Coleman 4AA Pack-Away Lantern
TEST SERIES BY LARRY KIRSCHNER
June 27, 2007
INITIAL REPORT - June 27, 2007
FIELD REPORT - September 14, 2007
LONG-TERM REPORT - November 12, 2007
5' 9" (1.75 m)
200 lb (90.70 kg)
I've been an intermittent camper/paddler since my teens, but now that my kids
are avid Boy Scouts, I've caught the backpacking bug. I typically do a few weekend
hikes per year, and have recently spent 2 weeks backpacking at the Philmont Scout
Ranch in Cimmarron, New Mexico. I like to travel "in comfort", so I often
pack a little heavier than needed, but I'm trying to cut down. With all of my
investment into this trip, I expect my wife and I will continue to trek long after the kids are gone…
June 27, 2007
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: www.coleman.com
MSRP: USD $34.99
Listed Weight: 8 oz (including 4AA batteries)
Measured Weight: 8.3 oz (236 g) (including 4AA batteries and small carabineer, all
provided with lantern. 8.2 oz/233 g without the carabineer)
Closed: 3.2 x 2.7 x 1.9 in (81 x 69 x 48 mm)
Open: 4.875 x 2.7 x 1.9 in (124 x 69 x 48 mm)
I received the lantern from Coleman, and was quite intrigued by the appearance
of the lantern. It is quite petite, even in the open form in which it is packaged. Coleman has apparently
made significant efforts in making their lanterns smaller and better-suited
for the packing/hiking community, as is shown in the photo below.
The package comes with a small lightweight carabineer (1 oz, 28 g), which is
suitable for hanging the lantern. It also comes with a set of 4 alkaline AA batteries.
The lantern is made of a lightweight "metalized" plastic, which appears to be a
type of hard-shell coated plastic. When collapsed, most of the size of the lantern
is taken up by the battery case, with an area in the central part of the lantern for
the light and its associated apparatus. The bottom of the lantern screws off for
placement of the batteries, and the instructions recommend the use of a coin or
tool to open/close the compartment. Despite the fact that I have almost no
fingernails, I was able easily to unscrew/rescrew the bottom of the battery
compartment with my unaided fingers, but I'm sure it would be a little easier with something else.
When the lantern is closed, it has the appearance of a small grayish-black box
with a large 'X' on either side. On opening it, the light bulb is located in the
top of the compartment, with a circular reflector below it that disperses the
light laterally. The bulb is called a "Super Bright K2 Luxeon LED", which is
supposed to have the brightness of a 3-Watt LED with the battery draw of a 1-Watt LED.
Because of the lower battery draw, the lantern is reported to have a battery life
of 12 hours when kept on the low setting, and 5 hours on the high setting.
Because of the geometry of the lantern (a rectangle, not a circle), it provides
fairly uniform light from each of the 'long' sides, but much less light from the 'short' sides.
In addition to the 'high' and 'low' settings, there is a third setting called
'emergency', which is the full-power light flashing. The setting switch is located
on the top of the lantern, and is comprised of a single large button (approx 5/8 x
1 in, or 16 x 25 mm), which is big enough to be easily usable even with cold fingers
or when wearing gloves. The lantern cycles among the 4 settings, in the order of
off, high, low, emergency, off. There is a note indicating that the light may not
function below 20 F (-7 C), presumably because of the nature of the LED bulb.
The lantern is made to be carried in the collapsed state, but slides open easily
enough for use. The lid has a wire hangar which presumably can be used to hang the
lantern from a cord or inside a tent. As noted, a carabineer is also provided,
which can be hooked onto the wire hanger. However, when the carabineer is attached,
the top handle is unable to fold flush, meaning it loses its structure as a cube.
Thus, I doubt the carabineer is really worth anything, other than for looks. I
suppose it could be used to hook the lantern to a pack if one were so inclined.
The lantern is warranteed for 5 years, which seems like a mighty long time for a
piece of battery-driven equipment like this. If it really lasts that long, it
would be an excellent investment. However, the warranty does not cover normal
wear and tear, so it is unclear exactly how this would apply in practice if there
is a problem in 2-3 years.
TRYING IT OUT
I haven't taken the lantern out on the trail yet, but it certainly seems to be
bright, particularly on the high setting. The light is very white, and I suspect
that even the low setting would provide enough light to perform most nocturnal
activities. I'm not sure yet if it is bright enough to read/write by, but I will
address this during the field test. It is also worth mentioning that because of
the simple design of the lantern, it is easy to open and turn on in the
complete darkness, always a useful feature of a light source.
For the next stage of the test, I will be taking the Coleman 4AA PackAway lantern
with me on a 10 day canoe trip in Manitoba, which will let me get a good feel for
its function on the trail. I will specifically be looking to assess the lantern's
durability, and see how if it provides enough light for reading/writing. I'll be
taking extra batteries with me, but I'm hoping to make it through the whole trek
on 1 set if I can be careful with the time of use.
Although unlikely, I may even have a chance to see if I
can get it to work in the cold weather. After that trip, it will accompany me on
any hikes for the next few months, and I will see how it holds up in under
Please check back in 2 months for my Field Report on this item.
Thanks to Coleman for providing this lantern for testing, and to BackpackGearTest.org
for giving me the chance to light my way in the dark.
BACK TO THE TOP
September 14, 2007
I took the lantern with me on a 10-day canoeing trip in Canada, where it spent
most of the days stuffed into a dry bag, and got used at night. The temperature
on the trip was warm, around 65 F (18C) at night when I was using the lantern,
up to 90 F (32 C) during the day. The weather was dry, so I did not have any
chance to use it in the rain. I have also taken the lantern with me on 2 weekend
trips, one in central Ohio and the other in Southwestern Pennsylvania (Ohiopyle
State Park). On both of these trips, the weather was hot (same temperature range
as above) but much more humid. It rained quite a bit on one of the trips, but the
lantern itself stayed dry in my pack.
I now have the answers to a number of questions posed in my Initial Report.
First, I have the most experience using the light inside my tent, which for the
trips above has predominantly been a good sized 4-man tent. On the low setting,
the lantern provides plenty of light for most tent activities, including reading,
writing, and playing cards. Although the amount of light is plentiful, the difficulty
I noted with the uneven distribution of the light has been more of an issue. When the
lantern is placed on the ground of the tent, it gives good light in specific directions
(see pictures above), but has many dark areas. It also does not project light upwards
very well, so that it is not great for card playing. When the lantern was hung from
the tent ceiling, it provided good illumination throughout (although I note this has
only been possible in 1 of my tents). For reading in my sleeping bag, I have found
that the best strategy is to lie the lantern on its side, either next to me or on my
chest, as this allows the light to be projected onto the pages. On the high setting,
the lantern is an adequate light source for setting up camp in the dark. Fortunately,
I have not had any need to use the emergency flashing setting.
Regarding ease of use, I will point out that the lantern's cubical shape makes
it very easy to find by touch in my pack. It is also very easy to turn it on in the
pitch dark, although I have not tried it with gloves on.
I have used the lantern as my primary night time light source for 13 nights on
the trail now (plus some initial testing at home), and I have yet to run out the
battery. As noted, almost all of this use has been on the low setting, which has
been adequate for my light needs. I have not made any effort to watch exactly how
much time I am using the lantern, but I believe the 13+ nights so far reflects my
unbiased "normal" usage.
WEAR AND TEAR
One feature I like about the lantern is the fact that it packs up into a cube
(actually a rectangular prism, for you sticklers), so that there are no exposed
pieces to get caught or broken when it is not in use. As a result, the lantern
looks and functions pretty much exactly the way it did when I got it, except for
maybe some slight rub marks on the plastic casing. So far, I would call the
durability of this unit excellent.
To date, I think the Coleman PackAway Lantern has functioned about as I expected
it would. It is a good source of light to illuminate an area for setting up in
the dark, although understandably it is not as bright as a propane lantern. It
also works well to light up a tent, if you can hang it from the tent roof.
Because of the fact that it provides very uneven light, it can be a little bit of
trouble depending on the needs. On the trail, the PackAway Lantern has excellent
portability (i.e., small size) and the fact that it runs a long time on a set of 4
AA batteries makes it very useful for longer trips.
I am uncertain as of yet if I would exchange my headlamp for this lantern as
the sole light source on the trail, but I will keep testing and trying to figure this out.
This concludes my Field Report on the Coleman PackAway lantern. Please check in back in about
2 months for my final report on this item.
BACK TO THE TOP
November 12, 2007
I have continued to take my Coleman 4AA Packaway lantern with me on all my trips,
which has been 2 more weekend treks in central Ohio, where the weather has continued
to be rather unseasonably warm. I don't think it ever got below about 45 F (6 C) at
night on any of the trips.
Regarding the battery life in the lantern, I will note that the batteries ran out
right after I had submitted my Field Report, or after about 13 nights on the trail.
As I prepared my gear for my next trip, I tried to turn on the lantern. The light
went on when I pushed the button, but turned off as soon as I released it. I thought
I had broken the mechanism and spent some time trying to identify a problem, but
none was to be found. As soon as I replaced the batteries, the lantern was good to
go. Based on my experience, the lifespan of a set of batteries is about 13 days
of moderate use.
My impressions of the lantern really haven't changed much. I still think it is
a useful piece of equipment, but has the limitations which I noted in my Initial
Report. As I prepared to write this LTR, I have been thinking about the underlying
question posed at the end of the Field Report: would I replace my headlamp with
this lantern as my single light source on a trek? The answer to that question
is definitely 'no', as I think the uniform and directed field of illumination
from a headlamp is better for most things on the trail. However, I think a better
question to ponder is this: would I bring the lantern with me on a trek?
The answer to that question is definitely: 'it depends'. If I was going on an
extended trip to the backcountry where weight was a major consideration, I don't
think the extra 8+ oz (230 g) are worthwhile. However, if it were only for a
modest weekend trek where weight wasn't such an issue, I would definitely like
to have this along, particularly if the days weren't going to be too long and I
anticipated some time after dinner where my cohorts and I wanted to sit around
and chat or play cards. It would also be nice to have it along if I were planning
to have a couple of days setting up/taking down in the dark, as it provides reasonably good area lighting.
I have found the Coleman 4AA Packaway lantern to be a useful piece of equipment,
and I expect that I will continue to bring it on various trips, although likely
not on any high intensity backpacking outings where weight in a premium.
Things I liked about the Coleman 4AA Packaway lantern:
Things I disliked about the lantern:
- Small size and easy packability
- Long battery life
- Uses regular AA batteries
- Very bright light
- Easy to find in pack (due to shape) and turn on in complete dark
- Very uneven field of illumination makes it difficult for certain uses (see my comments in the Field Experience
part of the Field Report)
This concludes my report on the Coleman 4AA PackAway Lantern. My thanks once again to
Coleman for providing this new piece of equipment for testing, and to BackpackGearTest.org
for allowing me to participate in the evaluation process.
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Read more gear reviews by Larry Kirschner