Generally I prefer body-hugging packs to ones with ventilation gaps because the former are more stable. The Ascent 36 is an exception to this. Indeed, it’s more stable than many close-fitting packs. This is because of the flexible frame and stretchy foam back panel, both of which twist and turn with you. The hipbelt and back panel are made from one piece of material so they move together too. This all adds up to a very stable, very comfortable pack. The back panel is full of holes which, combined with the air gap between it and the frame, makes for good ventilation – though it doesn’t leave your back quite as dry as thin mesh backbands, as the panel is quite thick.
The other features of the pack are well-designed too. There’s a roomy zipped pocket on the front, well-protected zip access to the base of the pack and roomy stretch side pockets. I can easily get a 700ml bottle in and out of the last while wearing the pack. The capacity, which is slightly more than most of the packs tested, makes the Ascent 36 fine for winter hillwalking loads.
The Ascent 36 is more expensive and heavier than most of the other packs. However it is very comfortable and combines ventilation and stability well.