Matador Freefly16 Pack
Travis Smola

Gear Review: The Lightweight Matador Freefly16 Day Pack

The Madator Freefly16 packable backpack is great for day adventures.

When you need to head into the backcountry with your outdoor gear, a good pack is a must-have. Personally, I own several that I use for different reasons including hiking, camping, and hunting. Recently I got the chance to test the new Matador Freefly 16. This packable backpack perfectly fills in a hole in my backpacking lineup.

More specifically, I found this daypack is perfect for those wilderness adventures that do not require a super-heavy bag for those overnight wilderness adventures.

During my testing, I found this ultralight pack is tough and offers a ton of functionality. Especially for anyone who looks short day hikes in their favorite park or wilderness area.

Specs of the Matador Freefly16 backpack

Matador Freefly16 Pack

Travis Smola

This is a packable daypack that is meant to compress down for easier travel. Simply roll it and fold it to fit into the included storage bag. So, if you are going on a business trip somewhere and want to take a small pack for a short hike in your suitcase, this is an ideal solution. The Freefly 16 has, as the name implies, a 16-liter capacity, yet the pack itself only weighs 6.7 ounces. I could not believe how light it was when I unboxed it. The dimensions are approximately 19 inches long by 10 inches wide, and six inches deep. Make no mistake, this is not an overnight pack. This is more for a day-long adventure up the mountain and back. Maybe a dawn to dusk hike to summit a peak. Personally, I'm big on geocaching and this thing may become my causal geocaching pack from here on out.

Just because it is small does not mean it skims on quality either. This Matador Freefly 16 is made from weatherproof materials including a 70-denier nylon, and 50-denier nylon mini ripstop nylon fabric. Combine that with a siliconized waterproof coating, sealed seams, and sealing YKK water resistant zippers, and you have a truly weatherproof pack.

Matador Freefly16 Pack

Travis Smola

The one thing that stood out to me with this pack was the shoulder straps. Matador decided to make them breathable rather than padded. The shoulder straps are made from nylon nanomesh. I was a little concerned about how this would affect comfort and weight distribution. However, once you click the buckles of that sternum strap, and cinch up the adjusting straps it seems to do very well for light loads. For a day of geocaching, this is likely all I will need. You likely will not use this for a on of gear anyway, but I was surprised at how comfortable it was carrying this pack with a heavy water bottle in the back. It should handle a hydration bladder quite nicely. And thanks to the waterproof materials, there are no worries about a leaky bladder soaking you during your day of adventure.

Hiking with the Matador Freefly16

Matador Freefly16 Pack

Travis Smola

I took this pack with me on a trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula where I spent several days visiting different state parks and the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Most of the hikes I went on were lighter. The longest one was only about 3.2 miles round-trip to Au Sable Light Station and back. I also used this pack for a couple shorter mile-long jaunts to Summit Peak and the ghost town of Nonesuch. The latter was a flatter hike while the former was an elevation gain of approximately 400 feet and a few hundred sets of steps.

There were also several shorter hikes I took to the U.P.'s many waterfalls, and one to Horseshoe Bay Beach up on the Keeweenaw Peninsula. I found myself almost extensively taking the Freefly16 every time because it was so much lighter than my other packs. I am a daily rucker, so it is important to get those steps in with a weighted pack. But because I was on vacation, I took things a bit easy using the Freefly instead. The pack ended up being perfect for those shorter hikes. The main compartment is roomy and has more than enough space for some small multi-tools and a knife, just in case. I also never hike without a first aid kit. I could also stuff in a raincoat or some watershoes in case I felt like wading into Lake Superior or a beautiful mountain stream.

Once you get the adjustable straps all cinched down just right, the Freefly is an incredibly comfortable carry. Some of my best hikes of the trip were while using this pack. The durability of this bag is excellent. I tossed this thing on wooded forest floors while finding geocaches and on rocks while lining up a perfect shot with my camera of a waterfall. It still looks like the day I took it out of the box. The side pockets, which are labeled as water bottle pockets by Matador, work very well for their intended use, but you could also carry smaller tools and other items with ease from them. I like the front pocket especially for the waterproof qualities. It is just the right size for a cellphone, GPS, or other small electronic items when a downpour starts.

Most importantly, I just like how this pack rides while you are hiking. There is no wasted space inside if you really want to pack it full. Yet at the same time it rides on your back extremely well, even over rugged uneven terrain. The smaller profile means it rests comfortably between my shoulder blades without a lot of excess movement.

In fact, once I got back from my trip, I realized this thing is versatile for things beyond the outdoors. I might start using this for my camera equipment for my freelance high school sporting coverage. Or even for a shorter press trip out of town. The size makes this thing an ideal bag for a carry-on in an airplane. I bet it would fit into even the smallest of overhead compartments with ease. Which is good, because I regularly fly out a tiny airport in tiny planes to make connections at larger ones.

In short, this rolltop bag is an incredibly versatile piece of gear that will now have a spot in my rotation of packs I use for different purposes. For more information, see the Matador website.

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For more outdoor content from Travis Smola, be sure to follow him on Twitter and check out his Geocaching and Outdoors with Travis YouTube channels