From urban streets to jungle retreats: Matador’s GlobeRider45 backpack handles it all

Content is created by CNN Underscored’s team of editors who work independently from the CNN newsroom. When you buy through links on our site, CNN and its syndication partners may earn a commission. Learn more

Cassandra Brooklyn/CNN Underscored
Cassandra Brooklyn/CNN Underscored

There’s no shortage of competitors when it comes to the best travel backpacks, from feature-rich packs that are portable and practical to stylish and comfortable bags that you feel like you could wear all day.

As a regular air traveler, I’m always looking for the best backpack. My criteria are to have a comfortable, convenient pack that is smartly designed and roomy enough that it can accommodate my laptop, toiletries, charging cables, reusable water bottle and other travel must-haves.

Sometimes I check my travel backpack, but other times, it serves as my carry-on luggage. As such, I need it to be roomy enough to fit everything I need but compact enough that it can be stuffed into an overhead compartment.

Enter the GlobeRider45 Travel Backpack by Matador, which ticks all the boxes above and then some. It’s packed with fun and practical features found on most of the best bags out there, but then it ups the ante by also being waterproof, having an external laptop sleeve and easily converting to a duffel.

Cassandra Brooklyn/CNN Underscored
Cassandra Brooklyn/CNN Underscored

In the past year, I’ve taken this bag on a dozen different trips, including my recent adventure in Sri Lanka, which involved hiking, biking and kayaking. Given that I decided to extend my stay in Sri Lanka for over three weeks and anticipated frequent movement while also needing to work part-time, I required a spacious, durable, waterproof bag that was both practical and easily accessible for organizing my gear efficiently.

Here’s a closer look at some of my favorite features of the GlobeRider45 Travel Backpack and why you might love it as much as I do.

Matador GlobeRider45 Travel Backpack


With its waterproof exterior, external laptop sleeve and ample storage space, the Matador GlobeRider45 Travel Backpack seamlessly combines functionality, durability and style.

$350 at Matador
$350 at REI

What I liked about it

There’s lots to love about the GlobeRider45 Travel Backpack. Here’s an overview of my favorite features.

Just enough compartments

Cassandra Brooklyn/CNN Underscored
Cassandra Brooklyn/CNN Underscored

Some bags (like the viral Coowoz Large Travel Backpack, which my colleague loved) come with loads of organizational compartments. While this can be helpful for some travel, it doesn’t work for my style of travel. I love that the GlobeRider45 just has one big main compartment so I can stuff in large, bulky and awkwardly shaped items. If I do want to compartmentalize, I rely on packing cubes.

Numerous exterior and interior pockets are placed throughout the bag but not so many that I’m struggling to come up with a way to use them. Within the interior zipped pockets, I stash important items I may not need during the trip but can’t afford to lose, like my house keys and passport. The zipped inner sleeve pocket sometimes goes unused, but since I often travel for work, I find myself stuffing folders, leaflets and other large, flat items in there. The top exterior pocket typically has a book or magazine in it, and the side exterior stretch pocket usually holds my water bottle.

There’s also a small zipped side pocket that is perfect for random items. When I’m intentional, I pack snacks, tissues, headphones, charging cables or a spare plastic bag here. More often than not, however, I wind up stuffing in whatever last-minute item I forgot to put in (or couldn’t fit in) the main compartment.

The front of the backpack also has a large, very stretchy pocket that can hold just about anything. I love it because it’s so large and stretchy, it can fit a wide variety of items, but because the top edge of the pocket is secure, I don’t have to worry about things falling out.

During a recent winter snow adventure in Yellowstone National Park, I forgot to take my favorite Arc’Teryx hoodie (which is not cheap) out of the exterior sleeve when I checked the bag in Jackson Hole. To my surprise and delight, the hoodie was still there when my bag arrived in Milwaukee seven hours and a connection through Utah later. Now I regularly stash extra clothes in there when checking the bag.

Extra laptop sleeve

Cassandra Brooklyn/CNN Underscored
Cassandra Brooklyn/CNN Underscored

By far my favorite pocket is the exterior laptop sleeve, which offers easy access to my computer at the airport, on the plane or at my hotel. Gone are the days of having to unpack half my belongings to access my Macbook, as now it’s just a quick zip away. I also appreciate that the laptop compartment can accommodate my 15-inch device even when it’s encased in its waterproof laptop sleeve (also made by Matador, the waterproof travel expert, apparently).

I rarely travel without my laptop, but when I have, I’ve used the external laptop sleeve to hold other flat items that I may want easy access to, like my day planner, a tablet, a magazine or books.

Fits in most overhead bins

At 22 inches by 12.8 inches by 11-inches, the GlobeRider45 Travel Backpack is designed to fit into most overhead bins. However, there are exceptions to consider. Firstly, it may be too large for cramped overhead bins found on smaller regional jets that can barely hold a purse. Secondly, if you exceed the dimensions of the overhead bin due to overpacking, it might not fit.

I’ve never encountered any issues placing the bag in the bin. Nonetheless, had I excessively stuffed the expandable front pocket with additional gear (which it can manage), it might have posed a challenge.

Fully waterproof

The fact that this backpack is fully waterproof — and not just water-resistant — is a huge plus. Nobody ever plans to have rain on their vacation, but it happens, and when it does, this bag can handle it.

Because I do a lot of walking and hiking, I always bring my lightweight, waterproof Arc’teryx Beta jacket with me when traveling. Paired with the GlobeRider45 Travel Backpack, I have full coverage when out in the rain. I live in New York City, and I like to take the eco-friendly train to/from the airport instead of a cab, even if it’s raining. It’s about a 15-minute walk from the train to my apartment and my belongings — including my laptop — have always stayed dry and safe within my backpack during these rainy walks.

Even if you opt not to use public transportation to reach the airport, the possibility of encountering rain remains. On numerous occasions, heavy rain has occurred either at my departure or arrival airport, resulting in our bags (mine and everyone else’s) being left exposed to the elements during transit to or from the plane. Although my belongings have never suffered serious damage as a result, it has been frustrating to discover wet clothing and books inside my backpack upon reaching home or my hotel. Thankfully, with the waterproof GlobeRider45, my possessions have remained dry and shielded even when subjected to rain on the tarmac.

Converts to a duffel

Cassandra Brooklyn/CNN Underscored
Cassandra Brooklyn/CNN Underscored

When I first got this bag, I wasn’t anticipating using it as a duffel, but now I do it all the time. Anyone who’s ever checked a backpack knows that the waist and chest straps dangling around on the conveyor belt can easily get tangled and damaged when checked. This happened to me last year after checking my favorite 55-liter Osprey hiking backpack in Egypt. Despite having tightened and wrapped all the straps securely (or so I thought) and affixing all the buckles, I arrived in Cairo, only to find that one of the waist strap buckles was gone, meaning I had to haul around a 45-pound pack with no waist strap for the next two weeks.

To convert the GlobeRider45 Travel Backpack to a duffel, you just unzip the back panel to reveal a storage compartment. Then tuck the shoulder and waist straps into the sleeve and zip up both sides of the panel. Two hands are required to do this, and I sometimes have to alter my angle a bit to get the panel to zip back up, but the entire process takes about 20 seconds. Once the straps are secured, you can rely on strategically placed side and top grab handles to haul around or hand over to airline staff.

What I didn’t like about it

The zippers are hard to close

Cassandra Brooklyn/CNN Underscored
Cassandra Brooklyn/CNN Underscored

Part of what allows this bag to be fully waterproof are the YKK® PU-coated sealing zippers. They’re hardcore, so they create a secure seal that keeps out water, even in a full downpour. But they don’t move as smoothly or easily as most zippers.

The zippers on this pack are my least favorite aspect of it because I feel like I’m fighting with them every single time I seal up my bag. The zippers on the top large pocket, small side pocket and laptop sleeve are less problematic, likely because these are smaller pockets so you’re only moving the zipper a short distance.

When it comes to the main compartment, maneuvering the zipper around three sides of the pack demands a bit of exertion. I frequently find myself adjusting my position to accomplish this task, and it undeniably requires both hands. If I’ve packed the bag to capacity (which is often the case), the process becomes even more challenging. Despite these hurdles, I can still manage to zip up my bag within 30 seconds. However, I wish the zippers operated with greater ease or, at the very least, the finger loops were larger to offer more leverage during the zipping process.

Not especially comfortable

Cassandra Brooklyn/CNN Underscored
Cassandra Brooklyn/CNN Underscored

I wouldn’t call this bag uncomfortable, but it isn’t as comfortable as the backpacking and hiking backpacks I also travel with. Backpacking and hiking packs prioritize comfort because they are intended to be worn for long periods. Because these packs can get quite heavy (imagine hauling around 70 liters of gear, food and water), there’s a much stronger emphasis placed on ventilation, comfort and weight distribution.

Compared to other travel backpacks, I’d say the GlobeRider45 Travel Backpack is equally or slightly more comfortable, especially when you consider that part of the comfort has to do with the size. By default, a 45-liter pack is probably going to be a lot heavier than 20- to 25-liter packs. A larger, heavier bag will automatically cause more fatigue when worn for long periods (such as waiting in lines and walking through airports), but the waist and sternum strap does help distribute some of this weight. The GlobeRider45 definitely can’t compete with my trusty Osprey hiking pack in terms of comfort, though the Osprey hiking pack isn’t waterproof (without a rain cover) and doesn’t have an external laptop sleeve.

Won’t hold larger water bottles

The GlobeRider45 Travel Backpack has a single water bottle holder on one side, which can accommodate small to medium-sized water bottles. While the pocket is slightly stretchy, it lacks sufficient elasticity to accommodate large water bottles. I’ve also found that when I overpack the bag (again, which is often), it makes it even harder to get a standard-sized water bottle in there, which isn’t necessarily specific to this bag.

I can fit my favorite insulated metal water bottle (the Lightweight Wide-Mouth Trail Series HydroFlask) in here, and it can also fit the standard plastic cycling water bottles I often travel with. Technically, I could fit my Grayl GeoPress filter bottle in there when the bag wasn’t fully packed, but when it was stuffed, it was impossible to get in. I refuse to buy bottled water (and haven’t bought any in at least five years), so I would have liked to fit this filter in the side pocket during my trip to Sri Lanka. Instead, I had to pack it inside or in a separate day pack.

How it compares

Bottom line

The GlobeRider45 Travel Backpack by Matador stands out as the ultimate travel companion, offering durability, convenience and ample space for all your essentials. Whether you’re jet-setting across the globe or exploring closer to home, this backpack has you covered.

Looking for a travel credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored Money chose as the best travel credit cards currently available.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailers' listed price at the time of publication.

For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at