Goal Zero Wants to Add Solar Panels to All Our Gear

A new effort to add removable solar power panels to hard goods may finally make the tech indispensable for the outdoor set.

Goal Zero wants to put removable solar panels on gear ranging from backpacks to kayaks. (Courtesy of Goal Zero)
Photo: Courtesy of Goal Zero Goal Zero

In theory, we love the flexibility of solar-powered gadgets in the field. Using the sun to recharge your mobile, Spot, Garmin, or Magellan for its GPS could even save your life in an emergency. 

But in practice, solar panels sewn into apparel (a trend we’re seeing develop in the outdoor industry) rarely work like this. For one, flexible squares stitched into a jacket need to face the sun throughout the entire day to generate enough usable power, which is only feasible if you plan on wearing your jacket outside, under the sun, from morning 'till night. And because the panels are permanently stitched into the fabric, they lose their versatility. Forget about leaving the panel at base camp to charge while you hike.

Goal Zero noticed this issue, and decided to partner with Gregory Packs, Treeline Outdoors, and Jackson Kayaks to build hardgoods with built-in removable solar panels. The products, including packs and kayaks, come with fixed attachment points designed to accommodate panels of multiple sizes with integrated batteries, says James Atkin, director of marketing at Goal Zero.

Consumers buy pre-measured panels that can be secured quickly and easily, or removed and set up as needed in camp. That also means the small generators aren't limited to backcountry travel: you can, say, use them to charge a GoPro in the parking lot before hitting the slopes or set them up in your backyard. 

(Courtesy of Gregory Packs)

The partnership with Treeline Outdoors, maker of car rooftop tents, also seems like a smart one. Car camping typically involves setting up your base camp and making forays from there. Because a rooftop tent has a massive surface area, the Treeline system can integrate with the Sherpa 100 Power Pack, which puts out enough juice to recharge a laptop. 

The idea is to discourage people from running their car to charge their GPS or phone, says Atkin. The larger mission of Goal Zero’s partnerships is “to make a lot more of our lives truly plug-and-play with solar," he says. Although the company can’t talk about future partnerships just yet, Atkin says the company has plans to move beyond the hike-and-trail space in the future. 

More Gear