Matador Droplet XL Packable Review
Cons: Top strip is thin and can allow leaks, very thin material
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Our Analysis and Test Results
We tested the Droplet XL, a 20-liter dry bag with a roll-top closure, not the miniature 3-liter drawstring Droplet. The Droplet XL is made of 15D ripstop nylon and comes in a silicone keychain case with an aluminum carabiner. It weighs just 1.35 ounces (without the keychain) and is has an oval-shaped bottom.
Despite being one of the thinnest bags we tested, the material of the Droplet XL is quite waterproof. It easily kept pressurized hose water at bay and didn't soak up any water even after prolonged submersion.
However, this bag has a design defect that significantly contributes to its accurate warning that it is "not intended to protect against submersion." This fatal flaw is found in the dual strip that allows you to roll the top down. Likely to cut weight, Matador made this strip very narrow for how wide the bag is. That narrow strip just isn't enough to hold the bag closed against water or any sort of pressure. Even mildly squeezing this air-filled sack with the minimum of three rolls forces the top to pop open, fully exposing its contents.
By rolling the top 6 or more times, it's much better at withstanding regular pressures but still isn't airtight or completely watertight. If you're here hunting for a bag for your big river trip, this is not the bag for you. However, for most, non-submersion uses, the Droplet XL is more than adequate to protect your belongings. It works easily as a sleeping bag stuff sack (though lacks the ability to compress that several other models we tested can boast), is a great way to keep wet clothing away from your other belongings in a large duffel bag, and can even accompany you on a casual kayaking mission with additional rolls in the top. So while it's not as intensely waterproof under every condition, it's more than sufficient for most mellow missions.
Ease of Use
The Droplet XL is your standard, roll-top bag. It's easy to use, and we almost never found ourselves accidentally rolling one side of the clip down with the top of the bag. With a 20 liter capacity and an oval bottom, this sack is a pretty convenient size to fit a good amount of gear for a short adventure. And if you don't need 20 liters of stuff, the ultra-thin fabric easily rolls down over and over and over again to make the ending package the right size for what you actually need.
The oval shape of this bag makes it easier to find items in the bottom, and the soft, pliable fabric doesn't skid along or catch uncomfortably on your belongings. That same shape also helps it to lay down more easily to be strapped to your watercraft — though it doesn't have any attachment points to do so.
However, the same flimsiness that makes it easier to pull things in and out of this bag can also be a hindrance while you're looking. It won't stand up by itself and needs you to completely stretch out the sides to avoid draping them on top of what you're looking for while you have it open. It also has no specific carry system when full and is toted by the buckle closure on top. When it comes to using the silicone droplet keychain, we're impressed by how easily this large sack rolls up and fits back into its caddy. We wish more tiny objects with tiny cases would stuff back in as easily as this dry bag does.
As a dry bag, the Droplet XL has very few features. We've already discussed how its oval shape is much more convenient to use. The thin fabric also isn't impervious to light, which makes it a bit easier to see what's inside — although the navy blue color doesn't help there. It doesn't have any lash points, handles, D-rings, or straps.
What it does have is that silicone container attached to an aluminum carabiner. It works very well and is extremely conducive to being clipped on the outside of your backpack or gym bag, ready whenever you need it. The entire package is also impressively lightweight. If you really want to cut weight, the dry bag alone weighs just 1.35 ounces. For more everyday usability, the sack inside its silicone capsule attached to its aluminum carabiner all together only weigh 3.7 ounces. That is a serious level of ultralight gear that we think is even more monumental when considered in conjunction with how much usability it retains.
The Droplet XL is constructed of 15D waterproof ripstop nylon with a Hypalon roll-top closure and a YKK buckle. It has internally taped seams as well. Of course, compared to the many super thick, beefy bags we tested, the Droplet XL just isn't as durable. It's not a bag you'd feel good about checking at the airport or sending solo down a class 4 rapid. But considering just how lightweight it is, it still manages to be a pretty durable bag. If the bag itself were to tear, rip, or get punctured, we feel slightly better knowing that its made of ripstop material, which will hopefully slow the spread of any such damage. And since it's not rated to be submersible, there's less pressure to find a waterproof patch if we did need to fix it.
We read a handful of online testimonies of the silicone case getting a small tear that ended up ripping the whole droplet, but we had no issues with ours, despite forcing it to tag along on tons of adventures, dangling from our packs. Our only real concern about the durability with this dry sack is regarding its super narrow roll-top strips. After repeated stuffing into its silicone droplet and taking it out again to use, we noticed several kinks in the flimsy roll strips. They didn't seem to make a big difference in the bag's performance, but we're not yet sure how well they'll fair over years of use — we've tested the Droplet XL for just a few intensive months thus far. But again, considering how lightweight this is, we find it to be fairly durable.
Matador also makes a smaller version of the Droplet dry bag, that's just 3 liters. However, it lacks a roll-top closure, instead rocking a standard drawstring, making it even less waterproof than the 20 liter XL version we tested. But if you just need to keep a wet swimsuit away from the rest of your gym clothes, the mini version might be enough for you.
The Matador Droplet XL is on the lower end of the price range we tested. If you're after an ultralight waterproof layer for casual, non-submersed use (like rain protection for backpacking or keeping your wetsuit from ruining the rest of your luggage on your return trip home), this dry bag is well worth what you'll pay. But if you're hunting for a big river companion that can handle crashing waves, you likely won't be satisfied with this delicate dry bag.
This dry bag is a great choice for ultralight enthusiasts and anyone who never seems to have their dry bag or rain cover handy when they actually need it. It's weather-resistant and made of thin waterproof fabric that helps you save space and weight without sacrificing protection. Packing into a handy little keychain, it's hard to find any reason not to have the Droplet XL with you wherever you go, and it is therefore our Top Pick for Emergency Preparedness.
— Maggie Brandenburg