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Patagonia Nine Trails 18 - Women's Review

Though recently updated, this pack is still far from what we want in a daypack
Patagonia Nine Trails 18 - Women's
Photo: Backcountry
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Price:  $130 List
Pros:  Lots of pockets, multiple sizes, thick padding
Cons:  Shoulder straps too close together, many usability flaws
Manufacturer:   Patagonia
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 7, 2020
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48
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#14 of 14
  • Comfort - 25% 3
  • Versatility - 25% 5
  • Weight - 25% 6
  • Ease of Use - 15% 4
  • Durability - 10% 7

Our Verdict

Despite being recently updated, the Patagonia Nine Trails 18 just doesn't live up to basic daypack expectations. The extremely narrow shoulder straps rub uncomfortably against your neck and the U-shaped top zipper provides only a very small opening to the main storage compartment. In addition, this bag's awkward shape is surprisingly difficult to pack and the side water bottle pockets are almost unusable without taking the bag off. Though there are many Patagonia products we love, this daypack, unfortunately, isn't one of them.

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Pros Lots of pockets, multiple sizes, thick paddingComes with hydration bladder, very comfortable hip belt, good capacity, solidly constructedGreat ventilation, backpack-like comfort, useful pockets and attachments, well built, intuitive useAdjustable torso length, very durable, great features and pocketsGood for on-the-go, secure fit, fits more than expected, many shoulder strap pockets
Cons Shoulder straps too close together, many usability flawsU-shaped top opening is smaller, some pockets are less convenientOne size only, heavy, lame hip belt webbing systemRuns a bit small, front stow pocket a bit smallOpens unconventionally, meant for more specific use, not rainproof
Bottom Line Though recently updated, this pack is still far from what we want in a daypackA super comfortable pack with a unique waist belt system and included hydration bladder for the serious day hikerAll the comfort and security of a full backpack in a bite-sized daypackA versatile, durable, and comfortable pack that works just as well on the trail as in townA lightweight, securely fitting pack, cleverly designed for use on the go
Rating Categories Patagonia Nine Trai... CamelBak Sequoia 24 Gregory Juno 24L Osprey Tempest 20 The North Face Chim...
Comfort (25%)
3.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Versatility (25%)
5.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
6.0
Weight (25%)
6.0
6.0
6.0
6.0
8.0
Ease Of Use (15%)
4.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Durability (10%)
7.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
Specs Patagonia Nine Trai... CamelBak Sequoia 24 Gregory Juno 24L Osprey Tempest 20 The North Face Chim...
Weight (oz) 25 oz 36 oz 31 oz 31 oz 17 oz
Volume/Capacity (liters) 18L 24L 24L 20L 18L
Back Construction 3-layer system: mono-mesh, foam panel, horizontal airflow chamber; inner plastic panel insert (removable) AirSupport(TM) backpanel; mesh covered foam panels with air flow channels VaporSpan ventilated mesh AirScape backpanel; large spaced horizontal padding bars covered by large-holed mesh FlashDry backpanel; lightly padded and covered in fine mesh
Hydration Internal hydration sleeve External hydration sleeve and 3L Crux reservoir included Internal hydration sleeve External hydration sleeve External hydration sleeve
Hipbelt Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes, webbing
Compartments 1 2 1 1 2
Rain Cover No, but DWR finish No No, but DWR finish No No
Additional pockets 7 6 6 8 7
Outside Carry Options Large exterior stretch pocket, 2 stretch side pockets, stretch hip belt pockets, 2 small zippered pockets (1 inside, 1 outside) Trekking pole and ice axe attachments, side pocket, expandable overflow pocket, hip belt pockets (one zip, two stretch), daisy chain, hydration hose clip Lare exterior stretch pocket, 2 stretch side pockets, 2 zippered hip belt pockets, 1 zippered pocket, hiking pole storage, ice axe loop Lidlock helmet attachment, trekking pole quick-stow, large stretch front pocket, ice tool loop with bungee tie-off, side pockets, hip belt pockets, sunglasses shoulder stow, bike light loop Trekking pole and ice axe attachment, side pockets, expandable front stuff pocket, four small pockets on shoulder straps, loops on shoulder straps
Whistle No No Yes Yes No
Key Clip Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Materials 210D Cordura nylon ripstop body, 200D polyester lining, DWR finish with polyurethane coating 420D oxford nylon 210D Honeycomb Cryptorip nylon, 420D reinforced bottom 70D x 100D nylon body, accent and bottom 420HD nylon packcloth 70D ripstop nylon, closed-cell foam, elastic pockets
Notable Features 2 hidden pass-through options for hydration hose, hose clip on sternum strap, elastic strap management bands (waist and side cinches), removable inner plastic stiffener panel Hydration bladder included, hydration pocket has blue zipper pull, removable metal stiffening rod in center of back. multiple pockets in both hip belts, several internal stretch pockets, U-shaped top zipper Sunglasses stow loops, hydration hose attachment, trekking pole attachment Helmet attachment, trekking pole quick-stow, sunglasses quick-stow, bike light loop, shoulder strap pocket, stowable ice axe loops Dyno Cinch System connects shoulder straps and waist webbing as one system, cinch cord for top and sides of pack all one system, main and small zippered compartments are opened via side zips for one-shoulder access

Our Analysis and Test Results

Previously tested in the 26-liter size, we retested the Nine Trails in the 18-liter version. It's made of 210-Denier Cordura ripstop nylon with DWR treatment and comes in two sizes; S/M (which we tested, with a 16 to 19-inch torso and 28 to 36-inch waist) and L/XL (19 to 22-inch torso, 32 to 42-inch waist).

Performance Comparison


Testing the Nine Trails on a frosty Oregon morning.
Testing the Nine Trails on a frosty Oregon morning.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Comfort


This pack earns one of the lowest scores in our review for comfort. Though it has ample shoulder and hip belt padding, the shoulder straps are uncomfortably close together. The previous version was even closer together and less comfortable, and though this latest model is slightly better, it's still not our favorite. Unless we wore the pack much lower than it's intended to be worn, the straps rub uncomfortably against the sides of our necks. We had several friends test it out too, to make sure it wasn't just a complaint of our main tester, and they all reported having the same issue. Though women's daypacks typically feature more narrow shoulders, this is a little too extreme for our comfort.

Though a slight improvement from previous versions, the thickness of...
Though a slight improvement from previous versions, the thickness of these straps and narrowness between them make it uncomfortable to wear actually tightened up in its proper place.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Versatility


The Nine Trails, on paper, has all the same pockets as most similar-use daypacks. However, at just about every turn, we discovered these pockets aren't as user-friendly as they ought to be, which diminishes the bag's overall versatility. The bike light loop is vertically oriented when nearly every other bag's is horizontal to help ensure the light doesn't fall off. The side pockets fit regular 1-liter bottles just fine, but are so tall they're nearly impossible to access while you're wearing the pack. When you put a hydration bladder in the interior sleeve, threading the hose through either one of the very tight holes above the shoulder straps is a struggle. And once it finally is in place, the hose ends up covering one end of the poorly place internal zippered pocket. However, we do appreciate the ability to remove the sternum strap if you don't want to use it (or if you need to move it up or down in placement). Though if you do remove this strap, the hose clip for your water bladder leaves along with it.

Threading a hydration hose through the very tight openings forces...
Threading a hydration hose through the very tight openings forces the hose to cross right over the top of the internal zippered pocket, which is quite annoying.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Weight


At 25.3 ounces, this bag is on the lighter end of average of the packs we tested. While it doesn't come with a rain cover, the material is DWR treated with a polyurethane coating and does a pretty good job keeping your things dry from light to moderate rain. Though prolonged exposure or intense precipitation events will eventually get the best of this coating and wet the pack.

Instead of an internal frame, the Nine Trails has this stiff piece...
Instead of an internal frame, the Nine Trails has this stiff piece of plastic zipped into it, which, in theory, you could remove if you wanted to cut weight. It's so tightly jammed in there though, that we're not sure if you'd be able to put it back if you removed it - we didn't.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Ease of Use


Patagonia makes this bag in two sizes and two capacities. We tested the S/M for 16 to 19-inch torsos and 28 to 36-inch waists, and it also comes in L/XL for 19 to 22-inch torsos with 32 to 42-inch waists. Our main tester is 5 feet, 4 inches with a 17-inch torso and the S/M is about just right for her. Yet again though, this is about where what we like about this bag ends. We once again find the Nine Trails is lacking a lot of extra adjustment features we've come to appreciate. While the 26-liter version has load lifter straps, the 18-liter version doesn't. A single side buckle is all it offers for load cinching, which often just isn't enough to stop contents from bouncing around. The hip belt also tightens by pulling the tails backward rather than forward, which is much more challenging to get an even fit.

This pack is also surprisingly challenging to pack correctly and very difficult to dig around in. The top opens with a U-shaped dual zipper that easily catches going around the tight corners of the squared U-top. Though it opens the entire top of the pack, the zippers don't extend down the sides at all. This means you have to perfectly plan your packing strategy every time, as unless you pull out all the items on top, it's nearly impossible to reach the jacket you crammed in the bottom. We tried using this bag as a crossover commuter/travel bag, just to see how it handles those contents. It does fit a full-sized laptop in a sleeve, but it's a bit awkward. In fact, the more awkwardly shaped objects we put inside this bag, the harder it was to pack effectively. When preparing for a trip using this bag as a personal item carry-on, we packed it with a laptop, notebook, magazine, Kindle, charging cords, extra layer, water bottle, etc., and could barely fit it all in. It was also exceptionally challenging to locate what we needed on short notice through the narrow top opening, like looking down a long, full tube trying to see what's at the bottom.

The side pockets are very tall - which keeps your water bottle...
The side pockets are very tall - which keeps your water bottle secure but makes it incredibly difficult to get it in and out of the pocket while wearing the pack!
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Durability


This is where the Nine Trails shines brightest. The outside is made of 4.2-ounce 210-Denier Cordura ripstop nylon and treated with a DWR finish and polyurethane coating. The interior lining is 3.3-ounce 200-Denier polyester and the bottom of the bag is reinforced with a thick panel. It does have the typical, exposed mesh outer pockets on the sides and front, but we didn't have any issues with them snagging or tearing during our several months of testing. Patagonia also backs their products with free lifetime repairs, which is an excellent policy for any piece of outdoor gear.

The best thing about the Nine Trails is that it's built well.
The best thing about the Nine Trails is that it's built well.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Value


Though less than the 26-liter version by a good margin, the Nine Trails 18 isn't cheap. Considering our testers' pretty universal dislike of the comfort of this pack and numerous issues with its usability, we just don't think it's worth your hard-earned money. Even if you're a die-hard Patagonia fan and are excited about a durable bag, we think there are far better options out there - and most of them cost less too.

Conclusion


As much as we wanted to like the Patagonia Nine Trails, it just doesn't impress us. It's particularly lacking when it comes to comfort and ease of use — and doesn't even have a price tag that might make it more worth consideration. We hope future iterations of this bag are more comfortable and user-friendly than this one.

As much as we want to be, we're not big fans of the Nine Trails'...
As much as we want to be, we're not big fans of the Nine Trails' actual performance.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Maggie Brandenburg