For the last year or so I’ve been using both the original Matador DL16 backpack and one of their newer models, the Freefly16. While at first glance they both look fairly similar, there are some key differences between the two.
Both are highly packable and both have a volume of 16 liters, but since Matador first launched the DL model, they’ve gone back and made adjustments and enhancements to the design. These changes make the bag more comfortable and easier to use and they’ve named the new design the Freefly. While Matador still sells both bags, the Freefly16 is the latest and greatest and comes in at $5 more than the original DL16. The Freefly is also part of Matador’s Advanced Series product line.
About Matador Products
Pretty much everything in the Matador lineup is highly packable and this is what makes them stand out from other products on the market. We’ve also tested their 30L Duffle and were very impressed with how much stuff could fit into the bag, even though it packs down into the size of a fist. Even their large Beast28 Technical Backpack fits into a 7”x4” pouch.
All Matador products are designed to be lightweight and strong making them perfect for traveling. It’s super easy to throw these in with the rest of your gear so you’ll always have a spare bag with you. When in use, you can drag them across rocks, pour water on them, and generally put them through the ringer and they’ll still be alright.
Difference Between the Old and New
Looking at the FF16 and the DL16 side by side they look fairly similar bags. This assessment is not entirely incorrect, but there are some key differences. Here is where updates were made.
Both bags are made from 30D Cordura and on social and other places they’ve referred to it as ‘military-grade’. In hand, the material feels thin and somewhat fragile, but in reality it is far from that. Don’t worry about protecting the bag or looking where you throw it. The material is sturdy and on the Freefly it is specifically labeled as ripstop. With the DL16, the Freefly16, and even the duffle, I’ve never had any issues with durability or the bags getting punctured.
Both bags have water resistant sealing zippers, but the Freefly 16 takes it a step farther with internally sealed seams and a siliconized waterproof coating. Feel free to pack it full and head out in the rain. Whatever’s inside your bag will stay nice and dry.
On the DL16 the straps are adjustable and breathable, but the material would fold in on itself and could create some uncomfortable spots. This mostly occurred if the bag was loaded up as the straps would lose shape and ‘push’ in some areas. On the Freefly16 Matador has updated the straps and they are now contouring and weight distributing. A stiffer feeling material is used, that Matador calls Air Mesh, yet it still remains very comfortable on the shoulder. The straps also don’t lose shape with weight on them so any stress is evenly distributed across your shoulders.
Another benefit of the new mesh straps is that they don’t absorb water. The rest of the bag is pretty watertight, so now having straps that won’t get soaked with water is another benefit.
The DL16 carry bag had a cinch closure and is 4.6 inches high. The Freefly16 has a roll-top closure bag and is about 4.75 inches high. The new roll top and extra room makes packing the bag a lot easier than the old one. While I’ll typically still roll the bag up to pack it away, the new pouch allows you to quickly shove it in and go if you don’t want to bother with making it neat.
Final Thoughts on the 16L Freefly
With the changes made to the Freefly16, it’s worth the $5 extra over the DL16. Not that the DL is a bad bag, the Freefly just has that little bit more, ultimately making it more comfortable and more usable. If the packed down size is a concern, the DL16 does fit into a slightly smaller pouch, but that’s fairly negligible.
One other consideration would be the color, too. If you have to have blue you can only get the DL16 in their Indigo colorway. But, if you don’t mind black or their new Coyote (brownish/tan) color, the Freefly 16 is the way to go.