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A decade ago, charging and powering electronics in the wilderness was not a simple affair and often would require large, noisy, and messy gas generators. Same goes for adding power to a camper van, which can still involve a bunch of wires, transformers, fuse boxes, and batteries. These days, there are a plethora of self contained battery based generators that have everything you need in one portable system. The Jackery Solar Generator 1000 includes the Explorer 1000 Portable Power Station and two SolarSaga 100 solar panels. For output, you get AC power outlets, 12 volt power, and USB ports. The included solar panels can capture a maximum of 100w each, giving you 200w combined.
Explorer 1000 Portable Power Station: Design and Build
At 1002Wh (46.4Ah) of capacity and 1000W (2000W max surge) of output capability, the Explorer 1000 packs a lot of versatility into a portable package that is adequate for many people’s needs. At just 22 lbs and dimensions of 13.1 x 9.2 x 11.1 in, it’s easy to pick up and move the power station from home to car to campsite with the built in handle. Compared to the size of a traditional generator, it’s downright tiny, with a typical 2000W gas unit being 18 x 18 x 24 and weighing 100 lbs! Jackery uses a fairly high quality plastic for the body of the power station and while it does sound a bit hollow when tapped on, I’m not worried about it surviving heavy use in the outdoors. All of the controls and the display, minus the small LED flashlight, are on the long side of the unit, which makes it easy to use if tucked against a wall.
Explorer 1000 Portable Power Station: Input Methods
There are a number of ways to charge the internal lithium battery of the Explorer 1000, 3 to be exact. To charge from 20% to 100%, it will take 5.5hr with a home wall outlet, 11.5hr with a car’s 12volt outlet, and approximately 6.5hr with good sun using two 100w solar panels (covered later in the review). I typically like to top off these battery packs at home before an outing using a wall outlet to make sure we’ve got 100% to start. Then, as we’re driving, we keep it plugged into the van’s 12v to offset some of the power use.
Explorer 1000 Portable Power Station: A Solid Array of Output Ports and Power
As mentioned earlier in the review, the Jackery Explorer 1000 model includes the following output ports: 12v at 10amps DC cigarette lighter port, three 110v at 1000W pure sine-wave AC three prong outlets, two USB-C up to 12v at 3amps, USB-A 5v at 2.4amps, and quick charge USB-A 3.0 with 5-6.5V, 3A / 6.5-9V, 3A / 9-12V, 1.5A. While this is a solid array of ports, I was disappointed to not find USB-C PD (power delivery) included, which can charge compatible devices at a MUCH higher speed as well as act as an additional charging input. At 1000W for the AC inverter, you’ll be able to power many small to medium size electronics and many small appliances. Keep in mind, that is 1000w total, so you have to add up the total load of items being plugged in at the same time. The 2000w peak load rating allows items that have a higher startup draw to get going without problem.
Some examples from Jackery of what it can power and estimates of how long are as follows: cell phone (100 charges), laptop (8 charges), coffee maker (88 minutes), powered 60w cooler (17 hrs), TV (13 hrs), and a heating blanket for 11 hrs. Additionally, anything you can think to plug into a cars 12 volt outlet can be easily powered by the Explorer 1000. In testing, I actually found the Explorer 1000 to power our 35 liter Iso-Therm marine/RV cooler set to 36 degrees for a couple of days in our van with plenty of power left over, which was great for an overnight trip in the summer heat. In cooler temperatures, it could definitely get you 3 to 5 days. If you are looking for week long trips with a fridge in hot temps, you’re going to need something bigger if you aren’t able to charge it each day. Additionally, I’d say the Explorer 1000 is not the right thing if you want it to run a 12volt DC power distribution system in a van because it lacks a 12volt dc output that has enough amps to split with a fuse box. Remember, your specific use and environmental conditions can be very different from mine and the best thing to do is add up the draw from every powered item you have and calculate the longevity of the battery to get a more accurate read on its suitability.
SolarSaga 100W Solar Panel: Design and Build
Jackery has created a convenient solar energy capture and storage kit by including two of their SolarSaga 100W solar panels with the Solar Generator 1000. The SolarSaga 100W panels are built to be portable, yet functional, weighing just 9.1 lbs each and measuring just 24 x 21 x 1.4 in when folder. Because they are so thin, they easily slide into many places for transportation, such as the side of the rear seats in our van. Magnets in the sturdy carry handles hold the two halves of the panels together when folded, so you don’t have to worry about them flopping open and exposing the less durable solar cells. The casing is durable enough that I wasn’t worried about it surviving the somewhat rough and tumble life of being shoved in and out of a van on camping trips, but I definitely would avoid stacking a bunch of weight on them, since I believe the cells could be damaged that way.
There are built in kickstands on the outer side of each of the panel halves which are vital when positioning for maximum charging efficiency. Velcro keeps the kickstands in place when not being used. To keep the output cord tidy and protected, the Jackery SolarSaga 100W solar panels include a zippered case attached to the outside, which is perfect for the job and was also a great place to store a couple of adaptor cables. Speaking of the charging cables, they are 10 feet long and that should be long enough for most situations but I did wish they had a couple more feet sometimes. Ideally, I would like to keep the Power Station 1000 inside the vehicle while the panels are outside during the day, because someone is less likely to steal solar panels that they would have to cut the power cables to take. The 10 foot cable makes the placement of the panels a bit limited. However, longer cables can result in a decrease in power transfer as well as added bulk when stored, so everything is a trade off. You can always get extender cables if needed.
Final note on the build revolves around the SolarSaga 100W panel’s weather resistance. Jackery lists the panels as being IP65 water-resistant, which will protect from water splashing on them. They clearly state to not place it under the rain, or to soak in water, which presents a challenge in a camping environment. If I go for a long hike or bike ride, it would be great to leave the panels out to charge up the battery during the peak sun hours. The problem is that the weather is not perfectly predictable in Colorado, along with many other places not named California. So, I’m left with the decision to risk damaging the panels if heavy rain rolls through or lose out on all that charging time. I’m sure there are technical limitations to fully waterproofing solar panels and the charging ports, etc. but it would be awesome if that was included in a $299 product.
SolarSaga 100W Solar Panel: Energy Output
As implied by the name, the SolarSaga 100W has a technical maximum output of 100 watts. That wattage is with a voltage of 18 volts at 5.5 amps, for the electrical enthusiasts out there. Jackery rates the efficiency of their cells at 23%, which seems quite good considering that the current maximum is around 40-50% for the absolute top of the line large scale commercial solar panels. Keep in mind, the 100 watt output is a maximum based on ideal lab testing and you will never experience that in the real world, as weather, positioning, atmosphere, and temperature all greatly affect solar panel efficiency. In addition to the main solar charging power cord, each SolarSaga 100W comes with a very convenient built in USB charging capability. There is one USB-C port offering 5V/3A and one USB-A port offering 5V/2.4A. This is awesome for directly connecting small electronics like a tablet or smartphone and charging straight from the sun without needing any additional components. Could be extremely valuable in case of a power outage. That would have required multiple devices not too long ago, so it’s great to see here.
Solar Generator 1000: Two SolarSaga 100W Complete the Generator System
The Solar Generator 1000 is labeled this way because it includes two SolarSaga 100W panels to go with the Explorer 1000 Portable Power Station. An included SolarSaga Y Parallel Cable allows the two panels to be connected, so you can plug both into the power station’s Anderson DC input port. By combining the two panels, you have a theoretical maximum 200 watts of solar power with a footprint of just 8 feet of width and 2 feet of height. However, that is limited by a number of technical factors.
Here is the response from Jackery as to the practical limits of charging with the SolarSaga panels and Explorer 1000 Power Station:
“In order to prevent the battery from overcharging, our generators are regulated at a certain voltage and current.
The solar panel can reach up to 18V and the power station can support up to 6.3A.
Therefore, with 2 solar combined, the maximum power input that’s expected will be 18V x 6.3A which equals to approximately 120W. At the same time, we are working on improving the charging process and will upgrade the charging port as soon as possible.”
In my testing, I typically saw about 120-125 watts coming into the power station when both panels were connected. While well below the 200 watt maximum, this charging rate is plenty to counteract my typical usage of a battery this size, as long as I can keep the panels out for a good 4 hours a day. Given their size, I think the SolarSalga 100W panels are excellent and a perfect companion to Explorer 1000. While there are cheaper solar panels available from all kinds of Amazon brands, you will likely not find the same level of reliability and performance and you definitely will have not get the same level of customer support as Jackery will provide if needed.
Jackery Solar Generator 1000 Review Wrap-Up
The Jackery Solar Generator 1000 is an excellent package for anyone looking for a reliable, portable, durable power solution. The Explorer 1000 Portable Power Station has the right amount of capacity for many outdoor users, overlanders, and car campers and makes a solid backup power option in an emergency at home. Combined with the two SolarSaga 100W solar panels, which can provide charging while the power station is running devices, you can stay off the grid for an extended period of time. Plus, the environmental benefits of capturing solar energy instead of something that might be much less clean is always a plus. The Solar Generator package is well built and portable enough given its capacity, with the main downside being the lack of fully waterproof solar panels. Keep in mind, if you need more or less power output of battery capacity, Jackery has a full line of these that have you covered and they all have the same level of quality. Overall, the Solar Generator 1000 should be on the shortlist when searching for portable solar power options. For more info, visit www.jackery.com or www.amazon.com/jackery.