Patagonia Nine Trails Backpack 28L

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Basic summary: A durable and highly functional backpack with capacity for full trail days or ultralight overnight outings. The 28L is a men’s specific pack, and the women’s equivalent is a 26L model. The pack is compatible with fluid reservoirs, and rides comfortably against your body when fully loaded. Most of the cargo space is in a cavernous main compartment with a U-shaped zipper that opens fully on one side, but there are numerous other locations to stash odds and ends.

MSRP: $159

Features:

  • Weight: 2 lb 3.3 oz (1000g)
  • Material construction
    • Body: 4.2-oz 210-denier Cordura 100% nylon ripstop.
    • Lining: 3.3-oz 200-denier 100% polyester.
  • DWR (durable water repellent) finish and polyurethane coating
  • Extended U-shaped zipper
  • Reservoir compatible with clip and center exit routing hole (reservoir not included)
  • Large exterior stretch pocket and two quick-stash lateral pockets
  • Concealed top stash pocket
  • Side compression straps
  • Breathable mono-mesh back panel allows airflow and ventilation
  • Perforated foam padded shoulder harness with adjustable sternum strap
  • Thermoplastic frame sheet for torso stability
  • Adjustable perforated foam waist belt with dual zip pockets
  • Two size options

Deep dive:

Patagonia has long recognized the importance of carrying fluids and gear for super-long trail days. A few years ago we tested their Fore Runner vests, which had a similar design concept as Nathan or Ultimate Direction packs, and came with a fluid reservoir. Unfortunately those models were rather short-lived, but this year Patagonia is incorporating the same objective into a classic backpack design, which it has long excelled at.

The resulting Nine Trails line is offered in a variety of sizes to accommodate various durations and/or complexity of your adventures. The men’s models come in four capacity options – 14L, 20L, 28L, and 36L – while the women’s are only available in 18L and 26L. We chose the 28L, which is large enough to fit an ultralight sleeping setup as well as food and other necessary gear for an overnight fastpack, but small enough to stay relatively stable while running. We tested it on full-day peak bagging scrambles in the Sierras, as well as single-night outings in the Ventana Wilderness of coastal California.

At first glance the Nine Trails looks rather simplistic, but its clean lines also feature durable construction and thoughtful design (with only a couple of exceptions). The primary body material is a lightweight but super-tough Cordura nylon ripstop material that is excellent at resisting pokes and abrasions. A weather resistant finish helps protect the interior contents during passing rain, but if there’s a downpour you’ll still need a poncho, as the pack doesn’t come with a rain cover.

The Nine Trails excels at storage, both in overall capacity and in the number of options available. The primary cargo area is a spacious main compartment that can easily accommodate large items like a sleeping bag, and the full-length zipper allows you to grab things from lower in the pack without having to unpack the entire compartment. The external mesh pouch has remarkable stretch capacity to stash frequently accessed items like a map, food, or water filter. There are numerous other places to stow items out of the way, including an interior zipper pocket for wallets or other valuables. We especially appreciated the large hip belt pockets that are large enough to fit a full-size smart phone, however, we struggled with the zipper openings on these pockets, which usually required two hands to operate smoothly.

Full length side zipper to main compartment

External stash pocket and interior zipper pocket in addition to main cargo area

Roomy hip pocket, tricky zipper

Although the Nine Trails doesn’t come with a fluid reservoir, it’s built to carry one, and we used both a 3L and 2L reservoir with this pack. This was the primary design aspect that didn’t seem to work efficiently, for a couple of reasons. The reservoir clip is fairly rigid, and it takes some work to maneuver our reservoir clasp on and off of it. Additionally, the tube port sits directly behind the reservoir clip, making it difficult to run the drink tube behind the clasp and through the port. We’d recommend an option to route the tube through one or both shoulder straps on future versions.

Reservoir clip and routing port

Our favorite aspect of the Nine Trails is how well it rides against the body, both while hiking and running. The back panel has three layers of construction that enhance performance and comfort. The layer closest to your body is soft monofilament mesh with dimples for air flow, and the middle layer is thin perforated foam that provides breathability and support. The interior layer is a thermoplastic sheet that gives the pack rigidity but also has torsional capacity to move with your body when you’re picking up speed. Dual compression straps help cinch down the main cargo compartment, while sternum straps, shoulder straps, and waist band straps can all be adjusted to ensure an ideal fit for your body. We were impressed by the stability of this pack when we wanted to run, and we didn’t experience any chafing or shoulder pain after full days on the trail. The Nine Trails would also make a great general-purpose backpack if you’re the person who has to carry everybody else’s stuff on your family hikes.

Patagonia’s Nine Trails backpacks are available now at www.patagonia.com.

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About Author

Donald is a physical therapist, California native, barefoot aficionado, and father of three with more than 25 years of experience in endurance sports. He was a collegiate rower at UCLA, then dabbled in marathons and Ironman-distance triathlons before falling in love with ultras in the early 2000s. His favorite locations to run include Marin County, CA, and the Sierra Nevada mountains, and he loves exploring America's National Parks. When he's not training for ultramarathons, he enjoys hiking or slacklining with his family in Monterey County, CA.

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