Two Jansport Pack Reviews
Jansport Big Bear 63
Jansport Big Bear 63 and Jansport Access 40
Here are two reviews for two different, fairly cheap and rugged Jansport backpacks. I carried the Access 40 and Chuck had the Big Bear 63 and these are my personal opinions on the both of them.
Jansport Big Bear 63
Though I didn't carry this pack, I personally loved it. This thing is huge and it’s the smallest Big Bear they have at 63 liters. It has two huge zippered side pockets, a large front pocket and a drip dry mesh pocket as well. There is a ton of room on the inside with a drawstring top so you won't have to worry about any loose items popping out. My personal favorite was the compression hood. The hood itself had a huge zippered pocket that Chuck carried both of our rain jackets in.
This pack compresses amazingly well! He could do some serious shrinking from top to bottom and also on the sides. You can keep pulling those compression straps until there isn't anymore to pull. It has great padded waist straps that are very wide and sit perfectly on the hips. The only complaint Chuck had for this backpack were the shoulder straps. He said they really needed some more padding.
Make sure you measure your torso and get a pack you know will fit you. I would have loved to have this one but it was just way too huge for me. He got it on sale at Campmor for about 60 bucks. They still have this sale going on so check it out here: Jansport Big Bear 63. It took some serious beating and is still in perfect shape!
Also, order a free catalog from them here: Free Campmor Catalog You’ll get a new one every season! I absolutely recommend the Big Bear. It’s a great internal frame pack built for backpacking. They have three different sizes but unless you’re planning on permanently moving to the woods the 63 liter is probably all you’ll need.
Jansport Access 40
Jansport Access 40
The Jansport Access 40 was my pack. It was a great backpack but it just wasn’t right for me and my needs. I failed to realize I needed a pack made specifically for a woman. Even though it was considerably smaller than Chuck’s Big Bear, it still just didn’t fit me right. This is not to say it’s a bad choice!
What I loved about the Access 40 were the many pockets and compartments. It has two front loading pockets that I carried all the soap, toothpaste, brushes, etc in and a front stash pocket I actually managed to stuff our entire tent into. (The actual tent, not the poles or ground cloth) If that doesn’t sell it I don’t know what will! It has great side pockets, one of which carried our cooking pan, cup, and utensils. It’s got a little pocket up top that’s great for change, carrying numbers, id’s, or anything else that you don’t want to dig through your pack for. The waist straps could have been a little bigger in my opinion but what really sold me on the Access 40 were the Aircore shoulder straps. They were very comfortable and Chuck was always jealous of them. This pack also has a hydration sleeve. I never used it so I can’t comment on it.
Now for the cons: this pack compresses very well on the sides, but what I hated most about it is how wide it gets when it’s full. It was extremely difficult to take on buses or hold in a car. The Big Bear was very long and slim when full while the Access was thick and bulky and would constantly cause me to bump into things. I compare it to driving a truck versus a car; when driving a truck you have to be constantly aware of the back end. Also, the two front loading pockets tore in my pack. However, I’m not 100% sure if this was the pack’s or my fault. I did constantly over stuff it and I also carried razors in those pockets. (Note: You can get a lifetime warranty on Jansport products, so make sure to check into that when purchasing.)
Speaking of overstuffing, 40 liters may seem like a lot, but it really isn't when backpacking. Packing my bag in the morning was a thirty minute ordeal for me because everything had to be “just-so” for it all to fit. This would make a great weekend pack (which is what it’s advertised for anyway) and it has a ton of versatility. However, if you need to stuff this thing until it bursts, I suggest you keep looking, it’s just too awkward when full. Check out the full specs here: Jansport Access 40