Matador Hydrolite Hydration Backpack ReviewJune 22, 2018
- Very packable
- Comes with bladder and filter
- Very comfortable inflatable back panel
- Thin fabric
- Shoulder straps are uncomfortable above 15 pounds
The AirSupport back panel is inflatable with one breath through a one-way valve. The valve rotates counter-clockwise to let the air out for travel or storage. The back panel is comfortable with or without a bladder in it and protected testers’ backs from anything sharp or hard in the pack. On occasion when running testers could feel objects poking through at the bottom of the pack where the panel ends.
The hydration bladder is just behind the inflatable back panel. The back panel gives some structure to the pack but mostly takes the shape of the bladder so it’s quite rounded with the round bladder it comes with. We tried the pack with bladders with baffles that make them wider and flatter which flattened out the back panel a bit.
The padding on the shoulder straps is thin but the straps themselves are wide and were comfortable during testing. They distributed weight well during hiking and running with moderate loads up to about 10 pounds. With loads 15 pounds and above they grew uncomfortable but testers rarely had this much weight in the eight liters of space.
The sternum strap height is adjustable and clips into one of four sections of webbing on the shoulder strap. They do not slide up and down but unclip and clip back on to another section. This took testers extra time when adjusting but after they found a comfortable spot they rarely moved it. The webbing on the sternum strap is quite short at only six inches with other packs in this test having sternum straps of 12 inches or more.
Ventilation is relatively good. The AirSupport back panel has horizontal grooves to promote airflow. They compress slightly when wearing the pack but there was still space for air to travel through.
The shoulder straps are somewhat ventilated. Small holes are cut through the padding allowing air through. Almost ⅔ of the shoulder strap is covered in Cordura restricting airflow.
Stability on the Hydrolite is ok. The wide shoulder straps made it comfortable when hiking or moving fast. A waist belt would limit side-to-side movement and bounce when running. Back Grip, a sticky coating on the mesh back panel, reduced side-to-side movement when running. When hiking stability wasn’t an issue.
The Hydrolite has no compression straps to hold the load together. Testers rolled the top of the main compartment a bit more and pulled the webbing on the stash pocket a bit tighter for some compression. Items bounced a bit when running.
The Hydrolite is a bit smaller than other packs in this test at eight liters. The main compartment is made of waterproof Cordura fabric and closes with a waterproof rolltop. Testers could adjust the capacity slightly by rolling the top four times or just once. The top on the main compartment is closed by rolling the top three times and attaching the clips to the sides. Then an additional flap with two clips closes over that. These additional clips take a little bit extra time to get in the pack. The top-loading main compartment doesn’t open as wide as the other panel loaders we tested.
A stretch pocket on the front has mesh panels on the sides and a Cordura section in the middle with a small zip pocket on it. The stretch pocket holds a thin jacket and additional layer.
The small pocket on the stretch panel is water resistant, having a water resistant zipper but not sealed seams. The pocket is nine inches tall by six inches wide and can hold a wallet, phone and a few bars. Having a jacket in the stretch pocket reduced the space available in the zippered pocket.
A small zippered pocket on the bottom of the left shoulder strap is designed to hold cards and cash when travelling. It’s only one and a half inches wide by five inches tall. Credit cards and cash easily fits. We also tested using it for narrow bars and keys. It did not fit phones like the iPhone 5s or 7.
The Matador Hydrolite has a long list of features and extra gear included. Out of the box it comes with a Hydrapak Elite 2-liter bladder and a Sawyer MINI water filter. The water filter was already attached and sits in the hydration pocket with the bladder. We didn’t have to do anything extra to get filtered water. The Sawyer Mini filters 99.9% of bacteria and protozoa and is rated for 100,000 gallons. The features was designed for travelling in countries with poor water.
On the front of the pack are daisy chains down each side and four removable Nifco gear tethers. The Nifco tethers come attached to the top and bottom of the daisy chains. They worked well hooking to each other and strapping a jacket to the pack. We tried attaching trekking poles and while very short poles worked, poles longer than the bag did not sit well. The tethers were easy to remove with a small screwdriver but required some practice getting the cord in the right place putting them back on.
On the right shoulder, the water bladder hose holder was a well-liked feature. It carries the hydration hose well, is easy to use and kept the bite valve out of the dirt when we set the bag down. The hose never popped out during testing as long as it was pushed into the pocket far enough. We also carried bars, and small phones there.
The card pocket on the left shoulder strap was of limited but did carry a multi-tool or small bars for snacks. For running we carried keys and headphones there.
The main purpose of the Hydrolite is as a packable travel pack. With the back panel deflated and the bladder empty it rolled easily into the included stuff sack. Even with a filter and back panel, it packs down to the size of a water bottle. The AirSupport back panel was easy to inflate and deflate.
The main fabric on the Hydrolite is a 30 denier Cordura. It is waterproof, thin and lightweight. We had no issues with durability during testing.
With the bladder and filter included, the Hydrolite costs $149.99 which is considerably more expensive than other options in the test. This pack is waterproof and does include a water filter and bladder. Separately the water filter is currently $24.95 and the bladder $29.99.
The Hydrolite comes with a 2-liter Hydrapak Elite water bladder with a Sawyer MINI water filter. It also comes with a cleaning syringe for the filter and a bypass attachment to take the filter out of the hydration tube.
The bladder fits just behind the back panel, outside the main compartment. Putting the bladder into the bladder pocket is a bit awkward since there’s no structure to the pack. It took testers a bit of practice to get the bladder all the way into the pocket. The bladder hangs on two small clips that fit easy through the bladder handle. While not an issue, testers wondered why there needed to be two clips to hold up the bladder instead of just one. All other packs in this test only required one clip to hold the bladder. The included 2-liter bladder fits in the pocket. A 2.5-liter can fit as well if less than 90% full.
The hose runs out the only hose port on the right side and down the right shoulder strap. The hose runs through two loops on the shoulder strap and then into the elastic mesh pocket at the bottom. This hose pocket worked very well at holding the hose and keeping it out of the dirt when the bag was on the ground.
The Matador Hydrolite is a unique pack that is designed specifically for travel. It’s extremely packable and comes with a water bladder and filter. It easily rolls into a water-bottle sized stuff sack.
It worked well for hiking with a comfortable back panel and relatively good shoulder straps. The shoulder straps were less comfortable with heavier loads of more than 15 pounds. It was less stable running with no hip belt but we had no major issues running with it.
Ross is an outdoor adventure writer, photographer, and sometimes computer programmer based on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. He runs, rides, SUPs and skis but often finds himself in CrossFit gyms trying to lift heavy weights.