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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Patagonia Ascensionist Soft Shell > Test Report by Gail Staisil

Patagonia Ascensionist Jacket
Test Series by: Gail Staisil, Marquette, Michigan

Page Contents:

Initial Report:
Patagonia Ascensionist Jacket
November 11, 2008

Tester Information

Gail Staisil
Age: 56
Gender: Female
Height: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
Weight: 140 lb (64 kg)
Location: Marquette, Michigan USA
Email: woodswoman 2001 AT yahoo DOT com

For the last 18 years, backpacking has become a passion. I am a four-season backpacker and an off-trail navigator. Although I do take yearly trips to the American West or Southwest, the majority of my trips are in Michigan and Canada. My pack weight varies considerably but my base weight is below 18 lb (8 kg). I am primarily a tarp camper who averages more than 50 nights a year backpacking in a huge variety of weather conditions including relentless rain, wet snow and sub-zero temps.

Product Information

Model Ascensionist Jacket (Women's)
Poppy Fields (Shoreline Blue and Black also available)
5.3 oz polyester (45% recycled) 2-way stretch doubleweave with a Deluge DWR finish
Tested Size
Women's Large, XS-L (also available in Men's sizes)
Manufacturer  Weight 18.5 oz (524 g)
Tested Weight 
17.5 oz (496 g) Size Medium
Model Year 2008 
MSRP $225 US


Initial Impressions and Product DescriptionPatagonia Ascensionist Jacket

The Patagonia Ascensionist Jacket could simply be described as a breathable soft shell jacket. It of course is much more. Some of its features include stitch-free lap-glued seams, a Deluge DWR finish, internal and external pockets, adjustable sleeve edges and hem, a 3-way adjustable hood and more.

I requested the Ascensionist Jacket in a Women's Size Large and in the color of Poppy Fields. When it arrived I immediately noticed that a Size Medium was sent by mistake. I have contacted the manufacturer and returned the jacket for an exchange.

The Ascensionist Jacket appears much like it did on the website photos. The jacket was touted to have a slim fit. I hope to be able to layer it over several layers of clothing. The smaller size (Medium) that was sent fit over a medium-thickness garment so a bigger size (Large) will likely handle a few thicker layers just fine. The jacket has a very sleek or tailored appearance.

Design Details

The body of the jacket is constructed with dense polyester double-weave that is 45% recycled material. According to Patagonia, this fabric is "exceptional water and wind-resistant". The material appears to be very rugged and stretchy and not flimsy in any way.

Although the main color of the jacket is Poppy Fields there are many areas of the jacket that are accented with the color of Rust. The main color is very bright but cheerful. The backside of the fabric has a variegated appearance that is very attractive.

The jacket has articulated arms to allow for flexibility during movement. The elbows have contrasting colored patches on them for durability and style.

The Ascensionist Jacket reportedly is very breathable and repels water. The manufacturer claims it has a fast drying time due to it being spandex free. This is also accomplished by having stitch free lap-glued seams that improve water resistance. The only stitching visible on the outside of the garment is along the sleeve edges. The jacket is finished perfectly and neatly.

Hood with high neck gaiter
All of the zippers on the Ascensionist Jacket are of the waterproof variety. The center full-zipper is quite long and extends up to the top of the gaiter-like collar. The collar ends approximately at the level of my mouth allowing for great skin coverage when desired. Inside of the jacket are located several Gray-colored suede-like patches that offer a nice comfortable touch to bare skin areas.


The Ascensionist Jacket features three pockets. An internal pocket is located just inside the front zipper opening over the chest area and features a 5.5 in (14 cm) long zipper. This inside pocket is irregular in shape but the widest point of the pocket measures about 4.5 in (11.5 cm) in width and 7.5 in (19 cm) in length. This could hold some small items such as keys, lip balm, identification and the like.

Side-zippered pockets are located on each half of the front of the jacket. They feature 8 in (20 cm) zippers and the inside of them are about 9 in (23 cm) in width and measure about 20 in (51 cm) in height (basically a good portion of the length of the front of the jacket). These two pockets are lined with a matching mesh material. As indicated by the measurements these pockets are plenty roomy for hand warming or to stow gloves, hat and more.

3-Way Adjustment
The jacket features a 3-Way Adjustable Hood. The hood is very "tall" when it's not adjusted. A toggle located on the back side of the hood has multiple strands of elastic cordage threaded through it. The cordage can be adjusted to size the shape of the hood in both directions. WithoutRolled-up hood adjustment it fits great over a rock helmet and with adjustment it fits the shape of my head more closely. The toggle is located in a fabric tunnel to protect it.

There is also a tab with a hook and loop attachment located at the base of the neck in the inside of the jacket. This tab can be threaded into two slits on the fabric tunnel on the back of the hood. This allows the hood to be rolled up when it's not in use.

Other Adjustments

Hem adjusterSleeve adjustment
Sleeve edges are each finished with a tab and hook and loop adjustment feature. The bottom hem of the jacket can be adjusted by pulling a toggle inside the hem. The back of the jacket is longer than the front. I consider this to be optimal for cold conditions as the back doesn't ride up my backside when I bend over.


Care instructions are located inside of the jacket. They indicate by the use of product care symbols that the jacket should be washed with similar colors, not be used with fabric softener or bleach, washed at about 40 C (105 F) temperature, can be ironed on low and tumble dried on low heat.

So far I am impressed with the attributes of the jacket. I look forward to wearing the Patagonia Ascensionist Jacket over the next four months. It will be used in the winter season here so I expect to not only wear it during backpacking trips but also for snowshoeing, running and cross country skiing. Strong winds, frigid temperatures and tons of snow are normal weather conditions here.

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Field Report:
Patagonia Ascensionist Jacket
January 19, 2009

Locations and Conditions

During the field test period, I have worn the Patagonia Ascensionist Jacket during a three-day sledge trip. In addition the jacket has been worn extensively for cross country skiing, snowshoeing and general wear (at least 25 to 30 times).

Locations ranged from and included conifer and deciduous forest communities with many rock outcroppings to lakeshores and hiking trails
. Elevation ranged from 600 ft (183 m) to approximately 1200 ft (366 m). Temperatures experienced ranged from -8 F (-22 C) to 28 F (-2 C).

Early December Backpacking/Sledge Trip:

Location: Pigeon River Country State Forest - Lower Peninsula of Michigan
Type of Trip: Bushwhack, old two-tracks
Distance: Approx 10 mi (16 km)
Length of Trip:
3 days
Sledge Weight: 45 lb (20 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy, light snow and partly sunny 
0.43 in (1.09 cm)
Temperature Range: 10 F (-13 C) to 22 F (-6 C)

Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing:

Location: Trails in Marquette and Houghton Counties, Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Distance: Usually 12 mi (20 km) for skiing and 3 mi to 5 mi(5 km to 8 km) for snowshoeing
Length of Outings:
2 to 3 hour sessions
Sky and Air Conditions: Snow (heavy to light flurries), windy, cloudy, occasionally sunny
Temperature Range: -8 F (-22 C) to 28 F(-2 C)

Performance in the Field

Comfort and Fit

As mentioned in the initial report I requested an exchange for the Ascensionist Jacket that was originally sent in the wrong size. This process took over three weeks to complete but luckily it arrived in time for my December sledge trip. The fit of the Size Large jacket is on the roomy side but it does allow me to add layers for winter camping.

It was well into the winter season here with average daytime temps around 20 F (-6 C) when the replacement jacket arrived. My first experience wearing the jacket was for several days of cross country skiing. The Ascensionist Jacket is much heavier than the typical jacket that I normally wear for this sport. As aforementioned the jacket is roomy and for skiing I typically wear one light weight or medium weight layer underneath the jacket. The cinch cords on the jacket helped to pull in some of the air spaces to keep me warm even though the wind and snow was very blustery on many of these outings.

The temperatures hovered around the 0 F mark (-18 C) or less during many days of skiing. I especially have favored the long tail on the jacket as it protected more of my body from biting winds. I normally started skiing with the hood and tall neck gaiter zipped to the max. As I became warm, I would vent the jacket by lowering the hood and then unzipping the front zipper a bit.

I have continued to wear the jacket for cross country skiing and it has worked well when I chose the right underlayer. I have found that for temperatures over 20 F (-7 C) a single silk layer is sufficient.
The stretchy double weave fabric of the jacket has performed well with my movements and I have never felt constricted in the shoulders or arms. I love the finish of the inner surface material of the shell. It never feels cold or clammy even when I occasionally get over heated.


I have worn the Patagonia Ascensionist Jacket with many types of layers. They included light to medium weight fabrics such as silk, Capilene or light fleece, and a light down jacket underneath. I have been able to wear as many as three layers underneath.
I have found the jacket pockets to be a great place to store a cell phone (when I am skiing alone), a snack and keys.

Sledge Trip
Tester wearing the Ascensionist Jacket while pulling a sledge
During my December three-day sledge trip I wore the Ascensionist Jacket as my outer layer during all hours of pulling the sledge and at camp. My underlayers consisted of a light silk layer and a fleece layer. Because of the type of trip (with intervals of pulling a sledge on snowshoes with alternate periods of rest), I was comfortable for the most part as I layered a down jacket with the former during rest periods. My body does run on the cold side so I do often wear more clothing than my comrades. The highest temperature encountered during this entire trip was 22 F (-6 C).

Travel Usage

I also traveled to Memphis, Tennessee for a week in December. I packed the Ascensionist Jacket to use as my jacket of choice. It packed fine in the suitcase but took up a bit more space than a lighter weight jacket would.

When I arrived in Memphis the temperatures were in the midst of a record cold which meant temps around freezing (32 F/0 C) and before I left the area it was experiencing record highs around 70 F (21 C). Hard rains were experienced during several days and although I was just wearing the jacket for walking excursions around that area I did not get wet! The hood certainly came in handy during the rainstorms. I cinched the hood to make it fit my head better as the hood is quite roomy if not wearing a helmet.

More Thoughts on Performance

Overall, the performance of the Ascensionist Jacket during highly aerobic activities has been somewhat of a surprise to me. Even though the material of the jacket is touted to be a highly breathable fabric its sturdy appearance may suggest otherwise to the casual observer. Since the jacket is technically designed to be a shell for high alpine climbing and mountaineering I was not so sure it would work as well in the high humidity and cold environment here in the Midwest. I have been pleasantly surprised that it works quite well.

Durability and Care

So far, there haven't been any issues with durability, but I will look further at that in the long term period. The jacket has been already subjected to several days of bushwhacking with no noticeable defects. I have already washed the jacket twice as my aerobic activity warranted it. I machine washed it in warm water and then tumble dried it for a few minutes before hanging to dry. 

During the next few months, it will still be the winter season here. I will continue to wear the Ascensionist Jacket for sledge trips, cross country skiing and snowshoeing and monitor its functionality, durability and care.

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Long Term Report:
Patagonia Ascensionist Jacket
March 17, 2009

Locations and Conditions

During the long term test period, I have worn the Patagonia Ascensionist Jacket so much that people are wondering whether I have any other jackets. I have worn it during two different four-day backcountry sledge trips, a four-day snowshoe-in rustic cabin trip, a three-day snowshoe-in rustic cabin trip and during almost every cross country ski or snowshoe outing at least 3 to 4 times a week.

Locations ranged from and included ice-covered Lake Superior and snow-covered conifer and deciduous forest communities.
Elevation ranged from 600 ft (183 m) to approximately 1200 ft (366 m). 

Early February Backpacking/Sledge Trip:

Location: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore - Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Type of Trip: Ungroomed trail and bushwhack
Distance: 18 mi (29 km)
Length of Trip:
4 days
Sledge Weight: 45 lb (20 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy, light snow and partly sunny 
0.12 in (0.30 cm)
Temperature Range: 23 F (-5 C) to 41 F (5 C)

Mid-February Sledge/Rustic Cabin Trip:

Location: Hiawatha National Forest - Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Type of Trip: Deep snow-covered old two-tracks and hiking trails
Distance: 11 mi (18 km)
Length of Trip:
4 days
Sledge Weight: 45 lb (20 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy, heavy snow flurries and partly sunny 
0.34 in (0.86 cm)
Temperature Range: -1 (-18 C) to 20 F (-7 C)

Early March Backpacking/Sledge Trip:

Location: Lake Superior (frozen-over) and Grand Island - Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Type of Trip: Frozen lake travel by ski and snowshoe, bushwhack and island trails
Distance: 21 mi ( 35 km)
Length of Trip:
4 days (wore Ascensionist only two days of this trip)
Sledge Weight: 45 lb (20 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy, partially sunny, windy
Trace of new snow
Temperature Range: -15 F (-26 C) to 32 F (0 C) 

March Sledge/Rustic Cabin Trip:

Location: Hiawatha National Forest - Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Type of Trip: Snow-covered old two-tracks and hiking trails
Distance: 9 mi (14.5 km)
Length of Trip:
3 days/2 nights
Sledge Weight: 40 lb (18 kg) 
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy, rain, light snow flurries, partly sunny
0.49  in (1.24 cm)
Temperature Range: 2 F to 36 F (-17 C to 2 C)

Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing:

Location: Groomed and ungroomed trails in Marquette and Houghton Counties - Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Distance: Usually 12 mi (20 km) for skiing and 3 mi to 5 mi (5 km to 8 km) for snowshoeing
Length of Outings:
2 to 3 hour sessions
Sky and Air Conditions: Snow (heavy to light flurries), windy, cloudy, occasionally sunny
Temperature Range: - 9 F (-23 C) to 35 F (2 C)

Performance in the Field


During the long term period the Ascensionist Jacket has continued to function well. I have worn it with many types of layers including a light down jacket. The stretchy fabric has been plenty roomy to accommodate the layers without restricting my movement. Probably one of my favorite features of the jacket continues to be the length of the tail of the jacket. Since I seem to be always bending over to latch snowshoes, ski bindings or the like my backside is protected from the elements.

The weather has been mostly very cold, snowy and on the windy side this winter with over 226 in (5.7 m) of snow falling in my immediate area plus much more in many areas that I travel. Many outings took place in below zero (-18 C) weather with significant wind chills. I have counted on the Ascensionist to provide adequate protection. I have found it to be the perfect jacket for most temperatures below freezing (32 F/0 C). Once it is above freezing aerobic activity limits my comfort and I need to either vent the jacket by opening the zipper or remove it all together. For non-aerobic activity it has been comfortable for temps much higher. I have worn the jacket during temperatures in the long term period that ranged from -15 F/-26 C to a high of 41 F/5 C (I can't even remember what that felt like!).

Although this jacket is much heavier than those I typically use for any winter aerobic activity I have found it to be surprisingly comfortable most days when selecting the right thickness of underlayers. The inner surface of the jacket doesn't get that clammy feeling that occurs on many other types of fabrics.

The hood of the jacket has been useful for those days that are really blustery and I needed to start my activity with extra head protection. The cinch cords do eliminate some of the excess room of the hood but it's still too roomy to completely rid of air spaces. I however understand that the jacket hood was designed to accommodate helmets. Unfortunately this winter I haven't participated in any activities that required a helmet. I was curious though so I did try on my rock helmet and found that the jacket hood fits best while wearing it. I will certainly keep this in mind next time I have a trip planned that requires one.
Tester wearing Ascensionist Jacket at end of four-day trip
As aforementioned in the outings information section, I have pulled a sledge while wearing the Ascensionist on four different trips during the long term period. I have found that the Ascensionist Jacket has worked well while wearing a waist harness because the fabric lies flat against my body eliminating bulk.

The inner chest pocket of the Ascensionist has been valuable for storing quickly needed items that can be accessed without taking the waistbelt of my sledge off as well. Although I still stash things in the side pockets during these outings I try to keep things in them that I don't need unless I am taking a break and removing the waistbelt. For ski outings, I have stored waxes and cork in the side pockets, neck gaiter, car keys, cell phone, snacks and the like. I love the amount of space in all the pockets on the jacket as it eliminates the need to carry an oversized waistpack for skiing (I can get away with just a water bottle holder).

Durability and Care

I have continued to wash the extremely durable jacket when needed. It mostly has become soiled around the edges of the cuffs so I gently rubbed them with laundry soap before washing. It has been remarkably easy to clean and the washing hasn't affected its appearance or water-resistance.

I will continue to wear the Ascensionist Jacket especially in conditions that warrant wind and cold protection. It's been perfect throughout the winter for high-aerobic activities during frigid temps. Although I haven't used it in warm weather I would likely prefer a lighter weight jacket for those few months here that are warmer.

  • Stretchable fabric
  • Roomy handwarmer pockets 
  • Long tail on jacket covers more of my body 
  • High gaiter-like neck useful in stormy weather

  • A bit bulky to fold if stowing
  • Hood too large when not using a helmet

Tester Remarks 

Thanks to Patagonia and BackpackGearTest for this neat opportunity to test the Ascensionist Jacket. This concludes my Long Term Report and the test series. 

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