Best Sling Bags
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Gear Guides

The Best Sling Bags For EDC

By PS Staff

Updated Sep 17, 2020

56 min read

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As far as everyday carry gear is concerned (or any type of gear, for that matter) bags may very well be the most ubiquitous item category — second only, perhaps, to the wallet. After all, we all need ways to carry our stuff from place to place. In fact, bags as we know them are one of the oldest human inventions, developed right alongside things like the knife, spear, and other caveman-developed tools. That means two things. First, humans always have and always will use bags in some way, shape, or form. And second, there are a lot of different types of bags suited to any number of purposes.

One of the most modern pack styles, and the one we’re concerned with today, is the sling bag. Mistakenly thought of (in some circles) as upgraded fanny packs, these uniquely modern haulers are actually one of the best pieces of everyday carry gear around right now. They’re versatile; come in a wide variety of formats, colorways, materials, sizes, etc; and they can actually serve as a superior alternative to some more traditional packs — like the backpack or duffel bag. To help introduce those new to the category and give a bit of history on their development and purpose, we’ve gotten hands-on with ten of the best sling bags available on the market right now. So, whether you’re a city-going businessman looking for a transit-friendly daily hauler or you’re a hardcore outdoorsman with a penchant for bicycling to and fro (or something in-between), you’ll find the perfect option for you on our guide to the best sling bags for EDC.

The 10 Best Sling Bags

Our Picks

Now that you’re more acutely acquainted with what exactly sling bags are, what to look for in your search for the perfect one, and how to best utilize them to your advantage, it’s time to take a dive into the nitty-gritty. The following ten options — while differing in their purpose, size, format, etc. — are what we believe to be the best sling bags you can find right now.

Mystery Ranch Hip Monkey

Mystery Ranch Hip Monkey

Best For The Dedicated Day Hiker

Constructed from 500D Cordura nylon and boasting a whopping 8L of storage space, the Mystery Ranch Hip Monkey is, as the brand puts it, “deceptively roomy” and was clearly built for those who lead an active, if somewhat leisurely lifestyle. In fact, it was specifically designed for hip/waist wear, with exactly enough room for your choice of six frisbees or bottles of beer.

Exterior: More than any of the other sling bags on our list, this one looks like it belongs on the trails. Of course, that’s to be expected, coming from a brand like Mystery Ranch who trades in ruggedized, outdoor-focused carry solutions. That impression is only furthered by its long lanyards, water-resistant main zipper, wide main strap, dual compression straps, and padded mesh back panel. Truly, the Hip Monkey looks like a pared-down backpack — which is a good thing, seeing as how that’s what the brand clearly intended.

There are a couple of noteworthy downsides therein. For starters, the extra-wide main strap adjusts on both sides of the buckle, which is handy for speedy adjustments, but it can make it difficult to get it to a length and orientation you’re happy with. Furthermore, when you do pull the straps tight, the excess just sort of dangles there, and that might be troublesome if you are, in fact, on an active adventure because those dangling ends might just hit you in the face as you bob and weave, jog or run, etc. Tucking them is not an ideal option, either, because then you’re sacrificing comfort. Lastly, the oversized buckle is quite secure when latched, but is difficult to get open — especially for those with smaller hands. That being said, if we’re left to choose between security and easy opening, we’re always going to choose security.

Mystery Ranch Hip Monkey

Interior: 7L is a lot of storage space and that’s abundantly clear upon opening this bag. Fully expanded, you might even be able to fit a football inside. That bodes well if you do intend to take Mystery Ranch up on their suggestion of toting disks for frisbee golf or a six-pack of beer. However, if you’re looking for something to carry a pared-down everyday carry loadout — e.g. a wallet, keys, pen, knife, phone, etc. — you’re going to find that there’s a lot of leftover space. And that can be troublesome if you don’t want your gear jostling around.

There is one other option in the main compartment for very small items — e.g. chapstick, a writing utensil, a passport, or minimalist wallet. Inside the main pouch, there’s a second, tiny zippered pocket. It is a bit tight, however, and is really only suitable for 1-3 pieces of very small gear. Even then, you may have trouble retrieving those pieces once they’re inside the pouch. Still, if you have anything especially small or sensitive, it might be your best bet.

Apart from the main compartment, there’s also a single externally-accessible front zippered pocket. Like the main compartment, this front pouch is also deceptively roomy. We found that you could potentially fit an entire EDC loadout in just this front pouch — including a current-gen iPhone, knife, wallet (even a bi- or tri-fold), keys (there’s a handy lash to keep them secure), pen, and more. Again, that’s good news if you want to fill the main compartment with other gear you might not normally carry, but it does make the whole bag feel a little more cumbersome than a lot of the other sling bags out there.

Mystery Ranch Hip Monkey

Verdict: For day hikers, disc golfers, outdoor imbibers, and anyone who requires near-backpack levels of internal space, the Mystery Ranch Hip Monkey is going to be the perfect option. If you’re interested in sleek speediness for your day-to-day city life, however, this one might be simply too big and cumbersome. That being said, it is soundly constructed and has features we might expect out of a bag twice its price.

Recap

Mystery Ranch Hip Monkey

Best For The Dedicated Day Hiker

Pros
  • Fits A 6-Pack
  • Sturdy Construction
Cons
  • Too Bulky
  • Limited Organization

Patagonia Black Hole Waist Pack

Patagonia Black Hole Waist Pack

Best For The City-To-Trail Explorer

A part of Patagonia’s legendary Black Hole lineup of bags, the 5L Waist Pack looks like what we’ve come to expect from the renowned outdoor brand. It’s also available in four different colorways and benefits from a sustainable construction with 100% recycled body fabric.

Exterior: In classic Patagonia fashion, the Black Hole Waist Pack looks like something that certainly wouldn’t be out of place out on the trails. That being said, the styling is subtle enough that it could equally be right at home on the city streets. The TPU coating on the top and front of the bag’s 100% recycled ripstop polyester is a nice touch that makes the bag a lot more water-resistant than it might otherwise be. However, the appearance and feel do make the bag look a bit cheaper than some of its contemporaries. Still, it feels durable enough that most will be satisfied with the purchase, especially at its $59 price point.

The highlight of this pack may just be its straps and padded back panel. The waistbelt and matching compression straps feel sturdy — including their lightweight hardware, which is made from plastic but look and perform better than one might initially think. The back panel itself features five articulated pads, which allow the bag to conform to your body, but the padding and mesh fabric on the exterior makes for comfortable all-day wear. Furthermore, the waistbelt is easily tightened and loosened, even when wearing it, making for easy adjustments on-the-go.

As far as external storage is concerned, this sling bag is fairly simple. There are the two zippered pouches — the main compartment and a smaller front pocket — but it also boasts a pair of opposing stretchy “water bottle” pockets. To our chagrin, these pockets do not strike us as being entirely useful — seemingly sized only to fit disposable plastic bottles — which is an unfortunate drawback. Altogether, the bag is handsome, though we imagine some might take issue with how much it looks like a fanny pack from the 1980s.

Patagonia Black Hole Waist Pack

Interior: Based on its price point and exterior styling, we expected to find the interior of this bag on the more minimalist side of the spectrum — and that’s exactly what we discovered upon closer inspection. The zippered main compartment is certainly spacious, though there’s not much to it outside of that save for a single mesh and elastic divider — which seems more suited to stashing a couple of snacks than offering any real organization.

The secondary externally-accessed zippered pocket does make up a bit for the main compartment’s lack of internal pockets. It’s a small slot, suitable for a couple of pieces of pocket gear, like your car keys — there’s even an integrated lash with a clip for your keyring) and/or a tube of chapstick, but isn’t quite large enough for a smartphone (we couldn’t even get the zipper to close around an iPhone XR). Between the two compartments, there’s more than enough room for all your EDC gear or even all you’d need on a day hike — including snacks, sunscreen, and the like.

Patagonia Black Hole Waist Pack

Verdict: For the price, the Patagonia Black Hole 5L Waist Pack is an exceptional sling bag. It looks good enough for urban usage, it feels sturdy enough to make it through tough days on the trails, and it is bolstered by the useful waist and compression straps and mesh padded back panel. The big drawback of this bag is its storage systems. While it has plenty of room between its two main compartments, there’s not really a good way to keep your gear separate and well-organized and the two water bottle pockets leave us thinking we’d rather just carry our reusable water bottle in-hand.

Recap

Patagonia Black Hole Waist Pack

Best For The City-To-Trail Explorer

Pros
  • Durable & Weatherproof
  • Ultralight
Cons
  • Limited Storage
  • Feels Cheaper Than It Is
Arc'teryx Maka 2 Waistpack

Arc’teryx Maka 2 Waistpack

Best For The Minimalist World Traveler

Known for crafting exceptional technically-focused outdoor gear, Canadian outdoor brand Arc’teryx is no stranger to crafting superb carry solutions. As such, it should come as no surprise that they’ve built a sling bag that’s held in high regard, especially amongst fans of the company.

Exterior: The first thing we noticed about this particular sling bag is that its height and width are nearly equivalent, which gives the unfortunate appearance of a woman’s purse. Upon closer examination, however, there’s a clear connection to Arc’teryx’s other outdoor offerings. For starters, it is exceptionally lightweight despite its size and 3L capacity and somehow still manages to have a padded mesh (called Spacermesh) back panel for added comfort for the user. Furthermore, the exterior is constructed from 420D Oxford nylon that looks, feels, and performs well even under stress.

The strap is connected to the bag at the upper corners with nylon cord that conveniently and securely tucks behind the padded back panel, which helps avoid the lash points getting snagged on anything as you travel about. The strap itself feels substantial and the plastic buckle is secure-yet-manageable, allowing for quick on and off. Our one gripe is that the strap itself is a bit thin which, under a heavy load, can cause it to dig into the user’s shoulder and/or neck a bit. It’s not a significant drawback, as the bag only has so much room, but we could see it being irritating on longer days.

There’s one more highlight to this bag’s exterior. At the top of the bag on the seam between the back and front, there’s a hidden pouch that’s in the perfect spot to stash your smartphone or a handful of cards (like metro and/or credit cards). It’s cleverly disguised from peering eyes, however, we did find the fit a bit tight around newer iPhone models — which could cause some frustration when trying to retrieve your mobile device.

Arc'teryx Maka 2 Waistpack

Interior: In spite of the bag’s seemingly minimalist exterior, there are a surprising number of internal organizational storage options. For starters, the main compartment offers a wide-mouth opening via a YKK Reverse Coil zipper that gave us no trouble whatsoever.

Inside, there’s a deep, roomy main slot for larger items — it can even fit a small tablet or e-reader. Just behind it, there’s a thin partition (made from the same 200D polyester as the rest of the liner) with another roomy, albeit slightly smaller compartment. Finally, at the front of the main compartment, there’s a discreet zippered interior pocket — the smallest of the three — that’s perfect for stashing any sensitive materials you might be hauling around, like your passport or a wad of cash.

There’s also an additional secondary front pocket that is similarly accessed via a sturdy YKK Reverse Coil zipper. It’s conveniently deep enough for a selection of everyday carry gear and even includes a lash point for your keychain — offering a bit more security than, say, your own pockets or even your belt loops. All in all, we were actually surprised by the wealth of organizational options on the inside of this bag and we imagine anyone using it will find keeping your pocketable and travel gear in order is a simple and effective task.

Arc'teryx Maka 2 Waistpack

Verdict: Our biggest gripe with this particular sling bag is that it does look quite a bit like a purse. If you can get past that, however, you’ll find a tremendous amount of value in a bag that’s as light as this one. The ultralight-yet-durable construction and suite of organizational options — both obvious and hidden — make this a tremendously versatile travel pack that’s more secure and agile than similarly-featured travel backpacks and the like.

Recap

Arc’teryx Maka 2 Waistpack

Best For The Minimalist World Traveler

Pros
  • Great Organization
  • Ultralight & Durable
Cons
  • Looks Like A Purse
  • Thin Strap
Aer Day Sling 2

Aer Day Sling 2

Best For The Discerning Technophile

Crafted with Aer’s signature pared-down styling and an impressive organizational system, the lightweight-yet-tough Aer Day Sling 2 (an upgrade on an already impressive bag) was made specifically with tech-focused everyday carry in mind. Furthermore, it is set apart thanks to its unique combination of discretion and security.

Exterior: For those familiar with the brand, there’s no mistaking this sling bag as anything other than a product of the house of Aer. The lines of its silhouette are beautiful, the shape conforms to the body nicely without feeling flimsy, and the texture of the 1680D Cordura ballistic nylon fabric is nice to the touch and instills a sense of security and durability without being overly aggressive.

Along with its exceptional good looks and subtle branding, this sling also might be the most comfortable of the bunch when it comes to cross-body wear — thanks to a strap system that hinges on two anchor points: one on the top corner and the other on the side opposite. This system helps keep the seatbelt-style strap from inching onto the user’s neck, which is a very welcome addition where comfort is concerned.

Finally, the strap is easily adjusted on-the-fly without any excess fabric hanging off; the buckle is sturdy and secure without being difficult to unlatch; and there’s even a corner-mounted grab strap (like you might find on the top of a backpack), which also feels substantial and tough. And for those who appreciate discretion, two of the three zippered pockets are nearly invisible at first glance.

Truly, it’s hard to find fault with this bag and it is clear Aer spend plenty of R&D time trying to get it exactly right. It’s not boastful or loud, even in colorways other than black, but there’s still enough going on here to keep it interesting to behold. Of course, that’s what we’ve come to expect from the designers at Aer, so it makes perfect sense.

Aer Day Sling 2

Interior: The sleek and seemingly pared-down exterior of the bag says nothing of its remarkably extensive internal organizational systems. Its three pockets are all accessible via water-resistant YKK zippers and offer a grand total of 4.5L of storage across them. The first and most obvious one is actually the secondary front pocket. With a quick and easy zip, you’ll discover a fairly deep pocket marked by a large main space and a duo of elastic pouches for additional organization of things like your smartphone, keys, and other EDC gear.

The second, main compartment actually stretches from corner to corner along the top of the bag and opens wide (via a similar water-resistant YKK zipper) for easy access to the five separate organizational slots within. The first of them, as is the case in the front pocket, is just a wide slot. Behind that, there is another pair of elastic pouches. Behind that, however, is a wide zippered pocket — large enough for a phone, wallet, knife, a power pack or charge cable, etc. — with a handy integrated lanyard for keychain attachment. And then, finally, there’s one more large sleeve at the back, which fits up to a 7.9″ tablet. As mentioned, if you’re a fan of compartmental organization, this bag is likely to be a favorite.

The third and final zippered pocket can actually be found “hidden” on the back of the bag. Again, accessed by a YKK zipper, this hidden pocket is perfect for world travelers that need a discreet and secure location to stash cash, tickets, a passport, and anything else you don’t want out in the open.

Aer Day Sling 2

Verdict: The combination of its rugged weatherproof construction, clean design lines and silhouette, and comprehensive organizational internal systems are sure to impress even the most discerning urbanite and actually lends itself well to the transport and storage of tech-focused and travel gear. That’s bolstered by the inclusion of a discreet zippered hidden pocket, a small tablet sleeve, and nigh-unrivaled internal compartmentalization. Honestly, it’s hard to find a single fault with this offering.

Recap

Aer Day Sling 2

Best For The Discerning Technophile

Pros
  • Sleek & Durable
  • Great Organization
Cons
  • Not Lefty-Friendly
  • Shoulder-Only Carry
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Versa

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Versa

Best For The Ultralight Outdoorsman

The folks at Hyperlite Mountain Gear have built their entire business upon outdoor gear that adheres to two core tenets: extreme durability and ultralight construction. Their Versa — a sling bag they don’t shy away from calling a “fanny pack” — slots right into the expectations they’ve set up brilliantly.

Exterior: Of all the sling bags on this list, the Versa most definitely looks the most like a 1980s fanny pack — both in regards to its silhouette and its size (2.25L). Even the strap attachment points, which extend horizontally toward the top of the bag’s sides, are well-suited to around-the-waist wear.

The outside of the bag also has a distinct “wrinkled” look to it — a byproduct of the Versa’s Dyneema construction — which adds a uniqueness to its appearance. Of course, that material also makes this bag absurdly lightweight, clocking in at a jaw-dropping 2.91 oz empty. Furthermore, the inclusion of Dyneema also means the exterior of the pack is completely waterproof, which is furthered by its #3 YKK Aqua Guard zippers. The whole thing feels like it could survive battlefield usage, which gives it a pretty big leg-up for those looking for gear to last a lifetime.

The back of the bag does feature a padded panel. However, it’s quite thin and the padding isn’t as substantive as we’d like it to be. Thankfully, the compact size of this bag dictates that you’ll never really have to push the limits of your comfort in that regard. That panel also hides a somewhat hidden pouch that’s deceptively deep and works well as a quick-access slot for a smartphone or paper goods, like tickets or a passport. That being said, it is a bit loose, so we’d caution against putting anything in it if you’re going to shift the bag around to wear on your back, lest you want to risk losing whatever you have stashed inside.

Lastly, the nylon mesh strap is sized well for the bag and comes with heavy-duty plastic hardware that feels especially secure — including the buckle, which is satisfyingly easy to open when you want to, yet locks together securely. Curiously, there are actually three points at which you can adjust the length of the strap — one on either side of the buckle and a third on the buckle itself. The pair on either side of the buckle are somewhat difficult to adjust on-the-fly, but they feel secure and don’t leave any dangling excess strap when adjusted. Conversely, the buckle adjustment point is the easiest to loosen and tighten, but it does leave an unsightly length of the excess strap in doing so.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Versa

Interior: As mentioned, this sling bag (or fanny pack, as the brand calls it) has two zippered pockets — a large top-accessed main compartment and a secondary front-access zippered pocket, both with water-resistant zippers and neither with a lining of any sort. The front-accessed pocket is pretty straightforward, lacking any internal organization, but it does have enough room for modern smartphones, sunglasses, and varying small EDC items.

The large main compartment has a bit more internal organization potential but is similarly straightforward. It’s separated down the middle by a mesh panel with an elastic top and there’s even an integrated keychain lash to keep your car and/or house keys securely attached during your adventures. Apart from that, there’s not much else to it. If you’re a fiend for compartmental organization, this system might not work well for you. However, the average man will likely find the relatively pared-down pockets to be effective enough.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Versa

Verdict: If there was one bag in this collection we’d feel comfortable taking with us across a battlefield or along the full length of the PCT, it would almost certainly be the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Versa. It’s clear they made this bag as a love letter to ultralight outdoor exploration and that comes through beautifully in the bag’s appearance and functionality. If you’re looking for something more urban-friendly, you may want to look elsewhere. However, if you’re looking for a small-scale outdoor backpack alternative, you might not find better anywhere else.

Chrome Industries Kovac Sling Bag

Chrome Industries Kovac Sling Bag

Best For The City Cyclist

Founded in Boulder, Colorado back in 1995 and now headquartered out of Portland, Oregon, Chrome Industries specializes in carry solutions — like messenger bags and backpacks — especially for city-going cyclists, as well as apparel, footwear, and more. As such, their Kovac Sling Bag was made to be useful, durable, versatile, and weatherproof.

Exterior: At first glance, the Chrome Industries Kovac Sling Bag looks a lot more like a handlebar bag than a sling, which makes sense considering that the brand specializes in bicycle-focused gear. Apart from that, the bag’s styling is very minimalist and clean, free of some of the busy accouterments of its competition — which is a major bonus to those who don’t like the “tech ninja” look of more technical streetwear-inspired slings. The face of the pack also benefits from an ultra-durable tarpaulin fabric, which is both waterproof and slash/puncture-resistant. And while we’d like to see more tarpaulin in the design, we’re not upset with the fact that the rest of it is crafted from 1050d nylon, as the whole package feels substantial and like it was made with longterm usage in mind.

There is a downside to this sling bags construction, however. Because the materials are so rugged — including an un-articulated padded back panel — the shape is a bit stiff, which makes it a little uncomfortable to wear, especially at your side. Of course, with longterm usage, these materials will likely break in and become a bit more malleable, but we’re not entirely sure how long that will take. Fortunately, this is somewhat made up for by the bag’s straps. The integrated main strap feels substantial and is long enough for larger users. It also has a handy adjustment system that keeps the excess length from flopping about, though this inclusion may make it impossible to wear around the waist for those who are very thin. And there’s a top grab handle like you might find on a suitcase or backpack, which makes grabbing-and-going a simple prospect.

Furthermore, the exterior also has a quartet of compression straps on the sides and bottom, which helps keep the bag’s appearance clean but also allows users to tighten it up if your gear doesn’t fill the full 5L of interior storage. Again, this comes with a caveat: the hardware does not feel as sturdy as we’d like, the compression straps (with an empty bag) easily come loose, and the main buckle is a bit difficult to get open and closed quickly — making it a tough sell for those looking for speediness in their sling bag.

There’s also one more addition to this bag that makes it extra-helpful for those who are cyclists: a U-lock pass-through on the back panel. Granted, its placement (while secure) is somewhat awkward, as it requires the shackle to press up against your body, but the alternative — putting the lock on the outside of the bag — isn’t great either, leading us to believe that Chrome Industries did the best they could in solving a difficult problem.

Chrome Industries Kovac Sling Bag

Interior: The largest amount of storage in the 5L Kovac can be found in its main compartment — accessed by a somewhat stiff zipper. Inside that main compartment, there’s a single large space backed by a pair of symmetrical elastic mesh pockets. This trio of slots makes organizing smaller items a simple task, but it will leave those with larger items — like flashlights, pocket knives, and pens — potentially wanting for deeper dedicated slots. We also found a bit of difficulty in opening and closing the main compartment, thanks to the protective flap — which, admittedly, is nice for staving off inclement weather. We presume, as the bag breaks-in, that the main compartment’s zipper will also become easier to open and close without snagging on the flap, but only time will tell.

In conjunction with the spacious main slot, the bag also has a single smaller externally-accessible zippered front pocket, complete with a water-resistant zipper — which is a very nice touch. Unlike some of the other bags on this list, the front pocket is more than spacious enough for larger smartphones — we used an iPhone XR — and still has more room inside. Other than spaciousness, however, there’s not much to this pocket — no key lashes, no internal organization pouches, etc. Aside from that, there aren’t any more pockets, pouches, sleeves, or anything — not that this sling bag needs more.

Chrome Industries Kovac Sling Bag

Verdict: Chrome Industries’ Kovac is clearly intended for urbanites, especially those with a penchant for two-wheeled transportation, and it shows through its ultra-rugged tarpaulin and nylon exterior, secure main strap, and U-lock holster. And while the storage options are somewhat minimal (perhaps average is a better word), the clean external design and compression system do help make up for it. All-around, this is a solid city-going sling bag.

Heimplanet Transit Line Sling Pocket XL

Heimplanet Transit Line Sling Pocket XL

Best For The Organized Adventurer

The elder brother to the brand’s other Transit Line Sling Pocket, this XL version of Heimplanets sling bag offers all the same features of its sibling, but with 30% more internal storage (approx. 3L). This pared-down hauler was designed for all-day wear and specialized for travelers.

Exterior: If you’re familiar with the Heimplanet brand, you will not at all be surprised by the deceptively clean, geometric design of this bag. Made from the same fabric utilized across the brand’s Transit Line (DYECOSHELL, 840D Nylon x 660D Polypropylene), the sling has a pleasing, textured appearance with sleek detailing that speaks to its overall quality.

What’s perhaps the most interesting thing about this bag is that we had originally intended to get our hands on the regular 2L version of this pack and were fully expecting the 3L XL edition to be perhaps on the cumbersome side of the spectrum. Much to our surprise, this sling is actually, in our opinion, sized perfectly for everyday carry (not too big, not too small) — especially if travel is on the docket. That’s also bolstered by a malleability that allows it to conform to the user’s body, including its signature geometric quilted padded EVA foam back panel.

There aren’t any external non-zippered pouches to speak of on this bag, but there are a pair of lash points on the front side of the sling that are suited well to attaching a carabiner or rifle clip, but they can also serve as a pen slot if you’re the type that needs to keep a writing utensil handy. Opposite those points, there’s a coated logo that adds a nice tactile element to the bag but serves little purpose outside of looking and feeling interesting.

The big highlight of the exterior of this sling pack, however, might just be the hardware and strap. The seatbelt strap has a satiny feel to it, that’s pleasant to the touch, yet it also feels rugged enough to stand up to plenty of punishment. Furthermore, the adjustment system is easy to use on-the-fly and doesn’t leave any extra length of strap dangling, which is a nice touch. The buckle and attachment points are all made from aluminum that, while lightweight, makes for a much sturdier and substantial feeling than other plastic options. Furthermore, the main buckle doesn’t click together — instead relying on the brand’s custom SLITLOKS system that allows one side of the buckle to slide into and “lock” with the other side. The result is surprisingly clean, low-profile, and more secure than we might have first thought. It’s a little tricky trying to get the buckle undone the first few times, but the learning curve is short and manageable.

Heimplanet Transit Line Sling Pocket XL

Interior: Hands-down, the best part of this bag is its shockingly comprehensive organizational systems. There are three zippered compartments on this sling bag, each with their own useful purpose, orientation, and more. And if you’re a fiend for order, you’ll surely be pleased with the trio of storage slots.

The first, at the front of the bag, is accessed through a vertical zipper at the side of the bag opposite the lash points (where the logo is). The pocket is deep enough to stash a pair of sunglasses and also fits an iPhone XR — though the fit is a little tight. Users will want to be cautious of putting anything small in this pocket, however, as it is a bit too small and deep to reach inside to retrieve anything that’s not just inside the opening. Still, as a dedicated glasses or phone pocket, it works excellently.

The second pocket is horizontally-oriented and also large enough to fit an iPhone inside, though it seems this pocket is intended more for a grouping of small carry items, like a lighter, lip balm, or even your keys (if you aren’t comfortable lashing them to the outside). The lanyard zipper is secure without being a chore to open and we’d definitely see this as the go-to quick access pocket on this particular sling.

Finally, the star of the show is the main compartment. With plenty of room and double-zipper access, this compartment offers one of the best organizational systems we’ve seen in any sling bag. Not only is the main slot roomy, but it has five stretchy pouches of varying size for all your everyday carry gear — be that a phone, pen, knife, keychain, or whatever else. Furthermore, there’s another interior zippered pocket for anything that’s a bit more sensitive, like your ID card, credit cards, or cash. There’s even enough room for a passport if you’re using this bag during travel.

Heimplanet Transit Line Sling Pocket XL

Verdict: For those that find joy in organization and minimalism, this bag juxtaposes them both brilliantly. The frontmost zippered pocket is a little tight and the buckle takes some learning, but overall Heimplanet’s Transit Line Sling Pocket XL is spectacular for both urban everyday carry and jet-setting travel. If that sounds up your alley, go no further than this sling bag.

Recap

Heimplanet Transit Line Sling Pocket XL

Best For The Organized Adventurer

Pros
  • Minimalist Exterior
  • Exceptional Organization
Cons
  • Small For An XL
  • Somewhat Difficult Buckle
DSPTCH Sling Pouch

DSPTCH Sling Pouch

Best For The Tactical Technician

One of the most exceptional carry companies around — especially when it comes to bags for daily usage, travel, the gym, etc. — DSPTCH has masterfully built a reputation around blending tactical and militaristic elements with city-friendly styling. Their Sling Pouch certainly adheres to those ideals and was made specifically for hauling an everyday carry loadout.

Exterior: With its DWR-coated 1680D Ballistic Nylon and MOLLE-style exterior grid, there’s certainly no mistaking this as a DSPTCH offering. And while it looks and feels like something that could certainly stand up to abuse, it also doesn’t seem unnecessarily appointed or overly complex. In fact, as the brand intended, it seems ideally pared-down for EDC usage. The external modular grid makes for a nice attachment point for anything you want to quickly access and it even comes with a removable d-ring that’s a decent place to hang your keyring, if you need it outside of the bag.

The structure of the bag is flexible but also feels sturdy, though it does lack a padded back that’s common amongst most of its competition. However, the thick fabric does alleviate that to the point of it mostly being a non-issue, even with a relatively full load. There’s also a curious flap that serves as a base for the strap attachment points and, while sturdy, it does keep users from being able to wear this sling pack around the waist comfortably. Still, it does seem that DSPTCH has specifically intended for this to be an over-the-shoulder and/or cross-body pack exclusively.

The strap is removable via a pair of Woojin plastic carabiner-like clips, although we’re not entirely sure why you’d want to take the strap off, as there’s not an alternative way to carry the bag hands-free. The strap is also somewhat lengthy and, while one side is adjustable to a point, it doesn’t quite get short enough and the other side’s system (which is integrated into the plastic buckle) leaves a frustrating length of extra fabric. However, this is an issue that really only arises with thinner body types and, even then, it’s a fairly small problem.

DSPTCH Sling Pouch

Interior: The dual-pocket system of the DSPTCH Sling Pouch is uncomplicated-yet-useful — hinging on a single main compartment and a secondary smaller front-access zippered pouch. Inside the main compartment, which is accessible via a two-zip opening, is quite roomy and boasts a single, center divider splitting the interior space down the middle, though the backside is slightly smaller. There aren’t many options for organization therein, but for a small amount of everyday carry gear, it should suit most folks well enough.

The secondary pocket is much smaller but still has ample room inside for multiple pieces of gear and/or high-tech devices, like a smartphone, wallet, keys, a flashlight, and more. That being said, this might not be the best place to put expensive sunglasses, as the liner (or lack thereof) could potentially result in some unsightly scratches. But for gear that’s on the tougher end of the spectrum, there should be no issues.

DSPTCH Sling Pouch

Verdict: The overall quality and styling of the Sling Pouch is par for the course for DSPTCH, which is worlds ahead of a lot of other offerings from brands not called DSPTCH. It’s not without issues, of course — like a lack of versatility regarding carry styles and an interior that’s not particularly-friendly to more delicate items. However, for those that appreciate tactical-inspired construction with more urban-focused styling, this sling bag is right up your alley.

Recap

DSPTCH Sling Pouch

Best For The Tactical Technician

Pros
  • Modular-Friendly
  • Extremely Tough
Cons
  • Lack Of Carry Versatility
  • Rough Interior
Bellroy Sling

Bellroy Sling

Best For The Forward-Thinking Urbanite

Headquartered out of New South Wales in Australia, the folks at Bellroy have established themselves amongst the elite of the everyday carry world for their carefully-considered and wildly refined pocket gear. They’ve also expanded into the world of bags, utilizing the same set of tenets that helped them stand apart in the EDC world. Their simply-named Sling was designed with two points in mind: offering the perfect amount of essential space and keeping the bag agile.

Exterior: It’s definitely worth noting that, especially when put up against its contemporaries on this list, the Bellroy Sling is a bit on the larger side of the spectrum — clocking in at a whopping 7L when fully expanded — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It does seem apparent that this sling was meant for much more than just an everyday carry loadout — boasting the kind of room you might want if you were hauling, say, your EDC, a small water bottle, a photo camera, and maybe a few more knick-knacks and supplies for an all-day outing or a full kit of office-going tech gear.

It also boasts a padded back panel. Though, with the thickness and durability of its woven water-resistant fabric alongside the fact that the padding feels somewhat unsubstantial, we’re not entirely sure it was a necessary inclusion. Perhaps the benefit is there for those who want to carry around a tablet or ultra-compact Chromebook. Whatever the case, this is certainly one of the sturdier-feeling sling bags we’ve gotten our hands upon.

The side mounting system for the easily-adjustable seatbelt-style strap is also nice because it helps keep the strap from creeping up on the user’s neck and its magnetic quick-release buckle is both exceptionally sturdy when closed and remarkably easy to come unlatched, but only when you want it to. This buckle and strap system might be the highlight of the bag, at least from an external standpoint. That’s only bolstered by the fact that the bag has gusseted sides and a strap feed-through system that allows you to expand or collapse the bag as needed — ensuring you have as much or as little room as you need.

Lastly, the sunken zipper on the front pocket does wonders for making it more secure and discreet without creating any frustration when trying to access it, especially while wearing it. All told, the bag looks good, feels substantially tough, and — despite its size — is still quite lightweight.

Bellroy Sling

Interior: There are only two pockets to be found on this particular sling bag. The first, as mentioned, is a front pocket with a sunken zipper that’s easy to access when you’re wearing it, but is difficult to get in and out of when you’re not — functioning as a nice security feature that will deter pickpockets during travel of all kinds. There are no internal organizational slots on this pocket, but seeing as how it seems formatted for a small group of pocketable items, this is not the greatest detriment.

The main compartment is where we have our one gripe with this bag. While the Bellroy Sling can hold up to 7L of gear, the main zippered compartment doesn’t quite open as wide as we’d like it to. Yes, this makes accessing the contents inside more discreet out in public, but it also makes getting in and out slightly more difficult than need be. There are a couple of noteworthy inclusions inside, however.

For starters, inside the main compartment, there is a secondary zippered pocket that’s lined with a soft fabric ideal for stashing your smartphone, a pair of sunglasses, or anything else that’s a bit more delicate. It’s also big enough for cash or even a passport if discretion with sensitive items is a concern of yours. Following that, there’s also an integrated keychain lanyard to ensure your keys and keychain tools stay put — even when you’re using them to open or lock your home, hotel room, or Airbnb.

Bellroy Sling

Verdict: Though the Bellroy Sling doesn’t offer quite as much organization as some of its direct competition, there’s no denying the benefits it does bring to the table. It feels like one of the toughest bags, but also looks refined enough to bring with you to the office. Furthermore, the simple expandability is a nice touch, especially for those on travel or an all-day outing. Lastly, the strap attachment and buckle are some of the finest we’ve gotten our hands on regarding convenience, comfort, and security.

Recap

Bellroy Sling

Best For The Forward-Thinking Urbanite

Pros
  • Seamless Expandability
  • Weatherproof & Tough
Cons
  • Limited Internal Organization
  • Pointless Padding
Code of Bell X-Pod Sling Pack

Code of Bell X-Pod Sling Pack

Best For The Streetwear Maven

Code of Bell seems perhaps a bit modest about their range-topping X-Pod Sling Pack, which they advertise as a “modern take on the classic fanny pack.” Designed to carry your daily load — and expand or contract to suit — this small-scale hauler has all the bells and whistles anyone could ever want (or need), but it does come at a cost.

Exterior: It’s clear from the outset that, if sling bags were motor vehicles, the Code of Bell X-Pod would be the Bugatti Chiron of the bunch. That is to say, it looks and feels like perhaps the most top-of-the-line option around. It also has a high price to match, but even a cursory glance can illustrate that the cost matches the quality.

For starters, the front of the bag is constructed from ultralight, ultra-tough X-Pac fabric — waterproof sailcloth used in competitive yacht racing. The sides and the front of the hip belt attachment points are also made from tightly-woven Cordura nylon, which itself is weather-resistant and super-durable. On the back, however, it’s all padded and soft to the touch, making it a comfortable wear no matter how loaded the inside is — which is furthered by its cushy padding present on both the hip belt wings and the back of the bag itself.

There are four secondary straps — a quartet that keeps the bag collapsed in its smaller 2.5L format — all of which are also built from sturdy Cordura nylon and have a combination of heavy-duty plastic easy-to-use buckles and touches of metal hardware (snap buttons and attachment hooks). Everything feels substantial and sturdy like it was built to last through years of use — which bodes well, considering the price you’d have to pay to get one. Finally, the main strap is easily adjusted without leaving any unsightly extra strap fabric dangling and comes with what might be the most interesting and secure main buckle we’ve ever come across, marked by a powerful magnetic closure with a locking mechanism that can be detached in a pinch via a single, small pull tab — though it’s also secure enough to stay firmly in place when you want to keep it attached.

The X-Pod also has a hidden talent: expandability. By unlatching the quartet of straps on the front and sides, the bag actually expands from 2.3L up to 4.5L for those days when you need more room for gear, goodies, and otherwise. And that’s a highlight shockingly rare elsewhere (on our list only the Bellroy Sling shares a similar option and this one is probably better designed). It does look a bit busy compared to its compadres, but that’s probably because it actually does have quite a bit more going on — which could be good or bad depending on your tastes and needs.

Code of Bell X-Pod Sling Pack

Interior: Believe it or not, the X-Pod has a whopping five different zippered pockets (equipped with water-resistant zipper closures and high-vis orange nylon lining) across its entirety. There are two on the hip belt “wings,” which are only roomy enough for very small items like keys, coins, or perhaps a small amount of cash, but that’s all they really need to do with four other spacious slots.

Following that, there’s the frontmost pocket, which actually can open from the top or bottom, depending on the configuration of the bag. When collapsed in the 2.3L format, it only opens from the top for unfettered access to the internal space. Expand it to 4.5L — similar to a roll-top you might find on an expedition backpack — and you’ll find a second entrance at the bottom of the bag, also equipped with a water-resistant zipper, which makes rifling through this expandable compartment even simpler in a pinch. Finally, this compartment also has a heavy-duty YKK keychain lanyard that’s quite secure, but easy to detach your keys from one-handed via a simple squeeze and slide.

Next, the top “main” compartment, which is accessible via a two-way zipper is smaller than the front pocket, even when the front pocket is collapsed, but it’s still plenty roomy and actually houses a wide internal area flanked by a trio of mesh elastic pockets — two on the front and one double-wide pouch one on the back. Even with all the other features, Code of Bell still managed to pack plenty of organizational options into this main slot, which we have found is the best place for most of our EDC haul, especially more delicate tech.

Finally, there’s one more discreet “hidden” pocket found just below the top grab strap on the back — the zipper of which tucks securely into a small additional Cordura nylon flap to ensure nobody accesses it without your knowledge. And that makes this particular pocket the best for all your most sensitive and irreplaceable items, like your money, credit cards, ID, passport, and anything else you want to keep away from prying eyes. All told this is easily the most comprehensively organizational bag on this entire list — almost to the point of having too many options.

Code of Bell X-Pod Sling Pack

Verdict: By a fairly wide margin, the Code of Bell X-Pod is the priciest sling bag we’ve gotten our hands on. That being said, even wanting to call everything this bag has to offer extreme overkill, we’re having a really difficult time coming up with any reason it isn’t worth its weight in gold. It’s comfortable to wear, expandable and collapsible to fit most of what a person might need on the daily, and it is still tough enough to weather plenty of punishment — be that from scuffs, scrapes, punctures, or just about any kind of storm you might find yourself trudging through. Costing roughly 50% more than any of the bags on our list, you think it might be hard to find value. But, trust us, this bag is absolutely loaded to the gills with it — you just might have a hard time getting your hands on one.

Recap

Code of Bell X-Pod Sling Pack

Best For The Streetwear Maven

Pros
  • Unrivaled Expandability
  • Exceptional Materials
Cons
  • Overbuilt To Overkill
  • Very Expensive

What Are Sling Bags, Exactly?

The Messenger Evolved

There are two common carry items that are most closely related to and most often referenced in relation to sling bags: messenger bags and fanny packs. And that connection, on both accounts, is actually quite accurate — though perhaps not for the most immediately recognizable reasons. You see, the fanny pack — as it is most commonly known — was created and popularized in the 1980s and served as a quick-access pack for smaller items that would simultaneously be wearable even during athletic activity but also served as a security-friendly alternative to back pockets, which are fairly easily robbed/pickpocketed. The concept of the fanny pack, however, dates back far longer than the 1980s — sometimes credited as being as old as 5,000 years or more. Some stories trace the concept back to Native American buffalo bags — which were worn around the neck or across the chest — while others connect them to medieval belt pouches and even the Scottish sporran — worn traditionally with kilts.

Like fanny packs, messenger bags are often credited as having origins that date back to the ancient world. More specifically, the shoulder sling quick-access bag we know today as the messenger can be traced back to the Roman Empire. You see, Roman Legionnaires while on deployment would employ a similar bag especially in relation to delivering messages between commands — functioning like a far slower on-foot version of a telegraph and/or radio message. As time passed and technology improved, these shoulder slings remained widely used — especially by employees of the Pony Express, mail carriers across the western world, and eventually bicycle couriers (who still largely employ this type of bag to this day) — amongst other message-hauling workers. They’ve also expanded into other industries, including as an essential piece of equipment for electrical line workers starting around the 1950s who would stash all their necessary tools in similar bags for while they were working in the field.

What you should be realizing at this point is that fanny packs and messenger bags, while having different origins and even slightly-varied purposes, were actually intended to serve a very similar purpose: to store a variety of items in a manner that’s convenient, secure, and easily accessible. The only real difference between the two is their size. Typically speaking, messenger bags tend to be larger, whereas fanny packs are much smaller — often designed to be worn around the waist and offering up only a liter or two of internal storage. This is where the most modern take on this style of bag, slings, comes into play.

Sling bags, for all intents and purposes, are the perfect blend — both in regards to sizing and format — of both fanny packs and messenger bags. They’re often designed to be worn over the shoulder, across the body, or even around the waist. They can be made from either traditional or modern technical materials — although they’re most often made from the latter, like nylon and/or polyester. And they’re made to offer that unique combination of security and convenience found in both messengers and fanny packs. That’s not to say that sling bags don’t have any differences — they’re decidedly the most streetwear-friendly of the lot — but they’re perhaps not as different from their brethren as the might at first seem.

How To Find The Perfect Sling Bag

Features To Look For

As is the case with just about every piece of everyday carry gear, picking out the perfect sling bag that conforms to your needs regarding hauling capacity, format, style, toughness, waterproofing, etc. is a very personal process. And the only person that will ever be able to figure out which bag is right for you is, well, you. That being said, you’re going to be far better off in your search if you’re a bit educated on the subject. That way, you can better determine exactly what you need to look for out of a bag. From their construction materials all the way down to the seemingly insignificant details like hardware to zippers, every bit will impact the sling bag’s overall value in your life. As we said, it’s not a decision we can make for you. But we can tell you a bit about what to look for to help you make the right choice.

Exterior Materials

If we had to pick any one metric that most closely impresses the value of a sling bag upon its user, it would probably be the exterior material. That’s not to say that the other metrics are not abundantly important — the capacity, for instance, will vastly alter what you can carry inside — but the longevity of a bag, its overall appearance, and its resistance to weather events are all tied directly to the primary material. Like most pieces of everyday carry and/or apparel, there is a legion of possible materials out of which a sling bag might be made. That being said, there are some common ones worth keeping an eye out for when shopping. We’ve outlined some of the best, most popular, and most interesting types below.

Canvas: One of the oldest types of fabrics still used to this day, canvas is a woven material that’s most typically crafted from cotton (or, in some cases, linen) and PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and features a plain weave that makes it uniform on both sides — as opposed to a twill weave, like that which gives denim its distinct appearance. This type of material has also been traditionally built from hemp and, sometimes, is still made from hemp to this day — especially when sustainability is of import to the companies manufacturing it. It’s also available in two types: plain and duck — the difference being that duck canvas is more tightly woven and can be found more often in work- and outdoor-focused gear. Canvas is fairly versatile, but does not have the highest resistance to water or ripping and tearing. However, its durability in these regards can be increased with the addition of coatings. Often, canvas fabric is coated with wax to make it tougher and more water-resistant. This wax coating, however, will wear off with time and, eventually, will need to be reapplied to keep up the durability and resistance.

Cordura: The most important thing to keep in mind regarding Cordura is that it is a brand name and is not material-specific. You’re definitely going to run into it in your search and it’s widely regarded as being of exceptional quality, but its important you recognize that it’s a brand and not a type, as that distinction will help you recognize what else to look for to indicate the quality and resistances of the Cordura fabric used in a given bag. For reference: Cordura can be either nylon or polyester. As is the case with its non-brand-name brethren, polyester Cordura is often cheaper and less robust than its nylon counterparts. Similarly, Cordura nylon is graded by its denier rating — the higher the number, the tighter and often tougher the weave. These synthetic materials are also both naturally water-resistant, but they can have additional resistances applied to them — like DWR (Durable Water-Repellent) or PU (polyurethane) coatings that will increase their durability and can even make them entirely waterproof in some cases.

Dyneema: Like Cordura, Dyneema is technically a proprietary name — in this case, owned by a company called DSM. Unlike Cordura, however, Dyneema is proprietary and specific to a single material rather than acting as an overarching name for a class of different materials. Discovered entirely by accident back in 1968, Dyneema has only recently become of import to the gear world and has quickly vaulted to the forefront of some of the most high-end technical categories around. That’s because this proprietary fabric has some very impressive qualities and features that, for all intents and purposes, make it a superhero amongst mortals — at least in the world of fabrics. Remarkably strong, Dyneema has a tensile strength that’s actually 15 times greater than that of high-end steel. That makes it exceptionally tough, resistant to scratches, punctures, abrasions, etc. For that reason, it can be found in a lot of tactical and motorcycle gear. It also happens to be naturally wind-resistant and waterproof. For reference, there was a competing fabric known as Cuben Fiber at one point, but DSM eventually purchased the company that owned it and folded into their Dyneema division, effectively making Dyneema a one-of-a-kind fabric without rival. That does, however, make it pretty damn expensive when compared to any other fabric on the market.

Leather: Undoubtedly the oldest fabric known to man, leather originated back before recorded history, when homo sapiens — freshly upright — began repurposing animal skins into tunics, loincloths, blankets, and other pieces of apparel and gear — effectively giving humans an extra layer of protection against predators, prey animals that might fight back (like mammoths), and the elements; it was an ice age, after all. As it turns out, leather is still one of the best construction materials around, as it is naturally durable, weather-resistant to a degree, and has the added bonus of a unique appearance that can be made to change over time. It’s not the most common fabric used in the creation of sling bags, as most are fairly modern and made with technical fabrics, but it’s not entirely unusual to see it as the chosen material for a bag’s exterior or, at least, some accents. Leather does come with some downsides, however. For starters, it shows wear more than any other fabric — which can be a benefit if you like the look of patina. More importantly, leather is a fairly unsustainable material — as it requires raising and, subsequently, slaughtering livestock and then must go through a lengthy tanning process that requires a lot of water and uses environmentally-damaging chemicals. This is true for many dying and curing processes, but leather represents some of the worst around.

Nylon: Patented by DuPont in 1935 and widely used around the world in all measure of gear, nylon is probably the most popular of all the bag fabrics out there right now. It is naturally water-resistant, puncture- and slash-resistant, and can be dyed any number of colors or patterns you can imagine. However, not all nylon is created equal. There are a few things to watch for when it comes to this fabric that will help you discern its qualities and capabilities. The first is its denier count — typically depicted as a number followed by the letter D (1000D), this is a measure of the thickness of the threads used in a particular nylon weave. The higher the number, the greater the durability (with rare exception). Secondly, if a nylon is denoted as “ballistic,” that means it was put through mil-spec testing to determine its overall durability and toughness in the field. Lastly, a low denier count doesn’t necessarily mean a weak fabric if there are other factors — namely coatings — applied. A 500D nylon with a thick polyurethane waterproof coating may very well be tougher than a plain 1080D ballistic nylon. No single one of these factors gives a full picture, but you should be cognizant of them regarding the overall quality of nylon fabrics.

Polyester: A manmade polymer, you can kind of think of polyester as the little brother to nylon. It’s cheap, versatile, can be made up in all the colors of the rainbow, and even has a measure of built-in durability and water-resistance. However, nylon is largely more successful in all of these categories. Like nylon, polyester can also have coatings applied to increase its weatherproofing and overall durability, often at a lower cost than similarly-appointed nylon. Another thing worth keeping in mind when it comes to polyester is that it’s a manmade polymer based on petroleum. Unfortunately, that means it is a non-sustainable material in the truest sense of the word. It does not biodegrade and its made from the same base as fossil fuels. That’s not to say it isn’t a worthwhile fabric — but you should be aware of these factors.

Capacity

The amount of storage space offered up by a sling bag — both in its primary compartment, as well as any exterior pockets — is of paramount importance, as it will determine exactly how much gear you can haul around on a given day. And while you might think that bigger is better, this is not entirely true when it comes to sling bags. You see, these everyday carry haulers are intended to be speedy alternatives to traditional bags. That means, inherently, they should be a bit on the smaller side with room enough for a few necessary essentials, but not much else. Obviously, the size you need will be determined by your loadout — your daily, necessary collection of EDC gear and tools — so there’s not a hard-and-fast rule as to how big or small a sling bag should be in order to be useful to you day-in and day-out. That being said, sling bags — like most backpacks and duffels — are measured in one of two ways: liters and cubic inches. Liters (styled as a number next to the letter “L”) is the more standard of the two and cubic inches (styled as a number with the letters “ci,” “cu in,” or even “in^3”) is less common. If one or the other makes more sense to you, a simple Google search can convert the size.

Main Compartment

Regardless of the style of bag, the main compartment — as its name suggests — is the primary storage space for whatever gear you’re carrying. As such, you’re going to want to pay extra attention to that space when shopping for a bag. And that’s a twofold task. First, you need to make sure that the overall size — the storage space measured in liters, most often — is enough that it can fit whatever gear you need on a given day but not so large that the bag is mostly just empty space (a large, mostly-empty bag can be quite frustrating and cumbersome). Secondly, you should inspect the main compartment to find out if it suits your organizational requirements. For some, a single main compartment — like you might find in a duffel bag — is enough. For those who are a bit more dogmatic about keeping things in order, something with mesh pockets, zippered pouches, a separate tablet sleeve, and the like is a far better prospect. There’s no hard or fast rule here, so just make sure you’re keeping your own needs and/or desires in mind.

Additional Pockets

Yes, the main compartment of any bag is likely going to be the most important overall, as that’s the intention of a “main” compartment in the first place. But do not, under any circumstances, discount the value of auxiliary pockets and pouches. These “extra” slots are often better for organization — especially when it comes to compartmental separation of gear (stuff for work versus stuff for the gym, etc.) — and are especially useful for accessing smaller gear quickly. Think of it this way: if you have a passport for travel, you’re not going to want it sinking to the bottom of the main compartment underneath the rest of the gear you’re carrying. As such, it is likely better suited for stashing in an external zippered pocket where you can get to it quickly without leaving it out in the open for pickpockets and thieves. And that’s just one of the few small things that are more easily managed with alternative pockets and organizational options.

Straps

Though it might seem obvious, a sling bag’s straps are what you’re going to use to carry it around the vast majority of the time. As such, they’re perhaps more integral to a bag’s successes and/or failures than may initially be apparent. There are three things to keep in mind when looking at the straps of a given bag. First, you want to be sure that they’re durable enough to last through repeated usage and at least a bit of punishment. As such, materials like ballistic or high-denier nylon are often preferred for their natural resistance and toughness. Secondly, it’s important to pay attention to the connection points — especially if the straps are removable. A shoulder sling won’t serve its purpose if the ends of the strap rip off the bag or the hardware comes loose. Lastly (and one of the bits people forget most often), the straps are what come in contact with your body most often. That means, at least to a degree, they need to be comfortable for long periods of wear. Sometimes this means padding helps, though it’s not 100% necessary unless you’re hauling an extra-heavy load for a long stretch of time.

Zippers & Hardware

Though they’re the last on our list of features, that’s definitely not because zippers and hardware are “lesser” in any way. In fact, for the discerning everyday carry enthusiast, the quality of buckles, zippers, rings, and other hardware can and should be a deal-breaking element of any piece of gear. After all, these bits are kind of like the frosting on the cake, rather than the cherry on top. To some, frosting is just frosting. But to a cake fanatic and/or a professional baker, it’s an integral part of the meal. The same goes for zippers and hardware. For instance, if you have a sling bag with a waterproof exterior, it’s not going to make much of a difference if the zipper that closes the bag leaks like a sieve. Furthermore, those other bits of hardware are, to a degree, what holds the bag together, keeps its straps in place, and more. Even the seemingly smallest of details, like rivets, can have a huge impact on the overall quality of a sling bag — or any pack, for that matter.

How To Properly Utilize Your Sling

Purpose-Built Bags

As mentioned earlier, sling bags exist as a kind of middle point between traditional haulers, like messenger and duffel bags, and those that were invented and developed much more recently, like fanny packs. As such, they are best used like (or perhaps unlike) all of their predecessors — a whole that’s better than its constituent parts. You see, when properly utilized, they can be more effective at managing a day’s worth of gear while saving you the frustration of bulkiness and even adding in some speediness and security. To make the most of your sling bag, we suggest keeping the following factors and uses in mind:

Organization: For the most part, organization is the name of the game with sling bags. Not only are they typically smaller than traditional backpacks or duffels, but they often have more pockets and pouches built-in. At first, this might seem daunting and maybe even cumbersome or confusing. But you may come to realize that those pockets are purpose-driven and will help you keep yourself better organized, which can lead to more confidence in your loadout. For instance, if you carry a pen and your sling bag has a pen pocket, you’ll always know where to find that EDC essential. Furthermore, if you notice the pen isn’t in its pocket, you’ll be more apt to hunt it down — rather than realizing too late that it is missing.

Ergonomics: Duffel bags are not what we might call ergonomic. In fact, if they don’t have backpack straps, they can put undue pressure on one side of your body, which can make carrying one an annoyance at best and can affect your posture and make you quite uncomfortable. Unlike duffels, sling bags were designed with the human body in mind. Rather than forcing you to carry a single way, they can be worn or carried in numerous ways — on your front, back, at your side, and more. This allows you to more easily shift your posture to a more comfortable position and helps avoid repetitive motion injuries, however small. Overall, their carry versatility makes them much more ergonomic than even their closest rivals: the backpack and fanny pack.

Security: One of the biggest worries we have when using a backpack for travel is that it’s tough to keep an eye on your bag while it is, effectively, behind you. Sure, you can bypass this by putting the backpack on your front in crowded places, but this will affect your range of motion and can impact your comfort levels. By contrast (and in conjunction with the ergonomics section above), sling bags were specifically made to be worn in a variety of ways comfortably — including at your front. And they can manage that with a full load without causing as much stress or discomfort as a bulky backward backpack. Better still, you can usually shift a sling bag from back or side to the front without even having to take it off, making them even more convenient and quick.

Quickness: As mentioned in both proceeding sections, sling bags are made to be worn in multiple positions and can be swapped from one style of wear to another in a manner of milliseconds. This makes them exceptional performers where speediness is important — like at an airport, train station, etc. Pair their adaptability with their organization and you’ve got yourself one of the quickest bags around. Say, for instance, you are waiting to go through the TSA and you’re approaching the security check. Simply bring the bag up to your front, unzip the pouch with your passport and tickets, present them to the security worker, and then stash it all back in a moment’s time. Of course, their speediness is dependent upon your own utilization of their features, but the potential is undeniably there.

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