Expert Review: Patagonia Women's Nine Trails 26L Pack

This review is my honest opinion of the backpack which I purchased with my own money in January of 2020.

A woman walks through a slot canyon with a backpack on.

All photos courtesy of Hunter Reed

Published on

About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the pack which I purchased with my own money in January of 2020.

My take

The Patagonia Nine Trails 26L Women's Pack is a great larger day hiking pack for someone who has a bit more gear than average to carry. I’ve also used it as a minimalist overnight pack where I didn’t need to carry a tent and it fits all my gear snugly, though adequately. The zipper design is well thought out, especially compared to the 20L size of the same pack, and the face fabric is really durable. It is comfortable for smaller women like myself and the weight distribution on the hip belt when it’s packed heavier is exceptionally comfortable compared to other options.

A woman walks down a rocky face with a backpack on.

About the gear

  • Model: Patagonia Women’s Nine Trails 26 L backpack
  • Gender: Women’s
  • Size: Small/Medium
  • Pack capacity: 26 L

About me

  • Height: 5’3
  • Weight: 110 lbs
  • Experience: 25+ years

Test conditions

  • When I bought it: January 2020
  • Length of trips (estimate): Day hikes, overnight when packing is really minimalist
  • What I carried:
  • Total pack weight: 10-15 lbs at max, though usually closer to 5
  • Used for: Day hiking, minimalist backpacking, car camping, airline travel
  • Where I’ve used it (place/hiking trail, state/country): Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Sawtooth Mountains
  • Terrain: Rocky trails, slot canyons, mountains
  • Seasons I’ve used it in: Summer, Spring, Fall

How it performs

Back Breathability
3/5
Comfort
5/5
Design
5/5
Durability
5/5
Versatility
3/5
Weight
5/5

What I was looking for

I was on the hunt for a pack that could carry a bit more than the smaller 20L version of this pack I had been using prior to purchasing this. I knew I wanted something that had a really comfy hip belt and suspension system and could work for really big full-day trips or overnight backpacking trips where I was going to sleep in a hammock.

Why I chose this gear

I chose this pack because I really liked my Patagonia Nine Trails 20L, but it didn’t suffice for days when I needed to bring more gear, and it didn’t work as an overnight pack at all. The 26L also has a longer zipper on one side of the main compartment, so it is more accessible for getting gear in and out. Even though I had the smaller version, I thought it was such a great pack and that the 26L was different enough, that I knew it was what I wanted. It has also been hard historically for me to find something that fits me well and is comfortable because I am on the shorter side. Knowing that the 20L was a good fit and comfy when carrying larger loads, it was the obvious choice to just get the size up when I decided I wanted something that could carry slightly more gear.

A woman stands in a slot canyon smiling.

What I love about it

  • Durability: this pack is super durable and the face fabric is really tough. I have really put it to use and it’s still in great shape.
  • Weight: It's not the lightest pack, but it weighs about 2 lbs and I don’t think it could be lighter while maintaining the extra padding on the hip belt and shoulder strap that make it such a comfortable option.
  • Suspension and comfort: The comfort and suspension on this pack are incredible. The shoulders and hips are really padded, and the suspension system is adjustable from the top of the shoulder straps. It distributes weight evenly without leaving your back or hips sore the next day!
  • Adjustability: The Nine Trails is really easy to adjust. There are just the right amount of adjustment buckles without it being too much. On some fancier packs on the market it feels like there are tons of options for adjustments, but as long as the frame is the right size I have never really needed more than just the adjustments on the shoulders and around the waist. It’s really intuitive and simple.
  • Capacity: The capacity is good for a day hike or a really lightweight, minimalist backpacking trip. It can fit a layer, a larger camera, a first aid kit, and some snacks and water. Or it can fit a sleeping bag, hammock, and stove system if you really squish things in.
  • Features: There is a spot for a hydration bladder to hang which also doubles as a laptop sleeve if you are using this pack for school or work. The sternum strap is adjustable so you can lower or raise it if it’s hitting you in an uncomfortable spot.
  • Organization and pockets: The pocket systems and organization are really dialed in. There is one main compartment, an internal zipper pocket, an outer top zippered pocket, a water bottle pocket on either side and two zippered hip belt pockets that are really secure. There is also a stretch front pocket that you can put things in, though it isn’t zippered.
  • Hip belt: The hip belt has two secure pockets with zippers and is really thick and padded, making it super comfortable.
  • Pack Access: In the smaller 20L version, if you load up the outer top zipper pocket, it can be hard to get things in and out of the main compartment, but that isn’t an issue in the 26L. Because the zipper goes down a bit further on one side, it gives you better access to the main compartment.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Breathability: It isn’t the most breathable option on the market because the padding on the back, hips, and shoulders is pretty thick. That being said, there is some room for airflow on the back panel, just not the most efficient design that I have seen.
  • Capacity: It is a bit small for backpacking even if you are going really lightweight, and it’s honestly quite a bit bigger than you would need for most day hikes. But for that niche in between of larger day hikes, really minimalist backpacking, or as a travel pack, it’s great.
  • Weather Resistance: Though it is water repellant, it is not waterproof and I would not use it in heavy rain or snow.
A woman stands looking at a desert wall with a backpack on.

Favorite moment with this gear

My favorite moments with this pack were during a weekend in the Utah desert exploring slot canyons. I didn’t need to bring much except for water and some snacks, but I had some first aid and safety gear with me as well since slot canyons can sometimes be dangerous. I was really impressed that with all the squeezing through tight places, I didn’t rip my bag. The walls in there are pretty rough and sandy, so I was covered in scrapes and kind of expected the worst, but the pack held up great and there was no damage!

Value for the money vs. other options

I think this is a great pack that will last me a long time. If I was to just get one pack for day hiking, I would probably go with the 20L still or another option that isn’t quite as big as 26L. And if I were to get a smaller backpacking backpack, I would also choose something bigger.

That being said, it does a little bit of everything pretty well and is extremely durable. I have really put some miles on this backpack and it still looks to be in great shape. Patagonia also has a great repair program, so I know that if it were to ever have any issues, I could likely get it repaired. That gives me some peace of mind, especially knowing how tough I can be on gear. I knew what I was getting into purchasing this pack since I already had the 20L version, but I thought it was worth the investment anyways since I loved the 20L so much. I stand by that decision and think that for what it is, it's one of the best value packs on the market in this size and use range.

Final verdict

Though it is not the most versatile option on the market, the Patagonia Nine Trails 26L is a great pack for mostly longer day hikes where you’ll have more gear than average. The fabric is incredibly durable and it’s a really comfortable pack, especially for smaller women. It can also be used for backpacking trips where you don’t need to bring a tent, and it is great for traveling.

Selling Patagonia on Curated.com
Patagonia Women's Nine Trails 26L Pack Smolder Blue L/XL
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Written By
Growing up in Utah makes it hard to not fall in love with camping and hiking! Lucky for me my parents got me out at a young age and I've been enjoying trails and campsites all across the west since I was little girl! There's just something special about making some dinner over a fire and going to sl...

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