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Review: Patagonia’s alpine jack-of-all-trades, the Ascensionist 55L


An all-purpose alpine, mountaineering, and ice-cragging pack with plenty room for extended stays in the high country.


A big pack that does not climb like a big pack // Gear loops // Plenty of room for overpacking


Velcro for ice-shaft holders // No crampon pouch

Our Thoughts

This pack can store 55L and it weighs 2lbs 13 ounces. What that typically means with this genre is that the pack would be underbuilt, and so when you had all 55 liters stuffed with stoves and gear, it’s would carry like crap. Not to mention trying to climb with it. And yet, in the category of packs with inverse Napoleon complexes—big bags that think they are small—the Ascensionist 55L pulls it off as good as any. That the Ascensionist 35L and 55L are Patagonia’s only packs in their alpine line should tell you two things: 1) They have put tons of thought into the design. 2) It does a lot of different things—it’s the Trader Joe’s effect of make one thing, and do it well.

Size Reviewed

S/M and L/XL


2lbs 13 ounces





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I’ve had the Patagonia Ascensionist 55L pack for about a year. While it hasn’t been the Himalaya yet, it’s been ice cragging in Hyalite Canyon, alpine and ice climbing throughout Colorado, and even to the crag in the summer…and most places in between.

What I want and like in a pack, the Ascenscionist has: extremely durable fabric (ripstop nylon), lightweight, good top lid, able to be lugged up a steep snow pitch or a mixed WI3, doesn’t bobble, and shoulder straps that don’t restrict movement. The marketing material describes the pack as such: “Built to adapt to any type of mission—​from lightweight strikes to full-on expeditions.” I wouldn’t take the 55L on a light-and-fast summit bid; I would take the 35L. The 55L can shoulder a massive load, but if you are portaging 80-pound mountaineering loads for days, I’d use something with beefier hip and shoulder straps. Remember, it’s an alpine pack, which means it is performance-climbing designed, which also explains its narrow, top-to-bottom profile. To boot, the pack is modular and you are able to shift around the strap-points with ease. It is missing a crampon pouch, however.

The Ascensionist 55L is not the lightest on the market, but it’s right there, neck-and-neck with competing packs. The price is on the cheaper side, which is rare for Patagonia. Not one to be flashy, the pack has all of the essentials: long side straps able to hold a sloppily rolled foam pad, rope-carry strap, ice-tool holders, lone top lid, and a small inside pocket.

My main criticism of the pack is that they don’t give you enough Velcro for the shafts of your ice tools. True, about half of the companies are using tabs of Velcro, but I don’t like it. When wet, Velcro pulls apart easily, and I don’t trust it as much as other systems. Plus, the Ascensionist gives you just enough Velcro to latch down your tools—nothing more—and that minimalism has burned me on some types of bent-shaft tools.