(Jackery sent me a free Jackery Explorer 500 in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own)
I’m sitting on my sailboat right now at anchor, charging my laptop with the Jackery Explorer 500. The portable power station is connected to a 100-watt solar panel, taking in rays from the sun. My laptop is sucking 75 watts from the Jackery while it takes in about 45 watts on this partly-cloudy day.
This is the fourth time I’ve charged my laptop on the Jackery during this sailing trip, and each time, it only uses about 10% of the portable power station’s battery.
So far, I’ve been impressed with the Jackery Explorer 500.
In this Jackery Explorer 500 review, I’m going to tell you all about the portable power station and why you might (or might not) want one.
First of all, what is a portable power station?
A portable power station is a box meant to charge smaller electronic devices. It’s basically a battery, inverter and solar controller in one. (Check out our review of the best portable power stations on the market right now.)
The Jackery Explorer 500 is a 518Wh lithium portable power station, rated for 500 watts of continuous power with 1000 watts of surge power from its AC port.
A portable power station like the Jackery is great for people who don’t want to install a complete solar system in a campervan or an RV.
With the Jackery Explorer 500, you don’t have to deal with separate house batteries, an inverter and a solar controller. This portable power station for camping has it all in one portable, lightweight package.
The Jackery portable power station isn’t good for people who need a large amount of power.
With 500-watts continuous power, the Jackery won’t charge larger electronic appliances like blenders, space heaters, air conditioners or vacuums. For those things, you’ll want a larger solar generator or a complete solar setup with multiple 6-amp batteries.
Jackery Explorer 500: What does it charge?
The Jackery portable power station is a workhorse of a solar generator. For this Jackery Explorer 500 review, I wanted to test its charging capabilities.
On a recent trip to Sequoia National Park, I hauled my ARB 37-quart portable fridge out of my van and set it on the ground. Then I plugged it into the Jackery.
My fridge pulls about 5 amps on a cooling cycle and started right up when connected to the Jackery Explorer 500. The unit only dropped a few percentage points in battery power to cool my fridge down to 31 degrees.
After that, my fridge sucked power for about 10 minutes per hour to maintain its temperature. The Jackery worked wonderfully keeping my fridge nice and cold in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
The Jackery Explorer 500 comes with one AC outlet, one DC outlet and three USB outlets. That means you can charge a variety of devices at the same time.
Here’s some of what you can expect to charge with the Jackery portable power station:
- Computers (7 times)
- Smartphones (34 times)
- Cameras (60 times)
- Mini fridge (8 hours)
- Drones (6 times)
- USB fan (40 hours)
- Small power tools
The Jackery Explorer 500 does have its limitations.
Here’s a sampling of what the Jackery Explorer 500 won’t charge:
- Air conditioners
- Space Heaters
- Vacuum cleaner
How to charge a Jackery Explorer 500 portable power station
There are three ways to charge the Jackery Explorer 500. You can either connect it to a solar panel, plug it into your household power outlet, or use your car’s 12-volt cigarette lighter.
The fastest way to charge the Jackery Explorer 500 is with your household outlet. That AC outlet will charge your portable power station for camping in about 7.5 hours.
Right now, we have the Jackery connected to Jackery’s 100-watt Solar Saga solar panel. Since its partly cloudy out, the solar panel is only taking in about 40 watts, which means a long time until a full battery. The next day in full sun, the solar panel still brought in about 45 amps – we never saw it get up to 100.
However, we love that we can both charge the portable power station and use it simultaneously.
While slow, charging the Jackery Explorer 500 with solar panels is free and easy, and works when you’re in the great outdoors far from a household outlet.
Some people who live in campervans install permanent solar panels on their van’s roof, which provide constant charging for a portable power station inside the van.
Don’t want to use the Jackery 100-watt Solar Saga? Check out these solar panel alternatives to power your Jackery. You will need an M4 connector to use any other solar panels. Buy that connector here: https://amzn.to/2ZIcgwJ
The pros and cons of using the Jackery Explorer 500
So, is the Jackery Explorer 500 the right device for you?
Here, we’ll go over the pros and cons of using a Jackery portable power station.
- Lightweight. The Jackery Explorer 500 weighs a little over 13 pounds, meaning anyone can carry it around.
- Portable. Unlike a traditional solar setup, you can take the Jackery anywhere. Want to work on your computer by that gorgeous lake? Carry the Jackery down there. Want to play your electric guitar on the beach? The Jackery can handle your amp. The Jackery portable power station for camping can go anywhere you need power.
- Easy to use. A solar setup can take hours to install and a lot of know-how. Using a portable power station is easy as pie. Just charge it up and you’re good to go.
- Powerful. We love that the Jackery Explorer 500 can take 500-watts of continuous power with a 1,000-watt surge. That’s plenty of power for most of our needs.
- LCD display. It’s really easy to see what’s going on with the Jackery Explorer 500 by taking a quick glance at the LCD display. This tells you the battery percentage, and how many watts the device is taking in and out.
- Pure sine wave. The Jackery portable power station has a pure sine wave inverter. That means it gives your electronic devices the same pure current they’d get from a household wall outlet.
- Environmentally-friendly and quiet. A solar generator like the Jackery is much more environmentally friendly than using a typical gas generator. Plus it’s super quiet! You can’t beat that.
- Warranty. We love that the Jackery portable power station comes with a 2-year warranty.
- Takes a long time to charge on solar. Don’t expect to plug your Jackery into a solar panel and have it fully-charged in a few hours. It takes many hours – even a full day – to reach a full battery with only power from the sun.
- Not as strong as some inverters. The Jackery portable power station won’t be able to charge devices that need a lot of power, like a blender. If you need to run power tools or blenders, you’ll want to consider a full solar set up with a larger inverter.
- Limited life cycle. This portable power station runs really well up to 500 times, then you’ll notice the battery life diminishing.
Final thoughts on the Jackery portable power station
The Jackery portable power station is a handy device for weekend warriors or full-time travelers who don’t need a lot of extra power.
The device is great for charging smaller electronics like laptops, portable refrigerators, CPAP devices, cameras and smartphones.
It’s not good for people who need to power a variety of electronics like blenders, induction cooktops, air conditioners, vacuums or power tools.
We love that the Jackery Explorer 500 is lightweight, super easy to use, and portable. I know we’ll use it as a backup system when we’re on the sailboat or in the campervan. Right now, we’re using the Jackery to charge our smaller electronic devices so we don’t have to start up our diesel engine to charge the house batteries on the sailboat.
The Jackery 500 is easy to carry to a more remote location, or you can bring it into your tent. This can have a lot of handy uses like running your CPAP when camping or powering up your laptop to watch a show.
If you’re thinking about buying the Jackery portable power station, it’s a good idea to assess your needs. Which devices will you have to charge? How many watts do they need? Once you determine your power usage, you’ll know if the Jackery is right for you.
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