Bluffworks Ascender 5 Pocket Review
When you don't want a chino, but you want a pair of travel pants that are a bit smarter and less techy looking. How do the Ascender 5 Pockets work out?
Introduction To The Bluffworks Ascender 5 Pocket Pants
Bluffworks is here to stay. By now, they aren't really the plucky upstart looking to change the clothes you travel with for the better. They've pretty much done that, and now they are iterating on their designs and offerings. We already reviewed their t-shirt (Bluffworks Threshold review), but they've grown up to offer multiple button downs, pants, and even suits and jackets. The goal here for them is to help you to be able to travel smartly, but still dress smartly as well. Even better, they've branched out into women's clothing, too - which is good to see as there aren't too many brands focusing on women's travel clothing.
Today we're looking at an update to one of their most popular items - the Ascender series. Originally they released a chino style - this is the update to a 5 pocket style. That means it's more jeans-like in its detailing. Rivets, 5 pockets (obviously), etc. What attracted me to them is the idea of having a dual purpose 5 pocket style (casual and good for a dinner out) that also came in a bit more refined colors. Similar to what you'd see in a chino color palette. They offer a lot of what Bluffworks is famous for in their travel clothes. Let's see if they succeeded in making a strong all-rounder for your kit.
This is my review of the Bluffworks Ascender 5 Pocket pants. For full disclosure, Bluffworks was kind enough to send me a pair to review, but this is not a sponsored article and other than me reaching out, they played no part in this review. The opinions are my own.
This page does include affiliate links. When used to make a purchase, we make a small commission which helps keep this site running, but this in no way affects the results of our reviews and is at no cost to you.
Bluffworks Ascender 5 Pocket Overview
There's a lot going on with these pants - particularly the fabric. Like some other brands out there today, Bluffworks really focuses on their fabrics. That's the whole point really - you should be able to get that utility, while not looking like a schlub, with easier care while on the road (machine washable!).
It's a 100% technical polyester. This particular choice is moisture wicking, noted as breathable, and anti-microbial (a huge deal with travel clothing as it means less odors and more wears). It dries fast, and it's light at only 5.31oz per yard. You can feel the light weight while wearing it. It's quite nice.
The pants also manage to fit in 10 pockets for you to make use of in all sorts of different ways (or not at all) depending on your style. We'll get into those more in the next section.
Lastly, they do a decent job at resisting wrinkles. I'll continue to say this to set your expectations, there is no fabric to my knowledge, besides the material recovered at the Roswell crash site, that is 100% wrinkle free. But this does a solid job assuming you take all the normal precautions.
Sells for $125.00 on their site which in the travel pants space - is a good value for this quality. Lots of colors - light sage, light grey, a slate blue, a darker grey, and black. A great amount of choices. I have the light sage here and want to note it is in fact a sage green color. It's just very hard to capture that in a non-professional photo studio. It's sage, not khaki, I promise. Frankly it looks great.
Bluffworks Ascender 5 Pocket Additional Features
The big feature set here are the pockets. There's a ton. Ten! I should also mention that the pants do have some stretch to them, but not enough to make them an athletic pant.
OK - so those pockets! They are legitimately perfect for travel scenarios. In the front, you've got your normal 3 jeans pockets - two for hands, one for coins. But inside each, you have a small security pocket (first picture, great for folded bills or a hotel key card/credit card), as well as a small multitool pocket on the right side (second picture, also good for chapstick). On the back, the famous Bluffworks phone pocket (3rd picture, fit my Pixel 4a no issues and allows you an easier time sitting down with a phone in a pocket). Two regular jeans-style back pockets. Above the left back pocket there is a legit stealth zipper pocket built under the seam (bottom three pics; it's perfect for a passport, with another smaller pocket inside it for anything else you don't want to lose). A bit pocket-ceptiony here, kids.
I should be clear here - these are all done very well in their design, and do not appear or feel to add any perceivable bulk to the pants - I think that's the real genius to them. I purposefully made the zipper visible in the bottom three pictures to illustrate its location. When fastened, you legitimately cannot tell there is a pocket there at all and cannot see the zipper.
Bluffworks Ascender 5 Pocket Fit
Time to enter the portion of the review taken care of by the Always Wander Traveling Circus of Being Short and Finding the Right Fit. It's a very exclusive circus. Reference for this section, I'm 5'6" and about 148lbs depending on the meal.
One thing that attracted me to the pants was that they were offered in a 28 length. I will tell you, that is pretty much the holy grail in travel pants - it's offered almost nowhere. So that was great. Bluffworks also offers a Regular and a Slim fit on these so you're able to pick which is more "you".
How did they fit on me? Mostly great, I chose the Slim. A 30 was true to size in the waist, and they weren't too bad on length. I'll be up front, I did alter these slightly to get them exactly right. But it's pretty rare that in any pair of premium pants I don't have to do that. I like a pant close to the skinny side, without being really skinny jeans-esque. You can see what I mean from the picture. So I shortened them probably just a little more than a cuff length (which on these is prob just under a half inch), and tapered below the knee a bit. I like more of a European style after living over there for years. That said, again, you can see they aren't really "skinny". I think for most American guys, the Regular or Slim will work well, especially if you're an athletic build in your legs like the models on the site. Perhaps Bluffworks could look at GAP's regular skinny fit, which is what I use for every day jeans. Provides a nice stylish and slim look with not much extra fabric, without making you look like an EMO drummer in a band.
In terms of post-washing - expect these to perform similar to chinos or jeans. They don't "bag out" much - but they will loosen up just a bit. I find this to be completely normal for a pair of pants of any kind. They go right back to normal after a wash and dry, and don't shrink due to the material (at least as far as I could see).
First off, the material and weight of these. I had a pair of Western Rise Diversions in my possession before these, and these are noticeably lighter. So for one, that's going to play well in your packing considerations. But more about the material - it's really soft and comfy due to the additional 2-way stretch offered. One of those materials you kind of forget you're wearing them. I do also like that with the styling, and color choices, it's true what they say. I think you could wear these in most situations outside of a real business wear scenario. Tech companies, absolutely. That and of course formal is not really gonna cut it. I took them on two separate weekend trips and wore them during the day and while driving with sneakers, and also tested them with a pair of my go-to brogues. They turn into smart-casual pretty easily. Casual sports coats and shoes will go well with these if you need to. When I do real travel, I enjoy the Michelin scene (or that style where there is no Michelin in the destination country) and would feel completely comfortable up-leveling these for those kinds of dinners. I wouldn't push it too much into the more formal dining scenes like the older school places, but for most, you're golden. I live in NYC and was in London before that, if that helps lend any credit to my input in terms of observations. I know it's all very personal and subjective.
Can't not highlight the pockets here. I'll even break out the double negative for that. Sometimes these things sound amazing, but in practice, not so much. You end up like a pack rat stuffing everything known to man into your pants. Not the case here. I found the pockets practical, and not at all obtrusive or weighty when you weren't using them. In particular the passport zippered pocket was a winner for when you're heading through airports and security, etc. Or, around particular towns with known pickpockets. They won't be able to steal your documentation.
Color choices, and offering a 28 length were wins for me, too. Lastly, the detailing of the pocket fabric was top notch. This is something that more premium companies always offer, and I like to see it here. Adds to the feel and the character.
For me personally, I think I didn't find the slim that slim. I'd like to see that a bit more slim/tapered below the knee.
Another thing to note, is that the hook and loop piece in the front security pocket, while it works as advertised, the corners of the piece are quite hard plastic. So if you're blindly fishing around in that pocket, it's possible to stab yourself under your nail with them. This might sound like an ultra specific example - but hey, it happened. Maybe I'm the only muppet out there that managed to do this, but I did. Maybe those points can be concealed, or softened up with a diff material. A warning to those blindly throwing their hands in there looking for the opening. But look, nothing over-dramatic, I'll live. Just something to note.
The Performance of the Bluffworks Ascender 5 Pocket
Since they are not a pair of active pants or a t-shirt that's going to be more tested in this section, there's not a whole lot to scientifically mention in my wear. They are a pair of pants that are light enough to wear on warm days (I was comfortable on 70-75F days), they do well to manage wrinkles, and they don't easily pick up odors so you're going to be able to get some good multi-day wears out of them.
The softness and the stretch in the pants also means they perform quite well in general every day wear. I found them to be wicked comfortable.
Lastly, I do want to mention the swish test. You know the one. Many travel/technical pants have an annoying quality where they "swish" due to the nature of the fabric. For the Bluffworks Ascenders - it's minimal I'm happy to say. I did notice it when putting them on (who cares right) and then if I was walking around my empty, dead silent, one bedroom apartment. Which is to say never in any real world usage scenarios. If you squeeze your legs together you can make it happen - but if you do that I feel like you're just fishing for problems vs. being realistic. I was quite happy with the lack of swish overall.
The Improvement Requests for the Bluffworks Ascender 5 Pocket
Consider making the 28 a BIT shorter. But, that's extremely personal in terms of a request and experience. What I would like to see, is a fit closer to a "GAP skinny". Not many American companies are doing this, and I suppose they are catering to their market. Something to consider. Maybe make the Regular like the current Slim, and the Slim like what I mention above. Help take those consumers to a place of smarter dressing, Bluffworks. Haha.
Adjust the material/edges on the hook and loop piece inside the front left pocket so it can't assault us. (I'm kidding, it's not that bad and it's a low-percentage thing to happen. But a point to consider).
Final Thoughts On My Bluffworks Ascender 5 Pocket Review
I wore these pants for a week straight to test them and took them on 2 different weekend trips, both involving 2 hour plus driving each way. Bluffworks has a winner on their hands here.
The fit is solid and most people will love it right away, I think. They are comfortable, functional, and I think truly are that versatile pant that you can bring on a trip and wear for day time around town, or also at dinner for MOST occasions. Including with a sport coat. It strikes a great balance for that in terms of the style and also the color choices. It will appear to be like a nice pair of jeans in terms of style - but much lighter to pack and more comfortable. Great job on those.
Coupled with the types of pockets that make these superb for travel, and the anti-microbial properties to make it a little more forgiving if you do sweat a bit in them - we're highly impressed by these pants. The Bluffworks Ascender 5 pocket pants are my new go-to for my travel kit as of September 2020. And, as soon as I can safely get on a plane to a far off land again - they are coming with me.
They sell directly from their website, so consider using our link if you decide to make a purchase decision. Thanks for reading!
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