This is partly a review of the NC10000 Highland Power Bank by Nitecore, and partly an explanation of why a backpacker might choose a slightly heavier battery pack (a whopping 0.5 ounces heavier) instead of the NB10000 Nitecore offers, which is already a favorite among ultralight backpackers.
Conditions of testing: I backpacked a total of 40 nights with the Nitecore NC10000 battery pack, including in the Cascades, Oregon high desert, the Grand Enchantment and Arizona Trails.
GOOD FOR TOUGH ENVIRONMENTS AND RELIABLE
A selling point of the NC10000 is the durability of its construction. The guts of the NC10000 are two 5000 lithium ion cells. This is a simpler, more reliable construction than its polymer ion cousin, the NB10000. It is also designed to be more resistant to cold and high altitude. I had it out in temperatures down to the high teens; the highest I had it was 9000 feet. There were no issues in either of these environments, but more extreme conditions were not available to me due to the hiking season. The NC10000 is lab tested to simulate altitude pressure at 26,000 feet! If you’ve got a Peru or Everest Base Camp trip in mind the NC10000 is your choice.
The NC10000 waiting to charge up my GoPro. Taking pictures of power banks is weird, right?
RATED ENERGY DENSITY
It’s important to understand that battery naming conventions use the energy that the battery can charge up to, not what it can actually dispense, which is what you are most likely to care about.
The NC10000 lists a rated energy density of 6000mah, though I have read of testers doing better, up to 6400mah. By way of comparison, my older Anker Powercore 10000 was commonly known to deliver about 5200mah, all while being a couple ounces heavier than the NC10000. The newest Anker Slim 10000 seems to deliver similar power to the NC10000 … but it’s still heavier and doesn’t have a …
I’M ALREADY CARRYING A HEADLAMP, WHY DO I NEED A FLASHLIGHT?
I used it, and not just because I was reviewing the battery. I found that in my tent at night if I was just reaching for one thing it was easier and more immediately directional light than fishing my headlamp out of a tent pocket, and a powerbank is usually sitting right by my head at night. The button to turn it on is a long press, so there is no worry of accidentally draining your battery with the lamp. As an emergency light it will do in a pinch, but the 50 lumens output will not replace your headlamp for night hiking.
CONNECTIONS AND OUTPUTS
The NC10000 has a single USB C connection for both charging the battery and output. This will make hikers who have made the transition to exclusively USB C devices happy. A couple of extra cords and connectors are more things to lose, forget to pack and carry (that's your half ounce in weight penalty with the NC10000 right there!).
I can see this being a less appealing choice to a thru-hiker though, as a single port means no ability to pass through charge or charge multiple devices at the same time. The battery features the latest QC and PD standards, meaning it will take advantage of quick charging devices and will not fry your lower charging devices, like a GPS watch.
The single push button adds simplicity, showing the remaining power when pushed once, or turning on the lamp with a long press. Four LEDs show the remaining power in the battery, which was somewhat of a relief to me, as for some reason my brain likes quarters better than the NB10000s indicators that show power in thirds.
An important consideration, one that some hikers will find a benefit and others a drawback, is that the Nitecore NC10000 Power Bank has a single USB C connection for both charging the battery and output.
I’ve taken the NC10000 as long as 6 days in between having a chance to recharge it with the following electronics in tow:
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra phone, which has a 5000mah battery
- Nitecore NU25 headlamp
- Garmin Inreach Mini
- Suunto Ambit3 Peak (old but still highly functional)
I typically use about 30 percent of my phone’s charge in a day when I’m taking a lot of pictures and reading at night before sleep. I’ll recharge my Suunto once, and my NU25 once (only necessary because of doing some night hiking), and the Garmin won’t need any charging during that time. That looks like:
Day 1 — Everything starts fully charged
Night 1 — No Charging
Night 2 — 1700 mah to phone (taking it from 50 percent to 80 percent)
Night 3 — 1700 mah to phone, (taking it from 50 percent to 80 percent) 240 mah to watch
Total used at this point — 3740mah
Night 4 — 1700 mah to phone (taking it from 50 percent to 80 percent) 300 mah to headlamp
Total used at this point — 5740
Night 5 — No charging, day 6 is a town day.
The above is estimated discharge of real world use based on the device’s capacities and charge indicators. Most phones have a smaller battery than mine, and I do have mine out for navigation and pictures a fair amount, so many hikers will do better than this example usage.
PROS OF THE NC10000 HIGHLAND POWER BANK BY NITECORE
- Near best in class weight to deliverable power ratio
- Form factor (rounded edges)
- Flashlight mode
- No pass through charging
- Very small weight penalty versus the NB10000
I think the best UL use case for the NC10000 is trips to demanding environments where the added durability and simplicity will come into play; as opposed to a thru-hiker trying to get everything charged up before getting booted out of the coffee shop, in which case the NB10000 might be the better choice.