Thursday, December 31, 2015

Gear Review: Goal Zero Torch 250 Solar/Hand Crank/USB Flashlight and Backup Battery

Late last year, just before heading off to SHOT Show 2015, AT&T Outdoors contacted us and asked if we'd be interested in testing one of Goal Zero's latest portable lighting gadgets called the "Torch 250," which AT&T sells in their online store.

The Torch 250 is a portable Flashlight and Backup Battery that can be charged via solar power, a built-in hand crank, or a USB cord connected to a computer or wall charger.

I have used other Goal Zero products in the past with good success (a Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus Solar Kit has kept batteries for the RMB Iphone, camera and weather instruments charged in the field for several years now). The description sounded interesting (what can I say, I'm a sucker for anything solar powered!). So I told them sure, send it on over! Since I'm out in the boonies most of the time, I figured it might come in handy.


250 Lumens total, 4000K Warm White Cree LEDs
Spotlight: 180 Lumens
Floodlight: 70 Lumens
Run Time: Spotlight- 7 hours on High, 15 hours on low
 Run Time: Floodlight- 22 hours on high, 48 hours on low
Charge Time: Hand Crank- two minutes of winding produces five minutes of light
Charge Time: Solar Charging- 24 hours of direct sun to fully charge
Power Output: USB
Recharge from: USB, Solar, Hand Crank
Battery: Li-NMC
Dimensions: 10 x 3.5 x 1.75 in
Emergency RED LED light beam with blinking mode
Weight: 14.4 oz (as measured on a digital postal scale)

Goal Zero's Product Overview Video:


On my way back from SHOT Show in Las Vegas, I made a pitstop near Salt Lake City, Utah to see some friends. After my visit, I decided to camp out in the mountains nearby for a couple of days to get some fresh air. I thought it would be a great time to test the Torch 250.

Goal Zero's Torch 250's floodlight did a splendid job lighting up my tent:

The Torch's 180 Lumens spotlight was also impressive:

The Torch provided more than enough light in both flood and spotlight mode for most tasks. I found the runtime to be very close to the manufacturer's specs as well.

As for charging, using the hand crank was slow and tedious, but it was nice to have this option in case of a dire emergency.

Solar charging the Torch was definitely easier and more efficient than using the hand crank (Goal Zero says it takes 24 hours of direct sun to fully charge the Torch via its tiny solar panel). During the shorter days of Fall and Winter, expect this charge time to be extended by as much as a full day.

One option to speed up the solar charging process is to pair the Torch with a portable Goal Zero solar panel like the Nomad 7. This will cut the charge time roughly in half.

Charging the Torch via the USB cord is obviously the easiest and quickest route for non-emergency use, along with using the solar panel to keep the battery topped off for longer trips.

As a Backup Battery, the Torch came in handy for keeping my Iphone 5 charged while out in the backcountry. Over the course of several tests, I found that I could get 5-6 full Iphone charges before needing a recharge.

The Torch was also handy for keeping my AT&T Velocity mobile wi-fi hotspot charged while I was away from the power grid.

I should note that the Torch includes a red spotlight/strobelight for preserving night vision as well as for emergency signaling.

When I got back home to Colorado after my stop in Utah, a wet snowstorm downed power lines all around my area, so the electricity was out for a couple of days. This is where the Torch really shined. It provided enough light on the floodlight setting to illuminate an entire room.


My initial impression of this device was that it was a bit too large and clunky to be useful. After spending the past year with it, I find myself taking it with me everywhere I go. At 14.4 oz, it's not something I would take for ultralight backpacking, but for camping, hiking, or for home and vehicle emergency preparedness, I think it's a great tool.

4 out of 5 Stars (Recommended)

The Torch 250 is available from AT&T's Online Web Store:

About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ (without spaces)

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