If you visited Youtube anytime during the second half of 2021, you won't have gone more than 5 minutes without seeing someone in a campervan reviewing a Jackery UK power station. Seriously, these portable solar generators were EVERYWHERE (whoever was in charge of their marketing deserves a raise… or a medal.)
I'll admit, they were SO prolific, I became skeptical. Were these Jackery portable power stations REALLY as good as everyone was making them out to be, or were people just being ‘paid' to say that?
So I thought I'd find out…
DISCLAIMER: Jackery supplied us with an SG500 solar generator, (which is the Explorer 500 power station (with case) and Solar Saga 100w solar panel) free of charge, on the strict understanding we would return the kit if we didn't think it was worth reviewing. We received no other compensation for this review and all opinions are entirely my own.
And, while we're doing disclaimers…
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Ok, now that all the legal stuff is out the way, let's get on with this Jackery UK review.
NOTE: Yes, this is a vanlife blog. Don't worry- we haven't sold the motorhome. But we've spent most of the last month on a boat, so it seemed like a great place to test this system out!
Portable Powerbanks- do you need one in a motorhome, RV or campervan?
Let's start with the ‘why'. When you have so many other essential motorhome acessories, do you really need a portable power bank in a motorhome, RV, campervan or any other vehicle which has a leisure battery already fitted, and possibly a solar panel on the roof?
No, not if you're ONLY ever planning to use campsites with electric hookup. Save the weight on the payload and spend your money elsewhere.
If you enjoy, or want to try spending time off-grid/ wild parking with your motorhome or campervan, or even staying at campsites which don't have electric (like grass fields near a beach), then you will more than likely need a way of creating, storing and using electricity while you're ‘off-grid'.
Don't forget to grab your free motorhome wild camping checklist here to help you set up your van to stay overnight without electricity or facilities.
Some people install a second leisure battery onto their van, which is fine but leaves you with the same constraints as before. You'll also need an inverter to be able to use the battery power to charge your devices.
The biggest drawback we've found with having a fitted battery instead of a portable power bank is that you can't use it outside. Personally, I LOVE working outdoors whenever possible- part of the magic of travelling in remote places. But to do that, you need something portable you can take outside with you.
NOTE: The Jackery power stations aren't particularly good for hiking. They're quite large and fairly hefty. Think of it more like a second, moveable leisure battery, but you don't need an inverter (it's included.)
Why do we need a portable power station?
Personally, both myself and my husband work from the road. We use a LOT of power. Between us, we have two laptops, 3 ipads, 4 phones, plus a drone, camera, wifi and several other devices which need power to recharge.
When we're driving all the time, it's easy- we charge things as we drive using an inverter. However, when we're camped up in one place for a few days (like at the top of Tre Cime in the Dolomites), we need a way of creating electricity for all our devices.
Yes, we carry a portable motorhome generator, but that's noisy and pretty heavy. You also need to carry fuel for it. We do have a small power bank, but it's now 6 years old and isn't holding its charge so well.
So, when Jackery contacted us about their solar-powered power station, we were intrigued. (Skeptical, but intrigued!)
Benefits of a solar-powered power station over a normal generator
There are some HUGE advantages to having a solar-powered system over a fuel-powered one (and a couple of disadvantages too.)
PROS of a portable solar generator:
- Quiet- no noisy engine
- No need to carry fuel cans- easier to store (some countries like Portugal make it illegal to carry fuel cans)
- Cheaper to run- solar is free!
- No smell of fumes
- Better for the environment
- Doesn't need maintenance – great for motorhomes and vans which are used as holiday vehicles.
- Quick and easy to set-up and safe to use
CONS of a portable solar generator:
- Need to store the solar panels somewhere safe
- Sunshine is essential if you want to charge and you're off-grid.
Who are Jackery?
Jackery is an American company set up 2012 by a group of engineers trying to make portable energy easier for anyone to access and use. (If you've ever tried to fit and connect a solar panel to a van yourself- you know just how complicated it can be!)
Their aim was to make electricity easy to use outdoors (using solar), make it portable and make it sustainable. Sounds exactly like something you'd want in a van- especially if you spend a lot of time wild camping.
Is Jackery a good brand?
Jackery has been around for nearly 10 years (at the time of writing this) and they have been market leaders in the US and Chinese markets for many of those. However, they're fairly new to the UK & European market- hence the incredible number of Youtube videos you probably saw last year when they launched in this region!
However, if you look at all the favourable reviews on Amazon, I think it's safe to say these products have been pretty well tested.
What is the difference between a Jackery Power Station and a solar generator?
If you visit the Jackery UK site, you'll find several options and, honestly, it can be a little tricky to know what product is best for you. We're going to talk about what size power station you might need shortly, but first understand this: Jackery UK has two main products. These are:
- The power station (ie, the Explorer 500- the black box with all the plug sockets)
- The solar panels (ummm… hoping that's self-explanatory!)
You can buy these items separately on the Jackery UK website (which is Amazon), but you can also buy them as a bundle, called a solar generator. It's much cheaper to buy the bundle than to buy the products individually.
Literally, the solar generator is the power station and solar panels sold together as a kit (and saving your money). Simples.
Which Jackery Solar Generator is right for you?
NOTE: There are differences between which systems are available in the UK and US markets. This review is for the UK versions of the product- you can find the US versions on Amazon.com here.
In the UK, there are 2 different versions of the solar generator on sale:
- SG500 (with the Exporer 500 power station)
- SG1000 (with the Explorer 1000 power station)
- There is also the Explorer 240 power station – a smaller ‘entry-level' model
All of them work with the SolarSaga 100w Solar Panel (the SG1000 comes with 2 solar panels).
The difference between the three is literally how big the power station is, both in physical size and also in what it can power and for how long.
Do you really need a Jackery Solar Panel?
To get the full benefit of the ‘solar' green/ clean energy, then yes, you need the solar panel. The SolarSaga 100w works with all 3 power stations in the UK range.
However, it is possible to buy the power stations and solar panels separately, and you can charge the power station from a wall if you wish, so technically you don't need the solar panel if you don't want one. I suppose you could also buy a cheaper solar panel- but you'll need to be very careful in your research and make sure the connectors etc all work together.
Jackery 500 UK Review- what do you get in the Solar Generator pack?
The pack arrived in 2 parts- the solar panel and the power station (the travel case came in a 3rd box and I highly recommend getting one of those for easy storage)
Apart from the solar panel and power station, you'll also find:
- Mains power lead
- 12V charger
- Case for the leads
- Instruction manual
- Comes with 2yr warranty
I'll be honest, I was really impressed with the packaging (very secure and not lots of excess plastic) and it didn't arrive in stupid boxes with lots of wasted space. As soon as you unbox them, the items felt sturdy and like they'd survive an adventure in the motorhome (we're not known for taking the easy routes!)
Explorer 500- more details
The power station we received was the Explorer 500- the ‘mid-range' unit if you will. Its dimensions are:
- SIZE: 11.8″ x 7.6″ x 9.5″ (approx)
- WEIGHT: 14.1lbs / 6.4kg
- BATTERY: Lithium-ion 24Ah / 518.4Wh/ 21.6v
- INPUT: DC 24v
- OUTPUT: AC (230v)- 2.17A/ 50Hz
- 500w max continuous (1000w surge)
The connectors it has are:
- An input from the solar panel
- 1 x AC outlet (UK plug)- (230v)
- 1 x cigarette lighter socket (12v)
- 3 x USB ports (5v, 2.4A)
- 2 x DC outlets (12v, 10A)
There is also a large, easy-to-read display and a powerful LED light on the side, which proved REALLY useful the first night we tried it and the dog lost his ball…!
Jackery Explorer 500 Review- How easy is it to set the system up?
Oh my goodness- SO easy. I am possibly the least technical person on the planet (it's why I keep my husband around 😉 ) and I managed to set this up ALL BY MYSELF. Yes, that required capital letters.
Here's what you do:
- Unfold solar panel and position towards the sun. If you want to set it up on an angle (instead of lying flat), you'll find two ‘legs' on the back to allow it to stand. I did this on the deck of a boat, with waves and wind (although nothing excessive) and it stayed put really well, so I'd be happy to put it up on a mildly breezy day.
- Take plug out of back of solar panel (zipped into a pouch) and plug it into the power station. IMPORTANT: This was the hardest bit (yes, seriously.) There are several socket options to plug in, depending which unit you have. For the Explorer 500, you need to remove the last socket. I didn't do this at first, so it didn't plug in properly. Doh.
- If you've done it right (which you probably have), you'll immediately see the display light up and show a charge.
How long does the Explorer 500 take to charge?
I was pleased that the power station came half charged- I'm impatient and like to be able to play with my toys straight away, rather than waiting for them to charge up!
The length of time it takes to charge the power station depends on HOW you are charging it and how empty the battery is. As a guide, you can expect the following (assuming nothing is plugged in and draining the battery):
- Using AC (from a wall socket) – 7.5 hours from empty
- Using the SolarSaga 100W solar panels – 9.5 hours on a very sunny day
- Using a cigarette lighter car port – 16 hours
What devices can you power with the Explorer 500 Jackery Power station?
Obviously, the max continuous output of the E500 is 500 watts. So you can power anything which is below 500w.
Most laptops, phones, iPads, cameras and drones shouldn't be a problem at all. But a ‘normal' electric kettle or a hairdryer are probably going to be too high-powered for it- if you try you risk blowing the unit.
Pretty much every electrical device will have a sticker with the wattage on it- so check before use.
Pros and Cons of the Jackery Solar Generator/ Power Stations
Having used the system for a while, here are our pros and cons of the Jackery Explorer 500 UK over our previous powerbank.
PROS of the Jackery Explorer 500:
- Easy to use and quick to set up.
- Renewable energy- LOVE that it is solar powered. Yes, it takes a while to charge up, but that's so convenient for people like us who love wild camping miles off-grid or up mountains
- The solar panel folds pretty small and are easy to pop somewhere out of the way (we store them with our dining table in the wardrobe)
- LONG life- we reckon we'd easily get 3/4 days of charging laptops, phones, drone batteries etc on one full charge.
- Multiple ways to charge it; we tend to book into a campsite every 4/5 days while touring Europe in our motorhome, and we can use the AC charger to top it up- easy peasy
- PERFECT for using outside the van, such as in a field on a picnic, or at the beach.
CONS of the Jackery Solar Generator system:
- It's NOT WATERPROOF. It looks it, it feels it, but it's not. Admittedly, if it's raining you probably won't be hanging around outside, so it's up to you how much of a drawback that is.
- You need to find somewhere to store it, which is easier said than done. An under seat locker is good. Same for the solar panel
- It's bigger than a lot of other power banks with similar output. So takes up more room.
- The travel case is sold seperately. Personally I feel you need it and the system is expensive enough, so it should be included.
- There's no USB-C on the Explorer 500, but there is on the Explorer 1000.
- It's fairly heavy (13lb, but can easily be moved around with one hand) and therefore will take up some of your motorhome/ camper payload.
- Not suitable for hiking/ taking a long way from the van. So if you're going on a day walk, you'll be leaving it behind
- There's no audible warning if the battery is getting low. It just dies. So you'll need to keep an eye on the display.
Jackery UK Discount Codes
Jackery UK sometimes offer discounts and deals on the Jackery Solar Generators and portable power stations. See the latest deals and offers here
Jackery 500 UK- Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some questions commonly asked about the Jackery Explorer 500 UK and SG500
How long does the Jackery Explorer 500 last?
Obviously, how long the charge lasts will depend on what you're powering. According to the Jackery website, you can get roughly seven hours of run time for a 32-inch TV or 39 hours for a small car fridge.
Can a Jackery 500 power a refrigerator?
Yes, if the fridge is less than 500w (like a mini fridge), the Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Power Station can run it.
How long does it take to charge the Jackery portable power station?
Charging time is based on HOW you are charging the unit. From a wall socket – about 7.5 hours, from the SolarSaga 100w solar panels – about 9.5 hours on a sunny day and from a car cigarette lighter- about 16 hours. Bear in mind if you are charging it from the motorhome battery that it will drain that battery.
How many years will a Jackery last?
Like any product with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, how you look after it makes a big difference to its life. Lithium-ion batteries are typically rated for 500 complete charge cycles and/or 2 – 3 years.
Learn more about how to look after your motorhome leisure batteries here
Is the Jackery carrying case worth getting?
In my opinion, yes- especially if you'll be storing it in a motorhome or campervan. The Jackery carrying case is lined like a cool bag to help protect the power station and make it much easier to carry around. It also means you could probably sneak it into a coffee shop or pub and give it a cheeky charge from a wall socket whilst dining.
Where can you buy the Jackery 500 UK?
You can buy the Jackery Explorer 500 UK here
Motorhome wild camping guides for the UK & Europe
For information on how to find good wild camping places, WHAT to do when you're there and how to stay safe, check out our step-by-step guide for motorhome wild camping in the UK and Europe, complete with database of 250+ overnight spots we've stayed with our motorhome.
Don't forget to grab your free wild camping checklist here
Are Jackery Power Stations any good? Our review conclusion
So, after all that testing and using, how do I really feel?
I always say the best way to know if a product is any good or not is ‘are the people still using it a month later, even when the cameras are off?' And, I'm pleased to say, we are.
In a nutshell, I have gone from sceptic to convert. I REALLY like this unit. Put it this way- we've removed our other power bank from the van and just kept this one. We're even debating upgrading to the SG1000 (Explorer 1000), but will probably keep the SG500 Solar Generator for a year or so first to really give it a good test (luckily, we can use the same solar panel with both.)
I'll report back here in the future and update this review to let you know what we decide after extended use.
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