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I’ve had my Jaylife13 Sensu backpack for around 9 months now. I’ll go into all the details and info about this lightweight and 100% waterproof backpack. Designed for water sports, climbing, hiking, biking, and so forth – this Jaylife13 Sensu review will cover its efficacy and viability as an ultralight waterproof backpack.
Check out my Jaylife13 Sensu backpack review video to see a long, in-depth review of how it is. This review is unsponsored and I purchased it with my own money.
Table of Contents
Preface – About the brand
Jaylife13 is based out of Calgary, Canada and the packs are manufactured overseas. I like supporting local and small business. I also like sustainability, service, and value.
Jason, the guy who invented this backpack, is hardcore in his use – he paddleboards, climbs, bikes, and does many extreme sports all the time. He’s the epitome of gnarly expeditions and a mindful person. He wanted to create a backpack which fit his specific needs since the only stuff out there cost $200+. This is how it holds up:
Size & weight
Advertised at 1.1kg (2.4lbs) and containing 40L+ of volume, it’s not quite what I’d consider ‘ultralight’. Not compared to a regular, non-waterproof backpack at least. However when stacked up against other waterproof backpacks, it falls right in line with others.
Aside from Dyneema-made backpacks (which cost hundreds more), it’s hard to find a waterproof pack lighter than 1KG.
The 40L rating is for when the pack is fully closed to be water-proof. When the roll-top is pushed to the limit and the buckle fully extended, you’re able to cram in another ~5-10L. The pack is tall and fairly wide, but not too thick. This assists with weight distribution.
100% submergible waterproof. If you’ve rolled the top seam down three times and cinched down buckles, it’ll prevent any water from getting in. In fact, it’ll float! This can be useful if in a really tricky situation.
The two outer zippers aren’t 100% submergible. They are taped and water-repellent, but not submergible and fully waterproof. Therefor it’s best to keep things like snacks in those pockets.
The main reason I got this pack was because I wanted something that will survive a grenade. Not actually, but in this market of ultralight backpacks trying to shave every single gram in expense of durability, I was willing to take a slight weight penalty for something which will survive intense activity.
The straps and buckles do feel a bit cheap due to their size/density, however they’re definitely very strong and I reckon they’re the last point of failure. The outer material is a real thick outer which will survive abrasion, rockclimbing, sharp ends, and so forth very well.
One point of failure on my backpack was the seam on the outer zipper. It detached from the main body and is now useless. This happened to a friends backpack too. Jason @ Jaylife13 offered a full replacement backpack for free, but I didn’t really care enough to get it swapped. Hopefully this manufacturing kink gets ironed out.
Regardless, if you’re doing rock climbing, intense adventure, backpacking, this pack will last as long as any. My pack after ~9 months of frequent use has held up very well and I trust it to carry my sensitive gear for a long time.
The shoulder, back, and hip padding is minimal. It’s nice enough but don’t expect a few inches of dense-foam. Rather, this pack shows its strength in the geometry. With the hip-belt connected and the shoulder straps fully lowered, (almost) all the weight is placed onto my hips. For 12+ hour long adventures, I had 0 problems at all with comfort.
The elastic sternum strap is good to prevent your shoulder from caving inwards and overall I’m extremely impressed with this packs comfort. Even while biking with a full load, the packs back isn’t against my back, allowing for full airflow. Sweaty back no more, both while backpacking and biking with a fully pack, I’d never get back sweat!
The top strap and two gear loops are excellent for carrying trekking poles, climbing gear, skis, and whatever else. I used a 360 camera on a trekking pole placed into the gear loops to record our ascent of Devils Head, Alberta.
A gripe I have with this pack is the water bottle mesh. The opening is small and I can only stuff in a maximum of a 1L water bottle. It was designed to fit those trendy insulated bottles without them falling out.
What is nice though is the elastic holds your bottle very tightly and won’t let it fall out when paddleboarding, rock climbing, or biking. Personally, I’d prefer some adjustable bottle system which can hold and accommodate various bottle sizes.
While it seems unnecessary, I’m the kind of guy to use this backpack for everything. Going to the immigration office? It’s a document slot. Going to a coworking café? My 15″ Surface Book 2 fits perfectly inside (larger won’t fit). It’s a small weight penalty for a whole load more versatility for daily life.
How does this pack stack up in the real world? Well, I absolutely love it.
I’ve taken this on single-day 4-peak grinds, up Devils Head, downhill mountain biking, bikepacking to Vogelsang (abandoned Soviet missile base), , free climbing, and to the embassy. It’s as versatile as can be and doesn’t even look like one of those huge backpacks from a decade back.
At only ~300 grams heavier than the Atom Packs Pinnacle 40 and less than half the cost, it’s hard to imagine a better backpack. Obviously there are improvement I’d like to see made, though I honestly can’t see myself with a different backpack considering my budget.
The most dedicated weight weenies out there may be craving for lighter, however I personally will trade 100% submergible waterproof and durable as ever for a couple hundred grams. It’s in my $500 budget ultralight backpacking gearlist and my digital nomad gear master list for a good reason.
I know I’ll be buying this backpack again, and unless I come across enough money to justify a marginal upgrade to the Arc’Teryx Aerios 45 (which weighs the same), I’ll be sticking with the Sensu.
Hope you liked the Jaylife13 Sensu backpack review! Check out my other gear reviews for more random stuff!