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There are a lot of cool things out there that make us wonder — do they really work? In our I Tried It series, we set out to use them in the real world and have determined that, in fact, they really do.
The Product on Trial
Michael Natale, a one-time traveler looking to get back in the saddle but can't do so without a pack that can tackle whatever's on the trail ahead.
Pre-pandemic, I loved to travel. Whether it was a long flight to some revered historic site or a quick overnight to a city with no tourist traps in sight — I loved every minute of getting out and exploring. But lockdown made my lifestyle a lot more local, with the only exploring I got to do taking place behind a computer screen. And all that time, the wanderlust within was growing while all my travel gear sat wasting away.
Now, while of course, the pandemic still persists in ebbs and flows and precautions should still be taken, it finally feels like it's time to get back out and explore some more. But it turns out that my usual travel routine would need more adjustments than simply just adding an N95 and sanitizer to my packing list. Between clothes that no longer fit and luggage looking a little worse for wear, to say I was long overdue for an upgrade would be an understatement.
Although there are cases where I rely on a full suitcase or two to get me where I need to go, most of the time when I'm traveling, all I need is a backpack. Unfortunately, my longtime travel pack had seen better days, and I was desperately looking for a new one — and that's exactly what led me to discover the Matador SEG42 Travel Pack.
I’m somebody who likes to keep things organized when I pack — or any time, really (I was a real “peas stay separate from the rice on the dinner plate” kinda kid). So naturally, what first caught my eye about the SEG42 was its segmented pockets. Each segmented pocket has different depths ranging from 6 to 12 liters and is accessed via zippers on the front of the bag. It’s a nifty feature that allows the bag to essentially function like packing cubes, thus keeping your items organized and separated. When full, these pockets hang neatly inside the main body of the bag, and whatever space isn’t occupied by a full pocket can be used to pack things into the main area.
The great part about this feature, beyond the sheer organizational factor, is that it eliminates one of the biggest problems with many backpacks on the market, which is the “front-pocket problem.” With a lot of other packs, storing something in the main body of the bag can make that item hard to find in a pinch, and worse yet, if it’s something with liquid like a pen or sunscreen, it can leak or break, ruining everything else you have in the pack. Many bags try to solve that issue with external pockets that leave items far more exposed (especially to the elements, like rain or snow) and tend to bulk up the front of the bag, making it harder to store. The SEG42 stands out from the rest because it retains its shape no matter how you need to pack it — making it easy to access your items and to keep them protected too.
While I've found those segmented pockets advantageous every time I've traveled with it, if there's a trip where you feel you don't need them, the SEG42 has a convenient zippered flap inside that allows you to cover up those dangling empty pockets and simply pack the main body of the bag. Features like this make it obvious that this pack is designed to accommodate many different forms of travel — making it a great option for pretty much everyone on the go.
That's true too of carrying options. With its shoulder straps stowable and with handles on the top and side of the bag, the SEG42 can be used as either backpack or duffle bag. I've tried it in both modes, and they're equally functional. The handles offer a far more comfortable grip than many duffles I've used in the past, though I'll admit I do prefer this pack as a backpack in terms of mobility and how the packed items sit in it.
As the pack offers the kind of customizability to accommodate different types of travel, I decided to put it through as many as I conceivably could. In duffle bag mode, it joined me on a train ride into Manhattan, where its designated laptop pocket (on the back of the pack, where the shoulder straps are, which can accommodate laptops up to 15 inches) meant I could bring my work in tow with ease. I was able to store the bag itself neatly in the overhead luggage area on the train without any struggle or stuffing to make it fit. I also used it as a gym bag, where its segments made it easy to keep protein powder, toiletries, sneakers, and most crucially, the worn clothes and fresh clothes all separate from one another.
In backpack mode, it joined me on a road trip, placed upright in the passenger seat, where its easy-access pockets made it possible to steal a snack or even bust out an AUX cable without having to fish around or take my eyes off the road. I also took it on a multi-hour hike, and thanks to its small, adjustable sternum strap that attaches to its shoulder straps, it made for a comfortable carry. Having said that, it wasn’t my favorite way to use it, if just because when it comes to a hiking pack, I prefer those that have a padded hip belt for extra stability, and some suspended mesh to cut down on back sweat. Even so, if you want a multipurpose bag with some hiking involved, as opposed to a primarily hiking pack, this definitely does the job.
During the aforementioned hike, I encountered a light drizzle, and everything in the pack stayed dry — but I felt like that didn’t fully test the pack’s purported waterproofing to its limits. And considering “waterproof” is a boast many backpacks make and fail to live up to, I knew I needed to do one more test.
Anticipating a forecasted downpour, I packed the SEG42 with both paper towels and bath towels stuffed in every possible pocket. Then, using a simple black steel shepherd hook, I hung it in the front yard, and when the rains came, I let it endure the harsh elements for over an hour.
I then retrieved the bag, anticipating some degree of dampness, particularly on the towels closest to the sides, and hoping, as I was really otherwise loving the bag, that I wouldn’t be let down by finding everything to be drenched. But, much to my absolute surprise, every single towel in the bag, after an hour of harsh rain, was still completely dry. Too often, “waterproof” just means “water-resistant,” but thanks to the durable build and polyurethane-coated zipper areas, this pack truly proved to be waterproof.
The Closing Argument
Before this pack even arrived, I was expecting to love its segmented nature, put it aside for some particular type of trip, and continue my quest to find that perfect Goldilocks-style "just right" backpack.
But I was pleasantly surprised to find that this pack really does work for any travel needs I could anticipate. The segments are an organized packer's dream, and the adjustable carry styles are a great option to have. But that final weather-resistance test pushed it over the top for me and made it a must-own for frequent travelers of any type. It's become my go-to travel pack, bar none.
Some may balk at the $200 price tag, but its storage options and durability more than merit the investment. When it comes to finding the right bag for my future trips, from the national parks to the Disney parks, my search is over — and I think yours will be too after you discover just how versatile, organized, and durable this bag really is.
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