Matador makes, arguably, the best packable backpacks out there. Not only can they pack down at ridiculously small bundles, they’re also highly technical, leaving them perfectly functional for rugged uses. Their latest, the Matador Freerain 32L, retains all the elements that made their previous bags so good, while coming in at a generous size that can carry a heck of a lot of gear.
Originally, the outfit’s backpacks were aimed for brief periods of use. You know, a backpack that you can carry for day hikes, an afternoon at the beach, or a tailgate at a local stadium. Fill it with a day’s worth of supplies, burn through those supplies, and go home with an empty bag that’s packed down to a pocket-sized bundle. Well, that changes with this one.
The Matador Freerain 32L measures 20 x 11 x 9 inches when fully unpacked, allowing it to hold a whopping 32 liters of gear, making it viable for more than short day trips. When empty, it can collapse to a bundle measuring 6.5 x 3 x 3 inches, which still remains impressively small, albeit a little harder to fit in most pant pockets. While most packable backpacks are designed strictly to maximize packability, Matador goes another route by filling this thing with features to put it on par with other hiking backpacks.
For instance, the entire main compartment is fully waterproofed using a silicon coating, complete with sealed seams and an impenetrable rolltop, so all your gear inside will stay dry, regardless of any weather conditions you encounter. To make it easier to carry when the darn thing is packed, it gets a removable sternum strap and a hip belt, giving you a way to distribute the load across your torso whenever it’s necessary.
The Matador Freerain 32 has a dual-zippered rolltop closure with a buckle and cinch, giving you some flexibility in size, as well as a water-resistant zipper at the top edge for easy access to the main compartment. There’s a back sleeve that’s compatible with existing hydration systems, so you can put your water bladder and hose in there without any trouble, as well as a small pocket on the hip belt, a front pocket with water resistant zipper, and side pockets with cinch straps for holding tall items (e.g. trekking poles, tall vacuum bottles). The side of the shoulder straps that touch your body, by the way, are made from breathable mesh to minimize sweating on the shoulder, although it doesn’t appear like they did anything for the back panel, so you’ll still be sweating a veritable puddle right behind you.
Construction is 30D Cordura ripstop nylon for the bag, so this should hold up to decent abuse. We know, you probably own bags with stronger materials, but we’re guessing they had to find the thinnest material they can get that can hold up to heavy loads, so the entire thing remains packable. The pouch where you stuff the collapsed bag, by the way, stashes right at the bottom of the bag, so you never have to lose it.
The Matador Freerain 32 is available now, priced at $109.99.