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In my generation I never really associated JanSport with much other than school backpacks. I mean I remember the shelves in the local big box stuffed with every color shape and size of JanSport packs. But it has been a long time since I have seen JanSport throwing their weight around in the realm of real world backcountry gear. So it was a bit of a nice surprise to see JanSport waking up and getting after it. Beginning with a whole fresh new feel and considerable focus on re-inventing their pigeon holed image. This is the first of a series of reviews aimed at giving you the scoop on how JanSport is doing with this trend towards returning to their roots.
This review deals specifically with the Jansport Catalyst.
Volume: 1249.8 cu in / 20.48L
Weight: 1lb 11oz
Which seems to be designed as a light and fast daypack or summit pack. There is nothing remarkable about the pack as a whole other than it does not seem like what I am used to associating with a JanSport pack. What I mean is that this is a real pack that I would consider as a go to pack. I can definitely tell that some real focused thought went into the design. From the breathable, perforated EVA shoulder straps and hipbelt to the dual compression side straps and the true to self no frills design this pack has made its point.
However, I wish JanSport had integrated some type of drainage into the base of the pack to allow any liquids that might spill to escape the pack with out soaking everything. The Catalyst does utilize a zippered compartment on the back of the pack to hold a hydration bladder which in effect separates the bladder from the main compartment, this system now uses two layers of padding, one between the inside of the pack and the bladder sleeve and one between the bladder and the back of the pack. By ditching the zipper and going with the industry standard of utilizing a sleeve inside the pack it could have shaved a few ounces. But it does allow for easier access to the bladder for insertion, refill or removal. With this pack I can comfortably say that JanSport is well on their way to getting back where they belong, in the backcountry.
The bottom line is at $99 retail this pack seems to be right in line with the rest of the heavy hitters, but being fresh out of the gate I think this pack should be dropped by a few bucks to get folks back into the mindset of looking towards JanSport as a viable option.
Check out our review of the JanSport Salish as well.