Nitecore Carbo Series: The Elite Power Bank Choice

Scott Nechemias

 The new Carbo 10000 (left) next to a NB10000 Gen 1 (right)

As I’m writing this there's an Instagram post from an AT thru-hiker on my second monitor that reads “my charging cord is broken, I can’t hike without FarOut and am taking a zero.” For better or for worse, hiking gear is increasingly power hungry: smartphones, PLBs, watches, headlamps, etc. How a hiker manages their power supply has become as much of a topic of conversation as their food supply on a thru-hike. Charging time, adaptability to different devices, and ports are among the measurables to draw distinctions among the crowd. Is the new Nitecore Carbo series the top of the heap?


Carbo 10000 and 20000 power banks side by side

Two Sizes and Capacities

The Nitecore Carbo series comes in 10,000 and 20,000mAh, and these new power banks share most of the same physical features. There really isn’t much of a performance or build distinction between the two to be made besides their capacities, dimensions, and weight. The 10,000 weighs 5.54oz, and the 20,000 weighs 10.42oz. For the nerding-out set, the rated energy is the same as the tried-and-true NB power bank series from Nitecore: 6400mAh and 13,500mAh. My real world use somewhat exceeded the rated energy.


The original Nitecore NB series is a bit of a carbon fiber box; the seams and construction very visible. The updated Carbo series is a nearly seamless piece of carbon fiber, smooth around the edges. It carries forward the welcome yellow port reinforcements from the second generation NB series, as well as the improved LED charging indicators. 


1 USB A Port capable of outputting 18 watts

1 USB C Input and Output capable of 20 watts (input and output)

Carbo 20000 charging a watch and a headlamp

Dual device charging is a max 20 watt output, so charging two devices at the same time will not output each port’s max output, just 20 total. For a hiker, dual charging is something you’d be doing mostly in camp, say charging your watch and phone at night, or a camera and a phone, so the drop in speed doesn’t seem to be much of a problem here.

Charging Time

Both banks charge through their USB C ports at 18 watts. The charge times in my testing were:

10000mAh is 3.5 hours

20000mAh is 7 hours

Pass Through Charging

This feature might be of particular interest to the hiker, allowing them to charge their power bank via its USB C input, while charging their phone through the USB A port. In addition to the convenience, this could save someone from having to carry a dual output wall charger in their kit, likely shaving another ounce out of their electronics setup. 

It should be noted that the pass through device does not charge at maximum output… in my testing it took 38 percent longer to charge my phone and the powerbanks via pass through charging than it did just charging from the Carbo alone. There’s still a time and weight savings here, just not a time savings that is equivalent to having a second 18w or higher charge from an outlet.

Low Current Mode 

Required by some smaller device like headphones and watches, it's easy and simple to access via a long press of the main power button, causing a white light to turn on.

Seamless Construction and IPX5 Rating

The power bank definitely has a sturdier feel and is more confidence-inspiring than its predecessors. The rounded edges are a nice touch when you consider how many times things will get stuffed, smashed, and crammed into an ultralight  backpacker's kit during the course of a thru-hike. Smashed chips are okay, but smashed battery banks, not so much. A rating of IPX5 means these power banks can withstand direct contact with water (but not submergible). 

Size comparison: Anker 20,000mah (left and top), Carbo 20,000 (right and bottom). Quite a size difference! 

Which should you choose?

The Carbo 10000 should be enough capacity for thru-hikers going 4 to 5 days between resupply, topping of their phones, headlamps, and PLBs. They can be charged up in town in a couple hours, while using the pass through option to charge their phone without a dual plug wall adapter.

The Carbo 20000 is better suited to heavy power users: folks with lots of camera gear, or (gasp!) an e-reader. For the high adventure set, the 20000 will provide power for long off the beaten path ventures without resupplies, like long high routes, extended packrafting trips, or potentially sections of a route like the Hayduke, Mogollon Rim, or Oregon Desert Trail, where distances between power outlets are greater. 

Topping off my headlamp


  • Impressive capacity to weight
  • Updated, sturdier, one piece weather-resistant build
  • Pass through charging
  • Charges multiple devices simultaneously
  • Tiny form factor
  • Conclusion

    I’m pretty happy to have both these power banks in my arsenal for future trips. I often take trips that have long stretches between resupplies, so the capacity for weight of the Carbo 20,000mAh, combined with the tiny form factor, definitely makes it a first choice for me on trips where pack space and weight are at a premium.

    The Carbo 10000mAh strikes me as a little bit more of a luxury option in a market where there are similar choices. Its added value comes in the durable styling and pass through charging. Rather than a criticism versus the Carbo 20000, it's worth bearing in mind that savings in weight will by necessity diminish the smaller the items in question are. The Carbo 20000 can leverage that savings of power and  weight exponentially in the other direction. If you are chasing a half ounce here and there in your kit, the 10000 is a great choice with top tier functionality.



    Based in Portland, Oregon, Scott Nechemias has hiked over 10,000 miles in the backcountry, often accompanied by his wife Jordan and their fur monsters, Cheese and Utah. He has a particular affinity for off trail travel, the high desert, and the places in the world less traveled by people. You can find more of his trips on Instagram



    Power Banks by Nitecore
    Power Banks by Nitecore






    I’m always concerned about the power button… I had a power bank that would run on if it was bumped or smashed in my pack. Then it would drain cause it would turn on a silly LED light that was integrated. Stupid feature!

    So, would the nitecore be prone to switching on and then drain if something rubbed against it?

    Shanley outdoors

    Shanley outdoors

    Thanks for doing this. I’ve been going back and forth about upgrading?

    David Bryndal

    David Bryndal

    As someone that uses these packs a lot for travel outside of just backpacking I have each of the older models, and the newer carbos both in 20k and 10k. One thing worth noting that I discovered is that they get quite hot when charging an iphone 15 plus or 15 pro max with USB-C, wasting energy as heat as it goes. You can mitigate it with using the “low power charge” setting and it will slow the rate it charges the phone and reduces how hot it gets. I think they just arent really designed for this kind of fast charge and maybe dont have proper regulation with the newest iPhones. I discovered this using with quality apple or anker cables also by the way. So be advised you might have the same issue. Also if you use either battery to charge an apple watch, the banks tend to not recognize the watch is charging. It will stop and goes to sleep, even with lower power mode. So keep pressing the button to keep it alive. A strange issue. They work fine on my older large iphone, and other devices. I love how compact they are and how reliable they are.

    So think I am going to try the new Klarus K5 10k and see if it has the same problem with power and heat and apple watch problem or not as the carbos do. Very similar battery, hopefully sans these caveats.

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