Google Project Simplifies Adventure Planning, Invites You to Help

Adventure Planning Helped by Google Trekker
Google Trekker for Adventure Planning

Adventure Planning at It’s Best!

Google unleashed it’s backcountry ‘street view’ last summer  as part of their quest for the perfect online map. That’s right, adventure planning from home is going to be a cinch once they’ve completed mapping all of your favorite outdoor destinations. Imagine being able to investigate the Grand Canyon and ‘walk’ it’s trails from your computer to decide if it’s really the vacation spot you’re hoping for…oh wait, you already can!

Become a Virgle Pioneer

Now, they’re putting their trekking camera up for grabs (a 40-lb., 15 five megapixel camera) to groups that pass the application process so that they can broaden the reach of their program. From the public application form:

If you represent an organization such as a tourism board, non-profit, government agency, university or research group that would like to take photos with the Trekker for future inclusion on Google Maps, please fill out this form. Tell us more about your proposed locations and upcoming trips, and we’ll get back to you if/when there’s an opportunity for us to partner with you on a Trekker collection. Thanks!

Help get the word out to groups you think might qualify – and note, part of the application asks if sponsorship will be required!

What’s the Next Step in Adventure Planning for Google Maps?

We can’t help but wonder where this Google exploratory push will head towards next, but we’re excited to find out. Will the next step be Google Paddling Trails? We’re curious to find out!

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!


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.

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.


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: