I consider myself a lightweight hiker, carrying the lightest gear I can find that will provide a
comfortable wilderness experience and support my goals. Although my pack weight might label me as
an "Ultralight Weenie," I carry "luxury items" that hard-core ultralighters would shun;
e.g. a 23 oz (652 g) sleeping pad. Depending on the level of insects present and if I'm hiking
solo or not, I might pack a hammock, tent, or tarp. My base weight for three-season hiking is in the
sub-8 to 10 pound (3.5 - 4.6 kg) range, unless regulations force me to carry a bear canister.
|Whittaker LT Backpack
|LT (Long Torso)
fits torso lengths 19 - 21" (48 - 53 cm)
|5 lbs 2 oz (2.32 kg)
|Weight as Delivered:
|5 lbs 3 oz (2.38 kg)
|4600 cu in (75.4 l)
|Year of manufacture:
|Lifetime, when the product is used for the purpose intended, under normal conditions. Warranty does not apply to damages caused by typical wear and tear over time, unreasonable use, accidents, or neglect.
|A 4600 cu in (75.4 l), top loading backpack with features such as a floating/removable top "lid" pocket, adjustable pack harness, dual stays, side pockets to hold items such as tent poles or water bottles, front and side compression straps, extension skirt, internal hydration bladder pocket (water bladder not included), two ice axe loops, a hipbelt pocket, front pocket, and lash points for attaching straps and additional gear.
Initial Report: - November 5, 2007
It's been almost three years since I've carried a pack as large as the JanSport Whittaker. On three-season trips, I typically carry a pack half its size and, in the winter, I usually pull a sled behind me that carries a duffle bag filled with gear. Of course, the beauty of BackpackGearTest.org is that testers are free to try all kinds of gear, and I really wanted to get back into carrying all my gear in the wintertime (all that work helps to keep me warm). My interest in the JanSport Whittaker stems from the fact that it is a larger pack and will accommodate my cold-weather volume needs. Also, its suspension appears to be built to handle the types of pack weights I'm expecting carry. With my eyes focused on some long-distance hikes next summer, where re-supply points will be few and far between, I needed to find a pack that can handle a larger load comfortably. Hopefully, the JanSport Whittaker will fit my needs.
The Whittaker's suspension has the standard features one would expect on a pack of this volume, such as dual stays, an adjustable length hipbelt and shoulder straps, a sternum strap, delta straps, and load lifters.
The pack comes with JanSport's trademark GridFit Harness Plate, shown in the image to the right. For this report, I've outlined the shoulder strap in red. The GridFit system basically allows the user to adjust the width of the shoulder straps - 2 inch (5 cm) latitude - as well as the height of the torso setting in order to achieve a "customized" fit that follows the curvature of the wearer's neck and shoulders. Notice how the shoulder strap is able to pivot when attached to the harness plate. This allows each strap to follow the movement of the user's shoulders, hopefully increasing comfort and decreasing incidents of hot spots and chaffing. The grid allows for three vertical and two horizontal levels of adjustment (note, image does not show the lowermost level of adjustment).
The back panel of the pack is padded and curved to follow the natural contours of the user's back. It contains an ample amount of padding.
The Whittaker has a pair of straps on either side of the pack to allow for front to rear compression. Top compression is achieved by cinching down the floating top-lid pocket. Finally, there's a pair of straps at the front of the pack that allow for compression of the load from left to right. The front straps have enough excess length to allow for a snowboard or tent to be stowed underneath.
Various Storage Options:
In addition to the Whittaker's large main storage compartment, it has a floating top pocket, side pockets, and a front exterior pocket that's positioned above the compression straps, allowing the user unfettered access to its contents. There's also a small pocket on the left side of the hipbelt, and a short zippered access panel to the pack's main storage compartment off the front of the pack (see image at the top of this report).
I'm planning on storing my water bottle in the side pocket, my water treatment and 1st-aid kits, multi-tool, and flashlight in the front exterior pocket, and my snacks and extra layers of clothing - a hat and gloves, insulating top, and windshirt - in the floating lid pocket. I also note that the floating top pocket has a key clip in it, which I will certainly be using to keep my car keys safe and secure while on the trail. This takes care of all the gear I might want to access while on the trail. The remainder of my gear - food, sleeping bag, tent, cook kit, etc. - will be stored in the pack's main compartment.
I'm still not sure what I'll use the hipbelt pocket for, as it has almost no depth to it. As seen in the image to the left, it's a tight squeeze to even fit a credit card in there. I wish this pocket were bellowed out a bit so that I could at least store a pair of fleece gloves, or some trail snacks, inside it.
While I plan to use the Whittaker's side pockets to store my water bottles, the pack has an internal hydration sleeve in its main compartment that can easily carry bladders of up to 3 liters (96 oz) in size. There are no hydration tube exit ports in the pack's design, however, so if I were to use the sleeve I'd have to pass the tube out the top of the pack's main compartment, under the floating lid pocket.
Gear Lash Points:
On the right side of the Whittaker's hipbelt there's a gear lash loop, similar to the type of loop one would find on a climbing harness. There's an additional gear lash loop found under each side pocket, and at the front of the pack there are two ice axe loops. About a foot (30 cm) above each ice axe loop is a second, adjustable, loop that can be used to secure the handles of ice axes, trekking poles, etc. There are also lash points at the front of the pack and on top of the floating lid pocket that could have strips of webbing (not included) threaded through them in order to secure additional overflow items to the pack. I plan to store long items, such as tent poles, in the Whittaker's side pockets, securing them against the pack using the side compression straps. My tent will most likely be secured to the front of the pack using the Whittaker's front compression straps.
Due to the number of adjustments that can be made to the Whittaker's suspension, I was able to get the pack to fit as if it were custom made for my body.
The pack's back panel, while molded and cushioned, still feels like a stiff panel of wood pressed against my back. That said, the pack rides comfortably and it's been my experience that when I carry a lot of pack weight, I actually prefer this feeling to a softer suspension where the load feels like it's sagging.
The sheer size of the pack means that I can't tilt my head back very much without my head pressing against the top lid pocket. For trips that don't require the full use of the Whittaker's volume, this top pocket can be left at home. I'm actually planning on carrying a fleece or insulated jacket in this top pocket, so that on rest breaks I can just sit down and lean back against my pack, using the top pocket as a sort of pillow.
Construction/Fit and Finish:
The construction and finish of the JanSport Whittaker backpack are first rate! There are no loose seams or threads and fabric panels are cut symmetrically.
Thoughts Thus Far:
The JanSport Whittaker backpack fits me well. It has enough pockets/access points where I can quickly get my hands on frequently used items without having to open the pack's main pocket. During a "walk in the park" trial, the pack rode comfortably while loaded up with limited gear - only 20 pounds (9 kg).
This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be appended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.
- End of Initial Report -
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