A good ski pack keeps a low profile. It needs to store our avalanche safety gear and essential day trip supplies. But its presence should be subtle and fade away as we skin our way up or turn our way down the hill. The ideal ski pack size varies for everyone, but generally speaking, 30-40 liters is considered the norm for most day-touring needs. The newest pack to make its way on to our backs is the Patagonia Descensionist 32L Ski Pack.
The Patagonia Descensionist ski pack is a mostly traditional top-loading daypack with a decidedly straightforward design with a couple of features that set it apart from the crowd.
In the big picture, it has one large main compartment, a separate and easily accessible avalanche rescue tools pocket, a modest-sized pocket in the lid and a small hip belt pocket. The note-worthy features include side-access to the main compartment, a simple top lid fastener and a unique spindrift collar that seals up the pack with the pull of a cord.
The avalanche rescue tools pocket is proportionally sized and easily accommodates a shovel, probe and saw. Once filled with avalanche rescue essentials, there is not enough space for skins or a layer, but there is room to spare for a small repair kit or similar.
At just over 2 lbs, the Descensionist is reasonably light, but not ultra-light. The pack is a solid example of a simple design that has everything you need and nothing you don’t.
What we like about the pack
In addition to the overall simple, uncluttered design, the pack’s side-access zipper has proven to be a great, functional feature. The zipper runs the full length of the pack and allows for easy grabbing of gear from the main body without opening the top lid. From grabbing food or a thermos at a transition to pulling a shell for the descent, the side zip makes for quick access.
The avalanche tools pocket is well sized and easy to access. From shovel and probe to saw and snow study kit, it keeps gear organized and at the ready.
I can always find things i’d change on a pack, and the main detail on the Descensionist that needs work is the top lid pocket. Once stuffed with goggles and a few miscellaneous snacks or similar, there is hardly room for a toque or a radio. An extra zip storage pocket would be a welcome addition – be it under the lid or in the avalanche tools pocket – to help reduce clutter in the top pocket and keep small items easy to find.
The Patagonia Descensionist 32L is a pack for skiers who prioritize simplicity and no-frills functionality. It has everything you need in a backcountry ski pack and nothing that you do not. I find it ideally sized for day tours with just the right volume to handle added camera gear or extra specialty gear for a technical day.
Several small details help set it apart from similar packs: reasonably light weight, side access, a generous avy tools pocket and a top lid with a unique cinch spindrift collar design. For those who need extra volume, the Descensionist is also available in a 40-liter size. The extra volume of the 40L bumps the pack into the guide-worthy and light overnight capacity realm. The 40L offers the same clean, no-frills design as the 32-liter model.
The Descensonist is the kind of pack that could easily serve double duty in the off-season. The clean, thoughtful design has all the features you need for light-duty mountaineering – ice axe loops and ski or board carry – plus an uncluttered style that’s ready to serve any mountain adventure.
Patagonia Descensionist 32L – $180