Jansport’s Big Bear 82 is a 5004 cubic inch workhorse
Jansport’s Big Bear 82 backpack is work horse gifted with a comfortable saddle. We packed the Big Bear for late summer hikes where most of the gear is relatively compact and light, with the exception of the heavier water loads carried for the dry climate forests we visited. The Big Bear handled summer-weight gear loads well. And we had this pack loaded with winter gear with snow on the ground and very cold temperatures that could cause side-locking buckles and strap buckles to become brittle and break if they were not up to the low-temp conditions. We were happy to witness the Big Bear 82 is up to cold weather use, and the strap locks performed well.
S-shaped shoulder straps worked great with the internal frame using vertical tubular stays that supported various load sizes (30 to 50 pounds) with aplomb. Generous and well constructed torso padding supporting the lower back and the spine offered good comfort, even on longer hikes and heavier load weights. The hip belt padding is also dialed-in just right and we had no problems with the gauge, strength, and adjustability of the large side-release composite buckle.
When tightening the shoulder straps to fit real snug, while underway on the trail, the adjustment buckles would slip. That’s not cool. This would occur with heavier load weights when using both the chest strap and hip belt. At an empty weight slightly less than four pounds, the Big Bear is pretty light. Yet, in the quest for manufacturers to keep the empty pack weight low and relatively strong, there is a tendency among several manufacturers to use light-gauge hardware (composite materials such as nylon and plastic) for the side-release buckles and strap adjusters. The downside of dealing with super-light fasteners on the trail is the potential for either breaking or slipping.
An interior hydration bladder pocket and drinking tube outlet are thoughtfully built into the Big Bear 82. The water tube outlet is located in the top center of the pack so the mouthpiece can be accessed from the left or right-hand side. The bladder pocket fit a two-liter Camelbak hydration system easily and should accommodate a three-liter bladder also.
An exterior bungee compression cord system worked great for containing the down sweater after the morning chill has worn off. It works just as well for transporting trekking poles, or other gear, that you’ll want access to without digging for it or having to stow it away on the interior.
A rain cover fitted to the outside dimensions of a full pack would seem to be a valued addition as standard equipment for the Big Bear 82. Also gusseted and standard strap slots at the top and bottom of the pack would be an asset, especially when you have to transport your tent and sleeping bag on the exterior of the pack.
For summer trips, a lightweight sleeping bag will compress down well enough to transport it in the main cargo compartment, but not a winter-weight down sleeping bag; it will have to have a place on the exterior of the pack or it will take up too much of the main cargo area of the Big Bear 82.
Some folks just stuff their down sleeping bag and their tent into the main compartment of a backpack, and it works for some people. But multi-day trips require compactness and organization of gear and food, so exterior lash points for the tent and sleeping bag would be valuable options to use if needed for the Big Bear 82.
As chilly days and cold nights of late fall and early winter start to set in, winter gear gets a little heavier and bulkier. This is where the top-loading main storage compartment, with the expandable storage, and double-sealing collars really shined for us.
Hauling winter gear and transporting equipment to a base camp represent quite a weight and bulk increase that requires the backpack to adjust (expand) upwards. So instead of cinching tight all the compression straps at the sides and top of the pack, like you would on a two-day backpack in the spring, all straps are let out to accommodate more bulky equipment while still being able to compress the pack contents so the load won’t shift while hiking. The Big Bear 82 did very good in this area. When you consider a full water bladder inside the pack, your cooking gear, food (and extra food just in case), heavier down sleeping bag, heavier down jacket (vs. down sweater), cold-weather gloves, winter boot socks, and cold-weather pants. The bulk and weight adds up.
A winter sleeping bag for example, one capable of keeping you warm when temps drop below freezing will be, perhaps, two pounds heavier than a summer-weight down sleeping bag and not nearly as compact, even with compression straps on the stuff sack. Your four-season tent, with footprint, and longer tent stakes will add weight. Your boots will be heavier. Most everything you bring will be heavier gauge in both fabric weight and physical weight. The Big Bear 82 can handle the weight and bulk with a reasonable comfort level, and that’s what stood out.
Big Bear worked very well for us, in general. A large exterior front pocket, with heavy-duty zipper, is deep enough to store items that are relatively flat, and ones you’ll want easy access to. A smaller mesh laced pocket, with zipper, is on the outside of the large front pocket. The deep mesh pockets on either side of the Big Bear 82 worked well for storing water bottles, gloves, and watchman’s cap. What seemed to be missing from this heavy hauler pack are zippered access into the main cargo area from the front; access that would allow one to pluck out the stove at lunch break without unpacking to retrieve it. It would also be good to see an adequately sized sleeping bag compartment with a zippered roof panel to have the option of a separate compartment or the full cargo capacity of an open primary top loaded pack compartment.
Jansport’s Big Bear 82 is a reasonably priced and very capable load hauling backpack. Because we had this pack on late summer, fall, and early winter trips, it was scrutinized over a period of time. Make to mistake, this is a solid pack that was very comfortable on the trail. But since it was used more, it was judged more often, and it passed with flying colors.
By Rick Shandley
|Ergonomic S-curve shoulder strapsTop-loading main compartment with compression hoodLarge front panel sleeve for quick access to key items
Sliding harness adjustment
HDPE framesheet with mono 6061 tubular stays
Dual side water bottle pockets
Mesh wet/dry pocket
Daisy chain quick clip points
Side compression straps keep pack close to the body and manage the load
Dual zippered pockets
Ice axe loop
Fabric: 600 Denier Polyester/ 210 Boxcar Dobby Polyester
Weight: 3 pounds 13 oz.
Dimensions: H 33” x W 13.5” X Depth 12”
Capacity: 5003.9 cubic inches/82 Liters
— Grey Humboldt
— Cilantro Green