Patagonia Nine Trails 14L Review
Cons: Expensive, small water capacity, limited ventilation
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Nine Trails 14L is a solid overall performer with its classic design, lightweight construction, and comfortable well-padded shoulder straps. It doesn't have any major design weaknesses, but suffers a bit because of its small 2-liter water capacity, poorly ventilated back panel, and high price tag.
Ease of Drinking
The Nine Trails 14 is equipped with a 2-liter Patagonia branded reservoir manufactured by HydraPak, connected to HydraPak's classic Blaster bite valve. Many other competitors in our lineup have the same or similar hydration hardware, and the drinking performance is on par with those models. Where this pack falls a little short in this rating metric is with its small 2-liter water capacity and its outdated drinking hose attachment system. The 2-liter water capacity is one of the lowest in our entire lineup, with most competitors coming standard with a 2.5-liter or 3-liter capacity. A smaller capacity means running out of water sooner or needing to find a water source to stop and refill sooner. Especially for a 14L pack, we think a greater water capacity would be fitting.
Each shoulder strap has one keeper loop for the drinking hose, and the sternum strap has an attachment clip, but there are no other attachment points for the drinking hose or the bite valve. While this may not be a huge concern to some users, this leaves a full 12" of the end of the hose dangling around. Most modern hydration packs have additional keeper loops or a magnetic attachment point on the bite valve to keep things more secure.
Ease of Filling
The Nine Trails 14L earns slightly lower scores in this metric because the hydration bladder is a little difficult to access and remove from its sleeve within the main body of the pack, especially when the pack is fully loaded. The plastic hanging clip that the bladder attaches to is strong and sturdy but can be a little tedious to work with to remove and replace the bladder.
Once the reservoir is removed from its sleeve within the pack, it is easy to remove the drinking hose with the built-in quick-release button, and from there refilling the bladder is easy with its folding wide-mouth opening.
This is one area where the Nine Trails has some bright spots. The shoulder straps and hip belt are encased in a luxuriously soft foam that is just the right balance of plush comfort and firm support. The pack hugs your shoulders and hips with a snug, balanced feel. The only drawback is that the foam back panel - although slotted for ventilation - is not very breathable.
This pack has a unique buckle design on the hip belt. Instead of the buckle coming together near your belly with two equal-length portions of the belt on your right and left sides, the right side of the belt comes around to a fixed buckle near your left hip. In the end, our testers think this is an interesting design that really doesn't impact comfort or performance one way or another.
Although this is tagged as a 14-liter pack, we've found that the useful storage capacity is actually quite a bit less. Access to the main storage compartment is somewhat limited due to a zipper that only goes halfway down the pack, and is blocked by the hydration sleeve that is located near the opening of the compartment.
The secondary storage compartment includes a small storage pocket and a keychain clip and a small bit of additional packing space. The outside of the pack has a medium-sized stuff pocket on the front and a smaller stuff pocket on each side, while the hip belt includes a zippered storage pocket on each side. Overall, the storage space and features seem noticeably smaller than other packs with similar or even smaller advertised volumes
At a measured 25.8 ounces (1.6 pounds) in a size small/medium, the Nine Trails 14 is one of the lighter packs in our lineup. Combined with a slim and streamlined shape and a comfortable design, this could be a good choice for fast and light adventures, but the limited breathability in the back panel might hold it back from these adventures.
Ease of Cleaning
The Nine Trails receives solid scores in this category based on the wide-mouthed HydraPak reservoir. While it's a little trickier than with others to remove the reservoir from its sleeve, it comes with a quick-release drinking hose, and can be turned completely inside out for easy cleaning, and is dishwasher safe like most HydraPak products.
While this is certainly a comfortable and well-built pack, it has one of the smallest hydration bladder capacities in our lineup, does not provide as much real-world storage space as its listed volume indicates, and is missing some key features found on most other models in its price range. Because of its high price tag, we think most users will find a better value with other products.
The Patagonia Nine Trails 14L has a high-quality, comfortable, lightweight design with solid overall performance but no standout features. Ultimately, it falls short of other models in our lineup with its limited storage volume, water carrying capacity, and features list, but is still a capable option for fast and light adventures.
— Nick Bruckbauer
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