Ranger Review: Matador Backpack Beast 28L at O’Lena State Park, Florida.
Ever seen Jurassic Park? O’Lena is a lot like that :)
I travel with my three amigos ( Pomeranian, Dachshund and Australian Cattledog) and was on high alert as soon as we entered the park. My dogs don’t understand that this is the type of park where the wildlife will chase and eat them instead of the other way around ………So that being said keep a close eye on your kids and pets!
The foliage is lots of fern and primitive looking fauna which makes for a very intriguing visit. Another movie that came to mind while hiking on the river loop trail was “Anaconda”, no I didn’t see any snakes( or alligators for that matter) but the trail and bridges were reminiscent of that movie , no machete required. Instructional signage along the way and interesting sights along the Santa Fe River. The bridges were pretty cool and the original recreated settlement is pretty awesome. All CCC construction. There is a picnic area, a pavilion, a lodge, a museum, several other structures and a swimming area (WHAT!!) which was closed when we visited due to high water levels. Funny sign ( LOTS of sarcasm cause you know somebody did it) says to not swim with the alligators……I was glad for that warning cause I had my water wings ready to go.
There are several trails available for hiking and biking and a primitive campsite on Sweetwater Trail. Santa Fe River goes underground in this area and you can check it out along the trails, going in and coming out again.
There is equestrian camping and trails available but I did not visit that area. Bug spray and be aware of your surroundings while enjoying the trails.
The Dogwood campground sites are well spaced out with sand, electric, sand, water, picnic table and sand. Some of the sites are more suitable for group camping. The Dogwood trailhead is in the campground. It is a well maintained easily accessible area. Other then being on constant watch for wild creatures waiting in ambush to grab my dogs I like this park. It felt very tropical primitive and has several activities to enjoy.
Matador Beast28 Packable Technical Backpack https://matadorup.com/ has been a very useful and versatile addition to my outdoor gear. It hangs in its stuff sack in the back of my vehicle out of the way until needed (PRO). When I have need of a small sturdy backpack for day hikes or light overnighters it’s right there ready for use.
When I first received my Matador Backpack I pulled the Beast28 out of its stuff sack and explored all its pockets and possible attachment sites. I then Re-folded it and actually got it back in the stuff sack (PRO), a definite plus since I often have a hard time re-stuffing gear into its original bag.
I have extra bladders from my hydration systems so I loaded the Beast with a bladder, no problem. There are right and left “ports” from inside to outside the pack and elastic straps on the shoulder straps to run the hose through. This option of course goes on both Pro and Con. PRO-the ability to load bladder and run hydration hose , CON-it’s not going to fit in the stuff sack anymore. So hydration bladder has to be packed and carried separately (not that big of a deal).
I’ve read where other people were not to impressed with the pocket size but when I loaded it up I was able to fit everything I wanted to pack for an overnight. Mind you I’m not a “professional” backpacker, however I stay pretty comfortable when I do venture into the woods.
I used the Beast as a day bag while at O’Lena , I packed it with snacks and a few other essentials. I am long in torso and noticed that the hip belt is more of a middle waist belt for me. The Beast worked well and was comfortable for a short hike around the river area.
I wore the Beast again while hiking on Ft Campbell, Ky. Longer distance, little bit more gear. I had to redistribute my load because my cook pot was sitting in the bottom of the bag and riding in the small of my back, not comfortable. I adjusted the shoulder and waist straps a few times on this hike for comfort. Something that would be a nice upgrade would be pockets on the waist straps for snacks, etc so that you don’t have to completely remove the bag to reach your snacks.
Most recently I wore the Beast at Mammoth Cave National Park for an overnighter. Everything I needed fit in the Beast(PRO). Two things (CONs) I noticed, one the Beast has no “frame/skeleton” per say so when you are attempting to pull single items out other items tumble out also because the bag basically collapses on itself…if that makes sense :) two, once again due to the lack of a “frame” when you work up a sweat while hiking your back gets wet because the bag is sitting right on your shirt/skin, no breathable material in between.
Overall I like the Matador Beast 28 , it is convenient, versatile and well made.
This is one of our all time favorite campgrounds! There is plenty of camping sites and plenty of excitement including a suspension bridge.
place is beautiful, lots of amenities, lots of trees, we saw a bunch of deer and squirrels. swimming area was closed due to flooding but it seems fun. well kept park
what a beautiful, peaceful state park! plenty of space between sites, fully shaded and private! definitely going back!!!
There are many miles of hiking trails, fishing, boating and swimming when the river is not too high. There are 2 campgrounds and one is much closer to the river and trails then the other. The sites are a bit small and offer little privacy. We happened to go when the trees were blooming and it was really nice. The river actually disappears underground in this park and it is a pretty easy hike to the point where this occurs. The River rise is a little more difficult but an interesting hike non the less.
sites have water and electric only. Clean bathrooms, pet friendly. Hiking trails, kayaking and playground.
Enjoyed camping here
One night quick vacation. Grilled out at the river and enjoyed the camping.
Camp host was very helpful with the late check in when an unexpected weather front moved through and we had to get off the road. Entry and exit was fast and easy. Didn't get to explore park bc we were heading home for Christmas, but after reading pamphlets, we will stay here next time we are down this way. Very clean and well thought out bathrooms, clean and level campsites, clean park, friendly staff and plenty of wildlife. :)
3 families camping over 2 nights at O'leno to enjoy Ichetucknee Springs. We had kids in age range from 18 months up to 11. We tent camped & stayed in the Magnolia Loop which had section fencing for each lot. There was a nice playground & many learning spots set up. The park says you can swim at your own risk, but it looks like harmful creatures are in the water without any proper fencing.