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Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack Review

While it packs larger than previous iterations, the Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack offers durable materials in a tidy, packable package.

Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack in Detroit
Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack in Detroit

Our Verdict

7.9 /10
Good info

Form

73/100

Design

83/100

Value

80/100
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Pros

  • Easy to compress & pack away
  • Lightweight, water-resistant fabric
  • Top pocket offers convenient segmentation

Cons

  • Loose threads after 2 weeks of use
  • Overloading top pocket can cause the bag to fold over
  • Packs larger than previous Matador packable bags

Technical Details

67 %

Carry-On Compliance (Beta)

View 108/162 Airlines

73 %

Like the Look

Polled on Instagram

  • Capacity

    16l

  • Weight (oz)

    7.5 oz (212.6 gm)

  • Denier

    100D

  • Dimensions

    17.5 in x 10.5 in x 8.5 in (44.5 x 26.7 x 21.6 cm)

    Deployed

  • Notable Materials

    ROBIC®, Nylon, Polyurethane, YKK Zippers

  • Manufacturing Country

    Vietnam

  • Laptop Compartment Size

    15"

  • Warranty Information

    Matador Warranty

Full Review

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One of the things Matador products are known for is packability—and the Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack is no exception.

Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack in Detroit
Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack in Detroit

This daypack is lightweight, weather-resistant, and easily packs inside of itself when you need to store it away for later use. It also has that just-right amount of space for your everyday gear and a few upgrades from previous iterations that we’ll touch on later.

We’ve been testing this bag around Detroit for two weeks now, so let’s dive into the review.

Materials & Aesthetic

This pack is the definition of minimal. Its lack of structure allows you to compress this thing to fit almost in the palm of your hand. And when worn on the back, it keeps a low-profile, which we appreciate. Our Instagram poll on the looks came in at a 73% approval rating. We agree—it just looks nice for a packable backpack.

The On-Grid Packable Backpack is only available in Black at the time of this review, so if you were hoping for something brighter, you won’t find it here. Though, we think this colorway helps the bag keep its muted aesthetic, so you don’t stand out—especially if you’re carrying expensive tech around.

Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack Material and Logo
Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack Material and Logo

Matador kept branding to a minimum as usual, which we appreciate. You’ll find their wordmark on the front of the bag and on one of the shoulder straps, as well as their “M” logo on one of the water bottle pockets—all of which are small and subtle.

If you’re wondering what this bag is made of, how does 100D ROBIC nylon with UTS coating strike you? We appreciate the added water-resistance this fabric and coating offer and think it’s an improvement over other Matador bags we’ve tested. The fabric feels a little thicker and more robust in the hand than the similar Matador Freefly16 and Matador DL16 Packable Daypacks.

That said, we have noticed some threads coming loose after two weeks of testing, which is something to note. Other than that, though, it’s held up pretty well so far.

Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack Zippers
Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack Zippers

We’re really happy to see YKK zippers on this bag. On similar, previous iterations of this pack, Matador used small SBS zippers. They were more weatherproof, but didn’t feel as durable and streamlined as the updated model. We’re also digging the paracord heat shrink pulls that are easy to grab—they’re a nice touch.

You’ll also find some ITW plastic hardware on this pack. We’ve had some positive experiences with this brand in the past, and everything has been working as it should be during testing—no complaints here.

External Components

Left: Riley, Height: 5’4” (162 cm), Torso: 16.5” (42 cm) | Right: Tom, Height: 6’2” (188 cm), Torso: 19.25" (49 cm)
Left: Riley, Height: 5’4” (162 cm), Torso: 16.5” (42 cm) | Right: Tom, Height: 6’2” (188 cm), Torso: 19.25″ (49 cm)

Let’s talk about the harness system. It’s simple and on par for a packable daypack of this size. This simplicity is part of what helps the bag compress into its own pocket so easily.

The shoulder straps are thin overall, but do have some light mesh for some minor padding and added breathability that we appreciate. There’s also a Hypalon attachment point if you want to clip on a carabiner for easy access, and not to mention some bar tack stitching to reinforce these straps’ own attachment to the bag. Plus, they have the cutest little elastic keepers you ever did see, to help keep excess strap managed—and your experience, #DangleFree.

Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack Shoulder Straps and Back Panel
Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack Shoulder Straps and Back Panel

You don’t have a sternum strap or hip belt on this pack, and no spot to attach them either. This hasn’t been a big deal during testing, as they’re not necessities on a pack this size. However, your mileage may vary—you might prefer the extra stability these features offer.

Like the shoulder straps, the back panel is pretty simple. There’s no real dense padding or mesh lining to speak of. You don’t have a frame sheet inside either, so this pack really doesn’t have much built-in structure—pretty obvious for a packable pack but we’ll mention it. Keeping a laptop inside—within its own separate, padded sleeve for protection—helps keep the bag structured.

We’ve found a lot of use out of these types of packable bags while working remotely—especially on the road. We empty out our larger backpacks, uncompress a packable daypack, load it up, then we’re good to go for a day at the coffee shop or coworking space.

Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack Water Bottle Pocket
Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack Water Bottle Pocket

There’s also a handle at the very top. There’s not much padding here, though it does have some surprisingly nice structure to it—it feels almost as if there’s a thin, flexible stay inside. This handle is convenient for grabbing or hanging the bag when needed, and stays close to the bag when not in use, keeping it nice and minimal.

The last thing you’ll find on the exterior is a set of water bottle pockets—one on each side of this pack. They have gusseted sides that allow the pockets to flex to your bottle, so you can keep ones of all different sizes inside. The stretchy material at the top keeps the bottle in place some, but there’s not too much grab as the structure of the bag doesn’t really allow it. We’ve been able to slide the Hydro Flask 32 oz Wide Mouth Water Bottle in these no problem.

Inside The Pack

At 16L, this pack has space to store your everyday essentials for your everyday commutes. Its storage is split into two spots—a roomy front pocket, and the main compartment.

Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack Front Pocket
Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack Front Pocket

First up is the front pocket. It opens up horseshoe-style, and the zippers go about a fourth of the way down. We’ve been using this pocket as a spot to dump our tech accessories—cords, dongles, an Apple Magic Mouse, and things of that nature. We like this smaller pocket up top more than other packable Matador bags that favored having these pockets go all the way to the bottom of the bag.

Note that if you don’t have anything in the main compartment and you pack out only this pocket, the bag will fold into itself, which isn’t a good look. You’ll want to pack your gear as evenly as possible to prevent this—even stuffing a hoodie into the bottom of the bag will give it enough structure to wear comfortably.

Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack Comparison
Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack Comparison

There’s also a pocket within this pocket against the back, that we’ve been using to segment cables and other items. This pocket has another purpose, though, and that’s storing the bag when it’s compressed. When you need to pack it away, you can easily unzip the dual-sided zipper and fold the bag inside itself—then zip it right back up and voila, pack in a pocket.

We like this design better than other compressible Matador bags, as those have separate compression bags for storage that are easily misplaced. Here, you have everything you need in one tidy package and don’t have to keep track of an extra piece. It does pack larger than previous iterations of the same type, but we still prefer this pack’s materials and compression process.

Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack Compressed
Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack Compressed

Then, we have the main compartment. It opens up in a similar horseshoe-style fashion as the front pocket, so it doesn’t offer the same ease of access that a clamshell opening would, but we’ve still been able to get our stuff in and out without any issues.

This compartment is mostly open space, so you can fill it up with larger gear or supplement with pouches or packing cubes to add some organization. We’ve been keeping a keyboard in a Roost Minimalist Keyboard Sleeve inside, along with a Moleskine Classic Large Soft Cover Dot Grid Notebook. We’ve also been stashing a sweatshirt at the bottom in case the weather turns, and we’ve found that it helps give the bag some added structure.

Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack Main Compartment
Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack Main Compartment

You also have a dedicated laptop sleeve against the back panel. It’s secured by a small ITW buckle that helps keep your tech from slipping out. We’ve been able to keep a 15” MacBook Pro inside a protective case in here, though it’s a tight fit. We recommend using a case as we did since this bag doesn’t have a lot of protection for delicate tech. That, and the case gives the bag some added structure when you’re wearing it.

Usage Timeline

Initial Usage

Condition: Excellent

  • Packs down to 6.5″ x 6″ x 2.5″
  • Material is lightweight, but also durable and water-resistant
  • Organization includes a water-bottle pocket and laptop compartment
2 Weeks of Use

Condition: Excellent

  • Digging the sturdy materials and YKK zippers—so far, it seems more durable than their previous packable offerings
  • Packing the bag into itself as opposed to a separate compression sack (like Matador’s previous packable offerings) has been great—plus, there are no additional pieces to keep track of
  • We found 2 small loose threads after 2 weeks of testing
  • The top pocket organization has been handy for segmenting tech and everyday carry items
mm
By Tom Wahlin
Created September 9, 2020 • Updated September 9, 2020
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