Patagonia has entered the backcountry ski and splitboard backpack market with one heck of a big punch. The Ascensionist line of backpacks has proven to be very useful for mountain adventures, but we felt it was not ideal for backcountry splitboarding or skiing. Patagonia took many of the features that made the Ascensionist line-up great and added the necessary features the make it a legit backcountry pack. Marry the Ascensionist’s minimalist philosophy with these new features and you get the Patagonia Descensionist pack.
How did we test?
I took the Descensionist to Baker Splitfest and toured through puking, wet-powder storms. I also took it out on multiple tours in the Colorado backcountry.
Construction and Features
The Descensionist is a minimalist pack, meaning there are no unnecessary features. The pack fabric feels just like the Ascensionist, a thin but strong material (210 denier nylon ripstop). Everything about the pack is designed to be adjustable and efficient. There is one main pocket with top access and side zip access. One top lid pocket with two zippers and, of course, a dedicated avalanche kit pocket. The avy pocket is big enough for your shovel, shovel handle, probe and first aid kit. There are no sleeves to organize the kit; Patagonia sews in a pair of bungees to keep things in place. You also get one hip-belt pocket on the right, big enough for a snack and chap stick.
What I loved most about the pack, was the ability to adjust it to fit my needs. Some days it was compressed down to 25 liters or so, other days it was overloaded way past the 40-liter rating. The Patagonia engineers really nailed it wit the lid design. Instead of being flat, it tapers up to meet the lid, creating a weatherproof protection for your gear. I was easily able to fit my usual day kit and helmet in the pack. So never mind that there is no helmet carrier, just stick it in the backpack and keep it away from the elements. You can carry your board on your back, or in A-frame on the side.
It works, right?
The first day I used the pack was during an impressive snow storm in Baker. The kind of wet snow storm that wets out everyone’s gear and keeps skins from sticking to skis. Not a place for soft shells, or non-waterproof gear. The Descensionist shed the snow with ease. The pack spent a lot of time sitting in the snow as we route-planned and ate lunch. Never soaked any water up. There were times when I had to put the splitboard (in ski mode) on the backpack in A-frame style and the pack carried it well. On one occasion I had to carry the assembled board on the back and it did great! Worth noting: the snowboard carry straps on the back do come off easily, so I would recommend keeping them off and securely stored until needed. Several times I lost them on the skin track. One way around this is to keep them tight as possible, but the moment you take some volume out of the bag (like your helmet of puffy) you will need to re-tighten them.
Even though I was testing a size small and I usually take a large pack it did not keep me from being thoroughly impressed with the Descensionist backpack. They will offer larger sizes as well. The color I tested was Golden Jungle (basically off yellow). Patagonia will offer at least one other color when the Descensionist pack comes out. (See our SIA video for a preview). This is a very lightweight (just over 2lbs), versatile and comfortable pack. Available now at an MSRP of $199. Highly recommended!