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Reviews > Lighting > Lanterns > Coleman 4AA Pack Away Lantern > Test Report by Rick Allnutt

 Coleman eXponent
K2 LED Pack-Away Lantern

Test Series by Rick Allnutt

Initial Report - November 3, 2007

Field Report - January 13, 2008

Long Term Report - March 15, 2008

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Rick Allnutt
EMAIL: rick@backpackgeartest.org
AGE: 54
LOCATION: Helotes, Texas
GENDER: male
HEIGHT: 6' 0" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 183 lb (83.00 kg)

Over the last several years, I have become an ultralight camper with a three-season base pack weight of about 8 lb (3.5 kg) and skin out weight of 17 lb (8 kg). I have completed many section hikes on the Appalachian Trail (AT) in all four seasons, and many trips to state parks, with a total mileage of about 1550 miles (2500 km). I am a gearhead, a hammock or tarp camper, and I make much of my own equipment. 

Trail Name: Risk

Risk's Ultralite Hiking Page: www.imrisk.com


INITIAL REPORT
November 3, 2007

PackAway LanternPRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: The Coleman Company
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.coleman.com
MSRP: US$34.99
Listed Weight: "about" 8 oz (227 g)
Measured Weight including 4 AA batteries: 8.2 oz  (232 g)

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Pack-Away Lantern is small and lightweight. Just like its big-brother lanterns, it lights up a campsite with brilliant white light. But the Pack-Away Lantern does it with a very bright LED, so the start-up is immediate and silent.

This lantern is part of the light-weight set of new Coleman equipment that is collected under the "eXponent" banner. It takes up about as much room as a headlamp (see picture) and weighs about 3 times as much. But the bright K2 LED can illuminate a picnic table, shelter, or tent and seems much brighter than the light from a headlamp. All that brightness comes at the expense of battery life, but then this is a lantern, not a flashlight.

The packaging of the lantern states that fresh alkaline batteries will give 12 hours of use on low and 5 hours on high. It also gives the details of the 5-year defects in material or workmanship guarantee. The guarantee is further specified in a package insert as not applying to light bulbs, batteries, normal wear and tear, misuse, commercial use, or Acts of God.

Small but Bright Lantern The top portion of the lantern slides into the bottom portion of the lantern, which also houses the batteries. There is a pleasing hydraulic whoosh of air when stowing the lantern for travel, though the lantern is not intended to be waterproof. It is fun to contemplate where all the lens and reflectors go when the lantern is closed. It is really quite amazing.

The switch is a rubber coated push-button on the top of the lantern.  Pressing it once turns the LED on high, a second push makes this dimmer, a third push cycles to a flashing high intensity, and fourth push turns off the LED.  No matter how long the lantern has been on, the full cycle must be completed to reach off.  The lantern also turns off when the top is pushed into the bottom.  

There is a bail on the top of the lantern that neatly stores flat in the top of the lantern. When lifted out of its niche, the bail holds the lantern upright.  Included in the unit's packaging is a small clip that can be used to connect the bail to a roof loop inside a tent when necessary.

The LED is housed in a small receptacle in the top of the lantern, just under the on/off switch. Just below this light source is a conical reflector that optically disperses the light in a very regular pattern. The light is somewhat blocked by the two supports that hold the cone. The inside surfaces of the lantern, top and bottom, are coated with a bright reflective surface. When I put the lantern on a surface with a book, the light does not shine directly in my eyes or in direct reflection from any other surface. The broad, flat surface of the lantern transparency's sides is optically regular so that the light from the lantern shines across the surface of a page in a regular manner, with no shadows or bright spots. This is in contrast to the multiple shadows and bright lines that are cast from the ends of the lantern. That is all complex sounding, but to summarize, it works great for reading a book.

SUMMARY

I really like the packed size and optical performance of this little lantern. While it is heavier and has less battery life than a headlamp, there are situations for which a lantern is much to be preferred. Winter reading is one such task that comes to mind, and one that I intend to be pursuing with this lantern during the long nights of the coming winter. My thanks to Coleman eXponent engineers for developing this Pack-Away Coleman Lantern, and to BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to test it.


FIELD REPORT
January 13, 2008

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

November 16 - Government Canyon State Natural Area, Helotes, Texas. Altitude about 1000 ft (300 m). The afternoon temperatures started about 80 F (27 C) and dropped to 50 F (10 C). The night began clear and windy.  The temperature dropped after the sun went down under the clear sky. About the time that I retired into my hammock, clouds were moving in. During the night, the temperature rose as did the humidity. It sprinkled on and off for the second half of the night.   

December 15 - Government Canyon State Natural Area, Helotes, Texas. The daytime temperature was about 70 F (21 C) and the temperature dropped only to about 60 F (16 C). I used the lantern as a beacon to my campsite while I was out gathering firewood for a nice campfire. There was a dry breeze blowing all night and no condensation in my tarptent. This was an uneventful warm night out.

In addition to the above listed overnights, I have also used the lantern a number of evenings when reading outdoors. The K2 was also useful for area lighting while my family and/or guests were sitting around chiminea fires on my back porch. 

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Let me start the report by saying that I was able to finish the Harry Potter series while using this lantern. It is not a short series of books, and over the last couple months I have read a couple thousand pages with the Coleman Lantern. The lantern sheds a white light across the surface of a book page without any shadows or other distractions. It is superb for the hours long effort involved in reading long books. 

Of course, the lantern is good for other tasks as well. One of my favorite uses has been to use it as a reference beacon for my campsite while out gathering wood for a fire. In December, I was camping at a place where there were no hills to help orient me in the dark. The dense Ashe Juniper stand in which I was meandering around for the firewood looked pretty much the same in all directions. The sky was not visible through the clouds. I thought I knew where I was in relation to the campsite, but seeing the bright white light of the lantern 10 to 20 paces (1 pace = 2 steps) away through the woods helped me to keep track of the way home on a solo camping trip.

I found an interesting use for the lantern during my November trip. I had left for the overnight in a hurry and had neglected to pack my headlamp. The Lantern was the only light I had. I found that it was handy to hold the lantern so that my hand covered half of the plastic "globe" - the half that was toward me.  Then I could use the lantern as a flashlight for pointing and finding things that I had left under my hammock. Without using my hand as a shield, the bright light was on the ground, but it was in my eyes as well.

The batteries have not been an issue. I use the light at the setting which is not the brightest one and have gotten many hours of light from a single set of batteries. I have not kept track of the hours on a set of batteries, but it seems like I am getting in excess of 10 hours of light on a charging of AA NiMH batteries. 

Mechanically, the light has been like a rock. I have had no problems with the plastic or metal parts of the light. I also really like that suction sound of opening the light. Suuuuussss-thp!  I've never had a Coleman lantern that made a sound like that, and I find it infinitely more pleasing than the high pitched whine of a gas lantern.  

LONG TERM REPORT
March 15, 2008

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

The lantern was tested across three additional (total of five) overnight backpacking nights, and four long nights reading outdoors after dark. Specific trips taken during the Long Term Reporting period included:

March 6 to 8 – Government Canyon State Natural Area, Helotes, Texas. Two nights tent camping in the park. The weather was clear across the weekend. Friday night, the temperature reached 30 F (-1 C). I was in a 32 F (0 C) degree sleeping bag and ended up getting in most of my clothing to stay warm while sleeping. Saturday evening, after an hour of night hiking, I set up a long way from any other humans. It was just me and the coyotes. The temperature only dropped down to 40 F (4 C) and I was much warmer than the previous night. The night’s camping was followed by a hike for about 3 hours. There was a statewide burn ban, or this would have been a great night to have a campfire. 

March 14 - Government Canyon State Natural Area. Overnight hammock camping. The day had been above 90 F (32 C). The sky was clear and the air very dry. After the sun went down, it cooled down faster and further than I expected. I ended up getting pretty cool with a very thin pad in the hammock as the temperature bottomed out at 54 F (12 C). The night was followed by a 5 mile hike on Saturday morning.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Just like during the Field Reporting time, I was able to get some major reading in. Most of this was while I was sitting on a park picnic table, but one night I was miles from anywhere and had the light hanging from a strap in the tarp tent. Sitting cross-legged reading was easy as pie with the lantern. 

I continued to use the lantern as a beacon for my campsite as well. On the night when I hammock camped, the hammock was well into brushy woods. I hung the lantern from a branch near the hammock and turned it on in the middle of the night when I went out on a prowl. It was nice being able to look over my shoulder when I was well out of camp and being able to see where I would be going back. It allowed me to go walking about without using a headlamp. 

I discovered another interesting way to use the light for hiking at night. One of the disadvantages of a head lamp is the absence of observed shadows from a head mounted light. I found that it was much easier to walk along a very rocky path at night by putting the lantern on a cord the length of my fore-arm and letting it cast shadows from down at my knee level. It was much easier to see rocks and roots when I used this light source instead of a head lamp. 

The batteries continue to not be an issue. I have noticed that when they are getting weak, there is no difference in light output from the high to medium settings. This is a pretty good way of determining when the batteries may need to be replaced. 

Mechanically, the light continues to be like a rock. I have had no problems with the plastic or metal parts of the light. 

Things I like:

- Mechanically Solid - no problems with construction or function.

- Bright - oh yes!  Plenty of light for serious reading - also plenty to light my surroundings for hammock camping.

- Immediate start up - using this as a lantern for a middle of the night bio break works very well. 

- The sound when opening and the silence when using the light - still a major thrill!

This I wish:

- That it was as light as a feather - of course. At least it is the lightest Coleman lantern I own.





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