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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > JanSport Whittaker Pack > Test Report by Sheila Morrissey
Initial Report - February 12, 2008
Field Report - March 31, 2008
Long-Term Report - June 25, 2008
Photo from JanSport website.
Initial Report: February 12, 2008
Name: Sheila Morrissey
Height: 5 ft 8 in (1.7 m)
Weight: 155 lb (70 kg)
Torso Length: 19 in (48 cm)
Email Address: geosheila(at)yahoo(dot)com
City, State, Country: Goleta, California, USA
I have been hiking and camping since I was born and finally started backpacking in 2005. I love the eastern Sierra, but I also enjoy hiking closer to home, especially in Los Padres National Forest. My pack is usually around 25 lb (11 kg), including consumables, for a weekend trip.
Model: Whittaker LR
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer’s Website: http://www.jansport.com
Listed Weight: 5 lb (2.3 kg)
Measured Weight: 4 lb 12.5 oz (2.17 kg), weight discrepancy could be due to difficulty weighing pack on small post office balance
Listed Dimensions: 32 in height x 15 in length x 14 in depth (81 cm height x 38 cm length x 36 cm depth), verified accurate
Listed Volume: 4400 cu in (72.1 L)
Color: skydiver blue
The JanSport Whittaker LR is an internal-frame, 4400 cu in (72.1 L) pack claimed to be "the guide's choice for week-long adventures". The pack is made primarily of three fabrics: white with grey diamond-patterned, tough-looking and crinkly VX07 Sailcloth making up the top and sides of the pack, bright blue 840 Denier Junior Ballistic nylon making the side pockets and anchor points for all of the straps, and black 840 Denier Junior Ballistic nylon on the bottom of the pack and front pockets.
The pack has a compression-molded back panel that appears to have at least 0.5 in (1.3 cm) of padding, though there is less padding along the wearer's spine. The hip belt and shoulder straps are similarly padded, with all of the padded portions of the pack covered in a stretchy black fabric.
The non-removable hip belt is 6 in (15 cm) wide where it connects to the pack and tapers to 3 in (8 cm) right over my hips bones. The belt cinches with adjustable nylon straps and a 38-mm (1.5-in) Woo Jin Flex Dual Stealth clip. Near where the hip belt connects to the pack, adjustable straps also connect the parts and can be tightened to bring the pack load closer to the wearer's lower back.
On the right side of the hip belt is a nylon loop with a plastic covering, and on the left side of the hip belt is a pocket measuring approximately 5 in x 2 in x 2 in (13 cm x 5 cm x 5 cm), big enough to hold a multi-tool and more.
The tops of the shoulder straps connect to the pack on the pack's GridFit harness plate. The straps can be easily disconnected from the GridFit harness plate by pushing straight down until they click out of place. By moving the strap connection horizontally to a new connection location, the distance between the straps can be adjusted. By moving the strap connection vertically, the torso length of the pack can be adjusted.
The bottoms of the shoulder straps attach to the pack with adjustable nylon straps near the hip belt. The straps have thumb loops at the ends. Above the shoulder straps, adjustable load lifters can be tightened to bring the top of the pack closer to the wearer's shoulders.
A nylon sternum strap across the chest secures with a 20-mm (0.8-in) Woo Jin Flex Stealth clip and can be adjusted vertically by about 4 in (10 cm), which allows plenty of adjustments for comfortable wear by women. At its highest position, the sternum strap fits just over my collar bone. One side of the sternum strap has a piece of stretchy material so the strap moves and adjusts while wearing the pack.
There is an approximately 10 in x 14 in x 3 in (25 cm x 36 cm x 8 cm) compartment on top of the pack that is secured with four Woo Jin Uraflex Rock Lockster clips. When removed, it does not function as a hip pack.
The top compartment can be flipped back or removed entirely to reveal the main compartment of the pack, which is closed with a plastic draw cord lock and secured with another Rock Lockster clip.
Inside the main compartment is a large pocket resting against the wearer's back. I'm assuming it is a hydration sleeve, but I don't see a hole on the pack for stringing a water hose through. The main compartment of the pack is also accessible by a 7-in (18-cm) zipper on the front of the pack.
Above this is a 1 in x 10 in x 11 in (2.5 cm x 25 cm x 28 cm) pocket. The small opening for this pocket makes it appear much smaller, but this pocket will easily store my trail maps.
Six more Rock Lockster clips with adjustable nylon straps secure gear to the front and sides of the pack. There are two of these compression straps on the front of the pack and two on each side. There are two large pockets on the sides of the pack that can each easily hold two Nalgene-type water bottles.
The Whittaker pack seems very well constructed. The fabrics are thicker and more durable-looking than packs I have previously used. All of the seams and straps seem to be secure and the zippers run smoothly.
The peek-a-boo access to the main compartment is an interesting way to search for gear at the bottom of the pack. The side pockets are huge and I'm guessing I'll really like being able to easily access my water bottles on the trail. I'm not used to having so many pockets on a pack, but I think it will help me organize my gear. I'm guessing I'll keep lunch in the top compartment of the pack, maps in the front pocket and maybe some dog treats in the hip belt pocket. I was a little disappointed to see that the top compartment doesn't convert into a hip pack for day use and I'm not quite sure why it comes all the way off. I guess I could leave that portion at home if I didn't need the space.
Figuring out the adjustable torso length and shoulder strap distance was new to me. Though it's easily done, no information came with the pack (or was available on the website) and it took me a while to figure it out.
I'm really looking forward to testing out this pack. It's very different from packs I've used in the past because of all of its added features (like the adjustable GridFit and the many pockets) and I'm curious to see whether the relatively heavy weight of this pack is worth it for these conveniences.
Field Report: March 31, 2008
I have so far used the Whittaker pack for five days of backpacking over two trips. The first trip was a three-day, 26-mi (42-km) hike in Coyote Gulch, starting in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. My pack probably weighed over 40 lb (18 kg). The second trip was a two-day, 21-mi (34-km) hike in Buckskin Gulch and Paria River, Utah and Arizona. My pack probably weighed around 35 lb (16 kg). The elevations for both trips were between 4,000 to 5,000 ft (1,200 to 1,500 m) and temperatures were between 35 F (2 C) and 60 F (16 C).
Hiking with the Whittaker in Paria River, Utah
Before trying the Whittaker, the only other packs I have used are ultralight packs. Most people I hike with use a heavyweight pack like the Whittaker, so I thought I might be missing out on something -- extra comfort from a more heavily padded pack, or ease of use with all the extra features. At this point in my test of the Whittaker, I'm not planning on making a permanent switch in packs. The Whittaker was able to handle the heavy loads I carried on these two backpacking trips, but I would've been more comfortable carrying less gear.
Fit & Comfort
On my Coyote Gulch trip, I hiked with a friend whose backpacking philosophy is quite different from my own. I'm not one to say, "It's just a couple of pounds" and toss unnecessary gear in my pack. However, on this trip, we carried a heavy stove and fuel, whole fruits, a water filter, two pots and a lantern, in addition to the usual tent and sleeping bags. At over 40 lb (18 kg), it was the heaviest backpack I have ever carried. I left some heavy items behind for the Buckskin Gulch trip, but my pack was still weighed about 35 lb (16 kg). With such heavy loads, the pack fit differently than when I had fitted it while it was weighted with less gear at home. I found that the pack fit me best with the shoulder straps adjusted to the middle of the three height settings on the GridFit system. I found it very easy to adjust the fit of the pack. What I can't understand is why I should carry around the GridFit system's heavy harness plate. I would much rather purchase a pack that just fits me.
The padding on the back of the pack is sufficient, but the padding could be thicker on the shoulder straps and hip belt for better comfort under heavy loads. In addition to extra padding, I really wished the hip belt extended an extra half-inch (1 cm) or so to each side. It became obvious to me after hiking a bit that this pack was designed for a man and doesn't accommodate hips very well. Other hip belts seem to have a little more flex to them or are angled to fit me better.
The sternum strap rides plenty high, though it isn't the easiest to adjust. I couldn't really figure out why it has some flex to it. That's not a feature I've seen before.
Pockets & Other Features
The inside of the pack is huge and I had all sorts of room for my gear. It was also convenient having all of the many pockets on the Whittaker. I carried four liters (quarts) of water in the side pockets easily enough, but it wasn't too easy getting the bottles in and out of the pockets when the pack was stuffed. I kept my small stuff like sunscreen and a flashlight in the top compartment, but it was disappointing not to be able to use this as a day pack. The heavy-duty material kept the stink out of my gear when I used the map pocket for leftover chili and a waste bag. I found the small pocket on the hip belt to be pretty silly, mostly because it opens the wrong way. The zipper starts at the furthest back point, rather than toward the front, so I had to worry about losing my driver's license every time I reached back to get a cough drop. If it were slightly bigger it could've held my camera and been more useful. There are so many lash points and straps going every which way, I wasn't sure what to do with them all, especially since the inside of the pack is already so huge. The reinforced front of the pack meant for vertical storage of a snowboard was also pretty silly (i.e. a waste of weight) for regular old backpacking. The peek-a-boo zipper into the main compartment also seemed like a waste of weight to me. With so many pockets, I had no need to search for anything little at the bottom of my pack. Instead, I just frustrated myself by trying to squeeze my sleeping pad out the too-small opening.
Construction & Durability
The Whittaker has taken a beating on my trips so far. I squished it between narrow slot canyon walls and tossed it down from boulders. Except for a whole lot of mud, the Whittaker is still in great shape.
I'm not blown away by this pack, and I'll probably stick to my ultralight pack after this test is over, but I also won't feel bad letting pack-less friends borrow my Whittaker. It'll be easy enough to adjust the pack for other users. The Whittaker can handle heavy loads even if it isn't the most comfortable pack ever. I would've liked a longer hip belt and more padding in the hip belt and shoulder pads. The many pockets are convenient, but there is room for improvement here, too. I would've liked the top compartment to work as a day pack and the hip pocket to be a little bigger and open the opposite direction.
Long-Term Report: June 25, 2008
I have now used the Whittaker on three backpacking trips totaling 12 days, but only actually carried it for seven days since some of those days were spent at the same location. Since the Field Report, I used the Whittaker pack on an eight-day, volunteer trail maintenance backpacking trip in the Ansel Adams Wilderness in the Sierra National Forest, California. I only carried the pack on the first and last days of this trip, but used the top compartment every day. The hike to our backcountry base camp was about 5 mi (8 km) round trip. I hiked at elevations near 7,000 ft (2,100 m). The weather was clear and sunny with temperatures between 50 F (10 C) and 85 F (29 C). My pack weighed a hefty 30 lb (14 kg) on the way in and, when the mules didn't show up to help truck out gear on the (uphill-like-a-staircase) way out, my pack weighed about 50 lb (23 kg). That was definitely a new record for me!
Mules helped us with our bulky tents and sleeping bags on the way down, so I carried in a ridiculous amount of gear on this latest trip, including all sorts of stuff I never carry backpacking: a music player, cards, and an extra sweatshirt and gloves for the cold that never came. The mules unexpectedly didn't come for the way back out, so I got to carry everything myself. I probably couldn't have carried such a heavy load (~50 lb, 23 kg) with my ultralight pack and I liked how well the Whittaker handled it. I packed quickly, resulting in a big wobbly pack, but the load lifters saved the day, keeping me and the pack from falling over sideways.
Throughout the week, I used the removable lid as storage for my smelly items (deodorant, toothpaste and snacks) to keep in the bear bin. It would've been nice to have a lid that turned into a day pack, but this container for the bear bin was actually quite convenient for me on this trip since we had to be especially vigilant about the bears because they kept poking their cute little baby-bear noses toward camp.
I used the top compartment of the Whittaker to organize the smelly items that this little guy and his friends were after.
It was nice to have all of the different pockets, it definitely made packing up camp easier. On the way out, I actually used every pocket and every strap and was able to keep all of my gear secure. I packed the main compartment to several inches/centimeters above the back panel, extending the top of the pack above my head. That wasn't exactly comfortable, but that hike was uphill, so I was leaning forward anyway and didn't notice except when I stopped for a rest and I couldn't hold my head upright.
I could barely hold my head up when the Whittaker was stuffed with 50 lb (23 kg) of gear, but it wasn't so bad.
When I did stop, I was glad to be able to reach back and take out a bottle of water from the side pockets for a drink. Then, when I realized I was near the top of the trail, I reached back for another bottle to dump out since I didn't need to carry the extra weight. The side pockets for my water bottles are really huge and easily accessed.
I was especially glad to find that the pack was still comfortable enough for me with such a heavy load. The shoulder straps were fine and I actually didn't notice the hip belt being too short on this trip.
I'm going back to my old pack now, but it's mostly because the Whittaker is just too much pack for me for my usual backpacking trips. The Whittaker worked great for packing an excessive amount of gear and I was able to use all of the pockets to separate and squish small gear, and I used all of the straps for carrying my tent and random dangling gear. The pack was comfortable enough, even with this heavy weight. I still think the hip pocket needs to open the other direction, the hip belt should be slightly longer and it would be nice to be able to use the top compartment as a day pack.
This concludes my Test Series. Thank you to JanSport and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test the Whittaker LR pack.
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