Matador ReFraction Packable Sling Review
The Matador ReFraction Packable Sling is a great way to keep the essentials close at hand, although it doesn’t pack down super small due to the strap buckles.
- Stretchy fabric accommodates bulky gear
- Sits comfortably on your front or back
- YKK zippers work well when packing it into its pocket
- Bulky strap buckles bulge out of packed sling
- Extreme amount of extra strap when worn around waist
- Slow to use front compression
4 oz (113.4 g)
9 in x 5 in x 3 in (22.9 x 12.7 x 7.6 cm)
(unpacked) | 2.5 in x 7 in x 2 in (packed)
Recycled Nylon, Spandex, Polyurethane, PFC-free DWR Coating, YKK Buckles, YKK Zippers, Duraflex Hardware
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When you’re on the road, you never know when you may need to find a way to carry the essentials so you can keep your hands free. Some pants don’t have pockets, and some pockets aren’t large enough for an iPhone Pro Max or the five keys you need to carry around. That’s where a sling comes in clutch: it keeps your travel essentials safely nearby so you don’t have to worry about them falling out of the kangaroo pocket of your hoodie when you’re riding a bike or a backache from sitting on your bifold wallet for too long.
Whether you’re spending a day at the theme park or hitting the local market to grab ingredients for dinner, there are plenty of reasons to reach for a small bag like the Matador ReFraction Packable Sling. The question is, do you need it to be packable, and does it get the job done? Let’s find out!
Before we get into the nitty gritty of this packable sling, can we talk about the Slate Blue colorway offered by Matador as part of the ReFraction line of packable bags? While you can, of course, get the Packable Sling in Black, we like this colorway option to add some subtle personality. It isn’t a sky blue or bright aqua that will stick out; its muted tones work well when worn crossbody with many different outfits and styles. So good on Matador.
The ReFraction Packable Sling features 100D recycled nylon and 100D bluesign® spandex materials. It includes non-PFC durable water repellent, so you don’t have to worry about the safety of the gear you pack inside if the gray skies that match the colorway open up mid-walk or if Splash Mountain lives up to its name and you take the brunt of the wave.
Black zippers, straps, and the Matador patch logo on the front right of the sling accent the Slate Blue colorway and blend in with the Black. There’s another logo patch inside the front pocket that lets you know that it contains the “Matador Packable Hip Pack 2 Liter” when it’s packed away.
Along with water resistance on the fabric, the entry to the main area of the sling features a YKK No. 5 water-resistant zipper with a polyurethane coating. The zipper to the front compartment, which doubles as the pocket where you repack the sling, doesn’t feature water-resistant coating, although a fabric welt somewhat protects it from straight-on splashes.
The exterior zippers also feature corded pulls coated with heat shrink that are easy to grasp when you need to open or close them. That’s great, as the main compartment zipper is a little sticky, likely due to the PU coating, although the pull on the opposite side of the front zipper—which is what you must tug when packing the sling away—lacks such a cord. While that’s probably to save excess bulk in the front pocket, we would have liked the cord to make it easier to zip the ReFraction sling into its packable pocket. There is a small loop of webbing to hold that makes it easier to close, though, and it’s also a great place to use a carabiner so you can clip the packed sling to attachment points in or out of your larger bag.
Centered at the top of the back panel is a thin webbing carry handle for, presumably, holding the bag or hanging it up. It seems a little overboard, as you could do so with the strap instead, and we didn’t find that we used it at all. It’s inside the package when the sling is tucked away, so you can’t use it then. It sticks up from the back of the bag when you use it. However, it doesn’t rub or get in the way, so it’s not that big of a deal.
Speaking of the strap, you can wear the ReFraction Packable Sling crossbody or around your waist, depending on your preference. The strap ends in a YKK buckle closer to the right side of the sling and adjusts with a Duraflex slide. When in crossbody mode, you can wear it comfortably on your front or back and prevent the extra strap from dangling by pushing the slide to the end of the adjustment.
However, thinner users won’t be able to do that when wearing it as a waist pack, as there is just too much extra strap when it’s adjusted around a smaller waist. The excess dangles next to the right side of the bag, too, so if you’re wearing it at the front, there’s a long webbing strap dangling down your front. It’s not a great look, so grab some VELCRO Cable Ties or other means of wrapping it up, even if it’s an extra hair tie or rubber band. An odd look is preferable to the slapping of straps as you’re running to be the first on the roller coaster.
There are also Duraflex fasteners just a few inches out from each side of the sling to compress it if needed. Adjustment takes some effort, and the sling is not overly bulky due to the flexible spandex material, so we didn’t take advantage of that feature much over the two-week testing period.
For a packable bag, the materials Matador is using look quite sleek. There’s none of that crunchy, wrinkly look going on when you unpack the sling since the front is the bluesign® spandex and the rest is recycled nylon. We like that because while it’s convenient to pack a bag or rain jacket away to save space, sometimes it comes out looking so wrinkly that we don’t feel it’s worth it. There are no worries with the ReFraction, even when it’s packed away for longer periods.
When worn as a crossbody sling on the front or back, it is a great travel companion to keep the essentials close at hand. It doesn’t bulge away from your body unless you pack something extra bulky inside, and the straps are centered on the sling’s sides, creating a straight line when you’re wearing it.
We touched on this above, but waist pack mode doesn’t look as great, primarily because of the extra strap. If you can clean that up, it can function well in that mode; it’s just not our preferred style.
There’s no back panel padding, so don’t pack anything that protrudes out the rear, and you’ll find it quite comfortable to wear while shopping, exploring, or making your way through the airport.
Inside The Sling
This small 2-liter sling includes two compartments. The front pocket is the reverse side of what the sling packs into, and its exterior is the stretchy material, so it’s easy to squeeze in bulkier items, like bottles of hand sanitizer, a sleeve of snack nuts, or your keys, without feeling them along the back when you’re wearing the ReFraction.
The main compartment lacks additional flexibility but is larger than the front pocket. It easily holds your phone, minimalist wallet, and passport, and you can play around with the space in both areas to carry tissues, lip balm, AirPods, and other tiny essentials.
At the end of the main compartment zipper, a little loop crosses it. You can slide the zipper pull under here for extra security. While the water-resistant zipper isn’t likely to come undone on its own, this can give you peace of mind that no one can reach in without you knowing if you’re wearing the sling across your back.
However, we think the small footprint of this sling fits so nicely on your front that we prefer to keep it there to have the quickest access to our gear, especially if you’re using it as a pocket dump while traveling or hitting the pub with some friends and don’t want to worry about a big bag hanging off the back of your chair. If you’re heading out biking or kayaking, though, we can see how sliding it across your back could be better, and luckily, it’s easy to do!
While the Matador ReFraction Packable Sling is small enough to fit in any backpack, duffle or tote bag, the packability is nice to contain the straps and keep them from tangling in your socks, shoes, or shirts when you pull it out. The buckles are on the larger side, so it takes a bit of effort to tuck everything away into the front pocket and zip it up, yet we think it’s worth keeping everything contained when you don’t need to use it.
- Digging the blue-gray color
- Interesting fabric choice for a packable bag
- Heat shrink on zippers makes them easy to open
- Gets easier to pack into pocket with use
- Compression straps difficult to adjust but not often necessary
- Dirt, lint, and stains brush or wipe off easily