» Choose questions that help you narrow down your search for the perfect pack.
» Fit questions that help you size, adjust and fit your pack.
» Packing Questions
» Miscellaneous Questions
What should I consider when buying a technical pack?
To narrow down your search, 3 main things to consider are:
a) style; internal vs. external, top load vs. panel load
b) Capacity; how much room will you need
c) Size; regular vs. tall
Once you've answered the above questions and you begin to look at and try on specific packs the next priorities are:
d) Is the suspension comfortable? Try it on. Does it fit your back and body shape?
e) Does it have the organizational features you will need? (places to put the sleeping bag and foam pad, pockets for often used items, straps and or daisy chains to lash things on, etc.)
f) Will it be durable? With features such as beefy zippers and hexstop fabric, JanSport technical packs are built to last.back to top
What are the pros and cons of external frame packs vs. internal frame packs?
Externals in general:
a) Are cheaper, in some cases below $100
b) Are easier to pack. Separate compartments and lots of exterior pockets make packing easy.
c) Are cooler. The external frame keeps the pack bag away from your back.
d) Transfer load to your hips better, and thus easier on your back.
e) Work great for hiking on trails, which is where 99% of all backpacking is done. Internals in general:
f) Are more expensive, though consequently of better quality.
g) Require more experience to pack. They have fewer pockets so balancing the load is critical.
h) Give you better balance for off-trail, skiing and climbing. It feels more like you are wearing an internal, rather than merely carrying it.
i) Are sexier. There is a definite trend towards internals and away from externals though this probably has more to do with fashion than function.
Unless you are skiing, climbing or bushwacking, this really is an aesthetic choice. Many beginners prefer an external because there is less hassle and easier to pack. I personally prefer internals because it feels more like I am wearing the pack rather than just carrying it. The trade off for that close center of gravity is that they are hot against the back.back to top
What is the functional difference between top loading and panel loading packs?
Panel loading packs...
a) Generally have a large opening making it easy to load and access the contents.
b) Have zippers that could potentially fail. JanSport technical packs use beefy #9 or #10 size zippers in main panel loading compartments so the risk of failure is very small. And JanSport almost always backs up the panel zipper with a compression strap as a fail-safe.
c) The compression straps can interfere with zipper access.
Top loading packs:
d) Are great for the truly paranoid since they don't reply on zippers.
e) Can be difficult to access, particularly when the gear you want is at the bottom.
f) In some top loaders the lid can be extended upward allowing over packing, or stashing of gear under the lid.back to top
How much capacity do I need for a weeklong trip?
If you plan to use the pack on a week long trip, the very minimum capacity I recommend is 5,000 cu. in. however, only someone with expensive, light weight gear will be able to fit a weeks worth of food and gear into a 5,000 cu. in. pack. For most people on a week long trek I recommend something that is at least 6,000 cu. in. the really great thing about internal packs is that they compress down when you don't need all that room, so feel free to buy the largest capacity you think you might need.back to top
What's the difference between the two different capacities listed for some packs, regular and extended?
Most top loading packs close with a drawstring and many large top-loading packs, like internal frame packs, have an extra extension or sleeve of fabric that allows the pack to be overstuffed. When packed normally, like in catalog photos, it produces one volume; when overstuffed it provides another. An example of when you might overstuff a pack is at the beginning of a long trip when you have lots of food. The extra fabric sleeve is often called a "bivy" extension (from the days when mountaineers, caught unexpectedly on day trips and forced to spend the night on the mountain, would empty their packs, put their feet in, and pull their packs as far up as it would go, making a partial sleeping bag or bivouac sack).back to top
Are JanSport packs waterproof?
I have good news, and bad news! All of the fabric JanSport uses are coated with about an ounce and a quarter of polyurethane, which produces a minimum waterproof rating of 40 mulleins. (The U.S. Army considers 25 mulleins waterproof!) Now for the bad news. Even though the fabrics are perfectly waterproof, sewn pack products never are! Wherever there are zippers or stitching, water finds a way through. The only true waterproof packs are made of vinyl and have sonically welded seams, like a dry bag for kayaking. Most serious backpackers recognize this limitation of sewn packs and carry a rain cover made of lightweight nylon that can be seam-sealed easily. Some of the people I respect most simply carry a large plastic garbage bag, slit up the back, and some duct tape. Using waterproof stuff sacks to organize your load is another solution.back to top
How do I know if I need the regular or tall size?
The short answer is that if you are over 5'8" you generally will need the tall size. However a better measure of pack fit is not your total height but the length of your torso. Two people of the same height (one long legged, one short legged) may need different size packs. To measure your torso length you will need an assistant. Find your iliac crest (the top of your hip bones),
and have your assistant measure along your spine up to the 7th cervical vertebrae (the prominent bump on your neck),
which is generally equivalent to your shoulder height. The length between hip crests to neck bump is your torso length. Only recently is a consensus forming about what torso sizes should fit what size packs. It still varies by brand and there is usually considerable overlap. However, in general an 18" torso length is the dividing line between regular and tall packs. If you have a torso length longer than 18", you should try the tall size pack first. If you have a torso length less than 18" you should try the regular size first. Remember, there is some overlap. The best advice I can give is try the pack on with the help of a qualified retailer to make sure the pack fits you.back to top
How do I adjust an internal frame pack?
a) Loosen all straps before you start.
b) Put the pack on your back and tighten the hipbelt first. It should rest squarely over your hipbones and be sure it is tight.
c) Adjust for torso length. Your shoulder straps should curve back down over your shoulder by about 1 1/2"-2". A weighted pack will sink lower, so either use a weighted pack for fitting or allow for this. It is easy to move the shoulder straps with the Velcro torso ladder found on current JanSport internal models (older JanSport models, and other brands may have a different mechanism for torso length adjustment but the principles will be the same). Now tighten the shoulder strap so the some of the weight is put onto the shoulders.
d) Adjust the load lifting straps. At the top of the stays and running to the shoulder strap is the load-lifting strap. Both ends of this strap are adjustable by the tri-glides that run along the webbing. The load-lifting strap should leave from the very top of your shoulder to form a 30-45 degree angle with the top of the stay. By pulling on this strap you pull the weight closer to you, but you also put that weight more onto the shoulders. If you let this strap out, the pack will sink back a little but more weight will go on the hips.
e) Adjust the sternum strap. The sternum strap is attached to the shoulder strap and is designed to keep the shoulder straps from peeling off you shoulders. This strap also can be adjusted by moving the tri-glide along the webbing. The perfect position is in the middle of your sternum, or breastbone.
f) The hip belt has some side stabilizing straps that should be tightened next.
g) If you have an unusual back shape you can remove the aluminum stays from inside the pack and bend them to your desire. Most people will not need to do this, or will require only a minor tweak. This can be done with the pack stuffed and with the stays still inside. The most common mistake is to over bend the stays.
h) Always follow the same order when tightening straps; hip belt, shoulder strap, load lifting strap, sternum strap, hip belt stabilizer.
i) If you have any problems don't hesitate to go back to the store you bought it at and ask for some help.back to top
How do I fit a Scout frame pack?
a) Loosen all straps, put pack on.
b) Center hipbelt over your hipbone, tighten.
c) Make sure the curves in the aluminum frame follow your back profile, if not move hipbelt up or down along the frame.
d) Use screwdriver or coin to loosen the fittings on the shoulder strap bar and position so the shoulder strap is even with the top of the shoulder. Retighten screws in fitting tight!
e) Backband should be positioned behind shoulder blades, and tightened according to your taste.
f) Put pack back on, retighten hipbelt, then tighten the lower shoulder strap webbing.back to top
Where is the sternum strap supposed to hit?
The sternum strap is designed to be in the middle of the sternum (or breast bone),
if it is much lower it will interfere with breathing. Ideally the shoulder straps would form a 45 degree angle between you and the frame, thus putting the weight on your bone structure and not your muscles or sciatic nerve.back to top
How do I adjust an old external frame with stuck fittings?
It is not uncommon for an older, less-used pack to have the aluminum fittings stick. To be honest, there really is no other option than to apply a little forced persuasion to un-stick it.
a) Make triple sure the cams are undone
b) A few taps with a rubber mallet will work wonders but a metal hammer will ruin the frame
c) As with any metal on metal contact, try a little lubrication (i.e., WD-40 or something similar helps a lot)
d) Be sure to apply force in an even manner. The worst thing you can do is apply tremendous force to one side but not the other; then one side will slide all the way up while the other remains jammed and then you have a real problem.
e) 98% of the time a little sweat will fix the problem. If not, pack it off to warranty service. I'm afraid time and entropy will claim us all in the end.back to top
How do you bend aluminum stays to your back profile?
Most people do not need to re-shape the aluminum stays found in their internal frame pack. To determine if you need to bend the stays, put the loaded pack on your back and feel that the pack shape follows your body contours. If it is not following your back shape perfectly I recommend you attempt to bend the stays a little while the pack is still loaded. If this does not solve the problem you can remove the stays before bending them, but only an expert has a good chance of getting it right.
a) Inside the pack you can see the stays inside their sleeves. Undo the Velcro and pull out the stays.
b) You can now have a friend hold the stays up next to your back and try to copy your back shape.
c) Beware! If you copy your back shape exactly it will be an exaggeration once the stays are back inside the pack (and this will feel strange). Unfortunately, when trying this for the first time, most people will actually make the pack feel worse!
d) The most common correction is to bend the top end of the stays away from your head, so your head does not contact the pack when you look up.
e) If the stays feel completely wrong you probably do not have the pack centered on the hipbone and thus the pack is out of register with your back.
My best advice is to get some expert retail help if you need to radically change the stay profile.back to top
How do I pack my internal pack?
It would literally take a chapter of a book to answer this question fully. My favorite book on all subjects of backpacking is "The Complete Hiker" by the grand old man of backpacking, Colin Fletcher. There are many great books on backpacking these days and most should have a chapter on packing. In brief:
a) Use lots of stuff sacks to compartmentalize the load into small chunks
b) Keep the heavy items close to your center of gravity
c) pack items you will need access to during the day where you can get to them easily.
d) Be sure to pack the sleeping bag compartment tightly. You can use clothing to fill in gaps and odd corners. The sleeping bag compartment is the foundation on which the rest of the load sits upon.back to top
How do I pack an external?
The general principles are the same as with internals (compartmentalize with stuff sacks, keep heavy items close to your center of gravity, etc.) with a couple of minor differences.
a) There are generally more pockets on externals, and I usually pack the pockets first using items I will need to get at while hiking.
b) Because of the external frame it is easier to lash gear to the outside of the pack. JanSport packs have 2 features that make this particularly easy; the frame extends up above the level of the pack creating a high lash point, and the panel loading pack hangs from a rigid bag bar that creates a shelf. This shelf is great for carrying bulky items like foam pads, wet tents or even a propane stove! Be careful not to get too carried away with lashing on gear to the outside because the farther away from your center of gravity a heavy item is, the more you will feel it pull you back.
c) The sleeping bag is generally lashed onto the frame, below the pack bag.back to top
How do I attach a sleeping bag to the external? Why don't you provide the straps?
JanSport externals come with loop locks on the bottom of the bag to make it easy to lash the sleeping bag on the bottom. We do not provide the straps for the following reasons:
a) We put as much value as possible into permanent features on the pack. The after market straps are sold cheaply at every backpacking store in America. If we included the straps we would need to delete other features that the consumer could not replace afterwards.
b) The range of sizes of sleeping bags being attached is quite amazing. A good quality backpacking bag should need straps that are at most 24" long while the car camping bags many scout's use may need 36" or longer straps.
c) There are many styles of straps. The cheapest have simple ladder lock buckles, but better ones have side squeeze buckles. And some people just prefer bungee cords.back to top
How do I clean my pack?
Be very careful of harsh cleaners or even normal household detergents. While these cleaners may not affect the outside of the fabric the inside of the pack (coated with a layer of polyurethane which keeps the pack water resistant),
can be easily harmed by these chemicals and may peel off if mistreated. I recommend you use only water and a cloth to clean the pack, but if you must use a soap, keep it mild, and do not use it on the inside of the pack. Never put a pack into a washing machine!back to top
What are the compression straps for?
The closer your load is to your center of gravity the more comfortable it will be to carry. When packs are not completely full (like near the end of a trip after you have eaten most of the food) they tend to sag backward. The compression straps pull the load into your back and make great places to lash more gear onto the pack. Keep in mind, though, that anything lashed to the outside will be far from the center of gravity, so light items like foam pads work best here.back to top
What is the frame sheet?
The simplest internal frame packs had aluminum stays to create structure and transfer load to the hips, yet when packed, these packs turned into barrel shapes that then rolled on your back. A frame sheet is a piece of high-density plastic that ties the stays together and creates a nice flat surface (bent by the stays into your back shape) that you can pull the load firmly into your back. The frame sheets also increase the weight transfer to your hips. Almost all packs that receive high comfort ratings for carrying heavy loads either have frame sheets or other mechanisms (like wands) beyond just the stays. With all the concern these days about weight, many companies have removed these features, but the price you pay is loss of the ability to carry heavy loads comfortably. Skimping on your suspension is not the smartest way to save weight.back to top
What is a hydration-ready sleeve?
Hydration-ready does not mean the pack comes with the reservoir but that it can be added to it. It is a pocket of fabric, usually up inside and against the back panel of the pack that the hydration reservoir is put into. There is also an exit, allowing the drink tubes to be routed to the shoulder strap, as well as guides or clips on the shoulder strap for the tube. Starting with packs made in 2004, all JanSport Tech packs that are hydration ready also have the toggle needed to hang the new JanSport/Nalgene reservoirs.back to top
What are load-lifter straps and what do they do?
When a pack extends above your head like most internals it is common to have a strap that runs from the top of the pack frame down to the shoulder straps. This load-lifter strap is the most misunderstood and abused strap on the pack.
The function of the strap is to allow you to pull the upper part of the pack in toward your back. Pulling the load in this way often feels better as you do it, for it pulls the load into your center of gravity and makes you more stable for climbing, skiing and bushwhacking. Unfortunately it also transfers a significant part of the load onto your shoulders. For most trail walking you are better off loosening this strap and letting the load fall onto your hips.
If the load-lifter strap is not loosened before removal, it almost always results in a gap being created above your shoulder when the shoulder strap is retightened. Always tighten the lower buckle on the shoulder strap first and then the load-lifter.
Ideally the load-lifter strap would leave from your clavicle to the upper frame at a perfect 45-degree angle. This perfect angle is rarely achievable and anywhere from 30 to 70 degrees is fine as long as the load can be pulled inward. The taller you are the less likely you will get the higher angle.back to top
What if my torso measurement is over 21"?
Measuring torso length is more of an art than a science, and errors of 1-2" are common. Use torso measurement as a rough guide as to which pack size to choose but never judge if it is correct for you until you have tried it on yourself. Many tall men often think their torso measurement is more than 21", yet less than 1% of the population actually is this long. Our Torso measurements are conservative, yet our tall packs will fit almost all long torsos. Even the largest torso will fit, but they may find that the load-lifter strap angle is more shallow than usual.back to top
How much capacity do I need?
How big a pack you need is a personal thing that depends on what kind of trips you plan to take and how long they will be, as well as what kind of gear you own. We noticed that Backpacker categorized packs by capacity in their Gear Guide, so we adopted those capacity ranges and added a few shorter trip categories of our own.
(Add orange Trip categories from page 2 Tech Gear Catalog 2001 here)
These capacity ranges still make sense for the vast majority of people, but recently there has been an accelerating trend toward ultralight packing. For people who own ultra-lightweight gear and are willing to leave much of what traditional backpackers carry behind, then these capacities could be reduced by half.back to top