Disclaimer: This product was sent to us for free, in exchange for a review. We were not paid by Jackery to do this review but we did receive it for free. All opinions expressed in this post are based on our personal views and experiences.
Go Camping With The Jackery Explorer 500 Power Station
Jackery is a company from California that makes power stations and portable solar panels.
They’re popular among outdoorsy people that go camping and need a way to keep their devices charged, and power electronics like CPAP machines, TVs, laptops, and lights.
I travel full-time in my travel trailer and rely on portable power stations and solar panels every day of the year to be able to work online and stay connected.
Portable power stations are also good to have at home for emergencies. Power outages happen, so having a power station with a solar panel at home is an easy way to be ready.
(Get $50 off with code JACKERY500)
Today we are reviewing the Jackery Explorer 500, which is one of the most popular power stations Jackery makes. It’s powerful enough to power TVs, laptops, CPAP machines, and as we’ll show you, you can even plug your whole RV into it and power the outlets in your camper.
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Let’s start by taking a look at the main features of the Explorer 500, then talk about what I like and dislike after using it daily for over a month.
You can use the table of contents below to navigate the post.
A portable power station is basically an all-in-one box with a battery, an inverter to change 12V DC power to 120V AC power, and a solar charge controller. There is more to it, but those are the main components you’ll find on almost every portable power station on the market.
When looking at the specifications of a power station, you’ll usually see two main numbers. With the Explorer 500, these two numbers are 518Wh and 500W.
The first one is the battery capacity in watt-hours, and the second is how powerful the inverter is, in other words, how many watts the AC outlet on the power station can output continuously.
Starting with the battery, the Jackery Explorer 500 has a 518 watt-hour battery capacity, which means that you can power a 50W device for almost nine hours (518/50*0.85=8.81 hours). A 50W device uses 50 watt-hours per hour.
The reason we multiply by 0.85 is that the inverter that changes the 12V DC power to 120V AC power isn’t 100% efficient, but about 85%.
In a little over three hours, I was able to pull a total of 445 watt-hours from the AC outlet, which proves an 86% inverter efficiency.
Now, if you know how many watts your device uses, you can do a similar calculation to the one we did above to figure out how long the Explorer 500 will be able to run it.
The Inverter/AC Outlet
A 500W inverter rating means that the AC outlet on the front can output up to 500 watts of power continuously. There is only one AC outlet, but you can use a power strip and power several devices at the same time, as long as you don’t exceed the 500W limit.
The inverter is a pure sine wave inverter that will power sensitive electronics without issues.
I don’t have anything that uses exactly 500W, but I was able to pull 450-470W from the AC outlet for almost an hour which shows that the inverter is as powerful as Jackery advertises. This makes the fans run at full speed.
Next to the AC outlet, there are three USB A ports rated at 5V, 2.4A (12W). These USB ports can quickly charge your portable devices like phones, speakers, tablets, and lights. I was able to pull the rated 12W out of the USB ports.
There are also three DC ports, one being a regulated 12V cigarette lighter port. To get the most watt-hours out of a portable power station, you should use the DC or USB ports when possible since it will be the most efficient way to power your devices.
Since the 12V port is regulated, the Explorer 500 is a great power station for if you need to power a 12V fridge/freezer. It will output a consistent voltage until the battery runs out.
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The screen on the Jackery shows input and output watts, the state of charge in a percentage and battery bars. A button next to the display turns on the backlit screen, which makes it easier to read the screen at night.
During the day, the screen is easy to read outdoors even when it’s sunny, but hard to read indoors without turning the backlight on.
There are three ways to charge the Explorer 500. With the included wall charger, the included car charger, or with solar panels. You could also use a gas generator to charge the battery with the included wall charger.
Related Post: Solar Panels Compatible With Jackery Power Stations
When using the included wall charger, the Explorer 500 charges at 81W, which took 6.5 hours from 0-100% in my test.
The car charger charged the Explorer between 35-45W, which took about 13 hours.
When using solar panels, the highest input wattage we saw no matter how many panels we used was 67W. So charging only with solar panels took about 8 hours from empty to full.
Note that my tests showed that the Explorer 500 is capable of charging faster than what Jackery advertises. Your mileage may vary.
There is a built-in flashlight on the side of the Jackery that is turned on with a button. It has an SOS-mode for emergencies.
In The Box
Jackery includes both the wall and car charger.
My Review Of The Jackery Explorer 500
What I Like
There are a lot of things that I like about the Explorer 500. Not only is it powerful and portable, but it also holds a lot of battery power and has the ports most people are looking for in a portable power station.
If you’re going camping and need to power phones, tablets, and a TV for a couple of hours, I don’t have any doubts that it would last a full weekend without needing a charge. That’s what makes it a great power station for most people.
It’s a very portable power station for how powerful it is. It weighs slightly above 13 pounds but holds 500 watt-hours of battery power and a 500W inverter.
Due to how portable it is, it’s easy to carry around and take where you need it. Put it in a tent, or put it next to the bed in your RV to power your CPAP or TV. Not every power station is so lightweight and easy to carry.
The handle on top does make it take up more space when you’re storing it, but with a robust handle like this, it’s not frustrating to deal with as some folding handles can be.
The large 500W inverter makes it possible to power large electronics like a TV and a gaming console at the same time. It won’t run heaters, ACs, or coffee makers, but it will power small kitchen appliances like whisks and small blenders.
I didn’t have any issues powering my laptops, TV, Playstation 4, or Nintendo Switch. It even powered the fridge in our travel trailer.
I was able to power my 32 inch TV and Playstation 4 for almost three hours with a game on the whole time. It was using about 150-170W.
Since each port type has its own on and off button, it’s very straightforward to use and you’ll always know what’s being powered and not.
Being able to charge a battery with solar panels is a freeing feeling and one of the biggest reasons I recommend power stations for campers. The Explorer 500 can charge in less than 8 hours with solar panels, and since you can use the battery while it’s charging, you can work outside on a laptop all day.
Jackery has done something that I wish every power station manufacturer would do, and that is to add a display that shows input/output watts and the state of charge in a percentage. It’s the most useful information, in my opinion.
There are several small details that I like about the Explorer 500.
Like the fact that it has a built-in flashlight so if you’re in a tent, it can be used to light it up. Some might see it as an unnecessary feature, but I can see myself using it if I was camping in a tent.
I like how the screen blinks when the battery is down to 20 or 10% as a warning.
The input has a small light that lets you know that it’s receiving a charge.
Last but not least, the 12V cigarette port is regulated, which is uncommon but a very useful feature if you plan on powering a 12V fridge/freezer or other sensitive 12V electronics that have low-voltage cutoffs.
What I Don’t Like
There are always improvements to be made, and here is what I would like to see in a future Explorer power station from Jackery.
The ports on the Explorer 500 are useful, but there aren’t enough. I would like to have at least two AC outlets since the inverter is so powerful. Now I need to use a power strip to power more than one 110/120V device.
It also needs a USB C PD port, so I can power my USB C devices with it or charge the Explorer battery with a USB C PD charger.
The Backlit Screen
The screen has all the information I need, but when it’s dark it’s hard to read the screen, and the screen only stays lit for a couple of seconds when I push the display-button. I’m not always next to the power station, so having to walk over just to check the state of charge gets frustrating.
I wish pushing the button would cause the backlit screen to stay on until I push the button to turn it off. Now I can’t monitor the battery from further than about 5 feet if it’s dark in my trailer or outside.
It’s a small detail, but it has been frustrating to not know the state of charge without pushing the button.
Another thing related to this is how hard it is to see what ports are active if you’re using the Jackery outside when it’s sunny. The small lights by the buttons aren’t bright enough. This is not an issue at night or indoors.
Solar Capabilities/PWM Charge Controller
It would’ve been great if the Jackery could handle at least 100W solar input and be charged in less than six hours with solar panels.
Also, an MPPT charge controller instead of the built-in PWM charge controller would’ve made it much more efficient to charge with solar panels. But I bet that’s something we’ll see in the next version, as the new Explorer 1000 has an MPPT charge controller.
Every portable power station with an inverter has fans that will turn on to keep the inverter cool, but the fans on the Explorer 500 are loud and can be distracting if you’re watching TV with the Explorer nearby. Still quieter than a gas generator though.
The Jackery Explorer 500 is not waterproof, but it seems very durable for how lightweight it is.
It has a plastic chassis, so it’s not something you should be throwing around or store heavy things on, but I don’t feel like I have to put it down and pick it up gently.
The fans on the side aren’t very protected, and if used outdoors in dusty places it could be an issue over time.
Since the handle is a rigid one that can’t be folded away, it won’t be easy to break or become less reliable over time.
One thing Jackery should do is to put anti-dust rubber plugs on every port to stop the ports from getting dirty.
Jackery sells a carrying case bag (click to view on Amazon) that protects it further.
One of the biggest selling points with the Explorer 500 is how portable it is for how much power it packs.
It weighs 13.32 pounds, and measures 11.84 by 7.59 by 9.2 inches and is more portable than a lot of similar products.
It’s not the kind of battery you take on a hike, but for tent-campers, emergency uses, or RVers, it’s a great option that is easy to carry and store.
The built-in rigid handle on top makes it easy to grab and transport.
With all of its ports, the relatively large battery and inverter, it’s a very useful power station that can be used in many situations.
It’s a great camping-buddy that will keep your phone, laptop, drone, and speaker charged for a full weekend before needing a charge. Pair it with a solar panel, and you can be out for as long as your food lasts.
Since it has three USB ports, in addition to the AC and DC ports, you can charge over five devices at the same time.
You can use the ports while the battery is charging, so if you have a 100W solar panel and a 60W laptop, you can keep the battery fully charged while charging your laptop as long as the sun is out.
My inverter efficiency test showed a 86% efficiency, where I pulled 445 watt-hours from the Explorer in a little over three hours.
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.
Full-time RV travelers might be limited by the slow solar charging and the single AC outlet unless you know for a fact that you don’t need it to charge fast or you don’t have to power more than one device at a time.
My wife and I spend at least 8 hours a day on our computers, so the Explorer 500 can’t hold up with our heavy power usage, but it’s more than enough to power small electronics for only a couple of hours a day or a CPAP machine at night.
The larger Jackery Explorer 1000 would be a better fit for people like myself.
We recommend pairing the Explorer 500 with a portable solar panel like the Jackery SolarSaga 100W. They’re compatible straight out of the box and will let you charge the battery in about 8 hours of sunshine.
As I mentioned earlier, Jackery sells power stations in a lot of different sizes. There are both smaller and larger models than the Explorer 500.
Jackery Explorer 160 – The Explorer 160 has a 167Wh battery capacity and a 100W inverter that powers a single AC outlet. There are also two USB A ports, one USB C port, and one DC port on it. The screen shows the input/output watts and the battery percentage and bars. This would power a 50W device for almost three hours.
Jackery Explorer 240 – Very similar to the Explorer 500 but with a 240Wh battery capacity and a 200W inverter that powers the single outlet. Two USB ports, and a DC cigarette port. The screen shows input/output watts, and the state of charge in percentage and bars. This would power a 50W device for about four hours.
Jackery Explorer 1000 – Currently the largest Explorer power station that has an MPPT solar charge controller. A 1002Wh battery capacity, a 1000W inverter that powers three AC outlets, two USB C ports, two USB A ports, a regulated 12V cigarette port. The screen is the same as on the Explorer 500 with input/output watts and the state of charge in percentage and bars. It has two input ports, although only one can be used at a time. This would power a 50W device for about 17 hours.
Frequently Asked Questions About The Jackery Explorer 500
How Long Does It Take To Charge?
Jackery advertises that it takes 16 hours with the included car charger, 9.5 hours with the Jackery SolarSaga 100W solar panel, and 7.5 hours with the included wall charger.
In my tests, however, I saw it charge slightly faster in every way. About 6.5 hours with the wall charger, 8 hours with solar panels, and 13 hours with the car charger.
What Solar Panels Are Compatible With The Explorer 500?
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You can combine two 100W panels in parallel with an MC4 Y branch.
The DC port has a 12-30V input limit, so you shouldn’t combine panels in series.
What Can The Explorer 500 Power?
It can power electronics that use up to 500W. Like a TV, CPAP machine, laptop, mini coolers, speakers, smokers, small blenders and kitchen appliances.
How Do I Make My CPAP Last Longer When Using The Explorer 500?
You should turn off the heater and the humidifier, and power the CPAP via one of the DC ports on the power station. I recommend testing different pressure settings to figure out which one will run the CPAP for at least a full night.
How Long Will It Power My Device?
The Explorer 500 has a 518 watt-hour battery capacity, so if you know how many watts your device uses, you can divide it with 518. For example, 518/50=10.36 hours.
If you need to use the AC outlet to power your device, you must also count in the inverter efficiency, which is about 85%. So 10.36*0.85=8.81 hours. That gives us a more accurate number of what we should expect.
How many watts a specific device uses can often be found on the device or its power brick, or in the manual. You can also use a Kill A Watt (click to view on Amazon) to monitor exactly how many watts a device is using.
If you’re going to power your electronics with the DC or USB ports, you can expect a higher efficiency rate, above 95%.
What Is The Largest Solar Panel I Can Use?
The Explorer 500 has a 12-30V limit, which means that you can’t use panels that output more than 30V. Jackery recommends a 100W solar panel, but you can use a panel like the Renogy 160W or Newpowa 175W with an adapter like this (click to view on Amazon).
By using a panel larger than 100W, you will see a higher input on cloudy days.
Can I Plug My RV/Travel Trailer Into The Explorer 500?
Remember that it has a 500W maximum output, so you won’t be able to run any large appliances like the air conditioner or microwave, but it would power the furnace for a couple of hours. It would also let you use the outlets in your RV or camper, and charge your RV house batteries.
It’s obviously not the most efficient way to charge your RV batteries with another battery, but it works.
Can It Power A Coffee Maker?
No, unless you can find an electric coffee maker that uses less than 500W.
Does It Come With Solar Panels?
No, even though portable power stations are often called solar generators, they don’t include solar panels.
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Can You Charge The Jackery Explorer With A Gas Generator?
Yes, if your gas generator has a 15V or 20V AC outlet, you can use the wall charger included with the Explorer to charge the battery.
Please leave a comment down below if you have any questions.