Introducing the Matilda Backpack
When looking for the next backpack you need to consider 3 main things, design, durability and your own style. We will go through these main points below. However the first impressions of this pack was the cool factor and our taste of personal style. This pack gives us the vibe of riding a helicopter with the boys above the triple canopy jungle. As the original ALICE Pack which inspired the Matilda have been through some of the hardest fighting conditions in SouthEast Asia during the Cold War. The Helikon Tex Matilda® backpack, based on the trusted and loved US Military classic ALICE Pack, has been made to emulate the ALICE Pack’s core characteristics of simplicity and spacious compartments. The Matilda has improved them with modern fabrics and design. Now lets go into the details.
- Transport handle
- Lightweight 210D Nylon body
- Reinforcements in key points with 500D Cordura
- Water resistant (Not waterproof)
- Internal plastic and aluminum frame
- Comfortable carrying system
- Ergonomic, comfortable shoulder straps with quick release buckle
- External MOLLE/PALS panel for attachment of additional pouches
- Three external buckled pockets with adjustable drawstring and drain holes
- Detachable, adjustable hip belt
- YKK® zippers
- Side compression straps
- Two zippered pockets on flap, internal and external made of mesh
- Loop panel on flap for personalization
- Double adjustment of main compartment (drawstring with cordlock)
- Internal webbing straps divided on six loops for inserts and pockets compatible with MOLLE/PALS
- Hydration bladder compatible
- Helikon Tex designed in cooperation with Survivaltech.pl
Matilda Backpack Review
Firstly let’s go through the features, designs and our opinion of the Matilda Backpack. So far we have used this pack for several camping trips and hiking. It has been used as a day pack and an overnight pack. We have found it to be a good overall choice for those activities.
We will start with the top flap. Its two large internal and external pockets are really convenient for quick access items and it is secured by two adjustable buckled straps. It also has elastic on the edge to keep the flap in place and a velcro section in the front for any patches. However, if you do put heavier items in, it will sag down. In our case we have a medium sized First Aid Kit and other quick access essentials like headlamp, multitool and a pocket knife, A point of improvement we see is to add some sort of webbing or attachment points on the top to secure things on top, whether it is a sleeping mat or camera tripod.
The main body is made out of 210D Nylon to ensure lightweight and 500D Cordura to reinforce durability in key points such as the bottom of the packa and its external pouches. Each external pocket has a drawstring sleeve to protect contents from spillage. Firstly, we do really like the large and wide space for the main body, we found that it was easier to put in awkwardly shaped items or was just able to stuff everything in quickly and easily. The top part of the interior of the main body has a single line of MOLLE to attach any MOLLE compatible pouch and underneath is a clip to secure your water bladder.
Although this is a 35 Litre pack, The external pockets adds only a few hundred grams to the total weight, it does provide simple and large organization space for quick access. The pockets are sewn on the corners, leaving a center channel capable of carrying e.g. a small axe or machete through. The slit between the external pockets and the main body provides simple flexibility for carrying tools. I would usually put tools you want quick access to, instead of putting it inside the main body itself. We were able to fit a standard military style canteen and cup easily. It would easily fit 2 packs of freeze dry food packs or a medium sized first aid kit. The single line of Molle webbing that goes around the upper exterior of the main body becomes helpful attachment points for equipment that goes behind the external pockets. It can also be used to hang items such as gloves or lights. Another small but handy feature are the Velcro strap tie downs which really helps keep the pack stream line and not accidentally adjusting itself.
The sides of the backpack have two integrated compression straps fitted at the sides both top and bottom that can also be used for a foam sleeping mat or a camera tripod. However when we don’t have much stuff inside I would use the adjustable side straps to sync it down to bring the weight distribution closer to my body or to stop items from moving around inside.
Additional MOLLE/PALS pouches can be added on the sides or around the body of the pack. The bottom of the sides has 2 by 3 Molle webbing for attaching any pouches.
Moving on to fit and weight distribution. The wide shoulder straps are wide and semi rigid which are good because it helps distribute the weight better on your shoulders. They also have mesh padding to keep your shoulders comfortable. The upper part of the shoulder strap also has an elastic tab which can be used to attach your water bladder tube conveniently. The lower part of the strap has a quick release buckle, this is designed for the ability to quickly remove your backpack in an emergency situation, such as falling into deep water or getting the pack stuck on debris or trees while repelling down a cliff.
The waist straps were comfortable as it was thin and had a partial rubber lining to keep it from shifting up and down when doing more dynamic movements. The back has two mesh ventilation pads running parallel to your spine which helps comfort and the gap above the spine allows air to go through. However, since the padding is thin, wearing a thicker outer layer can hinder the airflow. Even though you and is supported by an aluminum and plastic internal frame which keeps the weight light while providing good structure and support.
Now comes some points of concern. For me, although the simple spacious main body has its benefits, I wished that it had some more organizational features, such as a way to organize inserts or pouches. I prefer to put my items in organizers to the main body with this pack because it helps me keep track of where things are due to the lack of larger internal pockets of the main body. This becomes important when you are going long distances, since the body is wide and spacious it is crucial to organize your items in the center and straight down to distribute the weight. It would not be comfortable if heavy items are not balanced and will affect your body over time.
Matilda Backpack Pros
- Light weight for size (1670 grams)
- Very spacious
- Very good value for money
- Wide straps that distributes the weight
- Very spacious outer pockets
- Slit behind outer pockets are very useful for tools
- Top 1 line if molle is useful for karabiner
- Bottom molle loops for straps
- Molle on the waist straps
- Internal frame is comfortable
- Comfortable padding
- Side straps are great for making the pack smaller and attaching extra gear that doesn’t fit inside
Matilda Backpack Cons
- Limited Modularity (only 2 sections 3×3 molle on sides
- Limited internal organizations due to bucket design
- No means of strapping gear on top of the top flap
- You have to organize and balance the weight for your items inside dude to wide design
- The adjustable waist straps are too long and can be annoying to tuck into the elastic loop provided.
Recommendations and Modifications
- Waist strap adjustment comes very long (you can fit even if you’re fat, would recommend cutting it and sewing reinforcement stitch)
- We also recommend having a buckled strap or just a paracord to run through the 4 MOLLE sections at the bottom of the pack to carry more items like a sleeping mat.
USE CASE: Minimalist Overnight Set Up
This is an example of how to set up a minimalist set for an overnight trip. However, we must say if you do choose this exact set up your comfort may vary.
Everything in the pack are mostly essential tools and items. The amount of items can be adjusted depending on your personal needs and requirements such as outdoor experience level to personal medication, but they are key essentials to have.
Packing List: Depicted
- Haven Tent Hammock with Tarp, mosquito net, and inflatable sleeping pad
- 2 Military Canteens and 1 Water bladder total of 4 liters
- 2 Packs of Adventure Meals freeze-dried meals
- Medium Helikon Tex PAKCELL with 2 sets of clothes
- 2 Helikon-tex E&E pouch
- Leather gloves
- Large Knife
- Camp Knife
- Swiss army knife
- Fire Steel and Starter
- 2 Chemlights
- Head Lamp
- Disposable Poncho
- Sewing kit
- First aid with antibiotics
- Alcohol Wipes
- Food Grade Alcohol Spray
- Thermacell Mosquito repellent
This setup going in line with the 4 Priorities of Survival; Shelter, Water, Fire, and Food.
- For shelter we are using a hammock which is currently in testing. The hammock comes with a detachable rain fly, which can be used as a roof. An essential aspect for a hammock to have for anyone camping in a tropical environment is a mosquito net, and always fully zip the net after entering and exiting your hammock or tent, or else you will definitely have an eventful night. Another item which can be worn or used as a backup tarp would be a poncho, an essential piece of kit that should always be carried in tropical environments.
- Represented in the picture we have two Military Canteens, 1 liter each and one 3 litre water bladder, with a total of 5 liters. We do recommend bringing more water if you decide to hike a lot. An easy way to remember is 1 litre per hour of hiking. Remember that you will need water for other tasks.
- Why do we need fire? Fire in this context is used not only for warmth, keeping dry and cooking, but also protection from wild animals. Wild animals are afraid of fire and the smell of smoke allowing you a basic level of security from them. The smoke also helps deter mosquitoes and insects. There are many ways to build a fire but we need something reliable, especially if
- As for fire most people think a lighter or some storm matches would cover this topic, however there is more to it than that. Yes, do bring a lighter, it is one of the most important things to have in the wild. Another option for a more bush crafty style is the old and reliable fire steel (which its sparks burn twice as not as a matchstick) accompanied with a homemade tinder kit (Cotton balls soaked in light fluid) to help those sparks light up. But you will need to make other forms of tinder and find fuel for the fire, so this is where the knives come in. Here we have a camp knife and a jungle knife, both of which can be used to strike the fire steel. The camp knife is used for small wood processing tasks such as feathersticking and the larger knife is used to process larger pieces of firewood, such as branches or dead logs.
- There are many options for food, some of the most common are canned food or uncooked rice since that can last long. However, that may not be convenient since they are heavier and take up more space. Here we have some freeze dried food by Adventure Meals. We picked the freeze dried option due to it being light and easy to prepare. We would say to bring both together depending on how long you are in the jungle. One of our go to favorites are Chinese sausages, since they dont go bad in hot weather and give you a good amount of energy.
- Snacks are also important to keep you going and a highlight when you’re hot and sweating a lot. We do recommend having high nutrition snacks since you’ll be burning a lot of energy and using up your electrolytes. Granola bars or energy bars really help when going long distances. Just remember not to bring snacks that will melt in the tropical heat or else it’s just gonna be messy and attract insects and ants. An American classic would be marshmallows, they are light but do take up alot of space. Depending on your set up, fresh meat may or may not be the best unless you can keep it cool and eat it early in your trip. A cool tip is to put fresh meat in a large insulated wide opening bottle. The ice inside would last you for a couple hours to several hours.
- Well now how do we cook the food? Although not depicted in the photos we always bring a retro military mess kit that includes a main pot and a lid you can use as a bowl or plate. This piece of kit has been a reliable method proven in combat veterans and adventurers. If you want a more convenient option we would recommend the Primus Lite gas stove allowing you to heat your food consistently and comes with a large metal cup and lid for boiling water. If you don’t have both you can use the metal canteen cup from the military canteen to boil water or cook. If you can find a flat rock you can use it as a pan, however don’t forget to clean off all the dirt before putting it on the fire. Depending on the type of rock it can crack, break or even explode, so please be sure to test it out before cooking.
- Dry bag for electronics or sensitive items
- Mosquito repellent
- Mosquito face net
- Toilet Paper & Anti-bacterial wet wipes
- Extra Batteries
- Packed in the organization pouch are extra clothes (Underwear, Pants, Shirt) and toiletries to keep yourself dry and with good breath.
Nice To Haves:
- Book to read
- Small portable speakers
- Gas Stove
- Inflatable Pillow
Overall the Helikon Tex Matilda backpack is a good option for someone who wants a medium-sized pack that can want versatility, durability, and simplicity. Other classic-looking bags usually do not have the same modularity as other systems compared to the Matilda. We personally really appreciate the modularity of the MOLLE system which really lets us use any existing MOLLE pouches already, allowing us to scale up or down our load. So far in our testing the 210D Nylon and 500D Cordura have held up fine and have not had any surface damage yet. We really like the combination of these fabrics as it bridges the gap between a full outdoors backpack with super-light materials and the durability of tactical backpacks with their tougher and heavier materials. The final aspect of the backpack is simplicity. It is our favorite part of the pack. Although other designs have built-in organization pockets, the barrel-like interior gives you a lot of flexibility of mid to large items to fit inside. Overall the Mathilda Backpack is one of our favorites and top pics for your next adventure!