Chasing the Twist is a new publication covering the world of adventuring with a practical and real point of view.

Goal Zero Yeti 400 - the Apple MacBook of Backup Generators

The Goal Zero Yeti 400 next to my Apple iPhone 6 Plus for size comparison

In the Personal Computing (PC) industry Apple pioneered, and still owns, the all-in-one push-button segment of the market. When other Window’s-based machines were pushing performance, modularity, and access to lower levels of control, Apple focussed on ease of use and design. In the Battery Powered Backup Generator market, Goal Zero is much more akin to Apple then it is to Windows/IBM.

The Goal Zero Yeti 400 with Apple-esque proprietary ports
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The Goal Zero Yeti series of products offer an all-in-one solution to off-grid power generation. They are marketed as Solar Generators and while they can be charged via solar panels, in reality they are power source agnostic thanks to the intelligent charge controller, again built in. Through the proprietary charging port (remind you of Apple?), it can be charged from the household electrical socket (120v A/C), from the vehicle’s cigarette lighter port (12v D/C), of from one or more solar panels (D/C usually 6 to 24 volts depending on panel setup).

The Goal Zero Yeti 400 sits in the middle of the lineup and is bookended by the Yeti 150 and the Yeti 1250, just like the Apple MacBook is flanked by the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. As one would expect, being in the middle of the lineup it has middle-of-road capacity, performance, and connectivity. As for connectivity, the Yeti 400 features three individually controlled sections: 12v D/C, 5v D/C, and 110v A/C. The 12v section includes both proprietary Goal Zero connectors and a standard cigarette lighter style socket. The 5v section features two standard 2.1 amp USB ports. Lastly, the 110v section includes a built-in (there’s that word again) pure sine wave inverter.

I use all three sections and since we live in a world of small devices I have plugged in a dual 2.1A USB charger into the cigarette lighter socket.

My current implementation using the Goal Zero Yeti 400
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This leads me to my main complaint about the Yeti 400: the 12v section does not power my ARB 50-Quart Fridge and therefore I am required to power it via the 110v inverter. The problem with this is that the inverter itself draws about 6 to 7 watts of power just being on. This is not unique to Goal Zero’s inverter, all 12v to 110v inverters use a bit of energy to complete the D/C to A/C inversion. But this does mean that even if the fridge is not drawing power there is still power being drained, if the inverter is on. It is, of coarse, easy to turn any output section off at the push of a button.

Multiple Yetis can be daisy-chained together for greater capacity.
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I like Apple products most of the time, and I can say the same for the Goal Zero Yeti 400. It offers a compact, easy to use, battery generator sufficient to power my portable fridge, LED lights, and fans as well as charge phones and computers many times over. It allows me to not need to wire up my own backup power rig, a la building my own PC tower, but limits me to the features and capabilities built in to the system. Life is full of tradeoffs and backup generators are no exception. I wish the 12v output was powerful enough for my fridge and it would be nice if it had a physical or smartphone app remote control.

My experience with the Yeti has been great in the AdventureVan and it also gives me peace of mind knowing that I have a backup generator to keep phones and flashlights charged should my house power go out. Because of that, the Goal Zero Yeti 400 gets a thumbs up from me.

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I’m interested to hear your take on the Yeti series of products. Let me know in the comments.


Chasing the Twist is a new publication covering the world of adventuring with a practical and real point of view. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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