Matador Seg42 travel pack

Dresser in a Backpack: Matador SEG42 Review

Adding a whole new layer of organization to travel, Matador’s SEG42 offers an ingenious way to pack your clothes — and some gear — for a multiday trip.

The coolest thing I saw at Outdoor Retailer in January wasn’t skis, goggles, or high-tech ski-mountaineering boots. Not even close. The items that caught my eye was a funny-looking backpack — one with more zippers than I’d ever seen on a pack.

With a pinky swear to keep it under wraps until the grand unveiling, I tested the SEG42 from Matador during the final weeks of winter. And I did so over a weeklong-trip-turned-monthlong-shelter-in-place in Minnesota. As luck would have it, the SEG42 made for the ideal travel bag for just such a contingency.

Launching today, the Matador SEG42 adds collapsible “drawers” to the conventional backpack/duffel. These multi-volume segments allow users to separate pants from shirts and unmentionables, keeping their travel wardrobe organized.

For the keen packer, it also has enough main compartment storage to stow some basic camp gear and an everyday-carry item.

Matador Seg42 travel pack open pockets

In short: For weeklong vacations and shorter getaways, the SEG42 provides an intelligently designed pack. What packing cubes did for travelers in recent years, the SEG42 effectively accomplishes in one handsome pack.

Plus, being part of the Matador family, the $190 SEG42 carries enough rugged chops to give the more carefree travelers (like me) peace of mind knowing it will shed rain and handle some ungentle abuse.

Matador SEG42 Travel Backpack

Storage

First off, what exactly is this pack and how does it work? Essentially, the SEG42 is a 42L backpack with a duffel carry option. Two accessory pockets on either side work great for a wallet, pens, sunglasses, and other small carry options.

But the big innovation here is the addition of five collapsible zip pockets on the front of the pack. When fully collapsed, the main compartment offers up 42 gaping liters. But fill any of the six pockets — two 6L, two 9L, and one 12L — and you have a compartmented segment.

Matador Seg42 travel pack

The idea is that you can separate items — socks, underwear, shirts, and pants, for instance. Historically, this was the function of packing cubes, which you would fill and then stuff into your luggage. But the SEG42 eliminates the need for extra packing cubes.

What’s more, because the individual segments are isolated from the main compartment, you can put dirty items in the large compartment as your travel extends. So it works like a dresser and hamper in one.

Construction

Like most Matador bags, the SEG42 sports a water- and tear-resistant build. The outer comprises 840- and 400-denier coated nylon with a DWR finish. Likewise, the interior materials have a DWR finish over the more pliant 100-denier Robic high-tenacity nylon.

All eight exterior zipper tracks carry a polyurethane coating to help repel water. The pack is not submersible-level waterproof, but for some unexpected weather, it does a solid job keeping what’s inside dry.

Matador Seg42 travel pack

As noted, the backpack doubles as a carry-on duffel with stowaway padded shoulder straps. The main compartment opens clamshell-style, and like most modern packs, the SEG42 has a zippered, padded laptop compartment.

Inside, the pack looks unremarkable, save for the Velcro and zippered divider that helps separate the main compartment from the individual segment pockets when they’re not in use. This is largely aesthetic, though it does help keep the empty segment liners from getting in the way when packing.

Matador SEG42 Travel Pack Review

What I Liked

I excitedly packed the SEG42 for the first time in early March. I was in Denver, preparing for an annual sojourn to the middle-of-nowhere, Minnesota.

Every year, a few wily friends and I snowshoe to a yurt in the woods where we drink whiskey, chop wood, drink whiskey, fix holes in the yurt, drink whiskey, and stoke a cast-iron stove for warmth (when not drinking whiskey).

Needless to say, a handful of guys in an open, round yurt tend to make a mess. And every year, there’s about 2 hours of determining whose dirty socks are whose, where that other pair of pants got to, and general de-chaosing of everyone’s gear.

The SEG42, I hoped, would spare me some of that rigamarole. And wouldn’t you know it? It worked. Of course, a duffel with organizational compartments will only work as well as the user who commits to staying organized — and I definitely can do better.

But the SEG’s six compartments and 42L capacity were just enough to squeeze in all my socks, underwear, shirts, packable rain shell, gloves, and pants for 5 days of travel.

The segments unfurl and stow easily — there’s no learning curve. The designers at Matador did a solid job making an otherwise complex pack very simple and intuitive to use.

What I Would Have Liked Better

Matador Seg42 travel pack laptop sleeve

Honestly, not much. It’s mostly nit-picking, but because Matador included all the pockets and a laptop sleeve, it really seems like a do-all travel pack. But if that’s the case, I’d like to see a lined glasses pocket.

Also, the laptop pocket is simply a sleeve. Adding in a small internal pocket for organizing other electronic chargers and cords could really solve everyone’s needs.

The other quirk I found with the pack was the shoulder strap adjuster. Most packs adjust by pulling down on a nylon strap to tighten up and lift the load. The SEG42 is the opposite; you have to adjust the straps from the bottom up to tighten the pack.

During my use, I found it just about impossible to manage this while wearing the pack. So I set the straps with a little trial and error, and then never looked back. When I asked Matador about this, the brand said it was a decision it came to after some careful thought.

One designer told me, “So the G-hook that we used to connect the shoulder straps to their lower attachment point has a webbing adjuster built in. We chose to use this part as intended (connector and adjuster) rather than split those duties between two parts by hard anchoring the shoulder strap webbing to the G-hook (connector) and adding an additional plastic part at the shoulder strap (adjuster).

“We chose this configuration because we feel that it is as functional as a traditional setup, and there are a few benefits to this configuration. On an already complex pack, this setup keeps things simple by minimizing the number of moving parts.”

What’s more, according to Matador, this design may also help lengthen the lifespan of the pack overall.

Matador Seg42 travel pack shoulder strap adjuster

“Also, it’s one less part to break, when the shoulder straps are stowed they are on the bottom of the pack, and the load would be sitting directly on top of the plastic adjusters, so they would potentially be more prone to breakage than usual,” the designer continued.

Again, while not the most user-friendly on the fly, these straps worked great once I dialed the fit ahead of time.

Great for ‘Extended Travel’

As you may have guessed from the timeline, I got stuck in Minnesota right as the first shelter-in-place orders came through. I had a tough decision between traveling against a lot of official and family recommendations, and figuring out how to live out of a backpack for an open-ended stay away from home.

Matador Seg42 travel pack

Ultimately, I made the choice to stay with some friends in Minnesota and not return home until things mellowed out. As luck would have it, the SEG42 may have been the ideal pack for such a scenario.

Without a dresser or hamper to call my own, it helped me keep my mess under control in someone else’s home and allowed me to stay mostly ready to scoot whenever I needed to.

At $190, it’s no small investment, but other Matador gear we’ve tested suggests this pack will last and endure some years of tough use. And sure, it didn’t solve all my problems. After all, I still needed to pack some burlier gear that I checked and didn’t have much room left over for food or other essentials.

But for the bulk of my travel necessities, the SEG42 kept everything in its right place. And eventually, I got it and my stuff home, as organized as when I first left.

Adam Ruggiero
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Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie - from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.

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