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Ahead of the Pack

Matador Beast28

When it comes to backpacks, Jansport will always hold a fond place in my heart. The de rigueur of the grade school hallways of my youth, Jansport backpacks were rugged in a hand-me-down kind of way, with straps frayed or tied in some places, and largely overstuffed with textbooks.

But something funny happened when I grew up: so did backpacks. Unlike its midriff-residing cousin the fanny pack, backpacks never went out of style. They’re too practical; and though still utilitarian by design, in the years since my grade-school sojourns, this accessory has flourished in both style and substance. Case in point: Matador, the makers of packable travel gear, have developed the Beast28 ($90) for boaters and cruising adventurers alike.

On a recent assignment in the South Pacific, I took the Beast28 along for a field test. As a journalist, I’m usually at odds trying to fit everything into a small carry-on case—a near-constant predicament of the trade. But the Beast28 earns its name. Made of a waterproof nylon material, the 28-liter pack is ultralight with two adjustable straps at the sternum and hip that are comfortable when secured.

The coolest feature of all, however, might be its compression case for travel. Want to use it to pick up provisions or for exploring on location when you finally get to where you’re going? The Beast28 can be condensed to the size of a football, a neat little characteristic that boaters looking to save space on board will love.

When I slung it on my back I felt a twang of nostalgia wash over me. Like the rest of the contents of the backpack, those feelings were stowed, but certainly well within reach.