Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Gear Review: Jackery 50-Watt Portable Solar Panel Review

Last week I posted a review of the new Jackery Explorer 240 portable power station. In that review I mentioned that one of the best aspects of the device is that it can be charged quite efficiently using Jackery's 50-Watt solar panel. In fact, in direct sunlight, the solar panel is capable of replenishing the power supply in just 10 hours. After using the solar panel a bit further, I thought it was worth sharing a full review of that product too.

If you've ever tried to use one of those small, ultraportable solar panels for keeping your electronic devices charged while hiking or traveling, you probably already know that they aren't especially effective. Yes, they can provide a small charge, provided they are left in direct sunlight all day. But strap them to your backpack and start to move around and you'll soon discover that most of them are pretty much useless. The 50-watt solar panel from Jackery is not one of those types of solar panels however. On the contrary, it is much more powerful and effective than those small models, although it does lose some portability in order to achieve its level of effectiveness.

Jackery's model ships with everything you need to covert light from the sun into energy you can use with your gadgets. It not only comes with a built-in 3-meter long cord with an Anderson interface – the standard for solar power – it also features two USB ports (one USB-A, one USB-C) too. This allows you to not only plug the solar panel into an Anderson-ready power station, it also lets you recharge devices directly from the panel itself. That can come in very handy depending on your specific needs.

The panel measures 19.9″ x 31.8″ x 0.2″ (506 x 809 x 5mm) in size when unfolded and set up to actively collect energy from the sun. But, it also folds down to just 19.9 x 15.9 x 1.0″ (506 x 405 x 26mm) when ready to transport, which makes it surprisingly small considering it can generate up to 50 watts of power. I haven't put the panel on a scale to check its weight, but it isn't especially heavy either, making it a great option for use around base camp. While light and relatively small, this isn't the type of solar panel you want to carry with you on the Appalachian Trail. Instead, it is the perfect solution for when you're camping somewhere and will be mostly staying put. In those cases, when paired with the Explorer 240 power station, you'll find that you have a small and easily transportable power system that can keep you functioning off the grid for quite some time.

When those two devices are working in conjunction with one another, I found the 50-Watt solar panel to be surprisingly effective. Not all solar panels are created equal, as many promise to perform well but don't deliver when it comes to real world use. That wasn't the case here, as Jackery's model provided a steady supply of juice to the Explorer 240, while also recharging my iPhone and tablet through its built-in USB ports too. It was an impressive display of just how useful sola energy can be with the right gear and situation.

Now that said, as with all solar panels, you'll get the best results from direct exposure to the sun over a prolonged period of time. Shade, clouds, and shifting light patterns can have an impact on performance, so keep that in mind when setting this – or any other solar panel – up for use outdoors.

Jackery has priced its solar panel at just $199, making it a very affordable option for those who need on-the-go power. Pair it with the $299 Explorer 240 and you have a truly powerful renewable energy system for just $500. That's a tough deal to beat, particularly when you factor in how small and light both units are. For my money, this is one of the best solar power solutions for outdoor adventure that I've ever seen, and a real bargain too.

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