The Matador SEG42 is a weird bag, but it might be just what you’re looking for.
|Built-in packing cubes offer organization
|The carry can get heavy
|Laptop sleeve, rare for a duffel
|I almost want to use my own packing cubes
|Good build quality
|Zippers are a bit small
|Missing water bottle pocket
Volume: 42 Liters
Dimensions: 12.5in x 22.5in x 11.5in
Weight: 2lbs 4oz (1030 grams)
840D nylon outer high wear panels, PU waterproofing
420D nylon outer low wear panels, UTS waterproofing
100D Robic® Dynatec weave interior liners/dividers, UTS waterproofing
210D bonded nylon thread, bartack reinforced construction
Matador is an exciting company. They started in Colorado, and after coming on the scene only a few years ago, they gained some notoriety for their backpacks pack up in the palm of your hand. I’ve been using the since discontinued Daylight 16 as my EDC pack once I get to my destination.
Matador builds bags with high-quality materials and a simple, minimalistic aesthetic like many other indie gear manufacturers. But what makes Matador pretty unique is their commitment to sustainability. They have an in-house repair program, which lets you send in your gear for repairs, no matter how long ago you bought it. Personally, I haven’t used this service before, so I can’t attest to it. Still, it’s always great to see companies offer repair programs; not many do.
The Matador SEG42
Last year they launched their newest bag, the Matador SEG42, which promises to be the ultimate minimalist backpack for one-bag travel. Right away, it’s clear that this is a really unique bag.
As the name implies, the 42-liter bag has five segments that divide the pack into individual compartments. Each compartment is self-contained, effectively eliminating the need for packing cubes. Each compartment operates independently, so there’s incredibly flexible storage throughout. There is also a 30-liter version, the Matador SEG30.
Stowable laptop straps mean this bag can go from duffel to backpack mode quickly.
Materials & Aesthetic
As with every other Matador backpack, the materials used on the SEG30 are fantastic. The waterproof 840D nylon outer has a great tactical quality to it and provides enough durability and protection for pretty much whatever you (or the weather) throw at it.
Each zipper is also waterproof, differentiating itself from other bags that typically only have one or two waterproof compartments. I would say they probably could’ve gone with more oversized, beefier zippers; I’d be a little concerned, really yanking on these things to zip up the bag. And they don’t use YKK zippers either, so I think this is one of the areas Matador is saving on cost.
The bag’s aesthetic is pretty minimalistic, but the zippers across the front almost give it a nearly tactical-esque appearance. Despite the zippers on the outside, it manages to stay pretty sleek, with no straps or lashes dangling off the sides…I hate those.
Overall I like the aesthetic of the bag. It has a rugged, tactical type appearance that can blend in well in any travel scenario.
Outside the bag
To be honest, there isn’t much going on with the outside of this bag. Since it’s basically a duffel bag, noticeably absent are some of the features you’d expect with a standard backpack, such as a water bottle pocket or compression straps. The lack of a water bottle holder is a bit of a bummer, especially when they managed to incorporate (pretty cleverly, at that) it with the Matador SEG30. I’m not sure why they didn’t add this design to the SEG42; it seems like a pretty obvious choice.
Stowable backpack straps help convert this bag from a backpack to a duffel quickly.
There are a few missing features you typically find on a backpack, though. The backpack straps are relatively thin and don’t provide a ton of support. There aren’t any load-lifting straps to help distribute weight, and there isn’t much padding or ventilation for the back. But at no point was I really uncomfortable carrying this bag, which was a pleasant surprise. Sometimes those hybrid duffel bags just through some backpack straps on the back and expect it to work out well…it usually doesn’t.
The three grab handles, two on the top/bottom and one on the side, provide convenient options when picking up the bag or taking it out of the overhead compartment. Though it’s worth mentioning, the straps are a bit thin with minimal padding.
Finally, there are lash loops on the left side of the bag, providing an area to add some lash straps for extra storage (sold separately).
There are nine pockets in total on the Matador SEG42. The main compartment consists of five pockets, two 6-liter pockets, two 9-liter pockets, and one 12-liter pocket. These internal segments can be stowed away, allowing you to use the main compartment like one giant 42-liter pocket, similar to a traditional duffel bag. Or you can mix and match if you’re planning on putting some more oversized items, like a pair of shoes or something, but want to separate it from the rest of the compartments.
Oddly, I almost found myself reaching for my own packing cubes to go inside of these packing cubes. I can’t really pinpoint why; there was just some natural reaction to the integrated cubes. Perhaps the lack of ability to remove the packing cube to see what’s inside?
And as I’m thinking about it, maybe the crux of the issue is the lack of visibility into the packing cubes. They almost feel blackhole-ish; it’s really tough to see down and actually know what it’s in the pocket. It’s not really something I thought would bother me, to be honest. I never realized how much of a difference it makes having at least some visibility, even just on top, inside the packing cubes makes.
There are two quick-access pockets on both ends of the bag, providing convenience for your most frequently accessed gear. This is an excellent addition that most duffels don’t really have; I’m a fan.
Probably the best welcome addition to a standard duffel is the laptop compartment. Tech organization, especially laptops, is maybe the most significant downside with most traditional duffels. You typically just have to find a way to put your laptop in there with a protective sleeve and just hope that it doesn’t get thrashed around too much. The Matador SEG42 comes with a laptop pocket, which is CLUTCH. Granted, it’s not the most padded and robust laptop compartment, but hey, some thin padding and enough room to hold a 13-16″ laptop, and I’m not complaining.
One thing to note. There’s an odd, slight difference between the bag’s 30 and 42-liter versions. On the Matador SEG30, there is actually a hidden water bottle pocket on the side. For some reason, they decided not to include it on the Matador SEG42. This is a really confusing design choice. I can’t imagine it was THAT much more difficult to include it on the SEG42, and it would’ve taken care of the second most difficult thing about traveling with a duffel bag.
So far, I’ve managed to do a couple of road tests with the Matador SEG42; one trip down to California and into a cabin in the northern Sierra Nevadas, the other on a weekend camping trip.
On each test, the bag held up pretty well. During the camping trip, it held up to the elements well enough. When flying, it fits in the overhead compartment just fine (it definitely would not fit under the seat, maybe the SEG30). And the flight attendants didn’t bat an eye even though I only paid for a personal item (#rebel).
It’s important to note that my road tests have only involved brief flights and road trips, with no extended time walking around cities. Even though it has backpack straps, this is definitely not a dedicated backpack.
Most hybrid duffel/backpack bags suffer from the same issues. Typically hybrid bags, as the name implies, straddle both backpack and duffel bag lines. This works out for the most part, but corners are usually cut on both the backpack and duffel sides of the house. This bag is no exception, and I’d imagine it could get uncomfortable after a while, not to mention a bit sweaty without the back ventilation.
That said, the Matador SEG42 is one of the better hybrid bags I’ve found.
There are some definite quirks with this Matador backpack. The first is the lack of visibility into the packing cubes. What seems like a great concept became a bit of a hindrance at some points during the trips. The organization of the packing cubes is fantastic. Still, part of me likes taking my packing cubes out of my bag for more visibility. Maybe this is something I’ll get used to the longer I use it. Worst case scenario, I can simply stow away the built-in packing cubes to use my own, and the bag would still be a good option.
The second most frustrating part is the lack of a water bottle compartment. Usually, I wouldn’t punish a company since it’s not standard practice for a duffel. Though since they included one on the SEG30, Matador definitely could’ve done it on the SEG42. In my opinion, this stops the bag from being truly great.
Typically I find myself reaching more specialized backpacks more often. Still, the Matador SEG42 has a purpose for some of the ways I travel domestically, especially with my partner, and is a welcome part of my repertoire.
But overall, I do like this bag. The Matador SEG42 is one of the best hybrid duffel/backpacks I’ve ever seen.
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