Patagonia Ascensionist 55 Review
Cons: Less comfortable, feels bulky, less versatile
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Patagonia Ascensionist 55
$239.00 at Backcountry
$195.00 at REI
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|$110 List||$144.00 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Durable, lightweight, can carry a lot||Comfortable, affordable, durable, fully featured||Versatile, simple, durable, well-priced||Lightweight, simple, excellent pack for steep, technical terrain||Durable, comfortable, optimized for ski mountaineering|
|Cons||Less comfortable, feels bulky, less versatile||Not as lightweight as some packs||Less features, some wonky strap designs||Less durable, less versatile, no side straps||Heavier, novel front access zipper can be difficult to use|
|Bottom Line||Though well-made for bigger or heavier loads, this pack is less comfortable due to its bulkier shape and doesn't perform as well on summit pushes or in technical terrain||This is an excellent pack for most mountaineering uses, excelling in comfort and versatility in all alpine terrain||This is a pack-of-all-trades well suited to a variety of mountaineering pursuits||This is an excellent on-route climbing pack for challenging steep terrain in the mountains||The durability and feature set of this pack make it particularly well suited to ski mountaineering|
|Rating Categories||Patagonia Ascension...||Osprey Mutant 38||Black Diamond Speed 40||Black Diamond Blitz...||Ortovox Peak Light 32L|
|Weight to Volume Ratio (20%)|
|Specs||Patagonia Ascension...||Osprey Mutant 38||Black Diamond Speed 40||Black Diamond Blitz...||Ortovox Peak Light 32L|
|Measured Volume (liters)||60||37||45||29||30|
|Measured Weight (pounds)||2.95||2.84 (without lid), 3.25 (with lid)||2.93||1.09||2.53|
|Measured Weight (grams)||1340||1288.2||1330||496.1||1148.2|
|Weight to Volume Ratio (grams per liter)||22.33||34.82||29.56||17.11||38.27|
|Frame Type||Internal Frame, foam with dual aluminum stays||Inner framesheet with aluminum stays||Removable foam and plastic framesheet with 3 stays||Foam pad||Swiss Wooltec knit back construction|
|Fabric||5.8-oz 420-denier 100% recycled nylon ripstop||210D nylon with 420HD nylon packcloth on bottom||210d ripstop main, 420d abrasion||Dynex ripstop||Nylon 420D Oxford|
|Pockets||1 main, 1 small internal zippered, 1 zippered lid||1 zippered lid||1 main, 2 zippered lid, 1 internal hydration||1 main compartment, 1 waterproof top lid, 1 internal zippered||1 lid with 2 compartments, 1 hip belt pocket|
|Hip Belt?||Yes - padding removable, not belt||Yes - reverse wrap hybrid EVA foam w/ gear loops and ice clipper holsters||Yes - padding removable, not belt||Yes - removable webbing belt||Yes - removable hip belt|
|Removable Suspension Padding?||Yes||Removable framesheet and/or dual stays||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Lid?||Yes - removable||Yes - removable with stowable FlapJacket for lidless use||Yes - removable||Yes - removable||Yes|
|Hydration System Compatible?||Yes||Yes - internal pouch with buckled hanging loop||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Ascensionist has been a favored series of packs among climbers for some years now. With the latest 55-liter size, Patagonia answered the consumer's call for a bigger pack.
The Ascensionist 55 is a certain pack-of-all-trades. But as the saying continues, it is the master of none. And as the saying continues more, though we often forget it, oftentimes that also is better than a master of one! Certainly, this feels true with this pack. If you're looking for a true quiver-of-one pack for mountaineering, alpine climbing, as well as cragging, this is a stellar option.
The Ascensionist reaches its limit on higher-end alpine objectives — the bigger girth means it doesn't climb quite as well in technical terrain, and removing the framesheet makes it awkward and noodley without any support in the midsection of the back panel. When stripped down, that framesheet could ride a bit too high for our climbing comfort.
Weight to Volume Ratio
The Ascensionist 55 is a highly competitive pack for its light weight and relative high volume. This is a very simple mountaineering pack made of light but durable fabrics. It's excellent for longer trips where you want a gear hauler to comfortably get you to basecamp, and you still want a lightweight summit pack for the technical or challenging ascent.
The Ascensionist has a wider profile than others in its size category. This can aid its carrying capacity and ease of loading/unloading but makes it slightly less comfortable to carry than more svelte packs.
This bag gets decent marks for comfort, especially as a gear-hauling 55-liter pack that doubles as a lightweight summit pack. That said, it was not the most comfortable pack of its size class that we have tested, and we could feel it pulling on our shoulders more than some at the end of a long day. The big cylinder shape also felt a bit more cumbersome than other designs with a narrower cylinder profile or a tapered design, both of which hug the back better.
While the Ascensionist didn't stand out in comfort, it certainly didn't disappoint, either. For a truly versatile pack, it offers a high level of comfort. With just a little extra precision in packing heavier items closer to your back, you can ensure the load rides lower and more comfortably on the long hauls to basecamp.
The Ascensionist features a variety of fabrics, with the most durable on the exterior boasting 420 denier — super durable. The simplicity also adds to the durability of this pack, as there is nothing extraneous to fail, and it is not over-engineered with flappy straps and weird features that can snag on trees or rocks.
Over our long field testing period, wear and tear were spread evenly over the pack without any standout issues or stress points. Overall this is a durable and highly dependable backpack.
The Ascensionist is designed to be highly modular and adjustable for the user. The straps and clips can be moved around the pack and anchored to various loops or daisy chains. While this is a great idea, we found it to be perhaps over-done. It also meant that the straps sometimes pulled at odd angles and made it hard to identify which strap was meant to be clipped to which other strap. We really liked how easy it was to remove the lid of this pack and often used this feature when stripping down the pack for our summit push. If you're trying to go really lightweight, you can also remove the hip belt, though we found the gear loops to be useful for many ascents. Interestingly, the hip belt itself is sewn to the body of the backpack, so it takes some work to un-thread the belt from the padding. Still, it provides a minimalist hip belt which is sensible for a pack of this somewhat larger size.
The only other standout feature was the ice axe attachment. While we like the sleeves that hold the picks of the tools securely, the strap that secures the head of the tools in place is one that we really don't like (and yet several manufacturers insist on using). One single clip secures both ice tools, which means you cannot easily deploy just one tool. One of our favorite maneuvers to keep us moving through complex terrain is to be able to reach behind us, grab the head of our tool, and deploy one tool to assist with French technique on some sudden, surprisingly firm snow. With separate attachments, we can usually deploy a single tool like a quickdraw, making us feel pretty rad and ninja-like.
Patagonia is not known for being a bargain brand, but this pack is well priced for its versatility and durability. This is not quite the answer to our dreams for a pack like this, but where it misses the mark in specific alpine features and comfort for summit pushes, it makes up for in versatility. If this meets your needs, you'll have a durable and reliable pack for many adventures.
The Patagonia Ascensionist line has long been a strong performer in the lineup of mountaineering and alpine climbing backpacks. The 55-liter version is Patagonia's answer to the climber's call for a larger, gear-hauling cousin in the same lineup. It is not the best we have tested in the 50-liter range of packs, but it certainly performs well enough for a variety of adventures and proves to be a versatile and reliable mountain companion.
— Lyra Pierotti
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