With years of feedback from alpine climbers, Patagonia re-enters the technical pack market with the Ascensionist series, which includes 25L, 35L, and 45L versions. “Brilliantly functional” was a common remark from our testers. “Every part of the pack was thought through down to the last detail—from the flat, precipitation-shedding lid to the customizable suspension system that can be shifted based on your load,” said one tester, who took it on multiple winter trips into Rocky Mountain National Park. The removable mesh and aluminum frame provided more support and suspension than any other pack in the test, and the waistbelt and shoulder straps had ample padding for sustained comfort with loads up to 35 pounds. For days when your loads are lighter or for the weight-obsessed, you can remove the frame and waistbelt to save 10 ounces; you’re still left with foam that provides cushion and support. Testers loved the ingenious top, too: It forms a flat, angled surface when cinched down to easily slough off precipitation, like when one tester got caught in surprise graupel and sleet.
With the sturdiest and most comfortable suspension system in the test, the Ascensionist also gives you the option to go ultra-light, and it has all the attachments for ’pons and picks.
$179; 2 lbs., 4 oz.; patagonia.com