JanSport Tahoma Pack


It’s no secret that JanSport, long known for its school daypacks, is making a return to its roots. The company began as a serious outdoor equipment maker decades ago, but as time went on it seemed that its student-friendly daypacks were the cash cow.

Now the company seeks to get a stronger foothold in the hardcore outdoor space, and it has unveiled a line of packs designed to rival models from the likes of Mountain Hardwear and The North Face. The Tahoma, a $280 pack, is one example. This high-end model is made with sailcloth, a light and tough fabric chosen for its waterproofness and resiliency. The pack has a svelte design, alpine-oriented features, and the capacity to carry about 4,600 cubic inches of gear, making it usable for multiday climbs on places like Mount Rainier (where I tested it) and far beyond.

jansport tahoma backpack 2010.jpg

JanSport’s 2010 Tahoma pack

I climbed Mount Rainier last June, and the Tahoma, which weighs about 4.8 pounds when empty, was a great companion to the top. At a glance, you can tell the pack is stripped down and simple. Its main compartment is one big open space. A small zippered stash-pocket on the waist strap kept snacks and lip balm handy on my climb. Gear loops on either side make climbing gear easy to grab. The removable lid unclips for going a bit lighter weight on summit day.

The Tahoma carried as well as any pack I’ve tried in this size. Its suspension system was highly adjustable, letting me dial in a perfect fit. I was able to “tune” the aluminum frame rails by gently bending them to closer match the curve of my back. Don’t skip the tuning step, as it makes a huge difference in how the pack fits and rides as you hike or climb.

The sailcloth material is a nice touch. Though JanSport is hardly the first company to incorporate the material, it is rarely seen. The fabric is tough and somewhat stiff, perfect for a backpack. It is waterproof enough that I could set my pack in slush on its side and not worry about moisture seeping through.

jansport tahoma backpack 2011.jpg

JanSports 2011 Tahoma pack

For 2011, JanSport will release a new version of the Tahoma. A few planned changes will make it even lighter and tougher, including a trade out of the sailcloth for a super-tough airbag fabric. Yes, it’s the same stuff as used in your car’s airbag. (I like the sailcloth, as I noted, but JanSport cites the airbag material as being even better!)

The new model Tahoma will have redesigned shoulder straps and a waist belt employing a dual-density foam with the softer part being next to the body for comfort and the stiff foam on the outside for rigidity.

Price for the 2011 model increases to $300. That’s on-par for packs in the same size from competing companies. You decide. For the money you can get a few JanSport school backpacks — or else one kick-butt alpine bag.

—T.C. Worley

Posted by Troy - 10/26/2010 09:42 AM

jansport guarantees their products for life too! buy one pack and it could last you forever

Posted by bryantp - 10/26/2010 11:41 AM

Most Jansport bags are made in China. Is this one? Shouldn’t you tell us? With about 10 – 18% of Americans unemployed, I think this matters.

Posted by Plinko - 10/26/2010 01:18 PM

The 2011 Tahoma takes a step in the wrong direction with it’s money-saving, tree-branch grabbing, Mountainsmith-imitating, zipper pulls and axe attachments. They still need quick release buckles on the side compression straps to make it ski/picket friendly, and mesh pockets on waits belt need to be made from something different so they don’t fill with snow. They still need back-panel-access as well. Love the fabric and it’s durability, but what a garish color for the 2011! A

And why can’t JanSport make a smaller pack using this same fabric without adding mesh everywhere? The Solist started out as a good design, but then someone added mesh all over, (in the front waist belt pockets, side water bottle pockets, and outside back panel pocket). This may work in for school bags, but in the outdoors will get shredded FAST.

Jansport used to make some AMAZING internal packs, with the Spectra white Cloud series, Spectra Grid-stop version Flight and later Satori, etc, and smaller versions of the same that retained the same bomb-proof features. Let’s hope they find there way back some day.

Posted by T.C. Worley - 10/26/2010 07:26 PM

Plinko, some good points. Do note however: the side straps do have quick release buckles and the new 2011 pockets are a very tight mesh, I’d wager not likely to get snow in them. And as far as “tree grabbing”, they were designed to live above the treeline. Colors?—80’s are back, baby! For better or worse.

But I feel you on the mesh. Some of the smaller models are indeed heavily meshed and I have had some issues that. It’s a tough field to re-enter, but I think they’re going to do just fine.

Oh, and made in Vietnam.

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