GEAR FIGHT: Arc’Teryx Miura 30 vs. Patagonia Ascensionist 35

Today we’re starting a new series on LP, GEAR FIGHTS. Its exactly what it sounds like: we take two (or more) pieces of gear and make them fight each other to decide which is the best. Except these are inanimate objects so when I say “fight each other” I actually mean “we rationally compare across a variety of categories.”

Today, my two favorite day packs. Our contenders are:

THE ARC’TERYX MIURA 30

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Versus

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THE PATAGONIA ASCENSIONIST 35

You know the law…

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WHAT ARE THEY?

These packs fit into the Daypack+ category- bigger than necessary, but not so large that you feel like an idiot doing a day hike with one on your back. Both packs feature a real suspension, with an actual padded hip belt and far more room than you could ever need for a day on the trail. I favor this category of packs because packs tend to get less comfortable when carried at full capacity and  I hate digging through a fully loaded pack looking for gear.


WEIGHT

Patagonia Ascensionist 35– 32 oz

Arc’teryx Miura 30– 67 oz

There is no way to describe how heavy the Arc’teryx Miura 30 is. If you told me that the Arc’teryx Miura 30 were made of depleted uranium, I would believe you. If you told me Arc’teryx had collapsed a star and made the Miura 30 out of its remains, I would believe you. It is impossibly, shockingly heavy.

On the other hand, the designers over at Patagonia must have been reading Kundera when they created the Ascensionist. 32oz isn’t the lightest pack in this class, but once your pack weighs this little it probably doesn’t matter a whole lot anyways.

WINNER: Patagonia Ascensionist 35


SUSPENSION

Both packs feature a removable internal frame, held in place by an internal sleeve. On the Ascensionist this frame is essentially a set of aluminium rods (think tent polls) spanned by nylon mesh. The frame is easily removed from the pack.

The frame on the Miura is a hard plastic covered with a padded foam. To be honest, getting the frame out of the pack is such a hassle that in 5 years of owning the I have never bothered to take it out.

Though both packs do have padded hip belts, they go about doing so in very different ways. The Miura’s hip belt is substantial, removable with the attachment point covered by a large lumbar pad, and has great weight transfer.

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Ascensionist’s hip belt is removable as well, attaching to the pack by a single D-ring.

In sum, the Ascnetionist has the more flexible system while the Miura is more robust. On conditioning hikes I have carried loads up to 45lbs in the Miura in (relative) comfort, while the Ascensionist maxes out way, way before that. This one is closer, but…

WINNER: Arc’teryx Miura 30


ORGANIZATION

This is the one area where the Ascnetionist significantly falls behind. It has ONE external pocket

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….and it is tiny. Wallet, keys, suncreen, maybe a headlamp and it is completely stuffed. The Miura doubles up here with two external pockets, a much larger pocket on the lid and a kangaroo pouch on running the length of the pack on the back.

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The functional difference between the two is incredible. With the Ascensionist every time that you need anything you have to dig through the entire pack to find it. On the Miura you can keep shells and layers in the kangaroo pouch, commonly used items in the top pocket, and save the main compartment for things you don’t use all that often. I know Patagonia was trying to make a streamlined pack for hiking/climbing fast with the Ascensionist, but here’s the problem with that plan: you can’t go very fast if you have to spend five minutes digging through your pack every time you need anything.

WINNER: Arc’teryx Miura 30


CLOSURE AND HYDRATION

Normally I wouldn’t even write a section on these topics, but the Patagonia closure and hydration access system is strange and worth talking about. First, the pack is “closed” using a single drawstring.

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The top is then folded over and cinched to the rest of the pack using a single strap, much like the more common roll top designs.

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The design is quick, and works well in the field. However, as far as I can tell it offers no real world advantages or disadvantages relative to more traditional designs.

Inexplicably Patagonia elected not to put a hydration port inside the pack. Sure, there is a ring to hang your hydration bladder on, but no obvious way to get the hydration tube out of the pack. What you are meant to do is run the port through the opening at the top of the pack and around the entire length of the pack before attaching the tube to it usual spot on your shoulder. There is no good reason for this (other than saving a dime on production costs…) as adding a hydration port in the usual location adds no weight to the pack. It is an unfathomably dumb system that is confusing to buyers. I know at least five people who have passed on buying this pack because of it.

The Miura uses a nice simple roll top with a hydration port.

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WINNER: Arc’teryx Miura 30


DURABILITY

Lets get this out of the way:

My first Ascensionist 35 was red and it made everything else it touched red. To Patagonia’s credit they replaced the pack (but not the shirt, despite me asking…). My new, grey Ascensionist has not bled.

Beyond this, assessing the durability of a pack is actually hard to do. The Miura 30 has been with me for thousands of miles, spent a summer on the Tibetan Plateau, was once used as a sled for sliding down some slick rocks in the middle of a cave, and has been constantly subjected to my “use the pack as a shield while pushing through this thorny bush” method of bushwhacking.

My Ascensionist is a little less than a year old and hasn’t had to put up with an of that. Due to the much thinner materials I’m suspicious of its durability, but until we know for sure we have to call this one a draw.

WINNER: Draw


AVAILABILITY 

You can go to basically any hiking store in the country and pick up an Ascensionist for around $120.

The Miura 30 has been off the market for a few years now. You can pick up used examples in really good shape for about $100 on ebay, but they aren’t always available.

WINNER: Patagonia Ascensionist 35


FINAL WINNER: 

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Arc’teryx Miura 30

Look, the Miura is heavy. Really, really heavy. And I know for many of you that this disqualifies it right off the bat. Frankly, this bothers me too– I’ve bought three packs, including the Ascensionist, trying to replace it for just this reason.

But, the Miura is also dependable, simple, and indestructible. The suspension in the pack rivals many dedicated overnight packs (Editors Note- AND THAT IS WHY IT IS SO HEAVY!). Where the Ascensionist chooses complicated- suspension, closure, hydration- the Miura chooses tried and true approaches. Sometimes it is better not to overthink things.

In real life these packs are compliments rather than competitors. Now that I own both I use the Ascensionist when I want to go far and fast, and the Miura when I need to cary a lot or know I will be pushing through thorny crap.

But that is not how gear battles work.

And it’s the Arc’teryx Miura 30


SEE IT IRL

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Aravaipa Canyon

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Disclaimer: This post, and all posts on LesserPlaces, may contain affiliate links– links that allow me to receive a small kickback at no additional cost to you when you shop through them. This is how we keep the lights on. 



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Max Wilson is a graduate student studying ecology at Arizona State University. He writes here at Lesser Places, occasionally for Backpacker.com, and even more occasionally for scientific journals. You can follow him on twitter @maxomillions.

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