Hands-on Gear Review

JanSport Katahdin 40 Review

Price:  $80 List | $49.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Cheap, lots of pockets, side access to main pack
Cons:  Poor durability, lots of zippers, quite heavy relative to volume
Editors' Rating:   
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Total Weight:  27.2 oz
Stripped Weight:  27.2 oz
Claimed Volume:  40 L
Manufacturer:   JanSport

Our Verdict

The JanSport Katahdin 40 is one of the two smallest backpacks we tested in our ultralight backpack review, and it also has one of the worst weight-to-volume ratios. What this pack does have going for it is far and away the most affordable price tag. At $80 full retail, it is a great option for folks looking for an everyday dayhiking pack with just enough volume for multi-day backpacking trips with very light loads.

Folks seeking the best deal on a very functional ultralight pack that can handle loads for week-long trips should consider our Best Buy winner, the Osprey Exos 48. The Exos is one of the highest scoring packs overall, plus it's relatively affordable compared to the other top-scoring packs. That said, it's still fairly pricey.



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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Brandon Lampley

Last Updated:
Sunday
January 31, 2016

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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.

Performance Comparison


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.
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.

Weight-to-Volume Ratio


This pack is only made in one size. There are no options for different torso lengths or waist belt size.

Weight Bottom Line:
Total Weight with all modular components = 1 lb 11.2 oz
This pack has no easily removable components - even the lid is sewn on.

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.
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.

OGL Measured Volume Bottom Line:
Total Volume = 36 L
Main Bag = 28 L
Front Pocket = 2 L
Side Pockets = 3 L
Lid = 3 L

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.
We couldn't fit our wintertime load of gear and five days of food and fuel into this pack.

Features


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. A center port to exit the pack 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.
The side pockets on this pack are relatively small and there are no pockets on the hip belt or shoulder straps.

Adaptability


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.

Durability


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.

Best Applications


While the Katahdin is best suited to around-town use, it is large enough for the occasional lightly loaded backpacking trip.

Value


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.

Conclusion


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.

Brandon Lampley

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Most recent review: January 31, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (2.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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Rating Distribution
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