This gracefully simple alpine pack excels in its agility and light weight. On the flip side it’s a bit fragile and not well designed for carrying skis.
With a lightweight aluminium frame, the Patagonia Ascensionist moulds to your back like a camels hump. Its slim base keeps the pack within the shape of your back and leaves you flexible, agile and free to shake your body – or to climb/ski/frolic. I love the feel of it, and have never worn a pack that gave me so much freedom of movement in my arms and torso. It’s the biggest pack I’ve felt comfortable wearing while rock climbing vertical faces.
The pack is extremely simple – definitely its greatest feature.
Clips and straps are well planned: Side straps double as ice-axe handle straps. Ice-axe head straps double as straps to carry skis vertically/diagonally.
Adjusting the sternum strap was very fiddly due to inconsistent spacing on attachment loops. Shoulder and hip straps are extremely comfortable. Hip pads are very easily removable – other reviews report otherwise, a fault was probably fixed.
The top pocket is at right angles to a normal top pocket, this is supposed to stop items falling out when its open, probably a small plus. The pocket is a little smaller than I prefer; when the pack is full its hard to fit goggles, gloves and a warm hat in there.
At 45L the Ascensionist can fit equipment for a few days in the mountains staying in huts or bivvies. Adding a small tent or rope might be possible but probably requires extending the pack by changing the location of the hook strap.
With the bag extended it carries an impressive amount of gear. An integrated extra internal flap means you can keep all gear covered from the weather while bulging like a muffin.
Removing the ergonomic aluminum back frame is extremely easy and makes the pack lighter, packable and small enough to be cabin luggage on all flights.
Because of its narrow base, putting skis on the pack as an A-frame leaves an extremely narrow A. The only way I found to keep the bases of the skis out of the way of my legs was to put the skis extremely high, tottering off balance.
The material of the pack is fragile. After just one weekend trip carrying skis about four hours I have 2 holes from the ski edges and two where the ski brakes pushed through the material. My ski edges and brakes weren’t sharp at all. On the plus side, Patagonia is excellent with repairs.
In terms of keeping you agile this is a very well designed pack. Wearing it won’t stop you from swinging from trees. Just don’t swing through brambles.
This pack is ideal for scrambling or mountaineering weekend trips. Its lack of durability restricts its versatility as it’s ill suited to carrying skis, bush bashing or rock climbing which might involve chimneys.
Would I buy the pack again and pay full price?
(I bought it second hand)
No. I’d get a mid size pack I could use for everything. However, if I had multiple mid size packs this would most definitely be one of them. It excels as a specialist mountaineering pack.