Matador Beast18 Review
The Matador Beast18 is comfortable, durable, and well-oriented for hiking and other outdoor use cases, but it doesn’t pack up as small as other packable bags.
- Thoughtful features great for hiking & outdoor use
- Frame sheet is flexible yet adds structure to the carry
- Ample attachment points for adding extra accessories
- Not as packable as other packable bags
- Quick access pocket slow to access—behind two zippers
- Thin material can weigh down when packed in an unbalanced way, or external attachment points are used with heavy gear
1.31 lb (0.6 kg)
20 in x 10 in x 6.5 in (50.8 x 25.4 x 16.5 cm)
ROBIC®, Nylon, EVA Foam, Polyurethane, YKK Zippers, YKK Buckles
Get up to 20% off Matador • Join Pack Hacker Pro
The Beauty and the Beast18 is our favorite fairy tale: it tells the story of an excellent hiking-oriented daypack that’s well-suited for the trail and all your other outdoor adventures. Are we remembering it right?
OK, so the Matador Beast18 may not be a fantasy, but it is a super reliable, super comfortable daypack with functionality, features, and overall design catered to hiking and similar outdoor use cases.
Just for clarification, there is a larger Matador Beast28 1.0 that we comprehensively reviewed a couple of years ago, along with the updated version—the Matador Beast28 2.0. This review will be focusing on the 18L version specifically. Feel free to check out the other one if you’re looking for something a little larger.
That review we mentioned? Check it out below!
Materials & Aesthetic
The response to this bag’s look from our Instagram audience comes as no surprise. With an 80% approval rating from our poll, it’s clear that the majority (including us) are digging the pack’s stylish, subdued vibe. One follower—Evin W.—even went as far as to say, “Honestly, maybe the best looking new bag of 2020”, and this poll happened in December, people!
With this being said, the bag isn’t super structured, so it’ll need to be somewhat full & consciously packed to get that look.
The only color you can get your Beast18 in at the time of this review is Black. You won’t hear any complaints from us, as we like how it helps the bag stay as minimal and clean as possible. But, if you’re disappointed by this news, never fear. Matador could very well release more colorways in the future as they’ve done with previous products, so keep a lookout!
Speaking of Matador, you’ll spot their logo in white lettering across the bag’s front. Its modest size and cursive font make it an aesthetically-pleasing accent if you ask us, though your mileage may vary if your favorite kind of branding is none at all.
The Beast18 is constructed with 210D Robic nylon that’s treated with a UTS coating for added water-resistance. It’s lightweight, durable, and has performed well throughout our two weeks of testing—you’ll be just fine in drizzling weather, and we haven’t noticed any scratches or tears as of yet. Just note that it can get pretty crinkly, especially after being compressed a handful of times, which isn’t the best look.
Not only are the zippers on this bag YKK, but the hardware, too! The zippers have been gliding open and closed without any issues for the full length of our testing, which is a good sign—and we have similar things to say about the hardware. We expect nothing less from this brand and aren’t anticipating any damage in the near future, aesthetic or otherwise.
Starting with the shoulder straps, they’re relatively thin but have enough padding to support the weight we’re usually carrying in an 18L pack like this one. They’re also lined with a mesh that creates bonus breathability for more extended wear or when you’ve got this thing on in the summer heat.
While we haven’t found it necessary, you can take advantage of the bag’s included sternum strap, which helps when the bag is fully loaded with heavy gear. It secures tightly to the shoulder straps and can be adjusted to wherever it feels most efficient. In essence, it’s nothing crazy, but it does add some extra support if and when you need it.
Now, the thing that really sets this bag apart from other packable bags is the hip belt. It’s much more than just a basic nylon strap like we’ve seen on other packs—it’s wide, lined with mesh, and offers more support for when you’re carrying a hefty haul. Like the sternum strap, if you don’t find it helpful, it’s also removable—just unhook the g-hooks on each side and disengage the velcro. It’ll slide right out the sleeve and out of your way.
The back panel features the same mesh lining, as well as a similar level of comfortable padding. But the real star is the frame sheet—it’s wired in a circle around the perimeter of the panel and creates some structure back here that you don’t see on the bag’s front. We’ve also noticed that it feels more flexible toward the middle, which plays double duty. First, it helps to bend the bag in half when packing it away. Second, it conforms well to your back in use—especially when you’re bending down to pick up litter some other irresponsible hiker left on the trail. Dang irresponsible hikers.
There are various attachment points on the bag’s front—two daisy chains and four loops, to be specific—that allows you to clip an array of additional accessories. The two top loops are made with elastic that, combined with the bottom two loops, can secure trekking poles for hiking (or some cross-country skiing, perhaps).
As for the daisy chains, they offer several loops to clip carabiners and other accessories to so they’re always handy and easy to access. Be aware, though, that since this bag isn’t very structured on its own, clipping anything too heavy to the outside will cause the bag to sag, and you probably don’t want that aesthetic or feel on your back. So, don’t overdo it, especially with a bag that’s less than full. A carabiner with something lightweight attached or a bike light is just fine.
There are also dual water bottle pockets on this bag, one on each side. They’re secured with stretchy elastic that makes them pretty roomy—to give you an idea of what you can store here, we’ve been keeping the Hydro Flask Bottle 21 oz (Standard Mouth) inside one, and it fits very nicely. You can opt to keep your bottle in one and an umbrella, tripod, or even an extra hat/pair of gloves inside the other to make use of this extra storage.
A compression strap also sits above both of these pockets. These work like standard compression straps for cinching the bag down, so it’s nice and low-profile. They also double as a way to secure your bottle or taller items you’re keeping in the water bottle pocket, so it’s even less likely that they fall out if the bag gets jostled around or overturned.
Inside The Pack
In terms of pockets, the Beast18 keeps things simple. You have just one long front pocket that extends almost the full length of the bag. It’s a convenient spot to store things like a jacket, extra hoody, snacks, notebooks, and other gear you don’t feel like going into the main compartment to grab. Plus, there’s a smaller zippered pocket towards the top that can segment your more quick-grab items (wallet, keys, etc.) so they’re not getting lost at the very bottom of the pocket.
Usually, we like when these quick access pockets are outside of the bag—this one is behind two zippered pockets, so access isn’t super fast—but the benefit here is added protection from the elements.
As for the main compartment, you can access it by unzipping the opening behind this pocket. On one side, the zipper only goes down about halfway, while the other end goes down to the bottom of the bag. This not only opens up the bag wide enough to load in larger gear but also creates a distinct symmetrical heart shape—we love you too, Matador.
Inside, you’ll find an elastic sleeve against the back wall that’s intended for holding a water bladder. It’s elasticated on both sides, which allows it to accommodate larger bladders (around 3L), adding to the bag’s hike-ready functionality. You can then feed the hose through the opening at the top and secure it through one of the loops on the shoulder straps for that hands-free hydration.
Similar bags often double up on this kind of sleeve, making it a spot to store your laptop when needed. However, because of the pocket’s curvature, you’d have difficulty trying to fit one inside. Overall, this bag isn’t designed to carry your tech—it’s more catered to your outdoor adventure and other more rugged use cases, so this OK by us.
The only other organization at your disposal in this compartment is a small stash pocket along one side. It’s meant to hold your keys as it houses a dedicated key leash inside, although we’ve found the zipper to be relatively narrow, making it difficult for us to get bulky keys in and out. Because it’s so deep inside the bag, too, it doesn’t offer the quickest access. However, if you’re not continually grabbing your keys while you’re out on the trail, as we suspect you’re not, this shouldn’t be a deal-breaker and keeps the keys nicely out of the way (YMMV).
Some bags will lazily place the key leash in a quick access pocket designed to hold your phone or sunglasses. Why would you want your metal, scratchy keys next to those items is beyond us. Anyway, end rant. We like where Matador’s head is at here.
When empty, you can compress the Beast18 down flat, twist it, and fold it in half, which creates a ball shape that you can stuff into the separate mesh pouch that comes with it—then all you have to do is tighten the cinch opening, and you’re all set. This pouch doesn’t connect to the bag in any way, so when the pack is on your back, you’ll want to stash it in one of the pockets so you don’t lose it.
When it comes to packability, the Beast18 and Beast24 are about the same size when compressed, so if you’re trying to decide between the two, packability shouldn’t play much of a factor. That being said, it’s significantly larger than the Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack when compressed, even with only 2L more space due to all of the extra bells & whistles. This makes it a little more challenging to pack, as you’ll have to designate more room in your suitcase or travel pack to accommodate it. It’s still handy functionality, especially if you’re storing it away and planning to use it as a daypack when you reach your destination.
- Hiking-style backpack that packs into itself when not in use
- Comfortable harness system that includes a hip belt and flexible-frame suspension for extra support
- Ultralight and weatherproof
We’ve been impressed with the harness system on this bag. The frame structure helps support the pack and distribute the weight more evenly between the shoulder straps and the robust hip belt. It’s not the most compressible packable backpack we’ve ever used, but if we were picking a bag for day hikes to pack into our larger travel bag, this is high on the list.