Goal Zero Yeti 400 Or Jackery Explorer 500? Which One Is The Best?
Three popular portable solar generators on the market are the Yeti 400, Yeti 400 Lithium, and the Explorer 500. They’re all medium-sized power stations, perfect for both home and outdoors.
Keep your electronics charged and your lights on during power outages, or while you’re out camping in the woods, far from the power grid.
It’s a little bit confusing by Goal Zero to release one Yeti 400 and one Yeti 400 Lithium, but since you might be looking at both, I decided to add both of them to this comparison. I will compare the Yeti 400 (non-lithium) against the other two as well to cover both models.
There are also several Jackery Explorers in different sizes, and I will be making several comparisons between the different sizes in future posts. All of these will be in the “Batteries” category so if that’s something you’re interested in reading, you can access it from the top menu.
I’m going to go through everything you need to know about the solar generators, and what makes them different from each other. Hopefully, I can give you enough information so you know what you need to consider when choosing between the three.
As always, if you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will do my best to help you.
Goal Zero Yeti 400, Yeti 400 Lithium, and Jackery Explorer 500 – Specifications Compared
An easy way to compare the main features of the three is by putting them all on a table, so here it goes.
Can’t see the whole table? Scroll left/right on smaller screens.
Lead-Acid Vs Lithium?
The first thing you might notice is the different battery types used. Yeti 400 uses lead-acid instead of lithium found in the Yeti 400 Lithium and Jackery.
I could (and should) write a whole post about the differences between the two, but the basics are that lithium is a newer technology, that is more lightweight, capable of charging/discharging faster, and more suitable for portable solar generators.
A downside with lithium versus lead acid is how it operates in low temperatures. An AGM lead-acid battery will do better when used in freezing temperatures. None of the products today are recommended in temperatures below freezing, but the Yeti 400 (non-lithium) would handle it better than the rest.
As long as you’re not going to be in freezing temperatures, I would recommend lithium over lead-acid every time.
Main Differences Between The Three Portable Solar Generators
When comparing the three products, it can be a little bit confusing when you start talking about the differences between the three in writing, but I will do my best. Just remember that the Yeti 400 and the Yeti 400 Lithium are two different products with a couple significant differences.
Battery size differences
The watt-hour column in the table above clearly shows the battery size differences, where the Yeti 400 is the smallest, and the Jackery Explorer 500 is the largest. In numbers, the difference between the two is 122Wh.
What the watt-hours are telling us is how many watts per hour can be pulled before the battery is drained. As an example, a 100W TV would run for about 5 hours on a 500Wh battery.
While the difference in watt-hours doesn’t look like much in the comparison table above, think about it. The Explorer 500 has 26.69% more watt-hours to play with than the Yeti 400, and 19% more than the Yeti 400 Lithium.
If you had a laptop using 60W, this means that you could charge the laptop for an additional two hours with the Explorer compared to the Yeti 400. And a little bit more than an hour compared to the Yeti 400 Lithium.
How many watts does your computer charger use? Check its power brick. Or use a Kill-A-Watt.
Inverters change the 12V battery power into 120V, and power outlets on the portable solar generator so you can use electronics you usually plug into the wall at home. Inverters aren’t 100% efficient when changing from 12V to 120V, and you can expect a 90% power efficiency from your outlets. For this reason, you should use the USB ports or cigarette plug when you can.
All of them have a pure sine wave inverter, that is safe to use with sensitive electronics. The difference between them is that both Yeti can handle 300W continuously, while the Explorer 500 can handle 500W continuously.
So what does this mean? It means that if you had a device that requires 450W, it wouldn’t run very long on the Goal Zero Yeti power stations, but the Jackery Explorer 500 can handle it.
It also means that if you have five devices using 100 watts each, you could only plug three of these into both Yetis, but all five into the Explorer (with a power strip since it only has one AC outlet).
If you only need to charge small electronics like phones, tablets, or computers, the inverter rating on these won’t matter much. But if you start plugging in fans, larger laptops, and a TV, you’re going to need the large inverter.
None of them have USB C ports, which is a bummer, but I bet both companies are going to release new models this year with USB C ports.
Goal Zero has put two AC outlets on their Yeti 400 models, while Jackery has put one on their Explorer 500.
Both lithium power stations have three USB ports, versus two on the lead acid Yeti 400. All of them have a 12V cigarette plug, and an 8mm solar input. Note that the 12V cigarette plug I am talking about is an output, not an input. Another important thing to note is that the only power station on the list with a regulated 12V output is the Jackery Explorer 500.
If you’re going to run a 12V fridge, freezer, or any other voltage-sensitive devices, you need a regulated 12V output. People that travel in vans or cars often use 12V fridges, so it matters more to some.
If you want to be able to charge either in a vehicle, Goal Zero makes a proprietary 12V car charger, while Jackery includes one with the Explorer 500. I have written a post about how good the Goal Zero car charger is and charging times.
With the included car charger from Jackery, it takes 16 hours to charge the Explorer 500. In comparison, both Yeti models take only four hours to charge with the proprietary Goal Zero Yeti car charger. It’s still great that Jackery includes it in the box.
Solar charge controller differences
All three models use a PWM solar charge controller, and can’t be upgraded easily.
MPPT is more efficient and can be added to the larger Yeti 1000.
All three solar generators have excellent screens telling you input watts, output watts, and remaining battery life. The Yeti 400 Lithium and Explorer 500 tells you state of charge in percentage as well.
Goal Zero Yeti 400 Lithium has the best screen out of the three with the most information. You can go through and view input watts, output watts, hours to empty/full, output amps, watt hours used state of charge percentage, and battery voltage.
The Jackery Explorer 500 wins in terms of portability, weighing only 13.3 lbs, vs 16.3 and 29 lbs. It’s also a very compact power station for having a 500W inverter.
In the box differences
There isn’t a huge difference here, the big one is that Jackery includes a car charger while Goal Zero doesn’t. Goal Zero includes an adapter with the Yeti 400 for connecting older Goal Zero solar panels.
Solar Panel Capabilities
Jackery Explorer 500 has an 8mm input capable of handling 12V panels up to 30V VOC, with a max input of 100W.
Goal Zero Yeti 400 has an 8mm input capable of handling 12V panels from 14-29V, with a max input of 120W.
Goal Zero Yeti 400 Lithium has an 8mm input capable of handling 12V panels from 14-22V, with a max input of 120W.
The Yeti 400 Lithium looks like the weakest one with the 22V VOC limit. This makes the Yeti 400 the best out of the three when it comes to solar panel capabilities.
Jackery sells its own SolarSaga 100W portable panel. This solar panel works with all three power stations.
You can plug Renogy panels into all three, and since it takes some explaining on how to do this, I have written two posts about this specific subject. Click here to see the post about how to use third-party panels with the Jackery, and click here to see the one about third-party panels with the Yeti power stations.
So how long does it take to charge them up with solar panels?
The Explorer 500 can input max 100W. With a 100W panel generating about 60-70W during peak hours of the day, it would be full after about 8 hours. But you won’t get 8 peak hours anywhere, so I expect it to take at least a full day of sun to charge it from 0 to 100%.
Both Yeti models can input max 120W, but the solar charge controller on the Yeti 400 Lithium doesn’t support above 22V VOC, where the Yeti 400 supports up to 29V.
For this reason, I would actually pair the Yeti 400 with a HQST 150 Watt solar panel and connect it with a JoinWin MC4 to 8mm adapter. Note that it’s important that the adapter has a positive female MC4 plug, like the JoinWin one does.
With the 150W solar panel, the Yeti 400 will limit it to 120W max, but won’t be damaged since the voltage is still under 29V. In full sun, the Yeti 400 would charge from 0 to 100% in less than four hours.
The 100W panel would generate about 60-70 watts during peak hours and recharge the Yeti 400 Lithium in about 8 hours. As with the Explorer, expect it to take at least one full day of sun.
All three solar generators are compatible with the Goal Zero Boulder 100 since it has an 8mm cable.
Pros And Cons With All Three
There are some clear pros and cons to all three of these portable solar generators.
Let’s start with the pros.
- AC Outlets, although only one on the Explorer
- USB ports, 2 on the Yeti non-lithium, 3 on the other two
- 12V cigarette lighter plug on all of them, although only the Jackery has a regulated 12V output
- Mid-sized batteries, suitable for lots of outdoorsy people
- Built-in screens with the necessary information like input/output watts, state of charge
- Wall charger included with all three, Explorer includes a car charger
- Pure sine wave inverters used on all three
Now the cons.
- No USB C ports
- No MC4 to 8MM adapter included in the box
- Slow charging from the wall
- PWM solar charge controller, not upgradeable
Conclusion And Recommendations
So, after comparing the three, have you decided which one suits you the best?
If you’re looking for a portable solar generator to keep at home in case of emergencies, that you can bring out and charge with a solar panel. The Jackery Explorer 500 is the winner due to its 500W inverter. It won’t run kitchen appliances, but it can charge more devices at the same time. It also has the largest battery capacity out of the three. You’re going to need a power strip to connect more than one device, but that’s not a big deal.
Honestly, I would recommend the Jackery Explorer 500 for travelers and outdoorsy people as well. No matter if you’re traveling in a car, van, RV, or travel trailer. The Explorer 500 is the most lightweight option, with the most battery capacity. The inverter is also big enough to run your camper.
If you’re going to travel in a van or car and need to use a 12V fridge/freezer, the Jackery Explorer 500 is definitely the way to go, since it’s the only one on the list with a 12V regulated output. This is absolutey neccessary to be able to run your 12V devices even when the battery is low.
Pair the Explorer with a 100W SolarSaga and you’ve got yourself a very portable solar setup.
For a more permanent installation on a van or trailer, I would use a Renogy 100W solar panel with the JoinWin MC4 to 8mm adapter. You can run an MC4 10ft extension cable to inside your vehicle or RV to charge the Explorer.
Can you use the outlets and USB ports while the solar generator is charging?
Yes, this is not possible with all solar generators, but the Goal Zero Yeti 400, Yeti 400 Lithium, and Jackery Explorer 500 are capable of this.
Can I plug these solar generators into an RV/Van/fifth-wheel/travel trailer?
I wouldn’t plug a 300W solar generator like the Yeti 400 or Yeti 400 Lithium into an RV. I would plug a 500W one into it though, so the Jackery Explorer 500 could be plugged into a camper. You would just need a Camco 15A to 30A adapter.
Remember that while the Explorer 500 will let you plug small devices into the outlets in your camper, it won’t run anything power-hungry. It will also start charging the trailer batteries when you plug it in, which will use 200-300 watts, sometimes more on its own.
For this reason, I recommend monitoring closely how many watts are being pulled by the trailer, before you plug anything into your outlets.
If the trailer batteries are fully charged, they might still be trickle charging and use 20-100 watts, then you could at least run a TV, charge electronics, and run fans.
It won’t be able to run your fridge or water heater on electric, so make sure both of those are set to gas.
Another way to go, in case you don’t necessarily need to use the outlets in your camper and are willing to plug your electronics directly into the Yeti or Explorer, would be to get a Renogy 100 Watt solar panel kit that come with everything you need to connect a 100W solar panel to your trailer batteries. Then you wouldn’t use any battery power from your solar generator to recharge the trailer batteries.
For vanlifers, either of the three would be awesome for charging phones, tablets, computers, etc. But they won’t power toasters, coffee makers, microwaves, or other heavy-wattage appliances.
The Best Alternatives To The Goal Zero Yeti 400/400 Lithium and Jackery Explorer 500
Yeti 1000 – This is the Yeti I own and plug my travel trailer directly into. I have 400W of solar connected to it. It runs everything in my trailer (including the microwave) except for the air conditioner. It runs the AC fan but can’t run the compressor. I absolutely love this solar generator.
Suaoki G500 – Suaoki makes this Goal Zero-looking power station, capable of a lot of the things the Yeti 400 can do. Two AC outlets, USB-C ports, 12V port, great screen, and PV inputs. 500Wh, with a 300W/600W surge pure sine wave inverter. Very impressive solar generator.
No products found. – This is Kyng Power’s 288Wh solar generator, with a 500W/1000W surge pure sine wave inverter. Three outlets, four USB ports, several DC inputs, includes MC4 to DC cable, and car charger. Portable option with a large inverter, although smaller battery capacity than the solar generators we’ve compared above. Also has a light built-in, perfect for camping.
No products found. – Another 288Wh solar generator. Portable with handle, built-in light. 500W inverter and solar panel-friendly.
Rockpals 540Wh – Comparable to the Suaoki above. Two AC outlets powered with a 500W/1000W surge inverter, USB C, three USB ports, 12V output, great screen, and a DC input for solar panels. Rockpals also sells a 100W foldable portable solar panel compatible with Goal Zero panels and other electronics.
Can the Goal Zero Yeti 400/Jackery Explorer 500 run X?
Whether either of them can run a specific device or not depends on how many watts it requires.
Electronic devices are marked to tell you how many watts or amps it uses. If it only tells you volts and amps, you can multiply them to find out the watts.
Sometimes electronics use much less than what the sticker says since that is the maximum it could use, so what I have is a Kill-A-Watt that tells me exactly how many watts whatever is plugged into it is drawing. This way, I know how much the device actually uses, not only what it’s rated for.
Can any of them run a coffee maker?
If you can find a coffee maker that uses less than 500W, you can use one with the Explorer 500. The 300W on the Yeti 400s will definitely not run a coffee maker that uses electricity.
Can any of them run a TV?
I have written a post about running TVs with the Yeti 400 Lithium, which applies to the other two as well.
Can any of them run a gaming console and a TV?
Yes, most likely. I go through this in my other post as well.
If you have any questions that haven’t been answered here today, please leave a comment down below and I will do my best to help you.