Gear

The 12 Best Sling Bags & Backpacks in 2020

by Mac Misseldine

Best Sling Bags Backpacks
Photo: Bellroy

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Sling bags are perfect for minimalist travelers, providing a safe place to stash your gear and accessories without weigh you down like a traditional backpack — just don’t call it a fanny pack.

Sling bags get a bad rap sometimes, and we’re here to change that.

When it comes to storage space and portability, few packs hit the sweet spot like a sling bag. While smaller than a standard backpack, these versatile packs are typically more comfortable and convenient when you’re carrying a smaller stash of gear and accessories.

They operate under the mindset that unused space is wasted weight, and thanks to an expansive range of products on the market, it’s easy to find a bag that offers precisely the capacity you need.

Most sling bags are designed to be worn cross-body, with the bag either against your back or hugging your chest. This is the best way to distribute the weight evenly, though when you’re on-the-go you can always just throw it over your shoulder like a messenger bag.

Some slings even come with an extra strap, so you can convert it into a backpack when you need to carry more weight than a single shoulder can comfortably support. Whatever your style may be — cross-body, over the shoulder, or hugging your hips — everyone should have a reliable sling in their arsenal.

This list of the best sling bags takes every style, use and capacity into account. Whether you’re looking for a city bag or hiking pack, minimalist accessory pouch or full-size daily commuter, there’s a prime pack on this list for every style and budget.

12 Best Sling Bags for the City

Best Expandable Sling: Code of Bell X-POD

code of bell x-pod
Photo: Code of Bell

Why you’ll dig it: An award-winning pack that perfects form and function.

  • Dimensions: 14 in. x 5 in. x 6 in.
  • Volume: 7 liters
  • Weight: 15.4 ounces (13.5 oz. w/o compression straps)
  • Material: Cordura® nylon

Carryology named Code of Bell’s X-POD 2019’s best sling bag of choice in their annual Carry Awards. The X-POD — pronounced “cross-pod” — is the brand’s fresh take on an old school fanny pack, and to great fanfare.

It’s a functional, lean sling bag that holds close to the body and follows Code of Bell’s philosophy of focusing on wearing pieces rather than carrying them. It’s a small but significant design approach that makes the X-POD a seamless bag for travel, work and play.

Like a good rolltop backpack, the X-POD expands to meet your needs, and fully extended you’ll get an extra 1.2 liters of carry room. These guys have more than 30 years of combined experience designing products and it shows in the X-POD.

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Aer Sling Bag 2

aer sling bag 2
Photo: Aer

Why you’ll dig it: A lightweight athletic bag that separates your tech from your odorous shoes.

  • Dimensions: 18 in. x 11 in. x 6 in.
  • Volume: 17.2 liters
  • Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Material: 1680D Cordura® ballistic nylon

The Aer Sling Bag 2 is engineered to be the perfect lightweight gym bag, featuring a shoe pocket with improved ventilation and a large, easy-access front pocket to stash your keys and wallet.

This sleek-looking sling is also ideal for commuters, so don’t rule this out if you’re not the gym-going type. It’s virtually indestructible thanks to military-grade ballistic nylon that’s super durable and water resistant, making it ideal for bicycle commuters who frequently get caught in the rain.

There’s a padded laptop pocket to keep your tech safe (and separate from your gym clothes), and several internal pockets for better organization.

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Bellroy Sling

bellroy sling bag
Photo: Amazon

Why you’ll dig it: This unisex sling is an excellent choice for urban explorers, sporting a chic exterior and more storage space than meets the eye.

  • Dimensions: 12.2 in. x 6.3 in. x 5.5 in.
  • Volume: 7 liters
  • Weight: 12.4 ounces
  • Material: Water-resistant woven fabric

If you’re an urban explorer with a keen sense of style, the Bellroy Sling is for you. It’s easy to match your unique style with eight color combos, and it looks equally sexy on men and women. So, fair warning, there’s a good chance that your significant other will be “borrowing” this one from you.

We love how much storage space the Bellroy Sling offers. The expandable side gusset means the bag can expand when you need to stuff a few extra items inside and self-compress when you’re going light. There’s a front compartment for quick access to your EDC essentials, and the main compartment features a soft-lined sunglasses pouch and key clip.

Thanks to a centered strap position and two-way zip, you can wear this sling over either shoulder. Feel free to wear it loosely across your back, snug against your chest, or draped over your shoulder — whichever way you go, the padded paneling on the back keeps you comfortable. The magnetic clasp on the strap also makes it quick and easy to disconnect if you’d rather unclip than slip the strap over your head.

The standard sling hits the sweet spot for us, but if you’re looking for something a little more compact, you can step down to the Sling Mini with a four liter capacity. Alternatively, you can upgrade to the Premium Sling for a little extra pizzazz in the form of premium eco-friendly leather and sustainably sourced fabrics.

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ASRV Waterproof Cordura® Crossbody Bag

asrv crossbody bag
Photo: ASRV

Why you’ll dig it: A military-grade sling for rough-and-rugged travelers.

  • Dimensions: 10 in. x 7 in. x 1.5 in.
  • Material: Waterproof Cordura® nylon

The ASRV Waterproof Cordura® Crossbody Bag looks like it belongs on the shoulder of a Marine. You certainly don’t need to be a veteran to sport this beastie, but if you’re looking for a military-grade sling, this is definitely the one for you.

The sling bag is constructed with ultra-durable, water-repellent Cordura® nylon, a mil-spec nylon strap, and Trimmers® Aircraft-Grade Aluminum Zipper Pulls. The front zippered pocket is completely waterproof, and the MOLLE-compatible webbing makes it easy to attach anything that doesn’t fit inside.

Durability often comes at the cost of comfort, but you don’t have to worry about that here. The ASRV Waterproof Cordura® Crossbody Bag includes a ventilated mesh back panel for comfort and breathability, and the Fidlock® Magnetic Buckle makes it easy to strap up or unbuckle in a hurry when you’re on the go.

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The Spar by Mission Workshop

mission workshop spar
Photo: Mission Workshop

Why you’ll dig it: This weatherproof pack can be worn as a sling or backpack, making it far more versatile than the average sling.

  • Dimensions: 15.5 in. x 9.75 in. x 3.25 in.
  • Volume: 8 liters
  • Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Material: HT500 urethane coated nylon

The Spar by Mission Workshop functions even better than it looks — which is saying a lot, because it looks pretty damn fresh. And as part of the company’s Arkiv®-system, you can pair it with their full suite of bags to create a versatile travel system that you can scale up to match any adventure.

The Spar carries a hefty price tag, but it’s worth its weight in Benjamins. It’s completely weatherproof, boasting YKK Aquaguard zippers and a microfleece-lined main compartment with enough space for a 10.5-inch tablet. There’s also a quick-access phone pocket up front, where you’ll find a key clip to keep your key chain locked in.

You can wear The Spar with a single strap over your shoulder, or snag Mission Workshop’s removable backpack harness to convert it into a traditional backpack. The padded back panel ensures comfort on your back or chest, and the ventilated shoulder strap does a great job at keeping your shoulder from overheating.

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Peak Design Everyday Sling

peak design everyday sling
Photo: Amazon

Why you’ll dig it: This is the go-to sling bag for photographers, available in three sizes and multiple organizational options to fit your field photography gear.

  • Dimensions: 34 cm x 24 cm x 13 cm
  • Volume: 6 liters (also available in 3L and 10L)
  • Weight: 1.72 pounds (1.28 lbs without dividers)
  • Material: 400D double poly-coated DWR-impregnated nylon canvas

Fair warning: once you buy into this brand, you’re going to be a lifelong customer. As the name suggests, any product from Peak Design represents the pinnacle of style and functionality — and the Everyday Sling is no exception to the company’s impeccable reputation.

The Everyday Sling is designed with photographers in mind, with a weather-resistant shell to keep your gear safe and two FlexFold dividers to create a customized interior organization system. The second part may not mean much to the average person, but it’s a critical feature for photographers who don’t want their expensive DSLR and lenses bouncing around as they walk.

The Everyday Sling is eco-friendly with 100% recycled post-consumer material, and it’s built to last with 400D glass-reinforced nylon, anodized aluminum hardware, and super durable UltraZips. The sling bag is available in three sizes and three colors, with the largest model able to fit a 13-inch Macbook Pro.

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DSPTCH Sling Pouch

DSPTCH Sling Pouch
Photo: DSPTCH

Why you’ll dig it: This sleek, compact sling bag is made entirely in the USA.

  • Dimensions: 9.5 in. x 6 in. x 2.5 in.
  • Weight: 5 ounces
  • Material: 1680D Ballistic Nylon with DWR coating and Laminate Front Panel

The DSPTCH Sling Pouch is one of the most compact slings on our list, making it an ideal choice for minimalists who just need a little extra space for their everyday essentials. There’s ample space for your sunglasses, smartphone, wallet and charger, and the medium-size model has enough room to stash a book or tablet.

The Sling Pouch features MOLLE straps and a removable D-ring what make it easy to attach accessories that don’t fit inside. It’s weather resistant thanks to a DWR coating, and the 1680D ballistic nylon makes the shell nearly indestructible.

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Pacsafe Vibe 325 ECONYL Anti-Theft Sling Pack

pacsafe vibe 325 slingbag
Photo: Amazon

Why you’ll dig it: This is the perfect sling bag for travelers, engineered to protect your bag, belongings, and identity from thieves and pickpockets.

  • Dimensions: 15.8 in. x 9.1 in. x 3.2 in.
  • Volume: 10 liters
  • Weight: 1 lb. 4 oz.
  • Material: 400D ECONYL® regenerated nylon dobby shell, 150D recycled polyester lining

When you’re exploring the busy streets of a foreign city, worrying about pickpockets should be the last thing on your mind. After all, it’s hard to appreciate your surroundings when you’re constantly checking your bag.

This is where the Pacsafe Vibe 325 ECONYL Anti-Theft Sling Pack shines — though you don’t need to be a tourist to appreciate its unique features. The Vibe 325 is specially engineered to protect three things: your belongings, your identity, and the bag itself.

The bag features a Roobar™ sport locking system with a lock-down point for zippers and cables with interlocking zip pullers. It’s slash-proof thanks to an eXomesh® exterior with hidden stainless steel wire mesh and a Carrysafe® slashguard strap consisting of wire-reinforced straps. In other words, thieves will have a very difficult time unzipping your bag or attempting to slash it from your shoulder.

The bag is physically formidable, but it doesn’t stop there. The Vibe 325 employs RFIDsafe™ blocking pockets and materials so you don’t need to worry about identity theft. There’s also a PopNLock security clip on top — a fast-action detachable buckle that makes it easy to secure your bag to a fixed object when necessary.

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Champion Life Stealth Sling Backpack

Champion Life Stealth Sling Backpack
Photo: Amazon

Why you’ll dig it: This sporty sling strikes well above its price point, making it a great pick for shoppers on a budget.

  • Dimensions: 14 in. x 7 in. x 4.25 in.
  • Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Material: 100% Polyester

Many of the sling bags on our list so far have been on the premium end of the spectrum, delivering sleek design with high-end materials and upgrades. That’s great if you can afford to splurge, but if you’re in the camp that won’t spend more than $50 on a bag, this one’s for you.

The Champion Life Stealth Sling Backpack delivers everything you need and nothing you don’t in an athletic package that’s great for the gym, day hikes, and casual outings. There’s a large main compartment with slip and zip pockets inside, and two exterior pockets for quick access to your wallet, keys and phone. You can wear it cross body or over your shoulder, and the polyester shell with rubber-coated metal zipper pulls are built to last.

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Tom Bihn Icon

Tom Bihn Icon
Photo: Tom Bihn

Why you’ll dig it: This spunky, eclectic sling bag comes in nine color combos to match your unique sense of style.

  • Dimensions: 13.6 in. x 9.6 in. x 5.3 in.
  • Volume: 7.2 liters
  • Weight: 12.7 ounces
  • Material: 525D ballistic nylon or 630D recycled nylon

The Tom Bihn Icon intentionally breaks the mold of what you’d expect to see in a sling bag. It’s one of those unique products that you either love or hate at first sight, so trust your gut. If the colorful, curved zippers make you smile, then it’s a winner that you’ll always be excited to carry.

Take a peek inside the main compartment and you’ll find two pen slots on the side edge, a pair of pockets perfectly sized for your passport, wallet or phone, and a couple of O-ring tether points for key straps or accessory pouches. There’s also a small zippered pocket on the front and a larger zippered pocket on the back.

In addition to the quirky design and contrasting colors, the Icon features a proprietary Rabbit Hole shoulder strap that hides excess material rather than doubling back on the strap or dangling down. This is a huge selling point for people who set it and forget it when it comes to strap length, though it can be frustrating for those who frequently adjust the length.

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Under Armour Compel Sling 2.0

Under Armour Compel Sling 2.0
Photo: Amazon

Why you’ll dig it: The Compel Sling 2.0 bridges the gap between slings and backpacks, delivering the storage space of a backpack with the comfort and ease of a single cross-body strap.

  • Dimensions: 19 in. x 13 in. x 6 in.
  • Volume: 16.4 liters
  • Weight: 1.62 pounds
  • Material: 100% Polyester

Under Armour’s bread and butter is athletic products, but the Compel Sling 2.0 is actually designed for daily commuters (though it certainly checks all of the boxes for a killer gym bag).

The Compel Sling 2.0 boasts a whopping 16.4 liters of storage space, including a soft-lined laptop sleeve that’s large enough to cradle a 15-inch laptop. UA Storm technology repels water to keep your gear dry, and there’s a water-resistant valuables pocket on the outside where you can safely stash your phone and wallet.

Like anything sporting the Under Armour logo, you can trust that the Compel Sling 2.0 is comfortable and breathable. The padded, adjustable strap features the company’s proprietary HeatGear® technology, and the shell fabric is surprisingly breathable. There’s also a water bottle pocket on the side, making this a great choice for day hikes.

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Nike Tech Hip Pack

Nike Tech Hip Pack
Photo: Amazon

Why you’ll dig it: Whether you sport this sleek athletic sling over your shoulder or around your waist, it exudes the inherent cool-factor and performance that only Nike can deliver.

  • Dimensions: 21 in. x 5 in. x 8 in.
  • Materials: 100% polyester

The Nike Tech Hip Pack is not a fanny pack. It may walk like a duck and quack like one, and I suppose if you’re so inclined you could wear it around your waist — but it’s actually designed to be worn as a cross-body sling.

The Nike Tech offers two zippered pockets where you can stash your gear. The adjustable strap makes it easy to customize the fit to your comfort, and the durable textile fabric is surprisingly lightweight. It’s available in nine color variations, and the unisex design makes it equally appealing for men and women.

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