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JanSport Salish – UpaDowna
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JanSport Salish

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JanSport Salish 34

Volume: 2099.8 cu" / 34.41 L

Weight: 3lbs 9oz

Torso Length: 18"

MSRP: $120**

When we speak of JanSport packs it is often in reference to backpacks that many refer to as "book bags", but in addition to these homework-haulers JanSport does make some more technically-styled backpacks. The JanSport Salish 34, a frameless light-packer, was handed over to us for a test drive recently. Some of the features were winners, while others were losers. Overall, the Salish comes off like a light-hiker in the midst of an identity crisis.

I feel like one of the high-points of this pack is the hip-belt. When I loaded the pack down, put it on, and started walking with it I felt like the padding was effectively soft and it conformed well to my hips. The shoulder straps felt good as well. They are built with a slotted foam to increase breathability, however that breathability is limited because the shoulder straps are still almost totally sealed in traditional-style ripstop nylon.

The Versa-wing bottle pockets on the side of the pack are interesting. These are giant mesh pockets on either side of the pack which each have a small hook at the top-center to divide each pocket into two. Initially, I thought the design was excessive, but along the way I realized that between the two Versa-wings divided into 4 pockets, I could carry 2 bottles, a GPS, and a camera, each in its own pocket. (The bottles were 24oz Camelbaks. I believe they'll handle full-sized Nalgenes with a bit of adjustment.)

Two low-profile, stretch-mesh pockets are found on the hip belt. These pockets work well for trail snacks, gels, or small iPods, but will not accommodate larger items like a camera or GPS that you would normally keep in these pockets. There are also two zippered pockets on the exterior of the pack. I carried 16oz in each, but I believe they are both tall enough to stack two 12s.

I have very little faith in many frameless designs which offer lid packs and this picture is my description why. One of the primary functions of a lid, to provide a level of vertical compression, requires a certain level of rigidity to the pack which is normally provided by a frame. In a frameless design the rigidity needs to come from the load within the pack. I carried the pack under-stuffed which made the lid compartment a floppy nuisance. The nuisance was exacerbated by two abnormally low clip-on points of the lid. The two lid clips that would normally reside right behind my shoulders have obviously shifted downward in this pic, and the straps to which they clip are attached to the bag at my kidneys (a little tough to see behind the bottle, apologies). The only thing keeping the lid on top of the bag is two loose webbing hoops which loop together. At their tightest you can see they were not sufficient to keep the lid on top of the pack, therefore the drawstring top of the main compartment is exposed to the elements. On my second test drive I went with the pack fully stuffed (I crammed it full with an uncompressed sleeping bag for bulk). In this case the assembly, fit, and performance of the pack was much more suitable.

Speaking of that drawstring on top of the main compartment; the inside of the sheath for that string on the pack I tested seemed sticky and I was unable to close the compartment with a single yank. I always had to pull, then help feed the string through, then pull again.

Moving beyond my rantings on vertical compression, load squashing on this pack is limited. There is a very short horizontal compression strap on either side of the pack, and a V-shaped strap on the bottom of the pack that would work for attaching a small sleeping pad or for compression. That's all.

A hydration bladder can be placed between the backpanel and the bag itself. This eliminated the need to build a hydration port, or straw-hole, into the main compartment, and could (potentially) add another level of rigidity to the bag.

I feel like the volume offering for this pack is a little odd. At 34L, it may work well for someone guiding a large group on a day-trip, but if it doesn't perform well when it is understuffed, it lacks versatility as a daypack. It could work well as a fast and light, small volume, overnight pack, but if you are shaving weight by buying lightweight, low-bulk equipment then you are probably shopping for packs that weight less than 3lbs 9oz.

Retail test drive: I wanted to give that drawstring a fair chance, so I went to a Dick's Sporting Goods and found this pack on the shelf. It was on sale for $99.97. The drawstring was the same; it wouldn't fully close with a single pull, but would do the job when I "helped" the string through the collar. Strangely enough, the lid on the pack was not attached properly so it was falling off and sad-looking, despite the pack being full of display stuffing. (The fault of the retailer, but noteworthy nonetheless.)

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