For the past few months, this backpack has been my bag for everything. It’s been my laptop lugger, my climbing pack, my snack reservoir, my airplane carry-on bag; you name it. I’ve put it through the wringer, and I can say with full confidence that I love this pack. The ample storage and comfortable design make it a great option for front-country cragging, long day-hikes, or quick backcountry excursions.
Patagonia Women’s Nine Trails Backpack 26L Features:
- Durable CODURA nylon ripstop
- Top loading design with extended U-shaped zipper
- Large exterior stretch pocket and 2 side pockets
- Zippered hip belt pockets
- Women’s specific harness and back panel
- Mono-mesh back panel with removable frame
- MSRP: $159.00
Women’s-specific Fit and Function
When I first pulled out this brightly colored Nine Trails pack from the box, I was nervous about how it would fit and feel on my back. It seemed so stiff. I was afraid that the padded shoulder straps would be too rigid to be comfortable, or that they would rub my neck or shoulders wrong. I’ll cut to the chase and say I was quickly proven otherwise.
In no time, the straps softened, the women’s specific back panel was exceedingly comfortable, and I was delighted to carry this pack for a host of activities. For the past several years, I’ve used a gender neutral (read: men’s) 30L pack to carry my climbing gear. My old pack is extraordinarily uncomfortable, and seems to apply pressure in all the wrong places (my lower back, most significantly). But, hey, it’s what I had and it got my gear to the crag.
The Patagonia Nine Trails, on the other hand, was a dream to wear. I often loaded it down with climbing gear and was able to finish all my approaches with no discomfort. When not carrying my draws/harness/helmet/etc., the pack itself incredibly light. Weighing in at an average of 2 lbs .1 oz, this pack is capable of helping you shoulder heavy weight while not adding to that weight by its construction.
This was my pack of choice when I did a 4-pitch climb, finishing in a walk-off. When walking to the base of the climb, I carried about 20 draws in addition to my harness, additional gear, helmet, shoes, snacks, layers, guidebook, etc. The result: a fairly heavy pack. Almost all this weight disappeared from the pack during the climb, except for the snacks, water, layers, and book. I was impressed with the comfort of this pack while supporting both significant weight or very little at all. Sometimes packs excel at only one or the other — the Nine Trails felt great regardless of the weight inside.
The back panel is a women’s specific, mono-mesh construction. Patagonia touts the mono-mesh backing as “superbreathable,” allowing air to pass through easily to keep you from getting a wet, sweaty back while in the mountains. A mesh backing with strategic impressions secures the perforated foam back panel. Empty space between the upper and lower back provides even more airflow as you move. I never found myself uncomfortably warm or sweaty, even when exerting myself hard over the course of a hike or climb.
The back panel balances support with flexibility. The internal frame panel is removable, but I much preferred having it in the pack. Without it, I felt that the pack became more uncomfortable and slumped over any time I set it down. I suppose you would save on weight if you chose to remove it, but the pack itself is already pretty light. At the end of the day, I think the comfort of the panel is worth the bit of extra weight.
The Nine Trail’s pack has an excellent, simple storage design. There aren’t all the bells and whistles of a mountaineering or backpacking pack — and that is totally okay. Instead of trying to just shrink all the features of a larger pack, the Nine Trails simplifies the design to create a construction that is functional and useful.
A large main compartment is accessed via an off-set U-shaped zipper. This zipper allows you to open the large main compartment wide open, accessing items buried low in the pack without having to completely unpack everything in your bag. The mesh outside pocket is great for stashing a guidebook or snack that you might want to grab without hindrance. There’s a hidden smaller exterior pocket that I often put my keys and phone in, as well as a similarly sized pocket inside the main compartment.
The Nine Trails’ 26 liter capacity offered more than enough room for everything I’d need for a full day outside. Whether that was additional layers and snacks, climbing gear, or (if staying in town) my laptop and other items, there was always enough room to fit it all. The hip belt pockets are great for holding a small items, like an energy gel or chapstick, and I was able to put large water bottles in the respective pockets even when the pack was fully loaded. I did notice that, depending on the way that I adjusted the pack, sometimes the hip belt bent in a way that inhibited access to the contents of the harness pockets. Not a deal breaker for me by any means, but worth mentioning.
Patagonia provided impressive durability with the Nine Trails pack. I scrambled around sharp Arizona granite, sent it through numerous airport security checks, and plopped it down on boulders/trails/downed trees. Despite the abuse, this pack has held up beautifully. Stained? Yes, definitely. Worn? Not to the extent I would have expected. The seams show no signs of weakness and–other than some small abrasions on the mesh of the water bottle pockets–there are no holes to report. The material is the lightweight yet bomber Codura Nylon Ripstop, treated with a polyurethane coating and DWR to offer a bit of protection from rain and snow.
Now I had a bit of a love/hate relationship with the mesh pockets. While I loved the accessibility, the stretch, and the durability of this mesh, I was frustrated to find that it didn’t stretch enough to accommodate my climbing helmet. Now this is not a climbing specific bag, necessarily, but it would have been delightful to be able to stuff my climbing helmet into the mesh pocket for the approach. Instead, I had to clip it on the outside via the compression straps for a moderately secure (yet certainly prone to swinging) attachment. On one cragging day, I was able to fit a rope, my sport climbing gear, my harness and my shoes in the bag, but just couldn’t get the helmet to fit in the place that would have been most convenient.
I would have also liked the option of attaching an ice axe to this pack. As it is, there are two very small loops of webbing at the bottom of the pack, but they are so small that I don’t even know that I could fit the shaft of an ice axe through. I think the lack of ice axe and gear loops makes it pretty clear that this isn’t intended to be a high alpine pack. However, it performs well in exactly the function that Patagonia markets it for: a full day in the mountains.
- Really durable!
- Comfortable with a spectrum of load weights
- Ample storage, and easy access thanks to the extended U-shaped zipper
- Women’s-specific fit and design
- Back panel makes a big difference in load carrying — keep it in there
- The stretchy mesh pockets aren’t that stretchy, and can’t fit a helmet
- No attachment points for ice axes or other gear
The Bottom Line: Patagonia Nine Trails 26L Pack
The Patagonia Nine Trails pack is a fantastic backpack that performs well in both the back and front country. It is amazingly durable, and offers ample storage capacity without superfluous pockets or gratuitous design. The combination of comfort and simplicity made this pack a favorite item of mine for my adventures climbing, hiking, and traveling this summer.
Buy Now: Available at Patagonia.com