Coleman 4AA Pack-Away Lantern
Initial Report - 11 July 2007
Field Report - still testing
Long-term Report - still testing
The Coleman 4AA Pack-Away Lantern is a battery-powered LED lantern whose globe packs away for storage.
Name: Hollis Easter
Height: 6' 0" (1.8 m)
Weight: 205 lb (93 kg)
Email address: backpackgeartestATholliseasterDOTcom
City, State, Country: Potsdam, New York, USA
Backpacking Background: I started hiking as a child in the Adirondack Mountains
of New York. As a teenager, I hiked my way to an Eagle Scout award. These
days, I'm mostly doing day hikes in the mountains. I hope to get back into
doing longer trips soon. I'm also learning rock climbing.
I am a midweight backpacker: I don't carry unnecessary gear, but neither do I
cut the edges from my maps. I hike in all seasons, at altitudes from sea level
to 5,300 ft (1,600 m), and in temperatures from -30 F (-34 C) to 100 F (38 C).
Manufacturer: The Coleman Company, Inc.
Year of manufacture: 2007
Country of manufacture: China
- Closed: 3.2 in x 2.7 in x 1.9 in (81 mm x 69 mm x 48 mm)
- Open: 4.875 in x 2.7 in x 1.9 in (124 mm x 69 mm x 48 mm)
Listed weight: "Approximately 8 oz. including batteries" (~ 227 g) (from package)
- Closed: 3.2 in x 2.6 in x 1.81 in (81 mm x 67 mm x 46 mm)
- Open: 4.875 in x 2.6 in x 1.81 in (124 mm x 67 mm x 46 mm)
Actual weight: 8.53 oz (242 g) including batteries / 4.86 oz (138 g) empty / 0.07 oz (2 g) carabiner
MSRP: $34.99 US
Product features: (paraphrased from package and website)
- K2 Luxeon® LED gives the light of a 3 watt LED with the battery draw of a 1 watt LED
- Has three operating modes: high, low, and emergency strobe
- Operates 5 hours on high and 12 hours on low
- Packs down for storage and travel
- Folding top handle saves space but allows hanging
- Battery compartment is accessed using a coin
- Carabiner clip included for "hands free lighting"
- Push-button power switch
- Durable "metalized" case
Coleman's website really didn't tell me very much about the 4AA Pack-Away
lantern, which was a small disappointment. In particular, I was surprised
that no weight was listed on the site.
Initial Report - 11 July 2007:
Lantern in stowed position
I received the Coleman 4AA LED Pack-Away Lantern (hereafter "the Pack-Away"
or "the lantern") in a plastic retail blister pack. Also included were four
AA (LR 6) alkaline batteries, seemingly fresh; a small teardrop carabiner;
and a brief instruction sheet printed in English and French. The instruction
sheet also details the terms of the 5 year limited warranty on the Pack-Away,
including instructions for mail-in repair/replacement service.
When it's stowed, the lantern seems fairly compact. I can't tell what the
"durable metalized" surface on the base is—it feels like plastic with
some sort of higher-friction coating that makes it feel slightly rubberized. I
like that the Pack-Away has several little ridges molded into the long sides of
the base, and also has a flange at the bottom of the lantern. These make it
quite easy and secure to hold.
To open the lantern, I grasp the flanged base with one hand. Then, if I'm
feeling adventurous (i.e., like doing things the hard way), I can grab the
thin top section with my other hand and pull it out; otherwise I can unstow
the top handle and pull up on it. The handle appears to be fashioned from
some sort of metal. Closing the lantern is a simple matter of pushing down
on the top section until the top and bottom parts mate together.
Lantern in stowed position,
When I open and close the lantern, air moves around inside the lantern,
making a sound reminiscent of the doors on Star Trek. This makes me smile. I
try not to play with it too much, for fear of providing an unduly arduous
field test for the Pack-Away.
The lantern opens to reveal a clear plastic lens with molded strengtheners
at the edges. Within the lens enclosure, there are two metal rods which
presumably carry voltage from the battery compartment, and the reflector
assembly and LED in the center. The Pack-Away uses an upward-facing conical
reflector to disperse the light from its single white LED.
The instructions for setup and use are quite straightforward. Access to
the battery compartment is through a screwed-down panel on the bottom of the
lantern. If the screw isn't tightened very far, it's possible to undo it using
only finger pressure; however, the use of a coin makes it much easier. The
slot appears quite accommodating: I opened the compartment easily with coins
ranging in size between a US dime and US 50¢ piece, and with the flathead
screwdriver on my pocketknife. A molded label on the outside of the panel
describes how to open and close it.
Decals inside the compartment direct the user to insert four AA batteries
in alternating order around the perimeter of the lantern, setting up a
series circuit. This was very easily done and verified visually.
Since I may eventually change the batteries in the dark, I did some
additional tests. The panel will close if the batteries are inserted
incorrectly; although I didn't check, I imagine that this could wreak havoc
with the electronics. It therefore seemed prudent to memorize that, with the
long side next to me, the top right battery must be positive-side (+) up,
with the others following in sequence. If it were dark, the only other way
to check the alignment of batteries would be to feel along the panel for
the arrangement of springs (which would seem a bit dodgy to me).
The battery compartment panel has a lip that fits into a molded channel
in the main body of the Pack-Away. I can't see any sort of gasket in there,
which leads me to believe that this is not a watertight seal. Coleman
doesn't advertise the Pack-Away as a waterproof lantern, and so I won't try
any immersion tests on it. I'm not sure quite how far to tighten down the
closure screw, but there seems to be some room for variation—it's just
that it's far easier to tighten than to loosen.
Lantern and carabiner
with objects for size comparison
The power button on top is large and positive, and I found it easy to
work even while wearing winter gloves. One press yields "high" mode; one
more gives "low" mode; one more gives "emergency strobe" mode; a final press
turns the lantern off. Although I normally push the button while supporting
the lantern with my other hand, the extension mechanism is sturdy enough that I can just press down on the button without collapsing the lantern.
I had initially been concerned about the possibility that the lantern
might get accidentally turned on while kicking around in my pack: it's not
an issue. The power button doesn't function while the Pack-Away is in stowed
mode, and the lantern turns itself off if closed while still lit. Automatic
shutoff and battery loss protection! Nice!
I find the included carabiner kind of gimmicky. It feels flimsy, even
though it's actually quite strong, but the biggest problem is storage. There's
nowhere to carry it on the lantern. Everything else about the lantern packs
down into a smooth, streamlined package—even the folding handle has
detents (built-in catches) to keep it in place. But with the carabiner hooked
in, I find it catching on everything, and it makes me tense. I guess it
may be useful, but since I habitually carry cordage with me, I don't know
whether the carabiner will make it into my pack.
I tested the Pack-Away's burn time using a set of new and freshly-charged
Energizer 2500 mAh nickel-metal hydride rechargeable batteries. When on
high mode, the lantern burned for 4 hours and 51 minutes (4:51). When in
low mode, it burned for 11 hours even. I did not test the emergency strobe
battery life. I noticed that, during the high mode test, the power button
became uncomfortably hot to the touch. It wasn't hot enough that I felt it
necessary to measure the temperature, but it could be a concern.
Lantern on high mode
The rectangular lens of the Pack-Away sheds an uneven light. It's far
brighter along the long sides than along the short ones. The angle of
the conical reflector dictates the light pattern, as well: the light is
brightest at roughly a 45° angle down from the LED. This means that the
light really needs to be suspended above the area to be lit; when I set it
on a table next to a book, it was often hard to read the text because it
was outside the pool of light.
Finger smudges on the lens seem to make a significant difference in the
amount of light transmitted. So far, they easily clean off with a soft cloth
like, for example, my shirt.
I confess that I've been a bit disappointed in the Pack-Away's battery
life. Five hours on high seems awfully short, especially when Coleman makes
a non-LED lantern using the same complement of batteries whose burn time is
four hours. Knowing this, and the advertised burn times, I had supposed that
the lantern would be brighter. Also worth noting is that the instructions
say the LED may not light if the temperature is below 20 F (-7 C), which
makes this a three-season lantern where I live.
To be fair, I haven't yet used the lantern outside. When I'm in a tent
and haven't recently been exposed to electric lights, my impressions may
well change. That's what the Field Report is for! For now, the Pack-Away works
easily and packs down into a small package.
This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be appended to this document approximately two months after the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.
Field Report - still testing
To be completed approximately two months after the Initial Report date.
Long-term Report - still testing:
To be completed approximately four months after the Initial Report date.
I thank BackpackGearTest and The Coleman Company for allowing me to test this gear.
Read more reviews of Coleman gear
Read more gear reviews by Hollis Easter