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Reviews > Lighting > Lanterns > Coleman 4AA Pack Away Lantern > Test Report by Hollis Easter

Coleman 4AA Pack-Away Lantern
Test Series
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.

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Side view of the Pack-Away Lantern

Reviewer Information:

Name: Hollis Easter
Age: 26
Gender: Male
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).

Product Information:

Manufacturer: The Coleman Company, Inc.
Year of manufacture: 2007
Country of manufacture: China
Listed dimensions:

  • 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)
Actual dimensions:
  • 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)
Listed weight: "Approximately 8 oz. including batteries" (~ 227 g) (from package)
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
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, side view
Lantern in stowed position, side view

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 with items for size comparison
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
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

Reviews > Lighting > Lanterns > Coleman 4AA Pack Away Lantern > Test Report by Hollis Easter

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