To say that there are a lot of brands making everyday carry packs and bags is perhaps an understatement. Truth be told, it’s even difficult for the best of them to stand out against the crowded gallery, as there have never been quite as many worth your time and hard-earned money than there are right now. There are a few very bright spots, however — companies that have decided, rather than offering a wide range of “good enough” options, to specialize in a category and beat out the rest. Code of Bell is one such brand.
Inspired directly by an increase in demand for nostalgic “fanny packs” and messenger bags, Code of Bell started their business on crowdfunding platforms but quickly vaulted to the top of the ranks. You see, this brand decided to focus their efforts on creating and perfecting small-scale EDC carry solutions — small bags and compact packs that favor efficiency over capacity — built exceptionally well and with some of the most cutting-edge materials and features. Many of their current suite of offerings are so popular, in fact, that they’ve been having a hard time keeping them on the shelves. The X-Pod is one such offering, but we managed to get our hands on one and have taken it to task for the following review.
“Intimidating” might be the word that fits how we initially felt about the Code of Bell X-Pod. There’s a lot going on with this bag — including a multitude of straps with matching buckles and hardware that don’t immediately reveal their purpose at-a-glance, numerous material textures, five zippers (plus a hidden fifth), padded wings, and more. For those unfamiliar with the brand, streetwear culture, and/or EDC, this sling bag is likely going to be a bit overwhelming. In fact, it may be a lot to take in even for the experienced. It’s worth noting, however, that none of the pack’s immediately-apparent features seem as though they’re without purpose. There’s nothing on the X-Pod that looks extraneous or like it was attached for the sake of vanity. It’s busy to be sure, but that’s because it can do quite a lot.
As mentioned, this bag has a lot going on with its exterior — so we’re going to take a somewhat systematic approach, starting with the materials. The outside of this pack actually has three separate materials that make it up. At the front, there’s an American-made, four-layer sailcloth-like fabric comprised of a woven polyester back, a clear waterproof film, an X-Ply polyester yarn insert, and a DWR-coated nylon face fabric. And while that sounds quite busy, the result is shockingly lightweight and remarkably durable — both against weather events and physical damage. We also appreciate that there’s not much of a sheen to the fabric, which helps avoid looking cheap — it really does look as good as it functions.
Beyond the front of the sling bag, the main body is built from another lauded and respected fabric: 1680D ballistic nylon. That means the body is ultra-tough, naturally water-resistant, and can handle all the rigors of travel — be that daily city exploration, worldwide travel, or some combination of the two. Though not quite as busy or rugged as the sailcloth front, the ballistic nylon is a nice touch and helps the whole bag feel substantial and like it was meant to be used, not simply stashed in a glass case for display purposes alone.
Finally, on the backside and on the integrated waistbelt wings, the brand has included an “abrasion-resistant and super soft outer rear fabric” backed by padding that’s tremendously soft to the touch yet offers plenty of breathability — meaning it won’t stifle you and cause you to sweat when wearing the bag on warmer days.
Following the X-Pod’s impressive array of fabrics, the bag also boasts several different carry options — including (most obviously) the main strap, a nylon top grab handle (similar to those you’d find atop backpacks or on carry-on luggage), and (our favorite) a subtly-branded Hypalon grab on the underside which doubles as an attachment point for the bag’s curious front straps.
It’s this duo of front straps — which are also completely removable should you want to do away with them — that hides what may be the best, most discreet feature the X-pod has to offer. You see, simply by releasing the buckles on this duo of straps, the 2.3L sling bag rolls out to reveal expandability up to an impressive 4.5L — all within the sailcloth front compartment. This expansion also reveals a fifth hidden zipper that grants access to the front compartment at the bottom/front of the bag for easier access when fully-loaded. Furthermore, there’s another pair of tethering, stabilizing, compression straps at the sides of the hidden zipper that can be unclipped for when you want to push that front compartment to its limits — which gives it even enough room to stash a reusable water bottle inside. Furthermore, once the compartment is empty (or significantly pared-down), getting it back down to its starting size is a simple prospect.
Like the exterior, the interior of Code of Bell’s X-Pod has quite a bit going on. Unlike the exterior, however, the inside will likely feel less like foreign soil, even for those that have only owned a few travel and/or everyday bags in their lifetime. As previously mentioned, there are five zippered compartments found on this bag — most of which are equipped with water-resistant YKK zippers and have Hypalon pulls attached. All of the zippers — even the more hidden ones — are easy to open and close, don’t snag, and feel secure enough that you’ll be comfortable with their closure even when the bag is on your back.
The front compartment — according to the brand’s data — has an expandable capacity of 2-4L itself, which is a hell of a lot of room for gear. At its smallest, this pocket is the perfect quick-access pouch for a variety of pocketable items — things you might need to grab in a pinch like lip balm, sunscreen, possibly your EDC knife, etc. There’s not much in the way of organizational options, however, it does have an integrated YKK keychain leash with a secure one-hand-operated latch. Open up the pouch to the full 4L and, while you don’t get more organizational options, you do get access to a second zippered ingress and enough room to hide away some larger items, like a reusable water bottle or even a packable jacket and then some.
The 2nd, top-accessed main compartment is the star of the show, at least where compartmental organization is concerned. Sure, it doesn’t have the volume of the front pocket, but it makes up for it with a quartet of internal spaces, including a large central area, a full-length mesh zippered pocket, and a pair of small zippered pockets. If you’re the type that wants a separate space for your smartphone, credit and/or ID cards, some coins or a key or two, etc, this is almost certainly going to be your go-to pocket. As mentioned, it’s not as spacious as the front pocket, but it’s got more than enough space for most folks’ everyday carry gear.
There’s also a third, semi-hidden pocket that can be accessed via a horizontal zipper on the top of the back of the bag. This discreet pouch is the smallest of the main three and serves best as a secure stash for anything you’d want to keep away from prying eyes and pickpockets. For instance, if you’re traveling internationally and need to keep your passport, train tickets, and some emergency cash on your person, this pocket is the appropriate place to put all of it. However, due to its location and the tight space, you’d probably not want to put anything too bulky or oddly-shaped in this slot.
Finally, on each of the integrated wings of the waistbelt, users will find a duo of tiny zippered pockets. This final pair is a nice way to make use of otherwise non-functional space and makes a great home for some spare change, a room or house key, or even small bits of jewelry — like rings you might want to take off while flying, washing your hands, or otherwise.
Straps & Hardware
The choice of hardware on this bag is quite interesting. For starters, the buckles — both on the front, sides, and on the main strap — are all built from heavy-duty plastic and are as lightweight and reliably secure as they are easy to unlatch with one hand. However, all the zippers and even the attachment hooks on the front of the bag are built from black-finished metal. We presume the plastic was used to save on weight and the metal attachment hooks couldn’t be managed in the same way. Still, we’d like to see a bit more uniformity because it has us wondering what could have been if the brand had gone all-metal on the buckles, as well. But that’s more a curiosity than a true gripe.
The integrated main strap is crafted from a sturdy nylon weave and is definitely tough enough to match the rest of the bag. Furthermore, it can be adjusted on both sides of the buckle, allowing for plenty of length and positioning customization. However, while the strap can extend quite long and shorten dramatically, the strap management system Code of Bell was smart enough to include ensures that there’s no unsightly excess strap dangling even when the strap is fully retracted.
The star of the show regarding the X-Pod’s straps and hardware, however, is undoubtedly the main buckle. It’s a magnetic auto-locking Fidlock buckle — made (out of necessity) out of a combination of plastic and metal — that, when engaged, feels about as secure as you could hope. However, pull the included tab on one side of the buckle toward the other and the latch opens, allowing for quick and easy detachment in a pinch. Best of all, to get it latched again, you simply need to get the magnets close enough to one another and — like magic — the buckle secures itself again. Truly, this is one of the most satisfying and reliable strap buckles we’ve ever gotten our hands on and it marks a high point regarding the straps and hardware.
We think its safe to say that Code of Bell has managed to push the idea of a sling bag to its furthest horizon with the X-Pod — making it dangerously close to being appropriately labeled as “overkill.” And while there’s definitely a measure of busyness to this overbuilt modern take on the fanny pack, it also does all of it quite well. If we had to be picky, there are really only two issues we could force as negatives: the price is as much as double that of even its closest competition and the styling of the pack certainly lends itself more to those with a deep appreciation of streetwear culture. To say the X-Pod seems like the sling bag you might bring back with you from the future to show how far humanity has come is, undeniably, an exaggeration — but it’s probably not as far off the mark as one might assume. To be frank: the Code of Bell X-Pod is a pretty tremendous achievement in the realm of slings, fanny packs, cross-body bags, or whatever else you choose to call them.
Code of Bell X-Pod
Exceptionally-built streetwear-styled expandable sling bag with more features than anyone will probably ever need.
- Ultra-Durable Materials
- Superb Hardware
- Feature Overkill
- High Learning Curve
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