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Jackery Explorer 500 Review: What You Need To Know Before You Buy (2020)

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I love camping. Whether it’s at festivals, campsites, or the middle of nowhere, I love to just get in my car and go explore the great outdoors.

With that said, I still love my digital comforts. After a long day of looking at nature, I want to watch some shows on my tablet or play some music on my Bluetooth speakers.

Last time I checked, Mother Nature doesn’t have outlets on the side of trees, so I needed to find a decent portable power station — preferably one that was environmentally friendly.

After a couple of misfires, I eventually got my hands on the Jackery Explorer 500 and was able to try it out.

Things To Consider Before Buying A Portable Solar Generator

What Power Capacity And Wattage Do You Require?

The first thing you need to consider is how many watts you need. The amount of power that a portable power station can hold is usually measured in watts (W).

The more watts a power station has, the more electricity it is able to supply you with. [1] You need to take a look at your electrical devices and figure out how much power you need, whether you're going to be using it for camping or as backup power at home in case of emergencies.

For example, a 500W power station (like the Jackery) gives you approximately 50 smartphone charges and 20 tablet charges, depending on the size.

Some electrical appliances, like hairdryers, draw a lot of power and may not work when plugged into power stations with lower power capacities. [2]

Do You Have The Right Solar Panels?

If you’re going to charge your power portable battery with solar panels, you need to make sure that the solar panel kit is compatible with the power station you’re using. [3]

Most campers and explorers use 100W solar panel kits that are designed to charge solar power stations.

Do You Need To Charge Multiple Devices At Once?

Some portable power stations have a limited number of inputs and outlets, so you may only be able to charge one device at a time depending on the type of power connection you need.

If you need to charge or power multiple 110V AC devices at once but your power station only has one 110V AC outlet, then you’re out of luck.

Are You Clumsy Or Heavy-Handed?

Many portable power station devices are designed to be housed in lightweight materials like plastic, as this reduces their overall weight (which is often necessary when camping). However, the lighter your power station is, the easier it will be to damage.

If you’re clumsy or prone to throwing things around haphazardly, you could damage your power station.

What Is The Jackery Explorer 500?

Jackery Explorer 500 is a 518Wh lithium Portable Power Station. It is one of the lightest and most portable rechargeable lithium battery generators on the market.

The Jackery Explorer 500 portable power station is a device that can be used to charge or power your electronics when camping, exploring, and living off-the-grid, or during power outages at home caused by natural disasters and extreme weather conditions.

It has multiple outlets to power a range of devices, as well as a 2-inch LCD display that tells you exactly how full the battery is.

You can charge the Jackery Explorer 500 portable power station either from a household power outlet, your car’s cigarette lighter charger, or through solar panels.

Obviously, here at GreenCitizen, we would suggest using solar panels to be more environmentally friendly, as we discuss here.

Jackery actually makes their own to go along with this power station — the foldable SolarSaga 100W Solar Panel Kit.

The Jackery Explorer 500 portable power station comes with:

  • 1 x 110V AC outlet
  • 2 x 12V DC outlets
  • 3 x USB ports
  • Built-in carry handle
  • Car charger cable
  • AC power cable
  • 518Wh Lithium-ion battery
  • Charge controller
  • Pure sine wave inverter
  • Built-in LED flashlight
  • 2-inch backlit digital display

As you can see, the Jackery power station has over 500W of power capacity and gives you multiple options for power outlets of different types.

What Can The Jackery Explorer Power?

Charging kit for the jackery explorer 500

The Explorer 500 has 500 watts of power, which means it’s best for powering smaller devices like cell phones, cameras, laptops, and small TVs.

The device you’re using must draw 500W or less (you can find this information on the cable) and the Explorer 500 will automatically shut off if you try to plug in a device that draws more than 500W, such as a hairdryer or an electric kettle.

Usually, if an appliance heats itself up quickly, like a coffee maker or a toaster, then it probably uses more than 500W of power.

How Do You Charge A Jackery Portable Power Station?

There are 3 ways to charge an Explorer 500 — by household outlet, by car charger, or with solar panels.

The 500 comes with cables for household charging and car charging, but you need to buy solar panels separately if you’re going to go down the green route.

How Long Does It Take A Jackery To Charge?

How long it takes this power station to charge depends on what charging method you’re using, so I’ll break it up into the 3 main charging methods and how fast they work:

  1. Household wall charger - If you plug the 500 into a household wall outlet, it will take 7-8 hours for the battery to reach 100% power.
  2. Car charger - If you use your car’s cigarette lighter to charge this, you can expect to wait around 11-12 hours before you reach 100% power. Obviously bear in mind that this can drain your car battery if you’re not careful.
  3. Portable solar panels - If you’re using a portable solar panel kit like the SolarSaga 100W, then you can expect the battery to reach 100% after around 16 hours if there is full, direct sunlight.

How Do You Keep Track Of The Jackery Explorer 500’s Charge?

The Explorer 500 comes complete with one 2-inch backlit digital display that tells you the battery percentage, the input/output in watts, and the battery temperature.

Jackery Explorer 500 Benefits

Plugs In Multiple Devices Simultaneously

The Explorer 500 has multiple outlets and USB ports, so it’s possible to charge several smaller devices at the same time depending on the power connections they require.

I love this because I can just charge my phone and tablet with the USB slots while charging my laptop via the 110V AC outlet. I can leave them all charging in my tent, go for a long walk, and then return to find them all fully charged (or near enough).

Front view of the jackery explorer 500

This is also useful in case of an emergency during a power outage or natural disaster. That's when I would need to charge several electronic devices at once so I can quickly ask for help if I need to. It's a lifesaving feature, really.

Operates In High Heat

The Explorer 500 can operate safely between the temperatures of 32-104°F (0-40°C), so it’s able to withstand the heat on very sunny days.

If you live in a hotter part of the country, it’s essential to find a portable power station that won’t die on you when the heat gets intense.

This is an important consideration these days especially with climate change, where wildfires and heat waves in many areas have become almost like a way of life for some people.

The Explorer even has low-power cooling fans that kick in when things get heated. What’s great is they’re very quiet, so they won’t disturb your peace while you’re communing with nature or just trying to get a respite from the heat.

Eco-friendly

Solarsaga 100w solar panel kit with a jackery explorer 500

One of the best things about the Explorer is that you can charge it with solar panels.

Best to use the Jackery SolarSaga 100W foldable solar panel kit to charge the power station without burning any fossil fuels in the process.

In full sunlight, it takes around 16 hours for a full charge that doesn’t harm the environment.

(For more tips on how not to harm the environment, check this out.)

Quite Small And Compact

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to take a generator camping with you, but it’s a pain in the butt. They’re huge, heavy, and messy.

Not the Jackery. While it produces less power, it’s quite small and compact — just about the size of a handheld radio. It’s also fairly lightweight, coming in just below 14 lb, so it’s not too difficult to carry around with you in your backpack.

This also means that you can easily pack it up if you would need to, say, evacuate during an emergency or natural disaster and you need to bring backup power with you.

Has A Built-in LED Flashlight

This power station comes with a built-in LED flashlight on the side, which is perfect if you’re walking around late at night and your headlamp fails on you or your flashlight goes down.

It’s by no means the strongest beam of light in the world, but I’ve had it on for 12 hours straight without draining the battery by even 1%, so it’s super low-demand.

Built in LED flashlight in the jackery explorer 500

It’s nice to know I’ve always got a backup light source in the woods or during a blackout with this.

Digital Display Shows You The Charge

Digital display of the jackery explorer showing you the charge

Have you ever used those portable power stations where you only have a few little blinking lights to tell you how much juice is left inside the battery? They’re incredibly annoying and vague.

However, the Explorer 500 tells you exactly what percentage of your battery is left, so you’re never left in the dark wondering when your laptop or TV will shut off.

PROS

  • Multiple outlets for simultaneous charging
  • Operates in 32-104°F (0-40°C)
  • Display shows battery percentage & watts input/output
  • Has a built-in carry handle
  • Has a built-in low-energy LED flashlight
  • Can handle 500 recharge cycles before battery depletion
  • Small and lightweight
  • Very quiet (even with cooling fans)
  • Works great for camping and as backup power at home during emergencies

Want more products like this? Check out our Green Store.

Jackery Explorer 500 Shortfalls

While I do really like this power station, there are a few downsides that need to be addressed.

For example, I have a couple of USB-C devices that I would like to charge, but the 500 only has regular USB slots. [4] It would be nice to see some more modern connection options from this company in the future.

This power station also isn’t waterproof, so you need to be careful if you’re using this in a rainy climate.

To be fair, a lot of these power stations aren’t waterproof, but it’s something you need to keep in mind.

Lastly, the little digital display turns off its backlight automatically after a few seconds.

While I understand it’s saving energy, it can be frustrating because I must physically walk over to the battery and light the screen up when I want to check the battery percentage level. Not ideal.

CONS

  • Needs USB-C ports
  • Not waterproof
  • Display backlight auto-off is annoying

Other People’s Thoughts

Now, I’m just one guy with his own opinions. However, many people have tried the Explorer 500 with different levels of satisfaction, including some of my own friends. Here are some other people’s thoughts:

The Explorer 500 is an excellent portable power station that’s at least $100 cheaper than the equivalent product from Goal Zero, the Yeti 500x.


Dan Carr, Writer at Shutter Muse

The Jackery Explorer 500 is a solid, well-designed product. The unit is rugged and compact with nothing on the exterior to break off or catch on nearby objects. The display shows charge level, charging wattage, and use wattage, all very handy.


El Cid, Jackery Explorer User 

We like and recommend the Explorer 500 for homeowners that want a backup battery in case of power outages, and/or people that go camping on the weekends and need to be able to use a CPAP machine, laptop, or other small electronics.


Jesse, Co-Owner at The Camping Nerd

Everything works flawlessly (granted, I've only used for less than 6 hours), but the high-pitched whine from using the AC output is impossible to ignore.


Christopher, Jackery Explorer User

The 500 isn’t large enough to power all the components of an RV for very long. However, if you’re just looking to get away for the weekend or can stand to live full time with minimal power requirements, this can be a great option for you.


Ben & Meag, Explorers at The Wild Drive

FAQ

How long does a portable power station last?

The life of power station batteries depends on its wattage, capacity, and what you’re using it for. If you’re looking to use a few basic things such as a small TV, a couple of lights, and charge your electronic devices, you’re usually looking at around 4-8 hours of battery life.

Who owns Jackery?

Jackery is owned by a former Silicon Valley Apple Engineer who worked on designing batteries for Apple smartphones. They launched the company in 2012 and by 2015 the company sold the world’s first Lithium Power Station.

Is Jackery a lithium battery?

Yes, all Jackery power products use lithium batteries because they’re lightweight and can hold a lot of charge. They were actually the first company to produce off-grid lithium batteries back in 2015.

Can I take a Jackery on a plane?

Generally speaking, you can take Jackerys on planes so long as they’re in your carry-on bag and not your checked luggage. However, there are conflicting reports of some people having their devices confiscated by airport security, so do your research for the regions you’re traveling to and from.

How does a portable power station work?

A portable power station works by taking in energy, storing it, and then allowing you to plug in appliances or charge electronic devices with the stored energy. The devices can usually be charged via a home AC outlet, a car charger, or specialized solar panels.

The Jackery Explorer 500: Should You Buy It?

If you’re a casual camper or you just like the idea of having backup energy in your home when a power cut hits, then I would recommend you try the Jackery Explorer 500.

However, if 500W just isn’t enough juice for you, you could try the Jackery Explorer 1000 instead for twice the wattage.

I’ve had a lot of problems with small power stations that don’t give you much information to work with, so I was really happy when I found the Explorer.

Now I know exactly where I’m up to with my battery life and the input/output display means I don’t have to worry that I’m pushing it too hard with the wattage.

Next time you’re going camping or experiencing a blackout, I’d recommend using an Explorer 500.

We Recommend

THE JACKERY EXPLORER 500

Jackery explorer 500 portable solar generator right side


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