If nothing else, mobile technology is about striking a balance. You might be super-productive if you always had your laptop around, but that's hardly practical to carry on your person everywhere — enter: the smartphone. Earlier this year I took a look at the Jackery Explorer 1000, an absolute unit of a battery pack. And while it has capacity for days, at 22lbs it's also a lot of heft to be hauling around. Is there a better balance we could find here? Jackery's got a number of options running the gamuts of size and capacity, and now the latest entry might just nail that equilibrium: the Jackery Explorer 300.
With 293Wh of charge, support for 300W (500W surge) AC output, and tipping the scales at a petite 7.1lbs, the Explorer 300 sure sounds like a pretty smart compromise — on paper, at least. You can even hook up the company’s SolarSaga solar panel to recharge on the go. Will it get the job done without being a pain to carry?
|Capacity||293Wh (14.4V, 20.4Ah)|
|Input||AC adapter, 12V car socket, solar panel|
|Output||USB-PD (60W), USB Type-A with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 (18W), USB Type-A 5V 2.4A, 12V car socket (120W), 2x AC 110V (300W continuous, 500W surge)|
|Dimensions||9.1 x 5.2 x 7.8 in|
|Capacity||293Wh is more than sufficient for powering all variety of portable hardware, while still being enough to run larger devices for a few hours.|
|Output||Even limited to 300W (500W surge) you shouldn't have much issue powering all but the most heavy-duty devices.|
|Weight||Batteries are always going to be heavy, but this one comes in just under the mark where that weight would start to get annoying.|
|Price||At $350, you're paying a bit of a premium — $300 would be much easier to justify.|
|USB charging||No way to charge the battery over USB-PD, so you've got to lug around a big power brick.|
Design, hardware, what's in the box
The look Jackery's going for with its power stations is probably best described as "luggable." The sturdy plastic shell forms a nice, big handle for carrying the Explorer 300 around, and the lack of sharp corners keeps things mobile-friendly. While I found the size and weight of the Explorer 1000 pushing my limits of comfort, the 300 is right where I'd like things to be.
This may be the Jackery Explorer "300," but that name's a smidge of an exaggeration, at least when it comes to power capacity. While we're clearly in the 300Wh range, things max out here at 293Wh — what's 7Wh between friends? That's still a huge amount of juice to be carrying around, easily able to recharge your phone a couple dozen times over.
The Explorer 300 (left) is dwarfed by the Explorer 1000 (right)
All the controls and input/output ports live on the Explorer 300's face, and while that sounds like it could get a little crowded, things are nicely grouped and (for the most part) spaced appropriately. We've got our multi-source input terminal on the left, supporting an AC adapter, vehicle DC input, or connection to a solar panel. Adjacent to that, Jackery gives us three USB ports: one Type-C PD, one standard-A with QuickCharge 3.0 support, and one bog-standard 5V, 2.4A port.
Over to the right we find a pair of AC outlets. They can handle 300W output between the two of them (up to a 500W surge). Maybe my only real layout critique is here: it might be tough to use two large wall-wart-style power adapters at once, considering how close together the outlets are. But that's not going to be an issue affecting a large number of users, nor one you can't work around. Above the AC outlets we have a single 12V DC auto port, and to the left of that a basic display showing power input/output and remaining charge.
The unit comes with two charging adapters: a 90W AC adapter, and a 12V cable for charging from your car. I still don't love the need to carry around an external power brick, but at least Jackery gives you a nice little pouch for them.
Operation, features, compatibility
Charging the battery is easy — connect your choice of input to the terminal and the display lights up, showing you how much power it's getting. I just wish that there were an option to charge via the USB-PD port like with the similarly specced Aukey PowerStudio 300, but this port's for output only.
Even with that limitation, the arrival of the PD port is one of the best new features on the 300, supporting up to 60W output with compatible devices.
To get power out of the battery you first need to select the output bank — there are separate buttons for USB, AC, and the 12V DC. Those manual controls help the Explorer 300 save energy when not all outputs are in use. When selecting AC you'll hear a little bit of noise as a cooling fan spins up, but it's much, much quieter when engaged than it was on the Explorer 1000, and in my testing this battery also uses the fan a lot less.
Getting AC power out of an extremely portable unit like this is a lot of fun, and can make your existing corded devices much more useful by suddenly rendering them mobile. Why settle for a dinky portable projector with a built-in battery when doing your outdoor movie night, when you could plug your big home theater projector into this baby? While the 300W limit does preclude you from running something like a microwave or a hair dryer, plenty of seemingly "big" electronics have no problem coming in with power needs well under that 300W mark, and you shouldn't face any issues with things like TVs or even decently sized refrigerators.
Obviously, higher-draw devices will run down your 293Wh of reserves a lot faster than just charging your phone, but the display here makes it easy to keep an eye on consumption. Recharging is reasonably speedy, with AC power topping things off in about 4.5 hours (slightly longer for DC).
SolarSaga 100W Solar Panel
A unit like the Explorer 300 is all about portability, but that's kind of hampered when you have to track down a power source to recharge. For users looking for a bit more flexibility, the battery supports recharging via solar panel, and I tried it out with one Jackery sells itself, the SolarSaga 100W.
Carrying both the solar panel and battery at once is no problem (left); integrated USB ports for directly charging small devices (right)
The 9.1lb panel folds in half for easy transport. It measures 22 x 24 inches when folded shut, and comes in at just under two inches thick. To set it up, you simply unfold and lay flat on the ground, or pop out the two collapsing legs on the rear, letting you prop the panel up to maximize light collection.
A pouch on the back houses the cord you'll connect to the Explorer 300, which, at 3 meters in length, gives you a lot of flexibility with placement. That's good, because to optimize performance you're going to want to be reorienting the panel throughout the day. One nice bonus: inside that pouch there are two USB ports for directly charging a couple phones — you can just zip them right up inside.
I never got the full 100W max out of the SolarSaga, but that's going to be under super-ideal conditions, anyway. What I did find was that on a bright, sunny day I could expect to see about 85W — though even a few clouds knock that down quickly. But still, when the sky cooperates, that's a lot of power, and comes really close to the level you see from the Explorer's wired AC adapter. That makes it surprisingly practical to rely on solar power to go off-grid for a few days or more.
Really, I've only got two problems with this SolarSaga panel. First, this may be designed for outdoor use, but Jackery doesn't make it waterproof. I'm sure that would add weight and bulk to the design, but I'd still love the peace of mind. Then again, if it's raining you probably aren't getting enough sun for the panel to be doing its job, anyway.
The other problem is the price, and at $300 this is definitely on the more expensive side for a panel this size and capacity. The really cheap stuff is going to be heavy, rigid, and involve a lot of glass, so I don't mind paying for durability. And though I do really like this design, you might want to look around at other 100W competition in the $200-$300 space.
Should you buy it?
The addition of a proper USB-PD port is a really nice improvement with this new model, and I'd only like to see more of those — and with PD input, please, if I'm getting my wish. But even with existing options, recharging is quick and easy, and taking 5 hours or less to refill a battery this size is a win in my book.
If pricing were just $50 lower I'd be a much happier camper. Jackery already offered one $50 coupon code when the Explorer 300 first launched, and though the unit's sadly out of stock for the 15% off Jackery 8th anniversary sale, we might just see some deals land as Black Friday and all that holiday shopping approaches. But even at $350, I can't deny this is a solidly executed, nicely equipped solution for having access to all the power you'll need, even when you're disconnected from the rest of the world.