Patagonia says its re-entry into mountain biking is targeted specifically at the adventure and trail segment of the sport. That's what their people resonate with most, which explains why one of the first accessories to spring forth from Patagonia is this hydration pack. Dubbed the Nine Trails hydration pack, this medium-sized design features a breathable back panel, padded shoulder straps, contoured to minimize claustrophobia, with a side-closure hip belt that has padded wings and built-in zip pockets.
Nine Trails Details
• Lightweight construction, reinforced at wear points, two-liter storage
• Two-liter hydration bladder, quick-release hose
• Padded, ventilated-mesh harness and waist
• Colors: grey, green and blue
• Weight: 1.34 pounds/610g
• MSRP: $139 USD
• Contact: Patagonia
We reviewed the new 14-liter model (storage options increase from 14 to 36 liters throughout the range). Storage is ample, with extra room in the partitioned bladder compartment, and the usual zip-access main compartment which houses an organizing pocket, a key clip, and elastic mini-pump loops. Outside, one rear pouch and a pair of side pouch-pockets made from stretchy material let you stash quick-access items like spare gloves and a windbreaker. A pair of compression straps on the sides of the pack also double as a helmet retainer. The Patagonia branded two-liter bladder has a quick-release hose and a wide, slide-style seal opening. Color options are Forge Grey, Sprouted Green, and Strait Blue, with two sizes available: sm/med (reviewed) and lrg/xlrg. The MSRP is $139 USD.On Trail
Patagonia's angle on the crowded hydration pack market is to offer up a simpler, more comfortable alternative. I liked the side closure and single-adjustment waist band right away. One ribbon of dangling webbing is much better than two, and the side buckle is more comfortable to wear. Shoulder straps are contoured in a way that minimizes their presence on the body and the chest strap clips onto military-style webbing ladders, so once set, it doesn't wander. Overall, the Nine Trails is designed and executed very well. It doesn't bounce while descending and it distributes its weight evenly and effortlessly between the shoulders and hips.
The two-liter bladder seems small for a mid-sized hydration pack. With many riders returning to bike-mounted water bottles, it seems that the value of wearing a pack would be to carry more fluids than may be practical on a frame or in cargo bibs. The bladder did not taste like plastic and, if that's how you roll, its slider-sealing mouth is large enough to add ice cubes. On the down-side, the smallish bite valve flowed well if I got it right, but when I did not, it offered up a pathetic dribble.
Inside the pack the lack of a zippered pocket had me concerned that my tools, CO2 paraphernalia, and spares would be playing musical chairs while I banged through the rocks, but so far, everything has stayed put. As a precautionary measure, I was mindful to keep the pack upright when not wearing it. The bladder compartment is separated in two roomy spaces. I stashed my wind jacket inside to pad my camera and give the pack some shape. I occasionally used the stretchy, open-ended outer pocket when I was shedding layers on longer rides. It would be great for irregular-shaped items.
The pair of small, quick-access pockets on each side of the pack were thoughtful, but less than handy. Their angle is such that loose items can be ejected while riding, and that included a pair of gloves that I still miss. While walking, however, the side pockets sit at a better angle, so I would recommend using them when hiking only.