Journey on a Dory in the Grand Canyon

Guest Post by: Bhaskar Krishnamurthy
GOAL ZERO Equipment Used: Sherpa 120 Power Pack, Nomad 27 Solar Panel, and Sherpa UI

As a photojournalist, I get most excited about the opportunity to travel and capture some of the exotic and the surreal experiences that await travelers in destinations around the world.

Remote locales, such as a recent assignment in Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park, pose significant logistical challenges. During this first visit to one of the natural wonders of the world, I was filled with enthusiasm, excitement and, of course, slight apprehension on how to sustain battery power for my camera gear and computer.

Floating the Colorado River in October means plenty of beautiful sunshine and ever-present scattered showers.

The assignment itself was to capture the spirit and soul of the Grand Canyon on a dory, a small, shallow-draft boat, about 5 to 7 meters (6.4 to 23 feet) long that are maneuvered by an expert oarsman. It is lightweight and versatile boat with high sides, a flat bottom and sharp bows. For centuries, dories have been used as traditional fishing boats.

In a span of 12 days, I hiked the famed nine-mile Bright Angel Trail from the South Rim to the bottom of the canyon and headed straight into some of the wildest rapids in the Grand Canyon. In this exhilarating137-mile journey we passed through Shinumo Creek, Bass Camp, Elves Chasm, Blacktail Canyon, Stone Creek, Thunder River, Deer Creek, Kanab Creek, Havasu Canyon, National Canyon, Fern Glen Canyon, and Pumpkin Springs. The famous rapids on this part of the Colorado River included Horn Creek, Granite, Hermit, Crystal, Bedrock, Dubendorf and the mighty Lava Falls.

In a place as awe-inspiring as the Grand Canyon, one has to be prepared for capturing the beauty and the majesty in all its splendor. Surprises and extraordinary scenery are an understatement in the iconic Grand Canyon. In preparation for the journey, I researched several product lines, including mobile solar power units, ultimately selecting the Goal Zero-Sherpa Solar Kit.

First criteria for deciding on Sherpa Kit were its compactness and easy mobility. There was a serious baggage restriction and very little leeway for any heavy gear. Secondly, I looked at the retaining power of the solar pack and the convenient means to charging my laptop and the camera charger. My third consideration was the type of solar panels available and the ease in packing them into the back-country.

The Sherpa Solar Kit featured a Nomad 27-watt solar panel, Sherpa 120 battery, and Sherpa universal inverter (UI) adaptable for 110- and 220-volt, a 12-volt cigarette plug-in adapter, three aluminum support rods for the solar array and a built-in extender cord.

In the course of my journey, we would typically float the river through the day and camp on the sandy bank of the river at night. Within the towering canyon walls, the sunshine was restricted to about seven hours before the shadows crept in. I judiciously charged the Sherpa battery, keeping it safe from water splashes in storage. At camp in the night, I could then transfer my images onto my hard drive and charge all types of batteries.

Throughout the journey, the weather remained gorgeous and we had bright sunshine and blue sky. The landscape was incredibly beautiful. But, the nature of river travel by dory meant guarding against ever-present splashes, generated by even the smallest rapids. The design of the dory allowed for a small space between the oarsmen and the passengers, where I would assemble my solar panels to charge the storage device.

There were days when we would camp out at a particular location and go for side hikes such as Cardenas, 91-Mile Creek, Crystal, Ross Wheeler, and Havasu. We were constantly amazed at the majestic hues and rock formations that surrounded us.

Before departing on our hikes, I would open the panels and spread them on the dory and connect the battery pack, allowing a full charge in five to six hours. I protected both with a waterproof sheet whenever we approached rapids. At other times, the waters were extremely calm, providing a smooth ride and less concern about equipment.

While camping for a full day, we experienced brilliant sunshine and the battery would be totally charged by the time I returned to camp. In the evenings, I would have full power to charge my gadgets, as well as those of my fellow travelers. My Nikon batteries would take about 2 hours to completely power up, and I had five batteries to charge, as well as my Macbook Pro. While connected to the laptop, the draining of the stored battery was substantial.

Laurent Pavard, a French national who was traveling with us on the dory, also packed a solar panel, which was never functional. He would come back to me every other day and ask to charge his batteries.

In the course of 12 days, I had an opportunity to charge the storage device four times and was never worried about the battery power for any of my gadgets.

The Houffmans, who spend most of their time sailing and have a sailboat on the East Coast, were so impressed with the device, they said, “We have tried several solar options, but this one seems to be one of the best.”

Two other boat-mates, Todd Cecil and Phil Starr of Houston, examined the Goal Zero’s functionality and adaptability in my tent and said they were so impressed they were considering purchasing the package for their frequent camping trips.

In hindsight, I never had to worry about power for my batteries. The storage device and the UI converter were easy to carry and the charge cables were so well concealed that they never got in the way. The trip was memorable on many counts and Goal Zero took away all the apprehensions I had about using battery-operated devices and mobile power in remote terrain, such as the incomparable Grand Canyon.

Learn more of Bhaskar Krishnamurthy journeys

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