In my mind, when I think of Patagonia I think primarily of warm days fly fishing, or hot days on steep slabs, or backpacking. The touring season here in the PNW started slow but really ramped up through February, and the Patagonia Descensionist carried the load throughout a ton of fun.
- Made with durable CORDURA® nylon for puncture and abrasion resistance
- Asymmetrical spindrift collar opens wide for easy packing; drawcord simultaneously cinches collar and closes lid for a secure seal; side zipper for easy access to main compartment
- High-density foam back panel gives pack structure and helps to support heavy loads, but can be removed for lightweight pursuits
- Padded hip belt with stretch-woven stash pocket
- Snowboard carry straps and diagonal ski carry loop included
- Daisy chains on front provide lashing options; compression straps on sides help manage different-sized loads; zippered pocket on lid offers easy access to small items
- Available in two sizes: S/M, L/XL
- 1046 g (2 lb 4.9 oz)
Go big by going light
The pack itself carries very similarly to the original Ascentionist. The backbone is a high-density foam back panel that provides some structure to the pack. Mind you it’s not like having a true frame sheet or metal rods giving the pack support, but it’s much lighter and also removable. On the whole, the pack carries weight well. The suspension can’t take a whole lot of weight, but the density of the foam on the shoulder straps is just right; too firm and it’ll hurt, too soft and it’ll pack down and cut in. Because the back panel has no actual rigid structure, thoughtlessly loading the pack can result in a curved or misshapen back panel that’s uncomfortable to carry. A little care is needed.
On the whole, the pack carries weight well. The suspension can’t take a whole lot of weight, but the density of the foam on the shoulder straps is just right; too firm and it’ll hurt, too soft and it’ll pack down and cut in. Because the back panel has no actual rigid structure, thoughtlessly loading the pack can result in a curved or misshapen back panel that’s uncomfortable to carry. A little care is needed. Otherwise, the hip belt and shoulder straps can comfortably carry loads in the 20’s and (somewhat) uncomfortably carry loads in the 30’s, while the compression straps hold things in place. The surface sheds snow well, which is key in a winter pack.
One major improvement in this iteration is that the main strap that secures the lid is sewn in rather than being removable, which is awesome because the one on my Ascentionist sometimes fell out on climbs. And the little features are working well, too: the hip belt pocket is good for snacks (although I struggled to squeeze my iPhone 6 in there), the pocket in the brain is adequate for quick-access essentials. A tiny internal zippered pocket gives you a place to keep that precious car keys. The main compartment has a side-zip giving you access to stuff at the bottom, although purists will wish it wasn’t there. For those who are dedicated to using their hydration bladder, you will be sad to hear that the Descensionist does not include a sleeve. RIP the golden days of hydration bladders.
- Strong, light, simple!
- Excellent material choice and construction quality
- Design of the avy gear pocket is spacious, hurray
- Pack carries well but is not optimized for comfort per se
- I don’t like the design of the front straps you can add. Too easy to lose.
- Will the bottom compression straps live up to a lifetime of A-frame carry? Probably!
- No hydration bladder sleeve
The Bottom Line: Patagonia Descensionist Pack
If you’re thinking about the Descensionist, you can be reassured knowing that this is a particularly durable, minimalist backpack that has been carefully designed to excel in a lot of different situations. I have quibbles with the pack, but these come down largely to preference and I wholeheartedly recommend the pack for snow adventures when you’re emphasizing a light pack. And, as always, you can feel good buying Patagonia knowing that your purchase is going towards a company working to keep the outdoors great.
Buy now: Available from Backcountry.com