I picked up the Jackery Explorer 500 for last year’s elk hunting adventure. Knowing that I wouldn’t be packing in, I wanted something to be able to keep my electronics topped off without having to fire up the truck or run into town for 110.
So I’ve got 10 days in the field, powering a cellphone, InReach, smaller battery backup, and a GoPro. How will it fair?
The second evening I decided to plug in my phone using a 110v AC adapter to USB. That allows most phones to “turbo charge” shortening the time to capacity. Figuring I’d turn it off the first time I awoke during the night I set it and forgot it, as you should. The little battery was chugging away happily at 97% when I went to sleep, and when I awoke to check on my phone and listen to the drone of my campsite neighbor’s generator, my phone was at 47% and had stopped charging. That’s because my USB-C adapter phone side had fallen out. Well why the heck was my battery now 87%?! What gives? So that led me to believe that the unit will send power and drain even if nothing is using it. Like that ad I recall seeing when I was a kid: beware power vampires. Absolutely still relevant.
Jackery? What about GoalZero?
I’ve reviewed GoalZero products here before, and generally like them. But knowing that I was going out on a trip I needed something delivered quickly — but also something that didn’t break the bank for the power goals I was looking to achieve. Also knowing that my last GoalZero product broke — and I’m currently having difficulties with a replacement USB cable from the company, I decided a change was in order. So doing a little internet research and admittedly looking for something with Prime shipping before my trip I settled on Jackery. The company claims to have been started by a former Apple executive with deep understanding of Lithium Batteries. A good start. They also happen to be frequent participants in Amazon’s Prime Day, so look for deeper discounts around that time.
My Jackery Explorer 500 came in a box with a neoprene pouch for the charging cables and manuals, as well as the unit itself. The charging cables are for using 110V AC wall wart adapters as well as a car charger meaning you can charge on the go. This is great for use cases like mine, running into the mountains and having the truck available, but powered down most of the time.
Dimensions: 11.8 x 7.6 x 9.2 in
Unit Weight: 13.3 lbs
Inputs: 1x DC Barrel Plug for 110v AC, 1x port for attaching external solar panels
Outputs: 1x 110v AC, 2x DC 6mm barrel plug adapters, 1x 12V DC Cigarette Adapter, 3x USB A Ports
Battery Lifetime: 500 cycles to +/- 80% Charge
Battery Chemistry: Lithium Ion NMC (Nickel, Manganese, Cobalt)
Extras: LED Flashlight mounted to side of unit
Warranty: 2 Year Limited Warranty
So for a battery like this, especially for long term use or use on the road it’s good to know the time it takes to recharge the battery to full capacity. Each charging mechanism is slightly different, though it doesn’t much change the time.
AC Adapter: 7.5 hours
Car Charger (12V AC): 7.5 hours
Generator: 7.5 hours
100W Solar Panel: 9.5 hours
Unlike some other portable units on the market the Jackery allows you to charge and discharge simultaneously, which is a big win for when you have solar at your base camp and need to top off your electronics.
During my primary testing of the Jackery Explorer 500 I had the device operating in temperatures between 15 degrees and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Over 10 days the lowest the battery slipped was into the high 40% range, topping off electronics every night, or just about and running lights at the truck in the morning and evening.
My methodology was to wait until at least two of my three GoPro batteries were dead and then charge them in my dual charger. My phone was topped off, or at least I attempted to every night. The buttons were easy to find and utilize, charging USB and 110v AC at the same time was no issue. The embedded LED in the side led to ease of use in finding the unit, self illuminating, and then powering devices even in the dark.
I’m satisfied with the unit as is, it fit my operating model but feel that we’ll need to test it with powering larger electronics to really get a feel for it.
If I have one gripe about the Jackery Explorer 500 it’s the handle. For something as well thought out as this unit I’m surprised it doesn’t have a fold flat handle! You lose a very awkward amount of space by not having it fold. However it is a stout handle, so there’s that. You do also have to be careful of power vampires with this unit. Having the USB charging turned on with no significant draw somehow dropped my battery by 6+%. I’d have to further study what happened here.
However, for a small overlanding setup with a solar panel this battery would be ideal for some passive charging opportunities. This would likely benefit remote workers or adventure bloggers in the field. I wouldn’t want to pack something this heavy on a big trip unless you had a truck or RV to be able to store it at. However, anywhere you’re trail or campsite bound this is an option for the luxuries you can’t afford to leave.
MSRP on the unit is $599.99 but I found it for $499.99 via Amazon with free Prime shipping.