As the biggest backpack brand in the USA, JanSport backpacks are ubiquitous on college campuses, school hallways and the great outdoors from urban parks to remote wilderness.
The company got its start when a Seattle native won a design contest, sponsored by the aluminum company Alcoa, for making an aluminum flexible frame backpack. Murray Pletz took his winnings, hired his cousin and launched a fledgling backpack company named after Jan Lewis.
Daypacks are the signature product of the company with a broad range of choices for students in an array of fanciful colors and patterns. As one of the original outdoor brands, JanSport is globally recognized for quality and reliable products for anyone needing to carry gear.
From that original innovation, the company still makes external frame backpacks and a series of internal frame backpacking packs for backcountry adventures. It has expanded its product line to include luggage, clothing, and tents, but after forty years JanSport backpacks are very much part of the scenery of the great outdoors.
Environmental and Social Responsibility
As a global brand, JanSport understands that consumers not only want quality JanSport backpacks but ethical standards. The company has adopted the code of the Fair Labor Association to practice business with the “moral obligation of ensuring safe, ethical and lawful manufacturing conditions.”
On the local level, JanSport seeks to support groups that help make the environment better and provide education and awareness activities. To cultivate partnerships and philanthropic endeavors, the company invites groups to offer proposals for review to its Community Relations Department. Among the current organizations receiving support are Big City Mountaineers, a volunteer group that mentors urban teens in wilderness trips that focus on backcountry experiences for personal growth.
JanSport also recycles old packs that can’t be repaired and reclaims the parts for use in their product line known as Reclaimed Series. These packs are assembled from a mixture of recycled, reclaimed and new materials.
JanSport Backpacks: Best Seller Selections
According to many of the main outfitters, the following JanSport backpacks and luggage products are among the most popular backpacks and packs. Besides high-quality travel luggage, JanSport backpacks excel at providing a superb product line of everyday daypacks for students, commuters, and hikers.
JanSport Backpacks: Selection Showcase
(School-College, Commuting – 2700ci/44L)
A sizeable school bag that carries a ton of books, binders, and supplies, the Merit packs a full day’s worth of classes in two large main compartments. A padded laptop sleeve protects 17″ computers and keeps it upright against your back.
Two large front pockets organize your small items and keep them handy for easy access. And side compression straps pull it all together for a more stable load.
Though many users liked the large capacity and trendy looks, the main complaints focused on thin shoulder straps sewn to close to the center for a pull-down effect and thinner fabric than that of older models.
Colors available: Shell Tam Dark Side Plaid, Black, Grey Humboldt Kings Plaid, Navy (3 others)
- A practical design with plenty of book space, the Merit holds a 17″ laptop and is perfect for busy students.
(School-College, Commuting, Travel – 2300ci/38L)
Another streamlined and stylish pack with extra space, the Boost carries all your daily needs from textbooks, workout clothes and a 17″ laptop.
The AirCore shoulder straps are made of dense foam, and the fully padded back panel combine for a comfortable fit with any load.
Inside, two large compartments stores most of your contents and the front organizer pocket has a utility storage pocket, plus there is the place for cables and cords.
Some users expected better quality, especially since the shoulder straps are not the gel type and there is not a sternum strap to stabilize the load.
Colors available: Blue Ridge, White, Scarlet
- A good, roomy choice for commuting or handling school loads, the Boost has plenty of features and style.
(School-College, Commuting, Day Hikes – 2000ci/33L)
A great school and college backpack that also serves cyclists, motorcyclists, and other commuters well, the Agave is even suitable for day hikes.
The pack’s smaller capacity is large enough for textbooks, a 15″ laptop and assorted supplies and retains its shape better than bigger book bag types.
Commuters like its durability to deal with being tossed around and the snugger back fit that combines a mesh back panel with foam-padded shoulder straps for more comfort.
There are four zippered compartments, and two mesh side pockets for organizing your items and side compression straps cinch the contents in place. A daisy chain lets you clip loose stuff to the outside.
Some users groused about the lack of bottom padding for laptops and how the non-ventilating foam shoulder straps felt stiff and bulky during long wear. And depending on your shoulder shape, the curved straps did not fit well with angular bodies.
Colors available: Black, Blue Ridge, Cuban Brown, Cilantro Green
A cheaper, stylish and functional alternative to higher priced brands and models that satisfy a diverse user crowd.
(School-College, Travel, Day Hikes – 1700ci/28L)
A stylish and functional choice for school or travel, the Equinox is the right size for the normal gear without bulking up for too much load.
The lightweight Biovent shoulder straps are made of molded foam the conforms to the body for even pressure. A Ventech breathable back panel contains grooves for more airflow to keep the pack cool.
Able to handle heavy textbooks, a 15″ laptop fits in nicely too, and numerous adjustments let you balance the load.
Users praised some pockets for organization and even preferred the bag to hold electronic gear over a specialized camera backpack. Several comments were made about the stylish appearance, though the yellow foam strap padding was either hated or loved.
Colors available: Dusty Blue, Cilantro Green, Black, Red Curtain, Blue Ridge, Cuban Brown
- A solid and comfortable pack with a good organization for urban travelers looking for the right size.
JanSport Big Bear 82
(Backpacking, Travel – 5004ci/82L)
The Big Bear carries a big load without loading you down with a heavy pack. Its top-loading streamlined design provides hikers with a lightweight option at a reasonable price.
The main compartment has plenty of room for hiking or travel gear, and a large front panel sleeve allows quick access to smaller essentials.
Fitted with a sliding harness that adjusts well for different sizes and torso lengths. S-shaped shoulder straps combined with a padded hip belt provide comfort for long days on the trail or road.
Other features include mesh wet-dry pockets, side water bottle pockets, hydration ports and side compression straps to tighten the load for stability and to lash gear outside.
Without many reviews available, the only complaints noted are the lack of more side pockets for access and rings or loops to hang gear.
Colors available: Cilantro Green, Grey Humboldt
- A big capacity pack without a hefty price tag, the Big Bear, is a lighter weight option for week-long hiking and travel adventures.