatile and lightweight lithium ion, to the robust and powerful Lead Acid, we’ve compiled some helpful tips to keep GOAL ZERO batteries their best.

i. Batteries need exercise.
The best thing for any battery is to use it. Don’t leave a charged battery sitting around,unloved and unused for long periods of time.

ii. The “Battery Memory” myth.
Thanks to old Nickel-Cadmium (NiCd) batteries, there’s a myth running around that you should completely drain your batteries before plugging them in for a recharge, called “deep cycling”. Although true with NiCd batteries, the typical batteries you’ll find in most of your gear today, including the advanced lithium and lead-acid batteries used in your GOAL ZERO rechargers, require no such draining. In fact, you should avoid deep cycling your batteries- it does more harm than good in most cases.

Solar Batteries - Myth Busted
No draining required!

iii. The “Stadium Effect”.
The stadium effect occurs when recharging your batteries. You’ll notice your battery quickly filling up in the beginning, then slowing down noticeably when trying to charge up the last several percentages. think of how quickly a stadium fills up when the doors first open- there are hundreds of open seats so it’s easy to find the one you want. Eventually there are only a few open seats here and there and people have to maneuver around to find a spot and filling those seats takes longer. The same theory applies to recharging batteries. It’s easy for energy to flow in and take up empty space in the beginning, and as time goes on and there is less space available, it takes longer for the energy to fill in those holes.

iv. Read the Manual.
Yeah, it might be a long read, but the manual is the best place to find the dos and don’t for the battery in your specific device. Reading your manual will ensure you’re taking steps to keep your batteries happy and healthy.

SOLAR 101: GOAL ZERO makes it easy to recharge your gear from the sun- we didn’t invent solar power, we perfected it. Some things to keep in mind when recharging your gear with solar power:

i. Solar panels don’t store power from the sun, they collect it.
We teach you to collect-store-use, which is the best way to utilize solar power to recharge your gear. Collect the sun’s energy with a solar panel. Store the power in a recharger. Use the recharger to power your gear, day and night. If you’re really a diehard, you can plug your gear directly into the junction box located on the back of our Nomad Solar Panels to recharge from the sun.

ii. Solar works, even in overcast conditions.
Solar panels utilize the UV rays from the sun that can penetrate through clouds. Although the efficiency of the solar panels will decrease in cloudy conditions, you’ll still be collecting valuable power from the sun.

iii. Proper alignment works wonders.
Keeping your solar panel angled toward the sun can dramatically increase solar efficiency. Set it up and let Mother Nature do the rest.

Solar Battery Charging Alignment
Find the sweet spot.

Avoid This! Properly Secure Your Boat with a Rack System

It’s every paddler’s nightmare to loose their boat, especially when they’re travelling full speed down the highway. Well, this nightmare became reality for one Georgia area paddler and we thought it was a perfect time to remind everyone on how to securely transport your kayaks, SUPs & canoes with a properly set up rack system. Here’s what happened:

All of this could have easily been avoided by taking the necessary steps to ensure everything is secure. Even for the most skilled kayaker, it is important  to start with the basics… so let’s do a quick review of what those steps are.

Start With The Rack System

We love racks. No matter what kind of car or truck you have, it becomes infinitely easier to transport a kayak, SUP or canoe when you have a good rack system. Over the years, we’ve put together several guides in the past that discuss rack systems for:

We love racks so much so that we even started a website dedicated to the top brands and products that help you get your toys from one place to another called RackBoys.com. If you’re still lost on what rack is best for your needs or how to install the one you have securely, give us a call at (866) 208-7074 or email us at customer@rackboys.com and we will help you out.

Video Instructions: How to Properly Secure a Kayak to a Roof Rack System

A while back we released this video on how to properly secure a kayak to your roof rack. This will help walk you through the basic steps of getting your ride tied down securely.

Getting into a situation similar to the first video doesn’t need to happen – it just takes a little extra time and effort to make sure everything is done right.

If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to ask, just comment below!

 

Protect Your Paddling Pup with a Dog PFD

Always ready to paddle.
Always ready to paddle.

Who’s your favorite paddling partner? Wait, don’t answer that…we have a feeling we might know the answer. It’s not your friends or family, who too often have an excuse for why they can’t make it down to the water with you – no, it’s someone who’s always game for a trip outside. Someone who can’t say no to jumping onto a kayak, canoe or paddleboard and usually into the water too. Unless your dog has a fear of water, “man’s best friend” makes a great paddling partner and, just like any paddler, they need to be safe around the water. The best place to start is with a Dog PFD (personal flotation device).

What is the Benefit of a Dog PFD?

Adventuring outside gets tiring.
Adventuring outside gets tiring.

Unlike with people, there are no laws stating that dogs are required to have a life jacket when they hit the water. However, there are a number of benefits to outfitting your dog with a quality PFD that will protect the safe-being of your furry companion and as a result bring you peace of mind.

Whether it’s a distraction like waterfowl or just the allure of water, it’s hard for any dog to resist jumping overboard and doing some dog-paddling. It’s even harder for them to realize how tiring it can be. A dog PFD gives canines something to fall back on – to just sit back and float – if they need it. A quality one also includes reflective cloth for increased visibility and a handle that makes it easy and painless to pull them back on board your paddle craft, when they’re ready to of course.

What Are My Options?

NRS Dog Life Jacket.
NRS Dog PFD

We offer a wide variety of outdoor gear for you pooch, including two different dog PFDs at ACK.com. The first is the low profile Dog Life Jacket from NRS which comes at a lower price and with 1000 denier cordura material, providing buoyancy of up to 2.7-7.9 lbs. The second is the Ruffwear K-9 Float Coat which would be considered the premium option of the two. It offers 4-14.5 lbs of buoyancy and is made with a thicker, ballistic nylon material.

While both have received glowing reviews, we though this recent customer feedback on the float coat was worth sharing:

Dog PFD - Ruffwear K-9 Float Coat
Ruffwear K-9 Float Coat

“Although my dogs are great swimmers (Labradors) I bought this coat for kayaking with my dog.  This coat fits all 3 of my dogs from 63 to 80 lbs with minor adjustments for each dog.  However my 13 year old dog is scared of the vest, but once I get it on her she runs around happy like a puppy.  I can pick her up by the handle to put on the kayak and it holds her without hurting her (like the cheap vests would).   I let the dog get wet first and also dunk the vest in water to keep it a bit cooler on the dog.  I highly recommend the Ruffwear K-9 Float Coat.  Great for aging dogs or just for safety.” – Susan L

So what are you waiting for? Grab your puppy a dog PFD for your next outing – we’re sure that he or she will appreciate it!

Watch out for that… Goose?!?

Yup, you read that correctly. Goose and other animal encounters are happening all over the nation!

Listen to Chris dela Torre elaborate on his unplanned entanglement with as he calls the “Gangsters of Nature” on the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC from Canada.

Photo Credit: Outdoor Research Blog
Photo Credit: Outdoor Research Blog

On a serious note, it is important to remember that being adventure seekers means we are trekking into territory that isn’t ours. The animals that live in these natural habitats such as geese, swans and other waterfowl may look cute and harmless from a distance but may be aggressive if they feel threatened. Even though we mean no harm, it’s important that we give them space and respect their environment. I don’t know about you, but I know I don’t want to receive the wrath of a “Gangster Goose”!

Have you had a crazy animal encounters? Tell us about it!

It’s Getting Hot Out There! – Check Out H20 Options for Any Sized Adventure

The temperature are creeping up and it’s crucial you stay hydrated matter what you’re doing, whether it be a light run or a multi-day back country excursion.

There are a wide variety of ways for you to get the H2O you need. Check out these ACK videos as we give a break down of essential products for Hydration on Longer AdventuresHydration when Hiking & Running and Hydration at Basecamp then comment below and tell us how YOU stay hydrated outside!

The PowerMonkey Extreme is Better Than Your Phone Charger AND Waterproof

My phone charging from the battery.
My phone charging from the battery.

A coworker recently lent me their new PowerMonkey Extreme to try out for a camping trip. This portable solar charger and battery combo from Power Traveller is both waterproof and shockproof (waterproof for 30 minutes up to about 3 feet) making it the perfect tool for both paddlers and campers to keep electronics charged.

I have used the Goal Zero Nomad in the past and had charged my phone directly from the panels. I immediately noticed some big differences between the two, the biggest of which was the battery. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this battery is a powerhouse.

It houses a 9,000 mAh capacity Lithium Polymer battery which, in charging terms, translates to 6 iPhone charges or about 8-10 charges for my basic smartphone. I plugged my phone in on the drive home from work and found it fully charged not long after without even putting a dent in the battery’s charge. I was immediately impressed.

Swipe the pad to turn it on or off.
Swipe the pad to turn it on or off.

The battery  ‘on-off’ switch is touch operated and is best described as ‘slick’. Just swipe a finger across the friction control from left to right and up pops a neat LCD display which tells you how much charge is left in the battery. You can also activate a permanent ‘on’ feature which will negate the auto-shutoff that is programmed to occur after fully charging the device that’s connected. Ya.. this thing is smart.

 

 

So how does the battery stay charged?

The solar panel charging the battery pack.
The solar panel charging the battery pack.

To tell you the truth, for the week that I used it, I never put too large of a dent in the battery’s life. Out of the four cell phone charges, I knocked it down 2 bars out of five. I was able to return it to full charge using the solar panel after a few hours in the sun while I went out paddling. It is designed to fully charge the battery within 15 hours in optimum light conditions.

The solar panel is simple and easy to use and compared to the Goal Zero Nomad is more protected and compact, although a bit thicker as a result of the protective housing.

However, this isn’t the only way to charge the battery. It can also hook into a USB port or a universal main charger which comes standard with every kit. That’s right – the solar panel is not even close to your only option!

Charging my phone directly from the solar panels.
Charging my phone directly from the solar panels.

Solar-Ability

Let’s not forget about the solar panel after all this battery talk. The two folding panels offer 3 watts max output and can operate as a power source on it’s own as well using the same cables that are compatible with the battery.

It also comes with a Velco strap accessory that is perfect for attaching it directly to a tent or backpack which makes it perfect for hiking. Texting-addicted students might also enjoy hooking it to their backpack for portable power wherever they go…just a thought.

This video from Power Traveller demonstrates how it hooks into a hiker’s pack to charge electronics during the daylight adventures:

The many input and output ports compatible with the charger.
The many input and output ports compatible with the charger.

What Else?

The panel and battery aren’t all that the PowerMonkey includes. It comes with everything you need to get charging right out of the gate with 8 mobile device tips (I used the Micro USB to charge my cell) and four interchangeable heads for universal main charger made to fit wall outlets in the United Kingdom, USA, Europe and Australia.

It also includes a hard bodied black travel pouch which has room for all of the pieces in a nice compact size that won’t take up much room in a backpack. Yep, PowerTraveller seems to have thought of everything with their Power Monkey Extreme. It is certainly my new favorite portable charger.

Here are some more photos of me playing with it on an overnight camping trip:

 

 

What’s Your Dad’s Adventure Personality?

Dads are always happy in the great outdoors!
Dads are always happy in the great outdoors!

Father’s Day is fast approaching and if you need a gift for the kind of dad who likes anything relating to the outdoors, the hardest part about your shopping experience at ACK is going to be picking out which one to get! To help you narrow down your options, we’ve selected a few top gift ideas for whatever adventure personality best describes your dad.

Use our Gift Guide and shop from the following adventure personalities:

Of course, if you don’t see exactly what you want in our guide, we’re sure you’ll find it after doing a little browsing!

Win a First Aid Kit for National Safety Month this June!

Designated as National Safety Month by the National Safety Council, June marks both the coming summer and a reminder to be safe in everything you do including adventuring outside. We thought this would be a great opportunity to remind readers about staying prepared with proper safety gear and in particular, first aid kits.

Day Tripper Kit
Day Tripper Kit

Day Tripper from Adventure Medical Kit Giveaway

In recognition of National Safety Month, we’re giving away some Day Tripper kits from Adventure Medical Kits. Want to win one? Comment below with an outdoor adventure you have planned this summer and we’ll pick three winners at random on Wednesday 6/19/13! Check the Blog Giveaway Terms and Conditions for any exclusions.

Want to double your odds of winning this giveaway? Share the link to this blog on Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest and then comment again with a link to let us know where you shared it.

See more about the kit in this video:

Why Bring a Kit?

Safety in your outdoor adventures, whether it’s a short hike or an overnight paddling expedition, is all about preparation. Cuts, scrapes, bug bites or  a headache can happen anywhere, anytime, and it pays to be ready. Equipping yourself with a pre-assembled first aid kit is often the most convenient and cost effective way to do this. Most are compact, lightweight and are always a great way to make sure you haven’t forgotten any of the basics.

The Weekender Kit is made for week long trips.
The Weekender Kit is made for week long trips.

If you do plan on relying on a first aid kit there are a few things to consider including:

  • the size of your group who will be relying on your kit
  • the duration of your trip
  • any inherent danger of your specific trip
  • proximity to medical assistance
  • special needs of anyone in the group

For example, Adventure Medical Kits makes several different kits based on the length of your trip like the Weekender Kit versus the Day Tripper.

What Should a Kit Include?

Kits should include the basic necessities like:

  • Bandages (various sized adhesive bandages for wounds, dressings and moleskin for treating blisters)
  • Items to reduce chance of infection (antiseptic wipes, gloves & hand wipes, alcohol swabs)
  • Basic tools (tweezers for splinters, tape, some type of knife or blade)
  • Simple drugs & lotions (Aspirin or Ibuprofen, antibiotic ointment and any prescription drugs)
  • Manual explaining how to use items in the kit

Of course there are plenty of extra items to consider ranging from things like emergency dental items to bug bite ointment. Each kit should be personalized to the nature of your trip and group, so if there is an expected hazard make sure to pack first aid items to prepare for it!

Browse our full selection of First Aid Kits and Accessories.

 

Bring the Summertime Tunes Outside with Waterproof Audio Accessories

The Award Winning Eco Terra
The Award Winning Eco Terra

Get ready to enjoy summer while you take your tunes along with you. Eco X Gear has a couple of great options including the Eco Terra Waterproof Audio System and Audio Eco Extreme Speaker Case.

ACK Customer C.W. Goetz is enjoying his Eco Terra and had this review of it to share:

Plenty of colors for the Speaker Case!
Plenty of colors for the Speaker Case!

“Well built, rugged and sounds very good.  Any more volume & bass enhancements would obviously require the size of the unit to be made larger which would make it impractical to pack in a canoe for tripping.  It’s perfect as is and functions as advertised. I’ts certainly the best waterproof boombox on the market. Love it!”

In Focus Video: Dry Bag Options

We’re big fans of Dry Bags here at ACK. We use them for just about everything when it comes to the outdoors. They have so many applications and there are so many slightly different versions of Dry Bags that it might seem a bit overwhelming to know what to look for and to know exactly what it is you’re looking at in the first place. We decided to take the guess work out of it and filmed an In Focus video to break down the differences between brands, sizes, materials and everything in between. Enjoy the video and let us know how you’ve used Dry Bags on your adventures in the comments below!

-Trent @ ACK