Goal Zero is a well-known brand when it comes to off-grid solar gadgets and gear. Over the years, they have been making and selling power stations, power banks, camping gear, and solar panels. I call their products plug-and-play gadgets. They’re easy to understand and straightforward to use. DIY solar panel installations can be very complicated to put together for people that don’t know anything about electricity and how it works, so it’s no surprise that Goal Zero has become a popular choice for RVers, campers, vandwellers, homeowners, and survivalists.
I own a Goal Zero Yeti 1000 that I plug into my travel trailer. Paired with two 100W solar panels, I can stay out in the boondocks and generate power while the sun is out, and use my outlets in the trailer day and night. I am planning on adding two more solar panels soon for even more power since I use my laptop a lot during the day for work.
Today we’re going to compare the Goal Zero solar panels on the market, do an overview, and review which product is best for what use. Some of them are smaller for phone charging and power banks, while some are bigger that together with their Yeti power stations can recharge RV batteries, run home appliances, charge a Yeti battery in a van, etc. There are a lot of different uses for each panel, and we’re going to take a look at what would be best for what.
The first table will include Goal Zero foldable solar panels, and the second will be their bigger options like the Boulder solar panel briefcases. Then I will do an overview review and share my opinions on the panels.
Goal Zero Nomad Panels Compared
Largest portable option
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Goal Zero Boulder Panels Compared
Great together with Sherpa 100AC
Optimal for Yeti
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How to Use a Goal Zero Solar Panel
Like I mentioned in the beginning, I call Goal Zero solar panels plug-and-play gadgets because they’re very straightforward to use. That said, each solar panel has different ports and cords coming out of it depending on what you’re going to use it for. Some only have USB, while others only have an 8mm or an Anderson Power Pole connector. So how do you use them? Well, let’s first talk about what each of them does and what they’re capable of.
USB, 8mm, Mini Solar Port, Anderson Power Pole Explained
If you haven’t dealt with Goal Zero products before, USB might be the only connector that you recognize. USB is a known connector that has evolved over the years, and is used mostly for transferring data but is also capable of transferring power.
USB – Solar panels with USB ports can charge your phone by connecting the USB charging cable that came with your phone, tablet, camera, etc. to the panel. Plug it into the solar panel and your phone, and it should start charging when put in the sun. The USB port can also be used to charge power banks but not the Yeti power stations. To charge a power bank through USB, you might need a USB-A (standard size) to micro USB cable. Most power banks include the micro USB cable required to do this.
8mm – The 8mm is Goal Zero’s cord found on Nomad and Boulder solar panels (except the 200W boulder). This can be plugged into the Sherpa 100AC power bank and Yeti power stations. The Sherpa 100AC can handle up to 50 watts input through the 8mm input port, and the Yeti power stations can handle from 60 to 160 watts input depending on the model. The Yeti lithium models can input 120W per 8mm port. So if you have a Sherpa 100AC or a Yeti power station, pick a solar panel with an 8mm connector.
Mini Solar Port – The Mini solar port is only used to charge the Guide 10 plus power bank and can not be found on any other power bank or station.
Anderson Power Pole (APP) – The Anderson Power Pole is the connector you want to use if you’re going above 150W solar. It’s found on the larger Yeti power stations and is what I use to connect my 200W Renogy panels to the Goal Zero Yeti 1000. Capable of up to 360 watts depending on whether you’re using PWM/MPPT and which Yeti power station you have.
Goal Zero Solar Panels Reviewed
Goal Zero solar panels are split up in three product lines, Nomad, Nomad Plus, and Boulder panels.
Nomad – The Nomad panels are available in 7, 13, 20, and 100 watts. All of them come with an 8mm plug that lets you charge Yeti power stations and the Sherpa 100AC.
The only one I would consider using with a Yeti power station is the Nomad 100 panel that can output 100 watts at most. Using the smaller ones with a Yeti station won’t be very efficient since they can only output 5, 13, and 20 watts respectively. If you have a Sherpa 100AC, the Nomad 20 with 20W output would be OK and charge the Sherpa from 0 to 100 in about 5-6 hours on a clear day.
A USB port can be found on the three smaller models. It’s a somewhat disappointing port with 5, 5, and 10 watts max output. A 5V 1A port will take several hours to recharge a phone. It would also charge a power bank very slow. Nomad Plus panels are more powerful for use with USB.
Nomad Plus – The Nomad Plus panels come in 7, 14, and 28 watts versions. The 14 and 28 models have the 8mm solar port capable of outputting 14 and 28 watts. This makes the Nomad Plus 28 an excellent option for the Sherpa 100AC.
All three models have a USB port, capable of charging devices at max 7, 12, and 12 watts. Somewhat disappointing that the Plus 28 can’t output more than 12W through USB to fast-charge power banks. The Nomad 14 Plus is a good choice for charging your phone, GoPro, and tablet with its 12W USB and 14W 8mm output. I would like to see newer panels with a USB-C connection for faster charging.
Boulder – The Boulder panels are Goal Zero’s large panels that I recommend using with Yeti power stations or the Sherpa 100AC. Two of them are briefcase style panels. You can choose between 50W, 100W, and 200W. There is also an older 30W panel. They’re much less portable than the Nomad and Nomad Plus solar panels but are capable of outputting much more power, making them a great choice for stationary campers.
All Boulders except the biggest 200W model have an 8mm solar port. This makes them compatible with Yeti and Sherpa 100AC. The 200W, however, is only compatible with larger Yeti stations since it has an Anderson Power Pole cord. Goal Zero sells an adapter, but note that even with an adapter, your Yeti or Sherpa 100AC can be limited due to input ratings.
The Best Solar Panel for Each Use
Which panel is best for your setup depends on what you plan on charging it with. I recommend going with a panel capable of more watts than you need since solar power often fall short of its wattage rating. For example, my 100W panels can’t send 100W to my Yeti power station since they’re not 100% efficient. The highest I have seen is 80 watts. Consider this when deciding and you’ll be less disappointed.
Best for Phone Charging/Power Bank Charging
Most phone batteries aren’t huge, so while the lower end panels with 5W won’t fast-charge your phone, it will do the job. If you want more than 5W from the USB port, you can go with the Nomad 7 Plus (7W max through USB), Nomad 20 (10W max through USB), or Nomad 14 Plus (12W max through USB). The Max Watts shown in Table #1 is not USB specific but can be when used with an 8mm cable that supports higher ratings.
Here is what I recommend:
If all you need to charge is your phone, the Nomad 14 Plus will do a great job and do it quickly. I would, however, recommend purchasing a power bank to go with it so you can use your phone during the day and let the solar panel charge up the power bank. The Nomad 14 Plus will also be a great choice if you need the panel to be foldable and more portable than the Boulder panels.
If you want to be able to charge your phone, tablet, laptop, and camera, I recommend going with the Boulder 50 and a Sherpa 100AC. The 50W panel will charge the Sherpa 100AC from 0 to 100% within hours and then charge your phone and tablet several times. The Sherpa 100AC could also charge a laptop like a Macbook for at least an hour. For a more portable choice, the foldable Nomad 28 Plus is capable of 28W.
Best Solar Panels for Goal Zero Yeti Power Stations
If you have one of the smaller Yeti power stations or the Sherpa 100AC, the Boulder 50 will do the trick. If you have the Yeti 400 or bigger, I recommend going with at least a 100W solar panel. I have 200W of solar connected to my Yeti 1000, and on a sunny day it can go from 0 to 100% in 7-8 hours. I plan on adding two more panels soon for a much quicker charge.
If you have the Yeti 1400 or Yeti 3000, the Boulder 200W is the one to go for, and you might even want two of them if you have the Yeti 3000.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Mount a Goal Zero Solar Panel to the Roof of a Home, Car, Rv Trailer, Van?
Goal Zero sells a mounting bracket kit for use with their non-briefcase Boulder 50 and 100. These brackets will let you mount the panel onto the roof.
Are Goal Zero Solar Panels Waterproof?
The Boulder solar panels are waterproof since they’re designed to be able to install permanently. The foldable panels are not waterproof but somewhat water-resistant. You should keep them dry though and not leave it out in the rain.
Do Goal Zero Power Stations Only Work with Goal Zero Solar Panels?
No, you can use third-party solar panels with the power banks and stations. I have written a separate post on third-party panels that are compatible, and another post about how to connect those third-party panels to the Yeti.
Do Goal Zero Solar Panels Only Work with Goal Zero Power Banks/Stations?
No, other power banks and stations can be used with Goal Zero panels if they have one of the cords found on the panel as an input. For example, power banks that charge through USB can be used with any newer USB source and solar panel.
How to Connect a Goal Zero Solar Panel Directly to a 12v Battery?
If you want to connect a Goal Zero panel directly to a 12V battery, you need to go through a charge controller to not hurt the battery. With Yeti power stations, these are built-in already and is why it’s plug-and-play. Goal Zero sells a Guardian 12V Plus Charge Controller that lets you connect Boulder and most Nomad panels to a 12V battery. This will regulate the voltage going to your RV/car/van battery and prevent overcharging.
My Goal Zero Solar Panel Doesn’t Work. What Should I Do?
A panel that doesn’t work might need a reset. This is done by unplugging anything connected to it. If that doesn’t help, there might be a faulty cell or a damaged connector. All Goal Zero panels come with a one year warranty, so if you’re having issues within a year of purchase, contact Goal Zero so you can send it in for repair.
What Is the Goal Zero Mini Solar Port?
The Mini Solar Port is a 2mm port that isn’t widely used, even by Goal Zero. You’ll probably never use it.
Which One Is the Best, 8mm or Anderson Power Pole?
Anderson Power Pole can handle more power and is better in that way. The only advantage with the 8mm I can think of is the way it connects. It’s a round connector which is easier to connect than the Anderson Power Pole that has a positive and a negative connector. A small detail that might matter to some.
Which Solar Panel Cell Type Is the Best?
In terms of monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline, monocrystalline cells are better. They’re more efficient in all temperatures and take up less space. The only negative with monocrystalline panels is the fact that they cost more.
Can I Charge My Yeti Power Station or Sherpa 100ac in the Car?
Goal Zero sells a 12V car charger for use with Yeti power stations. It’s compatible with the Sherpa 100AC although the Sherpa is limited to max 50W input. The 12V car charger is capable of outputting 60 to 120 watts depending on amperage chosen on the unit.
Let me know if you have any questions that haven’t been answered by leaving a comment.