A team member from Jackery recently reached out to us about their portable power station, the Jackery Explorer 500 as well as the Jackery SolarSaga 100 solar panel. We were eager to test both devices out because in van life, there’s no such thing as too much power. We’re constantly on the hunt for a charge and now, with these, we can skip paying for electric at campsites and go off the grid a little more often than before. In this post we give a review of the Jackery Explorer 500 as well as the Jackery SolarSaga 100W Portable Solar Panel.

What is the Jackery Explorer 500?

In a nutshell, the Jackery Explorer 500 is a a portable power station. If you’re into car camping or van life, this is the kind of device that will allow you to get off the grid and boondock. It could also be useful for people who live in an area where the power is constantly going out or who may be working in remote areas.

What’s in the Box of the Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Power Station?

When you open the box of the Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Power Station you’ll find a nice lightly padded case containing the charging cords. It has a zipper with an easy-pull tab as well as a nylon loop to hang the case on a hook.

Packaging of the Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Power Station.
Unboxing of the Jackery 500 Portable Power Station
Unboxing the Jackery 500 Portable Power Station.

Once you pull the charging case and cords out, you’ll then have to lift the Jackery Explorer 500 out of the box. It’s not too difficult but you might want to grab a friend to help you with this step so that you can make sure you get it out of the box without dropping it.

Jackery 500 Portable Power Station Charging Cords
Jackery 500 Portable Power Station Charging Cords and Case

Once you’ve got the power station out of the box you’ll find the instruction manual as well as the warranty at the bottom

What are the Specs of the Jackery Explorer 500?

Let’s get into the nitty gritty here, the details of this portable power station that’ll give you some insight into what it can and can’t do.

The Battery in the Explorer 500

  • Lithium battery power: 518Wh/144,400mAh battery capacity, 500W Rated Power and 1000W Surge Power from the AC port.

The battery in the Explorer 500 is a lithium ion battery. Technically, according to the manual, this battery pack consists of an “array of cylindrical 18650 lithium-ion battery cells with high energy density.” In other words, this isn’t the kind of battery that you’d put into your remote control and then throw out after a few months. This battery is built to last and to endure many cycles of recharging. In this case, you can get up to 500 charges with it before it must be replaced.

As far as recharging the power station, it can be done three ways: via AC outlet, DC carport or via solar panels. The AC outlet and DC carport come with the power station, the solar panel must be purchased separately.

In addition, this battery has Over Voltage Protection and Short Circuit Protection, both of which are important for those who are charging devices they don’t want to fry. (Let’s be honest, that’s everything.)

To preserve the battery and it’s lifespan it’s recommended that you use and recharge it at least once every 3 months.

How Long Does it Take to Charge the Jackery Explore 500?

Right out of the box you’ll start at about 30% battery. (There is an LCD screen with charge/discharge data and battery life status on the front of the power station so you can monitor it as you charge.) While you’re reading the manual, go ahead and plug it in so you’ll get a head start on charging. In most other situations, if you are charging from zero, it’ll take about 7.5 hours to get to 100% from the wall and about 11.5 hours from the car charger. If you plan on going off the grid, you might want to opt for the Jackery SolarSaga 100W Portable Solar Panel. (The solar panel does not come in the box but can also be ordered online). In good sun (full sun, few clouds) it takes about 16 hours to reach a full charge.

Review of the Jackery SolarSaga 100W Portable Solar Panel

a photo of the backdoors open of a Ram Promaster City van using a Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Power Station and Solar Panel
Charging with the Jackery Explorer 500 and solar panel out of our Ram Promaster City van.

Jackery’s own solar panel weighs in at a mere 5.5 pounds and is compact and thin which is great for storage purposes, especially in van life where space is limited. We love that this solar panel also comes in it’s own case with snap enclosures and a pocket for the cords. It means you don’t have to buy anything extra for protection and you also don’t misplace or damage the cords while traveling. In addition, the exterior of the solar panels has two kickstands so that you can prop it up. For those of you who are into numbers, the Jackery SolarSaga 100W is a high conversion efficiency device. Cell efficiency = 23%. When the solar panel is connected to the Jackery, you can see on the LED panel just how many watts the unit is providing. It will also show you an increase in overall battery percentage.

How Much Does the Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Power Station Weigh?

  • Portable and lightweight: Only 13.32 lbs with an easy-carry handle.

This portable power station is portable because it comes in at a mere 13.32 pounds (6.04 kg). It can be carried with minimal effort. The handle is smooth and easy to grip which helps to offset any strain that you may feel in moving the station from one place to another. As far as van life is concerned, the lightweight nature of this device is critical to it’s usefulness.

Dimensions of the Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Power Station

One of the ways this device can make a claim to portability is the fact that it is fairly compact. The dimensions are 11.84 x 7.59 x 9.2 in (30.08 x 19.29 x 24.2 cm)

We keep it in one of the storage boxes in our Wayfarer Camper Van when we are traveling and pull it out when we need it. The size of this battery pack is one of the main reasons we like it for van life. We don’t have a ton of space in our van and everything that makes it into our living space for an expedition must be worth it. Read on to see some of our top uses for this power station.

How many recharges can you get out of the Jackery Explorer 500?

On a fully charged Jackery Explorer 500 you can recharge your laptop about 7 times. You can recharge a phone about 50 times and a GoPro about 90 times. For those van lifers looking to charge a TV, you can get about 7 hours out of a 32″ TV.

Van Life Uses for the Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Power Station

Inside the Ram Promaster City charging with the Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Power Station.
Charging our devices inside our Wayfarer Van using the Jackery Explorer 500.

We use the Jackery Explorer 500 for charging:

  • Garmin GPS running watches – we can charge our watches at the same time using the three USB ports. They’re quick to charge and don’t take up much battery at all, around 3 – 4%.
  • Google Pixel phones – When charging a one of our smartphones from a nearly dead battery it takes roughly an hour and a half to get it back to full. The battery on the Jackery was only reduced by 4%. This means you can recharge your phone over and over and over again. Jackery says you’ll get about 50 phone charges out of it on one full battery.
  • Fuji XT-2 camera batteries – It takes roughly two hours to charge one of our camera batteries in the wall. It also takes about two hours to charge one of our camera batteries in the Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Power Station. The overall draw on the Jackery from our camera batteries is consistently around 4%.
  • Google Pixel Slate – We can plug our Pixel Slate which has a 20V battery charger into the AC outlet on Jackery and get about 6 or 7 charges out of it (this really depends on how low it is.)
  • MacBook Pro – We can also plug our laptops into this and get about 6 or 7 charges out of the Jackery before we drain it.

One thing to note is that the rate at which you drain the Jackery will depend upon several factors: what you plug into it, how low those devices are, how many things you are plugging in at once and, of course, the starting level of your Jackery. We have been super impressed with how much we can get out of this portable power station. We think it’s easily one of the best pieces of van life gear out there.

Additional Uses for the jackery

  • We don’t have a refrigerator in our van but for those of you do, you should be able to charge using this device (40W only).
  • A blender for smoothies and cocktails.
  • GoPro devices
  • A small fan

It’s intended as a power supply for devices with a max power consumption of 500 Watts. It is not recommended for small heaters as they will most likely draw more energy than this can give.

We are almost always working when we are traveling so having fully charged batteries for all of our technology is a big priority for us. In fact, the Jackery Explorer 500 has allowed us to go off the grid a bit longer because we don’t need to stay or find a place with an outlet. This alone has made the Jackery Explorer 500 super valuable and one of the best van life gear pieces that we own.

How Does the Jackery Explorer 500 and Solar Panel Work With the Wayfarer Conversion Kit?

If you don’t have a Ram Promaster City with a Wayfarer Conversion kit you can skip this section. This is specifically for small van life owners like us who may want to know the specifics of traveling with this piece of van life gear.

One of the first things we consider when bringing a piece of van life gear into our Ram Promaster City is space. How much room will it take up? It’s one thing to measure out dimensions, it’s another thing entirely to see it in the van. We’ve found that the Jackery actually fits quite nicely in our rig without us having to displace much else. When we don’t anticipate using it for a few days we’ll store it in the storage boxes under the bed. Otherwise, we keep it in the box behind the passenger seat.

Is this the right power station for you?

Do you need to charge multiple devices at one time?

Are you the kind of van lifer who likes to boondock?

Are you taking a road trip and want to have some of the comforts of home?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above then the Jackery Explorer 500 might be for you.

**If you answered no to any of the above questions or you just need something to charge your phone, you could get away with a less powerful device. (Jackery has a couple less expensive options which we’ve listed out below). For everyone else, including RV and van life travelers as well as weekend road trip enthusiasts, this device might just be the best gear upgrade you’ll make all year.

Where can I buy the Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Power Station?

You can purchase both the Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Power Station and the Jackery SolarSaga 100W Portable Monocrystalline Solar Panel online. Be sure to enter the coupon code Q3RS4ZHW at checkout (only good through September 30, 2019) when purchasing online on Amazon and save $100.

Are you interested in the Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Power Pack or the Jackery SolarSaga 100W Portable Solar Panel? If so feel free to send us questions, we’d love to hear from you.

Let us know what you think!

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