Matador SEG30 Backpack Review
One of the biggest innovations of the year just got smaller. Does it still fit?
Introduction To The Matador SEG30 Backpack
MATADOR makes great stuff. Packable stuff. Thoughtful stuff. We've looked at a couple of their products already (NanoDry Towel review and we highlight the FlatPak soap case in our Best Travel Soap Kit article). But I guess it wasn't long before they began to branch out their product line into more static stuff. Like standalone backpacks. That happened earlier this year with the introduction of the SEG42 - a travel bag that promised to be one of the most innovative bags in the space. Practical innovation being something that's been kind of stalled lately, in my opinion.
With the perceived success of the SEG42, Matador went in a direction that I think will please a lot of the experienced onebaggers out there - they made it smaller. The Matador SEG30 sells us on all the features of the original larger pack, but in a smaller version that will be more suited for small trips, under seat on some airplanes, and even a larger form of EDC. That's "every day carry" for those new to that term.
We got our hands on one, and was able to test it out on some road tripping.
This is my review of the Matador SEG30 Backpack. For full transparency, Matador was kind enough to send me a pack to test, but played no role in this review. The opinions as always are my own, it is not sponsored in any way, and no one has seen this review before its publication.
This page does use affiliate links. If you click to make a purchase, I do make a small commission which helps to keep this site running. There is no cost to you, and you're under no obligation to use my links. With that out of the way, let's dig in!
Matador SEG30 Backpack Overview
First and foremost, this is a 30 liter backpack. For a lot of people, that's enough for 3-5 days of travel or more. For others, just a weekend. For me, I think ultimately I could do 3-5 days worth in this one if using travel focused clothes.
It's made of a high quality 420 denier nylon, water sealed zippers on the outside (don't seem to be YKK), and uses a 100 denier robic dynatec interior that's lightweight but strong. This also uses what's called a UTS waterproofing which not only blocks out the water, but adds to the strength of the fabric. The zippers all have Hypalon pull tabs.
Has features you'd expect like a laptop sleeve, a nicely done water bottle holder, top slash pocket for quick grab, and nicely implemented grab handles on three of four sides. It opens clamshell style on the long edge.
The big feature to mention here, which we'll go into more in depth below, is the "segments" (hence SEG, get it?). It's an internal packing cube system built right into the bag. This is the selling point.
The Matador SEG30 comes in one color - black. Very on brand for Matador. It retails for $149.99.
Matador SEG30 Backpack Features
Let's cover off on the standard features first to get those out of the way. Nothing wrong with them, but they are just things you'd expect from a travel bag. Top pocket is a decent size to carry all those quick grab things you need. Phone, keys, earbuds, passport, etc. Nothing special but implemented well. The grab handles are great - there are enough of them even though there aren't 4, and they are nice and sturdy, comfortable to grab, but not over done. They don't get in the way and are there when you need them.
There's also a laptop sleeve in the back. This one is pretty bare bones but works as intended. The side of the bag has a water bottle pocket designed to completely enclose it, and keep it more inside the bag a bit. I like this implementation more than the open pocket, and it works well. I fit a tall/slim (rather than the shorter/fatter) 20oz bottle in there.
I won't keep you waiting any longer though - the money shot here is the segments. Matador has come up with a system on this bag of segmented pockets to help you organize for travel. This sized bag has 4. Think about them like packing cubes, but built into the bag. It's amazingly clever as an idea. The other interesting thing about these segments is that they vary in size. So, they get progressively bigger, allowing you to alter what you put in them. I'll mention more about how I packed it in a later section, but it's very cool.
The other thing to note, is that you don't need to use these segments if you don't want to. They collapse pretty easily and allow you to just use the bag as an open space if you want. You can't store them out of the way like you can on the bigger pack, but they'll just squish upwards based on whatever you put in the bag.
No way to avoid it. The segments on this bag are a revelation for me, and I think the most innovative feature on a pack I've seen in the last couple of years. But the reason I think it's so good is because it's actually practical and usable. I've seen bags with more pockets then you can actually use (cough NOMATIC backpacks) and any number of "modular" packs that connect various pouches in different ways. While I appreciate the engineering of them, and the design, I just never found them that usable. This is. I'm a packing cube guy, so I took to this very easily. In fact I felt a little guilty about my packing cubes. This might be eliminating the need for them. If you're someone that rolls your clothes when you pack, likes to separate things out, this is going to be your gig.
I liked the size progression, too. I found it clever. So I can put underwear and undershirts in one, use the next for bigger things like rolled t-shirts, and the biggest for rolled pants (I even put a sweatshirt in that one...because I could).
Further, I liked that you can still use the inner space/volume. Of course what you put in the segments will depend on what you are able to put in the open space. But I had room for 2 (could have used 3) button down shirts and my dress shoes. With room to spare, but it was good separation and it meant I did not have to roll my button downs.
Another thing this system solves is that there is no 'cubes-shift' while you're on the go. Truth be told this never really bothered me, and if you pack enough of them they don't move. But it's common enough that it can really annoy some people to get to their destination and find their cubes have moved all around their bag. I get it. The Matador SEG30 eliminates that. They can't shift, they are fixed to the bag. Brilliant.
Lastly I should mention the feel and build of the bag. Though it's lightweight (as a lot of Matador's stuff is) it's really well built and the materials feel great. Seams are all strong and well done. Lots of sealing on the zipper, and the outer coating means it's mostly waterproofed ( I don't think anyone will claim this can be submerged). I used this in the rain (though nothing crazy) and had no issues with my laptop or anything.
The price! Both this and its bigger brother are really in a fantastic price point and I'm glad to see it. Many of the designer, indie travel bags are sitting at $250.00 or more. I'm not saying they don't deserve to be - not at all. I'm just saying I like that Matador was able to fit these into more of a palatable price point (though admittedly still premium for the segment, I know). It represents significant value here at $149.99.
It's hard to find any show-stopping bad faults here. But there are some things that I know some users put on their checklist. The bag isn't rigid. This is one that doesn't bother me, but it's not going to stand on its own or hold its own shape unless it's kind of packed out with some fluffy stuff. Keep that in mind.
The laptop sleeve is not the most robust. If you're an adventurer, you might want yours in a sleeve while inside here. It's also not false bottomed, so don't toss this on the concrete with your laptop in it. It's fine for those urban movers and non-adventure travelers in my opinion, but could be boosted a bit.
I don't believe they use YKK zippers. I kind of go back and forth on this check box. I know they are the best, most durable you can get. But have I also had any issues with non-YKK zips? No not really. But, it's great to see when companies use them, and will dock them one here for seemingly not (though I'm happy to stand corrected if these are YKK with no branding). I'm a little surprised considering they use better coatings, and actual Hypalon tabs. Etc.
The Improvement Requests for the Matador SEG30 Backpack
I would change the laptop compartment a bit. Today, the traveler is much more tech focused than ever, and frankly that's not going to change. So one of, if not the most, important piece of gear we're carrying is a laptop. And some of the Dell's and Mac's you're talking 2K or more. Put a false bottom in there, and a little more padding - maybe a more rigid system on the back.
Along those same lines, I'd consider putting a plastic insert into the back/harness system. Aer does something like this. I know it adds to the weight, but since the Matador SEG30 is already so light, I don't think it would add that much to it. This would help with the overall structure like people want, but could also contribute to the protection of the laptop, depending on how they do it.
Maybe consider YKKs. Though, cost/benefit analysis too, I guess. This would probably drive up the price.
Packing the Matador SEG30 Backpack
Instead of showing my normal packing list here, because of how this bag is built I'm going to more tell you about HOW I packed it. You'll still be able to get an idea of the items naturally, but I won't list them all out. So here's what I did based on the SEGs.
Top Slash Pocket - Quick grab items
Seg1- 4 liter. Toiletry kit (Gravel Explorer Slim as my NOMATIC did not fit in this pocket due to it's lengthwise orientation) and Bellroy Tech Pouch
Seg2- 6 liter. I used this for all my under wear and socks and an Airism undershirt. Didn't come close to using all this volume.
Seg3- 8 liter. Used this for my rolled up t-shirts.
Seg4- 12 liters. Here is where I put my rolled up Aviator Travel Jeans, and I also put a standard sweatshirt in here. Which is kind of frivolous for my travel style, but it easily fit so I did it for the test.
Main Compartment - 2 button down shirts, folded normally and my dress shoes in a shoe bag. The clamshell style then just closes on top of these items. Oh, and a belt. Oh again, my mirrorless camera in a small Ape Case.
Pretty simple. No need for the packing cubes in this case, which again feels weird to say. I'm 5'6 for reference.
Final Thoughts On My Matador SEG30 Backpack Review
Simply put, just a home run from Matador here. This kind of applies to both packs, but I think by offering this smaller size, they can appeal to the EDC people as well as the more hardcore onebaggers that really cut their gear down, and won't ever want a pack approaching 35l or more. Even for the casual onebaggers, if you are smart about your materials and what you bring, this bag allows you to pack plenty for extended weekends or even upwards of 5 days easily. All depends on how you pack.
There's a few points that prevented this bag from being perfect. But, if I claimed a bag was perfect on this site, I don't think I'd be being honest and would be doing a disservice to you guys reading this. The best part about these on critiques on this bag is I think they very easily addressable.
The bag might not be right for the hardcore adventurer that needs a pack that's going to be super protective of their gear. But also, that's not who they are targeting. This is definitely more for the more urban set, or even the urban adventurer that would probably leave this pack in their car while they were in the woods. You know what I mean?
Keep an eye out for my end of 2020 Round Up article, but I would be surprised if this didn't make the cut on that. Anyone that likes packing cubes, innovation, and a well made pack that's going to help them travel better, should check out the Matador SEG30 backpack. Or the SEG42 for a bigger one - frankly I think I will be, if I'm honest. Look away, I'm a monster!
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