Mom Goes Camping

Review of the Coleman CHT 4 Headlamp (a Cheap Headlamp which Doesn’t Suck)

When I started shopping for my first headlamp, I was on a really cheap budget.  My first instinct was to turn to what we here in Serbia refer to as “the Chinese stores.”

Sure enough, I found a super-cheap headlamp.  It cost about $10 – but was also bulky as hell, had a battery life of just 3 hours, and was made from crappy plastic.

I didn’t buy it.

Instead, I went online and started searching and researching for a decent headlamp which wouldn’t cost me more than $30.

There is absolutely no reason that you need fancy, expensive gear to go camping.  Yes, it is nice to have fancy gear, but it isn’t necessary to enjoy the outdoors.  At least if you aren’t going on some crazy night hiking expedition.  For that you’ll need a badass headlamp.

But I digress.  If you want to learn more about headlamps, read 8 Tips for Choosing a Quality Headlamp.


Coleman CHT 4 Specs Overview

Considering that the Coleman headlamp is very cheap (you can buy it here), it has a decent set of specs:

  • Modes: High, Low, Red
  • Lumens: 40 lumens high, 23 lumens low
  • Beam Length: 104 feet beam
  • Battery life: 20 hours on high, 35 hours on low
  • Pivoting Head: The lamp tilts, which is nice so you don’t accidentally blind people when talking to them
  • Two AAA batteries

Now, this doesn’t come close to comparing to headlamps like the Black Diamond Icon which has a 328 foot beam length, 200 lumens, and a battery life of 75 hours.  But the Icon also costs a lot more 🙁



As any camping gear expert will tell you, the lumens rating on headlamps doesn’t really mean much.  That is because the lumens is measured by the total brightness of the LEDs.  It doesn’t factor in the quality of the light.

For basic camping needs, the Coleman is fantastic.  I’ve used it for cooking an impromptu meal in the dark, investigating nighttime bugs, gathering more firewood, and putting up a tent in the dark that one time we got kicked off the bus at the Serbia-Kosovo border… 😉

Does the Coleman shine a super bright beam deep into the woods?  No.

Do I need it to?  No.

If you plan on doing any nighttime camping, you’ll need a better headlamp.  One that is going to cost you more.

Investing insects with the Coleman CHT 4 headlamp

Investing insects with the Coleman CHT 4 headlamp


Red Light Mode

My favorite thing about the Coleman headlamp is that it has a red light mode.  I didn’t realize how much I loved this feature until I got another headlamp which doesn’t have the red light.

The red light means:

  • The battery will last a really long time in the red mode
  • You can get out of the tent to pee without waking everyone up
  • It won’t blind people when you look at them in the red light mode (red light doesn’t cause pupil shrinkage like white light does)
  • You can stargaze with the red light on
  • Animals don’t see the red light, so a cool critter might not notice you
  • It is great for search-and-rescue situations because you could leave the red light on to increase your chances of being seen.
The red light setting is awesome for when you don't want to wake your sleep child in the tent!

The red light setting is awesome for when you don’t want to wake your sleep child in the tent!


Ease of Use

  • One click turns on the Red mode (so you don’t blind anyone).
  • Another click turns on the bright Spotlight mode.
  • The next click turns on the wider-beam Proximity mode.
  • After 10 seconds of being in any mode, one click will turn the headlamp off.

Yes, the Coleman is really easy to use. My three year old figured it out. 😉

Isabel figured out how to use the Coleman headlamp at the age of 3 ;)

Isabel figured out how to use the Coleman headlamp at the age of 3 😉


Battery Life

When I first got the Coleman CHT 4, I was really impressed with the battery life – especially compared to some friends’ crappy headlamps.

Now I also have the Petzl Tikka Pro, so realize that the Coleman battery life isn’t that impressive.  After 3 years of use, I think the batteries aren’t lasting as long as they did when they started.

Even though the Petzl is brighter and lasts longer than the Coleman, I still like the Coleman better because it has a Red mode.  Seriously, when your kid goes to sleep, you don’t want to risk waking her! 😉 I love my nights stargazing and poking the fire alone while Isabel sleeps in the tent.



I’ve had my Coleman headlamp for over 3 years now.   It worked really great and we didn’t have any problems with it.

Until Isabel accidentally slammed it on a big rock.

The headlamp didn’t shatter or break.  However, after that, I did start to notice some problems with it.  Sometimes when I try to cycle through the modes, it malfunctions: The first 3 clicks work fine, and the 4th click turns it off.  If I click it again to immediately turn it back on, it won’t turn on.  I have to wait about 30 seconds and then it works normally again.

Yes, this is fairly annoying – but it is also fairly impressive that a cheap headlamp still works almost perfectly after getting slammed by a preschooler.


Would I Recommend It?

Definitely.  I love my Coleman CHT 4 – and not just because it was my first headlamp.

Bear in mind that this isn’t the best headlamp available.  If you want to do nighttime hiking or could find yourself in a SHTF situation like lost in the woods at night, you’ll need a brighter headlamp with an even longer battery life (and even higher price tag).  But, for basic camping needs and a low price, the Coleman performs great.

You can buy the Coleman CHT 4 here.  Or check out my other favorite headlamps here.

Tagged with:    

About the author /

Diane Vukovic grew up camping and backpacking in upstate New York. Now, she takes her own daughters on wilderness adventures so they can connect with nature and learn resiliency. With dozens of trips under her belt, Diane is an expert in minimalist camping, going lightweight, planning, and keeping her kids entertained without screens.

Related Articles

Post your comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *