The Patagonia Ascensionist may have been designed with alpine in mind, but I have found it to be a great lightweight 3-season backpacking alternative for carrying gear.
What intrigued me with this pack was its sheer simplicity. No frills, no fuss. This may not be a preference for other backpackers, but I find it to be a suitable option for my needs. Below, I'll share a look at this pack and a few adaptations I made to make it an excellent pack for many of my solo 3-season trips.
*Note: This pack has recently been updated by the manufacturer with a stronger fabric and a hydration port. The storage capacity has also changed (previous: 25L, 35L, 45L - current: 30L, 40L). Due to these changes, there will also be a slight difference in the current specs.
The Ascensionist 35 L weighs in at 27 oz (for the S/M, fitting a 16-19" torso) with the frame. For a little more minimalism, it can easily be shaved down to around 20 oz.
The hipbelt on this pack is removable should there be a preference to do so or if you want to shave a couple of ounces off. I like this versatility for varying trips, but find that I often leave it on. The belt and padding does help provide a little extra comfort and stability, though I don't find it to transfer the weight similarly to other pack designs. There are no pockets on the hipbelt which contributes to the lighter weight overall, and is something I felt would be cumbersome. As I used the pack more, this wasn't the case.
Another addition to the overall weight of the pack is a unique aluminum frame with suspended mesh (pictured below). This frame is removable if desired for when weight loads are relatively low. Otherwise, it provides comfort and great weight transfer for loads of around 20 lbs or more.
This trampoline style frame is designed to sit right along the contour of most backs. Additional points (circled in yellow) allow the pack frame to bend and rotate as I make steep ascents. I find this helps keep the pack weight close to me rather than pulling away in the opposite direction.
Though there is a plastic sheet built into the packs back, a Z-lite sit pad fits into the sleeve where the frame goes, allowing for a different type of comfort.
The measurements of the frame are 20" x 9.5" while the pad is 16" x 13." I find that tri-folding it allows it to sit nicely along the back and fit into most of the frames sleeve. Since this is more of an alpine pack, it narrows toward the base which will result in a small amount that doesn't fill with padding.
This issue can be easily resolved by applying backpacking principles and storing a sleeping bag or quilt first, which fills in that space.
A built-in collar helps protect extra gear that may be packed for a specific trip, if the pack ends up overstuffed. It also helps mitigate water from entering the pack. An additional loop near the lid of the pack allows me to adjust the webbing and buckle to accommodate the expanded pack and still provide closure.
Though I always still use a trash compactor bag as pack liner to give me reassurance and keep all of my contents dry.
In most cases, I'll use the built-in collar as a divider and will throw a couple of high use items such as water filtration and a outer shell on top for quick access. I'll also leave my snacks for the day in a ziploc in this area too.
Entry and closure to the main compartment of this pack is done by utilizing what Patagonia calls an asymmetrical spindrift system. I find this to be easy, simple and effective.
The only other storage pocket with this pack comes at the top. I'll use this for small essentials and navigation tools (lip balm, sunblock, insect repellent, multi-tool, maps, compass). This pocket has plenty of room and I never find it to be filled up beyond its capacity.
Daisy chains on the front of the front and side panels provide lashing options which I'll use for things like charging up my lantern for the night.
The body of this pack uses a 210 denier ripstop nylon while spots such as the base of the pack use a 400 denier ripstop nylon. The lining of the pack uses a 40 denier ripstop nylon with a polyurethane coating and silicone finish and 200 denier polyester.
Due to the pack not having water bottle pockets, I searched for a resolution. I had read of others cutting a hole in the back of their pack to create an opening for their hydration reservoir hose. In most cases I prefer bottles to a reservoir. I also didn't want to compromise the pack. As I came to the conclusion that I may have to sew some pockets on (which would also add to the overall weight), one other option appeared.
By using the compression straps and some built-in lash points on a soft bottle by Hydrapak, I was able to carry and remove water with ease. The fact that this bottle is compatible with my water filter is an added benefit.
I've been growing very fond of this pack. It can be a great option for weekenders or gram conscious backpackers who are dialed in with specific gear. Though I haven't used it in the winter yet, I look forward to taking it out on a overnight or ski specific trip, when the opportunity allows.
Have you used this pack on any of your trips? What was your experience like with it? Share in a comment below.