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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Patagonia Ascensionist Soft Shell > Test Report by Leesa Joiner

Patagonia Ascensionist Jacket
Woman's Style
Test Series


Initial Report: November 10, 2008
Field Report: January 20, 2009
Long Term Report: March 20, 2009


Personal Information:
Leesa Joiner 
leesaj@gmail.com
Southwestern Maine
46 yrs                                                                    
Female
5'7" (1.7 m)
150 lb (73 kg)

BACKGROUND
     My outdoor experiences include trips varying in length from one-day hikes to two-week trips.  Most involve my three children. While my style isn't as 'high adventure' as some, I do enjoy the time we spend outdoors.   My load used to be HEAVY - think pack mule.  Now that the kids carry their own gear, plus the two oldest help carry the food, etc, my load is lighter.  I go for durability over weight when selecting gear.
    While outdoors, I spend time hiking, geocaching, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and camping. I spend almost as much time outdoors during the winter as I do during the summer.  

INITIAL REPORT

Jacket Information:
Product NameAscensionist JacketSize TestedLarge (XS  - L available)
ManufacturerPatagoniaAdvertised Weight18.5 oz (524 g)
URLhttp://www.patagonia.comMeasured Weight17.8 oz (505 g)
MSRP$225  USFabric5.3-oz polyester (45% recycled) 2-way-stretch doubleweave with a DelugeŽ DWR (durable water repellent) finish.
Year of Manufacture2008Colors AvailableBlack, Poppy Fields, Shoreline Blue

front view of jacket - manufacturer
Front View of Jacket - Manufacturer's photo

Initial Impressions:

My initial impression of the Patagonia Ascensionist Jacket is that it is an extremely well made, breathable, soft shell layer.  The attention to detail is impressive.  The jacket is advertised as being a '
balance between protection and minimalism'.  It is not what I would picture when I think 'minimalism'.  It is very well finished, with what appears to be high quality materials. The cord locks are securely attached, the zippers work smoothly,using easy to grip pulls. The seams are lap glued, not sewn, which is advertised as a way to decrease dry time, improve water resistance and reduce bulk.  From the outside, the seams have a shiny appearance, and at first glance appear to be a design on the jacket.  All seams appear to be very well sealed, with no spots that aren't sealed.  

open hoodrolled hood

The hood, while large when fully open is easily adjustable.  The 3 draw cords easily cinch the hood tight enough to fit nicely, blocking wind from most of my head, and especially my ears. There are two cinch cords on the front sides of the hood, and one on the back of the hood. The two side cords draw the hood tighter around the face area, while the one in the back runs from the neck to the top of the hood. The hood also rolls down to form a collar.  There is a strip of fabric, with hook and loop fasteners on the end, to hold it in place.  The end of the loop folds back on itself, through a small piece of fabric that has two slits cut in it, securing the hood.  I will say, that I have not been able to roll the hood as neatly as the picture on the web site, but it looks 'okay'.  Maybe more practice will help.  


two slitsinside the flap

In the above pictures I try to illustrate the placement of the hood flap/pocket that houses the cinch cord.  The flap has two slits cut into it that allow the hood closure tab to weave through.  The tab then folds back on itself and secures with two pieces of hook and loop material.  All parts are finished well, and work as intended.

The fabric is a dense polyester stretch-doubleweave that is touted as being exceptionally water- and wind-resistant. Specifically, it is of constructed 5.3-oz polyester (45% recycled) 2-way-stretch doubleweave with a DelugeŽ DWR (durable water repellent) finish.  It has a somewhat smooth feel to it, but is not slippery feeling.

The elbows are reinforced with another layer of the same fabric to increase durability, while the arms are attached in a way that seems to improve range of movement.   There are two front pockets with zippers, just above the mid-line.  Both are large enough to hold a few small items (small map, compass, GPS, tissues, etc) or my hands. The inner portion of the pockets are made of the mesh fabric that covers the front inner portion of the jacket. Inside of both pockets are the ends of the cinch cords for the lower hem.  The adjustments are made on the lower, inner hem of the jacket area. There is also a smaller, mesh pocket on the inside of the jacket, near the front zipper.   All outer zippers are waterproof, and sit flush with the jacket.
 
cuff
The cuffs have elastic around about 1/3 of the circumfrence.  There is an adjustable hook and loop strap that allows the cuffs to be tightened to fit snugly around the wearers wrist.  

The jacket's tag explains the care instructions using symbols and few a words: Do not use fabric softeners, wash with similar colors, water temps under 40 C (140 F), cool iron, low dryer settings and no bleach.

The sizing of the jacket appears to be fairly true to most women's outerwear I have experience with.  Because I've lost a little weight lately, I could have gone with a medium most likely, but I like the looser fit which will allow me to wear layers under the jacket in colder winter temperatures.  

Thoughts so Far:

I am very impressed with the quality of workmanship of this jacket, it surpasses what I expected from the web site.  It also fits well, allowing for good range of movement.  The zippers all work smoothly - and the main zipper can be manuevered with one hand.  I haven't found anything that I dislike at this point.  


Field Report
January 20, 2009

Over the last two months I have worn the Ascensionist jacket on 3 snowshoe trips and 4 day hikes.  I have also worn it while walking the dog, while traveling and around town.   It has been worn over a long sleeve t-shirt, fleece pullover, base-layer and wool blend top.  I have also worn it over a down jacket while snowshoeing and traveling in snow and icy rain conditions.

During my snowshoeing trips, I put the jacket on over my down jacket, hoping it would help keep me and the jacket dry.  On the first trip, it was snowing, and the temperature was about 35 F (2 C).  It was a wet snow, so it fell on the jacket and melted. After melting, the water beaded up and just fell off.  Normally I expect would expect the water to run downwards and drip off. For the most part, this actually sort of 'flew' off as I moved.  When I take off the jacket, I can shake it and have all the water droplets shake off (picture a wet dog shaking).  Once the water is shaken off, the jacket feels dry.   On another trip, the weather turned nasty - with freezing rain and wind. The temperatures were in the high teens (-8 C) and winds were gusting to about 25 mph (35 kmph). I zipped the jacket up as far as possible, allowing it to cover my chin and even my mouth if I kept my head bent down into the jacket.  I cinched the hood closed as much as possible and it kept my head and a good portion of my face dry and warm.  Most importantly, it kept my ears warm.  The ice pellets never melted on the jacket, and just fell off. On the last trip, the weather was cloudy and grey when I set out.  After about half an hour, the snow started falling and I pulled the jacket out of my pack.  I threw it on over my down jacket and continued on.  The temperatures fell to about 20 F (-7 C) and the wind picked up.  I was tempted to head home, but was really enjoying the peace and quiet, so I kept going.  I was really relieved to realize that the jacket was not only keeping me dry, but it was also blocking the wind very well once again.

While day hiking, I often just put the jacket in my pack and pulled it out if wind or rain became an issue.  Often when I go out, it is comfortable hiking without the jacket, but once it hits mid-afternoon and the weather cools quickly the jacket comes in handy.  I was really impressed that on all my hikes, I never felt hot and clammy, even after exerting myself.  The breathability is very impressive, allowing me to stay comfortable in all different types of conditions.  It allows body heat to escape when I am warming up, and keeps cool air from coming in and reducingmy body temperature when I need to stay warm.

I had the 'luck' of traveling during the ice storm that hit the northeast in December.  On the way to the airport, at 3 a.m., I had to stop many times and break the ice off of my windshield wipers.  The jacket was wonderful - it protected me from both the ice and wind.  Once I got to the airport, I left my down jacket in the car, and traveled in the Ascensionist.  I arrived in Alabama and found it was the perfect weight jacket for their weather, which ranged from a low of 26 F (-3 C) to 55 F (13 C).  I also found while enjoying great BBQ with friends, that BBQ sauce wipes off very easily.

The jacket shows no sign of wear (or BBQ sauce). The fasteners all work well. I am particularly happy with the way the front zipper seals out cold air and wind.  The sleeves hit at a comfortable length, allowing me to tighten them over my gloves, to further block out cold air.  The articulated sleeves allow for very good range of motion The fit is very roomy, with enough room underneath for a base layer, pullover and either a fleece or down jacket.  All seams remain perfectly sealed and smooth.  The chamois inserts on the area near the face of the jacket are very comfortable against my skin, and a nice added touch.

I have worn a day pack with the jacket on both the snowshoeing and hiking trips and find the jacket is comfortable under a pack. Keeping the bottom hem of the jacket cinched snuggly, helps keep the jacket from riding up. The hand warmer pocket zippers are not fully adjustable with a pack on, but this isn't really a problem for me as I rarely put my hands in my pockets, and only use them for storage of small items.  I can easily unclip the hip belt and get things out of the pockets, if needed.  

I really like that I can pull the jacket out of my pack, and it isn't wrinkled, which while out on a trail really doesn't matter, but it is nice when worn while traveling or around town.  While hiking it keeps me dry - it keeps me from perspiring too much and from rain or snow.


Long Term Report
March 20, 2009

Over the last two months, I have worn the jacket on two snowshoeing trips and 4 day hikes.  The jacket was also taken on an overnight trip, but was not needed.  I have also worn it on many short hikes (under 2 hours), around town and to work.  It continues to perform and look great.

Snowshoeing Trips
  • 20 - 25 F (-4 to -7 C)
  • moderate winds 5 - 15 mph (8 - 24 kph)
  • snowmobile trails and unbroken trails
  • little elevation change
  • Vernon Walker Wildlife Management Area
  • Western Maine
On the two snowshoeing trips, I wore it at times over a fleece pullover and base layer. Other times,the sun went behind the clouds so I put on a down jacket, and the Patagonia over the jacket. It served as a great windbreaker, and was great at keeping my head and neck area warm.  I dislike wearing a hat, and usually just wear ear warmers to keep my ears warm.  That works great, unless it is windy.  The Patagonia hood solves the problem when it is windy, I can wear the ear warmers, put up the hood and stay warm and comfortable.  I especially like that the hood does not interfere with my field of vision. Another nice feature is the breathability.  Even when I exert myself, I do not feel sweaty, and thus don't feel chilled later.

Hike #1

  • 45 F (7 C), brisk winds off the Atlantic Ocean
  • Sea Level to 58' (18 m)
  • Wells Estuary Trail
  • 7 Miles (11 km), coastal pathways
Hike #2
  • 40 F (4 C), light winds
  • Elevation 1624' (495 m)
  • Burnt Meadow Mountain, Maine
  • 10 miles (16 m), muddy trails and some bushwacking.

Hike #3
  • 30 F (-1 C), no wind, bright sun
  • Elevation 2200' (671 m)
  • Province Mountain,  Maine
  • 5 miles (8 km), trails, muddy and some ice.
Hike #4
  • 35 F (2 C) windy and overcast
  • Elevation 1800' (549 m)
  • Picket Mountain, Maine
  • 7 miles (11 km), mud, snow and ice.

 
During all these trips, I kept the jacket in my pack, until I needed it either as a wind break, or as an outer layer to hold in body heat.   As a wind breaker it protects my body and arms from the wind, and with the hood up, it also protects my face and neck.   As an outer layer, I found it helps hold in body heat.   It takes up little room in my pack, and comes out without being wrinkled.  I also like that I can wear my pack over the jacket, and it never bunches or rides up under the pack.  Wearing it while hiking while windy or overcast, I never felt that I got too warm.  While the sun was out and there was little wind, I did find I got warm and unzipped the jacket.  Unzipping usually solved that problem, if it didn't, I'd just stuff it back in my pack and keep going.  Most of the time it was worn over my down jacket along with a long sleeve shirt and base layer, or without the down jacket, and a fleece pullover.  I really like the length of the jacket, it covers my bottom, and keeps the wind from blowing up inside of the jacket.  

One of the features that I didn't find as useful personally, was the ability of the hood to roll up and become part of the collar area.  I found it uncomfortable on my neck, and 'bunchy'.  This was easily solved, by not rolling the hood, and instead either wearing it when windy, or letting it hang down when not needed.  Early on I cinched the hood to where it felt comfortable, and never had to adjust it again.  I do like the chamois inserts that kept the rougher fabric of the jacket from rubbing on my face and neck areas.  

The jacket still looks very good, with no obvious signs of wear.  I did wash the jacket, to remove some dirt marks.  Coming out of the washer the Velcro had lint stuck to it, and some of the Velcro was stuck to other pieces of Velcro.
 Once I took care of the Velcro, it looked as good as new.  All closures work as well as intended.  The cinch cords locks do a very good job of holding the cinch cords in place.

Over the testing period, I was very impressed with the water repellancy of the jacket, the quality of workmanship and how well it packs and travels.  This jacket has held up well to lots of wear, and not always the most gentle treatment.  Many times while wearing it, I rubbed against prickery branches, yet the fabric never snagged or tore. Its been stuffed into my pack and suitcase many times, and then pulled out and worn without being wrinkled.  Often while traveling, I will go from frigid temperatures in Maine, to warmer temperatures down south or out west.  The Patagonia jacket makes it simple.  I can wear it to the airport, stuff it in my carry-on luggage, and then pull it out when needed.  It is very versatile and looks good enough to wear out while doing errands or going to work.

My thanks to Patagonia and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Ascensionist jacket.











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