JanSport Catalyst Review
Active Gear Review is supported by its audience. If you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Do you remember your first JanSport backpack? I sure do. It was red and I wore it on my first day of kindergarten and up until it was no longer cool to wear a backpack, sometime in middle school. JanSport has been making a comeback in the outdoor industry over the last few years and now offers everything from small day packs up to 80 L internal frame packs. At the summer Outdoor Retailer we were able to connect with the folks at JanSport and were given the chance to test out the Catalyst, a 20L pack from their Cloud Ripper Series.
The Catalyst has a large internal compartment that can easily house a pair of rain pants, a shell, and a mid-layer with plenty of room to spare. There are two side mesh water bottle pockets, a small front zippered pocket that is perfect for a GPS or camera, and a large mesh pocket on the front. The mesh pocket on the front is not quite large enough to stash a helmet in, but adds additional easy to access storage space. There are also bungees on the outside to accommodate larger bulky items. The photo above shows that the mesh water bottle pockets are not completely sewn to the bag, however, the bag I tested had complete closure of the pocket, making it a place to stash other small items without fear of them falling out.
Where the Catalyst really stands out is the comfort of the mesh shoulder straps, hips belt, and back panel. These straps are breathable and offer an extra bit of padding, while not being overly constricting. The sternum strap can be easily slid up and down along a track to get a more precise fit. I liked the full-size zippered pockets on the hip belt; they can hold your snacks, car keys, camera with room to spare; they are much larger than traditional day pack hip pockets which usually can only fit a gel or two. The hip belt also rests lower on my hips than traditional day packs, which I really liked. The low seating does not alter the packs ability to be cinched down tight to your body and helps disperse the load that you may be carrying.
Rather than struggling to stuff your full hydration system into the main compartment of the pack, the folks at JanSport designed the pack so that the bladder system has its’ own zippered compartment. On the back panel there is a vertical zipper that allows you to easily stash a 100 oz bladder inside. Just be sure that the hydration hose runs along the side of the bladder and not on top of it, otherwise it will poke you in your back all day long. The hydration hose can be fed from within the zippered compartment through a small slit in the shoulder strap to come out on the topside of the shoulder strap.
The pack is light weight, yet has been durable enough for carrying a full days worth of gear. Additional features worth mentioning are the side straps for trekking poles which also double as compression straps, as well as the large looped zipper pulls for easy opening and closing. The Catalyst retails for around $99. For more information on the Catalyst and other JanSport packs, please visit www.jansport.com.
- Weight: 1 lb 11 oz / 0.77 kg
- Dimensions: 18in h x 9.5in w x 8in d
- Capacity: 1249.8 cu in / 20.48L
- Breathable, perforated EVA shoulder straps and hip-belt
- One main compartment
- Separate hydration sleeve compartment with quick exterior access
- Locking bungee cord compression
- Sternum strap
- Four side compression points
- Dual side water bottle pockets
- Dual trekking pole loops
- Web haul loop