Patagonia Nine Trails Waist Pack 8L Review
Cons: Odd fit, expensive, doesn't feel like it was designed for mountain biking
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Nine Trails waist pack delivers respectable on-trail performance, though we had serious gripes with some of the fit and design aspects. That said, it scores mid-pack in most areas, excelling in the important storage metric. Given its strengths in a couple key metrics, this pack came out of our comparative analysis in a respectable position. No, it's not an award winner, but it is a functional option with loads of storage that can also work well for day hikes.
Ease of Drinking
This metric is kind to the Nine Trails pack. The hose routing is smart and avoids any sharp bends or potential kings that can obstruct water flow. The hose is of appropriate length and will work well for riders with even the longest torso. The nozzle is fine, and the clip that holds the hose while not in use is serviceable and a nice alternative to the finicky magnetic systems of many packs.
The Nine Trails uses a round nozzle that delivers a solid flow of water with minimal effort. Some of the other bags in our test use more of a rectangular nozzle that requires riders to bite down softly prior to pulling water. The round nozzles do not require a bite. We find this to be a little more user-friendly; however, the water flow isn't quite as strong.
The hose attaches to a clip on the right side of the waistband while not in use. Simply clamp the hose into this clip and keep pedaling. Other bags use a magnetic system where a magnet on the hose works in concert with a magnet on the waistline to hold the hose in place. The clip-on method on the Patagonia pack may take a little bit of force to engage, but we feel it is a little more secure. With the magnetic system, you are a slave to the magnet location on the hose. Yes, this is adjustable, but that is the only location where you can secure the hose. The clamp/clip system offers far more flexibility. You can clamp the hose down anywhere, and this requires a whole lot less accuracy. We like it. You can keep your eyes on the trail and pop the hose into the clamp without looking.
Ease of Filling
The Nine Trails also scores well here. If you have read more than one of our hip pack reviews, you will notice we love the quick-connect hose/bladder interface. The Nine Trails has this easy-to-use system, which makes filling the bladder much cleaner and more straightforward. The slider system opens and closes this pack with ease.
A common dilemma when filling a bladder-style pack is trying to decide whether it is best to pull the bladder out of the bag to fill or try and fill it while it's still inside the bag. Do you risk a little spillage and try and thread the needle by filling the bladder while in place? Or do you go through the process of removing the bladder entirely to do it right. With the quick-connect bladder/hose system that is found on this pack, that decision is simple. It is very easy to disconnect the hose from the bladder making simple removal a no-brainer.
This pack uses a folding/slider closure system. We find this is significantly easier to work with than a screw-on cap. Just fold the top of the bladder over to expose some plastic tracks. Then, push the slider over the track to seal-off the bladder. This does take a little bit of getting used to, and you need to make sure you fold the bladder in the correct direction. That said, it becomes second nature pretty quickly. With screw-on systems, it is easy to think that you have a flush cap that is secure, only to find water spilling later from the cap not being on straight. This is more common than you might think and can be a wet and slippery mistake.
The Nine Trails is a reasonably comfortable pack, though It is not without its quirks.
First, the good: this pack has a nice feel against the body whether you are wearing a super thin jersey or a wind shell. There is no scratchy feel or any pressure points. The backing of the main storage area, or the part that sits on your lumbar, is dialed. There is a screen covering some ribbed, channeled, firm material that promotes airflow. This allows a little bit of heat and moisture to escape. It is always difficult to judge how well this works, but we found this back panel was usually pretty dry after a ride. The hip wings, or the portion that wraps around your waist, are quite soft and pleasant against the body. This area doesn't have any features to promote airflow, but it isn't really necessary here. The waist belt is relatively wide, and the plastic buckle has been offset to the left so that it doesn't conflict with the zipper or button on your shorts.
Now for the bad: this bag is large. Patagonia doesn't market this bag as a bike-specific hip pack and it is obvious in the design. In fact, when you search for the Nine Trails 8L in Google, the link to the Patagonia site calls it a hiking pack. The shape of the main portion of the bag is square and boxy. When standing up on the pedals, or in an upright climbing position, the bottom of the bag contacts the upper portion of the buttocks. When you are standing up on the trail, it is even more noticeable. It exerts pressure downward on your rear end. This phenomenon occurs even when you hike the bag up to sit higher on your waist. The Nine Trails could really benefit from a shorter construction in the north-south direction, or better contouring around the waist to hold it in place more effectively.
When you are wearing this pack, there is a gap at the junction of the main portion of the bag and the wings. No matter how tightly we cinched up the waistband, we had a difficult time getting it to lay flat against the hips. A lot of other bags have supplemental straps that you can yank on to close this gap. Simply put, the Nine Trails doesn't conform to your waist as well as others. It should be noted that there isn't a serious performance loss as a result, it's just clunky looking and a seemingly incomplete design.
This pack offers a fair amount of storage space. The 8-liter capacity is one of the largest we tested. There are also some nice features that really enhance the user-friendliness.
The front compartment has a velcro flap at the top and two vertical zippers on the side. Upon undoing the velcro and unzipping the pocket, there is a flap that folds outward. On the inside of that flap, there is a zipped pocket that would be great for cash, a credit card, and light items you do not want to lose. On the main portion of this compartment, there are two elasticized mesh slots for a multi-tool, a carefully packed tube, tire levers, and some CO2. There is also a clip-on length of string-like fabric to clip your keys. Two lengths of webbing with plastic hooks on the end can be used to hook onto the top of the front flap. This gives you the ability to attach large or bulky items to the outside, but it leaves the compartment open when in use.
There is some storage in the front of the bladder pocket for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or some larger items like a neatly folded rain shell. On the exterior of the main bag, there are two vertical slots that look like water bottle holders. They are a little too tight to shove a bottle into, but we think they are a great option for an apple core or any sticky or dirty item you don't want to keep in the bag.
On the left waist wing, there is a zipped pocket. This is great for a candy bar or bag of nuts that you need to access more often. The beauty of this pocket is you don't need to remove or spin the bag around to access it. This pocket should fit most cell phones aside from the oversized, massive options.
The Nine Trails pack weighs 371 grams without the bladder or any items in the pack. This is on the heavier end of the spectrum of the packs in this test, not surprising given the amount of storage it provides.
Ease of Cleaning
This is quite an easy pack to clean. Again, it comes down to the quick-connect bladder system that makes removal a breeze.
The fact that you can pull the bladder out of the bag very easily, without touching the hose, gives far more incentive to clean it. We all know if a process is more difficult, we are less likely to make it happen. But with the Nine Trails, pulling the bladder out is easy, so there is no excuse not to keep it clean. Bags without the quick-connect system force you to pull the hose out along with the bladder, which is a hassle and might dissuade users from wanting to clean the bladder as often.
The hose can stay in place for basic bladder cleaning. That said, we do recommend cleaning the hose monthly with a pipe cleaner. With a clear hose, it is pretty easy to notice when it's starting to get a little funky. The slider-style opening of the HydraPak bladder portion also opens wide, making getting your hand inside for a scrub down a snap.
The Nine Trails hip pack is an okay value . The high-price tag and overall performance and design of this bag are underwhelming, but it does work. In addition, Patagonia has a long-running reputation for providing great customer service and warranty support. This cannot be understated, especially for those who are hard on their gear.
The Patagonia Nine Trails 8L waist pack is a reliable and functional hip pack with more storage capacity than most. Unfortunately, it lacks the execution and refinement seen in the best packs we tested. While it certainly does its job on the trail by carrying your water, tools, and snacks in a comfortable manner, the fit feels unfinished and unrefined comparatively speaking. This pack may be a viable option for those looking for a hip pack to use for mountain biking and hiking.
— Pat Donahue