- Buyer's Guide
The Matador SEG42 is a Best in Class One Bag Travel Pack
Travel, particularly how and what people carry, has been going through a large attitude change. The idea started years ago, with the movement towards shedding excess (Costanza wallet, anyone?) and carrying better. In addition to buying high-quality clothing, and packing more efficiently, the pack you choose has a huge impact on your travel experience. The pack is your main physical interface with your gear and anyone who has gone through security, stood in a crowded train, or trudged up a cobblestone street to check into an Airbnb after 30 hours of travel, knows how important a pack is.
Matador is no stranger to great packs but it started out with a packable blanket called the Pocket Blanket. From there, they started producing packable packs (Beast28) but you’d be hard-pressed to call them a travel company. That all changed at Outdoor Retailer Summer 2018 when they surprised everyone with the introduction of their FlatPak soap and toiletry bottles, and ties. Since then, they’ve focused on more travel items with the release of the packable water bottle last year and now the SEG42.
The SEG42 is Matador’s entry into the one bag travel pack category. Dissecting the name, you can surmise it’s a segmented 42-liter pack. The volume puts it on the higher end of a one bag pack, but comes nowhere near the capacity reserved for large duffels or multi-week hiking packs. In fact, the ~40L size is quite common for this type of bag. So if the size is typical, what makes the SEG42 special?
For starters, the SEG42 is one of the sleekest one bag packs I’ve come across. The exterior is an 840D PU-coated nylon with bits of 420D. Both are DWR coated for water resistance. Most of the surfaces, despite being constructed from different materials, have a similar finish and weave. There is very little branding or text and where necessary, the text is either a muted gray or a very minimal white font, which blends in nicely with the pack.
The zipper pulls, made of a lighter weight Hypalon, are just long enough to be usable while ensuring no excess to get in the way of the clamshell opening. The shoulder straps have retention built in to take up any slack. This is all to say the bag is very sleek and minimal and no bits poke out visually or physically.
Speaking of minimalism, the shoulder straps can be easily detached via the G-hooks and stowed away, each in its own dedicated compartment and sealed off with a short zipper. The sternum strap is also detachable.
Though we’ve come a long way from university students carrying hiking packs as one bag travel solutions, many of the one bag packs nowadays can be quite large. It’s quite shocking how small Matador has been able to build a pack with this carrying capacity. It measures 22″ long x 11.75″ wide x 11.5″ high and weighs just 2 lbs 4 oz. This is lighter than many of the other bags of the same volume, and even lighter than some one bag packs that hold less.
Owing to its namesake the SEG42’s killer feature is the built-in segmentation. If you want to be an efficient traveler, you must use packing cubes. This allows you to separate your items by day, activity, or clothing type. The front of the SEG42 is divided into 5 sections labeled Segment 1 through 5. There’s actually a sixth segment called Segment 0 which is the main compartment. The segments are clearly labeled and vary in volume from 6 (x2), 9 (x2) and 12 (x1) liters. Add it up and you get 42 liters. You can use these sections to organize your trip by day or you can work out a system where you remember that Segment 2 holds your socks and underwear while Segment 3, the largest one, has your dress shirts and shorts.
Looking at the front of the pack, with the series of stacked zippers, you don’t really get a good sense of how much volume is hidden behind. Once you open up one of the sections, you quickly realize the compartment extends behind where you think the border of that compartment lies.
Having the segments on the “outside” of the pack is also highly convenient. It means you can quickly grab a pair of socks or pull out a t-shirt for a quick change, instead of digging into your pack and opening up a packing cube. Depending on the type of trip, a traveler might never fully unpack their luggage. This gives quick access without needing to. Finally, all the zippers are water resistant so there’s no concern with water getting into your clothing.
Where do the segments get their space? From the main compartment of course. Segment 0 is a full 42 liters and can be accessed via a clamshell opening with dual wrap-around zippers. If you choose to fully pack out from five segments, you’ll use up all the internal space. And if you decide to pack the main cavity (Segment 0) fully, there will be no room to use front packing cubes.
Packing entirely using the segments or just the main cavity are the extremes. A traveler might choose to just pack using one or two of the top or bottom segments, while leaving space in the main compartment for bulkier items. There is 42L of storage available in total and how you choose to divide this between the main body and the packing cube segments is up to you. One can also forgo the packing cubes entirely and pack just using the main compartment. If this is the case, you can stow away the packing cubes by zipping up the retention cover and securing it on the end with the Velcro strip.
In addition to the aforementioned backpack carry option, the SEG42 can also be carried as a duffel. Usually, I don’t like really lightweight packs that are not designed as duffels to be carried as such. I think the issue with bags that are minimally structured (packable duffels, for example), is they tend to be very bottom heavy. Then, you get this strained teardrop shape where the weight isn’t distributed evenly and the strain concentrates on the handles.
With the SEG42, this is much less pronounced for a few reasons. First, the bag is more rigid compared to packable duffels while still being quite light for a pack of this size. Second, if you use the packing cubes, it keeps some of the weight near the top so there’s less of that bottoming out effect. For me, I can’t carry a duffel via the handles for very long. If this is your intended mode for carry, definitely get a third-party shoulder strap. Luckily there are a couple of 1mm thick Hypalon loops, reinforced with bartacks, around the pack for you to attach to. The shoulder straps can also be stowed away for easy check-in.
There are also four quick-grab handles including two on the top, which was a welcome sight. Carry handles are the main way that most travelers interact with the pack once it’s off their back so I am glad to see them.
Lastly, there is an external access padded laptop compartment (which supports the 16″ MacBook Pro) and quick-access pockets on the top and bottom of the pack. Hypalon tethers surround the pack, allowing you to easily add straps to carry extra items if needed.
I’ve handled many one bag packs and while great strides have been made in their design and size, I still feel like many of them are like strapping a duffel bag to your back. When I unpacked the Matador SEG42 I was stunned at how great the bag looked and carried and how thought out the organization and carry options were. It’s a truly impressive pack from a brand that continues to impress in the travel space. If you are looking for a minimal one bag pack that has built-in packing cubes and different carry options, you should check out the SEG42. It releases May 21, 2020 and is priced at $189.99.