Goal Zero's Sherpa 100 Solar Power Pack Fstoppers Review

Goal Zero's Sherpa 100 Solar Power Pack Fstoppers Review

Having the ability to power our gear is something we often take for granted. Without power, the most expensive gear becomes an overpriced paperweight. Worst of all, passing opportunities are lost. One of my least favorite situations is to be traveling in a foreign city when I can’t find information because my iPhone battery is dead. This is where Goal Zero comes in.

Goal Zero’s Sherpa 100 Power Pack

Goal Zero is an awesome company that makes a ton of useful gear for photographers, cinematographers, and adventurers alike. They have a highly adaptable range of portable solar panels and power supplies for a variety of needs. Goal Zero’s Sherpa 100 Power Pack is something I consider an essential piece of gear in my arsenal of camera equipment. In many cases, it’s been vital to simply having a digital workflow in remote areas.

Tech Specs

  • Battery Capacity: 98Wh, 8800mAh (11V)
  • Power Output: USB, 12V, AC with required inverter, sold separately
  • Weight: 1.9 lbs (864 g)
  • Recharge by: AC, 12V, Solar
  • Ideal for: Tablet, Laptop, DSLR Camera, Lights
  • 110V Inverter Weight: 0.35 lbs (159 g). Also available in 220V.

Practical Uses

  • The Sherpa 100 Power Pack can function as a primary power source along with a solar panel. It is a great option to have as a backup power supply.
  • Power small electronics and devices, such as laptops, cameras, tablets, and mobile devices while on the go or off the grid.
  • If you only have one power outlet or international power adapter to work with, but multiple devices to charge, the Sherpa 100 functions as a hub. With Goal Zero's Power Inverter, you can charge one AC powered device and two USB devices directly. That allows charging camera batteries, phone, and a smaller Goal Zero Venture 30 or Switch 10 at the same time.
  • Built in LED flashlight.
  • Connected a low watt, USB powered LED light for working, reading, or writing at night.

Charging the Sherpa 100

There are two ways to charge the Sherpa 100. The first method for charging the Sherpa 100 is using a wall outlet (AC power). This is great if you are at an airport or somewhere public where you can top up before going mobile again. When inclement weather strikes, this is another option if you can get somewhere that has power.

The second method for charging is with Goal Zero’s Nomad solar panels. Available in a number of capacities, these remarkably portable solar panels are super durable, lightweight, and chain together for greater power yields, plugging directly into the Sherpa.

I have consistently worked in a remote part of Kenya far off the grid for weeks on end using the Sherpa 100 and a series of Nomad panels. It can get a little difficult to keep up during the rainy season. but even on cloudy days, it is still worth putting the Nomad solar panels in the sunlight to add to the power reserves. Anytime I can get to a cafe, hostel, or airport in an established city, I make it a foremost priority to plug in to a wall outlet to top up. For me, the sweet spot in wattage vs size is the Sherpa 100, but if you need something a little lighter, more compact and also affordable, the Sherpa 50 with half the storage capacity but with these same features.

    A USB Alternative - The Venture 30 & Venture 70

    Another less expensive, more portable option is the Venture 30 or Venture 70. With USB charging capabilities, this is a lighter weight option both in mass and power output. It’s designed for charging tablets, smaller cameras, and mobile devices via USB. It has a flashlight built in that I’ve used to bounce light off a ceiling to completely light up a dark room. It works well for charging a phone while on foot without being committed to a device specific case, and packs way more punch. 

    What I Liked

    • The mobility and utility provided by the Sherpa 100 is incredible. It allows you to charge cameras, tablets, phones, and notebook computers with USB ports or the AC power inverter.
    • Extremely well designed. Built in USB ports, flashlight, and wire for hanging.
    • Rugged construction. This device has taken a beating and in all sorts of weather.
    • The ability to rapidly charge the power pack off of a wall outlet for future use is extremely helpful.
    • Helpful in urban environments such as a cafe or airport with limited power outlets and high demand.
    • Enables working off the grid where using cameras and notebook computers would have quickly become impossible.

    What Could be Improved

    • The operating temperature can kick on the inverter cooling fan if the Sherpa 100 is left in the hot conditions, which will begin depleting the power pack. It’s best to keep the Sherpa 100 in the shade especially if you want to charge say a MacBook Air/Pro while charging the Sherpa with Nomad solar panels.
    • Greater wattage for charging more devices.
    • Lighter, as weight is always a factor with traveling, hiking, climbing, and checking in at the airport.
    • Inclement weather can be a hindrance in consistently harvesting power from sunlight, but that’s the nature of the beast.
    • It would be awesome if the power storage was modular to cut down on weight and have a more customizable workflow. For instance, a Sherpa 100 could be upgraded to a 150 W or 200 W, depending on the project. Plus, as load cycles added up, you could easily replace storage with new power packs. It would also serve as another way to warehouse additional power. They Sherpa itself is chainable to another power pack, so to an extent that already exists but with a built in battery.

    If you need even more power, Goal Zero just released their new, very high end Yeti 1400 Lithium Portable Power Station, which packs some serious juice. While not as portable and considerably more expensive at $1999.99, the possibilities this opens up are nearly endless, with the capability of running power tools and even a refrigerator. The Sherpa 100 specifically has served me well in a range of settings across five continents, often traveling quite far off the grid, as well as finding ample use in urban areas. There are Goal Zero gear kits available in a variety of options to add value. Individually at $299.00 plus $49.99 for the inverter, the investment isn't small. However, the Goal Zero's gear creates the ability to power equipment and operate in remote areas while on the go where it would otherwise be impossible to function. From charging essential cameras and powering notebooks for image backups, Goal Zero's Sherpa 100 is an critical component in my travel gear.

    Jordan Bush's picture

    Fstoppers Writer Jordan Bush is a pro photographer focusing on commercial, editorial, and photojournalism work. He writes and photographs the monthly column, "Foodographer." A former Apple software trainer and hardware technician, he also has an affinity for retro video games.

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    With some Canon chargers you can charge the camera batteries directly from the Sherpa 100, using DC only. It's far more efficient to bypass the the AC converter. Perhaps the same applies to other camera systems too.

    In my experience the Nomad panels are the least robust part of the system. They can stop working and when that happens there is no way to repair them, which is a shame. It's also obviously a serious problem when you're reliant on them. So having redundant solar capacity is no bad thing when you truly need the power they provide.

    Have used the Yeti-150 model for 1 yr. Great for camera/camping gear. Great for keeping kids in back of car shut up for 6-8 hrs even. I'd add they make paperweights when its windy out in the wild.

    I have one of the first 100 models made of the Sherpa 100 (preordered it). I have dragged it all over New England camping and taking night panoramas and timelapses for the past few years. I also have the Nomad 20 to charge it with, and I might get a Nomad 100 to charge it faster since it takes a very long time, several days if it's overcast. I haven't found a lighter power source that has as much juice. A tip: if you press the power button to turn it on, and then press it a second time and hold it for a few seconds (3 or 4ish) then all the lights will go out so you can use it in the dark without interfering with your camera. The LCD panel will go dark too after 10-15 seconds. :-)