Fancy heading off-grid for a few days, but still need to log in and convince the boss you’re working? Probably time to get yourself a powerbank to stay juiced, you wouldn’t want to risk missing that all-important monthly sales breakdown! Photographer Jon Harris put Goal Zero’s Sherpa 40 through its paces on a couple of recent jaunts away from his home office.
Goal Zero is a brand that I’ve been aware of for a while. I haven’t owned or used any of their products before, but I got the impression that they oozed quality and performance – 2 enviable criteria for outdoor gear. So when the opportunity came along to test out the Sherpa 40 Powerbank, I couldn’t resist!
I had an upcoming trip to Japan, and overseas travel is the perfect testing ground for this kind of gear – I’m happy to say that the powerbank made it back into the country with me, so it can’t have performed too badly! After that it was a no-brainer to chuck it in my bag for a Thredbo camping and MTB trip too.
My previous powerbank experience is limited to an Aldi special, which actually worked pretty well. It had less capacity than the Sherpa though, so I was keen to see just how much juice I could pump out of this bad boy.
Size & Weight
When I purchase a new bit of gear, I usually research the crap out of it! So it’s safe to say I have a fair idea of what to expect when said piece of gear arrives in the mail. But given the Sherpa 40 was being sent for me to review, I figured I’d just wait ’til it arrived.
My first impression when it arrived? This thing is BIG. But, that was because I had no context or prior knowledge of the Sherpa before it arrived, and simply that it was bigger than my Aldi powerbank. Having used it solidly for a good few weeks now though, my impression has changed.
See, with powerbanks, size and weight are really interlinked with how the product performs. You don’t want to be carrying around a brick of a powerbank if you can only charge your phone up to 28% with it. But when you read on about the Performance and Usability, you’ll see that the Sherpa 40 is definitely worth slipping into your pack.
The best part about The Sherpa 40 is the slimline form factor. I’d wager that about 108% of bags these days contain a sleeve for a tablet or small laptop – the Sherpa slides gracefully into these kinds of pockets.
The downside? Unless you’re rocking cargo pants a la the late 1990’s, you probably won’t find this model very easy to tote around in your pockets to keep your phone juiced up. It’s portable, yes, but more in the sense that you need a bag. Fear not – Goal Zero also produces some smaller powerbanks with this kind of use in mind – check out the Sherpa 15, Flip or Switch models.
And the weight? I measured the Sherpa 40 with its 3 accompanying cables at 375g. I’m used to lugging around LOTS of camera equipment, so I’m kinda used to heavy bags, and I didn’t notice the extra weight. It also provides the huge benefit of keeping my cameras charged on those epic missions, so for me it’s worth it. If you’re hiking uber-light and really just need to keep your phone charged for an overnighter, then perhaps consider one of the smaller models mentioned above. At the end of the day, Goal Zero could’ve encased this powerbank in plastic to save a bit of weight, but I’d opt for the durability of the extruded aluminium body every time.
Performance & Usability
First thing to note – my Sherpa 40 arrived with about 75% charge. Always a nice touch when you don’t have to charge up your new toy before using it!
The Sherpa 40 accompanied me to Japan on a wicked little snowboarding trip with fellow Explorer Mattie and I was immediately grateful that I had something capable of charging my phone multiple times. When we arrived at our first accommodation in Hakuba, I was stumped as to why my travel power adapter wasn’t working with the Japanese sockets. (I later discovered after leaving Hakuba that I wasn’t using the adapter properly; I blame the red-eye flight!). BUT – the Sherpa boldly stepped in and handled phone charging duties with ease. For 3 days, I kept my iPhone charged up solely with the Goal Zero, which only depleted the Sherpa’s charge by about half! And keep in mind – I had my phone out in the snow, and the hotel room wasn’t that warm either, and batteries don’t work at optimal efficiency in the cold. So I’m super impressed with how long you could go between topping up this powerbank.
The Sherpa is also very versatile straight out of the box. There are 2 USB outputs rated at 2.4A each, meaning you can charge 2 devices at once – very nice. Also supplied are 3 cables – Apple Lightning, USB-C and Micro USB. This will cover the majority of devices out there, which is also awesome. These short cables also live in magnetised slots in each end of the powerbank, meaning they’re there when you need them. Unfortunately you can only carry 2 of the 3 included cables in this way, but chances are you won’t need all 3 at once (or if you do, just stash the 3rd cable elsewhere in your bag).
The downside to the included cables? They’re very short, meaning you lose a bit of flexibility in how you connect your devices. For example, I often stash my powerbank in my pack and run my Lightning cable out to keep my phone charged. Not really possible with the stubby little cable. Or, charging other devices like my Sony cameras – it’s really quite awkward to get the cable to reach, often requiring a prop of some kind to reduce any strain on the cable or ports. And this includes the Micro USB cable that you use to recharge the powerbank too!
To be fair though, these issues are getting a bit pedantic, it’s very simple to just use a longer USB cable specific to your device. But be aware – the USB port on the left is tucked into a very narrow recess; my Apple branded lightning cable fit OK, but a third-party USB cable was too chunky to plug in. The middle USB port isn’t affected by this issue.
When your Sherpa finally runs out of juice (and you can easily tell the charge level by the LED indicator), there is a Micro USB port (and you can use the supplied cable if it reaches) to charge it up. There’s no USB-to-mains adapter included though. Or, if you’re well and truly out in the wild, you can hook this bad boy up to any of Goal Zero’s awesome solar panels for an ongoing power supply and storage – so good!
OK, A Few Quick Stats About Charge Times
iPhone 8 – my phone took about 1.5hrs to charge and I can get 4 full charges from the Sherpa.
Sony A73 – I recently switched from Canon to Sony cameras, and LOVE that I can charge over USB now. OK, so it takes a lot longer than popping the battery into an AC charger, but when you’re out camping you generally don’t have AC do you?
My Sony A73 could do a full charge in 8 ¼ hrs, so it’s an overnight charge job. I could also get 2 full charges out of the Sherpa. So in theory, with a couple of spare batteries on me, and hooking up some Goal Zero solar panels, I can go off grid and keep shooting almost indefinitely!
Recharging the Sherpa 40 – took about 6hrs when plugged into a USB powerboard. I believe USB charging times may vary depending on the USB port you’re using, as output voltages vary. So your recharge time may vary to this.
Durability & Quality
I’m a big fan of buying good quality the first time around, and Goal Zero have nailed it in this department. The outer casing is sleek, extruded aluminium which just screams durability! Each end of the powerbank is made of a small amount of plastic, as is the power/charge indicator button.
The only scenario I can imagine where durability is an issue is with the cables. Being so short, you may need to twist and bend the cables quite tightly during use, this may result in wear and tear down the track. But seriously, this is just a guess – the cables look and feel really well made, and I can imagine they will stand up to a fair bit of abuse.
At the time of review, the Goal Zero Australia website listed the Sherpa 40 as retailing at $129.95. For me (who is happy to pay a little more if I know the product will do its job well, and last a long time), I feel this is pretty much spot on. Given that it comes charged and covers you with all the popular connections, is super durable and performed really well in the weeks that I used it, I would happily fork out 130 clams for the peace of mind the Sherpa 40 brings.
I can honestly say that I’m stoked to have had the Sherpa 40 hitching a ride in my pack these last few weeks. Despite my first impressions about the size, I was soon completely comfortable with the space and weight it consumed in my pack – no small feat for a photographer travelling overseas, where carry-on restrictions dictate what makes it onto the packing list!
Knowing that I can head off grid for a couple of days (as I did in Thredbo) with such a small package to keep my phone, cameras and other goodies charged is awesome! It gives me the reassurance to know I can keep exploring and creating imagery for longer. I’ll definitely be looking into a Goal Zero solar panel to hook up to the Sherpa to extend those missions even further.
Jon was provided the Goal Zero Sherpa 40 Powerbank for review purposes and got to keep it. The views are entirely his own.
Power for a few days sorted – best head out for a cheeky overnighter