Let’s be honest: daypacks are one of the least sexy pieces of gear. But they're also something that everyone from a professional mountaineer to a casual hiker uses just about every day. I certainly get out for a quick after work hike far more often than I make it to the skin track, which is why I’m excited about the new Nine Trails packs from Patagonia. Released today, the line features six different men’s and women's packs ranging from 14 liters to 36 liters.
I’ve spent the past few months testing the 28-liter pack, which Patagonia bills as the most versatile in the line. The thing I like most about it is the simplicity. Too often companies focus on cramming as many features as possible into a pack, which creates a heavy, complicated, and expensive product. I've found that the Nine Trails pack has everything you need and nothing you don’t.
In the name of simplicity, the top-loading pack has one, u-shaped zipper that opens to a cavernous 28-liter main compartment. What features it does have are well thought out and effective. The Nine Trails also has a small organizational pocket on top, a front facing exterior mesh pocket perfect for stashing a rain jacket, and two side water bottle pockets. My favorite perk though is the back panel that consists of a perforated foam frame sheet covered with a layer of mesh. It’s comfortable, and the perforations move moisture and let air flow, minimizing sweat. Foregoing an aluminum frame means carrying heavier loads will be uncomfortable but as long as you keep the weight around 10 pounds, the Nine Trails hugs your back and moves with you. The four side compression straps feel a little unnecessary for a small pack but they could come in handy when carrying an extra small load. (The 28-liter pack doesn't come with a hydration bladder but the smaller, 14-liter mountain bike-specific pack does.)
The shoulder straps, which are made of a similar comfy foam-mesh combination as the back panel, are shaped and cut differently on the men’s and women’s packs.
After a few months of testing the 28-liter Nine Trails, my only complaint is that the shallow hip belt doesn't wrap fully around the waist, making the mesh hip belt pockets awkward to access. Further, the pockets are just big enough for a map or Clif bar but not a cell phone. While this isn't a deal breaker, I prefer to keep my phone out of my pant pockets when hiking because it's uncomfortable and hip belt pockets are usually the perfect place to stash it.
Whenever Patagonia launches a new product, my gear senses get tingly. Rarely am I disappointed, and the Nine Trails pack is no exception. With a minimalist design and well-considered features, Patagonia has proven that when it comes to daypacks, simpler is better.