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Rivendell Mountain Works Giant Jensen

rated 5 of 5 stars
photo: Rivendell Mountain Works Giant Jensen backpack

I purchased the 'Giant Jensen' about 2 years ago (2008). I've used it for pack trips in the Sierra Nevada range, Colorado Rockies and a Trans Sierra Ski Trip.  

This pack excels for ski tours! It's only about 2 lbs and it hugs your torso like a limpet. That's also its downside for hot weather, since the back of your shirt will get soaked from sweat (there is a very nice corduroy pack panel and a barrier inside the pack that keeps sweat from soaking through to the interior). All the same, I use it for summer pack trips and although my shirt gets soaked, I still like it well enough.

It is comfortable but not, of course, as cushy as the big, heavy load haulers. Perhaps its most endearing aspects are its light weight, its uncluttered design, and the fact that it never throws you off balance.  

I still ski tour with skinny skis and relatively light leather boots, and this pack, even when fully loaded for a 10 day tour, never gets in the way or throws me off balance when linking turns. The hip belt does support the bulk of the load, and when climbing rock the pack does not sway or shift around.  

In many respects, this pack is the best you can buy in terms of sensible design. It's a thinking person's pack, since you can't just throw stuff into it, but it will not frustrate you either with an excess of zips, straps, and malicious little pockets!  

In its current iteration it preserves the original genius of Jensen's design, but adds sensible improvements too. Next time I climb Ranier, I will be using this pack! I find that in cold weather the close fitting design really adds needed warmth too.  

If you find yourself getting tired of packs that look and sound like chuck wagons, you should order one of these beauties. Construction is impeccable, and unlike most of the current 'fastpacking' packs, the material will simply not wear out-- these are built like tanks, but they weigh only two pounds.    

Price Paid: $180

Brilliant design.


  • Compact and it forms to your body
  • Lightweight
  • Simple and robust


  • Sweaty back in warm weather
  • Not a pack for novices

I have the Rivendell Giant Jensen pack. It is excellent for ski touring and it is comfortable with loads up to 50lbs.  This pack sticks to your back: it skis and climbs wonderfully well. I have the original 1970’s iteration, but the new Rivendell packs are pretty much identical to the originals (a few minor tweaks are found on the new Jensens).  

The Jensen pack is not difficult to pack, but it responds well to packing the base first and then the vertical tubes (The tubes are simple vertical channels created by a sewn-in divider). You do not want to leave airspace in the tubes or else the ‘frame’ will not work (the frame is your gear packed firmly within the tubes). In practice, when your load gets smaller, you just leave additional air space in the top of the pack; keep the tubes firmly packed.  

This pack really shines when skiing, scrambling, or mountaineering; it never feels awkward nor does it throw you off balance. I use it backpacking, as well, but it is really ideal for off-trail travel. I found it ideal for trekking the Sierra High Route.

You can ski with big loads and this pack becomes part of you. I love skiing with it. I prefer the uncluttered and simple aspect that this pack exemplifies. But you do not get all the little pockets and such that many folks love... the cluttered pack is currently much in vogue, but I prefer the simplicity of the Jensen.

As to comfort, the Jensen rides nicely on the hips; in short, it is as comfortable as any pack up to 50 lbs but without all the extraneous straps, stays or padding. It just works... 

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $185

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Price Reviewers Paid: $180.00
Price Reviewers Paid: $185.00
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