This may come as a surprise, but I’m not a gear junkie. As much as I love the outdoors and all the cool gear you can get to go play in it, I try not to have a lot of it. Instead of having 4 different backpacks for varying levels of adventures or 7 puffy coats for every phase of the season, I like to have 1 of everything.
Over 6 years ago I bought a Thule backpack from REI and still use that single bag for everything – including going to work, camping trips, weekend hikes, domestic travel, international travel, and who knows what else.
In fact, that backpack joined me on a 10 day trip to the Maldives recently, which is a long ways away from Colorado. I managed to pack everything I needed for that trip in this backpack, and nothing else.
But nestled away at the bottom of the bag was my little secret.
Sometimes not having more than one bag can bite you in the ass, I admit it, so I had packed away a little duffle bag from a company called Matador. In the event my repacking got lazy or I was bringing home more than I took, I would need some extra carrying capacity.
The Matador duffle is a 30L bag made from waterproof materials, has nylon carrying handles, and even has a small zippered compartment. Yet, I still managed to fit it into my bag without sacrificing any room for my underwear.
The duffle is highly packable, and when it is tucked into its carry case, fits neatly into the palm of your hand.
About the Matador Duffle
The Matador 30L duffle is a sturdy thing for how lightweight it is. It uses Cordura, a nylon material that is very common in packs and backpacks. The Topo Designs Rover Pack we reviewed uses 1000D Cordura fabric while the Matador uses 30D. That Topo bag is fairly thick, and would not pack down very well. But even though the Matador is much thinner than the Topo bag, it does not mean it’s going to fall apart on you.
For comparison sake, Sea to Summit makes a packable hammock that uses a 20D nylon fabric and it is designed to hold up a person. This 30D bag is plenty sturdy and has been tossed around my trunk, airplane overhead bins, and campsites with no major blemishes to date. It still looks good as new!
Beyond the material, it has other nice features like water resistant zippers and internally sealed seams. So even though the word ‘packable’ might make you think the bag is compromised in some way, by no means is that the case.
The bag I have and am writing about here is the original duffle, and now Matador has released a version 2 called the Transit30 2.0. This update features a few notable changes that make this bag even better, including snap together handles and a roll-top storage case that makes putting it away even easier.
My Thoughts on the 30L Duffle
Since purchasing the duffle a few months ago, after seeing it at Outdoor Retailer in the summer, I’ve taken it quite a few places. Most of these trips have been out in the woods of Colorado and its 30L of space are more than enough for carrying the clothing I need for a warm weather camping trip. I should note that these camping trips are done from the trunk of a car, and not by huffing all my gear up into the backcountry, so the duffle is the perfect choice as I can just toss it in the back of the car.
In taking these trips, I’ve found a few things I really like about this bag. The first being the size. Packed into its case the duffle is quite small and can really fit anywhere. If I’m packing it as a spare bag, it isn’t really a thought of if I should take it or not as its size is so inconsequential. When it is unpacked, the size of the bag is also surprising. 30 liters is a decent amount of room and unless you’re planning a multi-day trip, it provides plenty of space for your belongings.
Another nice thing about this bag is its subtlety. Most Matador products come in black, grey or blue and I’ve chosen the blue for this bag. The color is not shouty like some of the other unicorn-vomit styled bags on the market and it doesn’t have straps and pockets bulging out all over the place.
Appreciating its size and styling, I also understand the duffle has some limitations. In most cases, it will not be your everyday duffle. The reason for this is that it doesn’t have multiple pockets or straps, which can make packing hard if you have different item types to put into the bag. Trying to organize clothes, bike gear, and even camera equipment just leads everything to being all jumbled up.
It also only has the hand-held carry straps. It can be worn as a backpack, but in most cases I already have a backpack on and this is a second bag. If it had a strap, I could toss it over a shoulder and keep my hands free. This shortcoming is addressed with the Version 2 bag, as it has accessory loops at the end, but the original is meant to be carried by hand or worn on the back only.
Knowing those limitations, I’ve figured out the duffles role for my needs and it’s been a great addition to my tightly curated gear collection. Before I bought this bag, Matador’s packable gear is from a product category I would have never thought I needed. Now they’ve become a part of every trip I go on.
Where to Find It
Pick up the Matador duffle on their website here: Matador Transit 30L duffle
For V2, go here: Matador Transit 30 2.0