The Jackery Explorer 500 is a lightweight portable power station for camping and van life, coming in at just 13 pounds.
You get 500 watts with 1,000 watts surge with the Jackery 500 solar generator, which offers a pure sine wave AC port. This is enough to charge your small electronics and laptop computer multiple times. It can also keep a portable fridge cold and a CPAP running for hours.
Jackery sent me their Jackery 500 Explorer to test out for this piece, and all opinions and experiences expressed here are my own.
So far, I’ve been impressed with the Jackery Explorer 500. I’ve used to charge my laptop and even run a Nutribullet blender.
In this Jackery Explorer 500 review, I’m going to tell you all about this portable power station and why you might (or might not) want one.
First, here’s a quick look at the Jackery Explorer 500.
Jackery Explorer 500
- Watts: 500 Rated Power, 1000 Surge
- Battery: Lithium
- Weight: 13.3 pounds
- Output Ports: Three USB, one 110-V, one 12-V
- Charging: AC, DC, Solar
Jackery Explorer 500: What does it charge?
The Jackery 500 portable power station is a workhorse of a solar generator. With 500 amps of power, it can charge quite a lot when you’re out in your campervan far from a power supply.
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
- Cpap (13+ hours)
- Television (7.5 hours)
For this Jackery Explorer 500 review, I wanted to test the device’s charging capabilities for myself.
On a 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 Explorer 500.
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.
I’ve also tested the Jackery 500 on my sailboat, where I used it to charge my laptop, camera, smartphone and run a Nutribullet blender. It seems to hold its charge well, but we did notice it takes a long time to charge back up via solar.
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.
The Jackery Explorer 500 does have its limitations.
Here’s a sampling of what the Jackery Explorer 500 won’t charge:
- Blenders (although it did work with my Nutribullet blender!)
- 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.
The company claims the Solar Saga can charge the Jackery fully in 9 hours, but we’re not able to verify that.
However, we love that we can both charge the Jackery 500 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
Here are a couple of other solar panels that work well with the Jackery Explorer 500:Amazon product
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 500 portable power station.
Jackery Explorer 500 Pros
Here are the reasons why we love the Jackery Explorer 500.
The Jackery Explorer 500 weighs a little over 13 pounds, meaning anyone can carry it around.
Unlike a traditional solar setup, you can take the Jackery 500 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 Explorer 500 portable power station for camping can go anywhere you need power.
Easy to Use
A solar setup for a campervan can take hours to install and a lot of know-how. Using a portable power station like the Jackery Explorer 500 is easy as pie. Just charge it up and you’re good to go.
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.
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 500 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 & Quiet
A solar generator like the Jackery Explorer 500 is much more environmentally friendly than using a typical gas generator. Plus it’s super quiet! You can’t beat that.
We love that the Jackery Explorer 500 portable power station comes with a 2-year warranty.
Jackery Explorer 500 Cons
Here’s what’s not so great about the Jackery 500.
Takes a long time to charge via 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. And if it’s cloudy, you’ll hardly pull in any amps at all.
Won’t charge power tools or kitchen gear
If you’re looking for a portable power station for your power tools, air conditioning units or an induction cooktop for a campervan, the Jackery Explorer 500 isn’t for you. You’ll need a more powerful solar generator like the Inergy Flex.
Limited Life Cycle
The Jackery Explorer 500 runs really well up to 500 times, then you’ll notice the battery life diminishing.
Who might want a Jackery Explorer 500?
A portable power station like the Jackery 500 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 like the Inergy Flex or a complete solar setup with multiple 6-amp batteries.
Final thoughts on the Jackery Explorer 500
The Jackery 500 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.
The Jackery 500 is 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 our Chevy Astro van.
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 500 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.
Other posts you’ll love:
- We Boost Review: The best RV cell phone booster
- My favorite van life gear for a campervan
- The best portable grills for camping
Kristin Hanes is a journalist who founded The Wayward Home as a place to learn about alternative living. She currently lives on a sailboat and in a Chevy Astro van, and has written articles about alternative living published in Good Housekeeping, Business Insider, Marie Claire and SF Gate. Read more about Kristin here.