If you are looking for a lightweight and highly portable solar generator with decent capacity and power output, the Jackery Explorer 500 is one of the best.
It’s one of the smaller solar generators Jackery sells. It’s also a popular choice among camping and outdoor enthusiasts.
Read on for my in-depth review of the Jackery Explorer 500, where I discuss its performance and best features. I also what I don't like about it and the top three alternatives to the Explorer 500.For other lightweight and outdoor-friendly power stations, read my reviews of the best portable solar generators and the best solar generators for camping, boating and RVs.
Jackery Explorer 500 Pros & Cons
What Can The Jackery Explorer 500 Power?
It may be small, but the Explorer 500 can power plenty of things.
Mini fridge (60W)
Camping lantern (10W)
43” TV (47W)
To calculate the approximate Jackery 500 runtime with another appliance or device, use the following formula.
(0.85 * 518Wh) / appliance wattage or device capacity
518Wh Lithium-ion Battery
The Jackery Explorer 500 has decent capacity for a portable solar generator of its size.
The 518Wh battery is large enough for powering small appliances, recharging your devices and running small electronics like lights.
Similar to other Jackery solar generators, the Explorer 500 uses a Li-ion NMC battery. It’s lightweight (which is one of the reasons the Explorer 500 is highly portable) and lasts longer than a lead acid battery.
The Li-ion battery in the Jackery 500 will last 500 charge and discharge cycles before capacity drops to 80%. Overall lifespan is about 3-5 years depending on how well you take care of it.
500W Power Output
The Jackery Explorer 500 comes with a 500W pure sine wave inverter.
500 watts is not quite enough to run many of your household appliances, but it’s perfect for powering small camping and RV electronics.
You can plug in your mini fridge, fan, CPAP machine, a TV, and even a low-power single cup drip coffee maker.
Surge output is 1000W, so the Explorer 500 can handle appliances that start with a high power draw.
The Jackery Explorer 500 has all the outlets you need to power or charge different kinds of appliances, tools and gadgets. These include AC, USB, and DC outputs.
There’s just a single AC outlet, which is understandable considering the Explorer 500 only produces 500W of power.
If you have any DC-powered tools and electronics, you can plug them into the 12V, 10A car socket. There are also a couple of 6.5mm*1.4mm 12V, 7A DC outlets for smaller electronics.
For devices and gadgets, there are three 5V USB-A ports.
Three Ways To Recharge
The Jackery Explorer 500 has four recharging options.
You can charge it with AC power from a wall outlet or a gas generator. It’ll take about 5.5 hours to recharge.
In an emergency or when you are outdoors, you can also charge it with solar. Max solar input is 100W. A single 100W or two 50W solar panels will take about 7.5 hours to recharge the Explorer 500.
When you are on the road, plug the included car charging cable into your vehicle’s 12V/24V socket. It’ll take about 5.5 hours to recharge.
The Jackery Explorer 500 is one of the best portable solar generators for camping and outdoor adventures.
It has decent capacity and power output while being highly portable. The Explorer 500 weighs just 13.3lbs, so you can easily move around with it.
To make it easier to lift and carry, the Jackery 500 power station comes with a rigid handle. A few users, however, say they wish the handle could fold flat so that the solar generator can fit in tighter spaces.
Issues & Concerns
Limited Capacity & Output
If you are looking for a solar generator to run multiple appliances, the Jackery Explorer 500 is not the best choice.
This is a compact solar generator designed mostly to power one or two small appliances and run/charge gadgets and small electronics.
The 500W power output means you can’t plug in large appliances like a microwave or space heater. You also cannot run more than one or two appliances at a time as you might exceed the load limit.
That’s why we recommend the Explorer 500 mostly for camping and outdoors.
You can still use it for home backup or in your RV, but only to keep lights on, power small appliances like a mini cooler or CPAP, and charge your devices.
If you want emergency power for your home, see our reviews of the best backup/standby solar generators.
No USB-C or Quick Charge Ports
The Explorer having just one AC outlet is understandable. The three DC ports are also plenty enough for most outdoor uses.
But I think the lack of additional USB ports is a big limitation of the Jackery 500 considering it’s designed primarily for small electronics and devices.
A USB-C or USB-C PD outlet, even if it's just one or two, would have been really useful. Most modern phones and devices use USB-C. A USB-C PD port would also allow you to connect your laptop to the Explorer 500.
You can still plug your laptop adapter into the AC outlet, but it’ll drain the battery faster compared to using a USB port.
I’d also have liked to see one of the USB-A ports having Quick Charge technology. QC ports are present in most power stations today, including some Jackery power stations.
Alternatives To The Jackery Explorer 500
Not sure the Jackery Explorer 500 is the right choice for your needs? Here are three alternatives to consider.
More Powerful: Jackery Explorer 1000
Looking for a solar generator that’s more capable than the Explorer 500 but still portable enough for outdoor activities?
We recommend the Jackery Explorer 1000, which is the next biggest model after the Jackery 500.
The Explorer 1000 has double the capacity at 1002Wh, so you can run appliances for longer and recharge your devices more times.
Power output is also double at 1000W, letting you plug in larger appliances or multiple appliances at the same time.
Despite the larger battery and inverter, the Explorer 1000 is still fairly lightweight and portable. It weighs 22lbs.
In addition to more power and capacity, you also get more outlets including three AC sockets, a USB-C PD port and a QC USB-A port.
As you’d expect, the Explorer 1000 costs about twice the price of the Explorer 500
With USB-C and QC Outlets: Goal Zero Yeti 500X
If you are bummed out at the lack of a USB-C or QC port in the Jackery Explorer 500, the Goal Zero Yeti 500X is a good alternative.
The Yeti 500X has almost the same capacity (505Wh) as the Explorer 500. It also costs about the same.
But you get a few more outlets in the Yeti 500X. There are two AC outlets, two DC outlets and four USB ports.
Instead of having all USB-A ports, the Yeti 500X has a 60W USB-C PD port that’s great for powering laptops, a couple of regular USB-A ports and an 18W QC USB-A port.
If you plan to work offgrid on your laptop or you have multiple devices to keep charged, the Yeti 500X is a better choice over the Explorer 500.
They both weigh about the same, so you’ll not be sacrificing portability by choosing the Yeti solar generator.
The main downside of going with the Goal Zero power station is the reduced power output. The Yeti 500X has a continuous power output of 300W, much lower than the Explorer 500.
If you plan to power a couple or so appliances, stick with the Explorer 500 or upgrade to the bigger Explorer 1000.
Cheaper: Bluetti EB3A
Shopping on a budget? Consider getting the Bluetti EB3A.
The Bluetti EB3A is a LiFePO4 solar generator with a capacity of 268Wh, almost half as big as the Jackery 500.
The smaller size is what makes it cheaper. It also makes it lighter. The EB3A power station weighs just 10.1lbs.
What is most impressive about it is the power output. The built-in inverter produces up to 600W of continuous power, more than the Explorer 500.
This is great if you need to run more appliances at the same time or plug in a larger appliance. Just keep in mind that the battery drains pretty quickly.
Fortunately, Bluetti equips their solar generators with blazing fast recharging.
Recharging the Bluetti EB3A from a wall outlet takes it from 0 to 80% in just 1.3-1.5 hours. You can also combine AC and solar charging (200W max) to recharge the solar generator in just half an hour.
As for outlets, the Bluetti EB3A has two AC sockets, three DC outlets, three USB ports including a powerful 100W USB-C PD port, and a 15W wireless charging pad.
Care and Maintenance
Like other solar generators in its class, the Jackery Explorer 500 is basically maintenance-free. It doesn't need any topping up of electrolyte or fuel.
All you need to do is make sure you keep it in the right environment (temperature is especially crucial) and be careful not to bump it around too much when you are on the move.Consider buying the Jackery 500 carrying case to protect your power station.
Jackery offers a 2-year warranty on the Explorer 500. If you order it from their official website, you get a 1-year extension free of charge.
Where To Buy?
The Jackery Explorer 500 is perfectly sized for campers and outdoor enthusiasts. It’s easy to carry and provides just the right amount of power and capacity for use on the go.The Jackery Explorer 500 power station is available on Amazon. You can also order it from the official Jackery website.