Patagonia Ascensionist 35
Size Tested: L/XL
Stated Weight: 907 g, 32 oz
- Lightweight, bomber, tear- and abrasion-resistant nylon ripstop
- Asymmetrical spindrift collar opens wide for easy packing; drawcord simultaneously cinches collar and closes lid for a secure seal; additional spindrift collar deploys to protect your gear when you’ve overstuffed your pack
- Aluminum-stay frame with tensioned mesh center gives pack structure and helps support heavy loads, but can be removed for lightweight pursuits
- Hip belt has adjustable pads that can be removed to create a simple webbing hip belt, or you can remove the entire hip belt for ultralight travel
- Center sheath ice-axe carry system accommodates a wide assortment of axes
- Daisy chain on front panel provides lashing options; compression straps on sides help manage different size loads; zippered pocket on lid offers easy access to small items
MSRP: $149 USD
- Height: 5’10”
- Torso Length: ~18”
- Waist Size: 29”
- Weight: 135 lbs
Days Tested: 30+
Test Locations: Berner Oberland, Valais, Switzerland; Jura, Chamonix, France
The Ascensionist line of packs from Patagonia has gotten a lot of attention lately. It is Patagonia’s first real foray into the world of technical packs, and when you add that to the fact that Steve House was a primary designer of the packs, you’ve got a rather compelling story.
Add that to the fact that mountaineering packs are tricky to get right, and that ski mountaineering packs add another layer of complexity, and it becomes clear that the devil really lies in the details and features. So how does Patagonia’s flagship mountaineering pack preform?
I’ve been using the 35 L version for most of my alpine missions in the Alps since February, and I can say that this pack is excellent. However, I do have one big qualification: This is a highly-specialized pack made for fast and light alpine mountaineering. It is not a backpacking pack or a cragging pack or skiing pack. It can do those things, but it is definitely a mountaineering pack first.
Ok, now to the details.
I tested a L/XL version of the pack, and I never had a problem with the fit. I usually wear a Large or a Medium pack, but the larger size of the Ascensionist works well for my average size 18” torso.
Also, because I often use the Ascensionist without the frame, the torso length doesn’t end up being all that important.
The Ascensionist is an amazingly simple pack with a few quirky design features that take some getting used to.
The pack is built around a unique top closure system where a single cinch cord closes the entire main opening and top flap in one motion. Pulling on a small piece of webbing swiftly opens the pack — also in one motion. There is also a webbing and hook closure system to cinch the pack down.
Patagonia calls this an “asymmetrical spindrift collar” which is pretty accurate. I was quite skeptical of this system when I first got the pack. After all, the closure system is one of the most important parts of the pack and this one is unlike anything else on the market. But I am now a believer. The system is fast, secure and, most importantly, simple. The only downside of this closure system is that, unlike a traditional floating top lid, it compresses the top pocket of the pack. This means that when the pack is full and cinched down hard, the top pocket has pretty much no volume.
Suspension and Frame
The suspension system is simple. The pack has a lightweight aluminum frame, tensioned with webbing, that is ergonomically shaped and can be removed to shave weight. The frame fits very tightly in the pack and stretches out many parts of the pack, which could stress the lightweight fabrics and cause durability issues.
The ergonomic shape of the frame also means that the pack tightly conforms to the shape of your spine, which makes it quite warm to carry, since there is little to no ventilation with the frame in.
Because of the shape created by the tensioned webbing design of the frame, the frame creates two pressure points near the bottom of the pack that can be quite uncomfortable. This is especially noticeable when carrying heavier loads without the hip belt.
As with many packs with ergonomic shapes, the frame creates some dead spots in the pack that are hard to fill. I would estimate that the frame takes about 3-5 L out of the effective volume of the pack.
I find myself greatly preferring the pack without the frame, and carry full loads comfortably without it (more on that later).
The shoulder straps are also ergonomically shaped, and are padded the perfect amount for a 35 L pack. Much appreciated are its load-lifter straps, which are often left off of lightweight packs. The chest strap is adjustable up and down with a mini-daisy chain system sewn into both straps.
The hip belt on the Ascensionist is a standout feature. On most packs I have a hard time getting them tight around my rather small waist, but not here. The Ascensionist has a thick webbing hip belt that is fit with small pads that can freely slide to fit over your hipbones. These pads are removable and fitted with gear loops. The hip belt can easily fit waist sizes much smaller than mine.
The hip belt is very customizable for whatever your current adventure might entail. The pads and webbing can be independently removed for three different hip belt configurations.
Other Features, Carry, Etc.