Tuesday, September 10, 2013

JanSport Superbreak Backpack Review

It wasn't supposed to happen like this. I was supposed to only buy expensive, posh, and grown up clothing and accessories. Then a year ago, I stopped caring and put off buying practically any kind of clothing because I realized that I wasn't really wearing any of it. Most of the stuff I wear now is casual and very "bummy". For men, that means t-shirts and jeans, maybe a dress shirt and jeans, and jeans, jeans, jeans! When it comes to bags, that means a really cheap messenger bag and really cheap backpacks.
JanSport Superbreak and old backpack
Out with the old
My backpack collection, up until a few days ago, consisted of a really small, Mountain Equipment (it's like REI in Canada) daypack with a 14 L capacity, and a Target 17" Spruce EcoSmart with just a ton of space. One is too big and one is too small -- you can guess which is which.

During graduate school, there was a lab where I had to bring a lab coat there, then take off my winter jacket and put it in my bag. Knowing this, I took the huge EcoSmart with me, and it actually fit with space to spare. I tried the bringing your lunch thing to save some money for half a year relatively recently, and the small 14 L bag could barely fit a novel, three plastic food containers (sandwich size), and a set of gloves. However, I just got the bag for that specific purpose and wanted to get my money's worth out, so I kept on using it.

And then I got a new camera with nothing comfortable to carry it and a tripod in, so I decided to get a new backpack. My options were not limited. What I really coveted was an orange Lowepro backpack designed for carrying DSLRs and additional lenses. Now, that amount of sophistication was not remotely necessary, but I just wanted it. The good thing was that those bags were going for more than $90 when I looked, and after spending north of $500 on the camera and accessories, I wanted to scrimp somewhere.

In with the new
I decided that I wanted the cheapest and simplest backpack that was bigger than my smallest bag and smaller than my biggest bag.

There really was no contest after I decided to not get a $90 Lowepro. Since I wanted a regular bag for general use too, any specialized bag for cameras was written off. I also realized that I prefer to carry my laptop in a messenger bag, so no built-in laptop sleeve was necessary either. Not wanting to waste too much time looking and money purchasing, I only checked out the selection at Mountain Equipment and Herscehl, then picked the most popular and "boring" bag I could think of: JanSport Superbreak Classic Backpack Black.

A Herschel would have been really nice, but I didn't want to spend the money.
JanSport Superbreak rear
JanSport Superbreak Classic Backpack in black

This is probably one of the most popular backpacks that I've seen locally -- for kids. It comes in a lot of different colours and patterns including hot pink and a bright blue, which is especially attractive to those hoping to express their individuality. Me, with my new found sense of no longer caring, went with black. I might sew a giant patch over the JanSport logo to separate myself ever so slightly from the kiddies.

But to be honest, this is one of the simplest yet most functional bags out there. I used to have one that was nearly the exact same design and layout. The only difference was that it was from Mountain Equipment Co-op, and there was also a waist strap -- this JanSport doesn't have one.

JanSport Superbreak side
According to the official JanSport website, this bag has a capacity of 25 L. With 11 L on my "too small" old backpack, this is a dream. I managed to fit a compact zoom-lens camera bag (Lowepro EX120) into the JanSport with room for a Joby Gorillapod SLR Zoom (the larger version) beside it. A lot of space was still available above.

In comparison, the 14 L old bag just barely fit the same camera bag with no room to spare to the sides. The same tripod did fit, but it had to go on top and it kind of protruded out from the bag. This same bag actually may not have fit into the EcoSmart because that backpack has three relatively narrow compartments.

There is also a separate compartment at the front of the Superbreak to store smaller items. Back in grade school, I used it for pens, calculators, rulers, and other small items. At least 2 big textbooks, lunch, a binder, and some notes fit into the main compartment and I wrecked my spine back then.

General Design and Feel 
A thin cushion is built into the rear of the bag in my possession, which is a huge plus coming from the smaller MEC bag. Having a cushion is important because it blunts the impact of point objects against the back. Again, the smaller bag does not have a cushion and I resorted to putting a thick folder or piece of cardboard in there to avoid being poked. The cushion also acts as a stiffener to help the bag keep its shape and stay upright when empty. This helps with loading and packing.

The straps are slightly padded on the JanSport, but nothing like my EcoSmart that's designed for carrying a heavy laptop and well padded. I doubt it'd be extremely comfortable if heavily loaded up.

So far, I've only had the opportunity to carry the bag home through a ~3 km walk with nothing inside of it. Not having to go to school anymore is a blessing and curse, it seems. I would not expect it to be the most comfortable bag with a heavier load given the lack of loading, no waist strap, and no frills design -- my grade school bag had a waist strap and wasn't that comfortable. However, it more than likely works.
1 box of cereal, 1 load of bread, 1 box of crackers
Only one issue has come up in the first few days that I've had this bag and it has to do with the zippers: they don't slide perfectly smoothly. I seem to get the zipper "caught" very often. It might get better with age and as I get used to it. Oh well, this is nitpicking as they do open and close without too much trouble.

The JanSport seems to be a good no frills backpack. At $35, it isn't the cheapest, but definitely on the cheaper side. A storage capacity of 25 L is also good for relatively small loads with enough room to spare for anything unplanned. I'm just glad it's not 14 L. Once I get a chance to use it for a while, I'll come back and add an update. In the mean time, go talk to your friends or the dozens of kids on the street carrying this bag what they think.

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1 comment:

  1. Jansport backpacks come in different styles and sizes and are made from variety of materials that includes nylon and polyester fabric. A lot of Jansport packs have bottoms that are supported with leather. Although you use your backpack gently, it still needs to be frequently cleaned since debris and dirt that comes from the environment makes it look soiled.