Lightweight waterproof for year-round use
The Ascensionist is Patagonia’s lightest waterproof jacket (385 grams for my size L) but the design isn’t minimalist. It’s made from bluesign approved 3-layer 100% recycled nylon Gore-Tex Active with a Gore C-Knit inner. The jacket has a helmet compatible hood with a laminated visor, pit zips, two large handwarmer pockets, a chest pocket and an inner stretch pocket. All the zips except for the chest pocket are watertight ones and the main zip has an inner flap. There’s a drawcord at the hem with the ends hidden inside the pockets and Velcro-adjustable cuffs. An unusual feature is a concealed RECCO reflector at the back of the neck that sends out signals that can be used to locate you if you’re avalanched.
I’ve been using the Ascensionist over the winter, sometimes in really severe conditions with driving snow and strong winds as well as on milder rainy days. Overall, it’s performed well. The fabric is a little noisy but quite soft. The C-Knit inner feels pleasant and the jacket as a whole is comfortable. Being so light it does feel a little insubstantial in the worst winter weather. Then I think it’s best worn over a garment that is also windproof for some extra protection. Breathability is pretty good. The inner was damp after a day in wet snow and sleet, but I don’t think any waterproof fabric would have been condensation free in such weather. The pit zips help a bit, but like many they are rather awkward to use, especially with gloves on in a blizzard.
The hood is huge but cinches down to fit closely and move with your head. The stiffened visor works quite well though I prefer ones with flexible wire that can be bent to keep off side winds. The bottom of the handwarmer pockets is cut off by a hipbelt but there’s still room to fit maps inside. The chest pocket is the right size for a phone or GPS unit. The inside pocket is a good place for stuffing hat or gloves to keep them warm.
The Ascensionist is light enough for backpacking and suitable for year-round use, unlike many lightweight waterproofs. The design is good and its environmentally friendly. It’s also Fair Trade Certified. There’s really only one drawback. It’s expensive.