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JanSport D3

The D3 has been discontinued. If you're looking for something new, check out the best external frame backpacks for 2023.

photo: JanSport D3 external frame backpack

Though the D3 is now considered a "classic," since 1974 I've always considered it to be an everyday "workhorse." I'm replacing the shoulder straps (one had gotten a serious cut) and I once added a layer of Ensolite on the inside of the hip belt, but otherwise the pack has already been ready to do its job regardless of whether it's for an easy overnighter or a ten-day, 75-lbs adventure.


  • Great capacity
  • Love the "suitcase" arrangement
  • Zippers still work!
  • No plastic buckles to break on OEM pack
  • Simple to use
  • Adjustments stay put


  • Hip belt could use a bit more padding
  • Its large capacity makes it easy to carry more stuff than you really need.
  • OEM pack had no sternum strap


My Jansport D3 backpack is now over 40 years old. I bought it new. Over most of those years it has been my main go-to overnighter and extended trip backpack. It's been loaded from 20 lbs to 75 lbs, and it's been carried thru 110° F dusty desert heat in August to far below zero high mountain cold in January. It has spent the night on top of at least one 14,000 ft peak, and has endured many, many weekend car-camping trips bouncing around in the back of old jeeps.

In my college days and for a decade after it was always loaded and ready to go—just add water, fuel, and chow, stick a topo or two in the handy map pocket, and toss the pack in the jeep. It has survived a number of white gas spills without any noticeable effects, been thru uncounted rainstorms and snowstorms, been cooked mercilessly by the sun, and used as a partial sleeping pad in a snow cave.


Some of the waterproof coating on the inside of the pack material still works. Except for a deep cut on one shoulder straps, the pack has never sustained a tear or rip. Sure, it shows some abrasion around the edges, the frame is rock-scarred, and the pack material is faded, but for all practical purposes the pack is intact and ready to go.

Along with the typical backpacking gear, this pack has been loaded with gallons of water, cross-country skis, crampons, the old nearly five-feet-long Alaskan-style wooden snowshoes, and even a 10-pound shirt that had been frozen solid with its long sleeves extending straight out away from each other like a scarecrow.

All of the pocket zippers still work fine. (I do treat the zippers with a light application of beeswax once in a while.) Even the leather crampon pad and the various leather tie downs are in good shape (I've always kept some type of water repellent on them).

This website prompts me to write about the pack's fit, comfort, capacity, organization, accessibility, ride, compression, ease of use, construction, and durability. To address all these things I'll simply say, "Yes! The pack has always done all those things well." It would have become a permanent fixture in a storage closet long ago if it hadn't.

This pack still feels like a long-time good friend when I put it on. I'm currently replacing the damaged shoulder straps so I can keep taking it on adventures. (Note: The original shoulder straps had no sternum strap. The new ones DO! Awesome!) The empty pack weighs in at 5.1 lbs with the new shoulder straps, which is just fine in my book. 

CSC_2144.jpg                              D3 with new shoulder straps

The fact that Jansport sent these straps to me free of charge instilled an even higher level of respect for the company. Think about that—they have replacement parts for packs that are forty years old! I love that kind of service, not to mention love their optimism! (I'm also going to modify the hip belt with more padding and a small external pouch-like pocket.)

I do have an internal-frame rucksack-type pack that carries the heavier loads a little more comfortably than the D3 does (mainly due to the snugger center of gravity, the sternum strap, and the massively-padded hip belt on the internal-frame pack), but when I use it I always miss the very handy "suitcase" arrangement of the D3.

My old knees make a lot of racket these days (sometimes even when I'm sitting still!), so I look for new stoves, cook kits, sleeping bags, food, clothes, etc that are as light as possible. With the D3 weighing in at just a little over 5 lbs empty, the new internal-frame "nearly weightless, anti-gravity, floating full-suspension, almost carry themselves" packs of similar capacity weigh only about a pound less. I try to make up for that extra pound elsewhere in either my gear or myself.

My stylin' hiking buddy with all of his state-of-the-art, ultra-light equipment laughs at me for putting my new and improved, lightweight, high-tech gear into my old school D3, but I don't care. I'm getting ready for another adventure with an old friend.

It's still one hell of a good pack, even after over four decades, and even though some of the newer packs may be more comfortable to carry I'm not going to retire my D3 just yet. In fact, I believe the pack is still good for another decade or two. 



Speaking of old D3's, my Dad—who introduced us to 8- and 10-day backpacking adventures when we were young kids—passed away a couple of months ago, and several days ago we found hidden in his storeroom a dusty but otherwise very new-looking Jansport D3-style pack (see below).

The overall height of the bag and the top pockets are a few inches shorter than those of my D3, so I don't know if it's a true D3 or a similar model designed for smaller people. Anyway, my Mom said she remembered that Dad had bought it for her back in the late '70s, and that she had used it only once. For practical purposes, the pack is brand new. It was like something you'd find in a time capsule.

Hers is a later model than mine. It has a plastic waist band buckle instead of one made of plated steel, and it is also about 1/4 pound lighter.

I have a handful of nieces and nephews (and great nieces and great nephews) who have already asked to "borrow" it from Mom. Mom is now 90 and sometimes uses a cane, so while we joked to her that she could use her cane as a trekking pole, we didn't have to twist her arm too hard to get her to offer up her backpack to the next couple of generations of adventurers.

I hope her D3 will be well-used but still serviceable forty years from now.

(Will people be bragging about their 40-year-old internal frame packs forty years from now? I hope so.)


Source: bought it new
Price Paid: around $80


  • 48 years of hiking and canoe trips and I honestly can't find a part that"s worn out. We have two of them—the large and medium.


  • When fully loaded with sleeping bag at top and tent and pad at bottom it has to be shoe-horned to slide in under the thwarts of our Grumman 17.

These packs just serve without complaint. The hip wings support them upright in camp, making everything accessible, as is everything when laying in a canoe. We've packed with new internal frame packs and missed the D3's after less than 10 km.

These are friends for life and we'll use them till we can't.


Countless days of mountain, forest, and wilderness lake travels.
I'd insert a photo but don't see how.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: Around $70 each in Denver in 1972

Even cooler now than they were when new!


  • Super cool
  • Lightweight at just over 5 lbs
  • Flexible and adjustable frame
  • Panel loading.


  • Not ultralight

External frames may be out of fashion these days, but there's still some demand for these old packs as evidenced by the supply and turnover on places such as eBay. This is a testament to the design, which was revolutionary in the '70s. Unfortunately most online sellers don't know what they have and often models are either unlisted or incorrectly so. Sellers throw around terms like "hip wings" without knowing what that is (and often the packs listed do not feature said hip suspension bars).

When I was a Boy Scout back in the mid-late '70s I always wanted one of these, but it wasn't in the cards. Not only would the D3 have been too large for me then, but they were expensive (in the mid 1970s a D3 would have cost $110) compared to the standard-issue REI frame packs. I haven't even done any overnight backpacking since about 1980, but I always remembered the D3 fondly and with great longing.

A couple of years ago I stumbled upon one at a church haggle sale and grabbed it up for $20. I had no immediate intentions of using it, but that didn't matter: I always wanted one and now I had one. Gradually since then I've acquired a couple more and my collection includes a very early 1970s model (tan) which was made before JanSport began using the white plastic bushings in the hip suspension system. It also features the very earliest JanSport logo on the blue patch. This pack is in amazing condition and features a removable, factory-issue rain fly and zippered sleeping bag sack. In my quest for these packs I've never seen another with these accessories.

Another is a mid 1970s model (orange) in excellent condition as well. The blue one is my church haggle sale pack and I put it as a late 1970s model. It's in very good condition. My plan was to use the blue pack on an overnighter next summer to the location of my very first overnighter in 1974, but I think I'm going to look for a D5 (smaller than the D3) for actual trail use because I don't need the carrying capacity (4148 cubic inches) of the monstrous D3.

So what will I do with my collection of D3 packs?  Just admire them, and hope that my kids don't simply give them away to Goodwill after I've expired.

(left to right) Early, mid and late 1970s JanSport D3 packs


This is the earliest style hip belt buckle, steel spring-loaded.


This is an updated quick-release (aluminum) buckle from the late 1970s
Early style shoulder straps featured on early to mid '70s D3 packs
Later style shoulder straps on a late-1970s JanSport D3 packs.


Very early first generation JanSport logo.
JanSport logo, second generation, from mid 1970s D3 (note the brighter blue patch)
JanSport logo, second generation, from late 1970s D3 (note the darker blue patch)
Very rare accessories: removable rain fly and sleeping bag sack.




I did a lot of overnight backpacking as a youth, when external frame packs were the only option.

Source: bought it used
Price Paid: $25-$150

I have had a D3 since 1981 and used it all over the Sierras, Mohave Desert, Yukon, Alaska, Grand Canyon, Paria Valley, Sierras, Santa Cruz Mountains, Los Padres Nat. Forest and such. I love the fact that it is a strap-on-and-forget piece of clothing. That is, I don't spend time worrying about if things will fit in it. It's so big that, so long as I can carry it, weight wise, it will fit in that pack.

It's not as "cool" looking as the newer packs, so the pictures I and my friends take of us now make me look like Fred Flintstone with an oil derrick strapped to my back compared to them. But having lived out of the D3 for three months in Alaska, I see no reason to change. Being cool and up-to-date is not important when out in country. But functionality is. The issue is, do you want to share photos of you wearing one?

I am currently looking for another D3 to buy for my son who is also an avid backpacker. It's like wearing a lightweight RV on your back. It carries everything.


  • Lots of room to throw things in if in a hurry, like a surprise rain/snow storm.
  • If you have to live out of it for a long period of time (three months in my case) it's no problem since there is space for all essentials.


  • When fully loaded is very heavy. Duh, all packs are.
  • Some sharp edges (like on the screws that connect the hip plates to the hip straps). It's best not to keep this pack in your tent because of this. Instead wrap it in a 3 mill 40 gallon plastic garbage bag if it rains/snows. It will easily fit inside that.

The D3 fits well for my body — 6' and 240 lbs. People call me a tank (build and stamina). But this pack is well suited for me and those like me. Jansport gives lifetime replacement parts — which I have often used.

Just call: 1.800.426.9227

It's a big ass pack and can carry anything you want, 15 gallons of water (120 lb), bear meat, a hundred days' of dehydrated food, or just chocolate for the wife and daughters. So long as you can lift it, it can carry it.

It's nice to know that if I bust it by carrying too much for too long, all parts are replaced free. Just be sure to carry extras of that which you suspect will fail. So far though, it's just been lower frame bars, back and shoulder straps. Shoulder straps go first (100 miles with 55lb over multiple 4000 foot mountains for instance).

I have noticed that they make special reinforced shoulder straps for me — or someone like me, which they ship me for free once I send them back the ones I have broken from carrying too much weight. Jansport will probably fix this in the future by making extra heavy duty ones.

I am trying to buy a second one for my son as I type — on ebay. $41. We will see if I get it. All of my friends pack with the newer designed packs but so far, I am not impressed. None of them seem to have more volume, or weight carrying capacity as the Jansport D3. It's a classic, old timer, get it done, Buck knife type of pack.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: Bought it new in 1981 for $110. Have had it ever since and love it.

I have used this pack for several extended trips, all sorts of weekend and overnighters, and my brother has taken the thing on the AT. We both agree that it's a classic.

I've tried a number of external frame packs and think that this is probably the best of the lot. The metal wings provide a suspension not usually to be found in externals. I was able to carry sizable loads with little notice for long distances. It's a little tall, though, and somewhat unwieldy, like most externals.

For trail hiking, though, it's pretty hard to beat a pack like this, especially for its price (relative to internals).

Design: external
Size: 4500+ (??)
Number of Pockets: 4
Max. Load Carried: 50 lbs
Height of Owner: 6'0"
Price Paid: $160 (outdated)

Bought in 1986. Max weight carried for extended trips 87lbs.


  • It is loaded from the front, so unlike the stylish models of today you can unzip and get to whatever you need to, opposed to possibly having to unpack and repack everything if you're jumping from camp spot to camp spot.
  • There are tie off points if you are carrying fishing rods, rifles, etc.
  • You have enough space to carry enough gear to take younger kids out in the hills.
  • Load rides on your hips.
  • There is some circulation between the pack and your back.
  • It's a workhorse.


  • Jansport doesn't make it any longer.

I bought my D3 in 1986 and used it on several trips from two weeks on down.

The earlier models were better than later models. My father bought one in 1977 and he used it for years.
My heaviest load was a long trip in Wyoming and pack weighed in at 87 pounds.

In the '70s my father carried a 95-pound load with it.


It was excellent.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $140

Purchased my D3 from R.E.I. in 1979. I have used this pack on the Appalachian Trail, hiking in Wyoming, more camping trips than I can count, and for a season of wilderness guiding in Maine. Love this pack.


  • Space for bulky food packages
  • Manages heavy water loads well
  • Glove like comfort fit


  • High profile catches on low tree limbs.

I have had this pack for 38 years. I have replaced both front panel zippers, but otherwise the pack has held up well. It has always fit me well at 5'7". It is very comfortable even with a heavy load.

I love most that it has a large capacity to haul multiple days of bulky food packages. The front panel design makes it easy to organize and access things quickly on the trail. This feature also makes the pack easy to adjust and distribute the load. The compression strap system makes it easy to adjust the pack as loads change.

This pack is well engineered and constructed. I could not be more satisfied with this pack. She is my old friend over the years and even when other girls have come and gone my Janny has been with me.

I continue to section hike the AT and she comes along to carry my otherwise ultralight gear. I get strange looks from the younger crowd, but they just do not understand true love.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: Cannot remember

A great pack with lots of room for everything. Fits like a glove. Wish I could find a replacement pack for this well made, comfortable frame.


  • Comfort and size for carrying a large load.
  • Adjusted the straps when I bought it, and haven't touched them since.


  • Can't think of any weaknesses.

I bought this pack used in 1991 at a yard sale for $10. I had just entered the Boy Scouts with my 11-year-old son. Twenty five years later I'm still in the scout program, having served in either scoutmaster or assistant every year, and I'm still using this JanSport backpack.

I've owned several others, which I still have as loaners to kids that don't have a pack, but I always use my JanSport for every backpacking trip. The rubber coating on the inside has long ago deteriorated. It has a couple of patched holes from extended wear, and one from mice...but it still serves me so well!

Could have sold it many times, but won't. What a superb product. I suspect it was probably made in the late '70s or early '80s.

Source: bought it used

Trying to think of how long I've had my D3. Close to 30 years. I've been thinking of getting a new pack, but why bother? It's still in great shape. The new Jansports seem to be crap. What happened?

Height of Owner: 6'1"
Price Paid: ?

I bought my D3 in 1979. I couldn't begin to guess how many miles it has on it. It's done many trips in the Sierras including a 17-day hike on the John Muir tTrail. At least 15, two-plus week trips in the Grand Canyon. One for 32 days, below the rim with two food cache pickups along the way. Countless others over the past 30 years.

Jansport has done warranty work many times, the last being about 6 months ago.

Jansport is the BEST. I just went out to replace it with a Gregory Baltoro 70. I came home, packed the D3 one more time just to compare. Well...sorry Gregory, but the D3 just felt so good and surprisingly, I could be wrong but it felt lighter. I guess I'll wear my D3 till I'm too old for this stuff.

Design: Front
Size: I don't remember but smaller than the D2
Number of Pockets: 5 plus one zipper pouch I added between the top & bottom
Max. Load Carried: Guess at 80Lbs. I picked up 30 lbs of water at my last food cashe
Height of Owner: 5'10"
Price Paid: $125

I purchased the D3 at a Cullum & Borem sporting goods store back in 1978. i paid $79 for it, to go from Dallas, Texas, to northern Montana hitchhiking. Never failed. Still have it and the paperwork that came with it.

It was my first experience with a large pack, but I have no complaints with this one. For years I could not remember if it was a D3 or D4 until I found the paperwork. The D4 I think was a bit smaller than the D3. My friend had some other kind of external frame pack and it busted sometime during the trip.

But this pack came through fine.

We packed through the Bob Marshal Wilderness in Montana and were gone for nine weeks. A chipmunk did a little nibbling on one of the shoulder straps, but it's not bad just frayed a little, grand times back then.

I've taken up horses now, But I still have the memories and pictures even though my friend has passed away, I still have the memories of that time in my life. and this is still a great pack. I didn't know how good it was until I got back and thought about the job it had done with no problems at all.....good job, Jansport.

Design: front loading
Size: 4059 cu in
Number of Pockets: 4 outside pockets
Max. Load Carried: 75 lbs
Height of Owner: 5' 11"
Price Paid: $79

I purchased a D3 back in 1976 and it's the best backpack I have ever owned. Unfortunately I had it in my garage and left a Mountain High meal inside. Some mice found it and chewed their way through the top of the back.

I'm so bummed out!!! If the mice hadn't of done this I think this pack would have been good for another 30 years. Does anyone know where to purchase another one?

I bought my (Blue) Jansport D3 in 1976 at Herman's Sporting Goods in Colonie, NY. I still have it hanging in my garage storage room and it is in excellent condition. I carried this pack primarily while hiking and climbing around the Adirondacks in Up-State NY. The pack never failed me.

At that point in history in the Adirondacks anyway, Kelty had a much larger following amongst my fellow trekkers. But every time one of them asked to "try on" the D3 they were amazed at the comfort. The floating nature of the bag on the frame made it a breeze to descend from a peak as the frame actually absorbed the shock of each downward step. The hip-belt and "U" handles let the load of the pack be distributed along and around the hips rather than on the shelf of the lower back. The handles also made for a great place to keep your hands in a resting position while walking.

The external frame was also contoured to fit the curve of the back which made climbing much easier than with other styles of external frame packs. When others had to loosen the shoulder straps for reaching out for a hand-hold, the D3 adjusted with the movement in total comfort.

Jansport...You did GOOD...You did it right! If you want the most comfortable external frame pack ever built look for a well-taken-care-of Jansport D3. Thanks for the many years of service, Jansport. The D3 has stood the test of time and whatever nature and I could throw at it.

Design: Front Loading
Size: ????
Number of Pockets: 4 storage plus a map pocket behind head
Max. Load Carried: 80-90 lbs. regularly to a base camp!
Height of Owner: 6'2"
Price Paid: 100s?

The best pack! Mine was run over by tracter trailer after flying out of my boat on the interstate. Would love to buy another, but where?

Thanks so much Russ.

Design: front-loading
Size: 5200?
Number of Pockets: 4 side one flat map onyop cover
Max. Load Carried: 70 lbs winter
Height of Owner: 5 ' 7 "
Price Paid: $185

For someone unknown reason (and it's their loss) Jansport stopped making the D3. I used mine till I wore it out. Does anyone know where you can get a good used one? Most useful backpack there was.

Size: 5500 cu. in.
Number of Pockets: 5
Height of Owner: 5'10"
Price Paid: $129 in the early '80s

Version reviewed: Dhalagiri

This was my first externally framed pack and it was primarily used through out the Presidential mountain range of New Hampshire. gift at 17 years old, I had no idea that the durabilty of materials used, quality of construction employed would prove integral in the years to follow.

This is truly the best backpack on the market my opinion. Ample storage with strategically designed pockets. Any honest review will have the negatives or areas of improvements--here there are. The design of the lift straps could have been designed a bit better. The same/like model (D3) following in the years I received my pack, were lacking in the craftmanship and materials of this pack that is nearing its 25th birthday to my puchase year.

Price Paid: $119

Although I don't always need the large amount of space for a weekend trip, the D3 is still my favorite pack. I have a couple internal frame packs of various sizes and use them quite a bit, but the versatlity and sheer dependability of my D3 still calls me back, even for some short trips. As a youth, I attended a Scouting trek at Philmont in New Mexico, where my Ranger carried a D3. I was so impressed that I bought one as soon as I could afford it upon returning home. It was, by far, the best backpack investment I have ever made.

Design: front loading
Size: expedition size (large capacity)
Number of Pockets: 6
Max. Load Carried: 60 lbs
Height of Owner: 5'9"
Price Paid: $180

In the late '70s and early '80s the JanSport D3 was the ultimate backpack, I still think it is. I still have my original red one that I paid $200 for in 1980. Glad to see there are others that can still appreciate the D3 today as much as I do.

Design: Front loading(?) external frame
Size: D3 = Large
Number of Pockets: 4 ?
Max. Load Carried: 70 lbs
Height of Owner: 6'1"
Price Paid: $200

I purchased the JanSport D3 and Trail Wedge tent in 1982 for hitchhiking across Canada. Both performed beautifully. I've used the pack on every camping trip since, as well as on intercity flights (very handy). The pack is still in immaculate condition, with the tent wearing well. 22 years and still going strong, there's nothing more to say.

Design: External frame pack
Size: ?
Number of Pockets: 6
Max. Load Carried: 80 lbs.
Height of Owner: 6'1
Price Paid: $200 Cdn. 1982

Used a JanSport D3 on my 1977 thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. Pack worked great. The small nylon bushings would wear out about every 1,000 miles that are under the U-bars along hip belt. Some hikers called the U-bars " Beater Bars" as they didn't fit everyones hips. The front loader zipper failed in 1981 after about 3,500 miles of use.

Overall, I still have this pack and frame. (Bag was replaced in 1981.) Still I take it out on winter trips for old time sake.

Design: Front Loader
Size: 3900cu. inch
Number of Pockets: 2 main, 4 side
Max. Load Carried: 80lbs!!!
Height of Owner: 6 foot
Price Paid: $85

i think from the other reviews that my pack is a D3. I got it about 10 years ago used from a guy in college for $50. I love the pack. the metal hip wings can't be beat. the canvas was showing bad signs of wear two years ago so i bought a new Jansport pack, not sure of model but it was similar design with the vector hip belt. it was a good pack, but it wasn't as good. i ended up ripping the canvas off the new packs frame and putting it on the D3. now i can use it for another 10 years. a little clumsy but it cant be beat on the trail. a great buy if you find one.

Design: external
Size: 4500+
Number of Pockets: 4
Max. Load Carried: 60 Lbs
Height of Owner: 5' 10"
Price Paid: $50

I love Jansport, and I love this pack! I've carried it for more then 5 years.

The only gripe I have with it is a lack of load-lifter straps, but the one of a kind hipbelt makes up for it.

Go for this pack!

Size: 4500
Number of Pockets: 6
Max. Load Carried: 55 LBS
Height of Owner: 5' 8"
Price Paid: $150

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