Written By Aaron Mandelkorn
The Yeti 400 from Goal Zero is a clean, compact little unit. It is an inverter/power center with integrated battery input ports and a variety of output ports for powering your devices and appliances. It has a 400-watt 120VAC inverter, which is capable of powering small fridges, power tools, computers, and a host of other devices within that power range. It can easily recharge phones and tablets and laptops as well. The battery in this system is decent for the weight and size of this thing. The Yeti can be recharged with the included wall charger, or by any one of the goal zero solar panels. The display is easy to read and shows input and output power in watts, volts, and amps. In terms of powering your stuff, there are two USB charging ports, (1) 12v car charging port and two 120v charging points. Manual on/off switches accompany the charging ports for easy access and to reduce power draw. The display can also be turned off when not in use.
For solar charging, we chose the Nomad 20 watt panel. It is compact and comes as a trifold, with magnetic closure. It includes a multitude of charging options, including: USB port, 8mm solar port, 2.5 mm mini solar port.
We left Colorado with a full charge after receiving the Yeti and Nomad. They both fit nicely under our rear bench seat. We drove 500 miles over varied road surfaces and both units held up nicely to the rattling of the road. This is a great unit for car camping or quick weekend trips where moderate power is required.
The first charging we did was from a smart phone on a dead battery. The phone was able to charge straight from the Yeti via USB in the same amount of time it would take to plug it in to a normal wall outlet. Charging the phone without having the Yeti plugged into either the car or the Nomad panel did not significantly reduce the charge of the Yeti, drawing a mere 5 watts. While the phone was still plugged in, we also plugged our laptop into one of the 120-volt outlets. Both devices did drain the battery, as our computer was pulling around 32 watts from the Yeti and 5 watts from the phone (the display on the Yeti makes it easy to see what you are drawing in watts). We kept both devices plugged into the Yeti for a few hundred more miles, using the laptop to conduct some business and speaking on the phone to a potential client in Texas regarding our new Home Backup Systems. During this use, the Yeti was not being charged from the solar or the car charger. We simply wanted to see how the battery would hold up. We continued to charge our phones from the Yeti throughout the rest of the trip.
Then we arrived in Florida and decided to take out the Nomad to do a pure solar charge on the Yeti. How long would it take for 20 watts to charge the Yeti up from 40%? We were pleasantly surprised to see the little Nomad brought the battery up to a full charge in a matter of hours. We could easily imagine stopping to camp somewhere and hanging the Nomad up to recharge the Yeti (the panel trifold has convenient loops for hanging) during afternoon sun before dark.
Test three was powering the laptop (to write this piece) while the Nomad was plugged in to charge the Yeti. The display read Input: 8 watts / Output 32 watts. The Full line on the battery blinked showing the charge reducing from Full to 80%. The battery status on the Yeti’s LCD screen makes it easy to know the state of the battery in a glance. After typing for an hour, the battery was 80%.
This little unit is easy to use and take with you. Its inverter and battery storage are impressive for its small size. With the ability to use any of the Goal Zero solar panels plus the car/wall charging capability its flexibility in charging is effortless. This is a great addition to a small camper, campsite or roadside emergency prep kit; ideal for staying in the car and on the go. You may not be able to keep power throughout the entire Apocalypse, but you definitely will be able to phone Mom and let her know you are surviving on your MREs. For larger power needs, like an entire home or RV, we recommend larger systems like the Home Backup Systems or RV Solar Kits.
Originally from South Florida, Aaron Mandelkorn escaped the zombies and now calls rural Central Colorado home. He is the Owner and Solar Expert at Renewable Energy Outfitters, helping people go Off Grid with solar, wind and micro hydro energy systems. His most recent acquisition is a 1983 Conversion Van that he is turning into a undercover bug out vehicle, fit for his family of three. Always happy to talk energy, Aaron can be reached at Off Grid Depot, www.offgriddepot.biz, where he offers a variety of products and system packages designed to power your prep.