The JanSport Katahdin 40 earned the lowest overall score among the ultralight backpacks we tested. While it has lots of features, they are more geared for around-town use. On top of this, the Katahdin has one of the worst weight-to-volume ratios. If you want an affordable pack for school or around town that can handle an occasional backcountry trip, this pack is ok.
Looking towards Wyoming from near Rabbit Ears Pass on the Continental Divide. With this pack's very affordable price, we wanted to be able to recommend it to backpackers on a very tight budget. Unfortunately, it just doesn't deliver the performance necessary.
This pack is only made in one size. There are no options for different torso lengths or waist belt size.
This pack has many more access and pocket features than others. However, we suspect that lots of zippers are a poor choice as far as durability is concerned.
At 21 g/L max and stripped, this pack earned the nearly the lowest score for average weight-to-volume ratio. Along with the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 30, this is the smallest volume product we tested. But unlike the Fastpack, whose heavy frame sheet can be removed to shave ounces, the Katahdin has no removable parts. Notable is the very low volume of the main exterior mesh pocket. The Katahdin 40 is nearly as heavy as the higher volume Gossamer Gear Gorilla, our Editors' Choice winner.
Load Carrying Comfort
We found this pack relatively comfortable for carrying 15 pounds loads and awarded it a "Good" rating. This is likely the best use of the Katahdin - day hiking size loads. It is relatively heavy in part due to lots of zippers that provide ready access to your gear. However, packing up 30 pounds is difficult in this relatively small pack. It was one of only two that wouldn't hold our 24 pound winter thru-hiking load. You'll have trouble packing this guy up with 30 pounds anyway, but if you did, expect the carrying comfort to be "Poor." The other small volume pack we tested, the Ultimate Direction Fastpack, carries light loads for trail running quite well.
We couldn't fit our wintertime load of gear and five days of food and fuel into this pack.
While we were not impressed with the overall construction quality of this pack, it is very feature rich. Just about every main pack pocket, access zipper, and lash point you could want is present; however, this pack does not have pockets on the hip belt or shoulder straps. In addition, the single pocket top lid is sewn-on, not removable, and not extendable. The Katahdin has a big pocket inside to hold a hydration bladder and a toggle on a sewn loop up top to secure it. You can exit the pack with a center por, which lets you route the drinking hose over either shoulder. While this is a large group of features, they aren't optimized for backpackers.
The side pockets on this pack are relatively small and there are no pockets on the hip belt or shoulder straps.
With all the features on this pack, you would think this pack would have some straps for stowing a sleeping pad or similar on the outside. But no, aside from the mesh side pockets, the attached and non-floating lid is your only option for securing light and bulky items to the outside of the pack. On top of this, there are no compression straps to cinch the pack down for small loads.
While we didn't experience any failures with this pack during our testing, we are highly doubtful about the longevity of a pack with so many zippers when used heavily in the backcountry. Three zippers on the main pack body provide access to the main pack and two large pockets. These zippers, particularly the two on the side of the pack, are in likely spots for wear and failure during rough use.
While the Katahdin is best suited to around-town use, it is large enough for the occasional lightly loaded backpacking trip.
At $80 retail, this product is by far the cheapest ultralight pack we tested, but it also earned the lowest overall score. We do not think that this pack's performance or durability create good value even at such a low price.
One of the smallest and the cheapest packs we tested, the JanSport Katahdin 40 failed to inspire us to take it on backpacking trips. We feel it is a great, fully-featured back for around town use. If it's all you can afford, it'll see you through some nights in the backcountry.
Sizing, Accessories, & Other Versions
This pack is only available in one size. It fit our 5' 11" lead tester well enough.
Similar packs in the Katahdin line are 50 and 70 liters.