User Review: JanSport Carson 80
Design: Top and Front-loading external
Size: 4900 cu. in.
Number of Pockets: 4
Max. Load Carried: 50 lbs.
Height of Owner: 5'11"
Price Paid: $69.95
I used a Trailwise ext. frame backpack from 1972 through 2006. It finally just wore out. I had seen a lot of internal frame packs during that time, and decided to try one out. Liked it. Still use it sometime. And I have a smaller int. frame pack that I use for shorter trips.
But I guess I am just an ext. frame guy. When I saw Campmor had this pack for $69.95 I figured I could hardly go wrong so I bought one to try out. I am really glad I did. It is both lighter and stronger than my old Trailwise.
I love the fact that it is both top-loading and front-loading; my old pack was top-loading only. This is so useful. There are two sets of zippers so you can get into the bottom of the sack without opening up the whole sack, very handy in wet conditions. There are two compartments in the main sack which allows for some organization of gear. That works well for me. The top has a draw-cord arrangement which keeps things dry, and can expand upward some for larger loads.
There are 4 outside pockets, two on each side, one on top, and one on the front. If there is one thing I'd change it is that the pocket on the front is too flat. I use it for maps. It could hold more if it had more depth. That is a minor quibble though. Otherwise the pockets work very well for the way I operate. The top compartment is great for raingear and the like. It does not convert into a fanny pack but I've never used that feature on my other pack that has it. It does free-float, which is all I want from a top pocket.
The suspension system works very well even with heavy loads. I've never carried more than 50 lbs (when I had to pack a lot of water) and don't plan to, but I am sure I could go higher if I really needed to.
The hydration pocket is a little chancy. I don't think you could use a 3 liter bag in it. The way it is arranged between the bag and the back suspension, it can be easily squeezed during normal motion. Maybe it wouldn't squirt out of your hydration tube but I'm not going to find out. It works fine for me with a 2 liter bag. Plenty of room for more water in the side water bottle pockets if you need it, and I have.
There are three straps, similar to what an int. frame pack would have, to cinch everything down compactly. This is a great feature also. JanSport was smart to borrow some features from their int. frame packs to make this pack work so well.
Using a compression stuff sack, I lash both my sleeping bag and tent together, safely into the space below the sack. I wish there were dedicated straps for that purpose, such as I had on the old Trailwise, but I bought aftermarket straps that work fine, so no problem after all.
One of my Scouts liked this pack so well when he tried it out that he got his mom to get one for him, and he has gotten hard use out of it with no problems. If you like an ext. frame pack, you cannot beat this one for usability, durability, and price. I hope JanSport continues to market this model.