• coleman conquer 250L LED headlamp

    The Coleman Conquer 250L LED headlamp. (Photo: Alexandra Pope/Canadian Geographic)

Let there be light! Headlamps are one of the most important but easily-forgotten camping items. Whether you're stuck setting up camp in the dark or just trying to do some leisurely reading in the tent, a headlamp is the happy, hands-free medium between a flashlight and bulky lantern. I don't ask for much from my headlamps: I want good battery life and it has to be easy to use and rugged enough that I don't need to worry about babying it while I enjoy some rollicking outdoor adventures. 

Camping gear company Coleman tried to meet those demands with the Conquer 250L LED headlamp, and in some respects they succeeded. But as I tested it over the course of a rainy camping weekend in the Adirondack Mountains, it struck me that the features of this headlamp may have gotten a bit too ambitious for their own good.

Sabrina wearing coleman conquer 250L headlamp

Photo: Alexandra Pope/Canadian Geographic

Design

Headlamps are already by nature hands-free — a convenience you pay for by looking like a luminescent cyclops — but the Conquer tries to take it a step further. The Kinesix system adds no-touch control by letting you change between five lighting modes by simply waving your hand in front of the headlamp. Adaptive lighting also auto-adjusts the beam pattern and brightness.

Its rugged water-resistant exterior was designed to withstand falls of up to two meters, and the product is hefty enough that you believe it. Their BatteryLock™ system involves popping the front of the headlamp away from the back of the device to stop battery drain and preserve battery life. This purportedly allows batteries to be stored in your device for years (up to their inherent shelf life).

Functionality

It seems like Coleman had good intentions, and set out to make a product that was super easy to use (look, ma! No hands at all!). Unfortunately, the auto-adaptive lighting and motion-activated switch between lighting modes became more of a nuisance than a convenience. Whether I was trying to chop veggies or just read in the tent, the lamp would regularly and suddenly switch lighting modes (occasionally, even when I had seemingly not moved at all).

Although I like the idea of the battery lock stystem in theory, in practice I have a hard time believing that if the headlamp was stuffed in a backpack, the popped out front wouldn't get popped back into contact by some stray item, thus nixing the battery saving bonus. 

Summary

Coleman's Conquer headlamp is kitted out with ambitious features, but all those neat tricks can get glitchy and the product could have benefitted by prioritizing reliable simplicity.