Patagonia Ascensionist 35L ReviewSeptember 10, 2014
- Fantastically low weight for the capacity
- Variety of configurations for different loads
- Excellent mobility and comfort
- Innovative wide-mouth opening and overlapping collars
- Main fabric was not durable enough for hauling
- Few options for organization
As pure a climbing pack as I’ve ever tested, the Patagonia Ascensionist 35L earns the Best in Class award for this season and sets a new bar for alpine backpack performance. The Ascensionist is easily the most versatile pack in this season’s tests. With its minimal compartmenting and lack of hydration accommodation, the Ascensionist sacrifices some typical daypack versatility to the gods of simplicity and verticality—even so, fair-weather users will likely appreciate its light weight and clean design ethic.
Whether carrying heavy or climbing light, I was able to easily set up the Ascensionist to fit my needs. This pack’s ability to switch modes—from comfortably humping good-size overnight loads to smoothly following my scrambling movements—made it the most versatile pack in this season’s tests. Foremost among my favorite things about this pack, the floating pad-pods on the removable hipbelt offered genuinely fully adjustable load transfer to users of all sizes—and gave me the freedom to choose my own comfort-adventure.
For a serious technical pack of this size, with an actual frame, 30 ounces is pretty awesome. Even more awesome: without skimping on durability or functionality, Patagonia built a bag that easily matches premium ultra light alpine packs at a fraction of the price.
Over-stuffing the Ascensionist was easy to do—its unique double collar configuration didn’t seem to have a ‘max fill’ line. Even with a helmet and last-minute stuffables erupting from the draw-corded opening, I was able to lash a coiled rope over the top and compress the entire bag very effectively. The perimeter-tube frame held loads tight against the back, and definitely aided in carrying obscene amounts of baggage when necessary.
Though it keeps things ultra-simple with a single zippered pocket and top-only access to the main bag, this pack’s large opening and bright fabric colors helped ensure that I could always locate misplaced keys, sunscreen, and loose candy bars. I added some thin shock-cord to the micro-daisies on the exterior, mostly to keep my crampons away from my puffy, but often used this bit of added capacity as a quick stash-spot for a shell.
I was consistently impressed by the simplicity and utility of the Ascensionist’s design. Fabrics and adjustments were thoughtfully considered throughout, and nearly every feature worked double-duty, helping to lower overall weight and offering numerous carry-configurations. Stripping the pack was amazingly quick and easy, especially for such a light bag.
The big-name product with cutting-edge design and category-topping performance at a reasonable price is a rare beast, indeed, but the Ascensionist pack is certainly of this breed. A remarkable value for those who wish to carry the same pack, car-to-summit.