- Buyer's Guide
You can wake us up any time of night for a carry piece that is lightweight, waterproof and packable. And Matador happens to make a whole range of stuff with those qualities. We mentioned them a few times before and when we got the chance to try out the Matador Hydrolite, there was no hesitation for the Carryology team.
The Hydrolite is an 8-liter weatherproof backpack with a HydraPak hydration reservoir and a Sawyer water filter included. When rolled up and stashed in its pouch it is smaller than a 1.5-liter bottle and it weighs just 18oz/510 grams.
It has a main compartment with a rolltop closure that can be used in two ways: the buckles can be attached to each other or to two other buckles on the side. It also has an open compartment to quickly stash stuff, that's flexible because of the elastic mesh panels. It has a front pouch with a waterproof zipper and a small zippered pouch on the left shoulder strap.
"Matador combines packable, lightweight, waterproof and hydration in its product."
- Name: Hydrolite hydration backpack
- Brand: Matador
- Format: Rolltop packable backpack
- Measurement: 11 x 3.5 x 3.5 inches
- Capacity: 8 liters
- Weight: 18oz/510 grams
- Zippers: YKK
- Material: Cordura, Hypalon
Who It Suits
This is for the adventurers who wander off the beaten path, who boldly go where no one has gone before (and need some fresh water and dry stuff along the way).
Who It Doesn't
People who like to stay at home.
The Hydrolite obviously scores on packability and low weight, but in addition to that it has a lot of nifty features.
The shoulder straps have a kind of "micro-padding" and because they are contoured they feel very comfortable.
A very cool thing that distinguishes the pack from other lightweight or hydration packs is the inflatable back panel. When you open the zipper in the back panel, out comes an inflatable-mat-like cushion that can be inflated and provides some padding, isolation from the cold water inside the hydration reservoir and ventilation to boot.
When you wear the pack and look at it from the side, you can actually spot the ventilation channels. Also, the mesh back has a sticky coating to keep the bag from sliding across your back when running. Nice!
"A very cool thing that distinguishes the pack from other lightweight or hydration packs is the inflatable back panel."
In general the Hydrolite comes across as a very well thought out and carefully put together product. There's a lot of attention to details, for example the front panel has some extra loops and straps to attach stuff to.
The included 2L HydraPak reservoir and the Sawyer filter are both high-quality products, but since we're in the carry business and not in the hydration business we're not going to spend a lot of time here. Reservoir, filter, and pack can all be used independently and a filter bypass for non-filtration functionality is included.
The Not So Good
The pack can be fidgety because of 1.) it's small and lightweight and 2.) it has a lot of buckles, straps and zippers. Apart from the inflated back panel the bag has no structure and will sink back to the ground however you place it. And I found myself adjusting a buckle here, tightening a strap there, opening the zipper again to adjust the hose of the hydration reservoir, smoothing out the back panel, adjusting the shoulder straps. When you've used the pack for a while, this will diminish.
"Apart from the inflated back panel the bag has no structure and will sink back to the ground however you place it."
Also, if you wear the pack right, you first close the roll-top and then attach two additional buckles from the front of the pack to the shoulder straps. This will help for a more balanced wearing experience, but it is another step in getting ready to leave (of course, you can just not close the additional buckles, which I do most of the time).
Folding the pack and stashing it in its pocket takes some time, because you have to empty the water reservoir, deflate the back panel, fold it up neatly, adjust the water filter in line with the rest of the folds and so on. I feel this is a minor annoyance though, that is compensated big time by the fact that it is packable in the first place.
Now there seems to be a built-in contradiction in the Hydrolite we have to address. When you are in the city, 8 liters of storage will usually be enough for the day, but who needs a hydration reservoir and water filter. In the backcountry you may need a water filter and hydration reservoir, but 8 liters might not be enough. We talked to Chris, Matador's founder about this. The thing is, this pack is meant for short adventures: there may be situations where there is no fresh water available and not a bottled water store within 100 miles, or you are going on a day hike or mountain bike trip and don't want to bring a big bag. Just bring the lightweight small package along in your luggage and you're good to go.
The Hydrolite is not the most stylish pack in the world when you go out on the town. But hey, just go ahead and let your trendy leather backpack, filled with three bottles of water, sweat against your back all day in 30 degrees Bangkok, if you like. We'll be enjoying the ventilation and fresh water of the Hydrolite.
As for the waterproofness: I wouldn't go scuba-diving with this, but maybe that's because I don't scuba-dive... I'd have no doubts about bringing it into heavy rain or laying it down on a wet surface.
Alternatives to Consider
There are quite a few packable backpacks out there and we recently covered the best. Also we have some pretty cool hydration packs such as Mission Workshop's The Hauser and a whole range from CamelBak. However, Matador combines packable, lightweight, waterproof and hydration in its product, which makes it pretty special.
Many people (or should I say...guys) own some product that smells like freedom to them. It may be a sports car, a mountain bike, a guitar or even a pocket knife. They may never use it, but if and when that moment comes, they are ready to take on the world. To me the Hydrolite falls in that category. It feels like I can take this anywhere in the world, it hardly takes up space and weighs next to nothing and I'll always be sure to have fresh water and dry stuff. Wow!
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