If you’ve been shopping for a portable power station recently, you probably already know there are more models to choose from than ever. Better still, most of these devices offer increased battery capacity, improved power output, and excellent fast-charging capabilities, making them outstanding alternatives to previous models.
But as power stations have become more sophisticated and capable, they’ve also become less portable, making them more challenging to take with us on our adventures.
In response, Jackery went back to basics with its Explorer 500 portable power station and SolarSaga 100 solar panel combo package. These two highly portable products work seamlessly together, delivering a compact charging solution that is lightweight and affordable.
In short: Built for outdoor enthusiasts that need a robust and simple charging solution, the Jackery Explorer 500 and SolarSaga 100 make an excellent pairing. Combining both products into an affordable package provides a turnkey mobile power solution for those looking for portability over battery capacity. That said, this model is getting a little long in the tooth and could probably use a refresh.
Jackery Solar Generator Explorer 500 + SolarSaga 100
- Dimensions 11.8” x 7.6” x 9.2”
- Weight 13.3 lbs.
- Battery capacity 518Wh
- Power output 500W (Peak Surge: 1,000W)
- Battery life 500 cycles
- Charging ports 110V AC wall outlet (x1), 12V DC car port (x1), 12V “barrel style” port (x2), 5V 2.4A USB-A ports (x3)
- Charging time AC adapter: 7.5 hrs., 12V car adapter: 7.5 hrs., SolarSaga 100W solar panel: 9.5 hrs.
- Operating temperatures 14-104 deg. F
- Compact and lightweight
- Solid power output for size
- Package includes 100W solar panel
- No USB-C ports
- Older battery technology
- Slow charging times
Jackery Explorer 500 Solar Generator + SolarSaga Solar Panel Review
Recently, I had the chance to test the Jackery Explorer 500 model as part of the company’s new Solar Generator 500 package.
This convenient offering pairs the power station with a SolarSaga 100 solar panel and a carrying case, giving customers an affordable and compact charging solution they can take just about anywhere.
The Power Station
Jackery’s Explorer 500 is the power station that comes bundled in the Solar Generator 500 package. This unit has been available in the company’s lineup for a few years now, but continues to offer a lot of bang for the buck.
It has a 518Wh battery and provides 500 W of continuous power output, with the ability to handle a peak surge of up to 1,000 W. It also weighs 13.3 pounds, making it one of the most lightweight battery packs on the market.
The unit has an array of charging ports, including a 120V AC wall outlet, a 12V DC vehicle port, and two 12V DC “barrel-style” ports. It also has three standard 5V 2.4A USB-A ports.
Unfortunately, the Explorer 500 doesn’t come with any USB-C ports, which are quickly becoming the norm for charging smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other small devices. This is primarily due to the power station being an older model, predating the rise of USB-C across the tech industry.
Still, it is a glaring omission that stands out when comparing this model to other units.
The Explorer 500 uses a lithium-ion NMC (nickel manganese cobalt) battery, which is also a little outdated. Most new power stations are switching to LiFePo4 (lithium iron phosphate) power cells, which offer less energy density but have a longer lifespan.
Jackery says the batteries inside the device are good for approximately 500 charge cycles going from 0% to 80%, which makes this a good option for users with modest power needs.
The Solar Panel
One of the most appealing aspects of buying a Jackery Solar Generator 500 package is that it comes with a SolarSaga 100 solar panel. This takes the guesswork out of selecting a proper solar cell for recharging the Explorer 500 in the field.
This model is specifically designed to work with the power station and includes built-in surge and short-circuit protection to ensure that there are no unexpected mishaps during charging.
When folded for transport, the SolarSaga 100 measures 24″ x 21″ x 1.4″ and weighs just 9.1 pounds, making it surprisingly easy to carry to a backcountry campsite.
Unfolded, the solar panel expands to 48″ x 21″ x 0.2″, increasing the surface area to collect more energy from the sun. The efficient monocrystalline solar cells have a 23% energy conversion rate, which is solid performance for a unit of this size. Patience is required, however, as the 100W solar panel takes a little over 9 hours to charge the Explorer 500 using the sun alone.
The SolarSaga 100 has two built-in kickstands that support the panel on a variety of surfaces, propping it up to improve exposure to the sun. The unit comes with the proper charging cable to connect directly to the Explorer 500, too, making it a truly plug-and-play experience. It even has an integrated USB-A port for charging mobile devices directly from the solar panel, expanding the charging capabilities beyond just using the power station.
The Solar Generator 500 Package
Jackery’s Solar Generator 500 combo pack is the perfect example of a product that is greater than the sum of its parts. Because the Explorer 500 lacks USB-C ports, uses an older type of battery, and is somewhat slow to charge, it would be easy to dismiss it outright.
But the unit also offers excellent battery capacity and power output performance in an easy-to-carry form factor. All of this is enhanced even more when used in conjunction with the SolarSaga 100.
With a combined weight of just 22.4 pounds, the two devices make one of the best portable charging solutions currently available. Both products come with integrated handles, which makes it very easy to carry them to a remote destination. Once there, they can be deployed and connected in a matter of seconds, creating a solar-powered basecamp for powering mobile devices, cameras, laptops, drones, and a host of other tech gadgets.
By offering the Explorer 500 and SolarSaga 100 in one convenient package, Jackery has given outdoor enthusiasts, content creators, and digital nomads a turnkey solution for keeping their devices charged.
The compact design of both products makes them easy to transport and store, too, taking up little room in a tent, camper van, cabin, or garage.
A Good Value Proposition
The Solar Generator 500 kit from Jackery is an outstanding value proposition for prospective buyers. In addition to the Explorer 500 and the SolarSaga 100, the package includes a carrying case for the solar panel, an AC adapter for charging the power station at home, a 12V DC car charger, and a solar-charging cable. In other words, it has everything you need to keep your essential devices charged in the outdoors.
This makes it very easy to recommend the package to those who don’t require lots of power or need to run energy-hungry appliances at the campsite. Customers who do need that level of performance will be better served with a larger power station with increased capacity and output. Of course, that will reduce portability, potentially limiting when and where the device can be used.
As already noted, there are a few upgrades I’d like to see on future versions of the Explorer 500. Adding at least one USB-C port would be ideal, and switching to a LiFoPo4 battery would significantly extend the unit’s lifespan with minimal impact on performance.
Faster charging would also be a nice addition. The trick is to add these features without dramatically impacting size and weight, as portability remains a key factor that sets this power station apart from the competition.
The Jackery Solar Generator 500 kit is priced at $799, which is only a little less than the cost of buying the Explorer 500 and SolarSaga 100 separately. The included carry case adds additional value to the package, however, especially for buyers who intend to use it while camping and traveling.
Jackery Explorer 500 Solar Generator + SolarSaga Solar Panel: Conclusion
On its own, the Jackery Explorer 500 feels a bit dated, but the inclusion of a 100W SolarSaga solar panel makes this a simple, versatile, and lightweight charging solution. The package is an affordable turnkey option for anyone looking for an easy-to-use option for keeping small devices charged in the field.
This is an incredibly convenient option for those users who will keep them powered up and well-connected wherever they wander.