Kiva designed the Jazz pack for adventure racer Cathy Sassin for use in expedition class races like the Eco-Challenge and Raid Gouloises. Since we’re always on the lookout for great fastpacking packs, we thought we’d give the Jazz a spin and see what came out of it.
The Jazz is a feature-rich, functional pack. A 30L volume with extra storage space in the top lid, three outside mesh pockets, and hip belt pockets meant that we could load it up with lightweight summer backpacking gear and head out for long weekends. We tested the pack on several 2- to 4- day fastpacks of 40-135 miles.
There is nothing special about the design of the Jazz. It’s not functionally different than the classic Salomon Raid 30L, but it’s quite a lot more durable. Side by side with the Raid 30L on all of our field tests, the Kiva model stood up to a lot more abuse, as a result of using 1000D cordura where it counts. We had only one small abrasion hole in our Jazz at the end of the testing period, while the once-new Salomon pack had four abrasion holes and two tears.
A rep tried to sell us on some fancy new wicking mesh back panel, claiming that it’ll keep us dry and comfortable. It was a yawner – not particularly better – or worse – than other meshes on the market, so we didn’t really consider this a selling point.
The pack’s real utility lies in its organization. There was a perfect spot for everything – lunch, raingear, trekking poles, sleeping bag, wet tarp, flashlight, and more. Our only gripe was the integrated hydration pocket. Like most packs with internal bladders, the pocket was a pain to access when the pack was full.
Kiva claims in their marketing literature that the Jazz is a “…super lightweight technical pack.” The pack came in at 2 lbs 0.4 oz on our scales. I’m not going to waste much ink in this forum telling you about the discrepancy between their marketing hype and the real weight. In fact, the Kiva Jazz has one of the worst weight:volume ratios of the adventure racing and fastpacking packs in its size class. Further, we’re not sure where the 30L volume claim came from. We measured the Salomon Raid 30L main compartment at an even 29.4L, while the Kiva Jazz came in at 21.8L.
- Actual Measured Volume: 21.8L
- Actual Measured Weight: 2 lb 0.4 oz
- Pockets: main packbag, internal bladder (100 oz), front mesh, two side mesh, top lid main, top lid mesh, two hip belt
- Other Features: sternum strap, two side compression straps, front “X” type bungee cord for lashing, ice axe loop, hydration hose holes in packbag, padded back with removable closed cell foam sit pad, haul loop large enough for a mittened hand
Fit and Load Carrying
We loaded the Kiva with up to 20 pounds, including food and 100 oz of water. This load crippled the pack’s design and made for a carry that had us screaming uncle after only a few miles. The disaster lies in its too-short torso. Our 5’1″ woman tester loved it, of course, but anybody on our crew able to reach at least the middle shelf of the kitchen pantry had other things to say about the fit. To be fair, this is not unique to Kiva – a lot of packs in this size class suffer a similar fate. Increasing the torso length of these packs by a few inches and making them thinner (when these packs are stuffed they look – and feel – like a medicine ball attached to your upper back) they would ride so much better, especially with larger loads. We rated the Jazz’ load carrying capacity at 10 lbs – for short-torsoed folks.
Final Grade: C+
The Kiva Jazz is a good-looking pack on the shelf. And, for the typical day-hiker-wanna-be-adventure-racer-but-knows-that-hell-will-freeze-over-first type of guy, it does what it’s supposed to do. It is constructed well and has a great feature set but doesn’t handle the volume or load distribution well, and thus, we can’t recommend it for anything but day hiking across campus. As an adventure racing pack, it rides well with small loads for biking, but it’s definitely not going to be the hiker’s first choice. More than anything, in a market saturated with “…superlightweight technical packs,” the Kiva Jazz is a ho-hum contender.